Rams Team Report
It's difficult to find silver linings in a season that has deteriorated with a 2-10 record and coming off a 26-0 loss to San Francisco that clinched the NFC West for the *****.
However, a defense that has been gashed numerous times this season and has experienced a total decimation of its cornerback group, battled the ***** Sunday despite being on the field for 36:04 during the entire game and 21:36 in the first half.
As the offense totaled only 19 plays in the first half, the defense did enough to keep the score only 9-0 at halftime. Four times in the game and three times in the first half, San Francisco reached the red zone, but they were held to field goals each time.
The most impressive was in the second quarter after quarterback A.J. Feeley lost the ball attempting to pass and the ***** gained control at the Rams' 6-yard line. On third-and-goal from the 1, running back Frank Gore was stopped for no gain and David Akers kicked a 19-yard field goal.
All told, on 10 red-zone plays, the ***** had a net of four yards.
Said defensive end Chris Long, who had two sacks in the game, including one on first-and-goal from the 10-yard line, "I was proud of the way we stepped up when we had a short field. The offense will make mistakes, that's part of football. San Francisco has certainly been a ball-hawking team winning the turnover battle and we knew that they might get one today. I thought we did a good job of stepping up on goal line and some guys made some nice plays."
In addition, a team with numerous injuries had players continuing to fight and play with injuries. Long has played the last two games on a bad ankle, and didn't practice Thursday and Friday after being very limited on Wednesday,
Said coach Steve Spagnuolo, "That's what I believe our football team is about. Now, it still doesn't change the win loss column, I understand that but anytime guys do that and Chris is one of them. He didn't practice all week. That thing was sore, now. He finds a way to tough it out in the game."
The Rams also did a good job on ***** running back Frank Gore. While the total of 144 rushing yards seems poor, 55 yards came on three runs by wide receivers Ted Ginn Jr. and Kyle Williams, and tight end Delanie Walker.
Except for one 20-yard run, Gore was throttled, gaining just 73 yards on 21 attempts.
Said safety Craig Dahl, "Our defensive coordinator (Ken Flajole) gave us a great scheme this week. Like I said before, that is their style of offense. Pound, pound, pound and then take a couple deep shots. Unfortunately we gave up two deep passes, and that is not something we are proud of. We have to continue to work on it. It is something we have struggled with in the past, we have to address those issues and get them corrected so we don't fall short on them again."
Those passes were a 52-yard touchdown to Michael Crabtree, who beat cornerback Justin King, and a 56-yard play to Williams, who caught a short hitch on a full-out blitz and just ran by cornerback Josh Gordy.
Defensive end James Hall, a team captain, said ther team will fight to the end.
"This is the National Football League," Hall said. "We're professional athletes, and you have to be professional about everything you do - whether it's going good or whether it's going bad.
"Guys on this team are going to maintain a professional attitude throughout the course of the season. With four games left, we're going to come out fighting every day with the goal of winning a game."
—Rams owner Stan Kroenke usually doesn't hang around the team's locker room after games unless it has been a victory. However, following Sunday's loss to the *****, Kroenke made it a point to briefly visit with numerous players.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Kroenke was able to greet, shake hands and talk to almost every player.
Afterward he told the Post-Dispatch, "I just wanted them to know that I appreciated their efforts. I know they don't count that in the NFL, but I wanted to make sure the players knew I do appreciate their effort."
Asked about Kroenke's message, quarterback A.J. Feeley said, "He appreciates everyone's effort. We're not satisfied with where we are at, but we have a bunch of fighters in this locker room. It's tough for me, as the quarterback of this team, to be playing and see the defense out there fighting and struggling to make stops and holding them to field goals for us to come up short on offense.
"We have a bunch of fighters in this locker room and you can't take that away from us. Execution level and putting points up on the board is where we come up shy."
Meanwhile, as for persistent speculation that Kroenke will make major changes, he told the Post-Dispatch, "As you know we don't discuss or make these kinds of decisions during the season."
—Coach Steve Spagnuolo said the hope is that quarterback Sam Bradford will be able to play next Monday night in Seattle. However, reading between the lines, that appears to be a longshot.
Spagnuolo said part of the decision to sit Bradford against the ***** was that if he had more of a setback to his injured ankle, surgery might be necessary.
"That was the concern going into this game that if it didn't get a little bit better," Spagnuolo said. "The thing was when we played in the Arizona game after the two weeks off, he was sore and we weren't quite there. And A.J. had taken all of the reps during the week and we felt good about A.J. going out there and helping us win a football game. I feel for Sam because I know he wanted to play and I know he would have done it because that's the kind of guy he is but we just kind of made the judgment call."
Said Bradford, "I went in with the mentality that I was going to start today," Bradford said. "But coach Spagnuolo pulled me aside and told me he had made the decision that it probably wasn't in my best interest to be on the field today."
However, Bradford also acknowledged that when the ankle was aggravated the week before against Arizona that he was almost back to where he was after the original injury.
He said, "It's definitely gone back to the first couple weeks after the injury. I knew I had hurt it (against Arizona), but I didn't know how bad. I think going through Wednesday's practice I realized how severely I tweaked it again."
Monday, Spagnuolo said Bradford's practice schedule heading toward Seattle will be the same as last week. However, the team's quarterback situation took another jolt when it was revealed that A.J. Feeley suffered a small fracture in his right thumb Sunday. It is possible that Feeley might be able to practice this week and play on Monday night.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
—QB A.J. Feeley suffered a small fracture to his right thumb against San Francisco according to coach Steve Spagnuolo, but hasn't been ruled out of Monday night's game against Seattle. Feeley hit his thumb on a helmet in the fourth quarter and earlier in the game also slightly injured a finger on his left hand.
—OG Jacob Bell suffered a grade 2 sprain of the MCL in his right knee Sunday, and will likely be placed on injured reserve. Coach Steve Spagnuolo described it as a four-week injury and there are only four games remaining in the season.
—S Craig Dahl injured his knee against the *****, and would be limited if there was practice on Tuesday.
—OT Adam Goldberg suffered bruised ribs in the first quarter Sunday, but came back and continued playing. Goldberg would be limited if there was practice Tuesday.
—OT Mark LeVoir, who suffered a pectoral injury on Nov. 20 against Seattle, might be back at practice this week. The injury to LeVoir, who had replaced Rodger Saffold at left tackle (torn pectoral), led to the switch of Adam Goldberg from right tackle to left tackle.
—DT Fred Robbins will be day-to-day in practice this week because of a back problem. Robbins originally injured his back in the preseason against Jacksonville.
—DT Gary Gibson was sick throughout the game Sunday and was vomiting. He will be checked for possible ulcer symptoms.