With Saints ahead, Rams get down to work quickly
BY JIM THOMAS
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Refreshed and relaxed after a four-day break for their bye week, the Rams returned to practice Monday. But if you think coach Steve Spagnuolo had a big speech waiting for his squad on what lies ahead over the second half of the season, think again.
"No, just got right back into the normal week," Spagnuolo said, blinders on as usual.
That's probably a good thing considering that this week's opponent is the unbeaten New Orleans Saints — 8-0 and proud possessors of the NFL's top-ranked offense. No need to look beyond that. "We've got a great challenge because they've got some great skill position players," defensive end Leonard Little said. "Great receivers, great quarterback, great running back. But every week is a challenge."
That's for sure. Especially at home this season. The Saints are the third consecutive unbeaten team to visit the Edward Jones Dome. Minnesota was 4-0 before defeating the Rams 38-10 on Oct. 11. Indianapolis was 5-0 before a 42-6 rout of the Rams on Oct. 25. The Saints are merely the latest NFL heavyweight to visit the Gateway City.
"It's been tough, the first eight games," Little said. "But I think guys got refreshed during the bye week. And we're coming back and trying to get ready for this challenge."
The Rams have had success coming out of the bye week since the move to St. Louis in 1995. They are 9-5 over that span in their first game following a bye, including a 6-2 mark when that game is at home.
The Saints know first-hand not to take the 1-7 Rams lightly in this situation, regardless of the record. The Rams were 0-8 under Scott Linehan coming out of their bye in 2007 but stunned a Saints team that was riding a four-game winning streak 37-29 at the Superdome. At Marc Bulger's suggestion, Linehan got the game ball after that one.
This season, the Rams ended a franchise-record 17-game losing streak in their most recent contest, a 17-10 victory at Detroit on Nov. 1. Now, they'd like to end another streak, having lost their last eight home games. That ties the 1997-98 Rams for the second-longest home drought in franchise history. (The Los Angeles Rams lost 11 straight home games from 1961-63 to set the record.)
"We went to a lot of road games the first half of the season," Little said. "And most of our games now are at home. It'd be nice to win at home because the fans deserve it. We're going to work hard and try to do that."
The Rams play five of their final eight games at home, with the New Orleans game beginning a string of three consecutive home contests. The Rams don't have to leave St. Louis again until a Dec. 6 contest at Chicago.
During the bye, many Rams left town after last Wednesday's practice to get away from football for a few days.
Defensive end Chris Long headed to Miami to watch his alma mater, the University of Virginia, play the Hurricanes in football. Linebacker Chris Chamberlain was in his cousin's wedding in Oklahoma City.
Rookie offensive tackle Jason Smith was in Columbia, Mo., on Saturday watching his Baylor Bears upset Missouri 40-32. He spent part of the day on the Baylor sideline, and part of the day in the Bears' alumni section at Faurot Field.
Smith talked informally with some of his former college teammates but gave no pep talk to the team. "No, I just was there," he said. "I was just a fan along for the ride."
Wide receiver and kick returner Danny Amendola celebrated Thanksgiving back home in Dallas. That's right, Thanksgiving.
"I ate too much," Amendola said. "I ate a lot of turkey."
Amendola's stepbrother and several other family members were about to leave town for several weeks. They work on oil rigs offshore of Galveston, Texas. So with Amendola also free in the bye week, they decided to celebrate Thanksgiving about three weeks early.
"It was our only time that we were going to be all together for a number of months," Amendola said.
And in keeping with a "tradition" established a decade ago by Dick Vermeil, even Spagnuolo broke away from Rams Park long enough to explore St. Louis. Vermeil once visited the Cahokia Mounds historic site on a bye weekend; Spagnuolo explored Forest Park on bicycle Saturday with his wife, Maria.
"I didn't realize how big Forest Park was," Spagnuolo said. "Seriously now. I was impressed really at the beauty of it. People were all over the place. They got a museum, a boathouse, they had the amphitheater."
(That would be the Muny, coach.)
"That looked awesome," Spagnuolo said. "Are they doing that now?"
(Only in the summer, coach.)
Re: With Saints ahead, Rams get down to work quickly
Good to hear that they took some time to relax. Being fans, going for bike rides, catching up with people....that's good.
Would be real nice to see a win at home.