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    r8rh8rmike's Avatar
    r8rh8rmike is online now Superbowl MVP
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    Schedule Sends St. Louis Rams Another Strong Opponent

    Schedule sends St. Louis Rams another strong opponent

    BY JIM THOMAS
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    11/17/2009

    At least the Rams don't play an unbeaten team this week. Then again, the visiting Arizona Cardinals are unbeaten on the road this season.

    "Thanks," coach Steve Spagnuolo said, with mock sarcasm.

    The news of Arizona's road success wasn't exactly the pick-me-up he was looking for after Sunday's 28-23 near miss against New Orleans.

    But that's the way things have gone this season for the Rams one hurdle after another. The Rams' first four home opponents in 2009 Green Bay, Minnesota, Indianapolis and New Orleans are a combined 31-5. In comparison, the NFC West-leading Cardinals are a "modest" 6-3.

    "We've got a division game, a rival," defensive tackle Clifton Ryan said. "High-powered offensive attack with a great quarterback in Kurt Warner. I know the fans are going to be happy to see him. Every time he comes back, he gets a warm reception."

    Warner obviously has some help in the passing game.

    "Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Steve Breaston," Ryan said, listing the Big Red's top three receivers. "The list goes on and on. The high-powered offenses keep on rolling into St. Louis. And we've got to be up to the challenge to stop 'em."

    In order, the Rams have faced the No. 8 (Green Bay), No. 7 (Minnesota), No. 3 (Indianapolis) and No. 1 (New Orleans) offenses in the NFL at home. Arizona isn't far off the pace, bringing the league's 12th-ranked offense to the dome for a 3:05 p.m. kickoff Sunday.

    "A lot of good quarterbacks," defensive end Chris Long said. "Already getting to play Peyton Manning, Drew (Brees), now Kurt."

    And some guy named Brett Favre.

    "Yeah, Favre," Long said. "How could I forget that guy? Yeah, we've played some good quarterbacks. But when you play a good quarterback like that, like these guys, the margin for error becomes so small. They truly manage the game to perfection. You really have to make no mistakes."

    In order, Favre, Brees, Manning and Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers are ranked 1-2-3-4 in the NFL in passer rating. Warner isn't far off the pace with the 11th-best passer rating in the league (91.5).

    If only for one Sunday, the Rams showed they can play with the big boys of the NFL by going toe-to-toe with the Saints for 60 minutes.

    "I feel that this team's only going to get better," wide receiver Brandon Gibson said. "We showed that we are capable of playing with one of the better teams. We've just got to always play at a high level."

    Games like that have been few and far between for the Rams lately. The Rams have lost 22 games since the start of the 2008 season, and 14 of those losses have come in blowout fashion by 17 points or more.

    So even in defeat, the Saints game could be a confidence builder for a young and largely inexperienced team.

    "We lost by five points to one of the top two teams in the NFL," Ryan said. "Some people say they're the best team in this league. So it was a good gauge for us. But at the same time, you play the game to win. You don't play the game to say, 'Oh, it was close.' This is not horseshoes ... or anything like that. This is the National Football League, so you want to win every Sunday."

    True, but the Saints game was one of the most exciting at the dome in recent years. Now, the Rams must show that their competitiveness in that contest wasn't a fluke. How do they make sure that the Saints game becomes a building block and not an aberration?

    "You do a couple things," Long said. "One you don't latch on to moral victories. Two you have to look at it as a motivator, and not something where you might be discouraged. Some teams have letdowns after a close game against good opponents.

    "I think that's something you can control. Your intensity and your emotional investment every day coming into the building should be the same. I don't think that should change because something happened last week. You've got to look forward."

    Sunday's game against the defending NFC-champion Cardinals will be another measuring stick to see if the Rams truly are making strides toward respectability. If nothing else, the worst of the Rams' schedule finally is behind them.

    Even with two games remaining against the Cardinals, the Rams' final seven contests of the season are against teams with a combined 31-32 record, for a .492 winning percentage. The combined record of the Rams' first nine opponents: 47-34, for a .580 winning percentage.

    The Rams took several steps in the right direction against the Saints. They matched their season high in takeaways (three), had their most productive passing game of the season (293 yards) and continued to grind out the rushing yards (141).

    But on the flip side, the Rams committed their seventh red zone turnover of the season, gave up a touchdown on special teams and, worst of all, were gouged for a season-worst 203 yards rushing.

    "We've still got to improve on our rush defense," Ryan said. "We've been harping on that since I've been here and from what I hear, for years now. We really need to get that under control, because we're giving up way too many rushing yards."


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    eldfan's Avatar
    eldfan is offline Registered User
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    Re: Schedule Sends St. Louis Rams Another Strong Opponent

    "You do a couple things," Long said. "One you don't latch on to moral victories. Two you have to look at it as a motivator, and not something where you might be discouraged. Some teams have letdowns after a close game against good opponents.

    "I think that's something you can control. Your intensity and your emotional investment every day coming into the building should be the same. I don't think that should change because something happened last week. You've got to look forward."

    I hope we are not going to have a let down that would be a shame after this past week.
    :ramlogo:

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