Spagnuolo bringing Rams vision to life, like it or not
JEFF GORDON | Posted: Monday, October 18, 2010 10:43 am

Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo was most pleased Sunday afternoon.

His vision for the Rams played out in technicolor inside the Edward Jones Dome. His team delivered 60 minutes of smash-mouth football and beat the San Diego Chargers 20-17.

The Rams defensive front seven created much havoc against that should-be AFC powerhouse. The secondary remained diligent in coverage and stout in run support.

Mixing blitzes with steady pressure from the front four pass rushers, the Rams sacked Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers seven times. They held an explosive attack to less than 300 yards.

On the offensive side, running back Steven Jackson plowed for 109 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries. The Rams controlled the ball for nearly 33 1/2 minutes and closed out in the victory formation.

This is exactly what Spagnuolo had in mind for the Rams when he replaced hapless Scott Linehan as head coach. The plan was to rebuild from the lines out and create a physical football team.

The Rams set out to build a power running game that sets up a play-action passing game. The goal was to build a ball-control offense capable of wearing down opponents.

This team muscled up on the defensive side of the ball as well. It needed to become more imposing at the point of attack.

Stuff the run, rush the passer, press the receivers on the line of scrimmage . . . Spagnuolo is building a Giants defense here in St. Louis.

So why was Sunday’s live chat here at STLToday.com so angry? Why were so many fans calling for the mid-game dismissal of the entire coaching staff?

The Rams became cautious while protecting its second-half lead. This made fans inside The Ed restless. The conservative playcalling elicited a smattering of boos from the crowd.

Media types wondered aloud about this strategy from their press box perches. Fans watching on TV became anxious. The dialogue on the Internet grew even angrier than usual.

Rams PR czar Ted Crews warned Spagnuolo about the issue before the postgame media address.

“Ted mentioned that to me that I was going to get banged with that,” Spagnuolo said, seeming puzzled by the controversy. “And I’ll be honest with you, I was very, very involved with the defense in the third quarter. So I’m going to honestly tell you that I didn’t see a lot of the offensive plays.”

He was more interested in relishing the victory than second-guessing his offensive coordinator.

“I’d have to go back and get back to you on whether I can verify that or not,” Spagnuolo said. “I’ll have to look at it.”

Upon further review, we’re guessing that Spags and playcaller Pat Shurmur will agree they should have given quarterback Sam Bradford a few more aerial shots, particularly in the third quarter.

But, again, what you saw Sunday was the team Spagnuolo sought to build. He is just seeing the project through.

Dick Vermeil and Mike Martz built “The Greatest Show on Turf.” Spagnuolo is building something different. He has no intention of changing what blue print to mollify fans.

In the end, the offensive line muscled up on the Chargers. In the end, Jackson bulldozed for the needed first downs and Chargers never got their opportunity to rally.

So what if the playcalling was predictable?

The Chargers knew what was coming and still couldn’t stop it. Execution trumped strategy.

So what if the Rams didn’t earn style points Sunday?

They won a game most experts expected them to lose. A team that finished 1-15 a year ago is 3-3 this season, with all its goals still within reach.

“There are some things there I would have like to have seen differently,” Spagnuolo conceded. “I don’t like giving up the touchdown at the end, that’s just me. I’m not going to harp on it, we still won the football game.

“I was hoping we’d score a few more point in the second half but we didn’t. But we scored one more than them, actually three. As long as you have one more than they do, then we’re good.”

Agreed.