St Louis Rams Team Report
When you are the coach of a team that is 0-2, has lost 12 consecutive games and is 5-29 since the start of the 2007 season, fragile can be the psyche.
It's why coach Steve Spagnuolo is trying to stay consistent, and emphasizing the positive as the Rams prepare for their home opener Sunday against Green Bay.
While noting the fact that the offense had three possessions of 10 plays or more and the defense prevented the Redskins from scoring touchdowns on four trips to the red zone, Spagnuolo acknowledged, "We have a lot to work on. As I told the team, I'm disappointed, but not discouraged. We have to continue to emphasize the details, because this loss came down to the details."
Yes, the Rams had those three possessions that totaled 33 plays. But they managed just one touchdown, and there were only 17 plays on their other five possessions.
Yes, the Rams stopped the Redskins in the red zone, but four of Washington's possessions lasted 55 plays, gained 302 yards and took 27:04 off the clock. Overall, the Redskins ran 70 plays to the Rams' 50 and had the ball for 34:53.
Spagnuolo added, "There's no moral victories in this league. But I'm mostly disappointed in the fact that we've got a football team that works their butts off, and they haven't had a chance to feel victory yet. We've got a long ways to go here.
"It is a cliche that you take one or two plays out of a game and the outcome changes. But in this particular (game), that would be true. Because there were certain plays in there that if they went differently, we might be on the other end of the win-loss column."
Two of the plays were a fumble by Donnie Avery at the Washington 5-yard line in the fourth quarter that stopped a drive, and a sack of quarterback Jason Campbell on which he barely got out of the end zone.
Said Avery, "I was just trying to get more yards. I was trying to get YAC (yards after the catch) on the play, and ended up fumbling. I let the team down."
Adam Goldberg, who replaced rookie Jason Smith at right tackle in the first half after Smith injured his knee, said, "We know as a team we have to tidy things up and go out and get it done. We all feel this way. It's time to get it done and go out and get a W."
—Quarterback Marc Bulger received treatment after the Washington game for a sore back that was the result of a three-yard run in the second half. Bulger went into a slide, but that didn't stop two Redskins players from hitting him. Bulger wasn't pleased that a penalty wasn't called on the play. The Rams called time out to allow Bulger to recover, and during the break, he made his point to referee Jerome Boger.
After the game, Bulger said, "I think my thoughts were obvious. But I don't want to go back and re-hash it."
Early in the game with his second completion, Bulger became the club's all-time leader in completions. Currently, he has 1,861 to Jim Everett's 1,847.
—The defense did not allow a touchdown, the first time that's happened since a Nov. 18, 2007 13-9 win in San Francisco.
"There certainly are no moral victories," safety James Butler said. "But iron out some details on third down and we'll be a whole lot better."
Added cornerback Ron Bartell, "It's a new defense for us. We're learning, and we're getting better every week. But we're going to have to overcome those small (errors), because they're killing us."
Offensively, however, the seven points in the first two games of a season is the lowest ever for a Rams team.
—C Jason Brown noted during the week the biggest improvement offensive lines make is from Week 1 to Week 2. Following Sunday's game, Brown said, "We definitely did a lot better this week than we did last week. ... We're going to get better. It's still early in the season. It's still early with our offense, and there's tons of room for improvement."
Brown also realizes providing bulletin-board material for an opponent is unnecessary.
During training camp, Brown talked about Washington defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, and said, "I'm so glad we're playing Washington early in the year because it's going to be hot and ... he's going to get fatigued. He just falls down to the ground ... giving the guy on the sidelines enough time to mosey on out there so (Haynesworth) can get up, go to the sidelines, catch a breather, get something to drink, and then he comes right back out."
After Sunday's game, Brown approached Haynesworth in the middle of the field. Said Brown, "I apologized. He and I have played against each other several times, and he knows that no matter what I say, I respect him. And I know that he respects me. We shook hands."
As for doing any more talking, Brown said. "The thing to do is talk with your pads. I was humbled today, and I'm going to stay humbled."
—RT Jason Smith and C Jason Brown each suffered knee injuries Sunday against Washington.
Smith is considered doubtful for Sunday's home opener against Green Bay, while Brown is said to be day-to-day. Smith suffered what is being called a strained knee, with no surgery required. He said he hopes to make more progress in the next two days and possibly practice Wednesday. That seems unlikely. The expectations are he will miss one or two games, and be replaced by Adam Goldberg.
Brown said he has never missed a practice or game in his career and has every intention of playing this week.
"I'll be out there Wednesday (at practice) and see what happens," he said.
As soon as the team arrived home from Washington Sunday night, Brown began rehabbing in the team facility with quad extensions and some time in the cold tub.
"He's a pro," coach Steve Spagnuolo said.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
—RT Jason Smith won't need surgery for the left knee injury he suffered against Washington. Smith says he will try and practice Wednesday, but he is considered doubtful for Sunday's game against Green Bay and is expected to miss one or two games.
—OL Adam Goldberg, who started games at four different positions last season, will start at right tackle if Jason Smith can't play Sunday. Goldberg replaced Smith in the first half of Sunday's game against Washington.
—C Jason Brown is intent on playing this week after injuring his knee against Washington. Brown left the game for five plays and returned. He is said to be day-to-day, but Brown emphasized that he's never missed a practice or game in his college or pro career.
—C Mark Setterstrom was in the game for five plays Sunday when Jason Brown left with a knee injury. It was the first regular-season game for Setterstrom since he suffered a knee injury in the third game of the 2007 season.
—LT Alex Barron suffered a contusion to the thigh against Washington, but is expected to play this week.
—CB Justin King has a sore hamstring, and it's unknown if the injury will affect any of his practice time this week.
REPORT CARD VS. REDSKINS
PASSING OFFENSE: C — Marc Bulger has his second consecutive game without an interception, and had his first touchdown of the season, a well-thrown 2-yard fade to WR Laurent Robinson. WR Keenan Burton had two catches for 38 yards, but WR Donnie Avery had just one catch for four yards, and he fumbled at the end of the play. In the team's short passing game, Bulger averaged just 8.3 yards per completion, and had a passer rating of 77.2.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C-plus — RB Steven Jackson had a 104-yard day, but 58 came on one play and he averaged 3.1 yards on his other 16 carries. Five of his attempts were for zero yards with one of minus-1. There was more consistency in the second half to the running game.
PASS DEFENSE: C-minus — The Rams kept the Redskins out of the end zone, but QB Jason Campbell completed 65.7 percent of his passes for 242 yards. For the second week, the Rams struggled against a good tight end, as Chris Colley had seven receptions for 83 yards.
RUSH DEFENSE: B — Clinton Portis' long run of the day was 12, and he was limited to 79 yards on 19 carries. Of Washington's 125 rushing yards, 28 were by Campbell on scrambles.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-minus — Nothing special. The coverage was fine, but the return game is poor. Derek Stanley totaled 13 yards on two punt returns, while the kickoff return game netted 55 yards on four attempts, a 13.8-yard average. The Rams had no field-goal attempts and Donnie Jones averaged 43.3 yards on four punts.
COACHING: C-plus — Some decisions by coach Steve Spagnuolo and his staff could be nit-picked, but he understands the reality of the situation. Asked about not being aggressive at the end of the first half when the Rams got the ball at their own 30 with 1:12 to play, Spagnuolo acknowledged, "I played it close to the vest." Expect more of the same, at least for a while.