Win eases the defense's pain
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Monday, Nov. 27 2006
After five consecutive losses endured and a gazillion rushing yards yielded,
Rams defensive end Leonard Little was interested solely in the bottom line
"If they ran for 2,000 yards ... we just wanted to win the game," Little said.
They did, 20-17 over San Francisco at the Edward Jones Dome. And it was a
crucial stop by the much-maligned defense that was key.
The ***** were leading 14-13 and driving for a put-away touchdown late in the
fourth quarter when they faced a third-and-1 play at the Rams' 7-yard line. "We
got together before that play said, 'We stop 'em and we can win the game,'"
No one doubted what offensive coordinator Norv Turner would call. "Everybody in
the stadium knows they're going to run," rookie defensive lineman Claude Wroten
said. "You just brace up and try to make a big play."
Frank Gore, whose 1,043 yards coming into the game ranked him second in the
NFL, already had ground out 134 vs. the Rams. But Gore, who apparently was
nursing a bruised ankle, wasn't in the backfield. Instead, rookie Michael
Robinson — a converted quarterback — took the handoff from quarterback Alex
"I really wasn't too worried about" who got the carry, Brandon Chillar said.
"Whoever it was, we had to stop him."
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Robinson bore into the line at left guard. There, he
was met by a swarm of defenders, led by Chillar and fellow linebacker Raonall
"Guys were just coming off and one by one, making that hit," linebacker Will
Witherspoon said. "It just shows that we're not going to give up, we're not
going to give in."
Next came the spot and measurement. "It was close," Raonall Smith said. "But we
got it by an inch; that's all you need."
Niners coach Mike Nolan eschewed a try at a first down, and a 24-yard field
goal by Joe Nedney made it a four-point margin, 17-13. "I thought about" going
for it, Nolan said. "But we're on the road ... go up by four, make it a
touchdown game. I wouldn't change anything."
With 3 minutes 54 seconds remaining, the defense had turned the game over to
the offense, with a chance at snuffing the five-game skid and thrusting the
Rams back into the playoff picture in the jumbled NFC.
"That was the difference from games in the past: We actually made the play
instead of (the opposition) making the play," Chillar said. "It gave our
offense a shot, and they went down there and did their thing."
Twelve snaps later and with just 27 seconds to go, quarterback Marc Bulger
found wide receiver Kevin Curtis in the right side of the end zone for a 5-yard
TD pass. For the first time since Oct. 8 in Green Bay, the Rams had prevailed.
"Two months of the season, or a month and a half, that's forever in the NFL,"
Bulger said. "It gets old after a while. When you win, it gets some momentum
going and guys' attitudes, I think, will change."
If ever a unit needed a pick-me-up, it was the Rams' defense. It had tumbled to
27th in the 32-team league in total yardage (346.6 per game) and a woeful 31st
vs. the run (153.2). During the losing streak, the Rams had been gashed for an
average of 185.8 yards by opposing ballcarriers, four of whom had topped 100
It's not as if the Rams morphed into the Steel Curtain on Sunday: The *****
rolled up 171 rushing yards, and Gore averaged 6.4 yards a carry.
"We filled the gaps; we just weren't making the tackles we needed to make,"
Witherspoon said. "But at the end of the day, they may have had a lot of runs
and driven the ball down the field, but ... they only came away with three
"That's the difference in the game, right there."