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  • Rams can't hold onto early lead

    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    Monday, Nov. 03 2008
    On its opening possession, Arizona had four cracks at the end zone from the
    2-yard line in, but was stopped cold by the St. Louis defense.

    "I thought we were onto something," defensive end Leonard Little said.

    Sure looked that way later in the first quarter, when quarterback Marc Bulger
    connected on an 80-yard lightning bolt to young wide receiver Derek Stanley. It
    was one of the more amazing plays seen recently in the Edward Jones Dome.

    Running full speed, Stanley cradled the deep pass with one hand on the back of
    defender Eric Green, gathered the ball in, then managed to tightrope the
    sideline for a touchdown. It was Stanley's first NFL catch, and the longest
    pass completion of Bulger's NFL career.

    But just when it looked like the Rams were poised to play themselves back into
    the NFC West race, the bottom fell out in dramatic fashion. A team that hadn't
    yielded more than 23 points in any of Jim Haslett's first three games as head
    coach was scorched for 24 in the second quarter Sunday by the Cardinals.

    Poof! went any realistic division title hopes. And down went the Rams, 34-13,
    to a hungry and emerging Big Red team led by St. Louis favorite Kurt Warner at
    quarterback.

    "It boils down to a number of different things, but we weren't very good in the
    one-on-one area," Haslett said. "We know this (Arizona) team is a good
    offensive football team, and they're going to score some points. We can't give
    them extra points through turnovers, and that was the big thing. That just
    killed us."

    It all began unraveling early in the second quarter, when a Bulger pass
    intended for rookie Donnie Avery over the middle was intercepted by Arizona
    safety Antrel Rolle and returned 40 yards for a touchdown. That tied the score
    7-7 with 12 minutes 10 seconds remaining in the half.

    "I wish I had that back. That put our team in a bad situation," Bulger said. "I
    pumped the tight end, assuming that the safety would move."

    But Rolle didn't budge. He didn't go for the pump fake, stayed with Avery and
    made an aggressive play on the ball.

    On the Rams' next possession came another of those one-on-one plays that the
    Rams couldn't handle. Blitzing Big Red safety Adrian Wilson beat an attempted
    block by fullback Dan Kreider, sacked Bulger and forced a fumble that was
    recovered by teammate Bertrand Berry at the St. Louis 23.

    The Rams' defense held, but St. Louisan Neil Rackers booted a 36-yard field
    goal to give Arizona its first lead of the game at 10-7. The Cardinals were
    just getting warmed up. Rookie running back Tim Hightower capped a 92-yard
    drive with a 30-yard TD run around left end on Arizona's next possession.
    Cornerback Fakhir Brown was in position to make the tackle near the line of
    scrimmage but whiffed.

    The back-breaker came in the final minute of the half, when Warner threw deep
    down the right sideline for Jerheme Urban. Rams cornerback Jonathan Wade had
    tight coverage, turned for the ball perfectly ... and watched what looked like
    a sure interception plop out of his hands and into Urban's.

    Urban secured the ball, turned and ran for a 56-yard TD. Instead of getting an
    interception and return that might have put the Rams in field goal range to cut
    Arizona's lead to 17-10 at the half, the Rams found themselves down 24-7.

    "It just slipped through my hands," Wade said. "He kept with it. It was a great
    play by him, as well as a great play by me."

    Well, almost a great play by Wade, who was thinking interception all the way as
    the ball headed into his hands.

    "It's calling my name," Wade said, referring to the ball. "It's calling my
    family's name. And you're sitting there just like 'ahhhh.' And all of a sudden,
    something happens. I should have concentrated and made the play."

    Since taking over for the fired Scott Linehan, Haslett has stressed the
    importance of showing resiliency and responding well to adversity. Just the
    opposite happened on Sunday, however. The Rams collapsed in a manner
    reminiscent of the Linehan tenure.

    "I didn't think we handled it very well," Haslett said. "That disappointed me."

    And it all got back to those one-on-one matchups that Haslett talked about.

    "Jon Wade has a chance to get an interception; they score a touchdown," Haslett
    said. "They get another turnover because we miss a block. You've got a fullback
    (Kreider) on a safety; you've got to make the block.

    "It's a bunch of matchups, one-on-one. Football, that's what it is. And we
    didn't win any one-on-ones. We just didn't do it."

    As a result, the division-leading Cardinals are 5-3 at the midpoint of the 2008
    season, and sitting pretty in the West. They have won four straight over the
    Rams in St. Louis. The Rams, meanwhile, are 2-6 and on the outside looking in.

    Again.

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  • RamWraith
    No glory, only gloom for Rams
    by RamWraith
    With Kurt Warner at the helm, Cardinals put up 31 straight points to bury his old team
    BY STEVE KORTE - News-Democrat

    ST. LOUIS -- On a day that former coach Dick Vermeil was honored, former quarterback Kurt Warner reminded everyone at the Edward Jones Dome how the St. Louis Rams' glory days are a thing of the past.

    Warner threw for 342 yards and two touchdowns as the Arizona Cardinals took command of the NFC West with a 34-13 win over the Rams on Sunday.

    The Cardinals rolled up 510 yards of offense against the Rams, who managed only 210 yards of offense as their running game never got in gear because of injuries.
    "We had no running game whatsoever, and if you're going to throw the ball all day, you're going to get some turnovers," Rams coach Jim Haslett said.

    That was Haslett's way of saying that when quarterback Marc Bulger is your leading rusher, you're in trouble.

    Bulger committed three turnovers -- two interceptions and a fumble -- that led to 10 points for the Cardinals.

    "That just killed us," Haslett said of the turnovers. "They're averaging 28 points a game, and then you turn around and have three turnovers, two of them that led to points."

    Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson played despite a thigh injury, but he clearly wasn't himself as he had only seven carries for 17 yards.

    Antonio Pittman suffered a hamstring injury on the first play of the game. He had 10 carries for 12 yards.

    That left Bulger with three carries for 32 yards as the team's top rusher.

    By contrast, the Cardinals rushed for 177 yards, including 22 carries for 109 yards and one touchdown from rookie running back Tim Hightower.

    Hightower was the Cardinals' first 100-yard rusher since Edgeriin James ran for 102 yards on Dec. 30, 2007 against the Rams.

    The Rams hit the halfway point of the season with a 2-6 record, three games behind the Cardinals (5-3) in the NFC West.

    Asked how the Rams can keep their heads up in the second half of the season, Haslett said, "They're professionals. They get paid. They're going to come out and play hard every game, and they're going to practice that way. If they don't, if someone doesn't do it, we'll get someone else to do it."

    It was vintage Warner as the man who led the Rams to a pair of Super Bowl appearances completed 23 of 34 passes for 342 yards and two touchdowns. His quarterback rating was 120.0 for the game.

    "It is a little bit like that," Warner said of comparing the Cardinals' current offense to the Rams' Greatest Show on Turf. "We have a long way to go to get where we were with the Rams in those three seasons (1999-2001) where we were flying high, but there are times where there are glimpses of what we did then.

    "All I...
    -11-03-2008, 03:20 PM
  • RamWraith
    Hopes of upset dashed
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    Monday, Dec. 01 2008
    It wasn't a blowout. It wasn't an embarrassment. But for the sixth Sunday in a
    row, it was a loss.

    Any hope of a Rams upset victory Sunday vanished when wide receiver Derek
    Stanley couldn't catch up with Marc Bulger's deep ball. Dolphins cornerback
    Andre' Goodman could, however. Goodman's interception at the Miami 10 with 35
    seconds to go preserved a 16-12 victory for Miami (7-5) at the Edward Jones
    Dome.

    As a result, the Rams (2-10) "clinched" their sixth season of double-digit
    losses in 14 seasons in St. Louis and the third in the past four years.

    This was a day when the Rams did a lot of things right. In one of its best
    performances of the season, the defense yielded only one touchdown, forcing
    three Dan Carpenter field goals by the Dolphins.

    The maligned Rams offensive line allowed no sacks for the first time this
    season, keeping NFL sack leader Joey Porter quiet. On the ground, they blocked
    their way to 129 yards rushing, the

    third-best total this season.

    And that was with center Brett Romberg making just his second start of 2008,
    left tackle Orlando Pace gutting it out on a bad right knee and rookie John
    Greco playing most of the second half at right guard because of lightheadedness
    by Richie Incognito.

    The offense received a big boost from the return of running back Steven
    Jackson, who rushed for 94 yards on 21 carries and had a 16-yard reception.

    But the improved execution brought the same old result. Bulger threw three
    interceptions in the final 17 minutes of the game. And once again, the Rams
    couldn't get anything done in the red zone.

    There was a little bit of controversy as well, with Jackson getting only one
    carry in the fourth quarter. And some questionable strategy, with coach Jim
    Haslett opting not to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the St. Louis 40 with 4:43
    to go.

    "He was gassed, and his leg had started bothering him," Haslett said of
    Jackson's late-game disappearing act. "We told him before the game 'Go as far
    as you can go. We'll play these other guys.' That's basically what happened."

    Afterward, Jackson begged to differ.

    "No, I wasn't gassed," Jackson said. "I had 21 carries, and I felt great. So it
    wasn't my conditioning. I wish he would stop saying that."

    The Dolphins controlled the ball for almost nine minutes in the final quarter,
    and the Rams were in their 2-minute offense on their final two possessions,
    situations where they planned to use Kenneth Darby going into the game. Still,
    it might have been tempting to use Jackson on...
    -12-01-2008, 05:08 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams Lose to ***** After Another Bad First Half
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    11/17/2008


    SAN FRANCISCO Costly turnovers on offense, missed tackles on defense, and a huge halftime deficit.

    "It was terrible," coach Jim Haslett said. "You turn the ball over three times in the first half and then we do nothing on defense to stop 'em. They scored every time they touched the ball except for the turnover in the first half."

    Sound familiar? It should.

    At least the Rams showed marked improvement over the first half of last week's Meltdown in the Meadowlands, a 47-3 loss to the New York Jets. They trailed by 40 points in that one at the half.

    In Sunday's 35-16 loss to San Francisco, the Rams trailed by a mere 32 at halftime in the Collapse at Candlestick.

    "The first halves have been devastating to us as a football team, and it's tough," wide receiver Torry Holt said. "It's tough to recover, when you go in at half with a team up 40, up 35, on you."

    Last week in the Meadowlands, the Jets scored on all seven of their first-half possessions.

    Sunday at Candlestick Park, the ***** scored on only five of their six first-half possessions. (Only a fumble by ***** running back Frank Gore deep in St. Louis territory prevented it from being six for six.)

    "Coach (Haslett) emphasized all week to come out strong," quarterback Marc Bulger said. "And he said it again (Saturday) during our walkthrough that we need to come out fast. We can't have a little adversity hurt us. That was our (problem) earlier in the year and it seems to have crept back a little bit."

    A little bit?

    The Rams did manage a couple of first downs off the opening kickoff, advancing to the San Francisco 30. But then, Josh Brown missed a 48-yard field goal, his first miss inside 50 yards in 12 such attempts this season.

    "That's really not the way you want to start," Haslett said. "Move the ball down and miss the field goal. And then it led to disaster after that. It just snowballed."

    San Francisco's first possession ended when Gore had the ball poked out from behind by safety Oshiomogho Atogwe at the end of a 37-yard run. Cornerback Jason Craft snatched the ball in the air just before stepping out of bounds for the Rams' first takeaway since the Oct. 26 New England game.

    But starting from their 13, the Rams went three-and-out. A short and low punt by Donnie Jones was returned 29 yards by Allen Rossum, allowing San Francisco to take over at the St. Louis 34. Four plays and one pass interception penalty later, the ***** were in the end zone. (The flag was against Craft, who was trying to cover longtime Ram Isaac Bruce.)

    Gore scored untouched on a 5-yard touchdown run. Two Rams defensive linemen were knocked down on the play....
    -11-17-2008, 04:17 AM
  • RamWraith
    Believe It Or Not: Strange finish favors Rams
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    09/25/2006

    Rams Big Red


    GLENDALE, ARIZ. First the ball squirted out and onto that retractable grass field at Cardinals Stadium. Then, Arizona defensive end Antonio Smith emerged from the pile with the football. And then the celebration, with the sellout crowd going absolutely nuts.

    For Marc Bulger, this was "Twilight" Zone material. He stood all by his lonesome on the Rams' sideline. As the clock ticked down, and Arizona maneuvered for a game-winning field goal, it was as if Bulger's football life flashed in front of him.

    "Everything came on me at that point," Bulger said. "You work all year round. You know how hard everyone in this (locker) room works. And the organization, the accountants -- everyone.

    "And then to lose the ballgame. That's a big deal. One-16th of the season gone because of one stupid little ball-handling thing."


    But that's not what happened. Because just 16 seconds after Bulger's botched fumble with 2 minutes 3 seconds remaining in the game, Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner amazingly did the same thing. Warner's eighth fumble of the season came on a botched exchange with center Alex Stepanovich. Linebacker Will Witherspoon fell on the ball, preserving a 16-14 St. Louis victory.

    "I didn't have a chance to take a step," Witherspoon said. "The ball was there ... just right there. So I just jumped on the pile to get on top of it. And that's where the end of the story is."

    Well, not exactly.

    It's rare enough for a close game to feature a botched fumble in the final two minutes by both starting quarterbacks. But the ending got even weirder. Arizona had a timeout remaining, so the Rams couldn't quite run out the clock following the Warner fumble.

    Matt Turk punted the ball away with 5 seconds left with Troy Walters fielding the football with a fair catch as time expired. There was an offsides penalty against Arizona on the play, so the game was over. Right?

    Uh, no. For a few minutes, mass confusion reigned. Here's what was going through offensive guard Adam Timmerman's head at the time:

    "Whose ball is it? Is it the offense? Are we going to punt again? What's the deal here?" Timmerman said. "That was weird."

    Under NFL rules, a team can attempt an uncontested free kick after a fair catch at any point in the game. This is so even if time expires at the end of the fair-catch play, as was the case here.

    When the Rams originally declined the penalty, it was explained to them by the officiating crew that declining would allow Arizona to attempt a free kick. So instead of giving St. Louisan Neil Rackers a chance at a 77-yard -- that's right -- 77-yard desperation field goal, the Rams accepted the...
    -09-25-2006, 04:29 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams can't grasp it
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    Monday, Oct. 27 2008
    FOXBOROUGH, MASS. For the Rams, the game ended when Marc Bulger threw his
    first interception in 85 passing attempts with just over a minute to play.

    But opportunity was lost much earlier in a 23-16 loss to the defending AFC
    champions.

    New England had four possessions or should have had four in the third
    quarter Sunday at Gillette Stadium. Something bad happened each time for the
    Patriots:

    The Rams opened the second half by successfully executing an onside kick,
    with Travis Minor recovering Josh Brown's boot.

    The next two New England possessions resulted in Matt Cassell throwing
    interceptions; he was picked off first by Oshiomogho Atogwe and then by Fakhir
    Brown.

    New England's final possession of the quarter ended in a failed fourth-down
    gamble, with

    defensive tackle Clifton Ryan tripping up Patriots running back BenJarvus
    Green-Ellis behind the line of scrimmage.

    As a result, the Rams' offense had excellent field position throughout the
    quarter, starting series on the St. Louis 41, New England 43, St. Louis 42 and
    St. Louis 36. But they got only six points out of all that, on two field goals
    by Brown.

    "We've got to put those in," right guard Richie Incognito said. "It's
    imperative. If we want to win our division, we've got to put those in the end
    zone."

    But instead of putting away the Pats, the Rams let them hang around. The result
    was New England's 13th straight regular-season victory over an NFC team.
    Instead of having a chance to play for first place in the NFC West next week at
    home against Arizona, the Rams are 2-5 and still trying to climb out of that
    0-4 hole that led to coach Scott Linehan's dismissal. Minus Tom Brady, assorted
    running backs and much of its secondary because of injuries, New England (5-2)
    was able to regroup and score the game's final 10 points to erase a 16-13 St.
    Louis lead.

    Playing without Steven Jackson and Adam Carriker, and losing Leonard Little for
    much of the game, the Rams were killed by faulty special teams and bad field
    position in the fourth quarter.

    After Brown's third field goal of the day snapped a 13-13 tie 2 minutes into
    the fourth quarter, New England's Ellis Hobbs had a 49-yard kickoff return
    the longest of the year against the Rams. Donnie Jones, who entered the game as
    the NFL's leading punter, booted one only 29 yards out of bounds (with coach
    Jim Haslett complaining vehemently about the spot).

    A holding penalty by Eric Bassey, promoted to the active roster Tuesday because
    of Todd Johnson's bruised kidney, backed up the...
    -10-27-2008, 04:38 AM
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