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'A' for effort

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  • 'A' for effort

    By Jim Thomas
    Monday, Dec. 29 2008

    ATLANTA They weren't proud of themselves. That doesn't happen when you've
    lost 10 in a row and finish the year at 2-14. But their chins weren't down,

    Playing an Atlanta team that came within a whisker Sunday of nailing down the
    No. 2 playoff seed in the NFC, the Rams were 31-27 losers before a raucous
    Georgia Dome crowd.

    For the third week in a row, they had a chance to win in the closing seconds.
    This time, Marc Bulger's fourth-and-10 pass from the Atlanta 37 was a tad too
    tall for Donnie Avery, falling incomplete with 69 seconds remaining.

    It marked the fourth time in the last five games that the Rams had lost by four
    points or less.

    "It says a lot," running back Steven Jackson said. "It says that guys want to
    win, and guys are not laying down. These last three games here, I think we
    should've won 'em all to be honest with you. We've got to learn how to
    finish. We've got to learn how to put teams away. But once we do that, we're
    going to be a special team. We're not that far away."

    As a reference point, the Rams lost last season's finale 48-19 at Arizona to
    complete a miserable 3-13 campaign. They were outscored 157-48 in the final
    three games of '07. In their final three games this season, the Rams lost
    fourth-quarter leads with 2:47 to go Dec. 14 against Seattle, with 1:22 to play
    last week against San Francisco and with 3:41 to play Sunday against the

    "It's night and day," Bulger said, comparing this year's team with last
    season's. "I know we got our butts kicked a lot this year. But as Coach (Jim)
    Haslett said, it's never been the (lack of) effort. Last year, you could maybe
    have mentioned that. The heart.

    "But the guys who were out there playing (Sunday) were doing everything they
    possibly could to win this one. When teams are better than you, it shows in
    the end.

    "We've just got to maybe upgrade a little bit, get better, and be able to play
    four quarters with these other teams."

    For only the third time this season, the Rams scored 20 or more points. Jackson
    rushed for 161 yards, the second-highest total of his NFL career. Tack on his
    four catches for 54 yards, and Jackson's 215 yards from scrimmage was the
    third-highest total in his career.

    Despite operating behind a patchwork offensive line that was missing both
    starting guards because of injury (Jacob Bell) and illness (Richie Incognito),
    Bulger posted his second-best passer rating of the season (91.9) and third-best
    yardage total (230).

    "When Steven's going the way he can go, I think he changes the whole dynamic
    for the game," Bulger said. "They had to bring their safeties down a ton to
    compensate for him, and when they did that, we got one-on-one matchups."

    The result was Torry Holt's best yardage total of the season 90, on six
    catches and Avery's first touchdown catch since October.

    But in the end, an old nemesis got the Rams run defense. Or lack thereof.
    After a modest start, the Falcons' potent backfield tandem of Michael Turner
    and Jerious Norwood got rolling. Atlanta ran for 192 yards in the second half
    alone, including runs of 70 yards by Turner and 45 by Norwood in the fourth

    "Norwood's very underrated," cornerback Ron Bartell said. "He's so fast and
    explosive. And Michael Turner is what he is."

    With the game tied 24-24, Bartell made an amazing recovery on Turner's 70-yard
    scamper early in the fourth quarter, running the 244-pounder down from behind,
    stripping the ball loose and then falling on it in the end zone for a touchback.

    "We needed a couple of plays," Bartell said. "And it was at a critical time
    because it would've been first-and-goal inside the 5. And then (Jonathan) Wade
    comes back and makes another great play."

    Wade's interception with just under 10 minutes to play gave St. Louis the ball
    at the Atlanta 22. When the possession stalled at the Atlanta 9, Josh Brown's
    27-yard field goal gave the Rams a 27-24 lead with 6:39 to play. Once again,
    the Rams couldn't protect the lead. Norwood's 45-yard TD run six plays later
    got Atlanta (11-5) over the top.

    "Most of the big runs, I'm going to have to claim responsibility," linebacker
    Pisa Tinoisamoa said. "I was over-aggressive. Ten out of 11 players did the
    right thing, and I was that guy that one player who did wrong."

    Regardless of who's to blame, Atlanta's 263-yard rushing total underscored the
    Rams' need to get bigger and better on defense next season. Opposing teams ran
    for 2,475 yards against St. Louis this season, the most rushing yards allowed
    by the Rams in franchise history.

    "We're not real big on defense, and it kind of showed up in that second half,"
    Haslett said.

    After Norwood's score, the Rams got as far as the Atlanta 29 as the clock wound
    down. But on second-and-2, Bulger was sacked on a play when both Holt and Avery
    were double covered. Passes on third down (for Dane Looker) and fourth down
    (Avery) went off the receivers' fingertips.

    Thus the Rams were finished for the game, and finished for the season. Is
    Haslett now finished as Rams coach?

    "I have no idea," Haslett told a reporter. "If you had a crystal ball, you
    could tell me. But I don't know."

Related Topics


  • RamWraith
    Hopes of upset dashed
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    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

    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
  • eldfan
    St. Louis Rams Team Report
    by eldfan
    One thing the last three weeks of Rams football has shown is that the team's problems are a lot deeper than the head coach.
    There was a momentary period of optimism after Jim Haslett was named to replace Scott Linehan following an 0-4 start, games that were lost by a combined score of 147-43.

    But the past three games, including Sunday's 35-16 loss to San Francisco, have reverted back to that beginning.

    In three losses to Arizona, the Jets and the *****, the Rams have been outscored 116-32, and each game has essentially been over by halftime, with the Rams trailing by a combined score of 99-10. In the past two games, they have been behind by a total of 75-3 after two quarters.

    Each game has featured brutal stretches of play where turnovers created poor field position and led to many of those points. Sunday, the ***** scored 28 points in a 10:04 span of the second quarter. The previous week, the Jets scored 17 points within 5:42 of the first quarter and another 23 points in 11:37 of the second quarter.

    In the loss to Arizona that began the streak, the Cardinals scored 24 points in an 11:28 span of the second quarter. In the past two games, the Rams have had a total of eight turnovers in the first half.

    "I'm kind of perplexed by it," coach Jim Haslett said after Sunday's game. "I'm not really sure what to say because we come out in the second half and end up playing a lot better."

    Of course, the improved play in the second half the past two weeks came with the opponent nursing huge leads.

    Still, three killer turnovers in the second quarter Sunday obscured the fact that the offense actually moved the ball. The Rams had 203 yards at halftime, including 85 yards rushing. Quarterback Marc Bulger was 12-for-19 for 127 yards, but his three turnovers helped the turn the game into a rout, along with a defense that once again gave up big play after big play.

    In that fateful second quarter, Bulger couldn't handle a center exchange and San Francisco recovered. He then threw two interceptions on the next two possessions and the ***** scored three touchdowns after getting the ball at the Rams' 16-yard line and at their own 40 and 44.

    Center Nick Leckey took responsibility for the botched snap, while one of the interceptions was aided by wide receiver Donnie Avery stumbling and being too close to wide receiver Torry Holt, which allowed safety Michael Lewis to peel away from Avery and make the interception of the pass intended for Holt. The other interception was a deep pass to Avery that was underthrown.

    Said Haslett, "Then we do nothing on defense to stop them from scoring every time they touch the ball except for the turnover in the first half. That was terrible."

    As noted, big plays were again a problem for the defense. Of the 213 passing yards by quarterback Shaun...
    -11-18-2008, 07:43 PM
  • RamWraith
    Rams Lose to ***** After Another Bad First Half
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas

    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
  • eldfan
    Inside Slant
    by eldfan
    What happened at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday was almost too surreal to believe.
    It would have been one thing for St. Louis to beat Dallas. After all, the Cowboys' injury list was lengthy, they were playing with backup quarterback Brad Johnson and they had lost two of their three previous games. There were distractions with the constant discussion of quarterback Tony Romo's pinkie finger and the suspension of cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones.

    But, no one could have imagined the Rams bolting to a 21-7 first-quarter lead, then never letting up in a 20-point spanking where the margin of victory was more than the points the Rams had scored in any previous game this season.

    Suddenly, the 2-4 Rams are in second place in the NFC West, just two games behind the first-place Arizona Cardinals (4-2). The ***** lost to the Giants on Sunday and fell to 2-5. Seattle is 1-5 after losing to Tampa Bay. The Cardinals were off Sunday and travel to Carolina this week, while the Rams have the Patriots (the second straight week against a team with a backup quarterback, and New England will be coming off a Monday night game).

    The following week, Arizona will be in St. Louis for the first of the Rams' five remaining division games, three of which are at home. The current combined record of the Rams' final 10 opponents, prior to the Patriots' game Monday against Denver, was 29-33. Only New England (3-2), Arizona (4-2), Chicago (4-2) and Atlanta (4-2) had winning records.

    Asked where this new winning attitude might take the Rams, guard Richie Incognito said, "We're going to take it to New England next week. That's the way we have to look at it. One game at a time. We're not in a position to look beyond that. But we have a lot of division opponents to play."

    Said coach Jim Haslett of winning two in a row: "We're 2-4. Hopefully, we can get back in the division race. But I know our guys will be up for the game in New England. That's a three-time Super Bowl champ and a great challenge on the road."

    In the two-game winning streak over NFC East teams Washington and Dallas, the Rams have shown resilience, falling behind 7-0 early in the first quarter in both games but fighting back.

    Like a mantra, Haslett has talked about responding to adversity because bad things will happen in games. He has talked about playing with confidence and swagger. To listen to Rams players talk after Sunday's game, almost like programmed robots, many mentioned swagger.

    It's obvious this team believes in Haslett. But Haslett credits the players, as any good coach will do.

    Asked about the turnaround, Haslett said, "I think it is the will of the players more than anything. You have guys out there playing hard; if you have been to the practices, you see that they are practicing with a little purpose. I think anytime you get a win...
    -10-22-2008, 08:56 AM
  • eldfan
    St Louis Rams Team Report
    by eldfan
    Date Opponent Score

    9/7/2008 at Philadelphia L 3 - 38

    9/14/2008 N.Y. Giants L 13 - 41

    9/21/2008 at Seattle L 13 - 37

    9/28/2008 Buffalo L 14 - 31

    10/12/2008 at Washington W 19 - 17

    10/19/2008 Dallas W 34 - 14

    10/26/2008 at New England L 16 - 23

    11/2/2008 Arizona L 13 - 34

    11/9/2008 at N.Y. Jets L 3 - 47

    11/16/2008 at San Francisco L 16 - 35

    11/23/2008 Chicago L 3 - 27

    11/30/2008 Miami L 12 - 16

    12/7/2008 at Arizona L 10 - 34

    12/14/2008 Seattle L 20 - 23

    12/21/2008 San Francisco L 16 - 17

    12/28/2008 at Atlanta L 27 - 31

    All Times Eastern

    A day after the Rams lost their 10th consecutive game Sunday to end the season with a 2-14 record, coach Jim Haslett was asked the final message he gave to his team.
    Said Haslett, "I just told them that I thought that game, and I said this yesterday (Sunday), will define you as a person, as a football player and as a team for the following year. The year before, Arizona put a licking on this team and I didn't think they played real hard and I didn't think it was a great game. I thought everybody played hard, they were into the game, they wanted to win the game. I didn't see anybody laying down and I think that kind of defines you as a person, so when people start looking at you on film you can at least walk away saying you gave everything you had."

    Haslett was named the team's interim coach after the Rams lost their first four games of the season under Scott Linehan. There were two quick victories, but then the 10 straight losses.

    Asked if it was a long season, Haslett said, "Well, anytime you don't win a lot of games, it's a long season for coaches, for players and for everybody in the building. It's disappointing from that aspect. We started out strong, started winning a couple games after a slow start, so you got your hopes up. But then we played four games, right in a stretch, right in the middle that was really bad football. Then, actually the last four or five games we played well enough that we've been in every game and had the chance to win every game, so it's disappointing.

    "But I think you saw what everybody could do yesterday, the players gave everything they had. Obviously we're just not good enough and there's going to be changes made. That's the way the league works and they know it, coaches know it. That's just how this league works, so it'll be for the better."

    One of the changes could be with the head coach, and Haslett knows he has little control over what the organization will decide. He said, "I like the city, I think this team's not far away, my family...
    -12-30-2008, 06:00 PM