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  • RamWraith
    Special teams again a problem
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    08/29/2008

    KANSAS CITY — Early in the second quarter Thursday night at soggy Arrowhead Stadium, the Kansas City Chiefs' Bernard Pollard stormed in and partially blocked a Donnie Jones' punt.

    It marked the second time in as many preseason games that an opponent had gotten a hand on a Jones boot, a disturbing trend for a team just 10 days away from its regular-season opener.

    "Football is a game of field position, and a blocked punt is bad," Jones said. "It's a huge game-changing play. We've got to get it corrected for next week against Philly."

    Those aren't the only special-teams woes that have been dogging the Rams, who finished the preseason 2-2 after falling 21-17 in the annual Governor's Cup game. They committed several other miscues against the Baltimore Ravens last Saturday and added more gaffes Thursday. Among them were three long returns that led to two Chiefs touchdowns:


    — A 33-yard kickoff scamper by B.J. Sams preceded a seven-play, 62-yard drive that culminated with a 14-yard run by Kolby Smith.

    — A 34-yard punt return, after a line-drive boot by Jones under heavy pressure, set up a nine-play, 56-yard march, with Smith scoring from the 4.

    — Later, Dantrell Savage sprinted 40 yards with a kickoff, but the defense forced a three-and-out.

    "At least now we know what we what we have to work on," said Eric Bassey, a coverage-unit regular. "We have to try to make plays and change games. In order to do that, you have to be in the right spot."

    Rookie Matt Caddell, also on the coverage teams, added: "If one guy gets out of place, it's like a domino effect. It could be any one of us. We all take the blame for it."

    Rookie Lance Ball, who was lined up to Jones' left, was quick to accept responsibility for allowing Pollard to get by him. "He kind of bull-rushed me, I opened up my shoulder a little bit, and he just nicked" the ball, he said. "There's 11 guys on the field, and if one person breaks down, it can mess up the whole play."

    The Rams, who trailed 21-3 early, had a chance to close to 21-13 late in the third quarter when Josh Brown lined up for a 40-yard field goal. In a downpour, Brown pushed the ball wide right, a rare miss for the highest-paid kicker in NFL history.

    "Just a bad kick," said Brown, who refused to cite the driving rain. "You've got to contend with Mother Nature. Everything's got to be working."

    As the preseason came to a close, the Rams were on the short end of several statistical areas involving special teams:

    — Jones averaged 32.7 net yards on 20 punts, some 7 yards under his regular-season total from 2007. The net for opposing punters in the preseason was 41.4.
    ...
    -08-29-2008, 11:25 AM
  • eldfan
    Result that matters eludes Rams again
    by eldfan
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    09/21/2009

    LANDOVER, MD. — Progress? Yes. Results? Not quite. And that's what made Sunday's 9-7 loss to Washington all the more excruciating for coach Steve Spagnuolo and the Rams.

    "I'm very disappointed," Spagnuolo said. "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."

    Spagnuolo apparently was so disappointed that it took him nearly 25 minutes from the end of the game to address reporters. The NFL's so-called 10-minute cooling off period wasn't nearly enough for Spagnuolo to collect his thoughts after this setback.

    The Rams got 100 yards-plus rushing from Steven Jackson, achieving some degree of balance offensively. The defense was stellar in the red zone, limiting the Redskins to just three field goals in four trips inside the 20. Actually, all four of those red zone trips advanced inside the 10.

    And the Rams cut down significantly on their mistakes from the season-opening fiasco in Seattle. Trouble was, they still made enough Sunday to start 0-2 for the third consecutive season.

    "It is a clichι that you take one or two plays out of a game and the outcome changes," Spagnuolo said. "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."

    The most obvious — and most costly — mistake happened early in the fourth quarter. Trailing 9-7, the Rams marched methodically from their 25 to the Washington 9, overcoming a false start penalty on tight end Daniel Fells and left tackle Alex Barron's second holding penalty of the day.

    On third-and-4 from the 9, quarterback Marc Bulger completed a pass to Donnie Avery for first-down yardage at the 5. But Avery was rocked by Redskins safety Chris Horton, the ball popped out, and Washington cornerback Carlos Rogers fell on the fumble.

    "I was just trying to get more yards," a disconsolate Avery said. "I was trying to get YAC (yards after contact) on the play, and ended up fumbling. I let the team down."

    Avery has been responsible for the only two Rams turnovers this season, losing a fumble on the opening kickoff return last week in Seattle.

    Even after Avery's miscue Sunday, the Rams' offense had two more possessions to take the lead. But the first series stalled at the Washington 41. On fourth-and-2, Spagnuolo sent out the punting unit, but then flanked punter Donnie Jones out to the left and lined Kenneth Darby behind center in a variation of the wildcat formation.

    However, this was no trick play. The Rams never intended to run the ball; their sole intention...
    -09-21-2009, 08:35 AM
  • RamFan_Til_I_Die
    Futility flashback
    by RamFan_Til_I_Die
    Futility flashback
    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    09/14/2009

    SEATTLE — The foundation for Rams football under rookie head coach Steve Spagnuolo is supposed to be built on intensity, focus and attention to detail. Suffice it to say, the foundation still contains plenty of cracks, and it's going to take more than a little spackle to seal them.

    Oh, the intensity was there in Sunday's 28-0 drubbing by the Seahawks at Qwest Field. Trouble was, it frequently got out of control. (See: Richie Incognito.)

    But the focus and attention to detail? Apparently, those two qualities didn't make the trip to the Pacific Northwest.

    Granted, for 1½ quarters, the Rams showed the kind of resiliency necessary to dig out of the franchise's recent doldrums. But one mistake after another eventually took its toll. When a blocked field goal for a touchdown by St. Louis was reversed by a penalty for too many men on the field the floodgates opened.

    Seattle broke open what had been a 7-0 game before the blocked field goal play, scoring on three of its next four possessions. By game's end it looked like just another rout — complete with 10 penalties against St. Louis, 446 yards offense by Seattle and next to no production by the Rams' inept offense on third down and in the red zone.

    Despite an offseason replete with change at every level of the organization, it looked very much like, you know, the same old sorry (bleep) Rams.

    "I'm not going there," Spagnuolo said afterward. "This was the first game of the 2009 season. That's what it is. We didn't win. We're going to play the second game of the 2009 season next week."

    Spagnuolo took the blame for all the penalties. "That's a discipline thing and that falls on the head coach," he said.

    Similarly, he fell on the sword when it came to the blocked field goal, a play in which the Rams added new meaning to the mystique of Seattle's 12th Man. (When he wasn't in the stands cheering on the Seahawks, the 12th Man apparently was lining up with the Rams' field goal block unit.)

    C.J. Ah You, playing in his first NFL regular-season game, blocked Olindo Mare's 49-yard field goal attempt, with Quincy Butler scooping up the football and racing 51 yards for a touchdown to tie the score 7-7 with 49 seconds left in the first half.

    But there was a booth review on the play, which can happen when there is under 2 minutes to play in either half.

    "In replay, under 2 minutes, the replay booth takes over the game," referee Pete Morelli told a pool reporter. "One of the categories they have the ability to review is 12 men on the field. ... They count every play."

    They counted 12, with Ah You being the extra man on the field. A terrible play, to be sure, but the Rams had several chances to...
    -09-14-2009, 09:25 AM
  • r8rh8rmike
    With Opener Nearing, Wounded Rams Are Returning
    by r8rh8rmike
    08.28.2009 5:31 pm
    With opener nearing, wounded Rams are returning
    By Bill Coats
    St. Louis Post-Dispatch


    As the regular season approaches, the St. Louis Rams are getting progressively healthier. It appears that they came out of Thursday night’s game at Cincinnati with no major injuries, and several players who have been out for a while are getting close to a full return.

    Wide receiver Tim Carter (groin) and running back Kenneth Darby (knee) played in the 24-21 victory over the Bengals despite not practicing all week. Wideout Donnie Avery (foot), defensive tackle Adam Carriker (ankle), guard Jacob Bell (concussion) and defensive end Leonard Little (knee) are expected to practice this week and could play Thursday night in the preseason finale vs. the Chiefs.

    Also, coach Steve Spagnuolo reported that quarterback Marc Bulger (finger) will throw some this week, although he might not take snaps. Bulger probably will sit out Thursday.

    The status of three players who were injured at Cincy — wideout Keenan Burton (knee), safety Craig Dahl (hamstring) and cornerback Justin King (thumb) — was not updated Friday. But none of the injuries is believed to be serious.

    Notes & quotes:

    The Rams have scored 40 points off nine turnovers in the three preseason games. During the entire regular season in 2008, the club produced just 45 points off turnovers.

    RB Samkon Gado has a team-high 5.7-yard average on 23 carries. The two other primary contenders for the backup job behind Steven Jackson – Antonio Pittman and Kenneth Darby – are averaging 4.0 and 3.1 yards, respectively.

    Rookie LB James Laurinaitis has come up with a takeaway in each of the last two games: an interception vs. the Falcons, then a fumble recovery vs. the Bengals.

    Laurent Robinson is the club’s top receiver, with 10 catches for 137 yards.
    A total of 17 players have caught at least one pass.

    Spagnuolo gave the players Saturday off. Practice resumes Sunday at Rams Park.

    The first cuts must be made by Tuesday, although only five spots have to be trimmed off the 80-man camp roster. The final 22 cuts come just four days later.

    All for now . . .
    -08-28-2009, 05:52 PM
  • eldfan
    St. Louis Rams' losing streak reaches 16 games
    by eldfan
    St. Louis Rams' losing streak reaches 16 games
    BY JIM THOMAS
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    10/19/2009

    JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — For a few brief moments Sunday afternoon, sunshine broke through the dark cloud that has been hovering over this franchise for a full calendar year.

    Rams defensive end Leonard Little pawed at the short pass in the flat intended for Jaguars fullback Greg Jones, and then got the football fully in his grasp. He sprinted to the end zone and dived in for a dramatic touchdown just before quarterback David Garrard could knock him out of bounds. Josh Brown's extra point gave the visitors a 17-13 lead with a mere 4 minutes 36 seconds to play at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium.

    "You're thinking, 'It's about time something good happened for us,'" tight end Randy McMichael said. "A guy like Leonard, who's out there sick and the oldest guy on this football team, and he just makes the biggest play of the year for us."

    Little's 36-yard interception return was the kind of play that can change a game, even change a season.

    But no. Not this time. Not this team. Little has been sick since Friday with strep throat. As for the Rams, they're sick and tired of losing.

    Despite leading for the first 3 1/2 quarters, and then regaining the lead on Little's first TD since 2004, the Rams couldn't seal the deal. Jacksonville's Josh Scobee kicked a 36-yard field goal 7 minutes into overtime, giving the Jaguars a 23-20 victory.

    "This one probably hurts more than any of them," McMichael said. "Not being able to close it out, that's the most disappointing thing."

    So the agony of defeats continues. Seasons change, coaches change, the result doesn't. The Rams are 0-6 this season. Overall, their franchise record and league-worst losing streak is at 16.

    Happy anniversary, Rams Nation. Today marks the one-year anniversary of the team's last victory — a 34-14 triumph over Dallas on Oct. 19, 2008.

    Obviously, rookie head coach Steve Spagnuolo has been at the helm for only six of those losses, but even he is running out of things to say to his players.

    "I don't have any magical words," Spagnuolo said. "I just asked them to hang together, hang tough."

    Easier said than done after so many setbacks. And from Steven Jackson's vantage point, they all make you feel awful.

    "It don't matter how you lose a game," Jackson said. "It really doesn't make you feel any better. At least (not) for me. At the end of the day, we're 0-6. I can't say, 'We almost had that one, we're 0-5 1/2.' A loss is a loss."

    Things started out promisingly for the Rams. Marc Bulger, making his first start since suffering a shoulder injury Sept. 27 against Green Bay, went five for five on the opening drive,...
    -10-19-2009, 07:14 AM
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