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Rams face early test vs. the West

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  • Rams face early test vs. the West

    Rams face early test vs. the West
    By Jim Thomas

    Coach Steve Spagnuolo never looks back. He's always looking forward and wants his players to do the same. Maybe that's a good thing, considering the state of St. Louis Rams football in recent years. But the future arrives Sunday at 3:15 p.m. (St. Louis time) at Qwest Field in Seattle.

    If the Rams are going to do anything to get back to respectability, they've got to do better against the NFC West. Much better, beginning with the 2009 season opener against the Seahawks.

    Since the start of the 2005 season, Mike Martz's last go-around as Rams coach, the team is a woeful 4-20 against the NFC West, for a pitiful winning percentage of .167.

    (They're 15-25 for a .375 percentage against the rest of the league over that time. Which isn't great, but it's still more than twice as good as .167.)

    "We've got to do better in our own division," defensive end Leonard Little said. "That's the only way we're going to crawl out of this hole that we've been in the last two or three years."

    Since the start of '05, the Rams are:

    — 0-8 against Seattle. Five of those losses have been by six points or less, with three decided on last-second field goals. But the Rams haven't been very competitive in Seattle over that span. The average score of their last four trips to Seattle: Seahawks 31, Rams 14.

    — 2-6 against Arizona. Many blowouts here. The Rams have lost their last five games to the Cardinals and yielded at least 34 points in all five "contests."

    — 2-6 against San Francisco. These have almost all been close defensive struggles. Seven of the eight games were decided by seven points or less. The Rams have scored more than 20 points only once.

    Seattle's current eight-game streak against the Rams is a Seahawks franchise record over any opponent. The last Rams victory came during the 2004 playoffs, a 27-20 triumph at Qwest, with the winning points coming on a 17-yard TD pass from Marc Bulger to ... Cam Cleeland.

    "It's been a while," cornerback Ron Bartell said. "I haven't been able to experience one yet. So hopefully on Sunday I'll be able to get my first one against Seattle."

    Bartell isn't alone. Amazingly, only four players on the current roster have experienced a victory over Seattle wearing a Rams uniform — Little, Bulger, running back Steven Jackson and long snapper Chris Massey.

    The Rams are 8 1/2-point underdogs Sunday, and they figure to be underdogs in most games this season. No one outside the walls of Rams Park expects much from the team this year, but that could work to the Rams' advantage. There are early signs that the team is developing a motivational chip on its shoulder.

    "To be honest, we don't care what your expectation is of us," Bartell told reporters Thursday. "We have expectations of ourselves. We just want to go out and play hard every game and try to win every game. We're not worried about outside influences. We don't get caught up in all that. Everybody's just focused on Seattle, Week 1, winning on Sunday. That's it."

    They will try to win Sunday with a roster that is radically different from a year ago, both in terms of new and younger personnel. In the ever-changing NFL, it's not unusual for one-third of a roster to change from one year to the next. But the 2009 Rams have 27 new players this year compared to last season's opening-day roster, a turnover of 51 percent.

    And you want young?

    — Last season, the Rams had seven opening-day starters over age 30. They will have three on Sunday.

    — Last season the Rams had 15 opening-day players over age 30. They have seven this season.

    — Last season the Rams had 18 players with less than three years NFL experience on the roster. This year, they have 27.

    Will youth be served?

    "If we can get both sides of the ball and special teams playing at a high level, I feel like this team's talented," Jackson said. "Yes, we are young, but we're not going to use that as a crutch. We're not going to use that as an excuse. We're all paid here to win games and that's what I expect for us to do."

  • #2
    Re: Rams face early test vs. the West

    I love the attitude. Who cares what anyone else says. Go out, root for the team, root for them to play hard and show some determination on the field.

    If we can play solid defense and move the ball well, we have a good chance.


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      Believe It Or Not: Rams In A Big Game
      by r8rh8rmike
      Believe it or not: Rams in a big game

      Friday, November 12, 2010

      At 2-2, the Rams headed north to Ford Field and suffered a humiliating 44-6 defeat in Detroit.

      At 3-3, the Rams headed south to Raymond James Stadium and squandered a 17-3 lead en route to a last-second 18-17 setback to Tampa Bay.

      Here we go again.

      At 4-4, the Rams head west to Candlestick Park to take on the San Francisco *****. For the third time this season the Rams will try climb above the .500 mark, a place they haven't been at any point in a season since midway through the 2006 campaign.

      Only this time, the stakes are higher because it's mid November and the Rams are leading the NFC West standings. A victory over San Francisco keeps the Rams in first place and just about puts a dagger into the ***** (2-6) who were consensus preseason favorites to win the West. A loss keeps the Rams on their nearly-season long treadmill of winning at home and losing on the road.

      "Division rival, a defense that I highly respect," running back Steven Jackson said of the *****. "I think they go about business the right way. It's one of those measuring sticks for us to see where we're at in our conference and our division. It's going to be a meaningful game. A lot of people who look at it from a point of view of (won-loss) records don't really appreciate the intensity that this game's going to bring Sunday."

      So yes, for the first time in a long time, the St. Louis Rams are playing in a big game. How long has it been? Consider Jackson's answer when asked about teaching the younger players how to win big games.

      "Well, it's something that I'm looking forward to learning," Jackson said. "I'm being honest right now."

      In seven NFL seasons, Jackson has yet to play on a team that finished the season with a winning record. And he has been part of only one playoff squad: the 2004 Rams squeaked in at 8-8 with a wild-card berth in Jackson's rookie season.

      "To have a big game, to learn how to win as the stakes get higher, as the season goes by, it's going to be fun," Jackson said. "I'm looking forward to the challenge. Hopefully we can keep ourselves in this position but everything goes back to what we've always been taught around here _ one week at a time, one game at a time. But if you continue to win, the stakes get bigger."

      Nine victories probably wins the NFC West this season, maybe eight. But you can't get to eight or nine until you first reach five. And that's the task at hand in Sunday's 3:15 p.m. (St. Louis time) kickoff.

      The Rams haven't won a road game in more than a calendar year, 378 days to be exact since winning 17-10 at Detroit on Nov. 1, 2009. As the road losses accumulate this season, the Rams have all but run out of words...
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    • RamDez
      Rams want to show Seattle who is boss
      by RamDez
      Rams want to show Seattle who is boss
      By Jim Thomas

      Of the Post-Dispatch
      Leonard Little (above) says the Rams have been looking forward to the kind of test the Seattle Seahawks present.
      (Chris Lee/P-D)

      SEATTLE - Almost since the first preseason magazines hit the newsstands in June and July, the Seattle Seahawks have been portrayed as the team to beat in the NFC West and an up-and-coming power in the NFC.

      "There's been a lot of talk that they're going to overtake the NFC West, and that the Rams are fading," Rams wide receiver Torry Holt said. "It doesn't bother me none."

      Holt, in fact, agrees with that assessment. To a point.

      "They are an up-and-coming team in the National Football League," he said. "But we won 12 games (last season). We still are the champs of the NFC West. And until somebody dethrones us, then that's the way we're going to carry ourselves."

      And one last thing.

      "You still have to play," Holt said. "No matter what's being said in the papers and the magazines, we still have to go out there and strap it on. And they have to beat us, and we have to beat them."

      So the NFC West sorting process begins in earnest Sunday afternoon at Qwest Field. A victory by Seattle, which is coming of its bye week, puts the Seahawks at 4-0 for the first time in franchise history. It also puts the Seahawks three games up on the loss side against the Rams.

      But a Rams victory puts them at 3-2, and Seattle at 3-1 with the Seahawks traveling to New England on Oct. 17. A loss doesn't eliminate the Rams, but a victory means the division race is on.

      "This one will tell a lot about who's got early control of the division," Rams defensive captain Tyoka Jackson said. "The season's not over after this game, but. ..."

      As for all the Seattle hype?

      "Well, we heard the same thing last year, so what does that mean?" Jackson asked. "It means absolutely nothing, it's just talk. The game's played on the field. ... If we go out and play Rams football, it doesn't really matter."

      In their two victories this season, "Rams football" has meant a mix of running and passing on offense, zero sacks allowed by Rams blockers, and stingy defense.

      In their two losses, the Rams have been pass-happy on offense, allowed five sacks in both contests, and been overly generous on defense.

      There's no doubt Rams players like the more balanced approach on offense. They've been dropping hints whenever asked about the importance of the running game, as if they're almost hoping the head coach is listening.

      "To be balanced is great," offensive tackle Grant
      -10-10-2004, 01:13 AM
    • MauiRam
      Rams hope to end another streak ..
      by MauiRam
      BY JIM THOMAS • Thursday, September 30, 2010 12:10 am

      It has been so long since the Rams beat Seattle that, well, some Rams veterans have forgotten how long.

      Try the 2004 season.

      "Oh, wow," was cornerback Ron Bartell's reaction.

      It has been so long that ...

      — The entire Rams rookie class was in high school.

      — The Rams were the defending NFC West champions.

      — And sellouts, the kind where every ticket actually gets sold, happened every Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.

      Since then, the Rams have lost 10 in a row to the Seahawks, who visit the dome Sunday for a noon kickoff. It's the second-longest losing streak to an opponent in Rams history, exceeded only by 17 consecutive losses to San Francisco from 1990-98.

      Only two players on the current roster have experienced a victory over Seattle as members of the Rams — long snapper Chris Massey and running back Steven Jackson.

      "They've just outplayed us the last couple years," Massey said. "We're working hard. Not all of the young guys know that they've won the last 10 games."

      Nor do all of them even care. When asked if the Seattle streak meant anything to him, rookie quarterback Sam Bradford said, "No. I mean, I haven't been here. Like I said, this is a new team. This is a fresh start. Obviously, we're going to play these guys twice this year and this is the first time."

      Steve Spagnuolo, a mere 0-2 against the Seahawks as Rams coach, brushed aside a question on the topic Wednesday, displaying typical coach's tunnel vision.

      "It wouldn't matter if we had won 10 games in a row, I would still want to beat them," Spagnuolo said. "So I'm just going to deal with this Sunday's game against Seattle and this particular 2010 Seattle team."

      That may be so, but if the Rams are going to claw their way back to respectability, they must start ending some streaks. On Sunday against Washington, they snapped a 10-game overall losing streak and ended their franchise-record 14-game home losing streak.

      This Sunday, they can not only end their 10-game losing streak to the Seahawks but also end a 15-game skid against NFC West foes dating back to November 2007.

      "Ten is a long streak, and I think we're primed to have our best game yet," said place-kicker Josh Brown. "We've had two games that we let go by (against Arizona and Oakland). We had one that we really played well last week (against Washington), and we still made a lot of mistakes. We've got a great opportunity against a good Seahawk team. Ten's a long run. But 10's enough."

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      -09-30-2010, 12:57 AM
    • RamWraith
      Showdown in NFC West is parity party
      by RamWraith
      By Bryan Burwell

      For all this fancy talk about heated division rivalries, inflammatory bulletin-board quotations, vengeful rematches and delicious psychological warfare, the true essence of this ongoing Rams-Seahawks football feud can be found right there at the top of the NFL standings.

      This might be a brawl for it all in the NFC West, but for the time being, let's just say that we ought to hold back on any breathless banter about postseason implications and championship possibilities. What we're about to witness inside the sold-out Edward Jones Dome is nothing more exciting than a grudge match between two rather flawed 2-2 teams wrestling for supremacy in a division that lacks any true powerhouse legitimacy.

      We are still waiting for someone in this division to define themselves as worthy championship contenders. We are still waiting for someone in this division to start flexing their muscles and act like they deserve being mentioned in the same breath among the NFC power elite.

      Right now, the NFC West's greatest claim to fame is its consistent ability to produce underachieving, disappointing pretenders. Wasn't 2005 supposed to be the Year of the Arizona Cardinals? Oooops, that hasn't worked out so well so far. Wasn't 2005 supposed to be the season of the great rejuvenation of the Rams offense and redemption of the rebuilt defense?

      Again, ooooops.

      And how long have we been waiting for the Seahawks to live up to their promise as a team on the rise? Weren't they supposed to be the "It Team" of 2003, or was it 2004? Haven't they been labeled for the past three years as one of those promising young teams just on the verge of a breakout season? Weren't they supposed to be ready to make some serious noise?

      But now look at them. The only noise they're making is "ouch!!!!" The 2-2 Seahawks are playing just as unevenly as the 2-2 Rams, and Sunday their top two wide receivers (Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram) won't play because of knee and rib injuries. That's 75 percent of their passing offense that's going to be back in Seattle. And if they're battered physically, imagine the damage that's been done to their psyches whenever they see those gold and blue Rams helmets coming toward them.

      So now the team of the future looks a whole lot more like a team whose time may have passed them by. You think things are rough for the Rams and Mike Martz? Well get a load of the popularity of Seattle's Mike Holmgren, who got a pass for a long time about the merits of his offensive "genius" tag. Lately, however, Holmgren's struggled to live up to the reputation.

      So what's the biggest beef about Holmgren in Seattle? They think he's too conservative, too tightly wound, too boring and predictable late in games when victory or defeat is being decided.

      -10-09-2005, 06:32 AM
    • RamWraith
      First Things First
      by RamWraith
      Saturday, October 8, 2005

      By Nick Wagoner
      Senior Writer

      All week the questions asked of the Rams have been the same and repeated almost ad nauseum.

      Do you consider Seattle a rival? Do you have a psychological edge because of the three wins against the Seahawks a year ago? What do you remember most about those games from a season ago?

      But come Sunday’s noon meeting at the Edward Jones Dome, there is only one thing that matters to any of the Rams, regardless of which team lines up on the other side.

      “Right now we’re in the mindset that we need to win a ballgame,” receiver Torry Holt said. “As far as all that psychological and physical edge and all that stuff, we haven’t really given too much thought about that…This is an opportunity for us to win a ballgame against a division opponent at home. The guys understand how critical this is, how critical this game is.”

      Any thoughts of rivalries or bitterness toward the Seahawks notwithstanding, this game is about as important as a game taking place in the fifth week of the regular season can be.

      Like last season, it appears that Seattle and St. Louis are going to fight it out until the last week for the NFC West Division crown. Both teams enter Sunday’s game with records of 2-2, sitting atop the division with Arizona and San Francisco at 1-3. The winner will emerge with sole possession of first place in the division, some momentum for the following week and an edge for a possible tiebreaker at the end of the season.

      Those simple reasons for winning make this game more important than anything that happened last year.

      “From season to season, game to game, nothing you have done the week before has any bearing on what you’re doing right now,” coach Mike Martz said. “That was a nice thing last year. It’s over. It’s long gone. We don’t even think about it or talk about it.”

      Unless of course, they are faced with a constant barrage of questions about it, such as this week. Sure, the Rams and Seahawks are fast becoming a big rival in the division, but that is mainly because neither the Cardinals nor the ***** have provided much competition in recent years.

      Last season, St. Louis and Seattle dueled into the final weeks before the division was decided, but it wasn’t like the two teams were exactly dominant. By the time the Seahawks had claimed the division, they were 9-7 and the Rams sneaked into the playoffs with an 8-8 record.

      Because the Rams and Seahawks have been the two best teams in a division that isn’t too deep, these meetings have added importance. If for no other reason, that’s why this is a rivalry that is beginning to boil over.

      “I know how people feel about the West Division, it’s either us or Seattle,” running back Steven Jackson said. “I think that in itself makes it a rivalry. Playing them three...
      -10-09-2005, 06:32 AM