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  • Result that matters eludes Rams again

    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 cliché 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 was to draw the Washington defense offside.

    The Redskins didn't take the bait, and Darby then compounded the situation by calling a timeout, much to the displeasure of Spagnuolo on the sideline. It was the last St. Louis timeout of the half, with 9 minutes 25 seconds remaining in the game. It might have come in handy later.

    "We went through it plenty of times in practice," Darby said. "I just got too busy trying to get those guys to jump. I really wasn't thinking straight. The first thing in my mind was to call time out because they really didn't move. I knew it was a mistake after I did it."

    The Rams ended up punting, and this time, Washington didn't give up the ball until it marched all the way to the St. Louis 2. On fourth-and-1, Washington coach Jim Zorn decided to go for it instead of kicking a field goal. The right side of the St. Louis defense stuffed Clinton Portis for a 2-yard loss. But by that time, only 1:55 remained on the clock, and the Rams had no timeouts.

    Four incomplete passes followed, including a quasi-Hail Mary to Avery on fourth down. The Rams have now lost 12 straight since beating Dallas on Oct. 19 last season.

    "It definitely hurts," center Jason Brown said. "Every loss hurts, no matter whether it's by a couple of points, or whether it's by as many points as we saw last week (against Seattle)."

    But Brown added: "We definitely did a lot better this week than we did last week. ... We're going to get better. It's still early in the season. It's still early with our offense, and there's tons of room for improvement."

    The Rams finally got on the scoreboard in 2009 with an 84-yard drive in the second quarter. Against Seattle, Bulger and wide receiver Laurent Robinson weren't totally in sync on a couple of fade patterns. On Sunday, they were. Bulger arched a perfectly thrown pass to the 6-foot-2 Robinson, who easily outleaped 5-10 Redskins cornerback D'Angelo Hall for the ball and a 2-yard TD with 3:56 left in the first half.

    Robinson is "getting better every week," Bulger said. "When you're down at the goal line, it's great having a weapon like that."

    While agreeing that the offense showed signs of improvement, Bulger also is a realist.

    "One touchdown in two games, that's not going to scare anyone away," he said. "Seven points isn't going to win many games in the NFL. We've got to find a way to help our defense out and let them play with the lead a little bit. That'll help our whole team."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A loss is a loss, but ...
    While the results were the same, a look at the numbers shows some areas of improvement for the Rams from Week 1 to Week 2:
    :ramlogo:

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  • r8rh8rmike
    Burwell: Rams Find More Ways To Extend Frustration
    by r8rh8rmike
    Rams find more ways to extend frustration

    Sports Columnist Bryan Burwell
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    09/21/2009

    LANDOVER, Md. — On one end of FedEx Field were the Washington Redskins, trotting off the home field to an unsettled chorus of 87,780 ambivalent fans. There were few ringing endorsements in the throes of this unsightly 9-7 victory over the visiting Rams, only relief that their imperfect heroes had been resourceful enough — or darned lucky — to barely find enough ways not to lose.

    And while there may be no ringing endorsements descending from the stands in FedEx for the home team, these football-savvy folks are wise enough to know that what they have — flawed as it may be — sure does beat the alternative. The alternative was your St. Louis Rams — winless in 11 months — who keep working hard as ever for their new boss, the resiliently positive Steve Spagnuolo, but so far have nothing to show for it but a proficiency for administering gut-twisting, self-inflicted wounds.

    Two weeks into his first season as the Rams coach, Spagnuolo is 0-2, and his team has not exactly practiced what the inspirational new coach has been preaching.

    He said he wanted a tough, passionate, smart team that would find ways every Sunday to compete and win ballgames. So far, Spags' Rams have gotten the tough and passionate part down cold. But it's been an excruciating challenge watching them as they attempt to nail down Step No. 3. For the second week in a row, the Rams found just enough maddening ways to lose a game that they could have realistically won.

    "We have some work to do," an obviously disappointed Spagnuolo said after the game. "It doesn't happen overnight. I never expected it to happen just like that. Just because you preach it and worked on it in the offseason in training camp, there's no guarantee it's going to happen in the game. A game's different. The speed of the game's different. Guys think differently and coaches think differently."

    Unlike a week ago, it wasn't penalties that killed the game-winning opportunities for the Rams. They cleaned that up fairly well (six penalties for 45 yards). Instead, this time it was the untimely matter of bad execution and questionable strategies that turned a potential victory into the Rams' 12th consecutive loss.

    Donnie Avery was the most obvious goat of the day, but he certainly wasn't the only one. The first wide receiver picked in the 2008 draft, and the guy who was a hero in last year's 19-17 upset victory over the Redskins, had major ball security issues, dropping at least two passes and fumbling the ball inside the 5-yard line on a potential go-ahead scoring drive early in the fourth quarter.

    The dropped passes could have been forgiven if only Avery had just held on to the ball when the Rams needed him the most. Midway through the third quarter...
    -09-21-2009, 02:26 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, 06:14 AM
  • eldfan
    Rams still trying to get over hump
    by eldfan
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    11/24/2009 By Jim Thomas

    The Rams lost in overtime at Jacksonville, won at Detroit and had the ball at the end against New Orleans and Arizona with a chance to win or force overtime. The only blowout over the last six Sundays has been the 42-6 loss Oct. 25 against an Indianapolis team that remains unbeaten four weeks later.

    But on a weekend when two of the NFL's lesser lights, Kansas City and Oakland, sprung upsets over playoff contenders, the Rams could only come close — once again — in a 21-13 loss Sunday to Arizona.

    "There's going to be a point when this team is going to get over that (hump)," defensive end Leonard Little said. "It's going to happen."
    But when?

    "We've got to pick up our learning curve because there's only six weeks left in the season," defensive tackle Clifton Ryan said. "We don't want to be sitting here at Week 15, Week 16, talking about turning the corner. We've got to turn it now. From top to bottom, from 1 down to 53 (on the roster), we've got to turn the corner."

    On paper, there may be no better opportunity than this Sunday's game against Seattle. Yes, the Seahawks have won nine straight against the Rams, including a 28-0 whitewash on opening day of this season. But they've lost seven of nine since that contest and come to town with a 3-7 record.

    "There's a silver lining to everything," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "I think the team is getting to the point where we're in those games."

    After a horrendous first half Sunday, the Rams were able to make it a one-possession game. Apparently there was more to their second-half revival than just the absence of Kurt Warner in the Arizona lineup.

    "I liked the way the team was a halftime," Spagnuolo said. "I liked the way we came out, the fact that we got ourselves back in the football game. ... All that's good. We need to continue to do that, and like I told the team (Monday) morning, we've got to get the football right. We've got to get the football things, the details, so that all these little things that keep coming up that lead to us not being ahead, or not winning the game, are erased."

    Things got intense in the Rams' locker room at halftime, with the team trailing 21-3. Little and safety Oshiomogho Atogwe got vocal, challenging the team — and each other — to pick up their play.

    "It was an intense thing because we're not playing like we're capable of playing and everybody knows that," Little said. "It was like a sense of urgency that went on at that time. It happens that way in football because guys want to win. And guys want to be able to compete with the upper-echelon teams. In the second quarter, we really didn't. They had their way with us a little bit."

    At least two Rams,...
    -11-24-2009, 07:59 AM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Bernie: Quick Takes On Rams 9-7 Loss @ Washington
    by r8rh8rmike
    09.20.2009 8:19 pm
    Quick Takes on Rams 9-7 loss @ Washington
    By Bernie Miklasz


    Good day…

    * The Outcome: The game was there for the Rams all day, just waiting to be claimed. Baffled coach Jim Zorn and the Redskins tried to give it away to the visitors, and the Rams flubbed the opportunity. Were the Rams better in Washington than they were in Seattle? Yes. The Rams defense kept the Redskins out of the end zone, and Steven Jackson rushed for 104 yards. But the bottom line is the 12th consecutive loss for the franchise. Disappointing. The Rams have played two games and have scored 7 points. That’s inexcusable.

    * The Effort: The Rams played hard in Washington and the players are clearly determined to do better. That’s what they should be doing, of course. They have every reason to be motivated. But that hasn’t always been true ; in 2007 and 2008 we saw too many faint-hearted efforts. Now the challenge will be to hang tough during more hard times. The Rams are off to an 0-2 start and the schedule doesn’t get any easier. Green Bay comes to The Ed after getting burned at home by Cincinnati, and then the Rams head to San Francisco, which is 2-0 and playing a physical, relentless style of football. San Franciso coach Mike Singletary is succeeding in changing his team’s losing culture. The Rams aren’t close to making that conversion.

    * The Coach: Keeping the morale up will be more of a challenge for rookie HC Steve Spagnuolo. I don’t mind his positive approach. This is the Dick Vermeil way of doing things. Spagnuolo has to stay upbeat, and keep his players working and competing. It might make fans feel better to hear/read Spagnuolo savage his team after a loss, but that wouldn’t achieve anything. He has to remain true to himself. Keep an eye on Spagnuolo. You don’t really find out about a coach until he has to deal with losing streaks and adversity, and the rookie boss has entered that zone. In addition to the 0-2 start and one TD in two games, the offensive line has taken a hit with injuries. Post-Dispatch beatwriter Jim Thomas noted that it took Spagnuolo 25 minutes to gather himself before he faced the media after the game. (The NFL-mandated wait time is 10 minutes.) I don’t know what that means, but again: losing isn’t easy to handle.

    * Game Management: Spagnuolo and staff really need to grow in this area. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur can’t keep getting plays in late. You can’t burn all of your timeouts early in close games. Wasting the final timeout before that 4th quarter punt with 9:25 left in the game? What was that? A confused player, Kenneth Darby, called it - but ultimately this is the coach’s responsibility to make sure the players know what to do and when to do it. And defensive coordinator Ken Flajole was slow to adjust when the Rams inexplicably left Redskins tight end Chris Cooley uncovered for most of the first half.

    * Play...
    -09-21-2009, 03:05 PM
  • 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, 08:25 AM
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