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San Francisco ***** show St. Louis Rams the way

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  • San Francisco ***** show St. Louis Rams the way

    By Bill Coats

    Two teams at a crossroads met up last Nov. 16 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Since then, they've traveled in distinctly opposite directions.

    Both the Rams and the ***** took 2-7 records into that contest, which would leave the loser in last place in the NFC West. Both teams were operating under interim head coaches who had NFL careers as linebackers, Jim Haslett having replaced Scott Linehan with the Rams and Mike Singletary the successor to Mike Nolan with the Niners.

    Each had taken over beat-up, talent-challenged squads for once-proud franchises that had suffered through a series of front-office blunders, dubious drafts and ineffective coaching.

    Singletary and Haslett both were looking for a spark, a signature win that might portend at least the possibility of a legitimate turnaround and earn them the opportunity to remove the "interim" label in 2009.

    On Sunday at Candlestick, Singletary will be on the sideline with the ***** when they again take on the Rams. Haslett will be in Orlando, preparing his Florida Tuskers for their Oct. 10 opener vs. the New York Sentinels in the fledgling United Football League.

    That's how easily fortunes can shift in today's NFL.

    The ***** throttled the Rams 35-16 that day. Frisco piled up a 32-point halftime lead, then cruised home.

    San Francisco rolled on, winning five of its remaining seven games — including a come-from-behind 17-16 victory in St. Louis — to finish a hopeful 7-9. The Rams slogged on, losing all seven of their games to wind up a disheartening 2-14.

    On Dec. 29, Singletary signed a four-year contract to continue in his job. On Jan. 18, the Rams hired Steve Spagnuolo as their new head coach.

    Little has changed since then.

    The ***** are 2-1 after a gut-wrenching loss Sunday at Minnesota. A dazzling, acrobatic catch by wideout Greg Lewis on a 32-yard wing-it-and-pray pass from Brett Favre with two seconds remaining kept the Niners from opening 3-0 for the first time since 1998.

    The Rams are 0-3 for the third time in as many years, lugging a league-high 13-game losing streak, and showing few signs of deviating from their path of ignominy.

    So, why are the ***** flourishing while the Rams are failing?

    It all circles back to that November win, Singletary's first. An intense, fiery leader during his 12-year Hall of Fame career with the Chicago Bears, Singletary brought similar passion to his new role. "I want winners!" he bellowed in one of his early team meetings, staring down his troops with the withering stare that was his trademark as a player.

    "He'll be honest with you and tell you what you are, but continue to tell you what you can, and what you will, be," said longtime Rams wide receiver Isaac Bruce, in his second year with the *****. "Quite the contrary to someone else who isn't a good motivator. They constantly harp on your faults and pretty much, if you're not down, they're going to get you down.

    "And when you're down, they're going to kick you."

    When the wins began to come, the players embraced his straightforward, no-nonsense approach.

    "The difference is, when you start winning football games, it becomes contagious and your confidence goes up," Bruce said. "The confidence has really spread throughout the team, and no matter what it looks like, what it feels like, any time we play we just believe that ... we can win."

    The confidence factor can't be underestimated. Consider that the Rams and ***** each are averaging 276 yards per game on offense, tied for 28th in the 32-team league. But Frisco is putting up 22.8 points per game, 10th-best, to the Rams' league-low eight.

    When the self-assured ***** close in on the goal line, they usually find a way across it. In similar circumstances, the self-doubting Rams often find a way to mess up the opportunity.

    Defensively, the Niners are fourth in the NFL vs. the run, a telltale sign of sturdiness. The Rams are No. 29 in the same category.

    Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said the Frisco defenders "play relentlessly." Running back Steven Jackson has detected "a different swagger. It's the same personnel group that they had last year, but they've really bought into what they have to do."

    Still, Singletary stresses that the ***** remain a work in progress.

    "We've got to win a few more games, and then I can talk about" a turnaround, he said. "We have some guys that are starting to mature and step into their careers. I just think sometimes, timing is everything."

    San Francisco hasn't won an NFC West title since 2002, which also was the last time the Niners posted a winning record. A victory Sunday would push them a bit closer to ending those slides. On the other hand, the Rams would be just one game out of first place if they could pull off the upset.

    "In this league, I'm not surprised at anything," Singletary said. "Every week you have to go out and do the best you can to come away with a win. I just know that (the *****) are playing their tails off. And sometimes that's all you can ask for."

    Singletary asked, and his team responded. Spagnuolo also is asking, and he's been pleased with the response, insisting that the desire and effort — if not the results — have been evident from the start.

    Bruce urged the Rams' faithful to give Spagnuolo time to apply his stamp to his new team.

    "He's a hard-nosed guy, the type of coach that can get a lot out of a little, and any time you have a coach like that, you have a pretty good asset," Bruce said. "It won't be long before that team takes on his identity and they'll be playing good, winning football."

    Just as the ***** have been doing under Singletary since that mid-November victory by the bay that shoved them onto the right path.

  • #2
    Re: San Francisco ***** show St. Louis Rams the way

    Lets not start idolizing the ****** over our Rams. Any Ram fan that idolizes the ****** is an idiot. Just jump ship and cheer for another team already. We're rebuilding and right now id say the cement under the four pillars is still a ways from drying.


    • #3
      Re: San Francisco ***** show St. Louis Rams the way

      Originally posted by Guam rammer View Post
      Lets not start idolizing the ****** over our Rams. Any Ram fan that idolizes the ****** is an idiot. Just jump ship and cheer for another team already. We're rebuilding and right now id say the cement under the four pillars is still a ways from drying.
      I sack that analogy.


      • #4
        Re: San Francisco ***** show St. Louis Rams the way

        Isaac Bruce referring to us as....'That team'........URGH!


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        • MauiRam
          Can Rams' success against ***** continue?
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          By Nick Wagoner

          EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The only things missing from last season's meetings between the San Francisco ***** and St. Louis Rams were black and white television broadcasts and the booming voice of NFL Films' John Facenda.

          In two games spanning almost 10 full quarters, the Rams and Niners stood toe to toe and exchanged haymakers, neither side willing to stay down on the mat until Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein booted a winning field goal with 26 seconds left in overtime of the second meeting.

          “I think we were both right at home playing a slugfest and one team came out on top, but they were both awesome games to be a part of,” Rams defensive end Chris Long said. “They really were. They were a lot of fun. It was good, old-fashioned football. You don't see as much of it these days.”

          In a survey of the Rams' locker room, the word "fun" has come up a lot this week when discussing last year's games against the *****. Of course, the Rams got a tie and a win out of those meetings.

          The ***** don't recall those games quite as fondly.

          “When you don't have the result -- the winning result -- that's what you're striving for,” San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said. “That's the goal every week. How can you win your next game, that game being the most important game of the season, and that's every single week.”

          For whatever reason, the Rams emerged in 2012 as the one team ready and capable to stand up to the NFC West bully that was the *****.

          It seems like it's been ages since the Rams went to San Francisco. Alex Smith left that Week 10 game with a concussion and Colin Kaepernick took over. From there, the Niners went 5-1 in regular-season games against teams not from St. Louis. They came within a single completion of winning the Super Bowl with Kaepernick in the lineup.

          That success was there against every opponent, except the Rams, who were 1-0-1 against the Kaepernick-led Niners.

          Over the course of 10 quarters, you'd be hard-pressed to find two more evenly matched teams. The Rams outscored San Francisco 40-37 and outgained them 751-680 in total yards. The teams were even in the turnover battle and the Rams held the ball for just 1 minute, 35 seconds more.

          So, why did it seem as if the Rams had the Niners' number? Why was Rams coach Jeff Fisher able to outmaneuver Harbaugh?

          Attitude, for starters. The Rams openly admit that although they get up for every game, they treated both games against the reigning kings of the division a little differently.

          “When you look at it on film, it was surprising the way they were moving people around, but when they played us they weren't able to get that accomplished,” Rams defensive tackle Kendall Langford said. “I think that speaks volumes about the guys we have here in our locker room and on our defense. It was not today,...
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        • MauiRam
          Rams Look to Play Spoiler in San Francisco ..
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          Entering this season, predictions about who would win the NFC West Division varied. All four teams seemed to get mention by the various pundits and so-called experts.

          Eleven games into the season, a clear frontrunner has emerged. In fact, with a win against the Rams this weekend, San Francisco has an opportunity to claim the division crown with nearly a full month left to go in the season.

          That’s what a win would do for the *****. So what would it do for the Rams, who sit at 2-9, well short of the expectations they once had for themselves?

          “We still want to compete,” running back Steven Jackson said. “We still all hope that one day we can be the NFC (West) divisional champs one day. Right now they’re playing the best football in the division and to get a win like this would give you something to build off of and the momentum over the next five weeks.”

          Indeed, there aren’t any teams in the division playing better football than San Francisco. In fact, based on record, you could make the argument that only Green Bay is playing better than the Niners in the entire league.

          At 9-2, San Francisco has emerged as a legitimate contender despite making only one big change in the offseason. That change came in the form of new head coach Jim Harbaugh.

          Harbaugh took over a talented but underachieving team from Mike Singletary and the results have been huge and immediate.

          “I knew they always had talent,” Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “We always felt that way. I just think that goes to show that before the first game of any NFL season, you don’t really know. And any team can beat anybody on any given Sunday. And they’ve found a way to do it nine times this year.”

          For the Rams to keep San Francisco from finding a way to do it for the 10th time this year at Candlestick Park on Sunday at 3:15, they’ll have to overcome some extremely difficult obstacles.

          Heading up that list is a Niners team that is acing the test when it comes to the single most decisive factor in determining the outcome of games: turnovers.

          San Francisco leads the league in turnover differential at plus-16, an astounding number that has directly translated to victories on Sunday.

          First and foremost, the Rams must find a way to protect the ball against a ball hawking group that has recorded 26 takeaways this year led by the five interceptions of cornerback Carlos Rogers and the penchant for forcing fumbles of inside linebacker Patrick Willis.
          “They’ve created a lot of turnovers,” Rams quarterback Sam Bradford said. “I think Coach had a stat today that they’re like plus 16 in turnover ratio. That’s unbelievable. I think that’s going to be big for us, not turning the ball over. It’s been a goal of the offense for the past couple of weeks now to play a turnover-free game and we’ve yet to do that. I...
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        • r8rh8rmike
          Believe It Or Not: Rams In A Big Game
          by r8rh8rmike
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          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."

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          "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."

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        • RamWraith
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          SAN FRANCISCO — Isaac Bruce could see the question coming almost before it came

          "Do you have to ask that every year?" he said, in mild protest.

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          "Every week is special," Bruce replied. "There's no bigger emphasis this week.
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          "Not one," Bruce said.

          Then again, as place-kicker Jeff Wilkins points out: "Isaac doesn't give a big
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          "Mike (Martz) really enjoyed it; '49er Week' is what he called it," wide
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          It’s been a long time since the Rams have played a meaningful football game with legitimate playoff implications this late in the season.

          So long, in fact, that running back Steven Jackson, one of the most tenured players on the roster, says he himself isn’t even sure how he will react to being in one.

          But that’s exactly where Jackson and the Rams are as they head to San Francisco to take on the ***** on Sunday. Simply put, when all things are considered this is the most important regular season game the Rams have played since 2004.

          “Well, it’s something that I’m looking forward to learning,” Jackson said. “I’m being honest right now. 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. 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.”

          The stakes this week probably won’t break the Rams’ season but it sure could make it. At 4-4, the Rams have yet to get over a couple of road bumps.

          First, they are winless in three tries away from the confines of the Edward Jones Dome. Second, they have yet to get over the .500 mark, a place they haven’t been since 2006.

          If the Rams can come away with a win against the *****, there’s a very real possibility they could be sitting alone in first place by Sunday evening.

          “We’ve been working hard to get to a point where in November and December, our games can put us in the postseason,” Jackson said. “So it’s really showing the hard work guys have been putting in, not only during the season, but OTAs and training camp. Guys are starting to come together, and guys are excited.”

          It’s only fitting that a game of such importance for this young, emerging group would come against long time division rival San Francisco.

          In the late 90s, the ***** were the gold standard for the NFC West Division and it wasn’t until the Rams were able to beat them that they truly arrived on the scene as a genuine threat to win the division, let alone go to the playoffs.

          The landscape within the division is a bit different now as the ***** sit with a 2-6 record going into Sunday. But make no mistake; San Francisco is as talented a team as there is in the division.

          “Early in the (season) when they stumbled, they lost three games by two or three points,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “This league, there’s a fine line in this league. That’s a talented, good football team. We’re not going to be blinded by the fact that they’re 2-6. They’ve won two out of their last three, and they’re on the rise. So that’s what we’re up against.”

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