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  • Rams Focus On Staying United

    Rams Focus on Staying United
    Monday, October 5, 2009

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    As the clock wound down on the Rams’ loss to San Francisco on Sunday, running back Steven Jackson made it a point to provide some obvious leadership to his young teammates.

    No, Jackson didn’t return to the sideline yelling and screaming. He didn’t get a silly penalty to try to prove some sort of toughness, either.

    Instead, Jackson did what he always does. When the ball was handed to him, he ran as hard as he could. Regardless of the score, Jackson kept grinding away against a San Francisco defense that had fully committed to trying to slow him down.

    In the process, Jackson knowingly sent a message to his teammates that quitting is never an option.

    “That last drive I was able to be in, I just tried to run with a different determination, not to say that I was holding anything back, but you have got to understand that when you are down like we were you don’t give up,” Jackson said. “We are professional football players and we are expected to execute. We are going to lose battles out there but within those battles you cannot lose yourself in the game. We have to continue to fight no matter what the scoreboard says.”

    Now four games in to the 2009 season, the Rams have reached the quarter pole of the first season under coach Steve Spagnuolo.

    While that opening stretch hasn’t resulted yet in a victory, Spagnuolo and locker room leaders such as Jackson are doing everything they can to keep the ship headed in the right direction.

    For the league’s fourth-youngest team (average age of right around 26), the rebuilding process can be slow and painful. And when dealing with youth and inexperience, it’s imperative for the people who have been around – the veterans and the coaching staff – to keep hammering away at the details until they become second nature.

    It’s a painstaking process but it must be done. And though Spagnuolo can’t send any messages with his play on the field, it is his job to continue to take the temperature of his team and find ways to keep everyone’s head focused on moving on to the next step and not allowing any losses to fester.

    “I believe in this group,” Spagnuolo said. We can get out of this and work our way out of this. It’s going to take a lot of work. Nothing I am going to say is going to be different than what I have been saying all year long. Those games are done, we move on to Minnesota. We try to learn from it and we try to get better as a football team.”

    Indeed, Spagnuolo has been true to his message from day one, never altering the tone or even the volume of what he wants to convey to his team even in the face of adversity.

    Following Sunday’s loss to San Francisco in which many of the problems that have plagued the Rams in the first three games showed up again, Spagnuolo maintained that the Rams would continue to work on many of those issues while still accentuating some of the positives.

    “We always say we’ll bounce back,” Spagnuolo said. “It should affect you because if it doesn’t then we have got a problem. Guys should be disappointed. Then we have to put it behind them and move on. We get it corrected and move on. The leaders have done that. I expect the rookies to do that.”

    That part of it can be a bit trickier. Most rookies and young players entering the NFL come from a long history of success in all sports be it at the college or high school level.

    In the NFL, there are no breaks and no free passes but learning to win is as much a part of the process as anything according to defensive tackle Clifton Ryan.

    “I walked into a fortunate situation,” Ryan said. “I learned from guys like Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Leonard Little, Corey Chavous. Those guys groomed me. I kind of know how to be a pro because I was fortunate enough to play with them. I think more and more of these guys under coach Spags’ leadership; I think we will realize what it takes to win games like this. We are one of the youngest teams in the NFL, I believe. It’s a learning process.”

    Although it might not show up on the final tally on the scoreboard, there are some areas of noticeable progress. The Rams defense has improved with each passing week despite being in some difficult positions with its back up against the wall.

    In the red zone, the Rams are 12th in the league in total defense. Opponents have had 14 possessions inside the Rams’ 20 and scored touchdowns on just six of those opportunities. From week two in Washington to the second quarter of the Green Bay game, the team held opponents out of the end zone on seven consecutive possessions.

    Looking deeper, the defensive progress as a whole hasn’t been limited to the red zone. Against San Francisco, the Rams allowed just 228 yards of total offense and posted a season-best four sacks.

    In addition, the Rams racked up three quarterback pressures and six quarterback hits, better than they had posted in the previous games combined.

    With each passing week, that group seems to gain more confidence.

    “It’s hard to hold a team in this league to 21 points, let alone zero,” Ryan said. “I think this is a learning process for us. I think we are going to get better. But don’t think we are giving up. I want our fans to know we are working hard and we want to continue to put a better product on the field. If you look at the stats and such, to me we have got a whole lot better.”

    To a man, the Rams would still maintain that they must find a way to improve on some of those nagging issues, things like costly penalties and turnovers. Even defensively, the Rams need to find a way to get more takeaways.

    “We despise losing,” Spagnuolo said. “What I said is, despise it but just be determined to change it. It’s in the determination that it’s going to turn around not being disappointed and despising it. It’s in the determination to move forward that’s going to change it and all we can do, the game is over, all we can do is worry about changing it.”

    And while Spagnuolo continues to hammer his message home, Jackson will continue to send a message of his own by hammering his opponents.

    “I just want to lead by example in that area,” Jackson said. “At this point I really don’t know what you can say, you kind of try to get your thoughts together maybe Monday, tomorrow and talk to the young guys. Right there in the middle in the heat of things everyone has their minds going a thousand miles per hour. So I just try to go out there and fight and try to show guys this is how you approach the game, regardless of what the score board reflects. You have to go out there and try to win each and every battle.”

  • #2
    Re: Rams Focus On Staying United

    I think we should focus on being focused....


    • #3
      Re: Rams Focus On Staying United

      Very glad Jackson is setting an example, but there is just so much work to do with this team. Still, every little bit helps, and I really appreciate him not giving in, even though I know it's gotta be frustrating for him.


      • #4
        Re: Rams Focus On Staying United

        Amen brother


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        • Alec22
          Rams Staying the Course
          by Alec22
          By Nick Wagoner
          Senior Writer

          By his own admission Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo can often have the sound of a broken record.

          Each week, win or lose, rain or snow, no matter the circumstance, Spagnuolo squares his jaw, focuses on the task at hand and approaches every game the same way.

          More than halfway into his rookie season as a head coach, Spagnuolo has never strayed from the team-first ethos he installed from the day he arrived in St. Louis way back in January.

          In the face of plenty of adversity, Spagnuolo has uttered nary a discouraging word and anyone looking for a full-throated, raging outburst should look elsewhere. And a little prosperity hasn’t had the opposite effect, either as Spagnuolo hasn’t come close to any type of braggadocio.

          “I have had my moments (of frustration),” Spagnuolo said. “But I think there’s a professional way to do it. I think everybody in this business should be respected for the jobs they have. I think any business is about respecting each other. I don’t see any reason to go off the cuff. I keep that to myself. Part of what we talk about as a team is being a poised team. You can’t be a poised team if the head coach isn’t poised.”

          Regardless of the record, if there’s one thing that has remained constant in this first year under Spagnuolo’s guidance it’s his and his team’s uncanny knack to remain unfazed by any possible distractions.

          Spagnuolo’s message reaches to the team, too. There have been no locker room or sideline blowups, only players staying relentlessly positive and focusing on the single goal of coming together as a team with the sole focus of finding ways to win football games.

          “Being a guy who has been here with the Rams now going for five years,” safety Oshiomogho Atogwe said. “Some of the younger guys and some of the vets need to see loyalty and faithfulness from the guys that have already been here and that’s going to carry over throughout the locker room so you just build a team that is really focused on one goal and one purpose and being one.”

          BUYING IN

          At Spagnuolo’s initial news conference when he was introduced as the head coach, he made it clear the way he and general manager Billy Devaney wanted to build the team back into a winner.

          Topping the list was finding a way to build a team that was all about team. A team that would fill the locker room with players that care as much about the guy next to them as they do themselves.

          Spagnuolo put the Rams through a rigorous training camp that had them tackling in full pads from day one and continued to put the emphasis on building the team concept every day.

          It was easy enough for the players to buy into the system then because they knew Spagnuolo’s impressive resume coming from winning programs in Philadelphia and New York.

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          -11-04-2009, 11:32 AM
        • eldfan
          Rams Building Recipe for Late Season Success
          by eldfan
          Rams Building Recipe for Late Season Success
          By Nick Wagoner/Senior Writer

          As one of the people in the Rams locker room with experience playing big games in December, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo knows plenty about what it takes not only to play in those contests but also what it takes to win them.

          And though the recipe for late season, playoff push success doesn’t require anyone to re-invent the wheel, it’s a recipe that not every team has.

          While Spagnuolo’s 2010 Rams are still putting all of those ingredients together, Sunday’s 19-6 win against the Cardinals in Arizona gave his team an idea of what it’s going to take down the stretch to reach the postseason.

          In a locker room that following wins has been alternately joyous, boisterous and downright giddy, the feeling after Sunday’s victory was much more businesslike and blue collar.

          “That’s a good sign,” Spagnuolo said. “That’s how it should be. Because as soon as you wake up the next day it’s on to the next one. That’s what this business is all about. You get too wrapped up in yesterday you miss out on today’s opportunity so the players have been good like that to their credit. That’s a big time compliment for this team.”

          Following Sunday’s win and all of the action that took place around the league on Sunday, the Rams remain in a tie for first place with Seattle at 6-6 and riding a two-game road winning streak heading into a difficult matchup this weekend at New Orleans.

          There’s no doubting that taking on the Saints will be a tall order, especially at the Superdome, but Spagnuolo believes that if you look closer at how his team won against the Cardinals, you can see the signs of a team that understands what it takes to win those types of games against good teams.

          Almost from the day he was named head coach, Spagnuolo has emphasized the fundamentals of the game and doing all of the little things necessary to get wins. That means limiting penalties, winning the turnover battle, converting on third down on offense and getting off the field on third down on defense.

          In Sunday’s win, all of those details broke the Rams way. They were penalized just twice for 15 yards. They turned the ball over just once and came up with a pair of takeaways. They converted six-of-17 on third down and held the Cardinals to just one third-down conversion in 11 tries.

          “We do always talk about winning the turnover ratio and protecting the football, especially at this time of year,” Spagnuolo said. “But I am probably most proud of the football team if the lack of penalties is a reflection of disciplined football that’s a good thing. Smart, tough football, when you play it together usually you have got a chance to win some football games.”

          Those are some of the more tangible elements needed to win, especially late in the season but there are...
          -12-07-2010, 01:11 PM
        • Rambos
          Rams Searching for Answers
          by Rambos
          By Nick Wagoner/Senior Writer

          As Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo used the wee hours of Monday morning to watch the tape of Sunday’s loss at the hands of the Cowboys, he couldn’t help but find himself every bit as shocked and disappointed with his team’s inability to tackle as he figured he would be right after the game.

          “I will just sum it up this way,” Spagnuolo said, shaking his head. “We have got to solve the defensive issues. I think most of it can be solved by tackling. I added it up this morning, on the 11 plays we missed tackles, after the missed tackle there was a total of 183 yards given up. So you can do the math and figure out if we don’t tackle better that part is not going to get better.”

          In a confounding season that has seen the Rams start 0-6, there have been myriad issues cropping up every week; some of them have continued to rear their ugly heads while others seem to come more sporadically.

          But at the heart of the issue is the stuff that should be easy. In its purest form, blocking and tackling are the most basic tenets of the game. They are the things you are taught from the moment you step foot on a field back in pee wee football.

          On Sunday, blocking wasn’t actually much of the issue against the Cowboys as the offensive line had one of its better pass protection games of the season. No, this one boiled down to a basic lack of tackling.

          “We have got to get back to basics,” safety Quintin Mikell said. “That’s what it all boils down to. When you have a game like this, you just get back to basics. You stop worrying about schemes, you don’t worry about this or that, you just get back to basics and get back to what you do every week in football. I feel like we have just got to get back to that.”

          For the better part of the season, tackling had been one of the fundamentals the Rams hadn’t really struggled with much save for a few spurts here and there. As Dallas continued to pound away in the running game with DeMarco Murray, the missed tackles piled up.

          In an unofficial count, the Rams had about 13 blatant missed tackles against the Cowboys with the clear majority of those blanks coming from the secondary on plays that allowed Murray to hit on some big runs.

          When all was said and done, Murray had rushed for 253 yards on 25 carries, including a 91-yard jaunt in which he was untouched by the first of the baker’s dozen of whiffs.

          For a coach who emphasizes to his defense that stopping the run should always come first, Spagnuolo couldn’t help but remain disappointed by what he saw on the film.
          “It’s a team game but I can’t get past the run defense and I’m talking about the whole team,” Spagnuolo said. “Because I think it’s that important. I just think that a team that is able to run like that on any opponent, it makes it hard to win the game on offense, defense and special teams, all three...
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        • r8rh8rmike
          Rams Team Report - Oct 27
          by r8rh8rmike
          Rams Team Report
          Yahoo! Sports - Oct 27, 1:50 am EDT

          INSIDE SLANT

          After the Rams lost to the Colts 42-6 Sunday, coach Steve Spagnuolo was most disappointed by what he believed was the team disintegrating in the fourth quarter, especially the defense. Late in the third quarter, the Rams trailed 21-6, but an interception return for a touchdown made the score 28-6, and the Colts added two fourth-quarter scores for the final count.

          Said Spagnuolo, "The first three quarters I thought we battled really hard against a good football team. That team over there is good. We all know that. They've got skill everywhere. They've been doing it for a long time. But (for) three quarters I think we all felt and believed we could possibly pull that thing off and win the game.

          "Now the fourth quarter was different. It was disappointing. They made some plays. Things kind of fell apart. That's not us. We haven't seen that before. We've got to get back to what we're doing, which is just battling and playing hard."

          Monday, however, Spagnuolo amended his thoughts somewhat. "After the game, I thought it was the whole quarter. Really, it was about three minutes that we played with not quite the intensity we had had. That has not been this team."

          Spagnuolo knows he has a task ahead, keeping his team's head up, as the record has hit 0-7.

          The Rams have lost 17 consecutive games, and this season they have had four games where they have scored fewer than 10 points, and been outscored overall 211-60, including 117-23 after halftime. In their home games, against Green Bay, Minnesota and Indianapolis, the count overall is 116-33.

          Of the 53 players on the roster Sunday, 26 joined the team this year. With Detroit the next opponent on the road, Spagnuolo was asked how far away the Rams are from beating a team like Indianapolis.

          Said Spagnuolo, "Well, we got some work to do there. That's a guess, (but) I feel like what we've got here and what we're doing, the attitude of the guys, I mean I believe that's how you build it. And I believe when you get over the hump and you get that win, we're looking for consistent winning. We're not looking to just get one win, we don't want to do this (motions up and down). So we keep trying to build it the way we build it and I do think there's some pieces there. When you go up against a team like this you need a few more pieces."

          NOTES & QUOTES

          —Rams players didn't disagree with coach Steve Spagnuolo's comments about the fourth-quarter problems.

          Said safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, "We just didn't fight as hard in the fourth quarter as we had in the previous three, which is a little disappointing."

          Added cornerback Ron Bartell, "You're getting paid to play. You have a responsibility to one another...
          -10-27-2009, 04:38 PM
        • r8rh8rmike
          Rams Keep Effort Up
          by r8rh8rmike
          Rams Keep Effort Up
          Monday, December 21, 2009

          By Nick Wagoner
          Senior Writer

          As the ball came shooting out of the hands of Houston running back Arian Foster following a 13-yard catch and run, the eyes of rookie Rams defensive tackle Darell Scott immediately got large.

          It was as though Scott was about to sit down to a big meal, which, coincidentally, was something he’d been physically unable to do even had he wanted to in the days leading up to Sunday’s 16-13 loss to the Texans.

          Scott reacted immediately and hauled all of his 6’3, 312 pound frame as fast as it could go from near the line of scrimmage the 20 or so yards required to pounce on the ball.

          Ultimately, Scott fell on it at the Rams’ 8 but the fact that Scott was well enough to chase it down at all was nothing short of a testament to the effort these Rams are still putting in despite the 1-13 record attached to their name.

          “You talk about an effort play from a game that I don’t know if he even ate anything the three days before it,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “That was a pretty good indicator of what those guys have inside of them.”

          Effort doesn’t amount to a whole heck of a lot in the NFL. In fact, it’s probably the minimum requirement for what it takes to win an NFL game. Most teams that find themselves playing into January start with effort as the baseline and build from there.

          As with most things in life, when something goes wrong, the easy thing to do is give up, regardless of how well compensated you are or whatever prestige might go with a particular endeavor.

          For the Rams, that opportunity to call it a day has presented itself time and again this season. Yet, for many reasons, they have refused to pack it in and go quietly into the offseason.

          “That’s what I expressed to them in the locker room,” Spagnuolo said. “That means a great deal to me, the staff. I know it’s not easy especially for the vets. It’s not an easy thing to go through, not for any of us and yet they are able to dust themselves off, come back to work on Wednesday and get ready to play a game.”

          While that hard work and effort has amounted to just one win and a whole lot of respect from Spagnuolo for the players, those efforts aren’t going completely unnoticed around the world of football.

          To wit:

          CBS analyst and former Steelers coach Bill Cowher on the Rams: “The Rams are playing hard every week, and that is a reflection of their coach. I've been watching film on them and they are playing hard. As coaches, we are judged on wins and losses, but at this time of year, you're tired and beat up, and if a team is still putting out a good effort it's a tribute to their coach.”

          Or this excerpt from Sports Illustrated’s Peter King in his Monday Morning Quarterback column on “I love...
          -12-22-2009, 06:23 PM