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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.

          “I think...
          -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
        • 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
        • Bralidore(RAMMODE)
          Rams Learn Lessons for Future
          by Bralidore(RAMMODE)
          "For 16 weeks this year, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo has had a laser-like focus on one thing and one thing only: the next game.
          That tunnel vision trickled down from Spagnuolo to the rest of the team and any discussion of something beyond the next contest was immediately dismissed upon mention.
          When Spagnuolo woke up Monday morning, though, he was left with the sobering realization that there won’t be another game to plan for until the start of the 2010 season, months and months away.
          “I wish we were getting ready to play another game,” Spagnuolo said. “I just want to play another game. When you lose, you crave and you hunger for the next opportunity to win. I talked about this a lot during the year. There’s nothing like being in a locker room of an NFL team after winning just because of everything that goes into it during the week and what the guys do together, just the craving for that feeling. Unfortunately, we will have to wait however many months that is to get that feeling again.”
          So it is that Spagnuolo and the rest of the Rams have already turned the page on the 2009 season and begun their preparations for the next step. Those steps include preparing for the start of the free agent period, scouting and evaluating college prospects and then making the first selection in the 2010 NFL Draft.
          But before any of that can happen, the Rams will review what happened in 2009 and glean as many lessons as possible from what happened to improve their performance on the field in 2010.
          To each man in the Rams’ locker room, those lessons were different but the overlying theme remains the same.
          “Through all of the adversity we went through, unless I am missing something, the team, there wasn’t anybody jumping ship, pointing fingers, going off the deep end and that is a credit to them,” Spagnuolo said. “To me, that is the biggest thing.”
          Indeed, through the difficulties that inherently come with a 1-15 season, it would have been easy for any player or coach to go off the reservation and explode be it in the media, on the field or anywhere else.
          Beyond that, though, even when the chips were down and the Rams were long-since removed from contention for the postseason, the team continued to fight and battle as though it were in the thick of the race for the playoffs.
          While simply having a good attitude and remaining competitive when it’s tough won’t win you any games it is certainly a big part of the fabric of successful teams.
          “I learned something about the guys on this team,” defensive end Chris Long said. “We don’t have any quitters. You see it every week on television. You watch teams and things aren’t going well and people quit sometimes. I don’t feel like we quit. We have to get the football ironed out. That’s execution and stuff like that but I don’t fault anybody for their heart or their...
          -01-04-2010, 07:44 PM
        • MauiRam
          Rams try self-analysis to stem their troubles ..
          by MauiRam
          By Jim Thomas Tuesday, October 4, 2011

          As the Rams' bye week begins, coach Steve Spagnuolo and his staff are in the midst of self-scouting. During a normal game week the focus almost entirely is on that week's opponent. But this week, the staff will look at its team from within.

          "I can tell you the things I know we're going to look at," Spagnuolo said Monday. "Certainly protections. Certainly third down on both sides. Certainly the run fronts on offense. These are the things that just stick out. You guys (in the media) can probably list another five or six of them."

          Sure can. Red zone offense, red zone defense, dropped passes, run defense, first-down offense, kickoff returns, false starts, slow starts all come to mind. If the Rams really wanted to self-scout all of their problems, they might need three bye weeks to work through everything.

          "I've learned this over the years," Spagnuolo said. "You can't go searching for things that are not there. And you can't knee-jerk react to things that you find. Because in a lot of instances, it just comes back to fundamentals. I know that's not the glorious answer that you want, but a lot of times that's what it comes down to."

          If true, the Rams must be about as fundamentally flawed as you can get, because they are at or near the bottom of the league in many categories. They are tied for second to last in points scored (46) and in points allowed (113). They're last in rushing defense, last in average yards gained on first down, and in the bottom quartile (or last eight teams) in red-zone offense, kickoff returns, total offense and total defense.

          So the Rams' 0-4 record isn't a fluke. But those expecting Spagnuolo and staff to reinvent the pigskin between now and the Green Bay game Oct. 16 will be disappointed. They aren't going to come out in a 3-4 defense, or switch to a run-and-shoot offense against the Packers. You simply can't make major scheme changes in a week or two.

          "I'll reiterate this," Spagnuolo said. "Both schemes — all three (counting special teams) — have been proven in this league at various places. So we believe in that. I know the players believe. What I do think we need to do is do it better. That's as simple as I can state it. And I believe in that.

          "Will we find a couple of wrinkles? Yeah. But you do that all the time. If we were 4-0, we'd find a couple of scheme wrinkles. But at the core, we're not going to abandon what we do. We're just going to do it better."

          Nonetheless, the staff already has talked about tweaking things. Spagnuolo, for example, said they have discussed rolling out quarterback Sam Bradford more to help the pass protection.

          "We could do that," Spagnuolo said. "Because Sam does throw the ball well on the run."

          And they've talked...
          -10-04-2011, 12:42 AM