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  • Spagnuolo Defends Game Management

    Spagnuolo defends game management

    BY JIM THOMAS
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    10/20/2009


    For the first time in his young tenure as an NFL head coach, Steve Spagnuolo's game management skills came under scrutiny in the wake of Sunday's 23-20 overtime loss to Jacksonville.

    On Monday, Spagnuolo once again defended his decision to kick a field goal with 7 seconds to play instead of taking a shot at the end zone. He also defended his decision not to use the Rams' one remaining second-half timeout.

    For Spagnuolo, the operative numbers for such situations are 8 and 22. Spagnuolo seems to have numbers and breakdowns for just about every football situation. And in this case the operative numbers are: MORE RAMS
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    — Do not attempt to run a play from scrimmage if there are fewer than 8 seconds remaining in a game, when a field goal can tie the game.

    — Do not attempt to try a field goal with no timeouts left unless you have at least 22 seconds to get that unit on the field and set up for the kick.

    After quarterback Marc Bulger rolled to his right under pressure and threw the ball away on a second-and-goal play from the 9-yard line Sunday, only seven ticks remained on the clock at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium.

    "We have used as a rule, and we practice it all the time ... that eight seconds is the spot," Spagnuolo said.

    In other words, the cutoff point in terms of having enough time to run a play without having the clock run out. After Bulger's throwaway stopped the clock Sunday, Spagnuolo said, "I looked up and saw it was seven (seconds left), and for a moment (thought): 'Should we try to squeeze it out?' "

    Instead, he sent out Josh Brown to kick a 27-yard field goal, sending the game into overtime tied 20-20.

    So where did he come up with 8 seconds as the line of demarcation?

    "Our research," Spagnuolo said. "Other teams I've been with. (From) coaches I've got a lot of respect for. There's a lot of things that could happen in seven seconds — to be left there with no opportunity to get into overtime. We had some confidence, if we had to go to overtime, that we were going to be OK."

    Trouble was, Jacksonville won the coin toss, meaning it got the ball first in overtime. The Jaguars then drove 62 yards in 13 plays, keeping the Rams winless on Josh Scobee's 36-yard field goal.

    Of course, the second part of the discussion centers around the fact that Spagnuolo never used that last timeout. What was he saving it for? Timeouts, after all, aren't rollover minutes on a cell phone. They can't be saved for next week or next month.

    Here's Spagnuolo's thinking on that:

    Following a 13-yard pass play from Bulger to tight end Randy McMichael, Bulger and the Rams hurried to the line of scrimmage (at the 9), and Bulger spiked the ball, stopping the clock with 15 seconds remaining.

    Why not call a timeout after McMichael was tackled? By one estimate, that would've saved nine seconds on the clock.

    "You could make that argument," Spagnuolo said.

    But he added, "The other thing I was being careful of there is I didn't want to get in a situation where we had to rush a field goal. ... You don't want to get into a situation where you can't rush out there under 22 seconds. You can't get it off in time."

    Had the Rams used their final timeout immediately after McMichael was tackled, about 24 seconds would've remained on the clock. Had a subsequent play been run where Bulger was sacked or the ball carrier or pass receiver was tackled in-bounds — using Spagnuolo's formula, there wouldn't have been 22 seconds left to safely get a field goal off before time expired.

    Interestingly, Spagnuolo said Bulger does not have the option to call a timeout under those circumstances.

    "No, I would handle that one," Spagnuolo said. "I've asked him to let me handle those, because now in the NFL, I can run all the way down to the 10-yard line and tell the official 'time out.' They allow you to do that now.

    "But again, one of the main things in that situation is we would like to have the timeout (saved) to kick the field goal. Once we got in field goal range and we felt we were safe within Josh's range, we're (still) trying to get in the end zone to win the game. But we weren't going to get ourselves in a situation where we could not get the three points."

    All of which sounds logical. But there were two points early in the drive where a timeout might've saved 20 seconds or more. Between the 1 minute, 49 second mark on the clock and the 46 second mark, the Rams ran only two plays: a 38-yard screen pass to Steven Jackson and a 5-yard completion to Danny Amendola.

    A timeout after the Jackson screen pass, for example, probably stops the clock with at least 1:30 to play with the ball at the Jaguars' 40. You regroup, the players catch their breath after the long play, and there's still 90 seconds to try to get the ball in the end zone.

    But Spagnuolo said he didn't have a problem with clock management early in the drive.

    "The flow of the 2-minute drill, I don't remember thinking it was too slow," Spagnuolo said.

  • #2
    Re: Spagnuolo Defends Game Management

    Learning curve for the rookie HC also

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Spagnuolo Defends Game Management

      Originally posted by txramsfan View Post
      Learning curve for the rookie HC also
      Agreed. Maybe he does it differently next time, but I think I agree with his decision. Going for the win sends the message that we have nothing to lose, when he is in fact trying to inspire these guys into being winners. He contended like they were 4-1 instead of 0-5. He was giving his team the best opportunity for a win, which is something we desperately need right now.

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      • r8rh8rmike
        Rams' Spagnuolo Not Second-Guessing Decisions
        by r8rh8rmike
        Rams’ Spagnuolo not second-guessing decisions

        By R.B. FALLSTROM, AP Sports Writer
        13 hours, 16 minutes ago

        ST. LOUIS (AP)—A day after a three-point loss to the Arizona Cardinals, St. Louis Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo declined to second-guess decisions that factored into the defeat.

        Spagnuolo said on Monday that he still would have burned more than a half-minute off the clock at the end of the first half and settled for a field goal, and he still would have punted on fourth-and-1 late in the fourth quarter and counted on a defense that had given up huge chunks of yards on the ground to get the ball back.

        Instead of going for the big plays, the Rams played not to lose.

        Spagnuolo is 10-33 with five games to go in his third season. It’s a challenging stretch that could determine whether he keeps his job.

        The Rams (2-9) are 13-point underdogs at San Francisco this week and, counting the rematch in the season finale against the *****, the next five opponents are a combined 38-17.

        “Do you mean, how do I handle this San Francisco game right here this week?” Spagnuolo said. “You guys know how I’m wired.”

        The coach believes players are still buying in, if a bit beat down.

        “You have to forget about it and move on, but as a competitor they’re going to really get under your skin,” middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “I hate losing, I hate losing, and am never going to get used to losing.

        “Nobody should in this locker room, in this organization.”

        There’s no looking back for Spagnuolo. He wouldn’t have taken a few more shots at the end zone and tried to give the Rams a 14-3 cushion before halftime. He had to be talked into allowing one try before bringing on the field goal unit.

        “It was a conservative approach, no question,” Spagnuolo said. “And you could have gone another way.”

        In this case, Spagnuolo got the sense the offense was reeling. After Brandon Lloyd’s 26-yard reception to the 3 with 43 seconds left in the first half, the Rams went in reverse with a botched play call that resulted in a false-start penalty but easily could have been whistled for delay of game, and Sam Bradford was sacked for a 9-yard loss the next play.

        “Obviously, we put ourselves in a pretty bad situation,” Bradford said.

        Spagnuolo wouldn’t say what happened on the play from the 3, but indicated a lot had gone wrong.

        “There were a lot of things going on,” the coach said. “There were too many issues. We need to get that play off.”

        Spagnuolo also revealed he was thinking field goal right after Lloyd’s catch, going through “what if” scenarios in his mind that only got reinforced after two failures.

        “Do we want to get a touchdown? Yeah,” Spagnuolo said. “I was going to bring it all the way down...
        -11-29-2011, 03:06 PM
      • r8rh8rmike
        Spagnuolo Dissects Tough Loss For Rams
        by r8rh8rmike
        Spagnuolo dissects tough loss for Rams

        BY JIM THOMAS
        Tuesday, November 8, 2011

        Rookie Patrick Peterson entered the game as the NFL's leading punt returner. He'd already scored two touchdowns on returns of 80 yards-plus this season for Arizona. So rookie or not, it's not as if the Rams weren't warned.

        Nonetheless, even after reviewing tape of Peterson's game-winning punt return of 99 yards Sunday for the Cardinals, coach Steve Spagnuolo defended the decision to kick the ball to him early in overtime instead of knocking it out of bounds.

        "Hindsight (being) 20-20, I still think we did the right thing," Spagnuolo said.

        The Rams had hoped to pin Peterson inside the 10 as they had done twice in the third quarter. "That was the game plan," Spagnuolo said.

        Punter Donnie Jones was kicking the stuffing out of the ball Sunday. He averaged 50.3 yards on his seven kicks, with an average hang-time of 5.07 seconds, Spagnuolo said.

        Jones punted to the right, but not to the corner of the field. Quinn Porter closed in on Peterson to the right and Brit Miller was in good position in front. But the trouble began with Dominique Curry, one of the Rams' top special teams players, getting pinned inside at the 10-yard line. That left the left side of the field open. Peterson headed that way, quickly leaving Porter and Miller in his wake.

        By the time James Butler missed a diving tackle attempt at the 17, Peterson already had six Rams defenders behind him. Eugene Sims missed a diving attempt at the 27, and Peterson eluded his last potential obstacle - Jones - with a jaw-dropping spin move at the 35. At that point, it was just a race to the end zone. And with 4.34-second speed in the 40, Peterson wasn't going to be caught.

        The return gave Arizona a 19-13 overtime victory. In just eight NFL games, Peterson has tied a Cardinals career record for most punt returns for touchdown (three). The Rams helped make Peterson a star by kicking it to him.

        Peterson's play turned the lights out at University of Phoenix Stadium, but it was just one of several that didn't go the Rams' way in the fourth quarter and overtime.

        Fitzgerald uncovered • On first and 10 from the St. Louis 13, it was strange to see star Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald line up in the left slot with no Rams defender -especially a cornerback - on him. He ended up being isolated on middle linebacker James Laurinaitis, who also had some safety help. An elite receiver against a middle linebacker, even a very good one such as Laurinaitis? It's a matchup the wideout should win nine out of 10 times.

        Fitzgerald did, catching a 13-yard touchdown pass to tie the score 13-13 with 4 minutes, 51 seconds left in regulation.

        "No busted coverage," Spagnuolo said Monday. "Nobody busted...
        -11-08-2011, 05:59 PM
      • r8rh8rmike
        Burwell: Blame This Loss On Spagnuolo
        by r8rh8rmike
        Burwell: Blame this loss on Spagnuolo

        BY BRYAN BURWELL,
        Monday, November 28, 2011

        There have been plenty of times during the course of his struggling run as the Rams' coach that when the smoke cleared on another Sunday afternoon debacle you could always find some thin wisp of promise in Steve Spagnuolo's reclamation project. Sometimes— heck, most of the time — it took a lot of squinting to see the good amidst the disaster of a 10-33 record.

        But there always has been something this man's focused, relentlessly optimistic, tunnel-vision public approach and his unwavering "My way or the highway" control-freak personality behind the scenes that convinced me Spagnuolo eventually would find a way to fix this mess of a franchise and turn the Rams into championship contenders.

        That faith was shaken hard Sunday. The results we've been waiting to see — the big turnaround after last year's surprising leap from a 1-15 disaster in 2009 to a 7-9 season that had everyone believing the Rams were on the verge of winning the NFC West title— just have not happened. The Rams are getting worse, not better. With a 23-20 loss to Arizona on Sunday, the Rams are now 2-9 and guaranteed of an eighth consecutive non-winning season.

        In the midst of all this losing, here's what continues to be so fascinating about Spagnuolo. He does not show any of the normal signs of an embattled head coach. Watch him during and after games. He does not show any of the disturbing body language of a coach on the hot seat. There are no slumped shoulders, no hang-dog expressions, no back-against-the-wall emotional flailing. Spagnuolo did not sound like a coach on the endangered list full of regret and half-baked alibis.

        Even while the rest of us are screaming at the results of some of his coaching decisions, Spagnuolo conducts himself with the confident air of a man who firmly believes he still is in complete control of his environment.

        "I think our team is passionate," he said. "I mean the work I see when they go out, I don't think there's a lack of effort. We know we're a little short-handed in some spots. ... But my pride and competitiveness says that no matter what, we've got to find a way to win."

        But the cold-blooded business of coaching does not reward coaches for their outstanding personality traits or hand out A's for effort. The halls of Canton are full of jerks, reprobates and brow-beating maniacs who have stalked NFL sidelines. This is a bottom-line business and winning is all that matters. What does it mean that his players don't quit? What does it mean that they fight to the bitter end every Sunday? What does it mean that his team is full of real professionals who refuse to use injuries as excuses?

        It doesn't buy him much more than the opportunity to let the season play out, giving him the full 16 games...
        -11-28-2011, 01:30 PM
      • r8rh8rmike
        Spagnuolo Denies Exercising Caution
        by r8rh8rmike
        Spagnuolo denies exercising caution

        BY JIM THOMAS
        Tuesday, October 19, 2010

        Ineffective? Sure. Conservative? Not so. At least that's how coach Steve Spagnuolo viewed the Rams' offensive approach to start the second half Sunday against San Diego.

        "I know what you want me to do, you want me to dissect the play-calling," Spagnuolo said Monday. "I think we mixed it up fairly well. The only one that Pat (Shurmur) and I talked about that we might have wanted back was the third-and-2."

        That was a reference to the Rams' second possession of the second half. On third-and-2 from the St. Louis 28, running back Steven Jackson was limited to a 1-yard gain and the Rams had to punt.

        "But other than that, we're always going to try to establish the run and get Steven going," Spagnuolo said. "Sometimes it happens. Sometimes it doesn't. There were a couple third downs we would've liked to have converted. But we didn't.

        "What we were hoping for coming out of the locker room was to do something with that first drive. We had an incompletion on the first down. So now you're second-and-10, we just never recovered from that. But fortunately for the football team, the defense kept us in the game while the offense kind of got on track, and then the offense did what they did in the fourth quarter."

        Other than his obvious people skills and leadership traits, Spagnuolo is a head coach in large part because of his defensive acumen, particularly in two seasons as the New York Giants' defensive coordinator. He's much more hands-on when it comes to the defensive side of the ball. But that doesn't mean he doesn't make a suggestion now and then for Shurmur — the Rams' offensive coordinator — or convey an overall offensive philosophy that he wants carried out on that side of the ball.

        But at his Monday media session, Spagnuolo said he did not instruct Shurmur to throttle it down on offense during the halftime intermission.

        "No," Spagnuolo said. "That conversation did not occur. We were staying aggressive, and the game was the game. It was 17-3, correct? It was a two-score game. So the game was not out of hand by any means. What you really want to do is get it to three scores, and then I think things change in the second half."

        As far as any offensive input he might have had as the third quarter unfolded, Spagnuolo indicated that he was heavily involved with the defense at that time. What was he doing with the defense?

        "Just hanging out," Spagnuolo joked. "Talking about summer jobs and stuff. I don't even remember but I know I was over there. I was probably yapping about something."

        In terms of run-pass ratio, the Rams have been tilted decidedly toward the pass this season, with 61 percent of their offensive plays...
        -10-19-2010, 01:20 PM
      • 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
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