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  • Rams' special teams are making strides ..

    BY JIM THOMAS
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    11/11/2009

    At the start of the 2009 season, it looked like there were going to be enough Rams special teams blunders to fill a reel of football follies.

    There was a lost fumble on the season-opening kickoff return by Donnie Avery in Seattle.

    A blocked field goal returned for a touchdown by Quincy Butler in that same game was negated by a penalty for having 12 men on the field.
    Anthony Smith's holding penalty wiped out a 92-yard kickoff return by Danny Amendola to open the San Francisco game.

    And the ultimate in muffed punts in that same ***** game, resulting in a San Francisco touchdown. (The ball struck Butler in the leg; he compounded the problem by trying to pick up the ball in the end zone.)

    Rookie special teams coordinator Tom McMahon stayed the course, and the Rams' play has stabilized in this area. There's still plenty of room for improvement, but at the midpoint of the 2009 season, the Rams rank seventh in punt coverage and 13th in kickoff coverage in the NFL. They finished 22nd and 32nd, respectively, in those areas last season.

    The improvement isn't as dramatic in the return game, where the Rams rank 17th in punt returns and 19th in kickoff returns. They finished 21st and 22nd, respectively, last year.

    "Tom McMahon has been resilient and has been relentless in his pursuit to be detailed and to keep guys consistent," place-kicker Josh Brown said. "So he's never wavered. And that's a big part of it. ... He's constantly, constantly pushing and working. And that's a big deal."

    In the return game, the goal is to get 10 yards on each punt return and reach the 30-yard line on each kickoff return.

    "We're averaging eight yards a (punt) return," McMahon said. "We need those extra 2 yards. We call it a first down we want to give the offense a first down on punt returns."

    On kickoff returns, McMahon would settle for an average drive start on the 25-yard line.

    "A 25.5 drive start puts you in the top 10 (in the NFL) and gives your offense a start and a chance," he said. "We're getting too many balls stopped at the 20-yard line, at the 19, the 22 here and there."

    Even with penalties wiping out a couple of long returns, the signing of Amendola two games into the season has brought the return game back to respectability.

    In the two games before Amendola's arrival, the Rams' average drive start after kickoff returns was the 20. In his six games returning kickoffs, it's the 25-yard line.

    "The biggest thing I think he's brought is the guys believe in him they just do," said McMahon, the Rams' ninth special teams coach since the move to St. Louis in 1995. "They flat-out believe in him because he believes in himself. And he's a tough kid. There's not a lot of kick returners in this league that are his size. You take a lot of hits, and he fights through it."

    Amendola is listed at 5-11, 186, and that may be stretching it.

    The bright spot so far has been the work of the coverage units, long a bane of Rams special teams units in St. Louis. The Rams haven't allowed a kickoff return longer than 33 yards or a punt return longer than 15 yards all season.

    "We obviously want to be ranked at the top of the league," said linebacker Chris Chamberlain, who has a team-high 11 special teams tackles. "But our ultimate goal is to control field position. ... I feel like Tom's done a great job with us. He's brought a lot of techniques and a lot of teaching that some of us hadn't had."

    On punt coverage, the Rams have yielded only 103 return yards in eight games. Last year in 16 games, they gave up 590 yards. McMahon has stressed more directional punting and pooch punting, and he praised Donnie Jones for making the adjustment.

    "We have a directional punt called on every single (punt) other than if you're in the pooch area, and then you're trying to hang the ball up and 'down' the ball," McMahon said. "To me, that's where he's improved the most from what I'd seen in the past. He's not getting the touchbacks he used to get."

    Jones already has had 15 punts downed inside the 20-yard line. He had 20 such punts all last season.

    As for Brown, he's finally getting to use his leg some after kicking only three extra points and one field goal in the Rams' first four games.

    "I'm definitely not tired," he said. "I would definitely like a lot more attempts; I would like a lot more kickoff attempts. ... We haven't capitalized on all of our opportunities. As a field goal kicker and as a veteran, you never want to start off slow, and that's what we did."

    But Brown does have a perfect passer rating 158.3 after throwing a TD pass on a fake field goal against Detroit.

    RAM-BLINGS

    Linebacker Dominic Douglas was promoted to the 53-man roster from the practice squad; cornerback Marcus Brown was added to the practice squad. ... For every ticket purchased this week for Sunday's New Orleans game, the Rams are donating one ticket to a member of the military. There were about 2,500 tickets available at the start of the week.

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  • r8rh8rmike
    St. Louis Rams Special Teams Improve
    by r8rh8rmike
    St. Louis Rams special teams improve

    BY JIM THOMAS
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    01/09/2010


    There were a lot of reasons the Rams stumbled to a 1-15 record in their just-completed season. Just don't blame special teams.

    In fact, you could make a case that under rookie special teams coordinator Tom McMahon, St. Louis enjoyed its best special teams play of the decade.

    That's a somewhat muted distinction, given the shoddy play that has characterized the unit for much of the decade. Then again ...

    The Rams' league-wide rankings in net punting (second), punt coverage (fourth) and kickoff coverage (22nd) were the highest for the team in the decade. (That's right, a No. 22 ranking on kickoff coverage was a single-season best for the Rams from 2000 through 2009.)

    The Rams' ranking in kickoff returns (11th) was their second-highest ranking of the decade; gross punting (fourth) was third-best; and punt returns (eighth) was fourth-best.

    McMahon was pleased but not overwhelmed by the progress the unit made this season.

    "At the end of the day, what you're looking for is wins, and that's what we need to do," McMahon said. "We have to play better on special teams to get us those wins.

    "So we need to improve, and that's what we're going to do this offseason. I think that the guys have that in mind. We're looking forward to that first game (of 2010) coming out and hitting it right away, and not having the mistakes that we had this year."

    The Rams were plagued by special teams penalties and mistakes early in the season, including having 12 men on the field as Seattle attempted a field goal in the season opener. In Game 4, San Francisco scored a gift TD when a ***** punt bounced off Quincy Butler's leg and Butler failed to fall on the ball in the end zone.

    There were other hiccups along the way, such as Courtney Roby's 97-yard kickoff return for a TD for New Orleans. And Danny Amendola's lost fumble on a punt return in the Dec. 27 game in Arizona.

    But there were highlight moments as well, including kicker Josh Brown's TD pass to Daniel Fells on a fake field goal against Detroit. Against Tennessee, Kenneth Darby ran 51 yards on a fake punt, setting up the Rams' only touchdown.

    There were some highlight players as well over the course of the season.

    Reserve linebacker Chris Chamberlain was the star of the coverage units, with 28 special teams stops. That's the second-highest total since the Rams moved to St. Louis in 1995, surpassed only by linebacker London Fletcher, who had 30 special teams stops as a rookie in 1998.

    Amendola proved to be a find as a return man after joining the Rams in Week 3. In 14 games, he set Rams franchise marks for kickoff returns (66), kickoff return yards (1,618), combined...
    -01-09-2010, 04:00 PM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Rams Riding Special Teams Roller-Coaster
    by r8rh8rmike
    Rams riding special teams roller-coaster

    BY JIM THOMAS
    Thursday, November 17, 2011

    The amusement parks may be closed for the summer, but for thrills and spills there's no place like Rams special teams lately.

    _ Thrills: Robert Quinn blocks a punt late in the first half against New Orleans that rolls out of bounds at the Saints' 15. Two plays later, the Rams are in the end zone for a touchdown and off and running to a stunning 31-21 upset victory Oct. 30.

    _ Spills: Arizona blocks what would've been a game-winning field goal by Josh Brown as time expires in regulation. Less than two minutes into overtime, Patrick Peterson's 99-yard punt return for a TD gives the Cardinals a shocking 19-13 victory Nov. 6.

    _ Thrills: Hired by the Rams four days earlier, David Nixon strips Cleveland punt returner Joshua Cribbs of the football midway through the fourth quarter. Ben Leber recovers the fumble at the Browns' 27. Six plays later, Brown kicks what proves to be the game-winning field goal. Brown's kick holds up in a 13-12 victory Nov. 13 only because a bungled snap and a James Hall forearm cause Phil Dawson's 22-yard field goal to veer off course with 2:10 to play.

    No Rams coach has lived on the edge like special teams coordinator Tom McMahon has these past three Sundays. One point he doesn't need to stress much is that special teams play can make or break you. All he has to do is show the evidence in the film room: from Quinn's block, to Brown's blocked field goal, to Peterson's return, to Cribbs' fumble, to Dawson's botched field goal.

    "Every play is a big play," McMahon said. "There's five plays right there that have really changed the outcome of the games. Every single play counts."

    No doubt, the toughest special teams play to swallow this season was the Peterson punt return.

    "To see it on ESPN every day and that kind of crap," said fullback Brit Miller, one of the Rams' core special teams players. "Just to suffer that loss at that point in time, where we'd done such a great job against (Peterson), for him to go out and make a play like that, it was tough."

    "After the Arizona game. . .it was a difficult week for everybody," McMahon said.

    Then came Cleveland.

    "This last weekend was almost like the tables were turned, and we finished the game the right way," McMahon said. "It has been a roller coaster. But at the end of the day you've just got to try and keep it an even keel, and play through the last play and move on."

    Win or lose, triumph or tragedy, McMahon puts each game to rest once he hits the sack that night.

    "I won't go to bed any game, doesn't matter (how) we play, until I've seen the tape," he said.

    For away games, that means...
    -11-17-2011, 08:10 PM
  • RamWraith
    Special teams again a problem
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    08/29/2008

    KANSAS CITY Early in the second quarter Thursday night at soggy Arrowhead Stadium, the Kansas City Chiefs' Bernard Pollard stormed in and partially blocked a Donnie Jones' punt.

    It marked the second time in as many preseason games that an opponent had gotten a hand on a Jones boot, a disturbing trend for a team just 10 days away from its regular-season opener.

    "Football is a game of field position, and a blocked punt is bad," Jones said. "It's a huge game-changing play. We've got to get it corrected for next week against Philly."

    Those aren't the only special-teams woes that have been dogging the Rams, who finished the preseason 2-2 after falling 21-17 in the annual Governor's Cup game. They committed several other miscues against the Baltimore Ravens last Saturday and added more gaffes Thursday. Among them were three long returns that led to two Chiefs touchdowns:


    A 33-yard kickoff scamper by B.J. Sams preceded a seven-play, 62-yard drive that culminated with a 14-yard run by Kolby Smith.

    A 34-yard punt return, after a line-drive boot by Jones under heavy pressure, set up a nine-play, 56-yard march, with Smith scoring from the 4.

    Later, Dantrell Savage sprinted 40 yards with a kickoff, but the defense forced a three-and-out.

    "At least now we know what we what we have to work on," said Eric Bassey, a coverage-unit regular. "We have to try to make plays and change games. In order to do that, you have to be in the right spot."

    Rookie Matt Caddell, also on the coverage teams, added: "If one guy gets out of place, it's like a domino effect. It could be any one of us. We all take the blame for it."

    Rookie Lance Ball, who was lined up to Jones' left, was quick to accept responsibility for allowing Pollard to get by him. "He kind of bull-rushed me, I opened up my shoulder a little bit, and he just nicked" the ball, he said. "There's 11 guys on the field, and if one person breaks down, it can mess up the whole play."

    The Rams, who trailed 21-3 early, had a chance to close to 21-13 late in the third quarter when Josh Brown lined up for a 40-yard field goal. In a downpour, Brown pushed the ball wide right, a rare miss for the highest-paid kicker in NFL history.

    "Just a bad kick," said Brown, who refused to cite the driving rain. "You've got to contend with Mother Nature. Everything's got to be working."

    As the preseason came to a close, the Rams were on the short end of several statistical areas involving special teams:

    Jones averaged 32.7 net yards on 20 punts, some 7 yards under his regular-season total from 2007. The net for opposing punters in the preseason was 41.4.
    ...
    -08-29-2008, 10:25 AM
  • RamWraith
    Special Teams Have Been Special
    by RamWraith
    By Howard Balzer


    Wednesday, October 22, 2008




    Somewhat lost amid the consecutive wins by the Rams over Washington and Dallas has been the play of the Rams' special teams.


    As Rams coach Jim Haslett said Monday, "The special teams have been outstanding. Im going to say that again because you kind of forget them."


    We don't forget when they're bad, but they can be taken for granted when they are good. The Rams' overall play has been better than good the last two games. And it has been highlighted by the kicking of Josh Brown and Donnie Jones.


    Jones, of course, has been outstanding since last season. This year, he is averaging 51.6 yards on 34 punts with a net of 41.2. He's had just one touchback and dropped nine inside the 20. There have been a few good returns, but that is to be expected when averaging nearly six punts per game
    As for Brown, the Rams knew they were getting one of the league's best kickers, and he is living up to expectations. Most notable is his proficiency on kickoffs.


    Against Dallas, Brown had two touchbacks and four other kickoffs reached the end zone. The only glitch was a kickoff out of the bounds near the end of the first half, and that followed a 52-yard field goal. In 25 kickoffs, Brown has five touchbacks and 14 have made it to the end zone. At home, 10 of 14 kickoffs have reached the end zone.


    Meanwhile, as good as Jeff Wilkins was, especially on long field goals, Brown is proving to be his equal. Over his last five seasons, Wilkins made an astounding 18 of 21 field-goal attempts from 50 or more yards. In three of those seasons, he had four successful 50-plus field goals and he had three in two others.


    This season, Brown already has four field goals from 50 yards or more and has missed two, one of which was from 54 yards Sunday that didn't miss by much to the right. He has made kicks from 51, 52 and 54 (twice) yards, while missing from 51 and 54.


    Meanwhile, the return game has looked better the last two games with Dante Hall looking like a different player than he did the first four games of the season. Hall has picked up his game after a discussion with Haslett, and taking notice of the competition with Donnie Avery healthy and the addition to the roster of Derek Stanley.
    -10-22-2008, 02:59 PM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Danny Amendola Is Latest Return Man For St. Louis Rams
    by r8rh8rmike
    Danny Amendola is latest return man for St. Louis Rams

    By jim thomas
    09/24/2009


    Take a number, Danny Amendola. You're the next in line. And actually, that number is 33.

    Since the dynamic Tony Horne returned his last kickoff for St. Louis in 2000, the Rams have had no less than 32 players return at least one kickoff. We're talking bona fide return men only, not wedge blockers, etc., who may have fielded a short kick.

    Amendola, signed off the Philadelphia practice squad Tuesday, will be No. 33. The Rams signed him to the active roster to fill the role of the man he replaced, return man/wide receiver Derek Stanley. On Wednesday, coach Steve Spagnuolo wouldn't flat-out confirm that Amendola would return punts and kickoffs in the home opener against Green Bay.

    "It just depends on how quickly we can get him oiled up," Spagnuolo said.

    But it's not like there's an extensive playbook to learn for a return man. So it will be a surprise if he isn't in action Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.

    "It's an opportunity that they say everybody gets once in their life," said Amendola, who wears jersey No. 16 and has been assigned Dane Looker's old locker stall. "I'm going to try to make the most of it. Try to run with it. Try to make some plays, and try to help the Rams get better."

    When it comes to returning punts and kickoffs it's hard to imagine things getting any worse. Particularly on kickoffs, the bar hasn't been set high in St. Louis for most of this decade.

    Since Horne's departure, the Rams have allowed 11 kickoff returns for touchdowns, while scoring only one themselves. (A 99-yarder by Chris Johnson in 2005.)

    Check out this partial list of returnees since Horne's departure: an aging Dante Hall; a pair of Harrises Kay-Jay and Arlen; St. Louisan Brandon Williams; Southeast Missouri State product Willie Ponder; Trung Canidate; and a rookie named Steven Jackson (in 2004).

    You want highlights? Fans yelled "Yo!" every time Yo Murphy returned one in 2001 and '02. In 2005, the aforementioned Johnson stepped out of bounds at the 1 on the season-opening kickoff against San Francisco at Candlestick Park. (Mike Martz threw out the challenge flag on that one, exactly 1 second into the season. And lost.)

    And then there was Terrence Wilkins, whose signature moment was being spotted at halftime of an '02 game buying a hotdog at a dome concession stand. (He was in street clothes as pregame inactive that day.)

    In 2007, when Hall briefly flashed his vintage form, the Rams finished ninth in the NFL in kickoff returns. But that was merely an oasis in an otherwise barren landscape. In every other year this decade post-Horne the Rams finished no higher than 15th and as low as 31st in kickoff returns.

    Punt returns...
    -09-23-2009, 09:19 PM
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