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  • Rams lack the gift of grab

    By Jim Thomas

    These are the games players dream about, especially players on a young, victory-starved team like the Rams.

    "Coming into this game, not a lot of people gave us a chance to even hang around in this game," running back Steven Jackson said.

    Truth be told, why should they?
    The Rams had played two unbeaten teams previously at home this season — Minnesota and Indianapolis — and lost by a combined score of 80-16. Why should Sunday be any different against a New Orleans team on pace to become the highest-scoring squad in NFL history?

    Well, it was. On Sunday, the Rams became the first team in league history to play three straight home games against unbeaten teams. They came close to making more history with what would've been a staggering upset.

    But Marc Bulger's Hail Mary pass as time expired fell to the turf incomplete. And the Rams fell 28-23 to the still unbeaten Saints (9-0).

    "Anybody who was watching this game in the country, I'm sure they couldn't turn away from the television," center Jason Brown said. "It's not one of those games where you can say, 'Oh, the Saints have this,' because we challenged them the entire game.

    "That's all you can ask for, coming down to the last two minutes, knowing that you score, and you're in a winnable situation. You can't ask for more."

    Well, actually, you could've asked for six more points.

    "You want to come out with the win," said Jackson, who with 26 carries for 131 yards topped 100 yards for the third

    consecutive game. "You want to be in here jumping and celebrating."

    But there was no joy in the home-team locker room at the Edward Jones Dome. The Rams (1-8) actually outgained the Saints' No. 1-ranked offense, 434 yards to 420. Bulger finished with a better passer rating than the great Drew Brees — 93.5 to 89.1.

    The Rams also won the time of possession by four minutes, and were plus 2 in takeaway-giveaway differential.

    So a lot went right for St. Louis. But not in the opening 11 seconds of the second half. Just when it seemed safe to FINALLY say that the long-suffering Rams coverage units had gotten over the hump, Courtney Roby changed all that with a ridiculously easy 97-yard yard kickoff return for a touchdown, snapping a 14-14 tie.

    Roby took the kick from Josh Brown, headed quickly up the left sideline and was touched — barely — by only Brown en route to the end zone.

    "That kickoff return, it's just the spark they needed coming out in the second half," said Bulger, who threw for a season-high 298 yards and two touchdowns.

    The Rams had not given up a kickoff return longer than 33 yards all season, and ranked a respectable 13th in the league in kickoff coverage entering the game. So what happened?

    "I'm not sure (special teams coach) Tom McMahon knows 100 percent," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "I'm sure it's a block here and a gap ... I'd have to see it (on film)."

    Try as they might, the Rams never caught up after that play.

    "When a game's that close and either team can win it, it comes down to a few plays," Spagnuolo said. "The Saints obviously made 'em, and we needed to make one more and didn't. That's about what it comes down to."

    The game did boil down to a few plays, some that the Rams didn't make and some that the Saints did:

    — A red-zone interception thrown by Bulger on second and 8 from the New Orleans 17 with 6:44 to play in the first quarter. Bulger simply didn't see Saints safety Usama Young, subbing for the injured Darren Sharper, on the pass intended for Keenan Burton.

    "It was just a look I didn't see during the week," Bulger said. "I should've probably checked it down. I probably forced it a little bit. Those things will eat at you after a game. ... It's one I wish I had back."

    — Roby's kickoff return to start the third quarter.

    "I have to give credit to my front line," Roby said. "When they cover up guys like that, I just find a seam and try to hit it."

    — Danny Amendola's dropped pass on third and 1 from the Rams' 41 with 6½ minutes to play and St. Louis down 28-17. Amendola was wide open on the play.

    "Oh yeah, that was a touchdown," Amendola said. "I just dropped it. That's not acceptable. But Donnie (Avery) did a good job of picking me up and catching that next touchdown."

    — With 2:44 to play, tight end Daniel Fells couldn't hang on to a perfectly thrown pass from Bulger on a 2-point conversion following that Avery TD. Saints safety Roman Harper popped Fells hard from behind, jarring the ball loose.

    If Fells hangs on to the ball, the Rams trail 28-25 and Brown would've been attempting a 50-yard field goal to send the game into overtime instead of the Rams needing the Hail Mary pass.

    Amendola actually came fairly close to making a catch on the Hail Mary.

    "I think the place would've exploded," Bulger said.

    But the play would've been nullified and the game over anyway because left tackle Alex Barron was called for holding.

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  • MFranke
    RamView, 11/15/2009: Saints 28, Rams 23 (Long)
    by MFranke
    RamView, November 15, 2009
    From Row HH
    (Report and opinions from the game.)
    Game #9: Saints 28, Rams 23

    The winning streak may be over, but after coming within a play of pulling off the biggest upset of the season, the Rams can still hold their heads high. They're on course to winning this kind of game before too long.

    * RB: Steven Jackson (26-131 rushing, 9-45 receiving) is that friend you'd call if you get your car stuck in a ditch, except I think Steven would just pick the car up with his bare hands and carry it back up to the road on his back. What a dominating performance today. 30 yards on his first official touch, knifing through the hole, faking out Tracy Porter, spinning off Usama Young's shoulder tackle. Steven had some moves today. He took a play-action pass for 13 after faking Scott Fujita out of his jock. Steven also had some POWER today. It took eight Saints to bring him down at the end of that play. Jackson was everywhere on the Rams' first TD drive: left for 14, up the middle for 8, right for 8... and then he had to save the drive single-handedly. Will Smith's sack of an indecisive Marc Bulger left the ball on the Saint 29 for the whole world to grab, but Jackson swooped in from ten yards away to secure it for the Rams, and Bulger threw a pretty TD pass the next play. Jackson ground out 26 yards up the middle on 3 carries before scoring his 2nd TD of the year from the 2 late in the half. An 8-yard run in the 3rd where he ran over poor teammate Brandon Gibson helped set up a FG, but the Saints successfully limited Jackson most of the 2nd half, holding him to 55 total yards. Bulger tried him a couple of times in the Rams' last attempt to win the game, but Jackson was drawing crowds and was held to short gains. We're seeing the height of what Steven Jackson can do. He can beat a bad team (Detroit) practically by himself. He can keep the Rams in the game with one of the league's best teams for at least a half. 39 is a rock-solid foundation. The Rams need to get enough good pieces around him.

    * QB: Marc Bulger (26-40-298, 93.5 rating) had a blockbuster movie type of a game. Very good numbers, a few thrills, but you're left just a little wanting at the end. No doubt some were thinking of disaster movies after Usama Young, making it sound like the terrorists won, picked Bulger off in the end zone in the first. Keenan Burton (who blew out a knee on the play) was open for a split second, but Young played it perfectly and ultimately, Bulger tried to force a throw there he shouldn't have. The Rams drive into scoring position again in the 2nd, and aagh, it looks like another disaster when Bulger fails about three times to unload to Steven Jackson, gets sacked and fumbles. But after Jackson bails him out, Bulger steps up with a dead-perfect 29-yard pass to Donnie Avery, running a corner route to the left pylon, for a game-tying TD. Bulger scrambled around forever in the...
    -11-16-2009, 01:40 PM
  • RamWraith
    Winless No More: Rams surprise New Orleans
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas

    NEW ORLEANS — Marc Bulger's most meaningful handoff of the season didn't take place on the field Sunday. Minutes after the Rams' startling 37-29 victory over heavily favored New Orleans, Bulger turned in the visitors' locker room and handed a game ball to. ...

    Scott Linehan.

    In a season of offensive crises and eight straight losses — as well as the "infamous" rolling of the eyes in Seattle — it was a nice gesture by Bulger. Bulger said he didn't act on his own in handing the game ball to the Rams' beleaguered head coach.

    "I asked a couple of guys and they all agreed," Bulger said. "It was for sticking with us. It's not like he's been punishing us (for the losses). He gave us our time off and treated us like men.

    "I think he's the reason why we came out with some energy (Sunday). It wasn't by accident. Obviously, he wasn't going to give himself the game ball and take credit. But I think it was important for him to be acknowledged for the job he did."

    Bulger's work Sunday wasn't bad, either. His assorted injuries doing better from the bye week, Bulger put together his best performance of the season. His completion percentage of 81.8 percent (on 27-of-33 passing) was a career high. His passer rating of 125.0 was his best since the Washington game last Christmas Eve.

    But he got plenty of help Sunday. Bulger's numbers were all the more impressive considering he was working behind his 25th different starting combination on the offensive line as a Ram. Four of the six offensive linemen who played Sunday weren't even on the Rams' roster at the start of training camp.

    Running back Steven Jackson's bulging disc held up well enough to get 27 touches, including 22 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown. Jackson also threw a touchdown pass on a trick play, his first TD toss since his days at Eldorado High in Las Vegas.

    Wide receiver Torry Holt didn't score but topped 100 yards receiving for the second game in a row, with 124 yards on eight catches. All told, the Rams piled up a season-high 409 yards, albeit against a Saints defense that was missing three injured starters.

    As for the St. Louis defense, coordinator Jim Haslett's aggressive blitzing schemes kept one of the league's hottest offenses and hottest quarterbacks (Drew Brees) off-balance for three quarters. With a 34-7 lead early in the fourth quarter, Haslett basically stopped blitzing.

    The Saints nearly made the Rams pay for that change in strategy by scoring three fourth-quarter touchdowns. But Dane Looker's recovery of an onside kick with 29 seconds remaining ended any hope for a miracle comeback by the Saints (4-5).

    Instead, it was Bulger kneeling in the "victory" formation to end the game. It was that football...
    -11-12-2007, 05:29 AM
  • eldfan
    Rams Team Report
    by eldfan

    Several members of the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals took a little detour on the way to their victory parade.
    Prior to the start of the Rams' game against the New Orleans Saints, they gathered on the sideline of the Edward Jones Dome with the World Series trophy and listened to the cheers of the crowd as the scoreboard camera moved from player to player.

    Manager Tony La Russa was wearing a Sam Bradford throwback jersey. Chris Carpenter, in what turned out to be the most symbolic aspect of the day, had on a Steven Jackson jersey and participated in the coin toss.

    Little did Carpenter and his teammates know what would happen between the sidelines during the game. Little did they know how Jackson had taken it upon himself before the game to address his teammates, not much different than when Carpenter called that fateful team meeting in late August after the Cardinals had fallen 10 1/2 games out of the wild-card lead.

    Then, a passionate Jackson was on display during the game, most notably in the fourth quarter, when the Rams started lapsing into the self-destructive tendencies that had sabotaged the first six games of the season.

    When it was over, the Rams had an inexplicable 31-21 victory, and Jackson had backed up his words by totaling 191 yards from scrimmage, including 159 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

    As coach Steve Spagnuolo said, "If you're going to do that as a leader, you've got to lead. He probably put a little pressure on himself."

    Asked what Jackson said, Spagnuolo answered, "I don't think it's right for me to share. If Steven wants to, that's OK, but it was good stuff."

    Jackson said, "To be honest with you, I woke up at about 3:30 in the morning. I couldn't sleep, just something resonated in me. I was just asking myself and praying, to be honest with you, about what can I say to inspire this team to play 60 minutes of good football.

    "I think we've all seen us play 30 minutes, 40 minutes of football. We have yet this season to put together a full game, a full four quarters of good football, so pretty much all I said was, 'If you have ever been in a fight where you ever get hit by a punch, you've only got two decisions. You can either run from the person, or you can dig deep inside and find the will in you to keep swinging and keep fighting. When that happens, you're challenged.'

    "So I challenged them, not as football players. I challenged them as men. I said, 'You know what? We've been hit, we've taken a lot of shots, we will be hit in this game going against a potent offense, and when that hit comes, I challenge you to respond in a way that you have to dig deep inside to find something in you that you didn't know you had.' I think today, in that fourth quarter, we saw that. And the guys rose to the challenge,...
    -11-01-2011, 10:29 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams Seize First Win
    by RamWraith
    Sunday, November 11, 2007
    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    NEW ORLEANS – The wait is over. On the most unlikely of days, the Rams came away with a victory.

    St. Louis dominated the Saints for most of Sunday’s game at the Superdome on its way to a 37-29 win.

    Coming off a bye against a team with four consecutive wins, not many expected the Rams to find a win in the Big Easy, but that’s how the Rams made it look against the Saints.

    The offense was sharp, the defense was stout and the Rams started their second season the way they had hoped.

    The Rams are now 1-8 on the season and the Saints drop to 4-5 with the loss.

    First Quarter

    After winning the opening toss, the Saints wasted no time driving to take a lead, driving 73 yards on four plays in just over two minutes. The help of a questionable 37-yard pass interference call against cornerback Fakhir Brown set up a 7-yard touchdown run by running back Reggie Bush.

    Olindo Mare’s extra point made it 7-0 Saints with 12:45 to go in the first quarter.

    The Rams got off to a rough start, going three and out on their first drive, but safety Oshiomogho Atogwe gave them a spark by coming up with an interception on the second play of the ensuing possessions.

    The offense used that to put together its best drive on the road this season, marching down the field to set up a 1-yard touchdown plunge by running back Steven Jackson. Quarterback Marc Bulger was sharp on the drive, connecting on all five pass attempts for 49 yards. The extra point from kicker Jeff Wilkins tied it at 7 with 2:58 to go in the quarter.

    The Saints got right back into scoring position as Pierre Thomas returned the kickoff 64 yards to the St. Louis 33. The entire left side of the Rams’ coverage unit collapsed and Thomas’ cutback would have led to a touchdown were it not for the containment by Wilkins.

    With its back against the wall, the defense stepped up again. This time, an intentional grounding call on Drew Brees and a sack for a forced fumble by linebacker Will Witherspoon killed any chance at a score and the Saints had to punt.

    The Rams took over on their 20 with 1:24 to go in the quarter. Rob Petitti replaced Brandon Gorin at right tackle to open the drive. Petitti got repetitions with the first team at that spot.

    The Rams got a first down and have the ball at the New Orleans 30 to end the quarter.

    Second Quarter

    The Rams picked up where they left off in the first quarter, piecing together one of their finest drives of the season. St. Louis marched 80 yards on 14 plays in seven minutes, 47 seconds and capped the drive with a toss from Jackson to tight end Randy McMichael for a 2-yard touchdown.

    Wilkins’ extra point gave the Rams their first lead on the road this season at 14-7 with...
    -11-11-2007, 05:15 PM
  • RamWraith
    Inside SLant 11-13-07
    by RamWraith
    From USA Today

    Inside Slant

    It all came together for the Rams in astonishing fashion Sunday in New Orleans. In a 37-29 win over the Saints, the Rams led 34-7 early in the fourth quarter after scoring a total of 19 points in four previous road games.

    Some other sobering trends were also reversed:

    —Entering the game, the Rams ranked 26th in the league in third-down efficiency at 36.7 percent and the percentage was 28.3 on the road. Against the Saints, the Rams converted eight of their first 11 third-down plays (72.7 percent) before missing on two third-quarter attempts, but still finished at 61.5 percent.

    —In the red zone, the Rams had been ranked last in the NFL in touchdown percentage, scoring just six times in 22 trips. On the road, they had failed on all nine red-zone penetrations. Against the Saints, the Rams scored four touchdowns in five trips, including a halfback pass by running back Steven Jackson to tight end Randy McMichael.

    —After having just 18 turnovers last season, the Rams had 24 this year, with 20 coming in the second half. They had no turnovers against the Saints and had two takeaways, which led to 10 points.

    The offensive line that started the game was the same one that finished the Oct. 28 game against Cleveland, with Nick Leckey at right guard. Alternating at right tackle were starter Brandon Gorin and recently signed Rob Petitti. Leckey became the 11th different player to start a game on the line this season, and it was the 16th different line starter in nine games.

    Despite four sacks, the line was solid in protection, which enabled quarterback Marc Bulger to have time to complete 27 of 33 passes for 302 yards.

    "I am really proud of that offensive front," coach Scott Linehan said. "I have never seen anything like it and I hope to never see anything like it again, but it just goes to show you that guys can put it together. I am not even sure those guys even know each other that well or by name. They might have to introduce themselves again."

    On defense, with defensive end Leonard Little out for the season, coordinator Jim Haslett came up with an attacking plan that blitzed as many as 16 times on 17 first-half plays and used middle linebacker Will Witherspoon as an end in passing situations.

    Said safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, "The Saints have an explosive offense tailored around Drew Brees, who's just been playing brilliant. We felt that if we could just get some pressure on him, collapse the pocket a little bit, we'd have a better chance to make some plays.

    "We attacked them, and it worked out for us."

    The turning point might have come in the first quarter. The Saints moved 73 yards in 2:15 with the help of a 37-yard pass-interference penalty on Fakhir Brown to take a 7-0 lead. After the Rams went three-and-out...
    -11-13-2007, 02:55 PM