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Schedule Sends St. Louis Rams Another Strong Opponent

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  • Schedule Sends St. Louis Rams Another Strong Opponent

    Schedule sends St. Louis Rams another strong opponent

    BY JIM THOMAS
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    11/17/2009

    At least the Rams don't play an unbeaten team this week. Then again, the visiting Arizona Cardinals are unbeaten on the road this season.

    "Thanks," coach Steve Spagnuolo said, with mock sarcasm.

    The news of Arizona's road success wasn't exactly the pick-me-up he was looking for after Sunday's 28-23 near miss against New Orleans.

    But that's the way things have gone this season for the Rams — one hurdle after another. The Rams' first four home opponents in 2009 — Green Bay, Minnesota, Indianapolis and New Orleans — are a combined 31-5. In comparison, the NFC West-leading Cardinals are a "modest" 6-3.

    "We've got a division game, a rival," defensive tackle Clifton Ryan said. "High-powered offensive attack with a great quarterback in Kurt Warner. I know the fans are going to be happy to see him. Every time he comes back, he gets a warm reception."

    Warner obviously has some help in the passing game.

    "Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Steve Breaston," Ryan said, listing the Big Red's top three receivers. "The list goes on and on. The high-powered offenses keep on rolling into St. Louis. And we've got to be up to the challenge to stop 'em."

    In order, the Rams have faced the No. 8 (Green Bay), No. 7 (Minnesota), No. 3 (Indianapolis) and No. 1 (New Orleans) offenses in the NFL at home. Arizona isn't far off the pace, bringing the league's 12th-ranked offense to the dome for a 3:05 p.m. kickoff Sunday.

    "A lot of good quarterbacks," defensive end Chris Long said. "Already getting to play Peyton Manning, Drew (Brees), now Kurt."

    And some guy named Brett Favre.

    "Yeah, Favre," Long said. "How could I forget that guy? Yeah, we've played some good quarterbacks. But when you play a good quarterback like that, like these guys, the margin for error becomes so small. They truly manage the game to perfection. You really have to make no mistakes."

    In order, Favre, Brees, Manning and Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers are ranked 1-2-3-4 in the NFL in passer rating. Warner isn't far off the pace with the 11th-best passer rating in the league (91.5).

    If only for one Sunday, the Rams showed they can play with the big boys of the NFL by going toe-to-toe with the Saints for 60 minutes.

    "I feel that this team's only going to get better," wide receiver Brandon Gibson said. "We showed that we are capable of playing with one of the better teams. We've just got to always play at a high level."

    Games like that have been few and far between for the Rams lately. The Rams have lost 22 games since the start of the 2008 season, and 14 of those losses have come in blowout fashion by 17 points or more.

    So even in defeat, the Saints game could be a confidence builder for a young and largely inexperienced team.

    "We lost by five points to one of the top two teams in the NFL," Ryan said. "Some people say they're the best team in this league. So it was a good gauge for us. But at the same time, you play the game to win. You don't play the game to say, 'Oh, it was close.' This is not horseshoes ... or anything like that. This is the National Football League, so you want to win every Sunday."

    True, but the Saints game was one of the most exciting at the dome in recent years. Now, the Rams must show that their competitiveness in that contest wasn't a fluke. How do they make sure that the Saints game becomes a building block and not an aberration?

    "You do a couple things," Long said. "One — you don't latch on to moral victories. Two — you have to look at it as a motivator, and not something where you might be discouraged. Some teams have letdowns after a close game against good opponents.

    "I think that's something you can control. Your intensity and your emotional investment every day coming into the building should be the same. I don't think that should change because something happened last week. You've got to look forward."

    Sunday's game against the defending NFC-champion Cardinals will be another measuring stick to see if the Rams truly are making strides toward respectability. If nothing else, the worst of the Rams' schedule finally is behind them.

    Even with two games remaining against the Cardinals, the Rams' final seven contests of the season are against teams with a combined 31-32 record, for a .492 winning percentage. The combined record of the Rams' first nine opponents: 47-34, for a .580 winning percentage.

    The Rams took several steps in the right direction against the Saints. They matched their season high in takeaways (three), had their most productive passing game of the season (293 yards) and continued to grind out the rushing yards (141).

    But on the flip side, the Rams committed their seventh red zone turnover of the season, gave up a touchdown on special teams and, worst of all, were gouged for a season-worst 203 yards rushing.

    "We've still got to improve on our rush defense," Ryan said. "We've been harping on that since I've been here — and from what I hear, for years now. We really need to get that under control, because we're giving up way too many rushing yards."

  • #2
    Re: Schedule Sends St. Louis Rams Another Strong Opponent

    "You do a couple things," Long said. "One — you don't latch on to moral victories. Two — you have to look at it as a motivator, and not something where you might be discouraged. Some teams have letdowns after a close game against good opponents.

    "I think that's something you can control. Your intensity and your emotional investment every day coming into the building should be the same. I don't think that should change because something happened last week. You've got to look forward."

    I hope we are not going to have a let down that would be a shame after this past week.
    :ramlogo:

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    • eldfan
      Every given Sunday: Another unbeaten for Rams
      by eldfan
      By R.B. FALLSTROM
      AP Sports Writer

      ST. LOUIS — The schedule has done zero favors for the one-win
      St. Louis Rams, the first team in NFL history to draw unbeaten
      opponents in three straight home games.

      Good luck parlaying fresh legs off the bye week and a two-week
      buzz from their lone victory now that the prolific New Orleans
      Saints are coming to town. New Orleans (8-0) was a two-touchdown
      favorite to follow the script of the Colts (42-6, Week 7) and
      Vikings (38-10, Week 5) and give the Rams another reason to lose
      faith in the home-field advantage.

      “You definitely don’t want to play a team like New Orleans every
      week,” Rams quarterback Marc Bulger said. "They’re going to get
      their points, it’s as simple as that.

      “So we have to find a way to keep up with them.”

      Since moving to St. Louis in 1995, the Rams (1-7) are 6-2 at
      home coming off the bye week. In 2007 they beat the Saints on
      the road in after the bye for their first victory after an 0-8
      start.

      Useless, ancient statistics.

      “That was two years ago,” Bulger said. “If you look around this
      locker room, there are not too many guys left that were on that
      team.”

      Extra time to prepare? Rookie coach Steve Spagnuolo worries it
      wasn’t enough to get ready for the NFL’s No. 1 scoring offense,
      and scoffed at Saints comments that indicated they haven’t been
      at their best lately.

      “I don’t know if anybody ever figures them out,” Spagnuolo said.
      “That’s a compliment to them and scary for the rest of the
      league that they can play better.”

      The Saints average 37.9 points and have scored 30 or more points
      the last four games to match a franchise best. They’re 8-0 for
      the first time and one win shy of tying the franchise record for
      consecutive victories because to this point they’ve been able to
      overcome mistakes with sheer firepower and by forcing their
      opponents into a league-high 24 turnovers.

      Drew Brees leads the NFL in passer rating and has 17 touchdown
      passes; he’s also the league’s best in the fourth quarter. Seven
      Saints have scored three or more TDs.

      Last week all those tools helped erase an early two-touchdown
      deficit caused by two turnovers in a 30-20 victory over the
      Panthers. New Orleans has a plus-8 turnover differential, tied
      for third best in the NFL, which is the biggest reason it’s
      perfect after going 4-4 halfway through last season.

      “We’ve been lucky up to this point because we’ve gotten some
      turnovers of our own,” Brees said. “It just makes you think
      about how good we could really be if we take better care of the
      football and end up scoring points on those times where...
      -11-12-2009, 09:50 PM
    • eldfan
      Rams' first win elusive
      by eldfan
      Rams' first win elusive

      BY JIM THOMAS
      ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
      10/11/2009

      The resolve belied the scoreboard in the cramped visitors locker room at Candlestick Park last Sunday afternoon.

      "I have confidence that things are going to turn around," running back Steven Jackson said, mere minutes after the Rams' 35-0 loss to San Francisco.

      "We're going to win games, I'm telling you," defensive end Leonard Little added.

      But when? It has been 357 days now since the gods of gridiron fortune last smiled on the Rams. On Oct. 19, 2008, the Rams pummeled Dallas 34-14 for their second consecutive victory under interim head coach Jim Haslett.

      Since then? Nothing but gloom, despair and agony ... the agony of defeat. The Rams have lost a franchise record 14 in a row, the longest current losing streak in the National Football League. The losses keep mounting in 2009 despite sweeping offseason changes, changes that permeated every level of the organization.

      One month into the season, the Rams are 0-4 and have been outscored 108 to 24. They have led for only 12 minutes 29 seconds all season, taking a 7-6 lead in Washington late in the first half on a touchdown pass from Marc Bulger to Laurent Robinson, capped by Josh Brown's extra point.

      That period of prosperity ended with 6:27 to go in the third quarter when Washington took a 9-7 lead on a Shaun Suisham field goal.

      As KSDK-TV news anchor Mike Bush used to say back in the days when he did sports: "End highlight reel."

      So when does it end? If you believe the sports wagering industry, it won't happen this season. The Rams will be an underdog in all 12 of their remaining games.

      "Depending on what transpires in the next few weeks and barring any significant injuries, the closest the St. Louis Rams will be to a favorite all season will be in Detroit on November 1st," said Richard Gardner, sportsbook manager for Bodog. "As it stands right now, the Lions would be a three-, four-point favorite."

      Three of the Rams' first four games have been on the road, where it's generally tougher to win. But those opponents were hardly NFL heavyweights. Washington and Seattle (with a healthy Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback) are average at best. Green Bay and San Francisco are good, but don't have the look of NFC title contenders.

      But the Rams step up in class Sunday, with the unbeaten Minnesota Vikings visiting the Edward Jones Dome in a noon kickoff.

      "That franchise is really put together," Rams defensive tackle Clifton Ryan said. "They've got a couple of all-Pros on the defensive line in Kevin and Pat Williams. They've got a Hall of Fame quarterback (Brett Favre).

      "They've got some young guns at receiver in Percy Harvin and Bernard...
      -10-11-2009, 09:34 AM
    • eldfan
      Schedule has been against the Rams
      by eldfan
      Schedule has been against the Rams
      BY JIM THOMAS
      ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
      10/28/2009

      No matter how the schedule was configured, the Rams weren't expected to win many games this season. Not with a new coaching staff, new front office and, most important, not much talent on the roster.

      But as the Rams approach the midpoint of the season, it has become painfully obvious that their schedule has been downright brutal:

      — St. Louis is one of only five NFL teams this season that will face teams coming off byes in back-to-back weeks. They'll reach that dubious double Sunday against the Detroit Lions, who are fit and rested after their bye week.

      — The Rams are one of only four NFL teams that played four of their first six games on the road (without the benefit of a bye mixed in).

      — And they're one of only two teams — Minnesota being the other — to open the season with two road games.

      "I appreciate all your info," coach Steve Spagnuolo said, with a touch of sarcasm. "It's enlightening in a way, but it doesn't change what we've got to do."

      Namely, win a game. Any game. But this wasn't exactly a schedule built for success. It's enough to make you wonder if Spagnuolo upset somebody in the league office after taking over as Rams coach.

      "I hope nobody," Spagnuolo said, smiling. "I don't get wrapped up in (scheduling). And I really learned that from (Eagles coach) Andy Reid. Andy had a unique way when the schedules came out ... there would always be positives about the way he looked at the schedule."

      But where are the positives in September and October?

      Obviously it's always tougher to win on the road than at home, so playing your first two games away from home (and four of your first six) isn't exactly a recipe for victory.

      Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, there has not been a single season in which road teams ended up with a winning record overall. Last season, for example, road teams went 109-146-1, for a winning percentage of .428.

      This decade, NFL road teams have never done better than a .469 winning percentage (in 2006). They've been as bad as .387 in 2003, compiling a record of 99-157 that season.

      "I don't go down that road," Spagnuolo said. "No pun intended, because you play between the white lines. You go out there and you play. I don't get caught up in that. We don't talk about it like, 'It's an away game and we've got to do a little better this or better that.' "

      When the schedule came out last April, Spagnuolo said the only thing he looked at was the first opponent, and when the Rams had their bye week.

      Speaking of byes, since the bye week format started in 1990, teams coming out of byes have won 52.5 percent of the time. For the Rams, they are catching...
      -10-28-2009, 11:09 AM
    • MauiRam
      Rams have shot at rare three-peat ..
      by MauiRam
      BY JIM THOMAS Wednesday, December 8, 2010 12:25 am

      For more than a calendar year, the Rams had no success on the road. Zero. Zilch. Couldn't buy a road victory. That all changed in Denver two Sundays ago, and again at Arizona this past Sunday.

      "Two weeks ago, at that point, we were winless on the road," running back Steven Jackson said. "So for us to get two wins on the road back-to-back weeks, it shows that this team responds to challenge."

      The challenge this week is about as big as it gets, with yet another road game against the New Orleans Saints, 9-3 this season and defending Super Bowl champs.

      "We have another huge game, and it's going to be rowdier in New Orleans," Jackson said following the Rams' 19-6 victory over the Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. "We have to get ready for this. As games approach, and each and every week as we continue to be successful, games are going to get bigger. And I think this team is starting to understand that. We've just got to continue to execute and play together."

      If the Rams can pull off an upset in the Louisiana Superdome — and that's a huge "if" — they also would pull off a "3-peat" of historic proportions. They would become only the third team in the 73-year history of the Rams' franchise to win road games in three consecutive weeks.

      The Rams have had some successful road teams, most notably the 2001 NFC championship squad that went 8-0 on the road that season. But that team never played away games in three successive weeks. The best they did was back-to-back road victories twice.

      The current league policy, according to Rams executive vice president of football operations Kevin Demoff, is to have teams play as many as three consecutive road games only about once every eight years.

      And the Rams last played three in a row on the road exactly eight years ago, losing at Washington 20-17 on Nov. 24, 2002, then losing 10-3 at Philadelphia on Dec. 1 and 49-10 at Kansas City on Dec. 8.

      Quarterback Kurt Warner suffered what turned out to be a broken hand in that Washington game, insisted he could play against Philadelphia but was very ineffective. That led to the first "Brenda-Gate" controversy, in which Brenda Warner — Kurt's wife — called a local all-sports radio station to complain about coach Mike Martz's handling of the injury.

      So far, this year's three-game road swing has gone much more smoothly, with the Rams surviving a fourth-quarter meltdown to hold off Denver 36-33 and then recording the workmanlike victory in Arizona.

      So have the Rams finally figured out how to handle this road thing?

      "I've said this from the beginning, I never thought there was really anything to figure out except you go play football between the white lines," coach...
      -12-08-2010, 10:58 AM
    • r8rh8rmike
      Scoping Out The Rams Schedule
      by r8rh8rmike
      Scoping out the Rams schedule

      08/30/2009

      Post-Dispatch football writer Jim Thomas takes us through the '09 schedule, and what might happen week by week. Rams Bye Week is Nov. 8


      Mike Holmgren is gone. And some of the Seahawks' best players are getting creaky (QB Matt Hasselbeck, LT Walter Jones, DE Patrick Kerney). But Qwest Field remains one of the league's toughest venues on visitors. The 12th Man is tough to beat. – SEAHAWKS 23, RAMS 16

      Here comes Clinton Portis. An early test to be sure for the run defense of new coach Steve Spagnuolo. But the Rams have had success in this building before, including their first win last year. And Spags knows the NFC East like the back of his hand. – RAMS 27, REDSKINS 23

      Brace yourself for the invasion of the Cheeseheads. The Pack is back in St. Louis for the fourth time in nine years. Deacon Jones' number is retired as part of game-day festivities. Too bad the Deacon won't be out there rushing Aaron Rodgers. – PACKERS 34, RAMS 17

      Three road games in the first four weeks. Yikes! Obviously, the Rams have no friends among the schedule-makers at NFL headquarters. The Niners can play decent defense, but it's still Frank Gore or bust for their less-than-stellar offense. – RAMS 20, ***** 16

      Will Brett Favre supply the missing piece to a Vikings team that already includes one of the league's best runners in Adrian Peterson and one of the game's best run defenses? The Rams find out first-hand, and the answer might not be pretty. – VIKINGS 34, RAMS 13

      J-ville beat out St. Louis for an expansion team in 1993. But it hasn't been able to beat St. Louis on the field yet. OK, there have been only two regular-season meetings since then. But Torry Holt and the Jaguars get their revenge in this one. – JAGUARS 23, RAMS 6

      It's a different looking Colts team without Tony Dungy on the sidelines and Marvin Harrison catching passes. But in case you hadn't noticed, Peyton Manning is still playing quarterback, and that's more than enough to get Indy past the Rams. – COLTS 30, RAMS 20

      Can deposed Rams coach Scott Linehan, the Lions' offensive coordinator, work his "magic" with No. 1 overall pick Matthew Stafford at quarterback? The Lions won't go winless in '09 as they did in '08, but they won't win this one as Spags claims his third road victory. – RAMS 27, LIONS 20

      For the second time in three years, the Rams come off a bye to get the Saints. While the Saints slug it out with division rival Carolina on Nov. 8, the Rams freshen up. Once again, the bye helps the Rams spring an upset as Spags gets his first home win. – RAMS 30, SAINTS 24

      Here comes Kurt. These are always bittersweet events for Rams fans, who love seeing Kurt Warner, one of the heroes of the Greatest Show on Turf. But they cringe at the thought of their squad losing to Bill...
      -08-31-2009, 11:17 PM
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