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Rams still trying to get over hump

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  • Rams still trying to get over hump

    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, defensive end Chris Long and running back Steven Jackson, told reporters after the game that they thought the team came out flat in the first half.

    "I did not get that feeling," Spagnuolo said. "Now, I'm not one of the players, so if a player feels that in himself, they know themselves better than I do. But I thought we came out (OK). It wasn't until the second quarter that it kind of got away."

    It was a game full of decisions about whether to go for it on fourth down or not. Whether to kick the field goal or not.

    Spagnuolo took the blame for one of the ill-fated fourth-down calls, a fourth-and-1 dive play by Jackson that was stopped for no gain at the Arizona 22 midway through the second quarter. The Rams trailed 14-3 at the time.

    "That's the head coach's fault, and I'm going to tell you why," Spagnuolo said. "That play I called. ... (Offensive coordinator) Pat (Shurmur) and I talk a lot on those fourth-and-1s. And if I had to do it all over again, I would've ran a different play. There's a better play we could've run. I personally should've been smarter."

    Late in the third quarter, trailing 21-3, Spagnuolo decided to kick a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the Arizona 2. Did what happen earlier on fourth down influence Spagnuolo's decision to kick a field goal here?

    "I try not to let that happen because you miss it on one fourth down, what are you going to do, say we can't make any fourth-and-1s?" Spagnuolo said. "Had it been fourth and a half a yard at the goal line, maybe (you go for it). Maybe at the 1."

    So he opted for a Josh Brown field goal, which made it a two-possession game, and which brought a torrent of boos from the crowd at the Edward Jones Dome.

    "There were?" Spagnuolo joked. "I understand that. I can appreciate it. There's different ways to go. We chose to go that way. In hindsight it didn't work out all that bad. We had our opportunities ... to get two scores. The flip side is if you don't make it (on fourth down) and it's 21-3, it's a three-possession game."

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  • 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
    Spagnuolo Denies Exercising Caution
    by r8rh8rmike
    Spagnuolo denies exercising caution

    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
  • r8rh8rmike
    Rams Team Report - Oct 27
    by r8rh8rmike
    Rams Team Report
    Yahoo! Sports - Oct 27, 1:50 am EDT


    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."


    —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
  • MauiRam
    Burwell: OK, Rams won one; coach is moving on ..
    by MauiRam
    BY BRYAN BURWELL Tuesday, September 28, 2010 12:15 am

    As he stood in front of the cramped media workroom at Rams Park, barely a minute into his Monday afternoon briefing, Steve Spagnuolo did a rather peculiar thing. After 11 long, agonizing months without a victory, on his first victorious Monday in 330 days, the Rams coach spent all of 50 breathless seconds basking in the glow of his young football team's performance.

    Seriously, that's it. Fifty seconds. I clocked it down to the second.

    He gushed about his players, praised his coaches and complimented the fans who had cheered all day long on Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome with a big ol' smile on his face. But it was almost like he was speed reading through the high-five line after a game.

    Whooooooosh!!!! Gooood game.... goood game.... goood game.... gooooood game...Whooooooshh!

    And then right in mid-sentence, Spagnuolo cast a quick glance at his wrist watch and paused for a quick second.

    "... Having said all that, and I'll be reminding the team, it's just one win. It was a regular season win in the third game of the season and real quickly here, in maybe five minutes, we move on to the next one. So we'll be looking forward to Seattle."

    He wasn't being rude.

    He was just trying to make a rather significant point.

    The expiration date on that 30-16 victory over Washington had passed, and just in case anyone forgot, Spagnuolo wanted to make sure everyone remembered.

    What Spagnuolo understands is the delicate emotional dance that goes on as you try to rebuild a winning psyche from the ground up. When someone asked the coach what this victory could mean to his young team, Spags shrugged his shoulders. "It can go one way or another, to be quite honest with you," he said. "I'm hoping the guys handle it right."

    It can't be emphasized enough that we still don't know what happened Sunday. Only time will tell if it was the start of something special for Spagnuolo's football team. A teachable moment, they like to call it in coaching circles. Something to point back to as that blissful moment when the lights went on and everyone finally and without reservation bought into Spagnuolo's program.

    After the game, you could see how good it felt to his players to get this victory. You could see just how much it mattered to them, and how much different it felt around that locker room from a year ago.

    "Last year we hoped we could win games," said Ron Bartell, "but we didn't KNOW we could win games. Now we do know we can, and we expect to win every week instead of hoping we can."

    But expecting to win and actually winning are two different things. It's only the first step in the process, but a significant one. Before you can achieve the dream, you have to...
    -09-28-2010, 09:36 AM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Rams Keep Effort Up
    by r8rh8rmike
    Rams Keep Effort Up
    Monday, December 21, 2009

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    As the ball came shooting out of the hands of Houston running back Arian Foster following a 13-yard catch and run, the eyes of rookie Rams defensive tackle Darell Scott immediately got large.

    It was as though Scott was about to sit down to a big meal, which, coincidentally, was something he’d been physically unable to do even had he wanted to in the days leading up to Sunday’s 16-13 loss to the Texans.

    Scott reacted immediately and hauled all of his 6’3, 312 pound frame as fast as it could go from near the line of scrimmage the 20 or so yards required to pounce on the ball.

    Ultimately, Scott fell on it at the Rams’ 8 but the fact that Scott was well enough to chase it down at all was nothing short of a testament to the effort these Rams are still putting in despite the 1-13 record attached to their name.

    “You talk about an effort play from a game that I don’t know if he even ate anything the three days before it,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “That was a pretty good indicator of what those guys have inside of them.”

    Effort doesn’t amount to a whole heck of a lot in the NFL. In fact, it’s probably the minimum requirement for what it takes to win an NFL game. Most teams that find themselves playing into January start with effort as the baseline and build from there.

    As with most things in life, when something goes wrong, the easy thing to do is give up, regardless of how well compensated you are or whatever prestige might go with a particular endeavor.

    For the Rams, that opportunity to call it a day has presented itself time and again this season. Yet, for many reasons, they have refused to pack it in and go quietly into the offseason.

    “That’s what I expressed to them in the locker room,” Spagnuolo said. “That means a great deal to me, the staff. I know it’s not easy especially for the vets. It’s not an easy thing to go through, not for any of us and yet they are able to dust themselves off, come back to work on Wednesday and get ready to play a game.”

    While that hard work and effort has amounted to just one win and a whole lot of respect from Spagnuolo for the players, those efforts aren’t going completely unnoticed around the world of football.

    To wit:

    CBS analyst and former Steelers coach Bill Cowher on the Rams: “The Rams are playing hard every week, and that is a reflection of their coach. I've been watching film on them and they are playing hard. As coaches, we are judged on wins and losses, but at this time of year, you're tired and beat up, and if a team is still putting out a good effort it's a tribute to their coach.”

    Or this excerpt from Sports Illustrated’s Peter King in his Monday Morning Quarterback column on “I love...
    -12-22-2009, 06:23 PM