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  • Playing To Win Is A Concept That Escapes Rams

    Playing to win is a concept that escapes Rams

    By Jeff Gordon
    STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
    12/07/2009

    Here’s the funny thing about the NFL: When bad teams play to win, sometimes they actually win.

    Rams fans may have given up on this premise, given their team’s stubborn refusal to believe in the “Any Given Sunday” mantra. Their team was at it again in Chicago, falling to the Bears 17-9 with an especially timid offensive performance.

    Once again, the Rams didn’t appear to be gunning for victory. Rather, they looked to be keeping the game as close as possible.

    Apparently first-year coach Steve Spagnuolo sees progress in the narrower losses. Fans see only losses -– and they also see other also-rans ACTUALLY WINNING GAMES.

    Upsets happen all the time in this league. Just ask the Oakland Raiders, a team that had mustered just 49 points in its first five road games this season.

    Experts gave them little chance to beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh. The Steelers, after all, got quarterback Ben Roethlisberger back for this game.

    Pittsburgh HAD to win to remain viable in the playoff hunt. And yet . . .

    Journeyman quarterback Bruce Gradkowski threw three touchdown passes -- including the game-winning 11-yard strike to Louis Murphy with nine seconds left -– to rally the Raiders to their 27-24 victory.

    This is the same Bruce Gradkowski who couldn’t beat out Brock Berlin for the No. 3 quarterback job during the Scott Linehan Era.

    This is the same Bruce Gradkowski who looked more like an MMA fighter than a polished quarterback during that training camp up in Wisconsin. When the Rams cut him, nobody seemed shocked or outraged by the decision. And yet . . .

    Gradkowski came after the Steelers on Sunday. He ran around and made stuff happen on the fly. He pulled off the sort of unlikely heroics the NFL is known for.

    Here are some facts:

    * He became the first Raiders quarterback to throw three touchdowns in a fourth quarter since Ken Stabler did it against the Saints on Dec. 3, 1979.

    * As a Brown last December, Gradkowski posted a 1.0 passer rating during a 31-0 loss to the Steelers.

    * In his first two career games at Pittsburgh, he threw five interceptions and led his offenses to a total of three points.

    * This trip to his hometown of Pittsburgh went much better: He earned a 121.8 rating as a Raider, throwing for 308 yards in the process.

    * In one mighty effort, Gradkowski raised Oakland’s season passing TD total from five to eight.

    “That was so exciting, I can't even put into words how I feel,” Gradkowski told reporters after the game. “To come home to Pittsburgh, where I was born and raised, it's exciting. To come back and be able to share this with my family, how happy I saw my mom and dad after the game, that's awesome.”

    Gradkowski was playing to win.

    “Bruce had something about him today,” Raiders tackle Cornell Green told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I don't know if it was being home or just letting it all hang out, but he took control of the huddle. He's cursing at people to hurry up. He brings that fire.”

    If only the Rams could muster such fire, perhaps they, too, could actually win some games.

    Given Sunday’s turn of events, many Rams fans are howling about Gradkowski’s departure from the Rams. They complain that it was an egregious error to let him go.

    But Tampa Bay let him go, too, after deploying him as a starter for one year and as the back-up the next. Cleveland used him as a fill-in last season, then moved on without him.

    Oakland brought him in to back up the disastrous JaMarcus Russell and waited half a season to get him on the field.

    Gradkowski is just a guy. But he is a guy who played to win Sunday -- for a team willing to take some shots down the field.

    Rather than review their own pathetic offensive game video, the Rams should take a good long look at what Gradkowski and his undermanned teammates did at Pittsburgh.

    The Raiders played to win and they won. It’s such a simple concept, yet it’s one that eludes the Rams organization week after week after week.

  • #2
    Re: Playing To Win Is A Concept That Escapes Rams

    Mike,

    Thi is essentially the way I saw it on Sunday. Playing to keep score close and not really looking to put real effort into winning. I know we discussed this on another thread a but I did find the article interesting (and frustrating!!) thanks for posting.

    As for Boller, who is/was responsible for signing him and cutting Gradowski?

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Playing To Win Is A Concept That Escapes Rams

      I'm not going to sit here and say that cutting Bruce Gradkowski was a huge error in judgment. That isn't the decision that made the Rams a poor football team. But the gist of the article is right on the money. The Rams don't play to win. They don't take chances. They don't take a gamble every once in awhile. They try to keep it close and hope they stumble into a win. Gimmicks don't work on every down, but shoot, take a chance every once in awhile.

      Tony Sparano inherited a 1-15 football team in Miami. Running an unconventional offense to compensate for a lack of overall offensive talent, he had them in the playoffs the next year. After an 0-3 start this year, Miami has righted its ship with an unproven Chad Henne at the helm- and beat New England Sunday. They are playing TO WIN and the coaches are getting the absolute most out of their players in terms of production. Oakland beats Pittsburgh. Washington nearly beats New Orleans- and would have if not for a missed 29 yard field goal. Yet, we remain stuck in neutral. It's frustrating.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Playing To Win Is A Concept That Escapes Rams

        We are playing not to lose, instead of playing to win.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Playing To Win Is A Concept That Escapes Rams

          Spags needs to come into his own. I think he is trying to be to much like
          past coaches he was under. But I also believe he is going to be a great
          coach at sometime, with or without the Rams.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Playing To Win Is A Concept That Escapes Rams

            Originally posted by RockinRam View Post
            We are playing not to lose, instead of playing to win.
            He does have a little Marty ball in him. I hope he changes sooner than latter.

            Comment

            Related Topics

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            • Nick
              Rams find ways to lose games they should win
              by Nick
              Rams find ways to lose games they should win
              BY BRYAN BURWELL | Posted: Monday, September 20, 2010 12:15 am

              OAKLAND, Calif. • So now it was the visitors' locker room inside the Oakland-Alemeda Coliseum, but it really could have been any locker room in the NFL, because quite frankly we've seen this play out far too many times before. In one corner of the cramped room, Rams place kicker Josh Brown leaned against his locker stall and lamented the failed mechanics of another missed field goal like a golfer overanalyzing a botched swing.

              He said he aimed here, but the ball went there. He said something about expecting it to draw, but instead it went straight, and then he beat himself up a thousand different ways. "Oh, gawd, you just can't miss those shorties," Brown grunted. "You just can't do that. It's like there's a big, red, glaring sign up there saying that."

              And finally he said what everyone else was surely thinking:

              "And then we lose the game by two (points)? Awww, man. That hurts."

              Yes, it certainly does.

              Raiders 16, Rams 14.

              Only two games into the 2010 season, a season that just has to be better than the last one (1-15), and the Rams are still losing games they ought to win. They are 0-2 against two incredibly beatable football teams from Arizona and Oakland. They are winless against two totally ordinary quarterbacks named Derek Anderson and Bruce Gradkowski. They are losing football games that have come practically gift wrapped in pretty bows by gracious NFL schedule makers, and the Rams have blown them badly.

              "I'm going to credit Oakland first," said Steve Spagnuolo, trying hard not to disrespect the decidedly beatable Raiders. "But as I told the football team, you can't win in the National Football League when you beat yourself."

              And oh, how the Rams beat themselves.

              Again.

              Just like last week.

              Just like every annoying, agonizing, frustrating, maddening, hair-pulling, stomach-churning Sunday we've seen over and over again for the last three or four seasons around here. The names change, even the circumstances are a little different. But the ultimate results won't change when a football team still can't figure out how to win games that are right there for the taking.

              "Somehow we have to find (out how)," said Steven Jackson. "And we have to do it on Sunday. We can't do it on Wednesday or Thursday. We have to do it on Sunday."

              The problem is that no matter how good the game plans are, something seems to get lost in the translation by noon or 3 p.m. on Sunday. So here they were in front of the rowdy denizens of the Black Hole who were booing their own starting quarterback, Jason Campbell, in the first quarter because the Raiders offense was so stagnant, and the...
              -09-20-2010, 09:16 AM
            • Nick
              QB switch sparks Raiders
              by Nick
              QB switch sparks Raiders
              BY BILL COATS • Posted: Monday, September 20, 2010 12:00 am

              OAKLAND, Calif. • Two years ago, the Rams cut quarterback Bruce Gradkowski. On Sunday, Gradkowski sliced away the Rams' hopes for a victory.

              Relieving Jason Campbell at the start of the second half, Gradkowski ignited a stuck-in-the-mud Oakland offense that produced a mere field goal in the first 30 minutes. The Raiders responded to the move dramatically, rallying past the Rams 16-14 at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

              Going with Gradkowski "was a good move by their coaches ... good move," Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "He's obviously a mobile guy, and he executed the offense pretty good. They came out obviously with intent to throw the football. They did a nice job."

              Gradkowski and Brock Berlin battled for the Rams' No. 3 quarterback job during training camp in 2008, when Scott Linehan was coaching the Rams. Berlin won the job; Gradkowski caught on with Cleveland, then came to Oakland last season, when he got into seven games as JaMarcus Russell's backup.

              The Raiders acquired Campbell in a trade with Washington in April, then released Russell, a former No. 1 overall draft pick, a couple of weeks later.

              Campbell went the distance last week in the Raiders' season-opening 38-13 loss to Tennessee. But after a feckless first half Sunday, which produced only a 38-yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal for Oakland, coach Tom Cable tossed the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Gradkowski, 27, into the fray.

              "We made the switch at halftime to give the team a lift," Cable explained. "Campbell was disappointed, but I think it was the right thing to do."

              The Rams led 7-3 at the half, during which Campbell completed eight of 15 passes for 87 yards, with an interception by safety James Butler. The Raiders gained just 130 total yards.

              The makings of the comeback began on the Raiders' opening possession of the second half. Gradkowski connected on his first three passes, the third a 26-yard strike down the middle to wide receiver Louis Murphy to the Rams' 24. The drive stalled at the 23, but Janikowski hit from 41 yards.

              Gradkowski "came in and he made some good reads, threw the ball around pretty well," Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "But you can't let a guy just coming in be a spark. We've got to have a fire about us that says, 'Hey, this guy's coming in cold, so we've got to be able to step it up.'"

              But Gradkowski started hot and stayed that way.

              "We came out in the second half and we brought some fire, intensity and some energy," Gradkowski said. "Our guys were playing hard."

              The Raiders took the lead on their next opportunity. Gradkowski was three for three on a seven-play, 83-yard drive that ended with...
              -09-20-2010, 09:15 AM
            • r8rh8rmike
              Rams In Must Win Situation
              by r8rh8rmike
              Rams in Must Win Situation
              By Nick Wagoner/Senior Writer

              Many times as the NFL season winds down, the playoff picture is about as clear as mud as teams jockey for position and wild scenarios are hashed out.

              But after Sunday’s disappointing 27-13 loss to Kansas City at the Edward Jones Dome, the Rams’ mission in the final two weeks couldn’t be clearer.

              If the Rams want to make the postseason, they have to win their final two games. It’s just that simple.

              “You’ve got to win these games,” end Chris Long said. “There’s no margin for error. Officially no margin for error, I’m sure. Every other week, you try to play like it’s the playoffs, but now there’s no margin for error for real for us. So we’ve just got to come out here and prepare for a team coming in here, San Francisco, who beat us earlier.”

              Indeed, the task is easy to understand but will undoubtedly be hard to execute. Soon after his team’s loss to the Chiefs, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo had little interest in re-hashing the day’s events.

              Aside from finding corrections and how the Rams can be better in the next two weeks, Spagnuolo sent the message to his team that there is no tomorrow unless it begins with a win this week against the *****.

              For those unaware, this is how it all breaks down in the NFC West Division right now.

              - The Rams sit at 6-8, tied with Seattle for the division lead with San Francisco only a game back at 5-9.

              - As it stands, the Rams hold the divisional tiebreaker against the Seahawks because of their win against them back on Oct. 3.

              - There are two ways for the Rams to win the division though one is much simpler than the other.

              - The first is to win their final two games. At 8-8, they’d hold the tiebreaker even if Seattle wins out by virtue of head to head performance.

              - Seattle also controls its destiny, meaning it could win its final two games and take the division or it could win it by losing this week and beating the Rams in the finale.

              - San Francisco also must win out against the Rams this week and Arizona in the final week plus get another loss from Seattle somewhere in the next two games.

              Clearly, life in the wild, wild NFC West will make for an interesting final two weeks but Spagnuolo and the Rams are making no apologies for the fact that the winner of the division can do no better than an 8-8 finish.

              “They haven’t said we’re out of it yet,” Spagnuolo said. “Right now, we have to win this next game. That’s all I’m focused on. To me, that’s where you have to put it for your football team to move forward. You can’t do scenarios. You can’t worry about who they have scheduled. You have got to go out and win a football game.”

              To win this football game, the Rams are well aware that they will need to play much better than they...
              -12-20-2010, 03:31 PM
            • RamWraith
              With chance to win, Rams blow it again
              by RamWraith
              By Bryan Burwell
              ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
              Monday, Dec. 10 2007

              CINCINNATI — It was another game full of just enough sleight-of-hand
              distractions to take your eyes away from the essential truth about the
              continuing collapse of the St. Louis Rams. There was freezing rain and swirling
              wind and a slightly skittish NFL neophyte behind center. On the surface, it
              looked like just another week's worth of gloom and doom to pile onto the
              already 10-story high heap that has fallen on this team for the past 14 weeks.

              Perhaps it feels more comfortable to cling to the notion that Sunday's dreary
              19-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals was another logical extension of a
              season's worth of unfortunate events. But the unvarnished truth goes so much
              deeper than that.

              This was just one more annoying failure in a series of frustrating games that
              the Rams let slip through their grasp.

              The Bengals aren't an undefeated juggernaut like the flawless New England
              Patriots. They're a rather ordinary team that showed more than enough
              vulnerability on their home turf, and this was a very winnable football game
              that the Rams couldn't finish. Cincinnati Pro Bowler Carson Palmer, who is one
              of the four or five elite passers in the NFL, looked surprisingly so-so with
              189 yards in the air, no touchdowns, two interceptions and a 60.8 pass
              efficiency rating. And even though the Bengals running game ran through the
              Rams defense like water through a sieve (192 yards and a 5.3 yard average per
              play), they couldn't get in the end zone after Rudi Johnson's first quarter
              score to give them a 7-0 lead.

              There was never a time in this unsightly contest when it didn't feel like the
              Rams could win it, or the Bengals weren't capable of blowing it. So when you
              hold a team to one TD and a miserable rainstorm suddenly evened out the playing
              field, why couldn't the Rams do more to take advantage of this?

              Scott Linehan, who entered the game breathing new coaching life after a
              death-row reprieve (getting the dreaded "vote of confidence" from team
              President John Shaw), continued his season-long "woe is me" sales pitch after
              the game. Predictably, he talked about how third-string QB Brock Berlin "busted
              his butt out there" in his NFL debut. "It's a tough task," said the coach,
              "that's basically the first snap he's taken in an NFL game."

              What Linehan failed to point out was how his peculiar play-calling contributed
              to Berlin's turbulent debut. So what do you say about an opening-game script
              that determines that the best possible strategy is to have a rookie quarterback
              who's basically a bundle of raw nerves, come out slinging in a driving rain...
              -12-10-2007, 12:27 PM
            • bruce4life
              Going for the Win late...
              by bruce4life
              Unlike the Rams with game and season on line who played it safe with piss poor playcalling, the raiders on 3rd n long threw the ball to their RB to seal the victory. Its the way the raiders have played and won all year, who play to win and expect to win. The Rams hope to win and the results show. Even better 4th n 1 with a minute to go the Raides go for the W and not play to lose.

              I was at the game yesterday and when Fisher elected to play like a panzi and not run it down the dolphins throat on 4th n 1, then Zuerlin can't hit a clutch kick to save his life I told my Dad, watch we will lose this game... It's the Rams, we always find a way to lose... Well sure as poop we lost. It's the Rams way. At the end of the day good teams play to win, we play to hope to win.

              This is by far the lowest I've been as a Rams fan in 5 years. I dont even want to watch nor go to a single home game ( I have season tickets) because I feel like my heart has been ripped out by this gutless hapless team. Someone talk me off the ledge......
              -11-21-2016, 09:55 PM
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