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  • More pain, small gain

    More pain, small gain
    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    12/21/2009

    Steve Spagnuolo wasn't going to tip his hand Sunday afternoon, not 20 minutes after loss No. 13 of his rookie head-coaching campaign. But it sure looks like it's Keith Null's football for what remains of this abysmal 2009 Rams season.

    Compared to his five-interception debut last week in Tennessee, Null made significant progress in his second NFL start. Not enough to avoid a 16-13 loss to Houston at the Edward Jones Dome, a loss that was a franchise-record 13th in a row at home.

    But enough to have the Rams flirting with that elusive second victory until the bitter end.

    "It was a lot different," Null said. "It seemed like things slowed down ... a lot more than it did last week."

    Null experienced some center-quarterback exchange problems, one of which led to a lost fumble.

    "I was a little too anxious out there at first, pulling out a little too quickly on the center and not getting the snaps," Null said.

    And there were some throws he'd like to have back, most notably a third-quarter

    interception that set up Houston's lone touchdown. But overall, there was definitely growth shown by the sixth-round draft pick from West Texas A&M.

    "He had some nice throws in there, and stands up big in the pocket and can throw the football," Spagnuolo said. "So I think so."

    Null completed 18 of 27 for 173 yards, throwing a 2-yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola late in the second quarter to give the Rams a 10-6 halftime lead. Other than a short-lived 3-0 lead Nov. 22 against Arizona, it marked the Rams' first lead in a game since their one and only victory of the year, seven weeks ago in Detroit.

    If anything, St. Louis had appeared ripe for a pummeling following a tumultuous week at Rams Park. On Tuesday, starting right guard Richie Incognito was cut. On Thursday, the team took the nearly unprecedented act of canceling practice because of confirmed cases of swine flu.

    Nonetheless, the Rams went wire to wire with a Houston team (7-7) battling to stay in the wild-card race in the AFC.

    "After everything we went through this week, and being a little short-handed with injuries and what-not, guys were out there battling," Spagnuolo said. "I just asked them to play each play for each other, and I thought they did that. We fell a little bit short."

    The Rams have been involved in seven "one-possession" contests this season, where one score either wins it or sends the game into overtime. They are now 1-6 in such contests.

    "As a team, we have to learn how to put these close ones away," said running back Steven Jackson, who fought his way through back problems and illness to compile 123 yards rushing and receiving. "But for us to come out and fight like this, there is something to look at and take away from."

    Thanks to a fumble recovery by Rams safety Craig Dahl at the Houston 40 early in the third quarter, the Rams were in position to stretch that 10-6 lead. Two runs by Jackson advanced the ball to the 25, but it was here that Null made his biggest mistake of the game.

    Rolling to his right to avoid pressure, Null had Texans defensive end Antonio Smith draped all over him when he threw an ill-advised pass in the direction of wide receiver Ruvell Martin. The ball never got near Martin, with Houston free safety Dominique Barber intercepting the pass at the Houston 17.

    "It wasn't a smart play by me," Null said. "I was trying to do too much and make a play. I scrambled out and I just should've thrown it out of bounds."

    After the takeaway, the Texans marched 83 yards in 10 plays for a go-ahead score on a 3-yard TD pass from quarterback Matt Schaub to wide receiver Kevin Walter. The Rams managed to tie it 13-13 late in the third quarter on a 52-yard field goal by Josh Brown.

    But the Texans broke the tie on a 28-yard field goal by Kris Brown with 4 minutes, 36 seconds left in the fourth quarter, on a drive fueled by completions of 30 yards and 44 yards to all-world wideout Andre Johnson on back-to-back plays.

    "We were close again here," said defensive end Chris Long, who came close to about four sacks of Schaub but had none. "We just need to learn how to win these type ballgames. That's a whole 'nother skill. It's like stopping the run. Running the football. Passing the football. Learning how to win. Winning is a skill — learning to win in the fourth quarter."

    Schaub got his passing yards (367), and Johnson came close to a career day with nine catches for 196 yards. But the St. Louis defense kept Johnson out of the end zone and did good work on third down and in the red zone. The Texans converted only five of 14 third-down plays (36 percent) and had just the one TD in four red zone trips.

    The Rams also limited Houston to 52 yards rushing, easily a season-low for the St. Louis defense. But when the Rams needed to get a stop the most, on first-and-10 from the Houston 15 with 2:28 to go, running back Ryan Moats picked up 7 yards.

    The Texans were able to grind out a first down on their next two carries, and the Rams were down and out — once again.
    :ramlogo:

  • #2
    Re: More pain, small gain

    I think some here on the form was a little hard on Keith Null for his first game last week Im not saying he is the answer but the kid was coming in under some difficult circumstances.
    :ramlogo:

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: More pain, small gain

      Originally posted by eldfan View Post
      I think some here on the form was a little hard on Keith Null for his first game last week Im not saying he is the answer but the kid was coming in under some difficult circumstances.

      Agreed. Once he had a proper week of practice, and some time to settle in and adjust, you can see that his performance has improved. I can only predict the same to happen next week.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: More pain, small gain

        Null looked like a completely different player. When given time, he was going through his reads, didn't lock onto one receiver (like he did the previous week) and hit the open man in stride. That was a massive and impressive improvement. This is what he needs to prepare for next season and why he needed playing time this year.

        The most dramatic change in my opinion was the shift of the offense. They went to the shotgun a lot and used 3-4 WRs at times. The passing attack was actually attacking from the spread out offense.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: More pain, small gain

          Null needs to finish out the season as our starter whether Boller is healthy or not.
          sigpic :ram::helmet:

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: More pain, small gain

            If Null continues to play at this level or higher, i honestly think he should be given consideration for the starting job next season.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: More pain, small gain

              Null did okay. That interception was a terrible decision along with his fumbled snap, then the fumble trying to hand it off.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: More pain, small gain

                Originally posted by The Rammer View Post
                Null did okay. That interception was a terrible decision along with his fumbled snap, then the fumble trying to hand it off.
                I agree, but what do you expect? He hasn't had time with the starting unit all year until two weeks ago. I do know those things need to be cleaned up, but I'm not expecting miracles out of him right now.

                Given that, he needs to have a more time with the starters.

                He looked much better today. Lets see how he looks next week. I'm excited

                GO #9!!!!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: More pain, small gain

                  Steve Spagnuolo wasn't going to tip his hand Sunday afternoon, not 20 minutes after loss No. 13 of his rookie head-coaching campaign. But it sure looks like it's Keith Null's football for what remains of this abysmal 2009 Rams season.
                  This makes sense. Boller will most likely not be with the team next year, Null most likely will. He made great strides in his second start and at the very least, looks to have the makings of a good backup, maybe more. He's also thrown a TD in every game he's played, a streak that needs to be kept alive.

                  "We were close again here," said defensive end Chris Long, who came close to about four sacks of Schaub but had none.
                  Long has got to be leading the league in near sacks. Every game it seems like he comes within inches or split seconds of getting the opposing QB down.

                  Comment

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                  • r8rh8rmike
                    A Rams Game Worth Seeing
                    by r8rh8rmike
                    12.22.2009 3:42 pm
                    A Rams game worth seeing
                    By Andy Dapron


                    Once again, I joined the vast majority of Rams Nation on Sunday that was unable to make it to the Edward Jones Dome to watch the Rams take on the Houston Texans, and that couldn’t follow them on TV either, thanks to the local television blackout. Just like three weeks ago, when the Seattle Seahawks swooped in to massacre the Rams in St. Louis, my only practical option for following the Rams was my radio.

                    Unlike three weeks ago, I was actually disappointed that I wasn’t able to witness this game with my eyes.

                    Before I go any further, let me say that I realize that continually saying “Almost!” like it’s something to be proud of can get tiresome, especially when the Rams have “almost” won about half a dozen times, compared to only one actual win. No amount of almosts can substitute for actual wins, but hey, when you’re starving, that half-eaten, week-old bagel can start looking pretty tasty.

                    So, even though the Rams ultimately fell to Houston 16-13, losing for what feels like the zillionth time in a-zillion-and-one tries, this game did get me excited, and not just because the Rams *almost* pulled it out. Among the things I would have enjoyed seeing:

                    •Steven Jackson turn in another gritty performance. Okay, so it actually is making me nuts seeing our hands-down, undisputed best player continue to be exposed when I know he’s battling something as serious as a back injury, and the Rams aren’t playing for anything more than personal satisfaction. At the same time, those dismal circumstances are what make his gutsy (and still usually productive) performances over the past few weeks downright inspiring. His 82 yards rushing and 41 yards receiving led the team in both categories.

                    I’m reluctant to highlight anything other than Jackson’s work ethic and dedication to the Rams, since that’s what’s really setting him apart as a leader on this team, but I can’t overlook the way he stood his ground to Texans safety Bernard Pollard. In the fourth quarter, Jackson was blocking a blitzing Pollard on a pass play. Pollard threw a punch. Jackson lost his helmet, and apparently sustained a bloody lip and a bruised face, but he didn’t back down. I point that out, not because I want to see players fighting (Richie Incognito doesn’t work here anymore), but because I think it’s indicative of the fire in Jackson’s heart — a fire that hopefully will spread among the Rams as Jackson’s time here progresses. In a season where Jackson has every reason and excuse to pack it in, he obviously hasn’t.

                    •A stellar performance by WR/KR Danny Amendola. The former Texas Tech standout nabbed his first touchdown in the big leagues Sunday, all the more notable because it was the Rams’ only touchdown on the day. However, it was as a return man that Amendola really made his mark. He amassed 159 yards on five kick...
                    -12-22-2009, 07:20 PM
                  • r8rh8rmike
                    Null Should Be On '10 Roster, But Starting Is Another Question
                    by r8rh8rmike
                    Null should be on '10 roster, but starting is another question

                    Jeff Gordon
                    POST-DISPATCH ONLINE SPORTS COLUMNIST
                    12/21/2009

                    Rookie quarterback Keith Null has earned a spot on the 2010 Rams. This much we know for sure.

                    Could he compete for the starting job next season? It is too soon to stay that.

                    Could he blossom into the franchise’s Quarterback of the Future? It is much, MUCH too soon to make such an optimistic assessment.

                    We do know that Null has pretty good tools. And we know he has some nerve, too, since he shrugged off his ghastly five-interception debut in Week 14.

                    Clearly Null learned from his first NFL start. His second outing went much more smoothly than his first. He settled down and got into a nice passing rhythm.

                    "It was a lot different," Null told reporters after the game. "It seemed like things slowed down a little bit for me a lot more than it did last week. It was a great opportunity to get out there and play again."

                    He made just two glaring mistakes during the Rams’ 16-13 loss to the visiting Texans Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.

                    1) After a botched exchange, Null tried to execute the running play. He needed to eat the football instead, as he learned while losing a costly fumble. Job One for young NFL quarterbacks is ball security.

                    2) While scrambling for his life, Null tried to make a play. He needed to just throw the ball away, as he learned while throwing a costly interception.

                    Other than those errors of aggression, Null was just fine.

                    He took a couple of big sacks after failing to locate a receiver, but at least he pulled the ball back instead of forcing throws into coverage. That was progress.

                    Null completed 18 of 27 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown. He looked like a veteran while converting that one red zone opportunity.

                    The Rams lined up with three wide receivers on the short side of the field on a first-and-goal play from the Houston 3. The other two wideouts cleared room for Danny Amendola, who caught a quick pass from Null to score.

                    That is a routine touchdown play for most teams, but it was like scaling a mountain for this group. Week after week after week the Rams have come up short in the red zone.

                    So fans saw glimmers of hope in this game. The Rams offense appeared more assertive than it had been for most of this season. We saw a lot of three- and four-receiver sets, which is highly unusual for the Steve Spagnuolo regime.

                    Null demonstrated a strong arm while taking some deep shots. He threw intermediate passes with authority. He made generally good reads, too.

                    Some fans have gotten way too excited in our forums and chats here at STLtoday, but Null did a lot of good things. During a season of unrelenting failure,...
                    -12-21-2009, 04:53 PM
                  • r8rh8rmike
                    Null Learns Plenty In First Start
                    by r8rh8rmike
                    Null Learns Plenty in First Start
                    Monday, December 14, 2009


                    By Nick Wagoner
                    Senior Writer

                    Although he was nervous, rookie quarterback Keith Null let nobody know that the moment of making his first start was too big for him.

                    And, like most players making their NFL debut, Null’s nerves went away quickly.

                    “I’d say after the first play,” Null said. “I went out there pretty comfortable. It definitely helps to go out and throw a completion on your first pass so after that any player would tell you, you get that first play then you are out there playing football again.”

                    It was a long road from tiny West Texas A&M to taking the reigns of the Rams offense for Null but on the first play from scrimmage, Null had a number of firsts.

                    Null took his first snap in a regular season game (and from under center, something he hadn’t done much of in his shotgun-heavy career), dropped back and delivered his first pass to tight end Daniel Fells for a gain of 7 yards.

                    It wasn’t the flashiest opening to a NFL career, but it was enough to shake the butterflies loose from Null’s stomach and allow him to settle in.

                    By the end of his first busy NFL Sunday, Null had a rough statistical day in line with what many rookie signal callers – let alone sixth-round draft choices with Division II pedigrees – would have.

                    But in retrospect, it wasn’t so much the numbers Null posted as the way he handled an extremely difficult situation that impressed teammates and coaches alike.

                    “Under the circumstances and how it all went down, I thought he handled himself well in the huddle, I thought he was composed, he had command of what he was doing,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “He’d like some throws back. I thought he stepped up in the pocket well and actually had some pretty nice throws. That part of it was encouraging.”

                    Null finished the game 27-of-43 for 157 yards with a touchdown and five interceptions for a rating of 37.8.

                    Considering that Tennessee represents one of the most hostile environments in the league with one of its toughest defenses, Null’s assignment was loaded with landmines before he ever was even declared the starter.

                    Last week, Null split repetitions with Kyle Boller in practice for most of the week. With Boller battling a thigh injury, Null got more and more reps as the week went on.

                    By Saturday, it had become clear that Boller would be a game time decision and Null was a viable candidate to start.
                    That made for some interesting moments for Null in the run up to the game as he awaited word on his role.

                    “I was going out, getting ready to play not really know what was going to happen and trying to prepare myself for whatever they tell me,” Null said. “I went back in the locker room, they told me I was going to...
                    -12-15-2009, 08:01 PM
                  • eldfan
                    Have the Rams bottomed out?
                    by eldfan
                    Sports Columnist Bernie Miklasz
                    [More columns]By Bernie Miklasz
                    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
                    12/14/2009

                    NASHVILLE, Tenn. — In terms of the depth of their futility and their absolute inability to win, the Rams are ranking right down there with some of history's more recognized losers.

                    We're talking about the 1962 expansion New York Mets, the Chicago Cubs since 1908, the old St. Louis Browns, the Jamaican bobsled team, Gen. Custer at Little Big Horn, George McGovern in 1972, the patsy Washington Generals hooping against the Harlem Globetrotters.

                    After being demolished 47-7 by the Tennessee Titans on Sunday at LP Field, the Rams slid deeper into the sinkhole of professional sports. They're 1-12 on the season, 1-22 in their last 23 games, 3-26 since the beginning of 2008, and 6-39 over the past three seasons.

                    And at this point, what's the use in kicking them when they're as broken, bleeding and demoralized as any pro team in St. Louis sports history? Besides, that's a job for Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher. Ten years later, Fisher is still trying to get that extra yard he needed in Super Bowl XXXIV.

                    With undeveloped Rams rookie quarterback Keth Null starting and appearing in a regular-season NFL game for the first time, the Titans ripped into the Rams faster than it takes baseball agent Scott Boras to reject a home-team discount for Matt Holliday. Titans running back Chris Johnson made a couple of video-game moves, and even before Alex Barron could draw his first false start penalty the Rams were down 14-0.

                    With starting quarterback Kyle Boller (thigh) unable to go, Null did about as well as he could under the circumstances. He was intercepted five times, with one theft returned for a pick six. Whoa, Nullie, you aren't at West Texas A&M anymore.

                    This was a concussion waiting to happen. Null was the raw red meat tossed into the lion's den. But at least Null managed to walk off the field with his brain and body intact. And actually the rookie remained quite composed over the three-hour lesson. Null made plenty of mistakes, but not because he lost his cool. Null was surprisingly calm and under control.

                    Which is saying something, because the beating that took place in Nashville was fierce, ugly and cruel. Fisher ran up the score by ordering a fourth-down pass (for a touchdown) with under eight minutes remaining and his team up 33-7. The TD made it 40-7, and by then the Rams were pretty much down to their last layer of dignity.

                    After the smackdown, Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo spoke in quiet, barely audible tones. Frankly, I'd never seen him so down, so bummed.

                    "It's hard. It's hard. It's hard," Spagnuolo said. "But I'll bounce back. And I don't worry about that question because I know the guys in the locker room will do the same."

                    Bounce back from...
                    -12-14-2009, 06:05 AM
                  • BM_Face
                    Null not discouraged
                    by BM_Face
                    BY JIM THOMAS
                    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
                    12/15/2009

                    Five interceptions or not, Keith Null wants to get back on the horse.

                    "Yeah, I would love to get out and play again," Null said Monday in his west Texas drawl. "The more experience I get, the better."

                    He just might get another chance. For the final three games of this season, it's either Kyle Boller or Null at quarterback. That's because Marc Bulger is still on crutches three weeks after he was diagnosed with a fractured shin bone.

                    Bulger underwent a followup MRI exam Friday. According to Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo, the exam "showed that (the fracture) was healing, that the swelling was down. It's not completely healed. He still has a little pain there, so (doctors) want him to stay on the crutches."

                    Bulger did not accompany the team to Nashville, Tenn., or Chicago because medical officials want him to stay off his feet as much as possible and avoid putting weight on the leg. So it's all but certain that Bulger is finished for the season. It's just a matter of whether the team wants to put him on the injured reserve list.

                    As for Boller, a last-minute scratch against the Tennessee Titans because of a thigh injury, there's no guarantee at this point he will be healthy enough to play Sunday against Houston.

                    Does Boller start if he is?

                    "I would tend to lean that way," Spagnuolo said. "But I'm not going to commit to that 100 percent. Kyle's been a competitor for us. If he's healthy, I think he can help us win a football game."

                    The Rams have won only one of their past 23 football games dating back to October 2008. Sunday's 47-7 shellacking at LP Field in Nashville was among the most lopsided losses in franchise history — the fourth-worst margin of defeat.

                    Null had a rhythm going early against Tennessee. But four early penalties by the offensive line, including two personal fouls against right guard Richie Incognito, made a tough situation worse for a rookie quarterback playing in his first NFL regular-season game.

                    At least Null could joke Monday about his debut. After reviewing game film, he was asked what he did well.

                    "Got in and out of the huddle," he said. "Called the plays right. Directed traffic. Those things that you could easily mess up on in your first start, I did well. I made some good throws. Good reads. I threw the ball to the right read most of the time. I had a lot of completions."

                    Then came the punch line.

                    "If you count the interceptions, even more completions," Null said, drawing laughter from the media at Rams Park.

                    Spagnuolo is a firm believer in silver linings, and one of them Sunday was Null's poise and composure. Null didn't get dispirited. He didn't panic. And he kept...
                    -12-15-2009, 09:52 AM
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