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  • A Rams Game Worth Seeing

    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 couldnít 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 wasnít able to witness this game with my eyes.

    Before I go any further, let me say that I realize that continually saying ďAlmost!Ē like itís something to be proud of can get tiresome, especially when the Rams have ďalmostĒ won about half a dozen times, compared to only one actual win. No amount of almosts can substitute for actual wins, but hey, when youíre 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:

    ēSteven 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 heís battling something as serious as a back injury, and the Rams arenít 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.

    Iím reluctant to highlight anything other than Jacksonís work ethic and dedication to the Rams, since thatís whatís really setting him apart as a leader on this team, but I canít 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 didnít back down. I point that out, not because I want to see players fighting (Richie Incognito doesnít work here anymore), but because I think itís indicative of the fire in Jacksonís heart ó a fire that hopefully will spread among the Rams as Jacksonís time here progresses. In a season where Jackson has every reason and excuse to pack it in, he obviously hasnít.

    ēA 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 Ramsí 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 returns Sunday, and his 55-yard sprint on a kickoff in the second quarter helped set up his score. I didnít even realize, but, according to Jim Thomas, while I havenít been paying attention, Amendola has set the Rams record for kickoff return yardage in a season, with 1,435 yards. He has almost (I know, I know, that word again!) gone all the way several times this year, including Sunday. Itís only a matter of time before Amendola starts taking them to the house. For all the longstanding issues that still linger with the Rams, I think itís safe to say they can put their search for a real return threat to rest.

    ēSolid offensive line play. No, the o-line didnít have an outstanding afternoon. QB Keith Null was sacked three times, and pressured on some other occasions (including when he threw his lone interception). Jackson was hit for a loss a few times.

    HoweverÖ Null had enough time on most of his other throws, and the big men upfront did help Jackson to 123 all-purpose yards, bad back and all, including some big gainers. This after after a week that saw major upheaval along the line, with Mark Setterstrom and John Greco taking over for Jacob Bell (injured reserve) and Incognito (released) at the guard spots, and center Jason Brown battling the swine flu. And, may I add, no penalties committed by this group. That fact in itself represents improvement.

    Iíve always liked what Setterstrom brings, anyway. If he can stay healthy, he can be a fixture on the Ramsí offensive line. As for Greco, weíll get a chance to see what heís about over these last two games.

    ēA Rams rushing defense that yielded only 52 yards on 24 carries. Before you tell me it was only the Texans and their 31st-ranked rushing attack, donít forget that the Rams gave up 170 rushing yards in week 12 against Seattle, and 120 a week later in Chicago, with both of those teams ranking last in rushing at the time. So, 52 yards on the ground is a good thing, no matter who itís against. True, Andre Johnsonís otherworldly 196-yard receiving performance took the pressure to produce off of Houstonís ground game, but again, they tried to run the ball 24 times. Itís not as if they abandoned the run.

    ēA Rams offense that finally showed a little daring. Hey, the Rams can actually deploy four wideouts on the same play! Before Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur sent Ruvell Martin out to join fellow WRís Donnie Avery, Brandon Gibson, and Amendola Sunday, I thought maybe the Rams had been bound to Pro Bowl rules ó you know, a tight end in the game at all times. Alright, not really, but it was nice to have the Rams try and spread the field a little, just to keep the Texans off-balance. On top of that, there were a few more deep calls in this game. Plus, I was glad to see the Rams show some cojones in the first quarter by not only going for it on 4th and 1, but actually throwing to pick up the first down. I was also intrigued to see the Rams put the ball in Nullís hand in that situation. Which bring us to the biggest aspect of Sundayís game I wish I could have witnessed firsthandÖ

    ēAnother step in the development of Null. Again, Null was not spectacular in going 18-for-27 passing for 173 yards, one touchdown, and one interception, but he was significantly better than last week against Tennessee. Null managed the game well, and continued to show moxie running the Rams offense. He executed that aggressive 4th and 1 call well, and although I wasnít there to see it, all indications are that he did a good job progressing through his reads. For a rookie QB of his stature, those developments say a lot. ďSpectacularĒ is too much, but ďsolidĒ might be a fair appraisal of Nullís performance. Given the recent state of things around Rams Park, Iíll take solid any day.

    Personally, I donít see any reason for Null not to start the Ramsí two remaining games. He had two major blunders Sunday, one on a botched center-quarterback exchange when he tried to make something out of a dead play, and one when he tried to force a ball that should have been thrown out of bounds. Each of those plays resulted in turnovers that were critical to the outcome of the game. However, the beauty of those mistakes is that they are very correctable, and apt to disappear as Null continues to play. Save for those errors, Rams fans might be saluting Null for leading the team to victory.

    Now, that, I definitely would like to see.

    Before I go, I want to wish all readers many blessings this holiday season! The Rams may not be winning, but Iím sure we all have something to be thankful for. Take the time to appreciate the good things in life, and the people whom you love and who love you!

    See you next time!

  • #2
    Re: A Rams Game Worth Seeing

    Personally, I donít see any reason for Null not to start the Ramsí two remaining games. He had two major blunders Sunday, one on a botched center-quarterback exchange when he tried to make something out of a dead play, and one when he tried to force a ball that should have been thrown out of bounds. Each of those plays resulted in turnovers that were critical to the outcome of the game.
    Having witnessed the game in person, I agree. Right now, the only thing in my mind that would keep Null from starting is the fact that Boller has a little bit more experience. That, or maybe Spags would rather have Boller get sacked....
    temp_4394_1467243487543_20
    RAMS!

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    • #3
      Re: A Rams Game Worth Seeing

      Iím reluctant to highlight anything other than Jacksonís work ethic and dedication to the Rams, since thatís whatís really setting him apart as a leader on this team, but I canít 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 didnít back down. I point that out, not because I want to see players fighting (Richie Incognito doesnít work here anymore), but because I think itís indicative of the fire in Jacksonís heart ó a fire that hopefully will spread among the Rams as Jacksonís time here progresses. In a season where Jackson has every reason and excuse to pack it in, he obviously hasnít
      The difference with this situation is that Pollard threw the first punch, and Jackson stood his ground. In the past, Incognito would be the one doing things first, or going over the top with it.

      I also think this highlights how the opposition see Jackson. They are doing everything to put him off his game, including throwing punches. Does it stop him? No. Does injury stop him? No. No one can stop the Juggernaut.


      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 Ramsí 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 returns Sunday, and his 55-yard sprint on a kickoff in the second quarter helped set up his score. I didnít even realize, but, according to Jim Thomas, while I havenít been paying attention, Amendola has set the Rams record for kickoff return yardage in a season, with 1,435 yards. He has almost (I know, I know, that word again!) gone all the way several times this year, including Sunday. Itís only a matter of time before Amendola starts taking them to the house. For all the longstanding issues that still linger with the Rams, I think itís safe to say they can put their search for a real return threat to rest.
      Amendola has to have secured his roster spot for next year. He is pretty handy as a slot receiver, but his contribution on special teams has been fantastic. Its been a long time since a Rams player has returned a kick and been dangerous most of the time. He will be our Wes Welker, and will be a player that a young QB will love throwing to on short routes.
      @EssexRam_

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      • #4
        Re: A Rams Game Worth Seeing

        I was one of the few that was there. We played a pretty good game. We had some nice forced fumbles, including one on a third-and-1 QB sneak. Atogwe was certainly missed, but Dahl had a nice game, and Barron didn't have any penalties! Oh, and Danny Gorrer is downright awful.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: A Rams Game Worth Seeing

          If we still had Richie on our team, right when Pollard threw that punch at Jackson, Richie would have rushed in and ripped the guy's head off.

          Comment

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          • eldfan
            More pain, small gain
            by eldfan
            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...
            -12-21-2009, 07:12 AM
          • eldfan
            How do you judge a Ram?
            by eldfan
            How do you judge a Ram?
            By Andy Dapron

            Well, Keith Nullís debut as a starting quarterback certainly went well. Now that weíve all watched Null humiliate himself and the Rams with his one-touchdown, five-interception performance in a 47-7 drubbing at the hands of the Tennessee Titans Sunday, I hope everybody can stop clamoring to see him and realize that he justÖ

            Just kidding. Iím just trying to stir people up (because, after all, I donít think people are riled up enough about the state of the Rams these days). Truth be told, I thought Null acquitted himself pretty well Sunday. No, his numbers (27 of 43 passing, 157 yards, 1 TD, 5 INT, 37.8 QB rating) arenít going to cause anyone to hail him as ďThe AnswerĒ to the Ramsí lingering question at quarterback. However, his mentality seemed right. He stayed calm in the pocket. He wasnít afraid to take shots deep when they were called for (which still wasnít that often, but given the circumstances yesterday, thatís understandable). He never looked rattled or overwhelmed, and despite getting knocked down repeatedly, he kept getting back up. He kept fighting. Thatís about as much as you could ask from the guy.

            Besides, Null had the deck stacked against him in just about every conceivable way against the Titans. To begin with, Nullís background hasnít exactly positioned him to make a big rookie splash in the NFL. He comes from the football factory that is West Texas A&M. He ran a spread offense there, which is notorious for being nowhere near a pro-style offense. As if being a rookie third string quarterback from a small school wasnít enough, Null had to go on the shortest of notice. He discovered that he was the starter during pregame warmups, when presumptive starter Kyle Boller declared himself insufficiently healed from a deep thigh bruise to play. He had to match up against a Tennessee defense that stakes its entire reputation on punching people in the mouth, and was desperate to win this game to keep their playoff hopes alive.

            Worst of all for Null, the offense he was asked to lead was the Ramsí offense. This offense was inept by nearly every measure long before Null was asked to try and run it.

            Actually, if anything struck me yesterday, it was how impossible it really is to get a read on Null, or, for that matter, any player or coach on this team. Thereís a reason football is known as the the ultimate team sport. All the best teams (think Colts, Saints, Patriots, or even the Rams of a decade ago) have players who achieve a kind of synergy with each other. Each of them does their jobs well, and they can count on their teammates to do their jobs well, too. Good teams have 11 players in the right place at the right time.

            When one or two players find themselves overmatched, or out of position, wellÖ think of a string of Christmas tree lights: one light goes out, and the whole strand goes out.

            ...
            -12-14-2009, 07:48 PM
          • MFranke
            RamView, 12/20/2009: Texans 16, Rams 13 (Long)
            by MFranke
            RamView, December 20, 2009
            From Row HH
            (Report and opinions on and from the game.)
            Game #14: Texans 16, Rams 13

            There once was a team from St. Lou / That was hit with a case of swine flu / After a week's worth of vexin' / They got beat by the Texans / But they'll get to draft Ndamukong Suh.

            * QB: If you were to argue that Keith Null (18-27-173, 81.2 rating) lost the game today, I'd have a hard time refuting it, due to two costly turnovers. After the defense turned Houston over in the 1st, Null led the offense's opening possession across midfield before dropping a snap from center, which blew the timing of a scheduled handoff to Steven Jackson. Null still tried the handoff, but Jackson didn't look ready for it anymore, and Mario Williams recovered the gaffe to set up a Houston FG. Many areas of Null's game are developing, but one that regressed was the simple exchange from center, as he put two or three snaps on the ground today. That's an issue Null had better get a grip on quickly. Null's other huge error was an interception early in the 3rd. Coming as it did from the Houston 25, it cost the Rams at least 3 points, and the Texans would score 7 for themselves off the turnover. Trying to avoid a sack from Antonio Smith, Null fired while going down and was picked off by Dominique Barber. With experience, Null will learn that eating that ball would have been better there. I won't rip Null for those plays like I would if Marc Bulger or Kyle Boller committed them, because those two veterans should know better and execute better. And Null's just trying to make a play both times. He's trying to get the ball in Jackson's hands on the fumble, certainly a good thought. He appeared to have Ruvell Martin open on the INT; he just needed to remember at that moment that he isn't Brett Favre. Null continues to hang tough in the pocket. He'll stand back and make throws at times where you'd see Bulger cringing for impact, or Boller scrambling off with unpredictable, mostly not good, results. Null's got the team behind him. You can see he cares out there. The defense sees it, too. They were all tapping Null on the helmet, promising to pick him up after the INT. (They didn't.) The coaches' confidence in Null has already increased. He got to try a couple of long balls; one barely too long, one pretty underthrown. They had him throwing on 4th-and-1 in Ram territory right before the INT. Null hasn't developed killer rapport with one receiver yet, but he's hit nine different guys in both of his starts so far. One INT today is certainly an improvement over last week's five. I didn't see all the double-clutching he did last week, either. A lot of what's good about Null's game comes because he gets the ball out quickly. He's accurate on the short stuff. He can get throws off with a man in his face. The offense had good rhythm a lot of the day. There was just one 3-and-out, the inevitable Ram post-halftime fizzle. Null's...
            -12-21-2009, 03:52 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. ó 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
          • NJ Ramsfan1
            Just Discouraging
            by NJ Ramsfan1
            Once again, the Rams found a way to be competitive for a half, then not get anything done in the 2nd half en route to a loss. This one hurts on several counts:
            - We lose yet another conference game
            -We lose to a Seahawks team who had been GOD AWFUL on the road
            -We lose with Steven Jackson putting up decent numbers despite being
            listed as questionable.
            -We lose despite Kyle Boller throwing for 289 yards (to Matt Hasselbecks
            102)
            -We had three home games in a row- and lost all of them. This one was winnable.

            It is obvious we are short on talent. But to say we have NO TALENT is inaccurate, and I'm sorry, an excuse, plain and simple. While none of these recievers are superstars, they are serviceable- and did a decent job today. As mentioned, Boller threw for nearly 300 yards, which for a backup is more than acceptable. Jackson gutted it out.

            We lost for the same reasons we always lose- we make the wrong play at the most inopportune times and guys are not consistent. Brown hits a 55 yarder but misses an earlier one. Boller throws for a bunch of yards but has a crucial pick returned for a touchdown. We break down defensively too often. The offensive line gave up 4 sacks. You can't win ball games this way.

            Today was our shot; I honestly don't see us winning again this season.
            -11-29-2009, 07:59 PM
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