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  • Draft pick 'race' adds drama to Rams game

    Draft pick 'race' adds drama to Rams game
    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    12/29/2009

    Can rookie quarterback Keith Null bounce back from his three-interception performance in Arizona?

    Will Steven Jackson, bad back and all, return to the lineup and make a run at a career-best single-season rushing total?

    And what about Isaac Bruce? The former Rams receiving icon returns to St. Louis for what could be his last NFL game. But San Francisco coach Mike Singletary has said that Bruce will be on the *****' inactive list. So Rams fans might have to settle for waving goodbye to Bruce as he stands on the sideline in street clothes.

    These are all good reasons to watch Sunday's season finale against San Francisco at the Edward Jones Dome, 1-14 record and all.

    But let's face it, the most compelling aspect of the final weekend of the regular season is the "race" for No. 1 — that is, the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft.

    The Rams' 31-10 loss at Arizona last weekend, coupled with Tampa Bay's 20-17 overtime victory against New Orleans, eliminated the Buccaneers from No. 1 consideration and created a two-horse race. Depending on what happens Sunday, either the Rams or Detroit Lions will have the first pick in the 2010 draft.

    If the Rams lose to San Francisco, they clinch No. 1. Make no mistake, coach Steve Spagnuolo is thinking only about beating the *****. When asked Monday about possible playing time for youngsters such as offensive tackle Phil Trautwein, Spagnuolo replied, "We're going to make all the decisions based on winning the game. Should it head that way for guys like that, that's what we'll do. If not, we won't. It'll still be about winning the game."

    If the Rams do upset San Francisco and the Lions lose their season finale against Chicago, the draft picture gets interesting. Call it the Ndamukong Suh sweepstakes, because at the moment the Nebraska defensive tackle is projected as the top player in the draft.

    If the Rams (1-14) and Lions (2-13) both finish 2-14, the tiebreaker for draft position is strength of schedule. The team with the easier schedule gets the No. 1 overall pick; the team with the tougher schedule drafts second overall.

    Entering the final weekend of the regular season, the Lions and Rams are nearly identical in strength of schedule. The Lions' opponents are 124-116, for a 51.7 winning percentage. The Rams' opponents are 126-114 for a 52.5 percentage.

    So Detroit has just a two-game "lead" entering Sunday's games. No fewer than nine games elsewhere in the NFL on Sunday will affect the strength of schedule for the Rams and Lions. If the teams end up with identical schedule strengths, the next tiebreaker is head-to-head competition. Because the Rams defeated Detroit 17-10 on Nov. 1, the Lions would win that tiebreaker and get the No. 1 overall pick.

    When asked if he has given any thought to the draft, Spagnuolo was taken aback.

    "No," he said, laughing. "You're way ahead of me there. Way, way ahead of me. No. Absolutely not."

    But Detroit and St. Louis are running neck-and-neck for the No. 1 pick ...

    "I'll worry about that in a couple of weeks," Spagnuolo said. "We're 'neck and neck' in trying to win a football game this Sunday. I'm knee-deep, or whatever you want to say, in trying to win a game. It's the last one, and we're going to play it to win it."

    Spagnuolo hopes to have three starters back to help him do just that against the *****. Defensive end James Hall missed the Arizona game because of the birth of his first child. Defensive end Leonard Little has missed the last two games with a knee infection. And Jackson was an 11th-hour scratch against Arizona when he suffered more back pain and back-related pain than normal during a pregame warm-up.

    Jackson plans to play against the *****. Without saying a word, Spagnuolo made it clear Monday how he felt about that, jokingly clasping his hands as if in prayer and looking skyward.

    "I'll leave that up to Steven," Spagnuolo said. "I trust him; I trusted him (Sunday). That's his competitive nature. You know, every day with the injury he has, sometimes it changes. But I'm hopeful."

    Regardless of who's in and who's out against San Francisco, Spagnuolo said, "We'll go out there and battle. As undermanned as we may have been (Sunday) ... a catch, a non-drop, and we're in there fighting, this team is in there in the fourth quarter."

    The best example of that was Danny Gorrer's dropped interception; had he grabbed the "pick," he could have returned it for a touchdown and trimmed Arizona's lead to 17-14 in the third quarter.

    "It just goes to show you, when you can just battle and fight and play, you've got a chance to win in this league," Spagnuolo said.
    :ramlogo:

  • #2
    Re: Draft pick 'race' adds drama to Rams game

    If Jackson plays on Sunday he will run big numbers against the Whiners. Because he does not want to meet Suh in practise each day for the next many years

    I surely hope we beat the Whiners, but it would be nice if Detroit would win also as I would love the nr 1 pick.

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    • eldfan
      Rams Team Report
      by eldfan
      Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo always has a single-minded purpose like most coaches as another game approaches. No matter what the record, he is intent on trying to figure out a way to win.
      It's no different this week as the Rams enter the season finale at home against the ***** with a 1-14 record. Spagnuolo had another message this week for the fans he hopes show up.

      The last two home games have had announced attendances under 50,000, the two lowest since the team moved to St. Louis in 1995.

      "Sunday is a special day," Spagnuolo said. "Not only is it the last game, but it is fan appreciation day. We do appreciate the fans that are behind us and that have hung in there in a tough, tough year. It's tough for us, tough for the players, and tough for the fans. Just know that we'll continue to work to try to get this thing straightened out. We're going to do everything we can to win this football game."

      Asked about fans that boo when the team doesn't play well, Spagnuolo said he understands.

      "Absolutely," he said. "I love to have them there. When I was in Philadelphia, of course the Philadelphia fan is a passionate fan. I've always felt good, better, and indifferent. When the fans are there and they're passionate and care, I'm OK with that, I really am. That means they care. I'm OK with that."

      While some fans hope the Rams lose so they will be assured of the first overall pick in the draft, the fans that were there for the Dec. 20 Houston game were cheering for a victory in what turned out to be a 16-13 loss. They weren't thinking about draft picks.

      Worrying about draft picks is nowhere near Spagnuolo's thinking.

      Asked this week if he had given any thought to the draft, Spagnuolo said chuckling, "No. You're way ahead of me there. Way, way ahead of me. No. Absolutely not."

      When it was pointed out that the Rams currently have the first pick in the draft with one less win than Detroit and are "neck and neck" with the Lions, Spagnuolo said, "I'll worry about that in a couple of weeks. We're 'neck and neck' in trying to win a football game this Sunday. I'm knee-deep, or whatever you want to say, in trying to win a game. It's the last one, and we're going to play it to win it."

      The Rams have played a large number of young players this season, and in recent weeks. Rookie guard Roger Allen III will start his first game of his career Sunday, on the left side, in place of the injured Mark Setterstrom. When asked about playing other young players that haven't seen action, he said, "We're going to make all the decisions based on winning the game. Should it head that way for guys like that, that's what we'll do. If not, we won't. It'll still be about winning the game."

      SERIES HISTORY: 120th regular-season meeting. Rams lead, 60-57-2. The...
      -12-31-2009, 11:56 AM
    • RockinRam
      Spagnuolo, Rams Expect More Than Just Average
      by RockinRam
      By Jim Thomas, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

      Oct. 23--Every Wednesday when the Rams' practice week begins, coach Steve Spagnuolo strikes up a theme during the morning team meeting. This Wednesday, following the day's practice, Spagnuolo dropped it on the media almost casually.
      "I told the guys this morning we're 3-3, which means we're an average football team," Spagnuolo told reporters. "We're trying to get better -- 3-3 says average. Let me help you out with the injuries here ..."
      That's it? Your team registers a big victory, defeating four-time defending AFC West champion San Diego. And you tell them they're average?
      "I don't know what point he was trying to get across to the team by saying that we're average," running back Steven Jackson said. "But I do take this from the speech: We've put together two wins in a row before and we came out and laid an egg. Don't go and look at Tampa Bay as a gimme game. Go about it with the same approach that you prepared for the Chargers and other teams that you've played."

      Slowly but surely, Spagnuolo is trying to change how this team views itself and change its expectations. To wit, he didn't say a lot to the team in the locker room after that 20-17 victory over the Chargers. He didn't glow and gush about their effort, their progress, and that afternoon's achievement. It was more along the lines of: We expected to win, now on to Tampa Bay.
      "I think that just shows that the expectations around here have been set high," quarterback Sam Bradford said. "Obviously there have been some struggles in the past but there's no reason why this team can't have high expectations. He's right, 3-3 is an average team. We had a chance to win those first two games but we didn't, so we've got to continually get better and continue to set the bar high for ourselves."
      "We do not want to be average," center Jason Brown said. "Even though they're a few people out there that even if we finished out the season 8-8 would say, 'Oh yeah, they're rebuilding.' And give us a pat on the back for doing that."
      Actually, 8-8 would be quite an achievement considering the team's 1-15 mark a year ago and 6-42 ledger over the past three seasons. But Spagnuolo is pushing this team. He doesn't want it to settle; he doesn't want it to feel satisfied. Not in late October.
      "What he's trying to say is that regardless of how many games we've won (or lost) in the past, we're 3-3 right now," wide receiver Danny Amendola said. "And that's average. We didn't strive to be average. We're striving to be better than average. We're striving to be a great football team. And in order to get that we're going to have to win more games."
      The Rams were in a similar situation two weeks ago heading into Detroit. They had posted a couple of...
      -10-23-2010, 11:05 AM
    • eldfan
      Spagnuolo's wish: 2 more wins
      by eldfan
      By Jim Thomas
      ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
      12/22/2009

      It's the season for Christmas cards and holiday greetings, but Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo is getting more than that in his mailbag these days.

      "I get some great letters and some great comments" from fans, Spagnuolo said. "It makes me feel good. I'm human. And I hope they still feel that way. If they can just remain faithful, that will be appreciated."

      Of course, not all of the cards and letters are complimentary, and Spagnuolo gets more than a few suggestions as well.

      "I like the ones that I get with the designed plays on them," Spagnuolo said, laughing. "Oh, I get a lot of designed plays … (on) small little index cards. We've had a few in there — all the good ones we've run."

      Anything for a victory, right? With just two games to play in his rookie season as an NFL head coach, it's no secret what's on Spagnuolo's wish list.

      "Two wins," he said. "Two wins. And it's two NFC West opponents, which I think is important going forward — how you play against the people in your division."

      If the Rams are going to improve, there's no better place to start than their own division. Since the conclusion of the 2004 season — the Rams' last playoff campaign — they are 4-24 against the NFC West, which breaks down to 0-10 against Seattle and 2-7 against both Arizona and San Francisco.

      The Rams play their final road game of the season Sunday at Arizona and then close out with a Jan. 3 home game against San Francisco.

      Given the Rams' depleted roster, the team's troubles in the NFC West probably will spill over into next season. On Monday, tight end Daniel Fells became the 12th Rams player to go on the injured reserve list, with a fractured thigh bone. Three other Rams basically are out for the season, although they haven't been put on IR yet: quarterback Marc Bulger (shin bone), offensive tackle Jason Smith (concussion) and cornerback Quincy Butler (knee and ankle).

      The injuries to Fells and Butler took place in Sunday's 16-13 loss to Houston, which dropped the Rams' record to 1-13.

      The team's depth and talent are questionable, and Spagnuolo is running out of players.

      "Yeah, slowly but surely. Anybody have any eligibility left?" he asked reporters Monday. "We're pretty banged up. The list is long. But it just gives another guy an opportunity. I know it sounds like a cliché, but it does. It gave some guys an opportunity (against Houston). And that'll happen again this Sunday."

      At least it looks like the worst of last week's illnesses and swine flu is behind the Rams.

      "I believe so," Spagnuolo said. "... There's some normal cold and flu going around."

      They don't give medals for trying...
      -12-22-2009, 11:02 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 cnnsi.com: “I love...
      -12-22-2009, 07:23 PM
    • r8rh8rmike
      Lions Hope To Extend Rams' 17-Game Losing Streak
      by r8rh8rmike
      Lions hope to extend Rams’ 17-game losing streak
      By LARRY LAGE, AP Sports Writer
      Oct 31, 12:04 am EDT

      DETROIT (AP)—Somebody’s got to win, right?

      Detroit, which has one victory since enduring the NFL’s first 0-16 season, is hosting the winless St. Louis Rams, who might have their best shot to avoid joining the Lions in league infamy, in an oddly intriguing game.

      “Both of us are hungry for a win,” Lions linebacker Julian Peterson(notes) said.

      Starving, really.

      The Lions quietly slipped out of the national watch of terrible teams when they finally won a game in Week 3, snapping a 19-game losing streak and ending talk about the possible pursuit of Tampa Bay’s league-record 26-game skid.

      Detroit hasn’t won since beating Washington, though, and its 2-28 mark since the middle of 2007 matches the worst 30-game record in league history.

      The Rams are winless through seven games and if they don’t beat the Lions, they might be bad enough to replicate Detroit’s unenviable achievement with an 0-16 year and match the Buccaneers’ mark for futility set during the 1976-77 seasons.

      Detroit running back Kevin Smith figures the Rams are looking at the matchup as their week to finally win.

      “If I’m St. Louis, I’m saying, `OK, you’ve got a 1-5 Lions team that went through our situation last year, let’s try to get a jump start on our season with a win versus the Lions,”’ Smith said. “You have to anticipate that’s what they’re thinking.”

      Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo insisted that’s not the case.

      “We don’t go there,” Spagnuolo said.

      The message has sunk in with his players.

      “Records in the NFL mean very little,” quarterback Marc Bulger said. “Arizona was 9-7 last year and I don’t think anyone gave them a chance of going to the Super Bowl. You treat every week like it’s own Super Bowl and I think that’s what coach is trying to preach to us.”

      The Lions have a chance to get their top two players back on offense— receiver Calvin Johnson and quarterback Matthew Stafford—after both missed games with injured right knees.

      “Calvin obviously changes the game,” Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. “He changes not only our offense, but he changes the way defenses play.

      “The strides that Matt had made early in the season, he needs to be able to pick that back up again.”

      Stafford, the No. 1 pick in the draft, said he learned something while he was relegated to standing on the sideline.

      “It was tough watching, I don’t really like it,” he said. “You feel like you learn more playing than you do just sitting there watching because you’re so much more in tune.”

      The Rams are out of sorts on both sides of the ball, especially when they have it inside opponents’ 20. They have scored on just half of their...
      -10-31-2009, 07:11 PM
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