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Believe It Or Not: Rams In A Big Game

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  • Believe It Or Not: Rams In A Big Game

    Believe it or not: Rams in a big game

    BY JIM THOMAS
    Friday, November 12, 2010

    At 2-2, the Rams headed north to Ford Field and suffered a humiliating 44-6 defeat in Detroit.

    At 3-3, the Rams headed south to Raymond James Stadium and squandered a 17-3 lead en route to a last-second 18-17 setback to Tampa Bay.

    Here we go again.

    At 4-4, the Rams head west to Candlestick Park to take on the San Francisco *****. For the third time this season the Rams will try climb above the .500 mark, a place they haven't been at any point in a season since midway through the 2006 campaign.

    Only this time, the stakes are higher because it's mid November and the Rams are leading the NFC West standings. A victory over San Francisco keeps the Rams in first place and just about puts a dagger into the ***** (2-6) who were consensus preseason favorites to win the West. A loss keeps the Rams on their nearly-season long treadmill of winning at home and losing on the road.

    "Division rival, a defense that I highly respect," running back Steven Jackson said of the *****. "I think they go about business the right way. It's one of those measuring sticks for us to see where we're at in our conference and our division. It's going to be a meaningful game. A lot of people who look at it from a point of view of (won-loss) records don't really appreciate the intensity that this game's going to bring Sunday."

    So yes, for the first time in a long time, the St. Louis Rams are playing in a big game. How long has it been? Consider Jackson's answer when asked about teaching the younger players how to win big games.

    "Well, it's something that I'm looking forward to learning," Jackson said. "I'm being honest right now."

    In seven NFL seasons, Jackson has yet to play on a team that finished the season with a winning record. And he has been part of only one playoff squad: the 2004 Rams squeaked in at 8-8 with a wild-card berth in Jackson's rookie season.

    "To have a big game, to learn how to win as the stakes get higher, as the season goes by, it's going to be fun," Jackson said. "I'm looking forward to the challenge. Hopefully we can keep ourselves in this position but everything goes back to what we've always been taught around here _ one week at a time, one game at a time. But if you continue to win, the stakes get bigger."

    Nine victories probably wins the NFC West this season, maybe eight. But you can't get to eight or nine until you first reach five. And that's the task at hand in Sunday's 3:15 p.m. (St. Louis time) kickoff.

    The Rams haven't won a road game in more than a calendar year, 378 days to be exact since winning 17-10 at Detroit on Nov. 1, 2009. As the road losses accumulate this season, the Rams have all but run out of words to describe why it's happening.

    "Well, we've struggled," Jackson said. "I don't think it's one thing. We've struggled because...(pause)...we've struggled, I guess. But we're going to change that, we're going to turn it around. We have eight games left in the season that we can (find) the remedy for it."

    Actually, only five of those eight are road games. No matter, beating San Francisco won't be an easy task. The ***** dominated the Rams last season, winning 35-0 in San Francisco and 28-6 in St. Louis.

    In the 28-6 game, the Rams managed a meager 109 yards of total offense.

    In the 35-0 game (at Candlestick), the ***** scored three touchdowns on takeaways: one on an interception return, one on a fumble return, and one on a return of a muffed Rams punt.

    That's how the ***** roll at home. Dating back to coach Mike Singletary's first victory after replacing Mike Nolan midway through the 2008 season, the ***** have 36 takeaways in 15 home games. Only two other teams have more takeaways at home over that span.

    It figures to be tough to score on the *****, then again, the Rams have had to scrap for points much of the season with their injury-depleted wide receiver corps and Jackson's groin and finger injuries. The groin muscle has been healed for a while, but Jackson's fractured finger won't be right for several weeks.

    The bye week may have helped refresh bumps and bruises for many players, but a few days off doesn't do much for a broken bone.

    "No, not for a broken finger," he said.

    Despite their 2-6 record, the ***** have one of the better front sevens in the league. On the other side of the ball, the ***** like to play it conservative, leaning on Frank Gore in the running game.

    This game could come down to old-school football. Defending the run, and running the football. A test of will as much as a battle of Xs and Os. Which shouldn't be surprising considering the defensive-oriented mindset of head coaches Singletary and Steve Spagnuolo.

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  • r8rh8rmike
    Rams Ready To Go Big Game Hunting
    by r8rh8rmike
    Rams Ready to go Big Game Hunting
    By Nick Wagoner/Senior Writer

    It’s been a long time since the Rams have played a meaningful football game with legitimate playoff implications this late in the season.

    So long, in fact, that running back Steven Jackson, one of the most tenured players on the roster, says he himself isn’t even sure how he will react to being in one.

    But that’s exactly where Jackson and the Rams are as they head to San Francisco to take on the ***** on Sunday. Simply put, when all things are considered this is the most important regular season game the Rams have played since 2004.

    “Well, it’s something that I’m looking forward to learning,” Jackson said. “I’m being honest right now. To have a big game, to learn how to win as the stakes get higher, as the season goes by, it’s going to be fun. I’m looking forward to the challenge. Hopefully we can keep ourselves in this position but everything goes back to what we’ve always been taught around here – one week at a time, one game at a time. But if you continue to win, the stakes get bigger.”

    The stakes this week probably won’t break the Rams’ season but it sure could make it. At 4-4, the Rams have yet to get over a couple of road bumps.

    First, they are winless in three tries away from the confines of the Edward Jones Dome. Second, they have yet to get over the .500 mark, a place they haven’t been since 2006.

    If the Rams can come away with a win against the *****, there’s a very real possibility they could be sitting alone in first place by Sunday evening.

    “We’ve been working hard to get to a point where in November and December, our games can put us in the postseason,” Jackson said. “So it’s really showing the hard work guys have been putting in, not only during the season, but OTAs and training camp. Guys are starting to come together, and guys are excited.”

    It’s only fitting that a game of such importance for this young, emerging group would come against long time division rival San Francisco.

    In the late 90s, the ***** were the gold standard for the NFC West Division and it wasn’t until the Rams were able to beat them that they truly arrived on the scene as a genuine threat to win the division, let alone go to the playoffs.

    The landscape within the division is a bit different now as the ***** sit with a 2-6 record going into Sunday. But make no mistake; San Francisco is as talented a team as there is in the division.

    “Early in the (season) when they stumbled, they lost three games by two or three points,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “This league, there’s a fine line in this league. That’s a talented, good football team. We’re not going to be blinded by the fact that they’re 2-6. They’ve won two out of their last three, and they’re on the rise. So that’s what we’re up against.”

    Despite...
    -11-12-2010, 05:45 PM
  • RamDez
    Early road tests may well define season for Rams
    by RamDez
    Early road tests may well define season for Rams
    Team will spend three of the season's opening four weeks away from home
    BY STEVE KORTE
    News-Democrat
    The first two games of the 2005 season could have a big bearing on how the NFC West is either won or lost for the St. Louis Rams.
    The Rams open the season with two NFC West road games. They'll play the San Francisco ***** at 3:15 p.m. today at Monster Park.
    The Arizona Cardinals are on deck next Sunday at Sun Devil Stadium.
    "I don't remember the last time that a team has started off with two away games in their division, but that's what we've got," Rams tight end Roland Williams said. "Two away games is rare. We know what we are up against. We know we have some opponents that don't like us too much."
    The last time the Rams opened the season with two road games was 2001, when they went 8-0 on the road. They've never opened a season with two NFC West road games.
    The Rams will play three of their first four games on the road, a stretch that could make or break their entire season.
    "When you go into someone else's stadium, you are going to hear rockets, you'll probably see (fighter jets) flying over the top of your head, and everyone in the stands is just rowdy from start to finish," Rams wide receiver Isaac Bruce said. "We have to be really focused and realize that going on the road in this division, especially against the *****, we have to be technically sound in everything we do.
    "We can't turn the ball over and we have the mindset that no matter what happens we're going to keep playing hard."
    The Rams went 2-6 on the road last season with their two road wins coming against San Francisco and Arizona.
    Rams quarterback Marc Bulger said the key to winning on the road is staying calm in the first quarter, even if things don't go your way.
    "The other team is always fired up when you're on the road," Bulger said. "That's their comfort level. You just have to weather that initial quarter.
    "Even if we're down 17-0, that's what happened in Seattle last year, as long as we realize we're never out of it, we can come back."
    The Rams-***** rivalry still burns strong despite roster and coaching changes. ***** running back Kevan Barlow fanned the flames of that rivalry a little this week.
    "Me personally, I don't like the Rams. I can't stand them," Barlow told The Associated Press. "Last year, they embarrassed us. Our fans don't like them either. ... I believe the Rams are going to come in here, and they're going to sleep.
    "That's what a lot of teams are going to do against us. We're going to prove them wrong."
    First-year ***** coach Mike Nolan, whose father, Dick Nolan, went 2-13-1 against the Rams as the ***** head coach from 1968-75, has an appreciation for the rivalry.
    "Rivalry is an issue of respect,"...
    -09-11-2005, 07:31 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams are ready to take show on the road
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    St. Louis Post-Dispatch
    09/10/2005


    SAN FRANCISCO -- As they trot out of the tunnel Sunday at creaky Monster Park, the Rams will be greeted by hundreds - perhaps even a few thousand - Rams fans.

    Some still sport team gear in the franchise's pre-2000 colors. Some even have shirts and hats that read: "Los Angeles Rams." Some still make the trek up the Pacific Coast from southern California every year to cheer on their transplanted franchise.

    Cornerback Travis Fisher calls it the West Coast Branch of Rams Nation.

    "There's a lot of fans over on that side," Fisher says.

    Meaning, "on that side" of the country. But even in the best of times for Rams teams, those fans quickly get drowned out by ***** loyalists in a stadium that seats more than 69,000.

    These may be the worst of times for the Niners, but triumphs here remain few and far between for the Rams. Dating to the 1991 season, the Rams have won only four times in San Francisco - in 14 tries.

    "It's hard to win on the road," wide receiver Isaac Bruce said.

    Particularly on opening day.

    "When you go into someone else's stadium, you're going to hear rockets, you'll probably see some B52s flying over your head," Bruce said. "And everyone in the stands is just rowdy from start to finish. From pregame till the end of the game. It's special."

    If the Rams can start off well on the road, this season can be special. But there's been nothing special about the Rams away from the Edward Jones Dome in recent seasons.

    On Sunday, the Rams will try to end a string of five straight regular-season losses on the road. Since the start of the 2002 season, the Rams are 8-18 on the road - a figure that includes playoff games.

    In comparison, since the start of the 2002 season, the Rams are 20-5 at the dome - a figure that also includes regular- season and postseason games.

    "The book says you're not supposed to win more than half your games on the road," defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson said. "And you try to win all your home games. But that's not the way we look at it. We want to win every single game we play.

    "Obviously, it doesn't always work out that way. But that's what you're trying to do. Road games are huge, because it helps to build confidence for your team."

    If so, the Rams have plenty of early opportunities for confidence building. Beginning with Sunday's season opener in San Francisco, three of the Rams' first four contests are on the road.

    And for only the seventh time in the 68-year history of the franchise, the Rams open with back-to-back road games. (San Francisco is followed with another NFC West road game, Sept. 18 at Arizona.)

    "Yeah, two...
    -09-10-2005, 06:44 PM
  • MauiRam
    Rams have shot at rare three-peat ..
    by MauiRam
    BY JIM THOMAS Wednesday, December 8, 2010 12:25 am

    For more than a calendar year, the Rams had no success on the road. Zero. Zilch. Couldn't buy a road victory. That all changed in Denver two Sundays ago, and again at Arizona this past Sunday.

    "Two weeks ago, at that point, we were winless on the road," running back Steven Jackson said. "So for us to get two wins on the road back-to-back weeks, it shows that this team responds to challenge."

    The challenge this week is about as big as it gets, with yet another road game against the New Orleans Saints, 9-3 this season and defending Super Bowl champs.

    "We have another huge game, and it's going to be rowdier in New Orleans," Jackson said following the Rams' 19-6 victory over the Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. "We have to get ready for this. As games approach, and each and every week as we continue to be successful, games are going to get bigger. And I think this team is starting to understand that. We've just got to continue to execute and play together."

    If the Rams can pull off an upset in the Louisiana Superdome — and that's a huge "if" — they also would pull off a "3-peat" of historic proportions. They would become only the third team in the 73-year history of the Rams' franchise to win road games in three consecutive weeks.

    The Rams have had some successful road teams, most notably the 2001 NFC championship squad that went 8-0 on the road that season. But that team never played away games in three successive weeks. The best they did was back-to-back road victories twice.

    The current league policy, according to Rams executive vice president of football operations Kevin Demoff, is to have teams play as many as three consecutive road games only about once every eight years.

    And the Rams last played three in a row on the road exactly eight years ago, losing at Washington 20-17 on Nov. 24, 2002, then losing 10-3 at Philadelphia on Dec. 1 and 49-10 at Kansas City on Dec. 8.

    Quarterback Kurt Warner suffered what turned out to be a broken hand in that Washington game, insisted he could play against Philadelphia but was very ineffective. That led to the first "Brenda-Gate" controversy, in which Brenda Warner — Kurt's wife — called a local all-sports radio station to complain about coach Mike Martz's handling of the injury.

    So far, this year's three-game road swing has gone much more smoothly, with the Rams surviving a fourth-quarter meltdown to hold off Denver 36-33 and then recording the workmanlike victory in Arizona.

    So have the Rams finally figured out how to handle this road thing?

    "I've said this from the beginning, I never thought there was really anything to figure out except you go play football between the white lines," coach...
    -12-08-2010, 09:58 AM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Rams Face Tough Road But Vow To Let Loss Go
    by r8rh8rmike
    Rams face tough road but vow to let loss go

    BY JIM THOMAS
    Wednesday, November 17, 2010

    After each of the Rams' initial three road losses this season, they responded with a victory at home the following Sunday. Doing it a fourth time won't be easy given the fact that the opponent this week in the Edward Jones Dome is Atlanta, which has the best record in the NFC (7-2) and one of the best offenses in the NFL.

    And after that one-week "break" at home? It's back on the road for three straight Sundays. Unless something changes on the road, a doomsday sequence could unfold that has the Rams staring at 4-9 by mid-December.

    The road losses have become so numbing, could there be a danger of them becoming a mental thing with the players?

    "No, not if we don't let it," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "I don't think our guys (will). They just go out and play."

    Safety Oshiomogho Atogwe doesn't think what happened in Tampa Bay or Oakland, or even Detroit had any impact on what happened Sunday in San Francisco, a 23-20 overtime loss.

    "I don't believe it was a mental thing because we fought down to the wire," Atogwe said. "We believed we were going to win. It didn't happen that way."

    And he doesn't believe what happened in San Francisco will affect what happens at Denver (Nov. 28), at Arizona (Dec. 5), at New Orleans (Dec. 12) or at Seattle (Jan. 2) in the four remaining road games of the season.

    "The same fight that was in us (against San Francisco) will be the same fight in us for the rest of the season — home or away," Atogwe said. "And we'll get our wins because that's the stuff that makes champions."

    Similarly, defensive end Chris Long said the San Francisco loss may have hurt the Rams in the NFC West standings but did nothing to diminish the team's confidence.

    "Defensively we had two opportunities to win this game," Long said, in apparent reference to the final two San Francisco possessions of the game. "That's why I believe that loss rests — a lot of it — on our shoulders. We've got some standup guys in that (defensive) room. And we'll sit there and we'll look each other in the eye and we'll see what we've got to get better at."

    And then go out and try to do just that — get better despite another disheartening loss.

    "Nobody in here's going to go nuts on it," Long said. "It's a long football season. I believe we're a good team. We've got a ways to go. We've got a big game coming up next Sunday against a great (Atlanta) team.

    "So if we're busy going crazy and feeling sorry for ourselves, we're going to get our butts kicked. But if we prepare like we're capable of preparing, we can compete in that game. ... We don't have time to feel sorry...
    -11-17-2010, 11:35 AM
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