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Rams Cough up Opportunity

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  • Rams Cough up Opportunity

    Monday, November 29, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    GREEN BAY, Wis. - The first time the Rams played a game after moving to St. Louis, they did it in Green Bay. They won and the reason for that victory was largely due to the efforts of receiver Isaac Bruce.

    Bruce was everywhere in that game, blocking a punt, catching passes and scoring touchdowns. No doubt, he left terrible memories in the minds of many Packers’ fans. That bitter taste was erased early Monday night at Lambeau Field. Bruce’s fumble on the Rams’ first possession was returned for a touchdown and set in motion a series of errors, mental and physical that led to Green Bay’s 45-17 win.

    The loss dropped the Rams to 5-6, a position they certainly never had in mind, but stunningly would still put them in the playoffs if they were to begin today. They are one game behind Seattle in the NFC West Division after the Seahawks loss at home to Buffalo on Sunday. Green Bay won its sixth in a row and improved to 7-4, tied with Minnesota at the top of the NFC North Division.

    With momentum seemingly on its side early in the game, the Rams defense forced an impressive three-and-out on Green Bay’s first possession. After the punt, St. Louis took over at its 27. A pair of plays netted 5 yards before the untimely turnover.

    Playing against rookie cornerback Ahmad Carroll, Bruce seemed the likely target for quarterback Marc Bulger. Bruce has eaten even the best of cornerbacks in the league alive on numerous occasions, so it seemed like a given he would do it to the inexperienced rookie.

    On third-and-5 from his 32, Bulger dropped back and hit a quick strike to Bruce near the first-down marker. As Bruce battled to get the first down cornerback Joey Thomas hit him from the side, jarring the ball loose. Carroll scooped it up at the 40 and took it in for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead the Packers would not relinquish.

    That was the first score of the night; Bruce’s next fumble would lead to the last. Trailing 38-17, Bulger hit Bruce over the middle for a 12-yard gain. He was hit from behind and it appeared grabbed by the facemask by safety Darren Sharper. The ball came loose again and Michael Hawthorne recovered it and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown and the final margin.

    That play would not be the end of a big night for Carroll. With the Rams threatening to get back in the game, he came up with another turnover. Down 21-10 in at the beginning of the third quarter, the Rams marched to Green Bay’s 30. On first-and-10, Bulger floated a pass down the right sideline intended for Bruce. Carroll, however, did not bite on Bruce’s fake out route and stayed with him stride for stride. Carroll intercepted the ball in the endzone, thwarting the Rams’ comeback attempt.

    Given a reprieve after holding Green Bay to a punt on the ensuing possession, the Rams drove to the Packers’ 22 where it lined up for a Jeff Wilkins’ field goal. The kick would have made it a one-possession game at 21-13, but St. Louis opted for some trickery. Unfortunately for the Rams, Green Bay was not too be fooled.

    The snap went to holder Dane Looker who immediately pitched it to Wilkins as he was running down the left side. Ready for the fake, the Packers’ Al Harris and Mark Roman stopped Wilkins well short of the first down and effectively put the Rams’ comeback hopes to rest. With 7:06 left in the first quarter, Wilkins missed a 42-yard field goal.

    Stacked on top of the costly turnovers and errors was the fact that St. Louis could not create any turnovers of its own and made a number of mental mistakes. On the drive that ended in the fake field goal, receiver Torry Holt committed two false start penalties in three plays, a prime example of the mental errors that have plagued the Rams all season.
    Those kinds of mistakes make it difficult for a trailing team to get any kind of rhythm and the Rams never got closer than 7-3.

    After the first quarter ended 7-0 Green Bay, the Rams responded with a 14-play, 74-yard drive that ended in Wilkins’ 34-yard field goal.

    The Packers wasted no time getting those points back and more, marching 75 yards in 5:22, capped by quarterback Brett Favre’s 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Bubba Franks for a 14-3 lead.

    Favre played with the same vigor he has in his previous 199 consecutive regular-season starts, throwing for 215 yards and three touchdowns on 18-of-27 passing.

    The Rams went quietly on their ensuing possession and Favre continued with his hot hand. Favre hit receiver Javon Walker for a 10-yard touchdown to finish a five-play, 83-yard drive and give the Packers a 21-3 lead. Favre would add a 16-yard touchdown toss to receiver Donald Driver. Kicker Ryan Longwell booted a 27-yard field goal and Najeh Davenport scored on a 40-yard jaunt in the fourth quarter for the final margin.

    Davenport joined the seemingly always expanding “First 100-yard game against the Rams Club,” gaining178 yards on 19 carries. New Orleans’ Aaron Stecker reached that mark against the Rams in St. Louis on Sept. 26.

    St. Louis showed some signs of life after Walker’s touchdown, promptly scoring on Bulger’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Bruce.

    The Rams continued to try to get back in the game in the second half, particularly Bulger and Bruce, who seemed intent on making up for his mistake. Bulger hit running back Marshall Faulk for an 8-yard touchdown to bring the Rams within 31-17.

    Bruce finished with nine catches for 169 yards and the touchdown. Bulger had one of his best statistical days, finishing 35-of-53 for 448 yards and two touchdowns.

    None of that was good enough, though, to overcome the same types of mistakes the Rams have made off and on all season. The maddeningly consistently inconsistent Rams continued their trend on Monday night.

    Now, St. Louis finds itself in its most difficult position to date. With a losing record and a glut of teams with playoff hopes, the Rams play two of the next three on the road, with all three against NFC teams. Those games become particularly important in tiebreaker situations for a possible wild card.

    Unless the Rams start taking care of their business, though, none of that will matter

Related Topics


  • RamWraith
    Rams are lambs at Lambeau 45-17
    by RamWraith
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    GREEN BAY, Wis. - Gov. Jim Doyle declared Monday "Brett Favre Day" throughout the state of Wisconsin. It was Brett Favre night Monday at Lambeau Field.

    Making his 200th consecutive NFL start, Favre threw three touchdown passes to lead Green Bay to a 45-17 victory over the Rams. The victory put Green Bay (7-4) into a first-place tie with Minnesota in the NFC North. The loss prevented the Rams (5-6) from moving into a first-place tie with Seattle in the NFC West.

    In the strange but true category, the Rams remain the No. 6 seed in the NFC, despite losing for the fourth time in five games. But they continue like a team that has no interest in extending the season beyond their regular-season finale Jan. 2 against the New York Jets.

    The Rams moved the ball up and down the field but committed two costly turnovers, and they scored a touchdown only once in four red-zone possessions against one of the league's worst red-zone defenses.

    Marc Bulger became only the fourth opposing quarterback to throw for more than 400 yards against Green Bay, joining Joe Montana, Randall Cunningham and Trent Green. His 448 yards was a franchise record against Green Bay. Not that it did the Rams much good. They continually self-destructed once they got to the Green Bay 30 or thereabouts.

    Meanwhile, the St. Louis defense looked as if it had no interest whatsoever in tackling 250-pound Packers running back Najeh Davenport. Despite playing at less than full speed because of a hamstring injury, Davenport rushed for 178 yards - the fifth-highest total in Green Bay franchise history.

    What could go wrong did for much of the first half for the Rams. They got into an early hole Monday and spent the rest of the game trying to climb out.

    On the Rams' third offensive play of the game, the normally sure-handed Isaac Bruce was done in by a pair of rookies. After catching a short pass for a first down at the Rams 38, Bruce was stripped of the football by Joey Thomas. Ahmad Carroll scooped up the fumble and raced 40 yards for a touchdown. That gave Green Bay a 7-0 lead just 2 minutes 37 seconds into the game.

    That's how the scoring started and ended for Green Bay - with a Bruce fumble returned for a score. In the final minute of play, Packers safety Darren Sharper jarred the ball loose from Bruce after a reception, with Michael Hawthorne picking the ball up and racing for a final in-your- face touchdown.

    Bruce had fumbled only 11 times in his previous 10 NFL seasons. But Monday's fumbles were his second and third in the last three weeks. Until Monday, Green Bay had only eight takeaways and hadn't come up with one since Halloween.

    By early in the second quarter, the Rams had outgained Green Bay 148 yards to 38 but still trailed 7-3. The Rams were unable to exploit one of the league's...
    -11-30-2004, 05:25 AM
  • RamWraith
    More struggles drop Rams below .500
    by RamWraith
    By Jeff Gordon
    Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist

    The Rams made plays on the big “Monday Night Football” stage. In fact, they made dozens of them.

    For stretches, they played impressively against a red-hot, playoff-bound opponent on the road.

    But the Rams, now 5-6, couldn’t muster a winning performance at Green Bay. They committed a turnover here, allowed a big run there and failed to stop quarterback Brett Favre when the Packers got in scoring range.

    So the result is what most experts predicted: A 45-17 Packers victory that kept the Rams from climbing back into the NFC West lead.

    The Rams had no trouble piling up yardage on the Packers. But protecting the ball and finishing drives, that’s where they fell short.

    They handed the Packers the game’s first touchdown on Isaac Bruce’s fumble. Then their first two first-half forays into the red zone netted just three points.

    Green Bay was able to race to a 21-3 lead while hardly breaking a sweat. The Rams tried to battle back in the second half, but quarterback Marc Bulger threw a third-quarter interception into the Packers end zone to kill the rally.

    Then the Rams tried a fake field goal that backfired and, well, things just never got better up at Lambeau Field. The painful loss was capped by still another Bruce fumble that led to still another Packers touchdown in the game’s final minute.



    --Rookie defensive tackle Brian Howard delivered, dumping running back Najeh Davenport for no gain on the first Packers possession, helping the defense score a quick three-and-out stop. That was about the only time the Rams would stop the bulldozing Davenport in this game.

    --Coach Mike Martz had an interesting offensive game plan for this game, featuring both Steven Jackson and Marshall Faulk as runners and receivers. His play-calling also caught the Packers in their base defense early on with some four-receiver sets.

    Too bad the offense didn’t do a better job in the red zone during the first half, when the game was still in question.

    --Hey, a crunching kick coverage tackle – delivered by linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa on return man Antonio Chatman in the second quarter. Ouch!

    --With the Rams desperately needing points late in the first half, Bulger completed four passes to young wide-outs Shaun McDonald (two) and Kevin Curtis (two). These youngsters can play.

    Those completions set up Bulger’s last-minute touchdown pass to Isaac Bruce in the first half, which cut the Packers halftime lead to 21-10. At that point, the Rams had 225 yards offense and the 11-point deficit to show for it.

    --Tight end Brandon Manumaleuna played big with his 26-yard reception over the middle in the third quarter, going up to catch the ball in...
    -11-30-2004, 05:26 AM
  • RamWraith
    Unlevel Playing Field: Field position, fan support help Packers
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Monday, Dec. 17 2007

    For nearly three quarters, the St. Louis game plan worked effectively and the
    Rams stuck with it. They established Steven Jackson and the running game early,
    and took their shots with Marc Bulger in the passing game.

    Through three quarters, the Rams had a 2-to-1 edge in possession time and had
    outgained Brett Favre and the potent Green Bay offense by nearly 100 yards.
    Yet, when the Rams looked up at the scoreboard at the Edward Jones Dome — aka
    Lambeau Field South — they trailed by two touchdowns.

    How did this happen?

    Well, some gridiron historians refer to football as the "100-yard war." On
    Sunday, it became more like a "50-yard skirmish" for the Packers. Thanks in
    large part to lousy special teams play, the average starting point for the
    Packers' drives was their 48-yard line.

    Of Green Bay's 12 offensive series, six started in St. Louis territory. Three
    others started at the Packers' 40, 44 and 48-yard lines.

    "I just know when we're on offense and we hit the 50, it's kind of like you're
    going downhill," Bulger said.

    The Packers were going downhill all afternoon, like a sled on the snow at Art
    Hill. Of the 53 offensive plays by Green Bay, 41 began in St. Louis territory.

    "You're not going to beat a good football team like (Green Bay) doing that,"
    coach Scott Linehan said.

    Given such a lopsided edge in field position, it's almost surprising that the
    final score wasn't more lopsided than Green Bay 33, Rams 14.

    "They have only two losses for a reason," Bulger said. "They're a good team.
    They made us play with that field position."

    And made them pay because of that field position. Green Bay's victory coupled
    with Seattle's loss to Carolina clinched a first-round playoff bye for the
    Packers (12-2).

    On a day when Favre eclipsed Dan Marino's NFL record for career passing yards,
    it seemed as if all of Green Bay was on hand. With Rams fans continuing to bail
    on their 3-11 team, thousands of "lower bowl" tickets belonging to Rams
    season-ticket holders ended up in the hands of Packers fans.

    Green and gold were the colors of the day. Cheeseheads everywhere. Dozens of
    pro-Packers signs throughout the stadium. There was no way to know officially,
    but it looked as if there were more Packers fans than Rams fans in attendance.

    "It was a joke," Jackson said. "It's as simple as that. The whole (lower) level
    was Green Bay Packers. We allowed them to put up signs. It's a joke."

    "That was the worst, as far as the other team's fans,"...
    -12-17-2007, 05:23 AM
  • RamWraith
    Bruce moves into fourth on NFL career receiving list
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Monday, Dec. 17 2007

    What if you reached a major career milestone and (almost) nobody noticed?

    Late in the second quarter, Rams wide receiver Isaac Bruce used a nifty
    downfield fake to gain separation on Green Bay cornerback Charles Woodson. The
    result was a 37-yard gain down the right sideline that got St. Louis out of a
    second-and-9 hole.

    The 2-minute warning came one play later, so there was plenty of time for fans
    at the Edward Jones Dome to be notified that Bruce, with that catch, had moved
    past Marvin Harrison into fourth place on the NFL’s career list for receiving

    But there was no announcement until nearly 5 minutes into the third quarter,
    after a Green Bay field goal.

    This was in stark contrast to what happened early in the fourth quarter, when
    Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre eclipsed Dan Marino’s NFL record for career
    passing yards with a 7-yard toss to Donald Driver. The game was stopped, an
    announcement was made immediately, and a crew from NFL Films dashed onto the
    field to record the moment as the football was taken out of play.

    Granted, Bruce did not set a record; Favre did.

    But after his catch, only Jerry Rice, Tim Brown and James Lofton are ahead on
    the career list. Bruce finished with four catches for 72 yards Sunday and has
    13,983 career yards. (Harrison has 13,944.) Bruce is 22 yards shy of passing
    Lofton (14,004) for the No. 3 spot.

    “When you think about it, third all-time, that’s pretty elite company,”
    quarterback Marc Bulger said. “I’ve been here and played for (only) half his
    career, but it seems like I’ve seen so many great moments because he’s breaking
    all these records since I’ve been here.”

    Stanley returns kicks

    Two days after being promoted from the practice squad, rookie Derek Stanley
    handled punt returns and kickoff returns for the Rams. The seventh-round pick
    from Wisconsin-Whitewater didn't get much done — then again, it didn't appear
    he had much blocking help.

    Stanley's six kickoff returns averaged only 20.2 yards; the only Green Bay punt
    of the day sailed into the end zone for a touchback. Stanley fumbled his third
    kickoff return of the day, but Richard Owens recovered for St. Louis.

    Coach Scott Linehan opted for Stanley as his return man Sunday instead of
    Marques Hagans, who was on the pregame inactive list. So was return man Brandon
    Williams, missing his second straight game with an ankle injury.

    Simmer down

    Among the Rams' season-high 13 penalties Sunday was an unsportsmanlike conduct
    penalty against the St. Louis bench. More specifically, defensive coordinator
    -12-17-2007, 05:19 AM
  • RamWraith
    It's in the numbers for the Rams
    by RamWraith
    By Michael Rushton, NFL Contributing Editor

    (Sports Network) - The St. Louis Rams have had no trouble keeping pace in the first half this year. It's finishing games that has been the problem.

    The Rams were hosting the two-loss Packers on Sunday, and trailed by just a 17-14 margin at halftime. Not bad for a then 3-10 team, right?

    Sixteen second-half points later, and Green Bay left town with a 33-14 victory.

    "We had some plays that weren't made, and we can go back and say 'if we made that play here or if we finished that drive before the half' we could have at least tied the game up," said Rams head coach Scott Linehan. "Again we have to give them credit for executing better than us."

    Poor second-half play has been a constant theme for the Rams this year. Take a look at this dive into the numbers.

    - The Rams are outscoring their opponents by a 144-132 margin in the first half of games this year, but are getting pummeled by a 217-76 spread in the second half.

    - In 10 of St. Louis' games this year, the club has posted three points or less in the second half. Just twice have the Rams have outscored their opposition in quarters three and four: an 18-17 advantage in a Week 5 loss to Arizona and a 10-9 edge in a Week 14 setback to Cincinnati.

    - The Rams have scored an average of 5.4 points in the second half while allowing an average of 15.5 points.

    - In St. Louis' three victories this season, they have a 48-10 edge in first- half scoring, but have been outscored 44-30 in the second half.

    Running back Steven Jackson was the prime example this past weekend. He totaled 103 rushing yards on 13 carries, including a 46-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. However, he was held to just 40 yards in the second half.

    Jackson said he felt he ran well in the second half, but that falling behind early takes away the run game.

    "They still didn't stop us in the running game (in the second half)," he said. "They got ahead. When you have to play from behind that just means more passing."

    That meant more pressure on Marc Bulger, who was returning to action after missing the last two weeks due to a concussion. He completed 20-of-39 passes for 219 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

    "I credit their defense for tighter coverage, they got an early interception and that factored into it a little bit," Linehan said. "Once we got behind we got into a little bit of a passing mode, more than what we had anticipated."

    The Rams know they need to learn how to finish games next year. A healthy offensive line -- something the club doesn't have now -- will help, but perhaps the front office needs to take a look at how its coaches are conditioning their players.

    In other words,...
    -12-18-2007, 05:51 PM