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Rams-Panthers: 5 Things To Watch

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  • Rams-Panthers: 5 Things To Watch

    Rams-Panthers: 5 Things To Watch
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    Comings and Goings

    Since the Rams' move to St. Louis in 1995, only 11 teams have rushed for 200 or more yards against them. Carolina became one of those teams last Jan. 10, in its double-overtime playoff victory over the Rams. The Rams were outgained on the ground 216 yards to 64 on the ground. The Rams must balance out those rushing totals Sunday, or it's going to be a long day. At least Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster won't be able to kick the run defense around. They're both on injured reserve. But the Panthers always seem to find a way to run the football, even if it's Nick Goings doing the running.

    Goings began the season as the Panthers' No. 2 fullback. But he has topped 100 yards rushing three weeks in a row, including a team-high 122 yards last week in New Orleans.

    "He's a north-south runner," Rams DT Ryan Pickett said. "He just gets the ball and runs right down hill. And the holes usually open for him."

    Goings isn't very fast. He has decent size (6-0, 225). He's a blue-collar player who's making the most of his opportunity.

    The Rams are hoping for a similar approach and similar results Sunday from Arlen Harris, who's making his first start of the season in place of the injured Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson, who both have bruised knees. It wouldn't be surprising to see Faulk get some spot duty - maybe more if Harris struggles. But Jackson appears to be in no position to play, walking stiff-legged and not practicing all week.

    Everything's Jake

    Last season's Cajun sensation, Panthers QB Jake Delhomme has been counted on to carry more of the load on offense because of the injuries at running back. Delhomme's completion percentage was down, and his interception total up, early in the season. But like the Carolina team as a whole, Delhomme has been doing a lot of things right lately.

    Over the past six games, he has a 100.2 passer rating, with 13 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. And he's been able to get the ball down field. Over the past five games, the Panthers have 23 pass plays of 20 yards or more. That's a league high over that stretch - one more than the Rams.

    "He's got the big arm," Rams coach Mike Martz said. "He has that Brett Favre type of arm. He can zing it down the field, and has terrific accuracy."

    The Moose is loose

    Last year at this time, the talk in Carolina was about dumping WR Muhsin Muhammad. His production was down. He was dropping passes. And Steve Smith had developed into Delhomme's favorite target. But Carolina kept Muhammad around, and it's a good thing. Smith suffered a season-ending broken leg in the 2004 opener.

    Muhammad has responded by playing some of the best football of his career. Over the past five games, Muhammad has been one of the most productive receivers in the NFL, with 32 catches for 566 yards and six TD catches. In fact, no one in the league has more receiving yards over that span.

    "He's definitely their go-to guy, and he's been coming through for them," Rams safety Adam Archuleta said. "But just like every week, you line up and you've got to stop somebody."

    This week, it's imperative that the Rams stop the Moose, or at least slow him down.

    What's my line?

    C Jeff Mitchell is the only member of Carolina's offensive line who has returned to play the same position he did a year ago. Offseason defections and in-season injuries led to some bumpy moments for this unit in the early season. But not any more.

    "Watching film early in the year to now is a big difference," Pickett said. "They're doing a real good job running the ball. They're coming off the ball real hard."

    Jordan Gross, the No. 8 overall selection in the 2003 draft, has made a successful switch to left tackle after playing right tackle as a rookie. He has been surprisingly good as a run blocker, which is not supposed to be his forte. The Panthers do a lot of running his way.

    Rookie Travelle Wharton has played very well the past seven games as the Panthers' starting left guard. Todd Fordham has filled the void at right tackle caused by Adam Meadows' retirement in the middle of training camp.

    High hopes on defense?

    Did the light switch finally go on for the Rams defense last week against San Francisco?

    "It was a great effort," Pickett said. "If you watched film, there wasn't that many missed tackles. There wasn't anybody out of their gaps. That was the biggest thing."

    Never mind the *****' 1-11 record. Any time you hold an NFL team to 160 yards, it's an excellent day's work. In terms of yards allowed, it was the second-best effort for the Rams since the move to St. Louis. (In 2001, Carolina was held to 146 yards in a 48-14 loss to the Rams.)

    If the defense can hold up its end of the deal against Carolina - and over the final four games of the regular season - the Rams will be in the playoffs next month.

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  • MauiRam
    Double Coverage: Rams at Panthers
    by MauiRam
    By David Newton and Nick Wagoner

    Quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Cam Newton led their teams to victory last week.
    The Carolina Panthers and St. Louis Rams put on an offensive showcase in a 2003 NFC divisional playoff game at the Edwards Jones Dome. The Rams overcame an 11-point deficit in the final 2:39 of regulation and the Panthers ended the 29-23 double-overtime thriller with a 69-yard touchdown catch by Steve Smith.

    They were two teams loaded with offensive weapons, from St. Louis' Marshall Faulk and Isaac Bruce to Carolina's Smith and Stephen Davis. They had identities.

    Fast-forward 10 years to Sunday's game at Bank of America Stadium, where both the Panthers (2-3) and Rams (3-3) are searching for an identity. Panthers team reporter David Newton and Rams team reporter Nick Wagoner are here to break down the 2013 version of this matchup:

    David Newton: Nick, it seems both teams have been waiting for their quarterbacks to become consistent winners since they were drafted No. 1, St. Louis' Sam Bradford in 2010 and Carolina's Cam Newton in 2011. Why has it taken so long for Bradford to get there, if he is?

    Nick Wagoner: Well, I don't think he is there yet. This is the first year Bradford has had any sort of continuity in terms of scheme, and in the past he's dealt with a mediocre receiver corps and offensive lines that aren't much better. He's not devoid of blame, though. Bradford has had issues in the past with going through progressions and locking onto receivers, among other fundamental problems. He's been up and down this year, but has done a really good job of protecting the ball. Now that the Rams seem to have some semblance of a competent running game, he's been better in the past couple of weeks.

    Ultimately, the jury is still out on whether he's the long-term answer, but if he can continue to take care of the ball and toss touchdown passes in leading the Rams to more wins, that picture suddenly gains clarity.

    I'm going to ask you to try to analyze Newton. From afar, it seems he struggles with consistency. Is that the case and how do you think he's adjusted to life after Rob Chudzinski?

    Newton: Cam Newton's consistency remains a question. Yes, his career-high 143.4 passer rating against Minnesota in Game 5 was impressive, but do you know the last time he topped 100.0 in consecutive weeks during the first six games? Never. Sunday was only the second time this season he completed more than 60 percent of his passes and only the eighth in the past 21 games. His passer rating looks like a yo-yo -- 97.3 to 79.8 to 104.4 to 47.8 to 143.4.

    As for life without Chudzinski, it has been a learning process. New offensive coordinator Mike Shula is attempting to go with a more traditional ground game out of the I-formation, but each week he's figuring out better ways to utilize his quarterback's natural abilities....
    -10-18-2013, 11:14 AM
  • RamWraith
    Harris steps up and delivers
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Sunday, Dec. 12 2004

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Marshall Faulk was dressed but reserved for emergency duty.
    Steven Jackson was in sweats, not even on the 45-man active roster.

    With the Rams' top two backs nursing bruised knees, the running game rested
    solely in the hands of Arlen Harris, a second-year pro who had just one carry
    this year - a 2-yarder last week against San Francisco - before Sunday's game
    at Carolina.

    The offense had all sorts of problems in a 20-7 loss to the Panthers, most
    notably the six interceptions thrown by quarterback Chris Chandler. But don't
    count Harris among the culprits on a day when the Rams were held under 10
    points for the first time in more than two years.

    "He played his heart out," coach Mike Martz said. "I thought he did a terrific
    job running the ball."

    Harris, 5 feet 10 and 212 pounds, turned in a workmanlike performance, rushing
    19 times for 62 yards and catching four passes for 41 yards. His production
    represented 102 of the Rams' 289 total yards.

    "It felt good to get back in the swing of things," Harris said. "In the second
    half, we ran the ball a lot better. But playing from behind, it's a lot

    Harris started twice last season because of injuries to other backs,
    contributing 85 yards and a touchdown against Green Bay, then adding 81 yards
    and three TDs vs. Pittsburgh. The Rams won both those games.

    "He's going to give his maximum effort, and he did that again," said tackle
    Orlando Pace. "It makes us want to do our job that much more." Added guard Adam
    Timmerman: "He ran hard. Offensive line-wise, I wish we could've got more for
    him and got the run game going earlier."

    The Panthers (6-7) bolted to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and were up 20-7
    at the half. At that point, Harris had run for only 18 yards. "They have two
    big guys in the middle (tackles Brentson Buckner and Kindal Moorehead) that
    clog the holes up pretty well," he said, "and with (defensive ends Julius)
    Peppers and (Mike) Rucker on the outside, they were getting upfield pretty

    Harris piled up 43 yards in the second half, 40 on one possession in which he
    carried nine times in a row. But that drive ended when the Rams (6-7) failed to
    convert on fourth and 2 at the Carolina 28-yard line. "I think we were wearing
    them down," Harris said. "We just couldn't get the ball in the end zone."

    That was largely because the interceptions - three in each half - continually
    scuttled their advances. The Rams totaled...
    -12-13-2004, 06:38 AM
  • RamWraith
    Zero: Panthers shut out Rams in Carolina
    by RamWraith
    By Mike Cranston

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Who knew that weekly steak dinners would be the cure to Carolina's defensive struggles?

    The Panthers sacked Marc Bulger seven times and shut out St. Louis 15-0 on Sunday, the fifth straight loss for the Rams. Jake Delhomme threw a 62-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith, and the Panthers' dominating defense made it stand up.

    The Panthers came into the season feeling they had the best defense in the league. But Carolina struggled with injuries and chemistry. The problems magnified when Dallas scored 25 fourth-quarter points in a game three weeks ago.

    Safety Mike Minter called a players-only meeting a few days later, suggesting all defensive players meet for dinner each Thursday night.

    Since then the Panthers have allowed 10 points in two games. The Rams, devastated by the loss of Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Pace in last week's game, were shut out for the first time since 1998.

    Mike Rucker had two sacks, including one for a safety with 2:24 left, while former Ram Damione Lewis and Chris Draft each had 1.5 sacks for Carolina, which tied a team record for sacks in a game.

    "I don't know if (the dinners) are the magic formula, but they are a piece of the puzzle," Rucker said. "It's harder for me to shut down on you if I know you personally. I think it makes me play harder if I know you personally."

    Rookie DeAngelo Williams took over for injured running back DeShaun Foster and rushed for 114 yards on 20 carries as the Panthers (6-4) won their second straight game and moved into a first-place tie with New Orleans in the NFC South.

    The Panthers, coming in ranked 28th in the league in rushing, had a team-record 244 yards on the ground against the Rams, who have allowed seven different running back to rush for over 100 yards.

    "Any back in the country that was in the backfield could have been in the backfield for us today would have rushed for 100 yards," Williams said. "They were just doing that good of a job up front."

    Bulger was 19-of-34 for 142 yards and two interceptions, while the Rams (4-6) dropped five passes -- three by Isaac Bruce, who left in the fourth quarter with blurry vision.

    On 12 possessions, the Rams had nine punts, an interception, a fumble and a safety as they finished with 111 yards. All from a team that was averaging more than 22 points a game.

    "For us to come in and put up a dismal performance like that is very humbling," said running back Steven Jackson, who was held to 27 yards on seven carries.

    The Rams, forced to shuffle their offensive line after losing Pace, had no answer to the Panthers' pass rush. Carolina, sending six or seven defenders on nearly every play,...
    -11-19-2006, 05:31 PM
  • Rambos
    Rams Fall to Panthers
    by Rambos
    Rams Fall to Panthers
    Sunday, September 9, 2007

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    For one half and one special teams play, it appeared the Rams were well on their way to exorcising any remaining demons from the last time they played Carolina.

    But any momentum gained from a first half in which the offense looked solid, the defense held up and the special teams did its job, was lost in a third quarter that changed the outcome of the game.

    Carolina took advantage of costly turnovers; a key injury and a shaky second-half defense on its way to a 27-13 win against the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday. The loss drops the Rams to 0-1 to open the season and the Panthers move to 1-0 with the victory.

    Coach Scott Linehan said the most disappointing part was that his team had a legitimate opportunity to put the Panthers away and was unable to come up with the plays needed to get the job done.

    “For two and a half quarters we were in a fairly good position,” Linehan said. “We played fairly good defense with good field position and then we had two critical turnovers which ultimately became the number one critical variable to not winning the game. It ended up being a big difference.”

    Indeed, running back Steven Jackson did something he said he couldn’t remember ever doing in a football game. On two consecutive carries in the third quarter, Jackson coughed up fumbles that gave the Panthers two scoring opportunities.

    Nursing a 13-7 lead, the Rams appeared poised to take a two-score advantage after Corey Chavous forced a fumble that was recovered by linebacker Will Witherspoon. The first takeaways of the season gave the Rams the ball at Carolina’s 49 and a 14-yard completion had the Rams on the verge of pushing the lead further.

    But Jackson searched for extra yards after a 6-yard pickup and safety Chris Harris jarred the ball loose. Defensive end Julius Peppers recovered and it set up the biggest play of the game.

    Two plays into the ensuing possession quarterback Jake Delhomme hit star receiver Steve Smith, who had blown past cornerback Tye Hill, for a 68-yard touchdown and a 14-13 lead the Panthers would never relinquish.

    “He’s a play maker,” defensive end Leonard Little said. “He always plays with a chip on his shoulder. He’s one of the best receivers in the league.”

    Even with that quick shift in momentum, the Rams had plenty of opportunities to get back in the game. But two plays into their next possession, Jackson ran into the back of receiver Torry Holt and lost the ball again. This time, cornerback Chris Gamble recovered at the Rams’ 26.

    The defense was able to bail the Rams out of the situation with another fumble recovery of their own, but it wasn’t enough to spark the offense.

    After a quick start, Jackson found himself struggling....
    -09-09-2007, 05:59 PM
  • RamWraith
    Rams wanted to run more
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas

    If Scott Linehan said it once, he said it a dozen times after being hired as head coach of the Rams: he was going to run the football, and strike a balance between the run and the pass.

    Linehan stressed it in practice from the first minicamp. He stressed it in training camp, and he emphasized it with his play calling during the exhibition season. All of which makes what happened Sunday in Charlotte, N.C., all the more mystifying.

    The Rams ran the ball only eight times in a 15-0 loss to the Carolina Panthers. And that matches the low total for rushing attempts in the Rams' 12 seasons in St. Louis. In 2003, en route to a 30-10 loss at San Francisco, Mike Martz's Rams squad had only eight carries.

    But that was with Arlen Harris at running back; Marshall Faulk was out with an injury, and Steven Jackson was nearly six months away from being drafted. In that contest, the Rams trailed 14-3 midway in the first quarter, and 24-3 by late in the second quarter.

    That wasn't the case Sunday at Bank of America Stadium. The game was scoreless until late in the second quarter, and remained no worse than a two-score contest throughout. So where did the running game go?

    "I intended to run the ball more," a tense Linehan said Monday. "We came out of some runs. ... I think I counted six that were called that were (passes) because of the look."

    Quarterback Marc Bulger has the option to check out of runs on some plays depending on the "look" — or the alignment — of the opposing defense. By Linehan's count, Bulger checked out of called run plays a half dozen times because of Carolina's defensive alignment.

    The Panthers were stacking the box — the area from tackle to tackle on the offensive line — with extra defenders. In effect, the Panthers were daring the Rams to throw by having eight men jammed into the box to stop Jackson and the running game. The Rams took the dare, but couldn't generate much of anything with their vaunted passing game.

    "Looking back at this thing, we may have abandoned the run too quickly in that game yesterday," offensive coordinator Greg Olson said Monday. "We kind of felt like we would throw our way out of it. ... Eventually the passing game's going to click against all the 'bad-box' looks and the pressure, and we're going get an explosive play."

    In theory, that would eventually force the Panthers to devote more defenders to coverage, thereby opening up the running game. It never happened. Bulger completed only 19 of 34 passes, and none of those 19 completions went for more than 18 yards.

    It was the first time since Game 14 of the 2005 season that the Rams didn't have at least one completion go for at least 20 yards. Bulger...
    -11-21-2006, 06:15 AM