Monday, October 29, 2007

Briefly, Jackson shows why he’s one of NFL’s best

By Bill Coats
10/28/2007 7:15 pm

The absurd notion by some Rams observers that Steven Jackson is something less than an elite NFL running back should have learned their lesson during Sunday’s 27-20 loss the Browns.

With Jackson back in the lineup after missing a month with a torn groin muscle, the Rams were an offensive juggernaut that rolled to a 14-0 lead in the first 10 minutes. They finally were showing off the attack that so many expected before this train wreck of a season began.

Jackson pounded out 41 yards on eight carries, caught two passes for 9 yards, and was on pace for a 200-plus yard day when his back went into spasms late in the opening period. The Rams also locked up, mustering only 27 rushing yards and two field goals over the final 45 minutes with Jackson on the sideline.

Rookie Brian Leonard is a solid back, but he can’t come close to matching the speed, strength and electricity Jackson provides. Nor can many other backs in the league.

“When he’s in there, you can see we’re explosive,” quarterback Marc Bulger said. “When he got hurt, it changed our team, plain and simple.”


The Rams have a bye next Sunday, although coach Scott Linehan hasn’t called recess just yet. He’s scheduled practices for Tuesday and Wednesday at Rams Park before dismissing the troops.


The timing of the bye was debated in the locker room Sunday. Some players said that at 0-8, the team might be better served by sticking to the routine and plowing forward. More, however, felt that the break was badly needed.

“It comes at a great time,” Jackson said. “I think we need this bye for guys to get away for a while and collect their thoughts, the coaches do the same thing, and hopefully we come back strong.”

Added guard Richie Incognito: “It’s 50-50 on the bye week; we can keep pushing or take a week to reflect. Either way, we’ve just got to play better.”


Notes & quotes:

>>Browns WR Braylon Edwards made some eye-popping grabs to overcome generally tight coverage by CB Fakhir Brown. “I felt like I was there, but I didn’t make any plays on the ball,” Brown said.

>>Needing 6 inches on fourth down against the NFL’s worst defense to keep their hopes alive late in the final two minutes, the Rams failed. RB Brian Leonard was stuffed by SS Sean Jones for no gain. “I had his leg and wouldn’t let go,” Jones said.

>>WR Drew Bennett, finally healthy after thigh and hamstring injuries, had his best day with the Rams, catching six passes for 63 yards.

>>Nick Leckey performed adequately at RG after Incognito left in the first quarter with a sprained right knee. Leckey, normally a center, never had played guard in the NFL, although he was a LG for three years at Kansas State.

>>The Rams held a 170-47 yardage edge after the first period. The Browns had a 321-223 advantage the rest of the way.

>>Unlike the Dolphins, the Rams are winless on only one continent.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Seattle Sacks Rams

By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer
SEATTLE– While the Rams’ patchwork offensive line couldn’t keep quarterback Marc Bulger protected all day Sunday, it also couldn’t protect the Rams from the worst start in franchise history.
With leaks springing all across the line, the Seahawks feasted on Bulger and the Rams anemic offense on their way to a convincing and thorough 33-6 win at Qwest Field on Sunday.
The loss drops the Rams to 0-7 for the first time in franchise history. Seattle took control of the NFC West Division with the win as it improved to 4-3.
Seattle sacked Bulger seven times, came up with four takeaways and hurried or hit Bulger on countless other plays.
Leading the way was defensive end Darryl Tapp, who made a case for the Pro Bowl with four sacks and a forced fumble.
The Rams offense continued its struggles, finishing with just 202 yards of total offense.
Fourth Quarter
The Rams had another opportunity go by the wayside as Wilkins missed from 44 yards.
Things didn’t get much better in the final quarter as the Rams continued to struggle to protect Bulger. He was sacked and coughed up another fumble early in the final period, giving the ball back to Seattle at the Rams’ 44 with 9:06 to play.
Seattle didn’t muster much offensively, but it was enough for Brown to kick his fourth field goal, this time from43 yards out to make it 26-6 with 7:02 to play.
Julian Peterson intercepted Bulger and Seattle scored two plays later when Hasselbeck hit Heller again this time from 11 yards out to give Seattle a 33-6 lead.
Third Quarter
The second half started in the worst way possible for the Rams. An improving special teams unit got burned on the opening kickoff as Nate Burleson had his second return for a touchdown in as many games against the Rams.
Burleson raced 91 yards among some missed tackles for the score, giving Seattle a 17-3 lead with 14:47 to go in the quarter.
The Rams offense put together its best drive of the day as Bulger used Torry Holt for the first time all day. Holt went to work to the tune of four catches for 53 yards, but dropped a potential 17-yard touchdown. That drop helped kill the drive deep in Seattle territory and the Rams settled for a 29-yard field goal from Wilkins. With 10:33 to go in the quarter, Seattle is up 17-6.
Seattle answered again, driving in to St. Louis territory to set up a 48-yard field goal from Brown. That kick gave Seattle a 20-6 lead with about six and half minutes to go.
The Rams gave it right back on the ensuing possession as defensive end Darryl Tapp came up with his fourth sack of the game, causing a fumble that was recovered by Jordan Babineaux at the Rams’ 21.
The defense held Seattle to a field goal again, as Brown converted from 45 yards out to make it 23-6 Seahawks at the end of the quarter.
Second Quarter
Seattle opened the second quarter with another long drive, but the Rams tightened up in the red zone and held the Seahawks to a 38-yard field goal from Josh Brown. That kick made it 10-3 Seattle with 10:15 to go in the half.
The Rams defense kept them in the game as they bent, but did not break. Cornerback Ron Bartell came up with an interception to thwart another Seattle drive.
But the offense continues to struggle as Bulger has had little time to throw and when he has had a little, he has been unable to get rid of it. On the bright side, the Rams aren’t getting beaten in field position because of the continued excellence of punter Donnie Jones.
Jones booted an 80-yard punt late in the quarter, the third longest in the history of the Rams.
At the half, Seattle leads 10-3.
First Quarter
After winning the toss, the Rams took the ball, but immediately went three and out, giving the ball to Seattle at its 29.
The Seahawks wasted no time marching down the field, going 71 yards on 11 plays for a 1-yard touchdown pass from Matt Hasselbeck to tight end Will Heller. The extra point gave Seattle a 7-0 lead with 7:40 to go in the opening quarter.
After another drive ended quickly, the Rams defense came up with a big stop on fourth-and-inches to take over at Seattle ’s 48.
Marc Bulger hit Isaac Bruce on third-and-9, but Bruce slipped on what would have been a touchdown. The 31-yard gain gave the Rams a shot in the red zone and a 12-yard gain from Brian Leonard set up first-and-goal from the 4. But the Rams went backward on a sack by Julian Peterson and had to settle for a 31-yard field goal by Jeff Wilkins.
That kick made it 7-3 Seattle with 1:02 to go in the first.
Pregame Notes
Greetings from one of the best places to watch football in the NFL, Qwest Stadium. The Seahawks have found a way to build a great game day atmosphere and the stadium itself is a wonderful place.
Here’s a shocker, it’s probably going to rain sometime today in Seattle . The Rams practiced in rainy and windy conditions earlier in the week so nothing should take them by surprise.
The Rams have almost completely returned to health and that makes the inactive decisions a little more difficult.
Running back Steven Jackson (groin) and returner Dante Hall (ankle) are inactive today. Jackson is expected to return next week and Hall won’t likely be back until after the bye week.
Receivers Dane Looker (thigh) and Drew Bennett (hamstring) are also inactive. They showed signs of recovery during the week but neither will play today. That means newly signed Travis Taylor will be involved in the offense with Marques Hagans serving as the third receiver behind Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce.
Tight end Dominique Byrd, safety Bhawoh Jue, defensive end Trevor Johnson and center Nick Leckey are also inactive.
Notables out for the Seahawks include receivers Deion Branch and D.J. Hackett and tight end Marcus Pollard.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Magic can't save Rams season, but problems shouldn't linger

It’s been a tough Sunday here in cyberspace. Duty forced your correspondent to
watch the entire Rams game, which was an uncommonly painful experience.

Then duty required a lengthy chat session with disgruntled and disgusted fans.
About 100 replies later, I’d like to make two overriding points.

The local NFL souvenir shops don’t sell magic wands. The Rams are 0-6 and
riddled with injuries. Coach Scott Linehan hasn’t found many answers, but
hiring an ex-coach from the broadcast booth isn’t feasible in October.
Improvement during this season will have to come within the current group, one
way or another. The current coaches must coach better and the surviving players
must play better.

Turning around the Rams after this season shouldn’t be a long-term project.
Dramatic reversals of form are the norm in the Not For Long league. Green Bay
is 5-1 this season and Tampa Bay is 4-2. Conversely, the Saints went to Seattle
winless and the explosive Bengals lost four of their first five games. Things
change in a hurry in the NFL.

Believe it or not, the Rams do have some young players to build around. Clifton
Ryan and Adam Carriker were forceful in the middle of the defensive line the
last two weeks. Tye Hill, Jonathan Wade, O.J. Atogwe, Victor Adeyanju, Mark
Setterstrom, Richie Incognito, Brian Leonard -– these kids all have some value.

This is a different offense when Steven Jackson, Orlando Pace, Marc Bulger,
Isaac Bruce, Drew Bennett and Dante Hall are all healthy. We never saw that
scenario this season and we never will.

Defensive veterans Leonard Little, James Hall, Fakhir Brown and Will
Witherspoon are worthy players, although Witherspoon would be more forceful
playing outside linebacker.

Before players began to fall, I believed the Rams would start this season by
winning four of their first six games. Instead, they lost all six as their
casualties mounted.

The difference between 4-2 and 0-6 isn’t as great as you would think. Better
health, better coaching, better effort and better luck could have kept these
same players in contention.

But this season, Linehan reminds us, “is what it is.” The Rams failure is, as
Linehan says, “humbling.”

(“Embarrassing” is another word for it, but Linehan objected to that adjective
at his news conference last Monday.)

In the near term, Linehan and his assistants must coach every day as if it is
their last. They must try new strategies and different motivational tactics.

They must turn Rams Park upside down. Business as usual won’t cut it anymore.
This is an emergency. Players should feel the sense of urgency when they walk
in the door Monday -– and they should feel it every day through the end of the

If urgency brings a few volcanic eruptions along the way, then so be it.
Composure is an overrated quality on 0-6 teams. Just ask the Vikings, who
knocked off the Bears after an, um, exciting week of preparations.

In the longer term, the Rams should heed Bernie Miklasz’s advice. The current
way of running this football operation does not work. John Shaw and Jay Zygmunt
really want to win -– and that’s great -– but their operating method has failed.

This franchise must hire the most capable football man it can woo to chart its
future course. That could come in the form of a team president, general
manager, head coach -– or some combination of all those jobs. The Rams need
stronger leadership at the top.

We all know there is a fine line between winning and losing in the NFL. The
talent is evenly spread. Over the long haul, teams with better management and
better coaching prevail.

Injuries and luck are unhappy X-factors, but well-run teams have a much better
chance to plow through those variables. The Rams are NOT a well-run team.

The Rams are NOT giving themselves their best chance to win with the players
left standing.

In the near term, the current coaches and players need to try everything to
salvage some good things from this season. They owe that to themselves, their
employer and the fans. In many cases, their careers are on the line.

For the long term, Georgia Frontiere, Stan Kroenke, Shaw and Zygmunt must come
up with new and better ways of doing things. Hiring Dick Vermeil turned out to
be a masterstroke -– and now this far-flung leadership team needs another one.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Frerotte's start filled with lows and highs

As he watched Arizona cornerback Roderick Hood streak toward the end zone with
a football that only seconds earlier had been in his hands, Rams quarterback
Gus Frerotte had one desperate thought.

"I just hoped that somebody could catch him," he said. But he knew better.

After stepping in front of tight end Randy McMichael and intercepting
Frerotte's pass early in the fourth quarter, Hood had clear sailing. His
68-yard touchdown — on his second interception — put the momentum firmly in
Arizona's camp, and the Cardinals went on to a 34-31 victory Sunday that
dropped the Rams to 0-5.

Frerotte, who started for banged-up Marc Bulger, was furious with himself for
that throw. "That was a back-breaker," he said. "I was getting some pressure
and I was just trying to get it out of my hand and not take a sack. ... I'm
smarter than that, I've played long enough that I can't make a throw like that
that basically gives them the game."

Making his first start in two years — the 80th of his 14-year NFL career —
Frerotte, 36, had a full day replete with devastating lows and exhilarating

On the negative side, he was intercepted three times — all in the second half —
and those errors cost the Rams 14 points: Hood's score, and another TD later
after a pick by safety Adrian Wilson that give Arizona possession on the Rams'
39-yard line.

"Right now, where we are offensively, we have to be really ball-secure,"
Frerotte said. "Every game we've lost, we've had turnovers on offense, and
those are going to kill you every time."

On the plus side, Frerotte passed for 262 yards and three touchdowns —
exceeding by one the offense's total production in the first four outings. The
Rams piled up 375 total yards; their average had been 262.5. yards.

"We played hard, we put points on the board, we moved the ball even with guys
being out" with injuries, Frerotte noted. "I think there are going to be a lot
of good things to watch on the film."

Rookie running back Brian Leonard should like what he sees. Subbing a second
consecutive week for Steven Jackson (groin), Leonard carried 18 times for 102
yards and caught five passes for 33 yards.

"I think the O-linemen and me, we did a good job," Leonard said. "Our goal is
to rush over 4 yards per carry and over 100 yards. And we did it, so we
accomplished our running game."

The passing game ran smoothly, too — with some glaring exceptions. "Gus did a
great job," center Brett Romberg said. "No mix-ups, no funky audibles, nothing."

Frerotte's first scoring pass, a 16-yard strike to wide receiver Drew Bennett
on the first play of the second quarter, ended the Rams' streak of possessions
without a touchdown at 32. "That was exciting," Romberg said. "I think all 11
of us were in the end zone congratulating Bennett."

Later, Frerotte hooked up with wideout Torry Holt for an 11-yard score and
found McMichael with a 24-yard toss with 13 seconds remaining. Frerotte hit
Holt for a 2-point conversion, but the Cardinals recovered the ensuing onside

"We were in a great groove," McMichael said. "We moved the ball up and down the
field, made some big plays, and were aggressive in the red zone. That's why we

The glitch in the attack came with the Rams leading 20-17 midway through the
third quarter. It started with Hood's first interception. In the Rams'
subsequent five possessions, Frerotte misfired on seven of 10 passes, including
his two other interceptions. With 3:11 to go, the Cardinals had surged to a
34-23 edge, rendering the Rams' late rally moot.

"Regardless of what we did offensively, we still lost," Frerotte said. "And
that's the bottom line."

Monday, October 1, 2007

Rams Deal With Injuries

By Nick Wagoner

Senior Writer

IRVING , Tex. – While coach Scott Linehan and Co. are quick to dismiss injuries as a reason for the team’s early season struggles, it’s hard to look past what has seemingly been an unprecedented run of bad luck that has led to one of the lengthiest injury lists in the NFL.

Entering Sunday’s game against the Cowboys, the Rams were already without running back Steven Jackson (groin), cornerback Tye Hill (back), guard Richie Incognito (ankle), left tackle Orlando Pace (shoulder), guard Mark Setterstrom (knee) and that was just the starters.

One would think things could only get better in terms of injuries considering the length of that list, but somehow they seemed to get worse for a Rams team that could use as much help as possible.

“We are the walking wounded right now,” defensive end Leonard Little said. “We have a lot of guys injured but that’s why you are NFL players. Second team guys have to step up and make plays. We have a lot of guys injured right now, but hopefully guys will come back and play next week and we can try to get our first win.”

Even Little wasn’t immune Sunday, though. Little suffered a right knee strain late in the game. Little stayed in the game, but said he will have an MRI on Monday to see if there is any severe damage to the knee.

“I went back out there and played, but I don’t know,” Little said. “I am ready to go whenever they call me to play no matter what. I am going to get it checked out tomorrow. It should be fine.”

Early indications are that Little was actually one of the lucky ones. Right tackle Adam Goldberg suffered what Linehan called a left knee sprain. But in the locker room after the game, Goldberg indicated he thought there might be a tear and there’s a chance he could miss an extended period.

Brandon Gorin replaced Goldberg at right tackle and it appears yet another line combination will take its place in front of Bulger next week one way or another.

Linebacker Raonall Smith suffered an injury similar to Goldberg’s, only it was his right knee. He left the game after a special teams play and did not return.

Strong safety Corey Chavous suffered a pectoral injury that is being called a strain but could be worse and cause him to miss time as well.

Receiver Isaac Bruce suffered a left hamstring strain. It didn’t appear to be as serious as the others, but he will be evaluated Monday as well.

The most serious injuries belong to Smith, Goldberg and Chavous. All three will likely miss extended time with the possibility of season ending ailments.

Dane Looker, meanwhile, suffered maybe the scariest of the injuries as he has swelling in his leg that could cut off circulation. He stayed behind to spend the night at the Baylor University medical center as a precautionary measure.

All told, it would be hard to find a team in the league with more injuries to more important players. And though Linehan still won’t use it as an excuse, it’s easy to see why the Rams are struggling to find their first win.

“"I'’m sick and tired of losing,”" Linehan said. “"I think everybody else in our locker room would tell you the same. Injuries seem to be a part of the game that we have had our share of but we have got to find ways to win football games."

“"If you guys had about five hours, I could give you a whole bunch of excuses, but we are not going to go there. We have to find a solution to the problem.”"

DONNIE’S DAY: If there’s one area the Rams don’t need to find a solution to a problem it is at the punter position for it appears they have finally found the leg for the long term they have needed since arrival in St. Louis.

Donnie Jones has quietly pieced together an excellent season, but just how good he has been was not on full display until Sunday’s game.

With the offense struggling, Jones got plenty of chances to showcase his talent.

“"Each week I go to practice and work game situations,”" Jones said. “"Ultimately Sunday is a test and you go out and just execute. Punting the ball is about field position. You try to give your team the best possible field position to work with.”"

Jones finished the game with eight attempts for 442 yards, an average of 55.3 per attempt with a net average of 44.6. He pinned the Cowboys inside the 20 on four occasions (one of which started at the Dallas 1 and another that was dead at the Dallas 2) and had a long of 66 yards.

FIRST THINGS FIRST: Rookie running back Brian Leonard made his starting debut as an NFL back Sunday with mixed results.

By all accounts, Leonard ran well and ran hard on his way to a 58-yard performance on 16 carries. He added a catch for a yard.

Linehan praised Leonard’s effort in the game’s aftermath, but Leonard was his own biggest critic.

"“I made some rookie mistakes,"” Leonard said. "“I have to go back and look at film and get coached up on it. As a whole, I think I did all right, but it wasn’t good enough to win so it’s nothing.”"

RAM BITS: Inactives for the Rams on Sunday were Hill, Jackson, Incognito, linebacker Tim McGarigle, offensive lineman Jeremy Parquet, defensive tackle Louis Leonard, tight end Dominique Byrd and third quarterback Marques Hagans

Dante Hall’s 85-yard punt return for a touchdown was the first by a Ram since Dre Bly on Dec. 15, 2002 and the first return of any kind for a score since Chris Johnson brought a kickoff back against Seattle in 2005

Kicker Jeff Wilkins’ missed from 28 yards out in the first half was his first miss inside 30 yards since the season finale on Jan. 1, 2006 (the last game of the 2005 season).