|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 Sundays 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 cant come close to matching the speed, strength and electricity Jackson provides. Nor can many other backs in the league.
When hes in there, you can see were 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 hasnt called recess just yet. Hes 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: Its 50-50 on the bye week; we can keep pushing or take a week to reflect. Either way, weve 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 didnt make any plays on the ball, Brown said.
>>Needing 6 inches on fourth down against the NFLs 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 wouldnt 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 29, 2007
Monday, October 22, 2007
Monday, October 15, 2007
Its 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, Id like to make two overriding points.
The local NFL souvenir shops dont sell magic wands. The Rams are 0-6 and
riddled with injuries. Coach Scott Linehan hasnt found many answers, but
hiring an ex-coach from the broadcast booth isnt 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 shouldnt 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
The difference between 4-2 and 0-6 isnt 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 wont 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 Miklaszs advice. The current
way of running this football operation does not work. John Shaw and Jay Zygmunt
really want to win - and thats 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
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
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Monday, Oct. 08 2007
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'
"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
By Nick Wagoner
IRVING , Tex. While coach Scott Linehan and Co. are quick to dismiss injuries as a reason for the teams early season struggles, its 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 Sundays 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 thats 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 wasnt 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 dont 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 theres 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 Goldbergs, 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 didnt 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 wont use it as an excuse, its 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."
DONNIES DAY: If theres one area the Rams dont 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 Sundays 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 Leonards effort in the games 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 wasnt good enough to win so its 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 Halls 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).