Monday, October 13, 2008

Haslett takes huge first step away from Linehan Era


So THAT is why Rams owner Chip Rosenbloom finally made a coaching change.

Given some real leadership for a change, the previously winless Rams responded with a hard-fought 19-17 victory at Washington.

Interim coach Jim Haslett got the Rams to do things Scott Linehan could not. In a messy game marked by mishaps and mistakes, the Rams fought to the final gun.

And Josh Brown’s 49-yard field goal as time expired gave them the upset.

“They deserved to win,” Haslett told Rams Radio shortly after the game. “There was a little bit different atmosphere out there this week. They practiced hard . . . I know they worked their butts off this week. They deserved to win.

The Rams went into one of the most hostile environments in the NFL and faced one of the league’s toughest teams to this point of the season. They were huge underdogs.

But they responded with a startling effort. This were the same Rams which lost 17 of 20 games with a rotating cast of disinterested players.

They forged a 10-7 halftime lead with spirited defensive play. The Redskins hadn’t committed an offensive turnover all season, but the Rams forced three during the first half.

Rookie defensive end Chris Long pounced on a fumble. So did cornerback Jason Craft.

Safety O.J. Atogwe scooped up a fumble (which Pisa Tinoisamoa forced) and raced 75 yards for a touchdown.

These plays offset an early Steven Jackson fumble, which handed the Redskins their first TD of the game.

“We had a bunch of bad stuff happen to us,” Haslett said. “But I said, ‘Who cares, we’re winning.’ Our guys fought hard, played hard. I challenged them at halftime and they responded.”

Leonard Little forced another Redskins fumble, stripping quarterback Jason Campbell of the ball from the back side, but Washington got that one back.

That play forced the Redskins to punt from their own end zone, though, and it led to Brown’s third field goal of the game.

Washington fought back to take a late 17-16 lead, but, against all odds, the sputtering Rams offense responded in the final two minutes of the game.

Jackson set the tone by running hard. He pulled himself together nicely after his disastrous start.

Then rookie receiver Donnie Avery made a tremendous adjustment on Marc Bulger’s desperate 43-yard heave on the final possession. He came back for the ball and made a difficult catch, trapping the ball to his chest with one hand.

That is why the Rams made him the first receiver taken in the 2008 draft.

“Donnie is kind of a poised kid,” Haslett said. “Nothing bothers him. He has the ability to make big plays.”

That clutch play set up Brown’s winning field goal, although Richie Incognito made it interesting with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for swearing at the officials.

During the Linehan Era, that 15-yard loss would have cost the Rams the game. That is just way things went for the Not So Great Scott.

This time, though, a fired-up Brown nailed the kick to win the game and give Rams a reason to care about the rest of this season.

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