Monday, October 26, 2009

Colts blow out Rams 42-6

October 25, 10:31 PMSt. Louis Rams ExaminerTim Klutsarits
This afternoon at the Dome it was a tale of two teams going in two obviously different directions. The Indianapolis Colts defeated the St. Louis Rams 42-6 but that is not indicative of how far apart these two teams are from each other. The Rams have so far to go to even become competitive with a team like the Colts that it truly makes you wonder how many years of rebuilding are left before they get to that point? The mirages are what happened in Jacksonville last weekend. The reality is what happened at the Dome this Sunday to the Colts.

To me what happened at the Dome is a stark reminder to everyone with an objective viewpoint at Rams Park that the gap is not close but is very wide between where the Rams are and where they need to be. There will be people who want to blast Steve Spagnuolo for being too Pollyanna-ish this season with his players. The truth is no matter how much the public might want to see him flog his players in public it is not going to make this team play at the Colts level. It is simply not possible at this point and that was very clear today.

There will be lots of debate at a later date as to where the franchise goes from here. Clearly there is going to have to be a huge turnover on this roster and it has begun. What today does do is prove to some of the unrealistic public that the Rams aren't one or two moves away from being back in the playoff hunt. It also makes certain that the Rams front office and coaching staff is not fooled into believing that same myth. It is going to be a long road back to respectability, much less winning football games. Bigger changes are still needed and have to come. Today proved that.

Here are some other thoughts about this afternoon's Rams game....

Steven Jackson: I don't know what else he can possibly do to win a game for the Rams. He ran as hard as any running back I have ever witnessed in a St. Louis uniform, including Marshall Faulk and Ottis Anderson. I have said this before and I will say it again, he is most likely wasting his career in St. Louis. He is one of the few players on the roster that deserves to be here when it turns around. I hope that he will see that day. It is tough to pick on someone who rushed for 134 yards this afternoon but if there is a knock that I have on Jackson today, and I don't know what the answer to this, but I question why he was not on the field in the 3rd quarter when it was 21-3. He rattled off runs of 12, 11 and 13 in successive snaps. After that he was on the sidelines as the Rams offense stalled out on the next 2 plays. I don't know which thought is worse. I don't think Jackson was injured. I hope it wasn't some bizarre offensive package or Jackson being gassed after running three long plays. Either of those causes has to make you raise an eyebrow. In the scheme of things it isn't the difference in the game but I do think if the Rams get it to 21-10 in that situation it at least makes the Colts think a little more in the second half instead of the layup drill that game turned into.

Marc Bulger: I know that he gets a lot of the blame for why the Rams are bad, and I am not one of those guys who thinks he is the worst quarterback to ever play in the NFL, but he was awful today. His mechanics were bad. His decisions were poor and he has got to do a better job. I know his receivers are the worst in the league and the play calling is suspect at times but he can't be as bad as he looked today. This is probably it for Bulger in St. Louis so he better be showing off his talents over the final 9 games for whichever NFL team is going to pick him up for 2010.

Jason Smith: Everyone in the world saw Smith get crushed by Dwight Freeney and while that is embarrassing I consider that a good sign. He needs to be in there against the best, at LEFT TACKLE, and learn. The future of the Rams offensive line resides in #77 and it is time for the learning curve to increase. Freeney took him to the woodshed today but it is going to be a good learning experience. Put Smith at left tackle and stop messing with Alex Barron over there.

Chris Long: This one is starting to look like more and more of a bust every day. My thought at the beginning of the year was that Chris Long was going to make a big leap forward in year two and become a force. As the year has progressed I lowered my expectations and thought he was going to develop into a decent defensive end in 2009. Now I am wondering if he is ever going to develop into a useful player in the league. He has created nothing this year and is not a force. I don't know what is going to change and that is the scary part. The scheme isn't going to change over the next 3 years with Spagnuolo. The talent around him theoretically might but when you are second overall pick you should be the one making players better around you. Clearly that is not happening with Long.

Tim Carter: I never understood the signing of Carter to begin with. I didn't get the resigning of Carter after camp and I don't get why he is still on the field. The Rams traded for a wide receiver this week and when you are 0-7 and have wide receivers who have been here making mistakes there is no reason not to have Brandon Gibson on the field on Sunday in Detroit.

Peyton Manning: It was awesome seeing someone as good as Manning work the field on Sunday. He was in total control of what was going on in the game and he is one of the best to ever play the position. I hope the Rams compare the measurables that Manning has and apply that to whichever quarterback of the future they are going to find in the offseason.

The Rams fall to 0-7 and have now lost a ridiculous 17 in a row. They will have a chance next Sunday in Detroit to break that streak. Hope is not lost but reality smacked the Rams in the face today. The goal is not to become better then the Jaguars or the Lions. The goal is to become like the Colts. Lesson hopefully learned.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Scobee’s field goal in OT gives Jags 23-20 win

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP)—Torry Holt(notes) got a number of wins with the St. Louis Rams. Now he has one against them.

Holt had 101 yards receiving in his first game against his former team, Maurice Jones-Drew(notes) ran for 133 yards and three touchdowns and the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Rams 23-20 in overtime Sunday.

Josh Scobee(notes) provided the winner, a 36-yard field goal with 8 minutes to play in the extra frame.

St. Louis (0-6) extended the NFL’s longest current losing streak to 16 games. The Rams had two shots at snapping the skid. They took a 17-13 lead with 4:36 remaining on Leonard Little’s(notes) 36-yard interception return for a score, but couldn’t stop the Jaguars (3-3) on the ensuing drive.

St. Louis got near the goal line in the final seconds, but settled for a tying field goal. The Jaguars won the toss, made a few plays and got Scobee in position for the winner.

Holt rushed the field to celebrate with teammates, then found himself surrounded by Rams players and coaches. He exchanged countless handshakes and hugs before eventually walking off the field with longtime friends.

Jones-Drew, though, earned the game ball from coach Jack Del Rio.

Just days after complaining about play-calling and the team’s lack of offensive identity, Jones-Drew carried a career-high 33 times. Maybe he spoke up at halftime, too. He had just eight carries for 11 yards at the break, but ran for 122 in the second half and overtime.

His effort helped Jacksonville rebound from its worst loss in Del Rio’s seven seasons. Seattle thumped the Jaguars 41-0 last week.

The Jaguars were much sharper Sunday, albeit against the Rams.

David Garrard(notes) completed 30 of 43 passes for 335 yards. He also ran for 31 yards. But he threw two interceptions and was sacked three times.

Mike Sims-Walker(notes), a week after getting benched for violating curfew, caught nine passes for 120 yards.

Marc Bulger(notes), back in the starting lineup after missing two games because of a bruised shoulder, completed 22 of 30 passes for 213 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. Steven Jackson had 50 yards rushing and 78 receiving.

Jackson’s biggest play came late in regulation.

The Rams trailed 20-17 and had just one timeout, but Bulger found Jackson open in the flat for a 38-yard gain. A few passes later, and St. Louis had first-and-goal at the 9.

Bulger spiked the ball to stop the clock and threw it away on second down. With 7 seconds left—maybe enough time for one more throw to the end zone— coach Steve Spagnuolo turned to Josh Brown(notes). He kicked a 27-yard field goal with 4 seconds remaining.

Jacksonville safety Reggie Nelson(notes) bobbled the ensuing kickoff, then fell on it as time expired.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Practice squad carousel: Rams sign 2, cut 2

St. Louis Post-Dispatch The St. Louis Rams didn’t wait until Tuesday to tweak their roster this week. On Monday, the team added defensive tackle Chris Bradwell and linebacker K.C. Asiodu to the practice squad.

Bradwell signed with Tampa Bay in 2008 as an undrafted free agent out of Troy, and spent part of ‘08 on the Buccaneers’ practice squad. He’s 6-5, 280.

Asiodu was with the Rams in training camp and the preseason, and was on the practice squad for the first week of the ‘09 regular season.

To make room for Asiodu and Bradwell, the Rams released linebacker Lamar Myles and nose tackle Adrian Grady from the practice squad. Grady and Myles lasted just one week in St. Louis.

The Rams also had wide receiver Jordan Kent, a former Seattle Seahawks draft pick, in for a visit.

Spagnuolo makes it clear: Bulger is the No. 1 quarterback

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Coach Steve Spagnuolo made it crystal clear Monday: There will be no quarterback controversy at Rams Park. At least not this week.

Marc Bulger and Kyle Boller are both a little banged-up. Bulger is recovering from the shoulder injury he suffered Sept. 27 vs. the Packers and Boller sustained what Spagnuolo termed a “mild concussion” in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 38-10 home loss to the Vikings.

But even if both show up for practice Wednesday in the pink of health, there will be no competition for the starting job. “Marc’s the quarterback,” Spagnuolo said unequivocally.

Boller started the last two games after Bulger went down. On Sunday, he guided the offense on three drives deep into Vikings territory, but each was scuttled by a turnover. He also lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown and threw an interception in the end zone.

After Boller was hurt, Bulger hit on all seven of his passes, including a 27-yard TD to WR Donnie Avery. Granted, Bulger was going against Minny’s defensive reserves.

“We have the luxury of two guys who know how to manage the game, two guys that the offense has confidence in,” Spagnuolo said. But make no mistake: If he’s ready, Bulger will start Sunday in Jacksonville.

Notes & quotes:

*DT Gary Gibson is done for the season after breaking his left ankle Sunday.

*The other injuries were minor: DE Chris Long (chest), TE Daniel Fells (neck), CB Justin King (bruised knee).

*Spagnuolo said S James Butler (knee) and T Jason Smith (knee) will be day-to-day. Smith dressed Sunday but didn’t play.

*In one of his best games, LT Alex Barron held Pro Bowl DE Jared Allen without a sack or a quarterback hit.

*Without Gibson, Spagnuolo indicated that the Rams might go with a three-man rotation up front, or retain their four-man rotation by adding someone, perhaps fourth-round draftee Darell Scott.

*WR Donnie Avery said he apologized to the team for his ill-timed, fourth-quarter end-zone dance following his TD catch. The Rams were trailing by 21 points at the time. “I wasn’t real fond of it,” Spagnuolo said.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Rams fall to San Francisco 49ers

SAN FRANCISCO — The formula for victory couldn't have been more clear-cut for
the Rams entering Sunday's game at Candlestick Park. Against a San Francisco
squad that featured a snarling defense, but a pedestrian offense, the surest
path to an upset victory was to minimize mistakes, take care of the football
and don't give up anything cheap.

Alas, the Rams did just the opposite. On a day when the defense played spirited
football and Steven Jackson ran as hard as humanly possible, the Rams
gift-wrapped three touchdowns for the 49ers and seemingly made more mistakes
than humanly possible.

The result was another sobering dose of humiliation, a 35-0 shellacking that
left the Rams at 0-4 this season and extended their franchise-record losing
streak to 14 games. The Rams have been outscored by an astounding 108-24 this
season. They are as painful to watch as ever. Yes, the defense is more
competitive, but that's more than negated by an offense that isn't — Jackson's
work notwithstanding.

There was no fire and brimstone from coach Steve Spagnuolo after the loss. No
calling out of players. Just lots of disappointment.

"I am disappointed in the loss," Spagnuolo said. "I'm disappointed in how it
happened. I'm disappointed that we weren't able to play a better football game
— that the score was what it was. I'm not discouraged, just disappointed in the
way it went."

Defensive tackle Clifton Ryan, who has played some of his best football the
past two weeks, made an unusual postgame plea.

"I'm asking our fans to be patient," Ryan said. "I'm asking you guys in the
media to be patient. We can't turn it around overnight. It's going to be a work
in progress.

"When the Rams first got here they won the Super Bowl and went to two Super
Bowls — a lot of success in their first 10 years. I think our fans and the
media got real spoiled.

"But we're going to get it back because we've got a lot of young guys dedicated
to getting this show back on the road, and getting this franchise back to being
one of the top franchises in this league."

As sincere as Ryan's comments were, patience is in short supply in Rams Nation.
This franchise has lost 31 of its past 36 games, and despite an offseason in
which the mantra seemingly was blow it all up, things don't seem to be getting
any better at the quarter pole of the 2009 season.

"It hurts me, and it hurts all these guys to lose 14 straight," Ryan said.
"Because we work real hard and we take pride in the product we put on the
field. I don't want you guys to think that this is not important to us. It's
very important to us. We're hurting inside.

"We deserve so much more, as a team, as a city, and as a franchise. Because we
put a lot of hard work and dedication into playing each and every Sunday."

But it takes more than hard work and dedication to win in the NFL, where the
difference between winning and losing usually is paper thin. It takes
execution. It takes focus. It takes playmakers. So far the Rams have been
totally lacking in those areas.

Mistake after mistake after mistake continues to kill the team.

For starters, Danny Amendola returned the opening kickoff 92 yards to the San
Francisco 3. "I was pretty pumped," Amendola said. "It put us in good field

But the play was negated on a holding call on Anthony Smith, the former Green
Bay Packer playing in his first game for the Rams.

Misfortune turned to disaster late in the second quarter of a scoreless game
when San Francisco punter Andy Lee sent a short punt deep into Rams territory.
The ball bounced off Quincy Butler, who was blocking on the play with his back
to the ball, and caromed past return man Amendola into the end zone.

"I felt the ball hit me, it hit me in the back of my leg," Butler said. "I
tried to run and go get it. But things didn't turn out my way."

Butler compounded the problem by trying to scoop the ball up in the end zone
instead of falling on it. He failed to field it cleanly, and 49ers linebacker
Scott McKillop fell on the ball for a touchdown and a 7-0 San Francisco lead
with 5 minutes, 27 seconds left in the half.

"I thought about falling on it," Butler said. "But my first reaction was just
to pick it up and try to kick it out of the end zone or something."

But there was no need to do so. By league rule, since the original contact was
inadvertent, the play would've been merely a touchback — and not a safety — had
Butler merely fallen on the ball in the end zone.

The St. Louis mistakes weren't just limited to special teams. Four penalties
against the offense kept the Rams from getting on track despite 49 first-half
rushing yards from Jackson.

One of those penalties, an illegal formation penalty against left tackle Alex
Barron, wiped out a 19-yard reception by Amendola to the San Francisco 17 with
1:21 to play in the first half. The penalty backed the Rams up to the 41,
ending that scoring threat — and ending Barron's day. He was benched in favor
of John Greco.

"I just felt it was something we needed to do at that particular point,"
Spagnuolo said.

The floodgates opened in the third quarter when the 49ers used the short field
to march 48 yards for a TD, and then Kyle Boller's errant pass was intercepted
by linebacker Pat Willis and returned 23 yards for a TD. The 'Niners scored a
second defensive TD early in the fourth quarter when defensive tackle Ray
McDonald returned a botched handoff from Boller to Amendola on an end-around 11
yards for a score.