TSX: Vets Helping Rams Youngsters
Chris Long (Getty/G Newman Lowrance)
Chris Long (Getty/G Newman Lowrance)
Special to GridIronGateway.com
Posted Nov 17, 2010


The Rams are one of the youngest teams in the NFL without a lot of veterans. But it's veterans like guard Adam Goldberg that know they have to keep showing the way to the younger players, especially after difficult losses like the overtime one to San Francisco Sunday.

The Rams knew how important the game was in the race for the NFC West title. So, it's up to veterans like Goldberg to continue spreading the message that despite the loss, the team's goal of winning the division can still be reached.

Said Goldberg, "Everything we wanted to do going into the season we have ahead of us to do."

The Rams are just one game behind Seattle, and one game ahead of Arizona and San Francisco in a division where two games separates first and last place.

Speaking of the young players, "especially the rookies," Goldberg said, "A lot of the rookies, especially the ones who played in the super-competitive BCS-type of conferences, they get one or two losses and their season, as far as they're concerned, is over.

"Well, here in the NFL, that's definitely not the case. Teams that go to the playoffs at 9-7 win the Super Bowl."

That happened in the NFC West two years ago when the Cardinals won the NFC West with a 9-7 record.

He concluded, "Hopefully the way we go about our business, the way we go about our preparation, the way we go about our practice will show these young guys that there's still a lot to be gained out there. We need to stay on our game and take care of our bodies and get in the film room and come out with our best against a great NFC opponent (Atlanta) that we're going to face this week.

"Any time you lose it gets to you. But the great part about the NFL season is you always know that you're seven days away from your next game. So we just kind of go by the 24-hour rule: We watch the film and correct what needs to be corrected, build off of the positive things, and then hopefully apply what we've learned to our next opponent.

"That's what we're doing. All eyes on Atlanta."

-- In the Rams' Oct. 24 loss, it was a third-and-16 play converted by the Buccaneers that led to an important field goal at the end of the first half and a last-minute drive that produced the winning touchdown.

It was more of the same Sunday against San Francisco, as the Rams couldn't stop the 49ers from converting on fourth-and-18 (following third-and-32), leading to the 49ers' go-ahead touchdown with 2:10 to play.

The Rams rallied to tie the game but lost in overtime, their eighth consecutive road loss in division games. The team's last NFC West road win was in San Francisco on Nov. 18, 2007.

Said cornerback Ron Bartell, "When you have a team third-and-forever, fourth-and-forever, for them to convert it and come back and get a touchdown -- that can't happen."

Added defensive end Chris Long, "Fourth-and-18. That really hurts."

Coach Steve Spagnuolo was also pointed in his comments, saying, "There's no excuse. That can't happen."

But it did, and the result was another excruciating road loss in a season in which the Rams have lost three road games by one, two and three points.

"There is nothing more frustrating," Spagnuolo said. "You never relax and all that. Again, a good quarterback got it to a really good back twice. I'm sure the defensive guys would say the same thing. Our guys will rally together. I know they feel it. We have to move on."

Big plays were the Rams' undoing on that drive and throughout the game. The 49ers had nine plays of 20 yards or more totaling 291 yards, and five plays of 30 yards or more totaling 201 yards. Those five plays accounted for 47.7 of their total yards (421), and the nine plays represented 69.1 percent.

San Francisco quarterback Troy Smith completed 17 of 28 passes for 356 yards, and 268 of those yards came on eight plays. Another 60 yards came on two pass interference penalties, including one for 22 yards that led to the game-winning field goal.

Said Spagnuolo, "I'm a little disappointed in all the big plays. Those will always kill you, especially when away. Again, they found a way to make more plays than we did and won the game."

"We had more big plays we gave up today than we did all year," Long said. "That's the difference. Really, that game falls squarely on our shoulders defensively."

On several plays, Smith was close to going down, but he either eluded the pass rush or passed while in the grasp.

"We knew he had real good scrambling ability," defensive end C.J. Ah You said. "It's real frustrating, especially when you think you've got him and he makes a good play down the field."

NOTES, QUOTES

-- There was some surprise when 5-foot-8 cornerback Kevin Dockery practiced as a starter during the week and then started instead of 6-foot Bradley Fletcher against the 49ers.

The 49ers went after that mismatch immediately. Quarterback Troy Smith hit tight end Vernon Davis for a 32-yard play on San Francisco's first play, and Smith connected with receiver Josh Morgan for 65 yards four plays later. The latter led to San Francisco's only touchdown of the first three quarters.

Said Dockery, "The first one, I (was) being a little too aggressive on the run. The second one, I thought the ball was going to be thrown outside, but he actually threw it inside and I kind of lost it."

After those plays, Fletcher played in the team's base defense.

Asked why Dockery started, coach Steve Spagnuolo said, "We've got a lot of competition in a lot of spots, to be honest. You know I'm of the thinking, the philosophy, that there should be competition all the way through. I think it makes guys play harder and better. So 'Dock' got his shot, and we'll see where it goes for this coming week."

-- The Rams were livid on the overtime pass interference whistled on safety Oshiomogho Atogwe that put the 49ers on the Rams' 23-yard line. The 49ers were at the Rams' 45-yard line facing third-and-2. The pass intended for tight end Delanie Walker appeared to be uncatchable, hitting the ground several yards from Walker, who collided with Atogwe. Three plays later, Joe Nedney kicked a 29-yard field goal to win the game for San Francisco.

Asked if he thought the pass was uncatchable, cornerback Ron Bartell said, "Yeah, yeah. ... I thought a couple of the pass-interference calls were questionable. At the end of the day, you have to play above officiating. We still had opportunities to make plays, and we didn't get it done."

Said Spagnuolo after the game, "I'm not going to comment on that. You have to play the next down based on the way they officiate it, and that's what we did."

On Monday, Spagnuolo still wouldn't acknowledge his true feelings about the call, but Atogwe did.

"I don't believe it was catchable," Atogwe said of the pass. "I was like, 'I can't believe he's calling it.'"

Asked about the contact, he said, "I wouldn't change anything. If I had to do it again, I would have covered him the same way."

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES

-- TE Fendi Onobun, who has been bothered by a back problem for a few weeks, was placed on injured reserve Tuesday to make room for TE Derek Schouman on the roster. Onobun had returned to practice on a limited basis last week, but it was unlikely that he would have contributed much in the final seven weeks of the season.

-- TE Derek Schouman was signed Tuesday to take the roster spot of TE Fendi Onobun, who was placed on injured reserve because of a back injury. Schouman was in training camp with the Bills, but was released with an injury settlement (knee) in early September.

-- QB Sam Bradford hasn't thrown an interception since late in the Oct. 10 game against Detroit. That's four full games and 138 consecutive passes. It's the longest streak for a rookie since Tampa Bay's Bruce Gradkowski had 147 straight in 2006. Chris Miller holds the Rams' club record with 146 consecutive passes without an interception.

-- RB Steven Jackson scored on a 13-yard run Sunday to give him 44 rushing touchdowns in his career. That moved him out of a third-place tie with Dan Towler on the team's all-time list. Marshall Faulk leads with 58, followed by Eric Dickerson with 56. Jackson is seventh in the NFL with 993 yards from scrimmage, and he also passed Henry Ellard to move into fourth place on the team's all-time list for combined yards from scrimmage. Jackson needs seven yards to become the 80th player in league history to reach 10,000 combined yards in a career.

-- WR Danny Amendola scored on a 5-yard pass against San Francisco to give him touchdowns in three consecutive games. The other two touchdowns were from two yards and five yards. His 19 third-down receptions this season is tied for the second-most in the NFL.

-- WR Brandon Gibson had eight receptions for 72 yards against San Francisco Sunday, which was a season high.

-- DE Chris Long shared two sacks with MLB James Laurinaitis Sunday, which gives him 5.5 sacks for the season and he has one sack in each of the last four games. Long leads the Rams with 13 pressures and 14 quarterback hits. He has combined with DE James Hall for 13 sacks, and the Rams' 28 sacks as a team is tied for the most in the NFL with Green Bay. Their 198 sack yards is tops in the league.

-- DE James Hall had a sack Sunday to give him 7.5 for the season, the second-most in a season in his career. Hall is tied for second in the NFL with four forced fumbles. He has combined with DE Chris Long for 13 sacks, and the Rams' 28 sacks as a team is tied for the most in the NFL with Green Bay. Their 198 sack yards is tops in the league.

-- MLB James Laurinaitis leads the team with 68 tackles, and has also added three sacks and four passes defensed.



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