Rams think they can win NFC West title
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Steve Spagnuolo preached patience in his first season as St. Louis Rams coach. Their 1-15 record earned them the first pick in the draft, which brought quarterback Sam Bradford, and there were stumbles that were often painful to watch.
The system is starting to click in Year 2. They're tied for first place in a weak NFC West at 2-2, featuring an always attacking defense that has forced 10 turnovers and an offense that already can lean a bit on Bradford and not just have Steven Jackson carry all the load.
Enthusiasm, long absent from Rams Park, is building after taking two straight wins for the first time since 2008.
"There is a sense of confidence in the locker room," Bradford said Monday, a day after a 20-3 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. "I think it's changed from Week 1 to now. It's totally different."
Players believe they can contend for the division title, and not just because other teams have been slipping.
"If we continue on the track we're on and we continue to improve each week, I think we can definitely compete for this division," Bradford said.
Spagnuolo doesn't mind the confident talk as long as players keep things in perspective and prepare just as diligently for this week's game at winless Detroit.
"I don't think there's anything wrong with it as long as it doesn't go too far the other way," Spagnuolo said. "As long as everybody continues to realize we have a lot to do and there's still a hunger."
The defense gave up two big plays in the first half, a 36-yard pass from Matt Hasselbeck to Brandon Stokley and a 28-yard flea-flicker from running back Michael Robinson to Leon Washington. But Seattle got only three points in the first half, and then was held to 83 yards and 0-for-6 third down efficiency the rest of the way. That was despite free safety Oshiomoghe Atogwe, the defensive captain, getting only a few snaps due to a deep thigh bruise.
James Hall had two sacks, giving him four in a three-game span, plus a tackle for loss. Fred Robbins was just as disruptive with a fumble recovery, two pass deflections and a tackle for loss. Bradley Fletcher batted down two passes in the secondary.
Play on the line alone was enough to keep Hasselbeck hopping.
"Anytime you get pressure on the quarterback with the front four, you don't have to blitz a lot," Robbins said. "We do our job up front, they do their job. We kept him rattled."
Bradford threw two touchdown passes for a personal-best 289 yards, yet saw plenty of room for improvement leading an offense that leaned heavier to the pass (41) than the run (28).
"I just felt like I missed some easy throws," Bradford said.
Spagnuolo said Jackson didn't believe he had any setbacks after playing through a groin strain. Jackson rushed for 70 yards, passing Marshall Faulk for second on the franchise career rushing list.
"He'd probably tell you he wasn't 100 percent, but he was certainly good enough," Spagnuolo said.
The Rams won by 17 despite some curious play-calling at the end of each half. Perhaps shaken by Bradford's end zone interception earlier in the game, they turned down a shot at a touchdown and let about 10 seconds run off before taking a field goal for a 10-3 lead in the first half.
On fourth-and-goal from the Seattle 7 and 1:10 to play, they went for the touchdown instead of kicking a field goal and Bradford was sacked.
On the latter, Spagnuolo said he wasn't trying to run up the score against a team he'll have to face again this year, simply trying to make it a four score cushion.
"If you go to 23, it's still a three-possession game," Spagnuolo said. "We were trying to get it to four."
Cornerback Kevin Dockery had the most significant injury, getting 13 stitches on his head after getting stomped on by punter Jon Ryan on a foiled fake field goal, then reinjuring his right hamstring later in the game. Spagnuolo said Dockery might be out two weeks.
Defensive tackle Gary Gibson has shoulder soreness and may undergo an MRI exam if it persists Tuesday. Punter Donnie Jones strained the calf of his kicking leg in warmups, but pinned the Seahawks six times inside the 20.
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