Rams' woes continue under Spagnuolo
Now 10-35 under coach
Originally published December 13, 2011 at 10:35 p.m., updated December 13, 2011 at 11:59 p.m.
ST. LOUIS (AP) — After their 30-13 loss in Seattle on Monday night, the struggles continue for the St. Louis Rams.
The NFL's lowest-scoring team, zeroing in on its fourth top two draft pick in five seasons, has a short week before Cincinnati (7-6) arrives on Sunday.
Coach Steve Spagnuolo, who's 2-11 this season and 10-35 in three seasons, noted that along with the physical pounding, there are emotional bruises to address as well.
Spagnuolo said on Tuesday he's not worried about his future, just about getting ready for the Bengals.
"My focus is on Cincinnati. That's how I operate," Spagnuolo said. "I just believe that's the way you do it in this league, and to get any further than that is an injustice to the people that you're working for."
Spagnuolo believes players are still giving their best.
"There are a lot of things we have to overcome, but we've got to overcome them," Spagnuolo said. "We're not going to use any excuses, we've got to find a way to win."
Injuries have compounded the woes of a team that had a slim margin when healthy. Three offensive linemen are on injured reserve, making it even tougher to get first downs, let alone touchdowns, and the top three cornerbacks are on injured reserve.
Given those setbacks, running back Steven Jackson said it's unfair to say the team has regressed.
"When you're shuffling a lineup trying to get guys to do things, and when you have to go back to Week 1 stuff and coaching that up, it stills you from trying to move forward," Jackson said.
Breakdowns on special teams and in play calling were especially costly in the Seattle loss.
The Seahawks targeted a recent roster addition on the blocked punt for the game's opening score, putting the Rams in an immediate hole. They also had two kickoff returns to midfield.
Trailing by 10 with 4:43 to go, Josh Brown had an onside kick that traveled just 7 yards, then lobbied for an unsuccessful challenge, asserting that a Seahawks player had touched the ball.
The offense has struggled all season. Besides being last in scoring they're the worst at third down efficiency, 30th in total yards and 31st in yards per play.
The Rams needed eight plays from the Seattle 1 to score in the second half. One of them was a spectacular whiff when quarterback Sam Bradford never got out of the gate on a bootleg call and was whistled for intentional grounding when Atari Bigby didn't commit on the fake.
"In my experience in this league and in football, eight times out of 10 I'll say, that ends up being a walk-in by the quarterback," Spagnuolo said. "And I know you guys have too," he added to reporters, "you've seen guys just walk in on that play."
Bradford said he wasn't surprised by the call, and like Spagnuolo thought he'd walk into the end zone.
Danario Alexander had a bad game with a false start on third-and-2 early in the third quarter, prompting Jackson to stalk away in anger, and dropped a pass in the end zone.
Hampered by the high left ankle sprain and the accompanying lack of practice time, Bradford was off his game again. He was just 12 for 29 for 193 yards, and has thrown only six touchdown passes all season.
"Just inconsistency," Bradford said. "It's just really hard to get a rhythm going when you don't establish the pass or the run. It seems like we're always fighting to do that throughout the game instead of doing it early."
Yet St. Louis trailed just 13-6 late in the third quarter before the defense buckled. Marshawn Lynch had just 28 yards on nine carries in the first half, but had 87 yards on 14 carries the rest of the way against the NFL's worst defense against the run.
"He's a good back and he deserves credit," defensive end Chris Long said. "But we missed a lot of tackles. They called a good game, and they just kept pounding the ball and eventually he broke some longer runs."
Injury concerns this week include the hard-hit cornerback spot, with Josh Gordy (oblique) day to day. Spagnuolo thought offensive tackle Mark LeVoir (groin) might not be available, and safety Craig Dahl (ankle) and tight end Stephen Spach (minor concussion) were also on the report.
Bradford was sore, but thought after the game that his mobility had been all right.
"Could I move as well as I did at the beginning of the year? Probably not," Bradford said. "I think that the ankle was good enough to go."
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