Rams open against Super Bowl champs Print
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Thursday, 11 September 2008 11:37
NFL Headline News

 ST. LOUIS (AP) -The St. Louis Rams' final two home games in 2007 had the feel of neutral-site matchups, or worse. Packers and Steelers fans scooped up thousands of unwanted tickets and rooted the visitors on to victory.
For Sunday's home opener against the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, given a dismal opener that was another massive turnoff, the Rams might once again be the foil rather than the featured attraction.
There's no telling what type of reception players might expect after a 38-3 drubbing in Philadelphia in last week's opener brought back bitter memories of a dismal 3-13 season in which the franchise nearly hit rock bottom.
Heck, quarterback Marc Bulger said, if he was a paying customer he might boo the Rams himself.
``I want our fans behind us. I've been here and I know they're great fans, but we have to play better for them to be behind us,'' Bulger said. ``If we come out and play flat, it's a fan's right.
the same thing, getting on us.''
The Giants (1-0) might be the perfect franchise to bring out that bile.
Counting their Super Bowl upset over the New England Patriots, they set an NFL single-season record with 11 straight wins away from home in 2007. They're coming off an impressive defensive performance in a 16-7 opening victory over the Redskins at home. They're well-rested, getting an extra three days off after opening the NFL season on Sept. 4.
Included in the run, which began after a 45-35 setback at Dallas in the 2007 season opener, was a victory over the Dolphins last October in London. Coach Tom Coughlin emphasizes to players the importance of team unity in success away from the comfort zone.
``When we go on the road it's obvious that the only people that care about you are those that are with you, and you have to be supportive of each other,'' Coughlin said. ``We've shown good mental toughness and good resiliency.
``We've fallen behind and we've battled back and we've hung in there and we've won games in the fourth quarter that were very difficult games.''
The Giants also realize this is a new season.
ng out what has to be the best in you.''
The Giants' road warrior mind-set is not lost on Rams coach Scott Linehan.
``They play great on the road and they just have a knack of just tuning it out and getting the job done,'' Linehan said. ``That's what everybody strives to be as a football team.''
The Giants know better than to take the Rams lightly, no matter how vulnerable they appear to be. After reaching the summit, the Giants haven't forgotten all the games that could have gone either way.
``If you don't show up with your 'A' game, then not only are you going to lose, you will be embarrassed,'' quarterback Eli Manning said. ``We have to play the way we're capable of playing.''
Linehan, just 11-22 in his third season, still has high hopes for a turnaround season even after getting shellacked at Philadelphia. The Rams were a total mess in the opener they had months to prepare for - mustering only eight first downs, going 0-for-11 on third down and committing six false start penalties on offense, and surrendering five plays of 25 or more yards on defense.
After Week 1 they're dead last in the NFL in total defense and pass defense, and next-to-last in total offense and rushing offense. Wide receiver Drew Bennett was lost for at least a month with a broken foot in the opening offensive series, and top pass rusher Leonard Little injured his hamstring in the first defensive series.
Holt, a seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, had only one reception.
``He didn't have a real productive day last week, and neither did anybody else,'' Linehan said.
Watching a replay of that game, Manning said the Eagles' defense had an uncanny knack of anticipating and countering whatever the Rams might try.
The Giants had their struggles on offense in the opener, scoring only one touchdown while settling for three field goals. More problematic for the Rams is coping with their pressure style of defense similar to the Eagles. The Redskins totaled only 209 yards, 43 more than the Rams, and were dominated physically by a team that did not miss two ends who were keys to their Super Bowl run, Osi Omenyiora (injured) and Michael Strahan (retired).
Somehow, Linehan is excited that the home opener ``is going to be just what the doctor ordered,'' while noting that the first game is just one game.
``There's no saying that you can't go out in this league each week and turn things completely around,'' Linehan said. ``I think the biggest thing is the improvement you make from Week 1 to Week 2.
``Hopefully, we can turn the tide.''

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