|Winless Rams have been hurting after halftime|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 01 November 2007 14:36|
As much as anything in a season long gone sour, though, that short rest period is a key ingredient in the St. Louis Rams' ongoing nightmare. The Rams are 0-8 and in the midst of the worst start in franchise history by two losses because they've been riddled with injuries, made just enough crucial mistakes to deep-six the toss-ups, and generally gotten trampled in the last two quarters.
``Putting points on the board, it's got to happen in both halves,'' coach Scott Linehan said. ``Second halves have been our downfall.
``That has not been something we've done well at all this year.''
The Rams led 14-3 against the Browns after the first quarter Sunday and the game was tied at 17 at the half, but they mustered only three points the rest of the way in a 27-20 loss. They've led at halftime in two other games, 10-7 over Carolina and 13-7 over the 49ers.
Even in the games they trailed at halftime, none were lost causes. The Buccaneers led by three, the Cowboys and Seahawks by seven, the Cardinals by four. The only exception was the Ravens, who led 13-0 at the break and won 22-3.
The point is, the last two quarters have been disasters.
Steven Jackson lost fumbles on consecutive carries in the opener against the Panthers, matching his turnover total from last season, and the Rams lost by 14. The Bucs buried the Rams in the second half, outscoring them 21-3. The Cowboys romped with a 21-point third quarter and Seattle had a 23-3 edge after halftime.
All told, the Rams have been outscored a whopping 131-36 in the second half. Of course, the first halves haven't been all that pretty either, or else the Rams wouldn't have the NFL's lowest scoring average of 12.4 points per game.
Prospects for the rest of the way likely hinge on the health of Jackson. The Rams opened with two quick touchdowns on Sunday with Jackson back after a monthlong absence with a torn groin and running hard, then fizzled when he left.
Linehan is hopeful Jackson will be back when the Rams return next weekend at New Orleans.
``It's obvious to everybody we're a much better team with No. 39 back in there, and I think a much more confident offensive team,'' Linehan said. ``We've still got to be able to do it without all the weapons, though, we've got to find ways to do it.''
Even with Jackson in there, the Rams have been at their best when Marc Bulger is taking a three-step drop and firing. That limits the damage from opposing pass rushers facing minimal resistance from an injury-ravaged line that has lost two starters for the year and is likely to lose a third, guard Richie Incognito, after a kneecap injury on Sunday.
``It's being in rhythm,'' Linehan said. ``Protect that football and play with confidence and tempo.''
Linehan's other big picture area for improvement, and perhaps saving his job, is better ball-hawking on defense. The Rams have an NFL-high 24 turnovers on offense, and the other side of the ball has not bailed them out nearly enough, trailing with league with a minus-13 turnover differential.
Last year the Rams were much more opportunistic on defense, limited turnovers on offense, and stayed, in Linehan's words, ``relatively healthy.''
One of the top disrupters on defense, end Leonard Little, has been hampered by a sprained big toe on his left foot that makes it difficult to push off on the pass rush. He visited a foot specialist during the bye for an injury that will eventually require surgery.
``Hopefully he can get through the season with it,'' Linehan said.
Perhaps the Rams' biggest challenge the rest of the way is fighting despair.
``As much as people say that you can deal with losing, you can't,'' tight end Randy McMichael said. ``It's one of those things where you have to keep plugging away.
``You can't get down because as soon as you do, it's going to get worse.''
Linehan is trying to view the situation as an extremely painful learning experience, while remaining optimistic that better times are ahead. In 2006 when he was the offensive coordinator with the Dolphins, they began the year 3-7 and then finished on a six-game winning streak.
``There have been big turnarounds in this league in the past, you can go back and see them,'' Linehan said. ``It's a tough challenge for us with the way things have gone, but if we can just hold on to playing the next game and getting some momentum from a win on the road, we can do a lot more things in this season than appear right now.''