– The Rams wrapped up their week of preparation for Sunday’s game in Seattle with their final practice of the week on Friday morning.
– Coach Steve Spagnuolo was pleased with the business-like approach of his team all week. After preaching that his team won’t change how they approach things just because the NFC West Division is on the line, Spagnuolo believes he got exactly the type of focus and attitude he wanted from his team this week.
– At the same time, Spagnuolo was also pleased with how loose his team was. Defensive players played the jersey game today, exchanging jerseys and confusing everyone on Friday. That’s a good sign this team isn’t too tight headed to the weekend.
– On the injury front, it appears there’s a chance that TE Michael Hoomanawanui could be available on Sunday. He practiced on a limited basis again Friday and a decision will be made on him closer to game time. Of course, with a Sunday night game, he’ll have a bit more time to recover as well. He’s going to be listed as questionable officially.
– CB Jerome Murphy (broken pinkie finger) is fine and expected to go against the Seahawks.
– Keep an eye on WR Danario Alexander this week. He got 43 snaps last week against San Francisco and was awfully involved in practice this week. He’s feeling healthier every day.
– Heading into a game in which it seems the Rams have advantages in many matchups, one area that figures to be of utmost importance is special teams.
“We’ve had a number of teams…it just seems like everybody we play has a returner with that kind of capability,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “You certainly saw one last week. Some games we’ve done better than most, but we certainly need the special teams guys to rise up and play pretty good. When you have a guy like that that can change the game in one play, we’re talking a lot about it. We’ve got a lot of respect for them.”
– While Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck has not been practicing this week, the Rams have to take it with a grain of salt. Against KC a couple weeks ago, it appeared Matt Cassel wouldn’t be ready to go. Then he played and led the Chiefs to a victory.
“Thanks for reminding me of that,” Spagnuolo said. “We didn’t know going into that game, did we? And he sure played pretty well. We’ll just try to make sure that whatever quarterback shows up, we can do a decent job on defense.”
– That’s going to do it for this week. I’ll have updates if there’s any news before Sunday night but if not, be sure to follow along with the running blog on Sunday night for updates before, during and after the game.
– And let me add this: Enjoy this one, Rams fans. It’s been a long time since the Rams have played in a game of this magnitude and things look like they’re only going to get better moving forward. So savor this one because you never know when the next opportunity is going to come along.
– Happy New Year, Rams fans. Thanks for reading all year long.
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– The Rams completed their Thursday practice after going outside for all of it in anticipation of the cold and rainy conditions they expect in Seattle on Sunday.
– Perhaps the best news of the day was the return to practice by TE Michael Hoomanawanui. The rookie from Illinois has been battling back from a sprained ankle and returned to the practice field on Thursday, albeit in a limited capacity.
– Still, Hoomanawanui did enough to at least build some confidence that he could be available to play Sunday.
“Mike did a good job today,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. “He got a limited amount of reps, and the stuff that we did with him, he seemed to be able to function. Obviously Coach (Spagnuolo) will make the final decision on what happens with Mike, but as far as today goes, it’s promising.”
– CB Jerome Murphy was upgraded from limited participation to full participation with a broken pinkie finger. He’s expected to play Sunday.
– Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck did not practice again on Thursday. Signs continue to point toward his being out this week though nothing is certain.
– The Rams will practice tomorrow, hitting on red zone and short yardage before heading to Seattle on Saturday morning.
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– The Rams wrapped up practice Wednesday as they begin preparation for Sunday’s battle in Seattle for the NFC West Division crown.
– For the past few weeks, the Rams have been indoors for practice because of weather and because they’ve played in domed stadiums each of the past four weeks.
– This week, though, it figures to be cold and rainy on the outdoor track at Qwest Field. As such, the Rams went outside for the first time in the past few weeks to practice Wednesday. It was rainy and cold and the Rams only did the first portion of the workout outdoors but moved inside about halfway through.
“From what I’ve heard, that’s what the weather in Seattle is going to be like, so I guess it was good to go outside,” quarterback Sam Bradford said. “If it were up to me, we’d be inside all the time, but I think it was good for us to go outside. We haven’t gone outside in a couple of weeks now. We’ve played in domes for the past couple of weeks, so to go out there and practice in the cold and in the wet, I think it was good for us today.”
– On the injury front, the Rams had very little to report.
– TE Michael Hoomanawanui (ankle) worked mostly on the side with head athletic trainer Reggie Scott. He was listed as limited though coach Steve Spagnuolo is hopeful he’ll be able to practice Thursday.
– CB Jerome Murphy has a broken pinkie finger but played through it with a wrap and is expected to be fine for Sunday.
– For Seattle, LB Lofa Tatupu and QB Matt Hasselbeck were names of note on the injury report. Neither participated in Wednesday’s practice. Neither did K Olindo Mare and WR Brandon Stokley.
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– Rams HC Steve Spagnuolo just wrapped up his Monday afternoon news conference and he already seems focused in on Seattle though he also acknowledged how excited he is about the challenge.
– As you loyal readers know, the “Wrapping Up” blog is usually intended to put the finishing touches on the game that just happened. There will be some of that today but let’s face it, it’s all about this week for the Rams. If you’re a fan, you have to be excited about what this week will bring.
– Before we dive into that, let’s run through the (short) injury list for the week.
– TE Michael Hoomanawanui is going to work to get back this week. Spagnuolo said the Rams were “hopeful” he’d be able to return to action but there was no guarantee. He will work with head athletic trainer Reggie Scott on Wednesday and then the Rams hope to have him back in the mix in time for Thursday’s practice.
– CB Jerome Murphy has a broken left pinkie but is expected to be OK to simply wrap it up and play this week against the Seahawks.
– DE Chris Long made it through the game on his bruised thigh just fine and should be ready to go for a full week of practice though it’s possible he could take it easy for safety’s sake.
– DE Eugene Sims had his injured knee examined further and it was revealed to be just a bruise. He should also be OK moving forward.
– Other than that, the Rams will have their full complement of players for the biggest game of the season.
– Now, the last time the Rams won a playoff game, they did it in Seattle at the end of the 2004 season. They went to Qwest Field and knocked off the Seahawks in the wild card round. This week, they’ll have to do the same if they want to make it to that round.
– Coincidentally, that was also the last time the Rams won in Seattle. Let’s hope it’s a good omen for the Rams.
– For those that like history of that sort, it’s also interesting that the last time the Rams had to win a game in the last week to get into the playoffs, it was that season against the Jets in the final week. The date of that game? Jan. 2, 2005. The date of this week’s game? Jan. 2, 2011.
– On Monday, Spagnuolo discussed the primetime game and gave his usual, stoic answer about it not mattering when or where the game is because it’s all the same sport…
“Primetime? We’ll be lining up and playing the game between the white lines and away we go. I guess the lights will be on instead of the sun so I don’t think that will make any difference. We’re always ready.”
– The Rams will not be adjusting their travel schedule at all. They will travel on Saturday afternoon to Seattle and get in around the same time they normally would. The only change is a little different game day because of the wait for the game. But other than that, it will be business as usual.
– Spagnuolo said things won’t change much even on game day, too. They might do a little something Sunday morning for a few minutes but he doesn’t want to stray from what has worked this season.
– One thing Spagnuolo did address Monday was the so called “conservative approach” of the offense at the end of the game and after jumping out to a lead. Spagnuolo said he often dictates the way that goes and he says the approach is based on the game and its ebb and flow. It just so happened that in Sunday’s game, he believed in his defense and its ability to get the job done.
“There may be another game going forward here where we’ll do it differently. That’s all on me. I’ll take the full “blame” if there is blame when you put it that way.”
– A couple of quick notes from the coaches’ evaluation of film…
– DE James Hall was credited with two sacks after getting 1.5 in yesterday’s breakdown. That brings his total to 10.5 for the year.
– The other two sacks were credited to Fred Robbins and Long, respectively.
– Sims was credited with the safety.
– Across the board, the defensive line had one of its best performances of the season. Everyone graded out extremely well and there were no miscues of any type. A big, big day from that group.
– That’s all for today. Plenty of coverage to come this week as the Rams prepare for the showdown in Seattle.
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– The Rams and Seahawks will play next Sunday for the NFC West Division crown. And the whole country will get to see it.
– The league announced late Sunday night that the Rams would be on in primetime for the first time since a Thursday night appearance on Dec. 20, 2007 against the Steelers. It’s also the first appearance on Sunday Night Football in team history.
– I’ll have plenty more later but for now, here’s the short release provided by the league…
The Week 17 St. Louis at Seattle game on Sunday, January 2 will be played at 7:20 PM CT on NBC, the Jacksonville at Houston and Tennessee at Indianapolis games will move to 4:15 PM ET on CBS and the Chicago at Green Bay, Dallas at Philadelphia and New York Giants at Washington games will move to 4:15 PM ET on FOX, the NFL announced Sunday.
The NFL utilizes “flexible scheduling” on Sundays in Weeks 11-17. To ensure a Sunday night game and doubleheader games with playoff implications in Week 17, the flexible scheduling decision for that Sunday may be made on six days notice.
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– With the biggest game of the year hanging in the balance, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo put it on his defense to come up with the plays needed to get a win. And much like that group did in Denver little less than a month ago, it came through when it was needed most.
– On a day where big plays were the order of the day it was the Rams making the ones necessary to emerge victorious with a 25-17 win at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday.
– Real quick on the injury front before we get to some quick thoughts: Rams DE Eugene Sims was the only Ram to suffer an injury, hurting his knee early in the game. But Sims battled through it, returned and finished the game.
– First, since it was fan appreciation day, I want to take a moment to commend the fans for their work on Sunday. It was as loud and intimidating an atmosphere as this place has been in the seven years I’ve covered the Rams. Great work by the fans. It was no coincidence that the 49ers were penalized eight times for 87 yards.
– It is the hallmark of any Spagnuolo defense for the front four to provide the pass rush and push to allow the rest of the defense to do what he wants. Never was that more evident than Sunday. The Rams front four dominated from start to finish with ends James Hall and Chris Long terrorizing both San Francisco quarterbacks and Fred Robbins and Gary Gibson pushing up the middle.
– Excellent work in coverage by the Rams as well. Aside from a big play here and there, it was up to the task.
– Danario Alexander sure brings a spark to the offense, huh? The kid simply took over the game on that fourth-quarter drive that extended the lead to eight points.
– Rams RB Steven Jackson had a difficult time against San Francisco’s stout run defense but let it not be overlooked that he was outstanding in blitz pickups and allowed Sam Bradford time to throw.
– Speaking of Bradford, simply a brilliant, brilliant performance from him in the second half. He finished the day 28-of-37 for 292 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions for a rating of 107.
– In the process, Bradford set a rookie record for most completions, passing Peyton Manning.
– Excellent effort from the rest of the Rams receivers as well. Brandon Gibson made some big plays, catching three balls for 69 yards. Robinson added three for 25 and made the deciding touchdown catch.
– And what more can we say about Danny Amendola? He had eight catches for 53 yards and a monstrous kick return to set up the field goal to ice it late.
– Tip of the cap to the offensive line for its pass protection. That unit responded with a strong performance after two difficult weeks.
– I’d be remiss not to mention the job done by K Josh Brown. He hit on all three of his field goal attempts and was successful angle kicking deep to the corner to keep San Francisco KR Ted Ginn locked up.
– So now it’s pretty simple. The Rams travel to Seattle next week to face the Seahawks. The winner claims the NFC West Division and a home playoff game. In the locker room, the Rams didn’t want to celebrate much but that’s only because they know what lies ahead.
– It’s going to be a fun week, Rams fans. Buckle up and enjoy the ride. Thanks for reading.
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– After getting one first down, the Rams couldn’t move the chains again and punted it back to the Niners, who took over at their 15.
– The defense did its job, getting a three and out as Hall came up with another sack, this time on third down to get the Rams off the field.
– A monster punt from Andy Lee forced the Rams to start from their 32 with 11:23 to go.
– This time, Alexander took over, catching passes for 2 and 17 yards before a huge 46-yard grab down the sideline to San Francisco’s 3.
– On the next play, Bradford escaped pressure, rolled to the right and hit Robinson for 3 yards and a touchdown to make it 22-14 Rams with 9:36 to play.
– The Niners took over at their 19 with Alex Smith in at quarterback for Troy Smith.
– He promptly hit Josh Morgan for a gain of 33.
– The Rams defense held enough to force a 47-yard field goal from Reed, who converted to make it 22-17 Rams with 5:41 to play.
– Amendola made the Niners pay with an 83-yard return to San Francisco’s 11 with 5:28 to play.
– Jackson ran it twice for 3 yards to set up third-and-7 at the 9 with a little more than four minutes to go.
– Jackson ran it once more for a loss of 1 yard and settled for a field goal attempt from 28 yards out. Brown converted to make it 25-17 Rams with 3:51 to go.
– The Niners took over at their 23 and hit completions for gains of 16 and 18 yards to get into Rams territory.
– On third-and-9 from the 42, Chris Long made the biggest play of the game, coming up with a sack and forcing a fumble. Robbins fell on it and the Rams took over at their 46.
– On second-and-13, Gibson made a huge play for the offense on an end around, going 14 yards for a first down into San Francisco territory.
– But the Rams couldn’t move the chains again and had to punt it away again. The Niners start from their 19.
– A sack by Robbins forced the Niners to try one final pass and it fell well short. The Rams win it 25-17 and come away with a win.
– The Rams will play for it all next Sunday for the NFC West Division title.
– The Niners started the second half from their 20.
– After converting a third and 8, the Rams got off the field as Atogwe intercepted Smith on another third and 8 to get it back for the Rams at San Francisco’s 41.
– Bradford hit Gibson for a gain of 9 on second down and hit Jackson for 9 more on third-and-1 for a first down.
– On the next play, Bradford hit Amendola for 10 more and a first down at San Francisco’s 13.
– But the Rams failed to get in the end zone from the red zone again, settling for a 30-yard field goal from Brown, who hit to make it 15-14 Rams with 9:39 to go in the third.
– The 49ers started their second drive from their 25.
– The Rams defense came up big again, getting another three and out to get it back for the offense.
– A penalty on the return for block in the back forced the Rams to start from their 7.
– A 17-yard completion to Robinson on third down gave the Rams a first down.
– Bradford then hit Alexander for gains of 8 and 17 and Amendola for 9 more.
– But an offensive pass interference penalty on Alexander pushed the Rams back 10 more and they had to punt. San Francisco starts again from its 25.
– San Francisco moved swiftly with more big plays as Smith hit Davis for 29 and then Crabtree for 24 more to the Rams’ 22.
– But the Rams dodged a huge bullet as Jeff Reed missed from 34 yards out to keep it at 15-14 Rams heading into the fourth quarter.
Second Q uarter
– The Rams went three and out and had to punt it back to San Francisco which takes over at its 45.
– The defense again got a three and out, stopping a Smith run a yard short of the first down to get it back for the Rams at their 16.
– Again the Rams went three and out and San Francisco made them pay this time as Ted Ginn returned it 78 yards for a touchdown to make it 9-7 Rams with 9:26 to go in the first half.
– The Rams started their next attempt at their 39.
– They responded with a solid drive including a 19-yard completion to Laurent Robinson and a third down conversion run by Mike Karney.
– But a missed connection on third-and-4 forced a 43-yard field goal for Josh Brown to make it 12-7 with 5:42 to go in half.
– The 49ers started from their 20 and converted on third-and-13 with a 25-yard completion to Vernon Davis.
– On third-and-12, Smith hit Crabtree in stride for a 60-yard touchdown. Big plays continue to plague the Rams against the Niners, who now lead 14-12 with 2:32 to go in the half.
– The Rams went three and out yet again but managed to force San Francisco to do the same.
– The Rams got it back at their 3 but didn’t want to risk anything and ran the ball as well as the clock to end the half trailing 14-12.
– The Rams received first after San Francisco deferred.
– Danny Amendola took the opening kickoff to the Rams’ 29 to start.
– Bradford hit Danario Alexander for a gain of 9 on first down.
– Steven Jackson picked up 5 yards for a first down on the second play.
– On third-and-8 at the 45, Bradford hit Amendola for 9 yards and another first down to San Francisco’s 46.
– On second-and-4 from San Francisco’s 40, the Rams went to some trickery as Amendola floated a deep ball for Alexander but Alexander couldn’t get back to the ball as Nate Clements interfered and gave the Rams a first down at the 1.
– Jackson punched it in from 1 yard out for a touchdown and a quick 7-0 lead with 11:21 to go in the first.
– The 49ers start their first drive at their 24.
– The Niners picked up one first down but that was the extent of the drive as two runs and a James Laurinaitis sack forced a punt.
– The Rams take over at their 24.
– The Rams got a gifted first down on third and 10 as a roughing the passer penalty moved it 15 yards.
– Jackson promptly ripped off 12 more yards to San Francisco’s 49.
– Two run plays netted 3 yards to set up a third-and-7.
– The Rams couldn’t get much further after a 5-yard penalty and Donnie Jones pinned San Francisco at its 6. A penalty cut that down and the Niners started their second drive at their 3.
– Anthony Dixon picked up 5 yards on first down but David Baas was injured on the play.
– On third-and-8 from the 5, Smith couldn’t handle the snap from new center Tony Wragge and James Hall fell on him for the safety. The Rams lead 9-0.
– The Rams get another possession from their 35 with 2:38 to go in the first quarter.
– After a 9-yard run by Jackson, Bradford hit Gibson for a gain of 41 to San Francisco’s 10.
– But the Rams lost momentum as Patrick Willis broke through with a sack and forced fumble that Manny Lawson recovered at San Francisco’s 32 to give it back to the Niners.
– The Rams defense got the job done with a quick three and out and the Rams get it back holding a 9-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
– Greetings from the Edward Jones Dome where the Rams and Niners are getting set to square off in an important NFC West Divisional contest.
– There’s no ifs ands or buts about it, this game is do or die for both teams. If the Rams lose, there’s only one way to make the playoffs and they’ll need help to get there. If they win, they must win again next week to win the division.
– The Rams will be wearing blue on blue this week.
– Still, the Rams control their fate. Win and get in.
– If San Francisco pulls it off, they sit in good position to win the division though they’d need just a little bit of help.
– Inactives for the Rams: TE Michael Hoomanawanui (ankle), CB Justin King, S Michael Lewis, LB David Nixon, LB Curtis Johnson, G John Greco, WR Mardy Gilyard and DT Jermelle Cudjo.
– For the Niners: third QB David Carr, CB Tramaine Brock, CB Williams James, S Chris Maragos, LB NaVorro Bowman, T Joe Staley, T Alex Boone and TE Nate Byham.
– Stay tuned for updates throughout the game.
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– The Rams finished preparations for Sunday’s must win showdown against San Francisco on Friday with a spirited practice.
– Coach Steve Spagnuolo was pleased with his team’s work this week and says he believes that possible distractions did not slow them down.
– On the injury front, it’s doubtful the Rams will have TE Michael Hoomanawanui as he battles back from an ankle injury.
– DE Chris Long (thigh) and OT Jason Smith (ankle) are both expected to be ready to go though they will be listed as questionable after being limited in practice again.
– RB Kenneth Darby is poised to return this week after getting a full week of practice.
– The Rams are now off for about the next 24 hours as Spagnuolo modified the schedule so that they will have an afternoon walk through as opposed to in the morning so everyone can spend time with their families. After that, it’s off to the team hotel and ready for Sunday’s game.
– Be sure to keep it locked on to stlouisrams.com for our running blog with live in game updates before, during and after the game. Rams and Niners at noon on Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.
– Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all!
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– Legendary Ram Isaac Bruce ended his playing career in the offseason when he announced his retirement. But that hasn’t stopped him from continuing to be involved and make a positive impact in the St. Louis area.
– Bruce spent Wednesday at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in support of P&G’s “Take it to the House” photo contest which works with the NFL’s Play 60 initiative.
– Bruce visited the hospital and made a $10,000 donation for P&G on behalf of the Play 60 initiative.
– Jessica Lefort, a St. Louis area resident, is the fifth regional winner in P&G’s “Take it to the House” photo contest. Jessica and her family are one of eight semi-finalists to win a year’s supply of P&G products, a meet and greet with Bruce, a $10,000 donation to Cardinal Glennon and the chance to win a trip to the 2011 Pro Bowl in Hawaii.
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– The Rams got back to practice Thursday afternoon and are now one step closer to Sunday’s game. They have one more practice Friday and will have a slightly altered Saturday because of Christmas.
– OT Jason Smith rolled his ankle in practice and was limited. He’s expected to be OK and X rays were negative.
– DE Chris Long returned to practice and was also limited. RB Ken Darby was the same.
– TE Michael Hoomanawanui did not practice as he had a small setback earlier this week. His status remains day to day according to coach Steve Spagnuolo.
– The 49ers have yet to officially name a starter but it appears Troy Smith will be back in the saddle.
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