St. Louis Rams – Blog

Wrapping Up Seattle/2012

Posted by nickwagoner on December 31, 2012 – 9:05 PM

- Rams coach Jeff Fisher just spoke to the media for his final day after game news conference of the 2012 season only about an hour after addressing his team for the final time this year.

- The message was simple: be smart with your time off, learn from the season and come back ready to work in 2013.

- Fisher expressed that his team is fired up with optimism and enthusiasm for the 2013 season and seemed energized when asked how it was being back in the league after a one-year hiatus. Fisher said he “had a blast” and said he “can’t wait to get started again.”

- According to Fisher, the wrap up meeting was not easy, they never are but this one felt different for him. He focused on the big picture and from the sounds of it, his team bought into that focus. The Rams played the third toughest schedule in the league this year and had the best record in perhaps the best division in football. He said he was quite proud of the team for how it worked hard and focused in to win games throughout the season.

- Asked directlly if he believed his team is a playoff team in 2013, Fisher said that’s what they want, that’s the goal. He believed they could do it this year and though they came up just short, he believes the groundwork has been laid.

- One thing Fisher is especially looking forward to is the improvement of so many of his young players. He said players make the biggest jump from year one to year two and he sees big things for many of the talented rookies that played valuable snaps this year.

- Along with that, Fisher made it clear that the next 3.5 months will be very important for his team. So many young players will embark on some off time with money in their pocket for the first time. He reminded them that every decision they make in that time is one they are responsible for and need to be made wisely.

- The players all departed ContinuityX Training Center on Monday. Some will stick around and train here, some will leave and come back but all will be expected back for the offseason program in April.

- Before then, Fisher and his coaching staff will go through an exhaustive evaluation of the roster. Fisher said that won’t happen right away because he feels like a little time away creates chances for guys to take emotions out of the equation and come back with a more objective eye. The coaching staff will be off for two weeks starting at the end of this week.

- Asked about the trade with Washington and how it turned out for both teams, Fisher reminded the reporter that it’s not yet complete. The Rams still have two first round picks to make before that can even be discussed.

- Fisher said he felt like some early season inconsistency led to some losses in games they could have won and lamented that his team is now healthy at just the wrong time.

- One thing Fisher didn’t see from his young players was a “rookie wall.” Fisher proud of how the youngsters fought through any possible fatigue.

- Fisher mentioned that RB Isaiah Pead got some reps by design yesterday and he was pleased with what he saw. Pead has a little something to build from heading into next year now.

- On the topic of a defensive coordinator, Fisher said Gregg Williams has not been re-instated and the move to hire a D.C. will be addressed in the next couple of weeks. There are some moving parts at play but Fisher indicated that the Rams will be making a move in that regard at some point.

- On QB Sam Bradford, Fisher said the chance to have some continuity for a whole offseason with the same playbook and system will benefit Bradford. Likewise, he believes Bradford improved and got better as the season went along. He’s excited for Bradford’s progress.

- On the Rams finishing tied for first in sacks and first alone in sacks per pass play, Fisher was proud of the job done by DL coach Mike Waufle and noted that it was done by the whole group, not just the defensive line. I’ll have more on it later this week, but the Rams raised $52,000 ($1,000 per sack) for the “Sack Homelessness” project in conjunction with the St. Patrick’s Center.

- Fisher again emphasized that he and the rest of the locker room would like RB Steven Jackson back, saying he’d like to see Jackson “finish up” in St. Louis.

- Fisher reflected a bit on the London trip and again said he enjoyed it save for the “3 hours of hell” that was the game against New England. He offered some tweaks he’d like to see in the game but had positive memories as a whole.

- As far as the free agent list, Fisher said he told the team he wants every single unrestricted free agent back. That’s probably not realistic or feasible but that’s how highly he thinks of guys like WR Danny Amendola, OL Rob Turner, DL William Hayes, etc.

- The Rams handed out their team awards on Monday. Jackson was named Most Valuable Player and got the Carl Ekern Spirit of the Game award as the team’s most inspirational player. Jackson was also named the team’s representative for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

- CB Janoris Jenkins won the Rookie of the Year award.

- One thing Fisher is looking forward to is a normal offseason. Last year, it was a whirlwind that included hiring a coaching staff and trying to blend scouting systems and he is excited about the opportunity to go into free agency with the belief that St. Louis is now a place where players will want to play.

- That said, Fisher said the building is ongoing. There’s a process that has to take place that Fisher believes will improve the overall talent on the roster and believes that improvement in all players will continue with a full offseason with this coaching staff.

- When asked if he believes the offense is the area most in need of upgrades, Fisher said it’s a huge deal. He wants more scoring, more third down conversions, etc. A lot of this offseason will be focused on improving the offense any way possible.

- Fisher was pleased with both the rookie class and the free agent class of last year and is looking forward to adding to the group.

- While free agency is a little ways away, Fisher said the team will do whatever it takes to improve and get where it wants to go in 2013.

- A couple of other quick notes from players, though I will have much more from a variety of guys the rest of the week:

Bradford said the ankle injury that plagued him last year is no longer bothering him. He said surgery is “not even a possibility.” He’s fired up at the mere thought of some coaching staff and system continuity.

Jackson again said he’d like to return and continues to make it clear where he stands on the matter. He said he’s given no thought to wearing another jersey. There is no timeframe in his mind of when he’d like to have a decision made though obviously it has to come relatively soon.

On stat to chew on: in 2011, the Rams allowed 55 sacks, ranking last in the league in the category. In 2012, they allowed 35 sacks, 14th in the league.

- I’ll have a lot more stuff coming this week with stories on Jackson, Bradford, C Scott Wells, rookies going out into the world, the Fisher Effect, the team taking the sacks title and so much more so please stay tuned for that.

- In the meantime, thanks for reading and Happy New Year.

-


Posted in From the Sidelines | 4 Comments »

Rams Make a Statement in Seattle

Posted by nickwagoner on December 31, 2012 – 5:01 AM

SEATTLE -

- No, the Rams did not do what many national NFL pundits and wannabe pundits said they couldn’t do and knock off the red hot Seahawks in the most hostile atmosphere in the league on Sunday afternoon. Let’s get it out of the way right now, the scoreboard at the end of the day read Seattle 20, St. Louis 13.

- But while there are no moral victories in the NFL, the Rams sent a message to the rest of the NFL and, especially, the rest of the NFC West Division that a storm is coming and, as Jeff Fisher told his team right after Sunday’s game: The Rams are back.

- With the 2012 season coming to a close, nobody is happy with a 7-8-1 record but let’s take stock of how far the Rams have come in less than a year’s time after a regime change in the front office and with the coaching staff and with a drastically remade roster.

- Last year, the Rams finished 2-14. They won one game on the road and zero games in the division. They finished the season on a seven game losing streak and were 1-7 in the second half of the season.

- This year, the Rams finished 7-8-1. They won three road games and tied another and went 3-1-1 in their final five road contests. They went 4-1-1 in the NFC West Division, the best record for any team in a division that entering Sunday had the league’s best combined winning percentage. They finished the season winning four of their final six and went 4-3-1 in the final eight games. No matter how you slice it, that’s pure, unadulterated progress.

- Making the Rams’ effort Sunday in Seattle more impressive was the fact that a playoff chance was a distant memory. The Rams were told they had nothing to play for and the playoff-bound Seahawks would come in and dispose of them much in the same way they’d disposed of San Francisco, Buffalo and Arizona in the past three weeks.

- Instead, as Rams WR Austin Pettis said, the Rams gave the Seahawks “more fight than they probably wanted.”

- Let’s start this with praise for RB Steven Jackson, who passed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the 8th consecutive season, joining Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, Curtis Martin, LaDainian Tomlinson and Thurman Thomas as the only backs to achieve that milestone. In nine years covering Jackson and watching every carry of his career, I’ve probably exhausted every superlative there is to describe him but there’s only one adjective he wants associated with his name: consistent. Well, No. 39, you have been a beacon of consistency through the dark times and continued to do it again this year. Congrats on another strong season.

- After the game, Jackson again re-iterated he plans to play in 2013 and that he’d like to do it with the Rams. QB Sam Bradford, LB James Laurinaitis and other team leaders also made it clear they want him back. Jackson has the choice to opt out of the final year of his contract. It’s going to be a wait and see process but I think it’s fair to put you faith in Jackson when he says he wants to return to St. Louis.

- Likewise, WR Danny Amendola, who is scheduled for unrestricted free agency also said again he’d like to be back with the Rams. Considering his value to the offense and weighing it against his injury issues will be a tricky job for the Rams but it’s clear both sides would like to continue their relationship as well.

- One player who has no contract issues showed why the Rams were so eager to sign him to a lucrative, long term contract Sunday. DE Chris Long posted three sacks and led the way for a defense that finishes the season tied with Denver for most sacks in the NFL with 52. Long was great again in 2013, finishing with a team-leading 11.5 sacks and constantly getting pressures and hits.

- Excellent job of blitzing and changing looks by the Rams defense on Sunday. Sacking an athletic QB like Russell Wilson six times is no small feat.

- Kudos to DE Robert Quinn, also. He got another sack Sunday and finished with 10.5 on the year, more than doubling his rookie season total. He’s just getting better and will be more of a force moving forward.

- Long and Quinn became the first Rams duo to each have double digit sacks since Grant Wistrom and Kevin Carter achieved it in 2000.

- Another week, another sack for William Hayes. He finished with 7.0 for the season. What a find. The Rams must re-sign him in the offseason as well.

- It was a shame the Rams couldn’t come up with Marshawn Lynch’s late fumble or get Wilson down on third down on Seattle’s winning drive. The fumble, in particular, was an elusive thing for the Rams all season and it came back to bite them Sunday.

- Rookie CB Trumaine Johnson had some growing pains Sunday like he did all year but he really seems to have a knack for finding the ball and being around it constantly. The Rams have two really bright young corners in Johnson and Janoris Jenkins.

- DT Michael Brockers suffered an ankle injury but returned and finished the game. It is NOT a high ankle sprain or even the same ankle, according to Brockers.

- LB Rocky McIntosh suffered a concussion and did not return to the game.

- On the other side of the ball, it was tough sledding for the Rams against a stout defense but many of the offensive problems stemmed from untimely and costly penalties. A couple false starts, a couple delays of game, etc, really hurt the Rams chances to get some momentum.

- QB Sam Bradford was not sacked for the second game in a row and put on a strong performance against one of the league’s best secondaries. He finished 25-of-42 for 252 yards with a touchdown and an interception for a rating of 74.7. That rating is much higher if he doesn’t throw the INT on a fourth and 10 play where he had no choice but to get rid of the ball somewhere.

- Bradford’s TD to Austin Pettis wasn’t the prettiest thing but it showed again that Pettis has a bit of a magnet on him in the red zone with his second touchdown catch inside the 20 in as many weeks. All four of Pettis’ touchdowns in 2012 were from red zone possessions.

- Jackson finished with 97 total yards, including 52 on the ground and 45 on seven receptions.

- An Isaiah Pead sighting! Pead got five carries and picked up 21 yards. Nothing earth shattering but some nice cuts and gains for the rookie. Has to help his confidence moving into 2013.

- Nice job the Rams offensive line opening holes and protecting Bradford. What a terrific job done by that group and OL Coach Paul Boudreau this season.

- Another strong effort from P Johnny Hekker. He punted five times for an average of 48.6 yards and a net of 40.2.

- That wraps up a 2012 season that went by way too fast but take heart, Rams fans, the future looks bright. The Rams played one of the five toughest schedules in the NFL this year and came out on the other side the better for it. Young players got valuable snaps across the board and that will only bode well for the future.

- As always, thank you so much for reading all season. We’ll have plenty of good stuff in the coming months so stay with us for free agency, the NFL Draft and so much more.

 


Posted in From the Sidelines | 6 Comments »

Rams vs. Seahawks: Running Blog

Posted by nickwagoner on December 30, 2012 – 7:07 PM

SEATTLE -

- Bradford finds Gibson for 11 to Seattle’s 20.

- He follows with a strike to Kendricks for 10 after Pead gained 5 to Seattle’s 5.

- A delay of game penalty followed by a 7-yard run by Jackson left the Rams 2 yards short of the end zone.

- Another false start on the Rams moved it back 5 yards.

- Zuerlein on to try a 25 yard field goal. He converts. We’re tied at 13 with 11:23 to go.

- Seattle starts at its 15.

- Wilson hits Robinson for 19 and a first down to the 34.

- Lynch for 4 to the 38.

- An illegal formation pushed Seattle back 5 yards to make it second and 11 at the 33.

- Lynch runs for 2 to make it third and 9 at the 35. Big play for the Rams here.

- A holding call on McCoy moved it back 10 yards and nullified a big gainer.

- It’s third and 19 from the 25.

- Rams get the stop after a 13-yard scramble by Wilson.

- A running into the kicker penalty made it fourth and 1 and Seattle opted to punt again.

- Rams take over at their 23 with 7:32 to go.

- Bradford finds Pettis for 15 on first down to the 38.

- Jackson gained 4 on the next play.

- On second and 6 at the 42, Bradford was hit as he threw, the play was ruled a fumble and LB Malcolm Smith recovered and returned it for a touchdown.

- But the play is under review.

- There’s also a holding penalty on the Rams that will be enforced if the play is overturned.

- Play is reversed, Bradford’s arm going forward. It’s incomplete. Holding on the Rams makes it second and 16 at the Rams 32.

- Bradford hits Jackson for 12 but came up short and the Rams punted again.

- Seattle starts from its 10.

- Lynch for 8 on first down to the 18.

- Huge opportunity missed by Rams as Lynch fumbles it forward but Tate recovers at the 22 for a first down. Could have been huge.

- Wilson incomplete on first down.

- Wilson runs for 5 to make it third and 5.

- Wilson escapes trouble and hits Tate for 44 yards. Huge play.

- Wilson to Robinson for 4 yards to the 25.

- Lynch gains 6 to make it first down at Rams’ 19.

- That third down play looks likely to come back to haunt Rams.

- Wilson takes the read option and scampers 16 yards for a first down at the Rams’ 3 with 1:51 to go.

- A chance for a fumble recovery and the third down really hurting the Rams here. Great defensive effort but unable to come up on right side of either of those opportunities.

- Lynch scores from 3 yards out. Seahawks take 20-13 lead with 1:45 to go.

- The call is reversed as Lynch is ruled to have stepped out of bounds before the score.

- Wilson makes it not matter as he scrambles for a 1-yard TD to make it 20-13 Seattle with 1:39 to go.

- Rams have two timeouts to work with.

- Rams start from their 20.

- Pass interference gives the Rams 25 yards on first play, nice start.

- Bradford finds Kendricks for 15 to Seattle’s 40.

- He follows with 5 to Jackson after an incompletion.

- Third and 5 from Seattle’s 35.

- Bradford throws incomplete.

- It’s fourth and 5 from Seattle’s 35.

- Bradford scrambles for 6 yards and a first down. Got out of bounds with 53 seconds left at Seattle’s 29.

- Incomplete to Kendricks on first down.

- Hit as he threw incomplete on second.

- Another incompletion another fourth down. Need 10 this time though.

- Interception by Richard Sherman as Bradford throws for Pettis. That’ll do it.

- Seahawks win it 20-13.

Third Quarter

- Seahawks get the ball first to open third quarter. They start at their 15.

- After two plays gain 8, the Hawks hit a big one as Wilson found Anthony McCoy for a gain of 49 to the Rams’ 28.

- Long picked up his third sack of the day and forced the Seahawks to kick a 49-yard field goal.

- Rams lead 7-6 with 10:41 to go in the third quarter.

- Rams start again from their 20.

- Three runs for Jackson gained 23 yards and a holding penalty on Seattle gave the Rams another first down at their 48.

- TE Mike McNeill couldn’t quite come down with a strong throw by Bradford that would have gone for a big gain.

- Bradford finds Richardson for 3 to make it third and 7 at Seattle’s 49.

- Bradford hits Pettis for 8 and moves the chains to Seattle’s 41.

- Seattle challenged the spot.

- The ball was moved back a yard but still a first down at Seattle’s 42.

- Bradford hit Givens for 17 to the 25 and another first down.

- A 5-yard completion to Amendola made it third and 5 but Bradford missed Gibson and Zuerlein booted a 39-yard field goal.

- Rams lead 10-6 with 5:31 to go in the third quarter.

- Seattle starts from its 35 after another 15-yard roughness penalty on the Rams.

- Wilson to Baldwin for 12 on first down.

- Another silly penalty on the Rams jumping offsides made it third and 1 but the Seahawks gave it right back on a false start to make it third and 6.

- Wilson hit Tate for 31 to the Rams’ 18 and then pulled out a tough throw to Lynch for 8.

- On second and 2 from the 10, Wilson found FB Michael Robinson for a touchdown.

- Seahawks lead 13-10 with 2:09 to go in the third.

- Seahawks try an onside kick but touch it before it goes 10 yards, giving Rams field position at their 41. Best starting position of the day.

- RB Isaiah Pead with a cameo, he gains 7 on first down.

-Pead for 7 more on second down to Seattle’s 45.

- Pead gains 1 and Bradford hits Gibson for 12 yards and a first down to Seattle’s 31.

- At the end of three quarters, Seattle leads 13-10 and Rams have a first down at the Seahawks 31.

Second Quarter

- Two Richardson runs went for no gains to make it third and 10.

- Delay of game penalty pushed the Rams back 5.

- Seahawks continue to own field position and time of possession, take over at Rams’ 42.

- Rams defense with back against the wall often today.

- Lynch darts for 24 to the Rams’ 18.

- False start pushed Seattle back to the 23.

- Lynch for no gain on second down.

- DE Robert Quinn drops Wilson for a sack and loss of 2.

- Seahawks settle for 43-yard FG from K Steven Hauschka. They lead 3-0 with 10:40 to go in the half.

- Rams have at least a little breathing room to start this drive, taking over at their 24. Need to cut down the silly penalties and put a drive together. Defense has been put in tough position multiple times already.

- Bradford hit Kendricks for 8 and got the first down when Seattle jumped offsides on second to the 37.

- After a 3-yard pass to Jackson, the 9-year veteran made a little history with a 14-yard burst up the middle to put him over 1,000 yards. It’s his 8th straight 1,000-yard season, making him only the sixth ever to reach that mark.

- Bradford to Givens for 37 to the Seahawks’ 4. Great drive so far, Rams need to finish.

- Jackson gained 2 to the Seahawks’ 2.

- On second down, Bradford looked left for Amendola but the pass was tipped and WR Austin Pettis caught it on the rebound for a touchdown.

- THe Rams jump ahead 7-3 with 6:03 to go.

- Seattle starts from its 20 and promptly gets a 19-yard run by Lynch.

- Wilson to Miller for 9 yards but Lynch dropped for a loss of 4 to make it third and 5 at the Seahawks’ 44.

- Turbin loses 7 on third down and the Rams get it back at their 30.

- Costly drop on a nice gain for Pettis on second down to make it third and 10 at the 29.

- Bradford just missed Amendola to force a punt. Disappointing possession for Rams there.

- Seahawks start from their 27 and picked up yards with some penalties.

- Long busted through for his second sack of the day and a loss of 9 back to Seattle’s 35 for second and 14.

- After an 11-yard scramble by Wilson, he dropped off a pass to Miller, who gained 2 and came up a yard short.

- Seattle punts it away with 1:17 to go.

- Rams take over at their 20.

- Bradford hits Jackson twice for 13 yards and Amendola twice for 13 more to the 46.

- A 21-yard strike to Gibson set up a field goal attempt for Zuerlein from 50 yards out.

- Zuerlein leaves it just wide right. Seattle kneels it at the 41 and Rams lead 7-3 at the half.

-

First Quarter

- Seattle won the toss and deferred. Rams get ball first.

- RB Steven Jackson could get his 10 yards out of the way right away here. Chance to reach 1,000 yards for 8th straight year, would be only sixth player in league history to do that.

- Rams start at their 20 after 25-yard return by WR Chris Givens.

- Jackson for 1 yard on first down.

- Bradford to TE Matt Mulligan for 10 and a first down.

- Jackson gains 2 to the 33. He’s 7 away.

- A false start penalty killed the drive as Bradford was hit and threw incomplete on third down.

- Seahawks take over at their 22.

- CB Trumaine Johnson starts for Cortland Finnegan again, Finnegan likely to play nickel again as he continues to recover from thigh injury.

- Seattle got rolling right away as QB Russell Wilson hit TE Zach Miller for 9 and Golden Tate for 30 to the Rams’ 41.

- On third and 4 at the 35, Wilson hit Doug Baldwin for 7 and a first down to the 28.

- On first down there, the Seahawks had a touchdown pass called back by a pick play and DE Chris Long got a sack for a loss of 7.

- Lynch picked up 15 to make it third and 12 at the 30.

- DE Williams Hayes picked up his 7th sack of the season to force a Seattle punt.

- Long’s sack was No. 9.5

- Big stop for the Rams there. They take over at their 11.

- An incompletion and a Jackson run netted nothing but Bradford hit Amendola, who made a terrific catch for what appeared to be a first down.

- But the spot had him a half inch short and the Rams challenged the spot.

- The Rams lost the challenge and had to punt.

- The Seahawks start from their 36.

- An 11-yard run by Lynch for a first down to the 47.

- Two plays get 8 to make it third and 2 at the Rams’ 45.

- Great scramble by Wilson for 3 and a first down.

- Sack by Dunbar for a loss of 8 back to midfield.

- Seahawks gain 11 on pass to RB Robert Turbin. They punt it away.

- Rams start from their 12.

- At the end of the first quarter, we are scoreless in Seattle.

Pregame Notes

- Greetings from CenturyLink Field where the Rams and Seahawks are preparing for today’s regular season finale.

- On the weather front, things appear to be holding steady with temperatures around 40 degrees and no rain expected.

- A lot on the line for the Seahawks here today as they could potentially win the NFC West Division with a victory and a loss from the 49ers against Arizona. That game won’t be decided until this one is happening so don’t expect Seattle to relent at all.

- While the Rams are out of the mix for the playoffs, they have plenty of motivation to win today. Here’s what they can achieve with a victory: a winning record (8-7-1), an undefeated division record (5-0-1), a streak of five wins in the final six games and four consecutive road wins.

- The Rams and Seahawks enter this game about as healthy as two teams can be going into the final week so not many surprises on the inactives today.

- For the Rams, the following are inactive: QB Austin Davis, RB Terrance Ganaway, WR Steve Smith, DT Matt Conrath, OT Joe Barksdale, LB Sammy Brown and TE Cory Harkey.

- For the Seahawks: CB Walter Thurmond, S Winston Guy, CB DeShawn Shead, LB Leroy Hill, G Rishaw Johnson, G John Moffitt and T Mike Person.

- Malcolm Smith starts for Hill at OLB.

- The Rams are wearing all white today.

- Stay tuned for updates throughout the game.


Posted in From the Sidelines | 3 Comments »

Jackson’s Focus: Finishing With a Win

Posted by nickwagoner on December 28, 2012 – 7:30 PM

- There exists a possibility that Sunday’s game in Seattle could be Steven Jackson’s last as a Ram. But could it be his last, period?

- Well, to hear some outlets tell it, the answer to that is yes. But those outlets either missed the context of what Jackson said on Thursday or simply chose to ignore it for hype purposes.

Here’s what Jackson had to say when he was asked how many years he left like he had left to play…

“I’ve always thought about it from day one,” Jackson said. “I’ve always thought about what my exit strategy is going to be. If I had to write my story, I’d rather go out like (former Lions RB) Barry Sanders — wanting people to want more than to leave too late.”

The follow up to that question was when he thought that time might come. Jackson, who was in an obvious playful and joking mood on Thursday said the following:

“Maybe this last one,” Jackson said. “Those hits hurt.”

When Jackson said it, he laughed. He was very obviously joking and it’s quite clear he has no intent to retire this year. That’s just simply not going to happen. For anyone who has been paying attention, it’s very clear that Jackson has a lot left he’d still like to accomplish. He wants to return to the playoffs and win a Super Bowl. He has some league and franchise milestones he can still hit. And he clearly has plenty of good football left in him. Why would he walk away now with so many of those possibilities remaining? It would take something drastic for what was obviously a joke to turn into a reality.

- Now, the FAR more legitimate question is what the future holds for Jackson in St. Louis. At the end of the season, Jackson will have the option to void the final year of his contract. He’s due $7 million from the Rams next season but he could go out and seek a bit more long term security, even if it meant forfeiting a little of that money upfront. He was asked about what will go into that decision again on Thursday and here’s what he said:

“I will allow myself that time to sit back and reflect, think about the things I’ve accomplished in my career, what I’ve done this season and think about how much longer I want to play the game as well,” Jackson said. “It’s going to be a small window of opportunity and I want to make sure that I take full advantage of it.”

- That time to reflect and think will be saved for after the season. For now, Jackson is joining the rest of his team in looking at Sunday’s game in Seattle as an opportunity. An opportunity to reach some team goals and an opportunity to add to an already impressive resume heading to the offseason. So the focus is on this game and all that it could bring in terms of the short term and the long.

“The only way a contract is going to be rewarded to me — regardless of what we decide to go on in the future — is about me playing good and playing at a high level,” Jackson said. “So, that’s my main focus: to remain healthy, to show that I feel I’ve been able to play at a high level, and still able to do all the things that a running back needs to do on this scene.”

- The chance to experience a winning record and going undefeated in the NFC West Division are two motivations for Jackson that go well beyond just reaching 1,000 rushing yards for the eighth straight season. Those type of accomplishments certainly would factor heavily into Jackson’s decision.

“We’ve been 8-8 two times, so I’ve come to understand in this league that it is truly year-to-year,” Jackson said. “What Coach Fisher has brought to this organization, the credibility that going on in the future, I definitely see a very bright future for this organization, and why wouldn’t I want to be a part of that?”

- From the Rams perspective, there’s no doubt of what they’d like to see Jackson do and coach Jeff Fisher doesn’t expect it to be necessary to lobby Jackson to return.

“I don’t think that’s going to be required,” Fisher said. “I think everybody in the building would like to have him back. It’s just matter of us sitting down and working things out.”

- The Rams wrapped up their Friday practice indoors again and seem to be healthy and fully loaded for this weekend’s game against the Seahawks. Here’s the injury report:

Probable: CB Cortland Finnegan (thigh), LB James Laurinaitis (back), RB Steven Jackson (foot), C Scott Wells (knee), S Craig Dahl (knee), WR Austin Pettis (shoulder).

- All participated fully in Friday’s practice.

- I’ll be chatting live shortly if you have questions and want to participate, head on over.

- As always, thanks for reading. Talk to you all from Seattle.


Posted in From the Sidelines | No Comments »

Rams Close to Full Strength Heading Toward Finale

Posted by nickwagoner on December 27, 2012 – 9:22 PM

- The Rams were back at it Thursday afternoon on the practice field and for the first time in a while had their full complement of players available for the workout.

- Every player on the roster was full participation in Thursday’s practice as the Rams appear to be about as healthy as a team in week 17 can possibly be.

- All of the players listed on the injury report Wednesday were upgraded to full participation after being limited or not practicing.

- Here’s the full list: CB Cortland Finnegan (thigh), LB James Laurinaitis (back), RB Steven Jackson (foot), C Scott Wells (knee), S Craig Dahl (knee), WR Austin Pettis (shoulder).

- Finnegan, Laurinaitis, Jackson and Wells did not practice on Wednesday and did everything Thursday.

- Dahl was limited on Wednesday and was full go on Thursday.

- Pettis was listed as full go on Wednesday and again on Thursday.

- The Rams brought DE Mason Brodine back to the practice squad to fill the spot vacated by CB Quinton Pointer’s promotion to the active roster last week.

- One note that is somewhat interesting heading into the final week: the Rams have played the fourth most difficult schedule in the NFL this year, as their opponents have combined for a winning percentage of .533. What that means from year to year isn’t much but here’s something to consider: in 2010 when the Rams went 7-9, they played one of the softer schedules in the league. In essence, it skewed the reality of how close that team was to competing on a consistent basis. This year, considering the performance against such a tough schedule, it could certainly bode well for the team’s future. Of course, that all has to play itself out in time but it’s worth filing away for a rainy day.

- That’s all for today. Thanks for reading and don’t forget that my live chat will be tomorrow sometime between 2 and 3 and you get your questions in now.


Posted in From the Sidelines | No Comments »

Rams Shutout of Pro Bowl

Posted by nickwagoner on December 26, 2012 – 11:58 PM

- The NFL announced its Pro Bowl participants Wednesday evening and the Rams did not have any players honored.

- Now, it’s been fairly standard protocol for the Rams to be shut out in years past because of their record but this year with much improvement on the record, one would think that they’d have at least a player or two going to Hawaii. Or at least a first or second alternate. They have none of the above this year. They do have a handful of third and fourth alternates though it’s more of a long shot those guys would get to go.

- It is important to note that the Rams don’t have any glaring, obvious choices in the mix but there were a number of players who had excellent years who could have been honored. Fear not, though, the Rams will almost certainly have plenty of representatives moving forward with all of their young talent.

- Meanwhile, after enjoying a Victory Monday followed by a Tuesday off for Christmas (which is the normal day off for players anyway), the Rams returned to work on Wednesday to begin preparation for the season finale against Seattle on Sunday.

- While the Rams are out of the playoff mix, it’s an all business mentality in the locker room as they look to finish undefeated in the NFC West and with a winning record for the first time since 2003 and they can do both by beating a hated division rival in Seattle.

- With temperatures hovering near the 30 degree mark, the Rams practiced indoors on Wednesday even though they’ll be playing in what figure to be cold and windy conditions in Seattle. Coach Jeff Fisher does not believe in using artificial crowd noise but knows what to expect on the trip to Seattle and is having his team work with whisper and silent counts this week in practice to prepare for the conditions.

- On the Rams injury report, it looked about like Wednesdays have for the past few weeks or so.

Here’s the breakdown:

Did Not Participate: RB Steven Jackson (foot), CB Cortland Finnegan (thigh), C Scott Wells (knee), LB James Laurinaitis (back).
Limited Participation: S Craig Dahl (knee)
Full Participation: WR Austin Pettis (shoulder)

- Fisher allowed his team a little extra time to get back and wanted more meetings Wednesday morning so the team practiced late in the afternoon. They’ll be back to a normal schedule Thursday and Friday before heading to Seattle on Friday evening.

- As a side note, my chat this week was bumped because of the holiday. We’ll do it on Friday afternoon and start around 2 o’clock. Feel free to send in any questions you might have.

- Thanks for reading, talk to you all tomorrow.


Posted in From the Sidelines | 1 Comment »

Wrapping Up Tampa Bay

Posted by nickwagoner on December 24, 2012 – 8:52 PM

- Rams coach Jeff Fisher just wrapped up his usual Monday news conference, hitting on a variety of topics on this chilly Christmas Eve. Below are Fisher’s thoughts on a multitude of items.

- First, Fisher said the team got out of the game with no serious injury issues. It remains to be seen whether CB Cortland Finnegan (thigh) will be back up to full speed this week or not but he seems to be the only question mark heading into next week’s game at Seattle.

- Fisher was pleased with how hard his team played in its 28-13 win against Tampa Bay on Sunday. He cited the turnovers for the defense, the job of the offense finishing drives with touchdowns and the work by the special teams, particularly the punt team, as keys to the victory.

- Fisher said P Johnny Hekker punted particularly well and did an excellent job of punting directionally.

- Asked whether he thought CB Janoris Jenkins had a shot to win Defensive Rookie of the Year, Fisher said he thought Jenkins had at least earned “a mention.”

- On Jenkins, Fisher again emphasized that the young corner is playing at a more consistent level from week to week and that’s been a positive sign of progress for the young cover man.

- The Rams have scored touchdowns on seven of their past eight possession in the red zone, another sign of progress from the offense. Fisher credits the improvement to an ability to be balanced inside the 20 as well as the ability to run the ball down in tight there. That not only works for things like RB Steven Jackson’s touchdown run but then opens up play action opportunities for touchdowns like WR Austin Pettis’ against the Bucs.

- Fisher was proud of TE Lance Kendricks for finishing his 80-yard touchdown run and despite taking jokes from his teammates about running out of steam, Fisher was impressed that Kendricks went right back into the game on the team’s next possession.

- After watching the game tape, Fisher was pleased with how the timeshare at right guard with Shelley Smith and Chris Williams went. He indicated that could be the method again this week against the Seahawks.

- One play in Sunday’s game that flew under the radar: following WR Danny Amendola’s early fumble, recovered by LB Leon Johnson, Rams RT Barry Richardson tracked him down and forced a fumble that G Rob Turner fell on to regain possession for the Rams. It was overlooked because the Rams opened a big lead but the Bucs might have been able to jump to a two-score lead were it not for Richardson’s hustle.

- On the win itself and the position the Rams now hold for the season, Fisher refuses to acknowledge satisfaction. That’s not to say progress hasn’t been made. He wants to see how his team will do in Seattle this weekend but either way he has seen steps forward. He did say that the “front page” for his team this year still has no playoff berth which is not what he and his team set out to do.

- Fisher was again asked about how team has been able to maintain a consistent level of effort and he again expressed some surprise about the question. That’s a baseline requirement and Fisher said something he expects of his team. He’s been pleased with that all season.

- This week’s game against the Seahawks will be a huge challenge, according to Fisher. He even went so far as to call it the toughest challenge his team has seen yet. That makes sense considering how well Seattle is playing right now combined with the Seahawks’ absurd homefield advantage. He believe the game is a referendum on the Rams’ season but he’s clearly intrigued to see how his team plays and reacts to the circumstances.

- While RB Steven Jackson is just 10 yards shy of reaching 1,000 rushing yards for the eighth consecutive season, it seems like a near foregone conclusion he’ll get there against the Seahawks. But Fisher said it still needs to get done and expects that to be a motivating factor for Seattle’s defense this week.

- A win in the Seattle game would allow the Rams to finish at 5-0-1 in the NFC West Division. An undefeated season in the division is a huge accomplishment any time but in this era with such a strong division now residing in the West, it would be a big feather in the Rams’ cap. Likewise, Fisher believes that you build your team to compete in the division first and foremost and of all the things his team could achieve this year perhaps that would bode best for the Rams moving forward.

- Fisher wrapped up the news conference by wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. I’ll take my cue from him and do the same. Merry Christmas to all of you and, as always, thanks for reading.


Posted in From the Sidelines | No Comments »

Resilient Rams Bounce Back…Again

Posted by nickwagoner on December 24, 2012 – 12:20 AM

TAMPA, Fla. -

- On multiple occasions this season, the Rams have found themselves with a choice to make coming off a disappointing loss. Would they let it linger or would they answer the call and bounce back?

- Sunday’s litmus test against Tampa Bay provided even more context into the character of the 2012 Rams because not only were they being asked to come back from a disappointing loss and performance last week against Minnesota but they were being asked to do it without any type of realistic playoff hopes at stake.

- And, as has been the case time and again this season, especially in the year’s final stages, the Rams answered the bell and came through with a performance good enough to wipe away any chance of a lingering issue. This time, it was a convincing 28-13 win against the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium.

- The win featured a defense that came up with four interceptions and five sacks and twice turned the Bucs away inside their own 10-yard line with four-down stands near the goal line. It also featured a plethora of big plays on both sides of the ball that spurred the Rams to a victory.

- With the win, the Rams move to 7-7-1 on the year and the opportunity to go to Seattle next week to play for a winning record for the first time since 2003 and go undefeated in the division. They were officially eliminated from the playoffs when Minnesota knocked off Houston but they seemed wholly unconcerned with anything besides getting a win against Tampa Bay on Sunday.

- At first blush, it seems the Rams came out of the game without any serious injury issues. We’ll know more on Monday but nobody missed any serious time Sunday.

- Game ball after the game went to LB James Laurinaitis and one for TE Lance Kendricks.

- Let’s start with the man who jumpstarted the Rams again Sunday, much as he did last month against Arizona: rookie CB Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins has an absurd knack for finding the end zone after he come up with a takeaway. I don’t think it’s something that can be taught. He just innately has it and he displayed it again. DT Kendall Langford described it as “automatic.”

- Laurinaitis made a nice interception and again showed why he’s one of the best inside linebackers in the league at dropping in coverage. Unofficial pressbox stats had him down for 12 tackles and two passes defended as well.

- Five sacks with a number of different guys coming up with them but how about the pair for DE William Hayes, who now has 5.5 for the season. What a find he’s been.

- Speaking of backup DEs making big contribution, Eugene Sims chipped in his first career interception and continues to be a disruptive force for the Rams lining up all over the D line.

- While Jenkins’ pick went for a touchdown, hats off to CB Trumaine Johnson for perhaps the most textbook interception of the day. He’s quietly really improved here at the end of the season and is showing that he’s going to be a player in the near future.

- Kendricks’ big day is a great sign not only for his future but the Rams as well. Limited in the pass game for most of the season because his blocking services were needed, Kendricks is getting more chances in the pass game and making the most of them. He’s had a few drops this year but he’s improved drastically in that area and he’s playing with a lot of confidence right now. Congrats to him on his first 100-yard day as he posted four grabs for 119 yards and his 80-yard touchdown. That catch, by the way, was the longest by a Rams tight end in franchise history.

- RB Steven Jackson came up 10 yards short of the 91 needed for 1,000 on the season. He’ll almost certainly get those yards next week in Seattle. In the meantime, he should be commended for running hard and making the most of what he could get against a top notch run defense in Tampa Bay.

- Oh, I’d be remiss not to mention the hustle and effort of WR Danny Amendola on Kendricks’ touchdown. Amendola hustled down the field and took out two Bucs to spring Kendricks for the score. You think this team is going to pack it in without the playoffs possible? Look at that play for overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

- Good on the offensive line for keeping QB Sam Bradford from being sacked. It’s the first time in 31 games that Bradford hasn’t been sacked. Pretty good considering the Rams were working with two guys at right guard that hadn’t played there all year in Shelley Smith and Chris Williams.

- Austin Pettis seems to have a pretty solid ability to get open and score touchdowns in the red zone.

- A strong performance from P Johnny Hekker, who didn’t have any that got away from him this week as he punted seven times with an average of 47.9 yards with a net of 46.9 and two pinned inside the 20.

- The Rams will enjoy a victory Monday tomorrow and then have Christmas with their families on Tuesday before practice resumes Wednesday in preparation for Seattle.

- We’ll be back to wrap this one up with Coach Jeff Fisher’s news conference tomorrow.

- Talk to you then. Thanks for reading.


Posted in From the Sidelines | No Comments »

Rams vs. Buccaneers: Running Blog

Posted by nickwagoner on December 23, 2012 – 4:39 PM

TAMPA, Fla. -

Fourth Quarter

- Three and out again for the Rams. Not a good way to finish this thing off.

- Tampa takes over at its 31.

- More big plays from Tampa puts it in good shape at the Rams’ 6 as Jackson has a 46-yard catch and run.

- Three straight incompletions made it fourth and goal at the 6.

- The Rams got yet another stop on fourth down pinned deep when Doug Martin caught a short pass from Freeman and was dropped for a gain of 3, 3 yards short of the end zone.

- The Rams offense takes over at its 3. They need a solid, time-consuming drive here to help put this one away with 12:08 to go.

- Who else but Jackson to get it done and possibly go over the 1,000 mark for the season?

- He ripped off runs of 6, 19, 7 and 2 yards but a third and 1 pass fell incomplete and the Rams punted it away from their 37.

- Jackson needs 15 more yards to get to 1,000 for the season.

- The Bucs take over at their 16.

- Big interception on a deflection for DE Eugene Sims. Rams take over at Tampa’s 39.

- Jackson loses 2 on first down.

- A screen lost 5 and the Rams will punt. Not a good drive there, had a chance to get 3 more and potentially make it a three-possession game.

- Tampa dinking and dunking its way down the field for a first down to the Rams’ 29.

- Defense gets another stop.

- Rams can milk this one out now, a chance for Jackson to get his 17 yards.

- They can’t quite run out the clock. Two Jackson runs netted 7 yards and made it third and 3 with 2:15 to go.

- Jackson stopped for no gain.

- Tampa gets it back under the two-minute warning.

- A sack for Williams Hayes on first down.

- Freeman overthrows on second down.

- Rams get it back at Tampa’s 31 and can run it out.

- That will do it. Rams win it 28-13 and improve to 7-7-1 on the year. They have won four of five.

Third Quarter

- The Rams get it first and start from their 20.

- On the first play, Bradford hit a wide open Kendricks over the middle. He caught it and raced 80 yards for a TD with help of a terrific block by Amendola that took out two defenders.

- The Rams lead 21-6.

- On third and 4 from their 26, Freeman fired an interception into the arms of rookie CB Trumaine Johnson, who made a great read and break on the ball for the pick, the third of the day for the Rams.

- The Rams have it back at Tampa’s 30.

- Richardson runs for 6 on first down to the 24 and gains 1 on second to make it third-and-3.

- Bradford hits Amendola for 8 and a first down to the 15.

- He follows with 10 more to Givens for a first down at the 5.

- Two plays later, Bradford hit Austin Pettis for 5 yards and a touchdown. Rams lead 28-6.

- Tampa gets it back at its 21.

- Four plays into the drive, the Bucs strike back as Freeman hits a wide open Mike Williams for 61 yards and a touchdown.

- Rams lead 28-13 with 8:50 to go in the third.

- They start from their 6 after another special teams penalty.

- Rams go three and out after a holding penalty wiped out a 10-yard run by Jackson.

- Hekker’s punt goes 57 yards and the Bucs start from their 31.

- Tampa worked its way down the field with big passing plays as Williams continues to make big gains with 20 and 16.

- At the Rams’ 5, the Bucs had two plays to get a first down to the 4 and the Rams shut them down, including a fourth-down sneak by Freeman that came up well short.

- Rams get it back at their 5.

- They go three and out again, punting from their 8 after a third down incompletion for Gibson.

- Tampa starts again from the Rams 43 after yet another bad special teams penalty, this time unsportsmanlike conduct.

- Freeman’s deep shot for Jackson fell incomplete on first down.

- Rams defense gets a three and out and they get it back at their 18.

- At the end of three, the Rams lead 28-13.

Second Quarter

- After a 13-yard strike to Givens to the 31, Bradford fired deep for Amendola on a double move but Tampa CB Danny Gorrer didn’t bite and made the interception in the end zone.

- Tampa takes over at its 20.

- A 5-yard sack by Kendall Langford pushed the Bucs back to their 25 after a first down.

- On third and 15, Freeman was pressured and floated a pass toward the left sideline. Rookie CB Janoris Jenkins jumped on it and took it 41 yards for a touchdown.

- It’s Jenkins’ fourth touchdown of the season and third pick-6.

- Greg Zuerlein’s extra point makes it 7-3 Rams with 11:46 to go in the second quarter.

- Tampa starts again from its 20.

- Buoyed by a 15-yard facemask penalty and an offsides penalty, the Bucs got into Rams territory but stalled with an incompletion on third and 3 at the 31.

- Barth hit again, this time from 49 yards out to make it 7-6 Rams with 5:56 to go in the second quarter.

- Rams go three and out from their 20. Tampa gets it back at its 36.

- The Bucs moved into Rams territory on a 13-yard completion to Mike Williams.

- On first down from the Rams’ 49, Freeman fired over the middle for Jackson but LB James Laurinaitis dropped deep and stepped in front for an interception.

- The Rams get it back at their 35.

- Jackson ripped off a gain of 12 on first down to the St. Louis 47. After a 2-yard run, Bradford hit TE Lance Kendricks for 19 yards down the left sideline.

- At the two minute warning, the Rams have it at Tampa’s 32.

- On third and 10, Bradford stood strong in the pocket and hit Gibson for 13 yards and a first down to Tampa’s 19.

- Two plays later, Bradford found Kendricks for 13 yards to the 5.

- On the next play, Jackson lowered his head and snaked his way for a touchdown. The Rams lead 14-6 with 32 seconds to go.

- At the end of the first half, the Rams lead 14-6. They’ll get the ball first to open the second half.

First Quarter

- The Rams won the toss and elected to defer.

- The Bucs methodically worked their way down the field, led by WR Vincent Jackson, who has three catches for 38 yards on the possession.

- A 6-yard sack by DE Chris Long with the ball at the Rams’ 12 pushed Tampa back and ultimately forced a field goal.

- Connor Barth converts for the Bucs, who take a 3-0 lead with 5:22 to go in the first.

- The Rams start their first drive from the 20.

- On second down from there, Danny Amendola caught a pass in the flat, was hit and fumbled and the Bucs recovered but the recovery wasn’t for long as the ball came loose again.

- Rams LG Robert Turner recovered to give the Rams a new life and first down at their own 5 because of the possession change.

- A nice, methodical drive of their own with a 20-yard completion to Gibson and 14 to Givens were the keys.

- The Rams have a second and 7 at Tampa’s 44 at the end of the first quarter.

- At the end of one extremely fast quarter, the Bucs lead 3-0.

Pregame Notes

- Greetings from Raymond James Stadium where the Rams and Bucs cling to the thinnest of playoff hopes but both look to rebound from disappointing losses last week.

- Temperatures here are hovering in the 50s but you’d think it’s frigid by how the locals are reacting. They are all bundled up, guess they aren’t used to mild temps.

- One quick roster note, CB Quinton Pointer has been brought back to the active roster. He takes the spot vacated by G Harvey Dahl, who was placed on injured reserve earlier this week.

- On the inactive front, no major surprises.

- Here’s the list: QB Austin Davis, RB Terrance Ganaway, DT Matt Conrath, T Joe Barksdale, WR Steve Smith, TE Cory Harkey and LB Sammy Brown.

- The Rams are wearing white tops on blue pants today.

- CB Cortland Finnegan was questionable entering today but is active and expected to play.

- It’s been announced that Shelley Smith will start for Dahl at RG but don’t be shocked if Chris Williams gets the start or at least splits time.

- The Bucs inactives are CB LeQuan Lewis, RB Michael Smith, G Roger Allen, WR Chris Owusu, WR David Douglas, DT Corey Irvin, DT Matthew Masifilo.

- Stay tuned for updates throughout the game.


Posted in From the Sidelines | 3 Comments »

Rams Ready for Bucs

Posted by nickwagoner on December 21, 2012 – 7:46 PM

- The Rams just wrapped up their Friday practice and their week of preparation for Sunday’s game in Tampa Bay.

- With temperatures outside considerably colder than what they willl be in Tampa this weekend, the Rams again practiced in the indoor facility on Friday.

- One interesting little note about a record the Rams are closing in on is the Rams are just one 2-point conversion short of tying the league record for most in one season. They are five-of-six on the year in those situations.

- Coach Jeff Fisher said he’s been pleased with how his team has executed on 2-point conversions, particularly the ones that come in important times of the game as they so often do.

“It’s been our ability to throw and catch,” Fisher said. “You just make plays. Sam stays alive, he understands the concepts and we have some good plays in place. Then you say how come you don’t use those plays when you are backed out a little bit? They are basically 2-point plays as we talked about earlier in the week.”

- The Rams actually work from a cluster of plays specifically designed for 2-point conversions. Those plays can also be used from the 2 in regular situations but generally not elsewhere.

- On the injury report Friday, things are looking good for the Rams to have the majority of their normal starters available Sunday in Tampa.

Here’s the breakdown:

Out: None
Doubtful: None
Questionable: CB Cortland Finnegan (thigh) 
Probable: RB Steven Jackson (illness), LB James Laurinaitis (back), C Scott Wells (knee), CB Bradley Fletcher (illness), DE Robert Quinn (illness).

- All for today. Talk to you all from Tampa.


Posted in From the Sidelines | No Comments »