Hal Pilger's St. Louis Rams notebook
By Hal Pilger
Gatehouse News Service
A month ago, it would have been a ridiculous statement. At this point, it’s an indication of a desperate situation.
“Our goal is to be 1-3,” St. Louis Rams coach Scott Linehan insists in the wake of last Sunday’s 24-3 debacle at Tampa Bay, a devastating loss that made the Rams 0-3.
When it is pointed out that only five teams in the history of the NFL have started 0-3 and reached the postseason, Linehan says, “All that stuff, and where we are . . . we’ve got to get to 1-3.
“All the scenarios, or where we were last year, don’t mean anything now, because we’re sitting here 0-3. Last year we were 2-1 at this time (and finished 8-8). This is a new year, and we’ve got to keep choppin’ away at it.
“And the only way we can do that is to get ready to win this next football game. Obviously, playing Dallas (3-0 and one of only five unbeaten NFL teams) on the road is a pretty tough task. But that’s got to be where we’re at.”
Additional injuries to an already depleted offensive unit further complicate an already daunting task for a team averaging just 10.7 points per game. Dallas is averaging 38.7.
A torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, plus cartilage damage, means left guard Mark Setterstrom has joined line mate Orlando Pace out for season. Pace recently had surgery to repair injuries to the rotator cuff and labrum of his right shoulder.
Also on Sunday, running back Steven Jackson suffered a partially torn groin muscle late in his first 100-yard rushing game of the season and will miss at least today’s game against the Cowboys, probably more And quarterback Marc Bulger was limited in what he could do because of two broken ribs, suffered a week earlier against San Francisco.
Yet Linehan still saw some bright spots in his team’s third straight loss.
“I know the score doesn’t indicate it, but we were right there,” Linehan said. “It may not look like it, but I feel very, very good about how we planned this football game, stayed with it, even when it’s easy to get away from it.
“(Jackson) is a great football player, a great back, and he ran hard. And our guys were blocking and playing hard. We were able to control a lot of things, but that’s only so good if you don’t put points on the board. If we don’t turn the football over and we score, that game’s a lot closer, in my opinion.
“We’re working hard at it. We’re spending a lot of extra time making up for areas that we need to make up for. But the bottom line is, it’s not good enough, and I acknowledge that 100 percent. We’re certainly not getting it done.
“We’re not seeing the dividends of our hard work yet. There’s a lot that needs to be improved. We’ve got to do better.”
n RAMS RIDDLE: Bulger, with 96 touchdown passes, needs three more to move into fifth place on the Rams’ all-time career touchdown completions list. Who would he pass? Answer below.
n LEONARD GETS SHOT: With Jackson shelved, Linehan said Brian Leonard will take over in the backfield, making his first NFL start.
Leonard netted 21 yards rushing Sunday with his first four carries of the season. During preseason games, Leonard got the bulk of the backfield work, rushing 39 times for 125 yards.
“We were pleased at how far he came along in the preseason at the tailback position," offensive coordinator Greg Olson was quoted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We think he’ll be capable of taking over that role in Steven’s absence, hopefully, for just a game.”
n BETTER TO RECEIVE: The Rams-Cowboys game will feature three of the most productive wide receivers in NFL history — the Rams’ Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt and the Cowboys' Terrell Owens.
All three rank in the top 25 in NFL history for most career receptions and in the top 20 for most career receiving yards. Bruce’s 901 receptions rank seventh in NFL history and Holt’s 730 rank 25th, while Owens’ 817 rank 17th.
Bruce ranks seventh in all-time receiving yards with 13,555, while Owens is 14th with 12,044 and Holt is 20th with 10,885.
n GETTING DEFENSIVE: The Rams are ranked seventh in the NFL in total defense, yielding 298.3 yards per game. The Cowboys are ranked 21st at 337.
The Rams are ranked 28th in rush defense but third in pass defense, while the Cowboys are eighth in rush defense but 23rd in pass defense.
St. Louis has allowed an average of 22.7 points per game compared to Dallas’ 21.7. The Cowboys have made six sacks for a loss of 50 yards, while the Rams have made five for a loss of 40.
n RIDDLE RESULT: Bulger needs three TD tosses to top Bob Waterfield for fifth place on the Rams’ all-time career touchdown completions list.
n END QUOTE: Linehan, on his Rams struggling despite a core group of talented veterans: “I know we’ve got some guys who made the Pro Bowl last year and were All-Pro and all that, but we’ve got to play good football as a team. You can have the greatest football player at one position, but if we’re not doing things all 11 . . . it still doesn’t work.”
Hal Pilger can be reached at 788-1548 or firstname.lastname@example.org.