Behind Enemy Lines: St. Louis

In this week's edition of "Behind Enemy Lines," take an inside look at the St. Louis Rams and how they're preparing for Sunday's game with Tampa Bay.

The Rams weren't a very efficient team in the preseason with their starting offensive unit failing to score a touchdown.

With the team managing just one touchdown in each of the first two games, the question has been whether the slow start is related to the summer problems.

Running back Steven Jackson hardly played in practice games, and when he did, he never carried the ball from scrimmage.

Coach Scott Linehan doesn't believe there's a correlation, but it's difficult to convince the critics when the team has scored a total of 29 points in two home games.

The irony is that Jackson has run well in the first quarter of games and struggled thereafter. Both Rams touchdowns have come in the first quarter. Jackson is averaging just 3.0 yards per attempt in two games and his long run is 13 yards. In the first quarter, he has totaled 59 yards on 13 carries (4.5-yard average). However, in the other six quarters combined, he has 26 rushes for 59 yards (2.3-yard average).

All of the Rams' five turnovers have come on second-half fumbles, with four in the third quarter. In the third quarter of each loss, the Rams held 13-7 leads, but the second turnover each time led to the go-ahead touchdown for Carolina and San Francisco, respectively.

"It can't last because we can't allow it to last," Linehan said. "It's happening because we're too loose with the football. That starts with coaching. We say that we practice it, but it's not carrying over in the games. Hopefully, it's a lesson we've learned the hard way and we won't continue it."

There have also been four red-zone trips the first two games where the Rams settled for field goals instead of scoring touchdowns.

Asked the problem, offensive coordinator Greg Olson said, "We've got to clean up some things execution-wise. The field gets shorter, there's less of it to defend and ... things happen faster. The lanes close up quicker so the quarterback has to make quicker decisions ... you've got to make not only the quick decision but the correct decision. If you're a running back and you get through the initial line, there's going to be contact because the safeties are down tighter.

"Wide receivers on certain blocks, you've got to get there faster because the safeties are getting there faster. It's a tighter fit."

The Rams started slowly in the red zone last season, but improved as the season progressed. With six of their next eight games on the road, this slow start could turn into a trend. And a promising season could go downhill quickly.

SERIES HISTORY: 16th regular-season meeting. Rams lead 9-6 and the Rams have also won two NFC championship games against the Bucs in 1979 and 1999. The teams haven't played since 2004, when the Rams won in St. Louis, 28-21. Prior to that, Tampa Bay won three consecutive games over the Rams, two of them in Tampa. The Rams haven't won in Tampa since 1992.

NOTES, QUOTES

RB Steven Jackson said an outburst apparently leveled at coach Scott Linehan late in Sunday's game against San Francisco was no big deal.

"I was upset mainly because I thought we were going to come out on top," Jackson said. "I really thought we were going to win, and I was hoping that we could put together a successful drive -- and it just wasn't going that way. It was more a vocal out-letting of frustration than anything."

For the first day of practice Wednesday in preparation for Sunday's game against Tampa Bay, Jackson decided to address his offensive teammates because the incident was being widely reported and he didn't want it blown out of proportion.

"I just wanted to apologize to anyone that might have taken it the wrong way," Jackson said.

Said quarterback Marc Bulger, "I don't think he needed to apologize. We understand where he's coming from. He's a competitive guy."

Asked about what Jackson did, Linehan said, "That shows how mature he is. I'm very pleased with his entire approach. He knows along with the rest of us that we all have to get better."

Jackson was open as a receiver on several plays against San Francisco, but Bulger said after the game he quickly threw to his primary receiver in the game because of breakdowns in pass protection. Asked if not getting the ball in those situations was what made him upset, Jackson said, "Oh, no, no, no," Jackson said. "I like to catch the ball a lot, but I understand it's not my (main) job. I expect Marc to look for Isaac (Bruce) and Torry (Holt) before he looks for me. Always."

Linehan was asked about Jackson Monday, and claimed he didn't know what Jackson was saying.

"I don't know if he was yelling at me," Linehan said. "I didn't take it that way. I honestly didn't. This is news to me. Sometimes players get emotional. I understand that part. You've just got to let it roll off your back. I don't have any issue at all with Steven. Sometimes he gets a little animated because he's a competitor. He didn't say anything to me that I heard."

Jackson said he is patient and believes the team's reshuffled offensive line will come together.

"The chemistry's not there," Jackson said. "Those five guys up front never played a whole game together. So hopefully, as we get into the season, and get into game shape, we can continue our dominance that we've had (early) and carry it over to the second half."

— DT Adam Carriker played about 42 snaps against San Francisco and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said the rookie didn't play that well. But Haslett took some of the responsibility.

"He didn't do as well as we would've liked; he's played better," Haslett said. "We're probably doing too much with him. He's playing nose, he's playing 3-technique, and then with Claude Wroten out, he played all the third-down situations.

"I've got to keep remembering that the guy played end for four years (at Nebraska). You want him to play so much because he's a big, intimidating body, but we've got to be smart in how we use him. We can't play him in three or four different spots in every game and expect him to be very effective."

— The Rams play their next two games on the road and six of their next eight. Linehan tries not to look past the coming game.

"I actually look at the next game," he said. "We're playing the next game on the road. We haven't fared so well at home, unfortunately for us. If we can turn it and perform well down in Tampa and start something really good, by going down and getting a big win then you move on to the next one and focus on what you have to do for that one. It's really Tampa Bay. It honestly is. I'd be lying if I couldn't tell you the next two or three opponents, but I really don't focus too much on who's down the road. I look at it in preseason. We look at it a lot and plan the year, but I'm really focused on this week."

BY THE NUMBERS: 4-12 -- The Rams' record in 1998, the last time they started 0-2, with both losses coming at home.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I thought he played about as good as you're going to play. The guy plays 18 plays, has eight tackles, two sacks, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble. Probably should've played him more." -- Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, on rookie NT Clifton Ryan's performance against the 49ers.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

OL Adam Goldberg was practicing with the first unit at right tackle Wednesday. Goldberg filled in at both guard and tackle last Sunday because of injuries suffered by OG Claude Terrell and G/T Milford Brown.

OG Claude Terrell shared time with Brown at right guard in practice Wednesday. Terrell is apparently healthy after suffering thigh and knee injuries Sunday against San Francisco.

OL Milford Brown shared time with Terrell at right guard in practice Wednesday. Brown is apparently healthy after suffering an ankle injury Sunday against San Francisco.

QB Marc Bulger was limited somewhat in throwing Wednesday but is having no serious issues with the ribs he bruised Sunday against San Francisco.

LB Pisa Tinoisamoa, who missed Sunday's game because of an ankle injury, was limited in practice Wednesday, but might be able to play this week against Tampa Bay. "He passed the first test," coach Scott Linehan said. "We're being cautious but he seemed like his same old self."

GAME PLAN: The Rams will look to run the ball more effectively to stay out of difficult third-down situations and lessen the pressure on Bulger. Bulger was sacked six times against San Francisco and was hit another seven times in the game.

Defensively, as they mostly did with San Francisco's Frank Gore, the Rams will try and limit big plays from RB Cadillac Williams and keep WR Joey Galloway from hitting any explosive plays.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Rams DLE Leonard Little vs. Buccaneers RT Jeremy Trueblood. Little has one of the quickest first steps in the league, and Trueblood is in his second year as a starter after being selected in the second round of the 2006 draft.

Rams CBs Ron Bartell and Lenny Walls vs. Buccaneers WR Joey Galloway. Like the Rams' Isaac Bruce, Galloway doesn't seem to have slowed down, and he will be a handful for both Bartell and Galloway.

INJURY IMPACT

OG Richie Incognito remains sidelined with a high ankle sprain, but the team is hopeful he won't be out much longer. "We hope it's soon, but those are so hard to predict," Linehan said.


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