Rams Show Signs Of Turnaround

The 52,440 fans who watched St. Louis Rams rookie quarterback Sam Bradford make his NFL debut on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals had the Edward Jones Dome rocking for the first time in years.

The Rams lost 17-13 after the Cardinals scored a late touchdown, but the vibe in the Dome was different than it had been in a while.

"This loss doesn't feel like last year's losses," defensive end Chris Long said. "I feel like we have made some progress and we're going to keep grinding away at this thing and go win a ballgame next week."

Other than the play of standout running back Steven Jackson, the first Rams running back to produce five consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season, there hasn't been much to cheer about the last three seasons as the team went from 3-13 in 2007 to 2-14 in 2008 and then 1-15 last season.

The 6-42 record in the last three seasons is in the past.

"To go forward and to turn this thing around, I think we showed a lot of progress today," Jackson said. "I will say that. I don't want to discredit some of the young guys. But we have to get a killer instinct. We have to be able to put a team that's good like that, we have to be able put them away. We're getting there. There is some things to be proud of in this game, but to be a true leader I can't be satisfied with the loss."

These Rams, led by Jackson, Bradford and defenders like Long, middle linebacker James Laurinaitis and safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, are hungry to prove they can get this thing turned around.

The season-opening loss to the Arizona Cardinals was different than many of those losses the previous three seasons.

The Rams fought back to tie the game right before halftime and held a lead in the fourth quarter before Larry Fitzgerald caught a touchdown pass from Derek Anderson with 6:18 remaining.

"I can't let the guys be satisfied with coming up short," Jackson said. "I think I would do a disjustice to this team. We competed and it was good to have the crowd behind us. It's been a while since we had that kind of energy in the Dome. But we have to as an offense and a defense, as a complete unit, when a team is making mistakes we have to be able to capitalize on it."

The Rams should have beaten the Cardinals. The game was there for the taking, but they couldn't capitalize on the opportunities they were handed.

Defensive tackle Clifton Ryan recovered a fumble and rumbled toward the goal line but was stripped of the ball just feet away from scoring a touchdown that would have put the Rams ahead 20-10.

Rams cornerback Ron Bartell dropped a potential interception that would have given St. Louis prime field position for another scoring drive.

Like Jackson said, the team needs to be able to put opponents away.

But to be able to do that, first the Rams need to have a chance to win games. That wasn't an option for much of last year's dismal season under first-year coach Steve Spagnuolo when the team lost nine games by 10 points or more.

"I know we battled our butt off," Spagnuolo said following Sunday's game. "There's a couple plays you've got to make in there if you're going to win a close football game like that. I think we're headed in the right direction. I think we're doing the right things. Guys are doing what they're supposed to, we've just got to make a play. The only thing we didn't get today, the only thing we didn't get today was the reward. That's what this game is all about. The rewards are the wins, but we've got 15 more chances."

One by one the players in the locker room expressed disappointment in losing that game but hope that things are headed in the right direction.

New Rams receiver Mark Clayton said the squad is hungry. Clayton and others know that Bradford is the right man for the job and will lead St. Louis to better days in the future.

Things are different now.

"I think guys believe now," Jackson said. "I think guys truly believe that we are a good team and that we can compete."


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