Notebook: Adjustments Key to Rams' Hopes

While many have been critical of the Vikings' ability to adjust on offense, Rams coach Scott Linehan credits that with being key to St. Louis' playoff hopes. Plus, see what coaches and players are saying about the young guns that will be getting more opportunities in the season finale.

The Vikings started the season with a 4-2 record against the toughest portion of their schedule, but a swoon that started in late October and hasn't let up since flushed their playoff hopes.

Their opponent in the season finale, the St. Louis Rams, had a similar start. The Rams, like the Vikings, started strong, going 4-1 in the season's getaway. Also like the Vikings, they had a dip after that strong start – losing seven of their next eight – but St. Louis was able to recover for a stretch run.

Rams coach Scott Linehan ceded his offensive play-calling duties and made other adjustments that he credits as helping them down the stretch.

"We made a lot of adjustments. Some of it personnel, some of it scheme, just to give ourselves a better chance to have success. It's good to see everybody within the organization strive for that. You want to see improvement as the year go on, and you want to see the ability to make adjustments too. I think our staff, and our players, and our organization have worked very hard at that," Linehan said.

"All along, I wanted to be able to hire somebody, instill our system. It's not my system, it's ours. We've all had a lot of input in it … I basically had to relieve myself of my duties after we didn't get across the 50-yard line in that game. That's what I did, I put more time into the overall plan. I've still spent all of my time in the offensive meeting room though, but it's been good. I just think that's what you do; you become a head coach, I've been a coordinator. I've been a coordinator most of my life. It's time that I be a head coach."

The Rams enter the weekend with a 7-8 record and a chance at the playoffs. However, if the New York Giants win on Saturday, St. Louis' playoff hopes will be dead. The Rams also need help from Atlanta and Carolina, who need to lose or tie for the Rams to play in the postseason. For now, they continue to adjust on the fly and hope for a win against the Vikings.

"We just keep looking for solutions and finding things we can do or ways we can mix it up. Someone's got to make a play early too. I think we relax and get more comfortable, and as the game goes on we figure out what people are doing," Linehan said. "I think it would certainly help us to get off to a fast start and take the lead early in a game for once. We're working on it."

Vikings coach Brad Childress has experienced many of the same situations as Linehan did calling plays and performing the rest of the duties that go with being a head coach. While Childress has maintained primary play-calling duties this season, he indicated last week that he would review that decision in the offseason. It is too late for any change to make a difference in the Vikings' playoff hopes this season, but Linehan's flexibility earlier in the season helped the Rams become a playoff contender in the last week of the regular season.


Childress indicated last Friday that he liked the way rookie quarterback Tarvaris Jackson managed the game in his first NFL start at Lambeau Field, but there were at least a couple of things Jackson could improve upon. The rookie seems to have picked up on those.

Childress said Jackson may have taken too deep of drops in certain situations, which could have contributed to him being sacked three times by Packers defensive end Aaron Kampman.

Asked what he'd like to build on from his first NFL start, Jackson said Wednesday, "Just the little things, like getting the plays called in the huddle a little bit faster. Just little things, like with my drop and stuff. Just little things like that that can easily be corrected at practice that I didn't do right that I saw on film that I can easily improve on."

The Vikings also had two illegal shift penalties against the Packers. Both of them negated long completions that would have given the team first downs – rare commodities as the Vikings had only three first downs for the entire game. Jackson said he needed to work on controlling his cadence better to allow his shifting receivers to get set before the snap of the ball.


Second-round draft pick Ryan Cook was the right tackle when Kampman was breaking through the line for those sacks, and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said Cook needs to become more consistent.

"There were some times he handled him well, you know some times he didn't. The one thing about Kampman is he's very sound in his technique. He's a great defensive end," Bevell said. "He doesn't have the same athletic ability as a (Julius) Peppers, but he's very solid with his technique. If he sees a weakness in a tackle, he's able to exploit that. So (Cook) was going up against a savvy guy. He was up and down a little bit, but he's still going to get better. He's a young guy."


With Marcus Robinson released and Cedric Griffin and Fred Smoot both on injured reserve, the season finale Sunday against the Rams will be an opportunity for young receivers and defensive backs to make an impression before the offseason evaluation mode.

At receiver, undrafted rookies Jason Carter and Martin Nance are expected to receive additional playing time. Carter made a positive impression in the preseason, as he and rookie quarterback Jackson developed a rapport on and off the field.

"I think you saw the most out of Jason in the preseason. He did a nice job of catching the ball," Bevell said. "He has a good understanding of what we're trying to do. I think he's a very tough kid, both physically and he's mentally tough, so we like that about him. Martin Nance is a big kid. He's caught the ball really well in practice. He's shown a knack for running some really nice routes, has that little extra feel of kind of just how to run a route that you just don't necessarily teach, kind of that innate ability to get open."

Defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin indicated that undrafted rookie cornerback Charles Gordon would "probably" get the start at cornerback opposite Antoine Winfield.

"But we are exploring all of our options," Tomlin added. "The reality is that the guys that we have to work with are the guys that we have to work with and it's going to be an all hands on deck mentality in that regard. It's going to take more than Charles stepping up in order for us to be effective."

Ronyell Whitaker is a more experienced player than Gordon, but he has looked shaky at times throughout the season. The Vikings also have the option of using safety Dwight Smith at nickel back and putting rookie Greg Blue in at safety in those situations.

"Dwight Smith has a corner background. We are going to leave no stone unturned in terms of giving ourselves an opportunity to play good football," Tomlin said.

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