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Monday, December 4, 2023

Rams are bad enough without schedule handicaps

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Saddled with a 17-game losing streak after an 0-7 start, there’s no question the St. Louis Rams have been awful.

The schedule isn’t giving them any breaks, either.

The Rams were pummeled Sunday at home 42-6 by the unbeaten Indianapolis Colts, the third in a trio of top-shelf teams — joining Green Bay and Minnesota — St. Louis drew to open its home schedule. All three clobbered the Rams.

The Rams opened with two games on the road and now they have another away game, this one Sunday at Detroit. And for the second straight week, the Rams get an opponent coming off its bye week.

Rookie head coach Steve Spagnuolo said Monday he can’t worry about such things. Spagnuolo said that when the schedule came out in May he put on blinders and focused on the opener at Seattle. The Rams’ bye follows this week’s bottom-of-the-barrel matchup against the one-win Lions.

“I don’t get wrapped up in it,” Spagnuolo said. “I haven’t studied it hard enough, but I’m sure there’s something in the schedule where we could say, ‘Well, this worked out pretty good for us.'”

The Rams came closest to winning in a pair of road games, a 2-point loss at Washington in Week 2 and an overtime loss at Jacksonville in Week 6. After the bye the Rams are home for three straight games, not that the coach had noticed.

“I haven’t thought about it that way,” Spagnuolo said. “I don’t know if I’m smart enough to think that far ahead.”

Minutes after Sunday’s blowout loss, the always-upbeat coach thought players experienced a letdown in the fourth quarter. Given a day to reflect and review game tape, the coach said shoulders sagged for only about three minutes.

However long it lasted, Spagnuolo gave players yet another reminder that they should focus only on what’s in front of them.

“Don’t let a bad play or a good play affect the next play, we talk about that all the time,” Spagnuolo said. “That’s what guys have got to fight through.”

Players are hoping this is finally their week.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” rookie offensive tackle Jason Smith said. “Obviously, we’re building towards whatever it is we’re building here. When we do happen to be victorious, it’ll be great.”

Running back Steven Jackson said it won’t come without hard work and added, “We have to play four quarters, not two or three.”

The Rams lost two players, rookie cornerback Bradley Fletcher and long snapper Chris Massey, to season-ending knee injuries against the Colts. A third, guard Richie Incognito, could be out as long as three weeks with a ligament injury to his right foot.

They’re the latest in a long list of casualties from home games played on a FieldTurf surface that’s replaced every year. Spagnuolo doesn’t know if a connection can be made, noting that opposing teams haven’t had a lot of injuries at the Edward Jones Dome and said no players have complained about the surface.

Earlier in the year, wide receiver Laurent Robinson (ankle, leg) and defensive tackle Gary Gibson (ankle) were placed on injured reserve after injuries in home games. Safety James Butler (knee) missed three games and cornerback Ron Bartell (groin) missed one.

“I’m not going to speculate,” Spagnuolo said. “Injuries happen and there have been some freak ones, but I’ve seen those kinds of injuries in my 11 years in the league.”

Incognito’s injury will at least temporarily end the team’s decision last week to give Smith playing time on both sides of the line. Adam Goldberg likely moves from right tackle to Incognito’s right guard position with Smith starting at right tackle this week.

The Rams get one player back this week, with linebacker David Vobora eligible to return from a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

© 2009 Associated Press. Displayed by permission. All rights reserved.

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