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Roughed up Rams regroup

Interim coach Joe Vitt said St. Louis will need better play selection to beat Minnesota next week.
Tuesday, December 6, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:04 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

ST. LOUIS — Ryan Fitzpatrick will get his second start for the St. Louis Rams, even though the rookie quarterback from Harvard struggled in his first one.

Interim coach Joe Vitt said Monday he would stick with Fitzpatrick, who was held without a touchdown pass in Sunday’s 24-9 loss to the Washington Redskins, until Marc Bulger is ready to return from a shoulder injury that has sidelined him for two games.

Vitt said the rest of the team didn’t do enough to help Fitzpatrick and said the attack will have to be more balanced this week at Minnesota to have a chance. The team called almost four times as many pass plays as runs, putting the game in the rookie’s hands.

That scenario would have made it difficult, Vitt said, for the “second coming” of Joe Montana or Johnny Unitas to succeed.

“We’ve got to help Fitz out,” Vitt said. “We did nothing to help that kid yesterday.”

Steven Jackson had 24 yards on 11 carries and Marshall Faulk had the only other carry, a 3-yarder. Vitt said it wouldn’t help to give the aging Faulk more touches.

“Not unless he has wings and can fly,” Vitt said. “There has to be a running lane, there has to be somewhere to run the football, and if there is, Steven will find it.

“There was no running lane yesterday, none.”

There’s another reason to stick with the rookie: for only the second time in seven years the Rams (5-7) are essentially out of the playoff hunt. The past four games can be used to assess the future, even if Vitt and head coach Mike Martz, who’s out for the season with a heart ailment, aren’t back.

But Vitt said his No. 1 concern remained winning.

“What we’re going to do, we’re going to do everything we can and we’re going to put the best players on the field available to us,” Vitt said. “We’re here to win games.”

A defense that surrendered 257 yards rushing, the most since the Rams moved to St. Louis in 1995, is just as big of a concern. Clinton Portis and unheralded Rock Cartwright both topped 100 yards, the first time that’s happened against the Rams since 1980, and Vitt railed against missed tackles, a recurring theme in recent weeks.

He said coaching is not the reason.

The Rams were missing two starters, safety Adam Archuleta and cornerback Travis Fisher, with rookies serving as replacements. Both could be back this week.

“We’ve got a lot of young players and these things are going to happen,” defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson said. “We got really good plays and then we had a couple of really bad plays.”

Vitt, who also coaches linebackers, wasn’t interested in using youth as an excuse.

The loss dropped the Rams to 3-3 this year at home, where they have typically dominated. They’re 42-12 since 1999, the best in the NFL, but home field advantage isn’t what it used to be.

“We’re all being evaluated, and I think your true character is going to be exposed in tough times, and they are tough right now,” Vitt said. “So it’s time to put up or shut up.

“What you do speaks so well, there’s no need to hear what you have to say.”


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