Rams face tough road after 0-2 start

Monday, September 17, 2007 | 10:22 p.m. CDT; updated 7:59 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

ST. LOUIS — Only two games into the season, a pair of dispiriting home losses, the St. Louis Rams are in a precarious position.

The frustration is starting to show, too. Running back Steven Jackson stormed off the field after a failed late fourth-quarter drive in Sunday’s 17-16 loss to the 49ers and gave coach Scott Linehan such an earful that running backs coach Wayne Moses had to restrain him.

The Rams began that drive at their own 40 after Joe Nedney kicked the ball out of bounds following a field goal that put the 49ers in front 17-16 with 3:23 to go. The Rams threw the ball four times out of the shotgun formation, the only success coming on Jackson’s 3-yard catch up the middle on second down.

“I was upset mainly because I thought we were going to come out on top,” Jackson said Monday. “I really thought we were going to win and I was hoping that we could put together a successful drive, and it wasn’t going that way.”

Linehan took Jackson’s outburst in stride.

“I don’t know if he was yelling at me. I didn’t take it that way,” Linehan said. “Sometimes players get emotional and I understand that part, that you’ve just got to let it roll off your back.”

Linehan said he has practice with that at home with his children.

“Sometimes when my kids run up to their bedroom they cuss me out, too,” Linehan said. “I tell them I’d rather have it that way.”

What can’t be ignored is the uphill climb ahead of the Rams, whose last chance fizzled when Jeff Wilkins’ 56-yard field goal attempt appeared to graze the crossbar before falling short with 58 seconds to go. Six of the Rams’ next eight games are on the road, starting with Sunday at Tampa Bay (1-1).

“If we take care of the ball offensively and start getting that baby in the end zone, we can start our roll in Week 3,” Linehan said. “Yeah, we’re in a little hole. We put a little more pressure on ourselves than we wanted to, but sometimes that’s good.”

Jackson said all of that togetherness on the road could help the team develop some chemistry, especially on their beat-up offensive line.

“It’s going to be hard and it’s going to be hard because we’re on the road,” Jackson said. “But since we’re on the road you hope that the 53 guys know that we don’t have our crowd to depend on and it’s only us.”

The Rams’ highly regarded offense has two touchdowns in two games, scoring in their opening drive each game. They outgained the 49ers 392-186 in total yards in their first game without perennial Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Pace, sidelined for the year with a knee injury, but consistently bogged down inside the 20.

Turnovers have been particularly damaging to the Rams, who led at halftime in both games. Jackson lost two fumbles against the Panthers in the opener, and on Sunday they had three turnovers in the second half. The most damaging came when Dante Hall muffed the catch on a punt return with under six minutes remaining, leading to Nedney’s go-ahead field goal.

The defense was much improved against the 49ers after taking the bulk of the blame for the opening-week 27-13 loss to the Panthers, holding Frank Gore to 81 yards on 20 carries. However, Gore broke loose for a 43-yard scoring run on fourth-and-1 in the third quarter that put San Francisco ahead 14-13.

Gore totaled 261 yards in two games against the Rams last year.

“It’s the best we’ve played him since I’ve been here,” Linehan said. “But the run counts. You only need one or two big runs to have a running game.”

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