The League

Zach Leibowitz
Sideline Reporter

Zach Leibowitz

A former sideline reporter for ESPN

Rams No Longer Lambs

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Jim Haslett is not the answer to St. Louis' prayers, though he does represent a much needed change in the culture of Rams football. The firing of Scott Linehan was a clear message to the players that the entire team is on notice, especially the defense. Haslett, whose five years in New Orleans gradually went downhill, is still respected for his defensive schemes. There's a reason that after giving up an average of almost 37 points a game under Linehan, the Rams allowed only 17 points vs. Washington and 14 vs. Dallas. Offensively, Haslett also deserves credit for the Rams sudden resurgence against two well-discussed Super Bowl contenders. He's returned to Marc Bulger at QB for the season -- the right move -- and put the ball into Stephen Jackson's hands. Jackson's the work horse, so ride him often and let him carry you into the end zone.

A couple things have also worked in St. Louis' favor the past two weeks. First, Washington completely overlooked the Rams at FedEx Field last week. While the Redskins still had the lead and should have won the game anyway, they failed to put the Rams away. At this level, when one possession is the difference between winning and losing, that's an unacceptable risk, and it cost the Redskins that day.

The confidence from that win spilled over into yesterday's game against Dallas. The struggling Cowboys came into a rejuvenated St. Louis dome without their star QB. Romo, although active, didn't play. Brad Johnson started and three interceptions and a couple fumbles later and you thought you were watching Ryan Leaf taking snaps.

The Rams have suddenly ascended from a potential 16-loss team, to a football club two games out of first place. St. Louis has not yet played front-running Arizona, a team they will host in two weeks. Next week, the Rams travel to New England. That's a tough game, but it's not impossible as it once seemed, especially with no Tom Brady.

While there is a renewed sense of optimism in St. Louis under Haslett, the Rams will still most likely miss the playoffs. There are still glaring weaknesses on defense that Haslett won't be able to completely solve by standing on the sidelines.

Haslett absolutely deserves credit for the Rams sudden resurgence. However, after a couple weeks of being completely overlooked by far superior teams, opponents will now be warned not to peak ahead of St. Louis. That should begin next week in Foxboro and should counter the Rams' surprise attack.

Once left for dead under Linehan, Haslett's Rams have become a team to watch in the very weak NFC West. The season is not far enough along yet to completely count out the Rams. It still is a long-shot for St. Louis to win the division and make the playoffs, but under Haslett, there's at least a chance. Sometimes, having a chance is all you need.

By Zach Leibowitz  |  October 20, 2008; 10:39 AM ET  | Category:  NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Losing Linehan Was Key | Next: Haslett Got Them Believing

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