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News » Haslett putting stamp on Rams

Haslett putting stamp on Rams

Haslett putting stamp on Rams
ST. LOUIS (AP) - On the St. Louis Rams' first possession under new coach Jim Haslett, Steven Jackson lost a fumble inside the 5 at Washington.

The old Rams might have crumbled again, just as they often did during a string of 17 losses in 20 games that marked them as NFL pushovers and cost Scott Linehan his job. Not under Haslett, whose biggest contribution in upsets over the Redskins and Cowboys has been toughening up a team that had been 0-4.

Mistakes, he's often told players, are bound to happen. It's how you respond that counts.

"I do think the guys have kind of bought into what we're trying to do and they feel good about themselves, and they're taking ownership of their team," Haslett said. "You have to like that."

The Rams shook off Jackson's fumble and the easy touchdown it produced to beat the Redskins 19-17 on Josh Brown's last-second 52-yard field goal. Last week, they answered the Cowboys' impressive opening drive with one of their own and ended up whipping a Dallas team minus quarterback Tony Romo 34-14.

St. Louis overcame its own adversity in that game, playing without its top blocker, tackle Orlando Pace.

"We line up every Sunday no matter what, whether you've got the people there or not," high-strung offensive guard Richie Incognito said. "We're missing some people, we lined up without our Hall of Fame left tackle."

About the best the Rams' front office could have expected from Haslett, given the circumstances, was a measure of respectability. Instead, the Rams have a hot coach on their hands and a team that's not out of it in the woeful NFC West.

"We said we could go two days: tank it for the rest of the season, which makes it a really long year, or we could just try to put something together and play for the pride in ourselves and the team," running back Steven Jackson said. "The city and everyone depends on us a lot, and coach Haslett gave a speech about it.

"He said, 'Go out and play.' He said, 'What do you have to lose?"'

As a rookie head coach in 2000, Haslett coaxed 10 wins and a division title out of the New Orleans Saints, then led that franchise to its first playoff victory. So, he's been there before.

Haslett is drawing on the highs and low of his New Orleans years, which ended after a three-win season in 2005 when the Saints were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. He believes he's a lot better equipped for the job the second time around, noting that the Colts' Tony Dungy and the Patriots' Bill Belichick also have been fired but are now thriving.

Belichick's Patriots play the Rams on Sunday in New England.

"You have experience from the first time around and you're a little bit better prepared because you've been through it," Belichick said. "Jim was pretty successful in New Orleans, too. I would say that was a pretty positive performance down there, especially given some of the circumstances that he had to deal with.

"I'm sure he'll be successful in St. Louis, as he already has been."'

No doubt Haslett, now 47-51 as a head coach, has an easier time getting players' attention than the mild-mannered Linehan. The fiery former NFL linebacker feuded regularly with Mike Martz when the Rams and Saints were both in the NFC West at the start of the decade, and doesn't pull punches with players.

He sensed anxiety in the locker room prior to the Cowboys game and immediately cleared the air.

"Don't worry about the team you're playing, don't read about all the hype and all the bull that you read about this team, 'America's Team', and all that," Haslett said he told the team. "Just go out and play and play hard, and good things will happen to us."

Pretty much all good things the last two games, in fact.

Since Jackson's fumble at Washington, the Rams have forced seven turnovers and committed none. An offense that totaled 43 points the first four games hit its stride against the Cowboys behind Jackson's 160 yards and three touchdowns, and Marc Bulger's pinpoint passing. A defense that allowed 30 points in each of the first four games with Haslett as coordinator has thrived under new coordinator Rick Venturi, a longtime Haslett associate.

"I love the way he calls the game," cornerback Fakhir Brown said. "I think he helps me play with more energy. He just knows how to mix it up, and has a good feel for other teams."

Just like the Rams probably weren't going to lose them all, Haslett realizes they won't win out, either. And that's OK.

"You've seen us practice," he said. "We practice hard, they have fun when they're out there, and that's the way it should be. As long as we keep that up, we'll be all right."

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: October 23, 2008

Brian Leonard Name: Brian Leonard
Position: RB
Age: 24
Experience: 2 years
College: Rutgers
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