Defense in desperate need of Tinoisamoa

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The injured linebacker may play Sunday despite a broken hand.

By R.B. FALLSTROM

The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Rams linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa could return this week wearing a pair of braces, one for a separated left shoulder and one for a broken left hand. The defense could use him, even stitched together, after a 38-24 loss at San Diego on Sunday.

Tinoisamoa already has been wearing a brace to protect a dislocated left shoulder in the second week of the season. He broke his left hand in practice last week and the Rams (4-3) were unable to fit him with proper protection due to swelling.

Tinoisamoa dressed for the Chargers game -- which Coach Scott Linehan said was only for emergency status -- but did not play.

"Our challenge now is to find a solution for that hand, something that will work," Linehan said. "It looks much better that he will be able to play this game with something.

"No guarantees, of course. That's the goal anyway, to get him more ready this week."

The Rams tried a few options with Tinoisamoa last week with no success.

"Hopefully this week with the swelling down and less pain, things like that, that'll be a big factor," Linehan said.

Surgery has been discussed as an option, but the team believes Tinoisamoa could play with or without an operation. Either way, Linehan said, Tinoisamoa will have to play wearing a cast while his hand heals.

LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 183 yards and two touchdowns against the Rams, including gains of 38, 51 and 25 yards. St. Louis faces a similar challenge this week against the Chiefs' Larry Johnson, who had 155 yards and four touchdowns in a victory over the Seahawks.

Rams defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said Tomlinson is the best running back in the NFL and Johnson is second.

"There's a lot of similarities," Haslett said "We'll see how we come back."

Haslett thought the defense was well-prepared for the Chargers and described himself as "blind-sided" by the poor performance. Both he and Linehan said they will stress fundamentals this week.

The Rams have allowed 68 points the last two weeks, including a 30-28 loss to the Seahawks.

"We need to play better, but it's certainly nothing there's not a solution for, or something we can't fix. I think we've run into a couple of pretty good teams and hit them when they were playing pretty well," Haslett said.

"This week we played arguably the best player in the league and he had his best game."

The bright side: The Rams remained in a first-place tie with the Seahawks. Linehan said he stressed that to young players accustomed to losses damaging their bowl status during their college days, pointing out the NFC West was winless on Sunday.

"You don't want to accumulate too many, but if you lose a game you are looking at how things are going in your division," Linehan said. "Essentially we didn't lose that position. If you can handle that and then respond correctly, it really works out in our favor."

Linehan said kickoff returner J.R. Reed, inactive on Sunday for the second straight game, could be back this week. Reed has been a victim of a numbers game, with third-down running back Tony Fisher averaging 20.3 yards on six returns last week and wide receiver Kevin Curtis getting the job two weeks ago.

Linehan said secondary depth factored into his decision-making the last few weeks, and he said Reed was now "in the mix" with a unit that has been hurt by poor timing.

"We've been kind of doing the Rolodex return man thing here lately," Linehan said. "We've really got to come to a determination as a team on that whole return unit.

"It's not just the returner; we've got to hold up our blocks on the front line better and we've got to time our wedge out better

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