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Winless Rams hopeful this is the week

Thursday, October 29, 2009

St. Louis last won a regular-season game Oct. 19, 2008

ST. LOUIS -- Each week, the winless St. Louis Rams find some reason to be optimistic they'll finally end their slump. No matter who they're playing.

This week it's legitimate because they're playing the one-win Lions. Hopes definitely are high for a franchise that has dropped 17 in a row dating to Oct. 19, 2008, when they briefly peaked under interim coach Jim Haslett and beat the Cowboys for their second -- and final -- victory in a dismal season that led to a housecleaning.

"It would be big," quarterback Marc Bulger said Wednesday. "We just need that first one. Until we get that, we feel like we're in this rut we can't get out of."

The Rams (0-7) have been sorry for a long time, going 5-34 since the start of the 2007 season and getting the second pick of the draft the last two seasons. Their first win under rookie coach Steve Spagnuolo would provide at least a temporary break from the negativity that accompanies a sustained run of futility.

"It would take a lot of weight off our shoulders," defensive tackle Clifton Ryan said. "We need a win for the city, for ourselves, for coach Spags, for the franchise.

"We haven't had that winning feeling in quite some time and we need to get it going."

Spagnuolo knew it would be a long rebuilding job when he was hired in January. Every week, he counsels players not to look back. Only forward.

"We've been down in a funk the last couple years, so it's not going to happen overnight," cornerback Ron Bartell said. "It's going to be a process and we've just got to work through the bumps."

The latest bump came Sunday when Spagnuolo thought players let down in the fourth quarter against Indianapolis, although he amended that Monday to a three-minute window on the game clock.

"I might have overreacted," Spagnuolo said. "You're talking about a little less intensity. I do not believe anybody in that locker room quit, not at all, and if today's practice was any indication, we're right back on course."

It's a very rocky course. So nobody was anywhere near cocky about their chances Sunday.

"Whether it's three minutes or three seconds, you can't let up in the NFL," Bulger said. "If you do, they'll put up 14 to 21 points on you quick."

Last week, Bulger said it would take an almost perfect game to beat the unbeaten Colts, and the Rams fell far short of that in a 42-6 thumping. This week it was almost as if he was trying to guard against a letdown.

"I've been playing too long," Bulger said. "If we're sitting here 5-2 and we look at Detroit and assume it's a win, it's when you get beat."

Ryan grew up in Saginaw, Mich., following the lead of his grandfather and rooting for the Lions no matter what.

"That's the type of people they are up there," Ryan said. "They don't lose hope in their Lions."

Perhaps it's the fan still inside, but Ryan sees the Lions as a dangerous team. He's not interested in a grudge match against former coach Scott Linehan, now the Lions' offensive coach, either.

Linehan was fired after an 0-4 start in 2008, but Ryan only had positive things to say about the man who drafted him in the fifth round out of Michigan State in 2007.

"When I see him during the pregame, I'm going to give him a big hug, and after the game I'm going to give him a big hug," Ryan said. "He gave me my shot in this league and I'll always be thankful for that."

No players had anything uncomplimentary to say about Linehan.


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