Rams coach Spagnuolo far from satisfied after first win

ST. LOUIS -- As Steven Jackson rambled into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown with 1:38 to go, St. Louis Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo felt no sense of elation.

Here's what was on the rookie head coach's mind: "I hope we didn't score too soon."

Can't blame the guy for being skittish, considering how long the Rams (1-7) waited between wins. The franchise dropped 17 in a row before Sunday's 17-10 victory over the one-win Lions, who are every bit as downtrodden as the Lions.

Spagnuolo realized after glancing at the clock that he couldn't drop his guard.

"I never stop thinking about what you've got to do next, especially from a defensive standpoint," Spagnuolo said. "Until it was over, I didn't relax at all. I can guarantee you that."

Spagnuolo didn't even relax much on Monday, revealing a bye week practice schedule that allows the team to keep working mostly in private. The Rams will practice Tuesday and Wednesday before players get the rest of the week off.

Coaches will invest a lot of time into self-scouting the rest of the week and Spagnuolo was already worried about the Saints, who will be in St. Louis on Nov. 15.

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"There are enough things that we need to improve on, there really are," Spagnuolo said. "We can't be blinded by the fact we won a game.

"There's still a lot of work to do and I think the guys realize that."

Players showed their appreciation for their unflappable coach, awarding Spagnuolo the game ball. Two Rams who played for Spagnuolo with the Giants, defensive lineman Leger Douzable and safety James Butler, dumped ice water on the coach on the field.

"I'm very happy for him because week in and week out, he's consistent and preaching the same thing," Butler said. "He always tells us to stick to basic fundamentals and to believe in each other."

Spagnuolo said he slept well Sunday night, but added he's slept well after every game because he's been so weary at the end of the day. The game ball touched him.

"That was pretty special," Spagnuolo said, tapping the podium while fighting emotions a bit. "I hadn't thought about what that was going to be like or what would happen after a win, but that was special."

Spagnuolo said the inbox on his phone is filled with congratulatory text messages, including one from Eagles coach and mentor Andy Reid. So many he hadn't looked at them all.

"I guess they haven't forgotten about me completely, which is a good thing," Spagnuolo said.

Jackson's best day of the season was a big key to the victory. He broke countless tackles while gaining 149 yards on 22 carries.

"Unfortunately for him, people don't get to see how great of a back he is," quarterback Marc Bulger said. "Win or lose, that's how he runs."

Jackson has 784 yards, tied with the Vikings' Adrian Peterson for the NFC lead. He has 970 yards from scrimmage, only 3 yards behind Peterson's NFL-leading total.

The other key was a fake field goal that resulted in a 36-yard touchdown pass from kicker Josh Brown to Daniel Fells in the final minute of the half for a 10-2 lead. Brown took a toss from holder Donnie Jones and then flipped the ball to Fells, who had clear sailing.

"It was really an unbelievable thing," Brown said. "It worked to perfection."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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