Rams show improvement on offense, defense in 3-3 start

ST. LOUIS -- The team that couldn't do much right for so long seems to have turned a corner.

The St. Louis Rams can run, they can pass and they can even get after the other quarterback. And they are in the thick of the NFC West race, too, such that it is.

A year ago, the Rams were among the NFL's worst teams on offense and defense in stumbling to a 1-15 finish.

Not this season. The Rams (3-3) sacked San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers seven times in Sunday's victory and are tied for sixth in the league with 17 through six games; a year ago, they had 25 sacks total.

"The defense certainly played well early in the game, so that was comforting to see," Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said Monday. "The way we finished some drives there and found a way to score on offense kept things going. We hit our bumps on both sides of the football, where we know we could play better, but we did as a team play well enough to win."

Next up for the Rams is a game at the 3-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers this weekend.

The front four of the St. Louis defense, with James Hall and Chris Long and defensive tackles Fred Robbins and Gary Gibson, have been a strength this season. Hall already has six sacks after recording 4.5 a year ago.

"They played well," Spagnuolo said of Sunday's performance. "I thought all those guys played well. They were very productive."

The Rams' defense limited the Chargers (2-4) to 287 yards of total offense.

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The players said during training camp and the early weeks of the season that being in the scheme of Spagnuolo and defensive coordinator Ken Flajole for the second year has made a big difference.

"Credit goes to the players and the coaches," Spagnuolo said. "I do think it has a lot to do with the second year (in that scheme). I do. In any scheme. I think you see that around the league. A lot has to do with the players. I think they've embraced it. They're playing really good together, because it is the second year and they've been around each other. And this group likes each other."

Offensively, the Rams are improved behind rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft.

In 2009, the Rams ranked 29th in yards per game (279.4), 28th in passing yards per game (167.9) and 20th in rushing yards per game (111.5). In 2010, the Rams rank 20th in yards per game (315), 19th in passing yardage (210.7) and 17th in rushing yardage (104.3).

Bradford has completed 56.8 percent of his passes for 1,357 yards and seven touchdowns with eight interceptions. Running back Steven Jackson, who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in the past five seasons, has rushed for 507 yards and two touchdowns.

Notes: Starting LB Na'il Diggs has a sprained knee and is day to day. ... Spagnuolo said CB Justin King (hamstring) and rookie safety Darian Stewart (hamstring) could both miss this week.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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