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Rams fail to finish fight
Giants Rams
Torry Holt's circus touchdown catch against the defense of Giants rookie Ken Phillips (left) made it a game in fourth quarter against New York, but the Giants still turned their win into a 41-13 blowout. (Chris Lee/P-D)

Since the start of training camp, Scott Linehan has talked about making a play, or maybe a defensive stop — something that would be the spark. A "little magic" he called it, to end the losing and get the staggering Rams franchise back on its feet.

And here it was. Five minutes into the fourth quarter, quarterback Marc Bulger threw deep to wide receiver Torry Holt in the end zone. New York Giants safety Kenny Phillips did everything but apply brass knuckles to prevent Holt from getting the ball.

But Holt, incredibly, came down with the football, on his back, with Phillips desperately trying to wrestle it loose in the north end zone.

"He was in a better position to go up for it," Holt said. "He tips it. I tip it. My thing was just keep it alive all the way to the end. The last time I tipped it, and it rolled off his back, I caught it and then I tried to roll over to stop him from getting it.

"I'm taking my cleats, my legs, and I'm digging in the turf trying to get some power, some leverage to kind of take it from him. My thing was, I'm going to hold on to it as long as he does. Somebody's going to get tired. It ain't going to be me."

Suddenly it was a ballgame with 10 minutes, 46 seconds remaining to play. The 45-yard touchdown catch narrowed the Giants' lead to 20-13.

That got the crowd into it in a big way at the Edward Jones Dome. Even more so when the Rams' kickoff coverage unit pinned the Giants back at the 18 on a jarring tackle by Chris Draft.

Holt held on; his team didn't. With the game there for the taking, the Rams promptly took the rest of the day off. The defending Super Bowl champions scored three touchdowns over the next seven minutes to win going away 41-13. In the wreckage that is now an 0-2 start, the Rams have been outscored 79-16.

"It's very shocking and disappointing that we're playing like this," running back Steven Jackson said.

Shocking, as in a defense that has yielded nearly 1,000 yards in two games.

"Wow," Holt said, shaking his head at that big number. "That's all I can say is, wow. They've got some cleaning up to do. And we've got to do a better job of trying to score some points."

That's for sure. The St. Louis offense has yet to run a single play in the red zone this season. Holt's circus catch — complete with juggling — is the Rams' one and only TD this season.

Their embattled head coach, Scott Linehan, was as angry as he has ever been after a loss. And you had to have your head up in the locker room afterward, because some furniture was flying. According to team sources, defensive end Leonard Little and wide receiver Dane Looker lit into their teammates after the game. Little was so mad he threw a chair.

Linehan said very little to the team in the locker room afterward, but he got a lot off his chest during a rather bizarre postgame news conference that lasted less than four minutes. A brief sampler:

"Bottom line, we can't expect to win games, playing the way we're playing, OK?" Linehan said. "Last week was different than this week. Even you guys would agree that for three quarters, maybe 3½ quarters, we were right there.

"But we didn't finish and they did. … So I want to put that out there, OK? We have not had one red zone offensive play, OK? If you don't get the ball down there, you don't convert third downs and get down there, you can't expect to score touchdowns. You need to score touchdowns. … It's lousy, OK?"

Not OK, actually. On a day set up to honor late owner Georgia Frontiere, the Rams caved with the game on the line in the fourth quarter.

So what's missing?

"At this point, it's strictly a mindset," Jackson said. "Because I think everyone agrees, I think the New York Giants agree, that they were in a fight for three quarters. (But) I think that in the back of our minds, somewhere in our subconscious, we just feel like we can't pull it off. That's not how it works, and that's not how it needs to be. You have to have that confidence that we can fight and we can play with anybody."

One of the major points of emphasis by Linehan this season was finishing games in the fourth quarter. The Rams, remember, were outscored 147 to 40 in the final quarter last season. Throughout training camp, the preseason, and even once the regular season began, two toots of the air horn near the end of practice signified the fourth quarter. Players responded by hoisting four fingers in the air, or with chants of "fourth quarter."

But after Holt's big catch Sunday, the Giants marched 82 yards for a backbreaking score. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw's 18-yard reception from Eli Manning gave the Giants a 27-13 lead with 7:18 to play.

"Plain and simple, we let the team down on defense," said linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa, who was supposed to be covering Bradshaw. "We let our offense and special teams down. We fought so hard to stay in position, and that drive was really where it all caved in."

jthomas@post-dispatch.com | 314-340-8197

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