Linehan Doesn’t Regret Decision to Kick Field Goal

September 16, 2007

The Telegraph

ST. LOUIS — Of all the decisions vying for Rams coach Scott Linehan’s postgame regrets after Sunday’s 17-16 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, sending kicker Jeff Wilkins out for a 56-yard field goal was not a candidate.

“We have so much confidence, I have, in Jeff and he hit a great ball,” Linehan said. “It just didn’t carry far enough. I think I’d do it again in that situation. ... You’d like to be closer, but unfortunately we were right there. And we decided to go with having really one of

the best kickers in history outsideof 50 yards to take a shot at winning the game.”

Wilkins’ attempt with 1:04 left in the fourth quarter fell short, but the numbers support Linehan’s decision to kick rather than go for a first down on fourth-and-3 from the San Francisco 38.

Counting the 53-yarder he made to give the Rams a 16-14 lead earlier in the fourth quarter, Wilkins had converted 16 of his last 18 attempts from 50 or more yards since 2003. And while his previous 53-yard boot likely would have cleared the crossbar from 56, his game-winning shot dropped short.

“When I hit it, I thought it had a shot,” Wilkins said. “I don’t know. There was hope for a second, but then it fell short. But I felt like it hit it pretty much as good as I could hit it.”

It’s standard practice for Wilkins to provide Linehan with a maximum distance for field goal attempts after pregame warm-ups. Sunday, as it was for last week’s opener, was the 35-yard line, which translates into a 53-yard field goal.

But with the ball at the 38, Linehan still opted for Wilkins over the offense’s chances of converting on fourth-and-3.

“It’s always the 35-yard line, consider the 37 to win the game,” Linehan said. “The adrenaline involved there, it’s right on the cusp.”

For Wilkins, there was no debate.

“When it comes down to something like that, there was no other decision,” said Wilkins, whose career-long was a 57-yarder at home against Arizona in 1998.

“Wehad to try it. And, usually, that’s where I rely on adrenaline to maybe get me a couple more yards.”

But while there was no regretting the Rams’ final play, Linehan did admit a second-guess on his decision earlier in the drive to spike the ball to stop the clock at 1:15 after getting a first down on quarterback Marc Bulger’s 12-yard pass to Drew Bennett.

“Looking back on it, I wish I had the down back,” Linehan said. “I did not account for a sack or any lost-yardage play.”

The next play brought both, with Bulger sacked for a 7-yard loss that pushed the Rams into a third-and-17 situation from their own 48. Bulger

then hit Bruce for a 14-yard pass, leaving the Rams with fourth down and a do-or-die decision forced by throwing away a play on first down

when time still was a lesser enemy than field position.

“I felt two plays would get us a first down and keep driving,” Linehan said. “I didn’t want to rush it. If I had it to do all over again, I’d

probably call a play. That was my call. That was mine. Again, ultimately, I think I would probably choose to run a play there and not spike it. So it’s my fault.”

Wilkins was willing to share the blame, though his chance to win the game was far from a chip shot.

“Anytime you don’t do your job,” he said, “it stinks.”