Rams hope for packed house
On Fan Appreciation Day at the Edward Jones Dome, Rams players are hoping for lots of appreciation.
“We’re looking for as much support as we can possibly get,” left tackle Rodger Saffold said. “This is big for us. I think that everybody knows how important it is.”
Not only does Sunday’s noon kickoff between the Rams (6-6-1) and Minnesota (7-6) mark the Rams’ home finale for the 2012 season, it’s also a chance for the Rams to keep their playoff hopes alive for another week and strengthen those hopes with a victory.
“Hopefully, this will be a playoff atmosphere, and the fans come out and support us, and get loud,” defensive tackle Michael Brockers said. “They help us out a lot.”
It has been a tough struggle for this young Rams team to win the fans back. When you go 15-65 over a five-year period — an average yearly record of 3-13 — it doesn’t normally create a stampede to the ticket office.
“They don’t call it the Show-Me State for nothing,” linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “I hope we’re winning them back. And the only way you do that is to do it consistently. I thought we were winning ‘em back in the 7-9 year (2010), and then you follow it up with the 2-14 (in 2011). That’s not the right recipe at all.
“Steven (Jackson) said this before the year: It’s not a matter of if this team turns it around, but when. And I think it’s a permanent change. I’m excited for this one Sunday. I’m excited for this regime and what this Rams organization really is about.”
After back-to-back early season home victories, including a Thursday night triumph against Arizona on Oct. 4, the Rams were building momentum. But then came a five-game winless streak. After a surprisingly strong showing Nov. 11 in the 24-24 tie in San Francisco, the Rams returned home for the first time in a month ... and flopped, losing 27-13 to the New York Jets.
But the Rams haven’t lost since, winning their last three games and working themselves into the wild-card playoff picture — albeit the periphery. Has that been enough to create a buzz among the fan base, and fill the several thousand seats that usually are unoccupied at most games this season?
“I think they will be loud and rowdy,” cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. “It’s the last home game. And they’ve been great all year. But I think this one’s special.”
Single-game ticket sales have been brisk this week. Among several players, ticket requests have been big from friends and family.
“This is probably the most tickets I’ve gotten all year for family and friends,” Saffold said.
“It’s a huge game,” safety Craig Dahl said. “I grew up in Mankato (Minn.) where the Vikings host training. My dad’s been a longtime season-ticket holder; he gave those up when I started playing. But my whole family is Vikings fans, but come Sunday they’ll be rooting for me.”
And Dahl says many of them are heading south this weekend for Sunday’s game. But all of Mankato may need to empty to fill every seat in the 66,000-seat dome Sunday.
In the Rams’ first three home games this season, attendance was in the 53,000 to 55,000 range. Then came a huge spike — of Cheeseheads — to 64,359 when Green Bay came to town Oct. 21. In the two home games since the Packers’ game, crowds of more than 57,000 were on hand for the Jets and the San Francisco rematch.
Sunday’s attendance may be more in the range of the Jets’ and 49ers’ contests. Tickets remain available, although the game will be televised locally under the new, relaxed blackout rules.
As part of Fan Appreciation Day, all merchandise in the Rams team’ store will be 50 percent off, as will soft drinks, hot dogs and popcorn. Forty charter season-ticket holders and their guests will help Rams cheerleaders form the “player tunnel” during pregame introductions.
Throughout the game, there will be all sorts of giveaways for season-ticket holders, from $1,250 in h.h. gregg gift cards, to seat upgrades, to autographed throwback jerseys.
In addition, the first 10,000 spectators age 14 and under will receive a Sam Bradford bobblehead doll, which comes with a strong “endorsement” from Finnegan.
“The head is actually huge,” Finnegan said.
Why is that?
“I’m not sure,” he said. “It may be a quarterback thing.”
As was the case with a Laurinaitis bobblehead day early in the season, Finnegan has made a hood ornament of the Bradford version.
“It’s already on the truck,” Finnegan said. “Go check it out if you need to.”