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  1. #1
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    Battered Bulger needs Martz to revise game plan

    Battered Bulger needs Martz to revise game plan
    By Bernie Miklasz
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    09/26/2004

    After answering questions in the Rams' locker room, quarterback Marc Bulger grimaced as he took his first step toward the door. Bulger had an ice pack taped to his right elbow, and the post-game soreness was already spreading to other parts of his body.

    "Ouch," Bulger said to no one in particular, after getting zinged again by a little jolt of pain. Bulger was on the way home, presumably to devour an extra-large bottle of Tylenol for dinner.

    The Rams reached a new low Sunday in losing 28-25 to the New Orleans Saints in overtime. The defense was soft. The special teams were incompetent. The coaching was incoherent. And the running game was virtually nonexistent.

    All the Rams had going for them on this day was Bulger setting up to pass with a target on his chest. With Rams coach Mike Martz stubbornly refusing to run the football against the NFL's 31st-ranked rushing defense, Bulger was turned into a sparring partner for Saints pass rushers who punished him with body blows.

    Bulger is a tough guy from Pittsburgh, so he'll take the abuse and keep firing away, knowing that he'll be smacked after choosing to steal the extra second he needs to locate Isaac Bruce or Torry Holt downfield. And against the Saints, Bulger won many of the skirmishes, completing 65 percent of his 49 passing attempts for 358 yards. He engineered a thrilling go-ahead touchdown drive in the final minute of the fourth quarter, scoring himself on a 19-yard dash.

    But at the end of the afternoon, all Bulger had was the gaudy statistics to go with the bumps and the welts. He had no win to show for his bruises. The baffling coaching decisions (a squib kick???) and a mush defense gave New Orleans this victory. Bulger and the offense, pushed off-stride by two penalties, failed to score in their only OT chance.

    Martz is in the process of damaging another quarterback's career. After getting hit repeatedly in Martz's wide-open offense, Kurt Warner turned into a panicky, burned-out, beaten-down quarterback in his final two years in St. Louis. The New York Giants have put Warner in a safer, more quarterback-friendly offense. And with the added protection, No. 13 seems to be reviving his confidence, having performed impressively in consecutive wins over Washington and Cleveland.

    And Bulger? With a QB rating in the mid-90s, Bulger clearly has played better in his losses than Warner did during his long losing streak at the end of his run here. But more on point, Bulger will be the next victim to suffer from the Battered Quarterback Syndrome. In the last two games, both losses, Bulger has dropped back to throw the ball 90 times. That figure is actually closer to 100 if you cite the plays that didn't officially count because of penalties. Bulger has been sacked 10 times and rocked by many other direct hits. Bulger's been on the turf so much, they ought to put a police chalk outline around his body.

    And Martz's reaction to all of this is to keep dialing up passes. The passing-running ratio over the last two games has reached stunning, loony-tunes proportions: 90 passes, only 30 runs. This is a high-risk, high-reward offense. Sure, we're treated to wonderful entertainment when Bulger hooks up with Bruce and Holt. But more things can go wrong when you pass the ball instead of running it. Sacks. Tipped balls. Interceptions. Fumbles. Dropped passes. Bad throws. Holding penalties.

    Moreover, your quarterback gets rag-dolled. When your offense is so one-dimensional, the defense can attack the QB without fearing or respecting the run. For much of the second half, and especially late in the game and overtime, the Saints' linebackers were retreating into pass coverage, all but issuing an engraved invitation for the Rams to run the ball.

    And again, Martz refused. He's apparently on some berserk mission to prove that he's right and everyone else is wrong in emphasizing the need for a more balanced offense. Understand, I don't want Martz to become a boring, overly conservative coach. But he must plug in the running game for three primary reasons: (1) to make the offense less predictable and keep the wolves away from Bulger's throat; (2) to give the laboring offensive line a chance to power off the ball and develop confidence; (3) build time of possession to keep the overwhelmed defense off the field.

    And when New Orleans brings a demonstrably poor rushing defense to your home turf, you've got to hit the Saints in the mouth and make them respect your ability to play physical football. Martz declined. For the last two weeks, Martz has reduced Marshall Faulk's role, and promising rookie Steven Jackson has all but disappeared despite averaging 6.2 yards on 12 carries.

    If this latest outbreak of Martz madness continues, we'll see Bulger vanish, too. He'll stagger out of here with brains scrambled, headed to another team, or to a hospital room.

    It makes sense to ask a Warner or a Bulger to pay a physical price as long as the team is winning games, going to Super Bowls and setting records for points. But those days are long gone.

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  2. #2
    HUbison's Avatar
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    Re: Battered Bulger needs Martz to revise game plan

    Sometimes Bernie's writings seem to be coming straight from his hind-quarters, however with these thoughts....
    Quote Originally Posted by Bernie
    He's apparently on some berserk mission to prove that he's right and everyone else is wrong in emphasizing the need for a more balanced offense. Understand, I don't want Martz to become a boring, overly conservative coach. But he must plug in the running game for three primary reasons: (1) to make the offense less predictable and keep the wolves away from Bulger's throat; (2) to give the laboring offensive line a chance to power off the ball and develop confidence; (3) build time of possession to keep the overwhelmed defense off the field.
    ..he nailed it. I'm living with the hope that Martz will eventually open his eyes, but if he doesn't we are going to lose YET ANOTHER pro bowl QB.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

  3. #3
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    Re: Battered Bulger needs Martz to revise game plan

    Gee, is this a trend developing before our eyes??? Sounds like Bernie stopped drinking the koolaide and is coming around. Amazing...
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

    SJax, a developing quarterbacks best friend...

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