Cards Have Task Of Slowing Rams Offensive Attack The St. Louis Rams were once heralded as the "Greatest Show on Turf," and while the passing game garnered most of the attention during the Rams Super Bowl run, the Rams were also very effective at running the ball. That production drastically dropped last year when the Rams took a dive to 30th in rushing offense and 28th in yards per carry.

It has been a focus point for Rams Head Coach Mike Martz this off-season, and something he tried to establish this preseason with the Rams finishing with 480 yards rushing.

“I really felt like we needed to run the ball well in the preseason and I think in the last few preseason games particularly we were able to accomplish that and you need to be able to do that obviously to win,” stated Martz. “I think when you can run the ball because you want to, or throw the ball because you want to, you are good in the offensive line and that is what we have to establish.”

If the Rams makeshift offensive line can hold up, the Rams still have the weapons to be explosive.

“They are still there,” observed Cards Head Coach Dennis Green. “They really are. (Marc) Bulger can make big plays if he has time to throw. Isaac Bruce is in his 12th year but he looks like those young guys. Torry Holt has emerged. (Marshall) Faulk looked good in the preseason. They drafted (Steven) Jackson and were so strong they were able to trade Lamar Gordon. I think they still have a lot of weapons.”

Holt’s 117 catches led the NFL last season and he, Bruce, and tight end Cam Cleeland, paired with the depth at running back, will challenge the Cards secondary.

“They have so many threats on offense that it is hard to focus on just one aspect of the game,” said Cardinals safety Ifeanyi Ohalete. “You’ve got to be able to shut down both the run and the pass. I still think they lean more towards pass first, but we’ve definitely got to shut down the run first and foremost and keep them off the field.”

With Duane Starks healthy and David Macklin in the lineup this year, Green thinks his corners can match the speed of the Rams receivers, but the Cards pass rush must also get

“It is going to be at a premium to get pressure on Bulger and try to confuse him,” said defensive end Bertrand Berry. “We can’t line up and give him the same look every time and we just have to disrupt his timing because they are very much a timing offense.”

Green’s success in Minnesota and San Francisco centered around having the kind of high-powered threatening offenses that the Rams currently pose, and he said the only way to truly stop those type of offenses is by keeping them off the field.

“They make big plays, maybe better than anybody in football,” said Green. “So, you have to keep them on the sidelines by having your own offensive productivity. You have to be in a position where you can move the ball offensively, be patient, make some big plays and get in position to score. We had some preseason games where we showed signs of being able to get first downs. A lot of first downs are good for us, bad for St. Louis because they want to get on the field and get going right away. Anytime you can cool their heels, it is to your advantage.”

First-round draft choice Larry Fitzgerald said the Rams aren’t the only team who can take advantage of the fast playing surface in the dome.

“We feel like we have great team speed as well. We will both be playing on a fast surface and we can match speed with speed. There are going to be a lot of big plays made and hopefully we make more than they do.”

Although the Rams closed out the 2003 season with a perfect record at home, Fitzgerald believes the Cards can come out with a victory on Sunday.

“We have a great game plan,” claimed Fitzgerald. “We have players who can go out there and execute. Anybody can be beat any Sunday. We’ve just got to be 11 guys working as one and we’ll be fine.”

Practice Notes

Only linebacker Ray Thompson (knee) did not practice on Thursday morning. Green reiterated that James Darling will start on Sunday, and that linebacker LeVar Woods will start ahead of rookie Karlos Dansby.

“If there is one guy who I think is all-football, and again a free agent who has had to battle his way up, and he’s a very tough football player,” said Green on Woods. “He’s very intense. He’s big. He’s very angular and very fast. He is very physical and he can hit and he’s tough and if we had 53 guys with the attitude of LeVar Woods, then you wouldn’t be doubting that we’ll be a playoff team.”

With only the first half hour of practice open to media, nobody but the players and coaches got to see a spectacular catch that rookie Larry Fitzgerald made during the morning workout, but thankfully Coach Green shared.

“Larry had a catch today and one of the players said to me, ‘How’s that rust Coach?’ It was a one-handed catch that he caught full stride, and he just caught it and kept running for a touchdown. It was pretty amazing.”

Quote of the Day

“It is like going down a dark alley,” Green explained of the getting his players to know they can compete with anyone. “If I can convince you that there is nothing down there you can’t handle, you wouldn’t be afraid to go down that alley. There is no boogie man down there. There are 16 teams and they are all just like you. They may have won more games than you in the last three years, and they can play, but it is not like they have talent that you don’t have.”