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Fast start will be key to getting past Atlanta
By Bill Coats
Of the Post-Dispatch
Wednesday, Jan. 12 2005
Fast starts have led to happy endings for the Rams this season. They trailed at
the half in only one of their nine victories - 24-7 to Seattle on Oct. 10 at
Qwest Field before storming back for a 33-27 overtime win.
Conversely, the Rams never led at intermission in any of their eight losses.
Last Saturday in Seattle, the Rams scored on their initial possession,
quarterback Marc Bulger connecting with wide receiver Torry Holt for a 15-yard
touchdown less than 3 1/2 minutes after kickoff. They extended their edge to
14-3 early in the second quarter en route to a 27-20 victory that sent the Rams
into Saturday's conference semifinal contest against the NFC South-champion
Falcons in Atlanta.
"Going into Seattle and striking first quickly like that ... all of a sudden,
bang! It's unsettling," coach Mike Martz said.
It also removes a bit of stress for a defensive unit that struggled for much of
the season before tightening significantly during the current three-game
"We've been talking with the defensive guys, and some of them have been pushing
for us to get off to a good start," Holt said. "If we (do), great things
normally happen for this team. The defense has an opportunity to feed off of
us. The opposing team's play-calling is a little different, and defensively,
our play-calling is a little different."
That could be especially vital Saturday against the Falcons (11-5), who piled
up 189 of their 340 total points in the first 30 minutes of games. "If we can
get off to a fast start and maybe quiet the crowd a little bit, we feel like we
have a great opportunity of getting out of there with a win," Holt said.
Defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy (foot), defensive end Tyoka Jackson (ankle) and
guard Tom Nutten (knee) sat out Wednesday as the team resumed practice at Rams
Park. Wide receiver Isaac Bruce (hand and groin) and running back Arlen Harris
(hamstring) got in limited work.
All except Jackson are expected to practice today. Jackson was injured in the
regular-season finale against the New York Jets and missed the first-round
playoff game. He and Harris were listed as questionable Wednesday on the week's
initial injury report. Kennedy, Nutten, Bruce, running back Steven Jackson
(ribs) and guard Adam Timmerman (foot and knee) were probable.
Cool under pressure
When the Rams rallied from a 20-17 deficit in the final 8 minutes 7 seconds
against the Seahawks on Saturday, it marked the 10th time that quarterback Marc
Bulger had engineered a decisive comeback in the fourth quarter. Bulger
insisted that he possessed no magic formula for late-game success.
"I just treat it like every other situation," said Bulger, who has started 38
games over three seasons. "I'm not going to throw risky balls when I don't have
to, but at the same time, I'm aggressive and I don't have to change once we get
into the 2-minute mode.
"I'm going to throw the ball down the field all game, so it's not like I have
to change my whole approach. And sometimes defenses get into a mode where
they're just trying not to give up a big play, and I think it's easier to
attack teams then."
Holt said Bulger's steady demeanor is a factor, too. "He's never too high or
never too low; he's just lukewarm," Holt said. "Your quarterback can't be too
high-strung, and you can't have a quarterback who doesn't talk to anybody. Marc
is real cool, and he communicates with us very well."