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  1. #1
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    Good, Bad, and Ugly - Gordon

    From ecstasy to agony
    BY JEFF GORDON
    Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
    09/26/2004

    Oh, the humanity!

    The Rams had the New Orleans Saints beaten vanquished, defeated, conquered and then let them escape with a 28-25 overtime win Sunday.

    Describing the horror of it all is difficult. Quarterback Marc Bulger rallied the Rams with a dramatic last-minute drive, scoring the go-ahead touchdown himself. Then he threw a two-point conversion pass to give them a 25-22 lead with 28 seconds left.

    All the Rams had to do was boot the ball deep, cover the kickoff, stop a couple of desperation passes and victory was theirs.

    But no. Coach Mike Martz authorized a squib kick, which the Saints advanced to their 42. Moving from there into field goal range was no big trick and New Orleans forced overtime with John Carney's 38-yard field goal.

    What was Martz thinking?

    "They have a great kick returner (Michael Lewis) back there," he said. "We were concerned about field position. We just didn't get it done."

    The Rams won the coin toss, started the overtime with the ball . . . and failed to reach scoring range. The Saints took advantage of their opportunity and Carney's 31-yard field goal finished them.

    "That's a tough loss," an ashen-faced Martz said. "That's a tough one to lose."

    No kidding. The Rams (1-2) now realize their 2004 season is in great danger. Their streak of 16 consecutive home victories is kaput and their playoff aspirations could soon evaporate, too, given the difficulty of the remaining 13 games.

    How could this happen? As usual, Bulger was able to play pitch-and-catch with Isaac Bruce, Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt, et al.

    He torched the Saints with a 358-yard passing game, completing pass after pass after pass to move the yardsticks.

    As usual, though, mistakes prevented the Rams from controlling this game. Exasperating special teams penalties . . . an untimely first-half fumble by Bulger . . . a few dropped passes here, a few offensive penalties there, some untimely sacks sprinkled in . . . 12 penalties overall for 85 yards . . . one defensive breakdown allowing a long Saints touchdown run . . . sloppiness in all phases of the Rams' play undermined their effort.

    Throw in the fact that the Rams defense failed to claim a turnover for the third consecutive game and, well, there's your recipe for disaster.


    THE GOOD

    * It was good to see the Rams defense forgo the individual introductions before the game, running onto the field en masse instead. Why take a bow on the home field after that "effort" in Atlanta?


    * Linebacker Tommy Polley, broken rib and all, sucked it up and regained his starting outside linebacker job replacing rookie Brandon Chillar. The Rams needed Polley to tough it out, since middle linebacker Robert Thomas suffered an ankle sprain moments into the game.

    And Polley made several notable plays to help the injury-depleted defensive unit.


    * The Saints went for it on fourth-and-one on the Rams 34 in the first quarter and the defense held, turning the ball over on downs. Ryan "Big Grease" Pickett and the rest of the defensive line stood firm.


    * Kevin Curtis lives! The much-touted young receiver caught a 15-yard pass on the Rams' first possession, keeping his team moving into scoring position.


    * Martz went for his first fourth-and-one situation and the Rams executed with Marshall knifing off left tackle for the first down. That led to Bulger's 32-yard touchdown pass to Holt and a quick 7-0 lead. Bulger hung his deep throw, but Holt was so open that it hardly mattered.


    * The Rams sustained a powerful pass rush against the Saints on their second possession, leading to another turnover on downs. On fourth-and-four, defensive tackle Damione Lewis chased down quarterback Aaron Brooks and forced an incomplete pass.

    Two plays earlier, defensive end Leonard Little caught Brooks from behind on a scramble.


    * Ironically named fullback Joey Goodspeed caught a safety-valve pass while falling down, then scrambled to his feet and banged off various Saints while fighting for first-down yardage. That's the spirit!


    * Jeff Wilkins drilled a 53-yard field goal, picking up Faulk and Dane Looker after they dropped potential first-down passes over the middle. That pushed the Rams to 10-3.


    * That two-back scheme with Steven Jackson lined up like a H-back worked nicely when Jackson came back inside on a counter run. We like him running the ball more than Cam Cleeland running the ball.


    * Lewis made another disruptive play, batting a third-down Brooks pass into the air forcing the Saints to settle for a field goal and a 16-10 third-quarter lead.


    * Bulger brought the Rams back by spreading the ball around, hitting Looker with a couple of 18-yard completions. The Rams got to the Saints 3 and Martz did something radical on first down he ordered a handoff to Faulk, who wedged into the end zone.

    So the Rams edged ahead 17-16 in this needlessly tense game.


    * Safety Adam Archuleta broke up a two-point conversion pass by Brooks, keeping the Saints lead at 22-17 in the fourth quarter.


    * After the Rams went nowhere with the ball, their defense desperately needed to make a stop. And it did, getting the ball back for the offense with 5:42 left.


    * Bulger's last-minute touchdown drive was a thing of beauty, capped off by his heady 19-yard touchdown run up the middle after the Saints defense parted. What a shame to waste this performance.



    THE BAD


    * The Rams finally got the football to tight end Brandon Manumaleuna . . . and right tackle Grant Williams got busted for holding.


    * Veteran guard Chris Dishman went down with a sprained knee, forcing inexperienced Scott Tercero to fill in.


    * The defense was bearing up well against the run holding the Saints to 32 yards on 12 carries but then allowed somebody named Aaron Stecker to bust off a 42-yard touchdown run to tie the game 10-10 midway through the second quarter.


    * Safety Justin Lucas was guilty of holding on an 18-yard Mike Furrey kickoff return, pinning the Rams on their 10. Where have we seen this before?


    * Holt got busted for holding on a downfield block, pushing the Rams back into a second-and-17 situation.


    * Then, Saints defensive end Charles Grant burned Grant Williams on a speed rush to squash Bulger with a punt-forcing sack.


    * Lucas got flagged on another kickoff return this time for an illegal block to pin the Rams back on their own 13. Since the Saints had just taken a 13-10 lead, the Rams would have liked the opportunity to come back before halftime.

    If not for the penalty, the Rams would have started at their own 47 after Arlen Harris' 40-yard return. If not for the penalty, Wilkins would likely have gotten his crack at tying the game. Oh, well . . .


    * Tackle Orlando Pace, struggling to scrape off the rust from his training camp boycott, had trouble getting off on the right snap count. What's with those false-start penalties?

    So much for the notion that this guy didn't need the preseason to get ready to play. Pace became a liability for the second game in a row.


    * After the Rams earned a critical three-and-out defensive stop after the go-ahead touchdown, they got nailed with a ticky-tack running-into-the-punter penalty to return the ball to the Saints.


    * Naturally, the Saints took advantage of that break by marching downfield with a little of this, a little of that to regain the lead. Brooks tried to hit Rams cornerback Aeneas Williams in the end zone, but the ball caromed to Joe Horn for the touchdown.

    Yikes!


    * With the Rams down 22-15, Williams got dusted by Grant on another speed rush -- good for another costly sack on Bulger.


    * After Sean Landeta boomed a 55-yard punt with time running out on the Rams, Michael Lewis ran it back 34 yards. Once again a special teams catastrophe imperiled this team.


    * Adam Timmerman contributed one more false-start penalty in overtime, capping a disgraceful performance by the offensive line.



    THE UGLY


    * Bulger fumbled away a Rams scoring opportunity on the second offensive possession of the game, giving the Saints the ball on their 17. Talk about a buzz kill you knew the Rams were about to move ahead 14-0. Instead, the Saints marched back and got a field goal.


    * By the end of regular play, the Rams defense had nothing left. That continued into overtime as Brooks strafed the unit with his passing.

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  2. #2
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    Re: Good, Bad, and Ugly - Gordon

    So much for the notion that this guy didn't need the preseason to get ready to play. Pace became a liability for the second game in a row.
    And once again, everybody sing along......


    So much for the notion that this guy didn't need the preseason to get ready to play. Pace became a liability for the second game in a row.
    Clannie Nominee for ClanRam's Thickest Poster

  3. #3
    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Good, Bad, and Ugly - Gordon

    Which makes it interesting to see what his asking price will be when it comes time to negotiate long term.
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    Re: Good, Bad, and Ugly - Gordon

    Quote Originally Posted by NickSeiler
    Which makes it interesting to see what his asking price will be when it comes time to negotiate long term.
    Sad but true, Nick. The highlight of this young season is that Pace's performance should lower his value for long-term negotiation. Wow, I can actually feel my depression starting to set in.
    "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

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