BY JEFF GORDON
Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
Friday, Aug. 27 2004
Geez, what a difference four days make.
The Rams relocated their urgency Friday night. Coach Mike Martz stormed up and
down the sidelines, ripping off his headset, dogging officials, riding the
game's emotional ebb and flow.
His players answered his call for more inspired play. The Rams looked nothing
like the disorganized, disinterested team that rolled over in a 24-7 loss four
days ago in Kansas City.
They got decent blocking from their makeshift offensive line and sturdy effort
from their starting front seven. The result: A thorough 28-3 preseason victory
over the Washington Redskins at the Edward Jones Dome.
Admittedly, the Redskins played an absolutely horrendous football game. But
that's their problem. The citizens of Rams Nation wanted to see their team step
forward -- and it did.
Quarterback Marc Bulger threw some strangely off-target passes while playing
his 1 ½ quarters, but he marched the team, avoided turnovers and left the game
with a 7-3 lead. His 98.6 quarterback rating told the story of his game.
Back-up Chris Chandler took it from there and threw the ball around The Ed with
great confidence and accuracy, completing nine of 15 passes for 190 yards. Dare
we say he throws the long ball better than Bulger?
Nah. But he did put on quite a display while proving he has a few miles left in
his 900-year-old body.
Rookie running back Steven Jackson put on a show as well, gaining 125 yards on
25 carries and breaking many big runs with his unique combination of power and
speed. Why, again, did he drop so low in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft?
All-Pro receiver Torry Holt reminded us that he is still Torry Holt, catching
seven passes for 143 yards and a touchdown.
* With Don Coryell in the house, Martz put a few sprinkles on his vanilla
preseason offense. We liked the end-around pitch to receiver Isaac Bruce, who
attempted to hit Holt downfield with a bomb. Alas, his long throw came up just
a bit short.
* Defensive end Bryce Fisher disrupted Rock Cartwright's second-and-10 sweep,
then linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa tackled Cartwright for a two-yard loss. That
led to the first Redskins punt of the game.
* Jackson's second carry of the game went for 18 yards off left tackle; the
big kid showed his explosiveness while getting into the Redskins secondary.
* Receiver Dane Looker absorbed massive punishment after going up to get a
19-yard pass from Bulger – but he hung onto the ball. Nice.
* Who could blame Holt for taunting the Redskins after his seven-yard
touchdown catch in the second quarter? The play didn't develop as hoped –
Bulger rolled to his right, but Holt was covered in the back of the end zone –
but the duet improvised.
Holt reversed back along the back of the end zone and Bulger had just enough
time to throw across the grain of the play and get him the ball.
* After getting beat by Taylor Jacobs on a straight fly route, cornerback
Kevin Garrett recovered and punched the ball loose – allowing safety Aeneas
Williams to recover the fumble after a 44-yard gain.
* Chandler continued his reassuring play by throwing a 58-yard strike to Holt
and then scoring himself with a one-yard quarterback sneak. Is it time to start
a new controversy?
* Receiver Shaun McDonald furthered his bid for a bigger role this season with
his 32-yard reception from Chandler in the third quarter.
* Jackson demonstrated his acceleration with his 5-yard touchdown run in the
third quarter, getting outside the right tackle in a hurry.
* McDonald struck later in the third quarter, busting off a wonderful route
and then using second effort to complete his 35-yard touchdown pass. That was a
nice throw by Chandler, too.
* The lopsided nature of the game allowed Martz to give No. 3 quarterback Jeff
Smoker a big role in this game, which was unexpected. Smoker did a nice job
getting the Rams through the fourth quarter.
* Linebacker Tommy Polley opened the game on the bench, again – this time in
favor of rookie Brandon Chillar. Doesn't it seem like yesterday that Polley was
considered one of the defensive stalwarts this team was rebuilt upon?
* Defensive end Damione Lewis arrived a tad late on a third-down rush against
Redskins quarterback Patrick Ramsey; the resulting 15-yard penalty prolonged
Washington's first possession and led to a John Hall field goal and a 3-0
* Bulger burned his first timeout with 6 minutes 30 seconds left in the first
quarter after sensing his called play was doomed against the defensive
alignment he saw. Naturally, some Rams fans razzed him with the obligatory boo.
* Left guard Chris Dishman, still trying to scrape off his retirement rust,
took a costly false-start penalty near the end of the first quarter. Otherwise,
he is doing remarkably well under the circumstances.
* You hated to see good guy Tom Nutten hobble off the field in the third
quarter. Nutten, just out of retirement, jumped into the fray at right guard
after just a few days of work. His injury was announced as a sprained right big
toe, which could become a nagging problem