Here's the Rams' to-do list for beating Seattle

Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
Monday, Jan. 03 2005

A few weeks back, we figured the Rams would be packing up their stuff right
about now. We figured the coaches would be turning the page on 2004 and
starting preparations for 2005.

Playoffs? After the injury-depleted Rams bottomed out at 6-8 with that horror
show at Arizona, it was impossible to imagine this team in postseason play.

But here they were Monday, busily preparing for Saturday’s game at Seattle. So
what if they got in with an 8-8 record.

“Once you get in, you’re in,” Rams coach Mike Martz said at his Monday news
conference. “It’s how you’re playing right now. It’s just who is playing well
now, not how you were playing in September or November or if you’re 15-1. It’s
how you are playing right now. Right now.

“If we can continue to grow like we have over the last few weeks, anything is

Beating the Seahawks for a third time this season will be a chore. Here is
their “to-do” list for the game:

* Adapt to the environment:

Sure, the Rams staged a heroic rally to beat the Seahawks the last time they
played at Seattle. But under Martz, the Rams have been nearly unbeatable at
home in the Dome and less than ordinary (2-6 this season) on the road.

On the painted asphalt at The Ed, quarterback Marc Bulger has little trouble
playing pitch and catch with his various targets. On the road, he’s mortal.

Our suggestion: the Rams ought to be prepared to run, run and run some more at
Seattle, just in case. Remember, they are unbeaten this season when they rush
the ball 30 times or more in a game.

* Shore up the offensive line play:

The potential loss of left guard Tom Nutten is huge. He played very well
against Philadelphia and early on against the Jets.

Now the Rams advance with Blaine Saipaia at right tackle and, possibly, Larry
Turner at left guard. This helps the team get a head start into the ’05 camp,
since both youngsters figure prominently in the Rams future.

But postseason play is a terrible time for on-the-job training. Martz raved
about the interior pass blocking of his guards and center against the Jets, but
Nutten is integral to that success.

The Seahawks will try to pull some pranks on Turner if the kid is forced into

* Bend less against the run:

Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander ran wild on the Rams twice this season.
Jets running back Curtis Martin ran wild on Sunday. So it’s no secret what
Seattle will attempt to do Saturday.

The Rams will allow big rushing yardage in this game. That’s a given. But can
the Rams make some timely stops, especially in the red zone?

Defensive end Bryce Fisher has played like a madman the last two games. Ryan
Pickett was notable Sunday. Fellow former first-round picks Damione Lewis and
Jimmy Kennedy made plays here and there.

Martz loved Sunday’s pass rush, which produced six sacks and numerous
pressures. But the Seahawks will pound away on the ground early and often. Can
the Rams stop THAT sort of assault?

* Cover the kicks:

The Jets almost ran three kickoffs back for touchdowns in Sunday’s game. Three!

Martz vows to change the personnel on the coverage unit, again, and substitute
less as the game progresses. The visiting Rams cannot give the Seahawks several
short fields and expect to survive.