By Bryan Burwell
Of the Post-Dispatch
10/04/2004

Just before he walked out of the cramped visitors' locker room inside Monster Park Sunday night with a much-needed victory in his pocket, Marc Bulger paused for a moment to recognize the obvious. Something extra had happened on that perfectly manicured grass field of old Candlestick Park, something even more substantial than a mere victory over the pitiful *****.

"I think we got a little credibility back," Bulger said.

With a national television audience watching - and probably anticipating (perhaps even hoping for) a big, fat embarrassing Rams meltdown - the Rams had reclaimed no small measure of personal, professional and local pride. The pro football world is filled with all sorts of buttoned-down, less adventurous folks would have liked nothing more than to have seen Bulger's audacious boss Mike Martz get a little comeuppance on national TV.

But within a blink of an eye, the Rams ruined all those plans. They took complete control of the night, broke out to an emphatic 24-0 first-half lead and gave the unbeaten Seahawks something substantial to ponder as they prepare for next weekend's big showdown in Seattle.

At last tossing aside his pass-happy, run-thin philosophy, Martz put together the sort of well-balanced, clock-controlling attack that might be able to put the 2-2 Rams back into serious contention against Seattle (3-0) in the NFC West.

The Rams did everything a good and smart football team is supposed to do in plundering the *****. Martz pragmatically used every one of his offensive weapons of mass destruction. He called running plays when the ***** were looking for passes. He called passes when they were stacking up to stop the run. Instead of fast and furious, he gave us choice blend. Instead of stubborn insistence on guns blazing, he chose a more surgical approach.

But I'm a pessimist by nature. And even as I kept watching Marshall Faulk galloping all over Monster Park, a little voice in my head kept whispering:

"How long will this last?"

We've been to this party too many times before. We all know that just as often as he takes two steps forward, he's just as likely to take three steps back with a few one-dimensional air shows like he did against the Falcons and Saints.

So again, that's why I keep hearing that little voice.

"How long will this last?"

So as a public service, I think it is important that we again bombard Mad (or is it Methodical?) Mike with some valuable numbers to look at in case he gets that predictable urge to stray from running the ball, particularly when some manic defensive coordinator plots out endless strategies to take Faulk out of the game.

Remember Mike, statistics don't lie. Putting the ball in Faulk's hands is still the surest way to victory. If I've written it once, I've written it 100 times, the Rams simply don't lose football games when he gets the bulk of the workload (26-0 when Faulk gains 100 yards or more on the ground).

We know Martz knows this already. It's been a part of the weekly game notes for the past two seasons. But with an assist from USA Today, I can now quote even more numbers for Martz to consider whenever he starts to lean toward those "fast and furious" instincts.

Look at this four-year NFL offensive trend:

Winning percentage for NFL teams with 100-yard rushers: 2001: .766 (95-29); 2002: .706 (96-40); 2003: .709 (107-44); 2004: .718 (28-11).

Winning percentage with 100-yard receivers: 2001: .591 (94- 65); 2002: .598 (101-68); 2003: .567 (85-65); 2004: .385 (15-24).

Winning percentage with 300-yard passers: 2001: .486 (35-37); 2002: .570 (45-34); 2003: .517 (31-29); 2004: .389 (7-11).

It's not even close. Clip and save, Mike. Clip and save.