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Thread: Kicked when they're down
Kicked when they're down
By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
Sunday, Nov. 21 2004
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - They got knocked down and couldn't get up. And by the time
the Rams knew what hit them, a game that was there for the taking had
disintegrated from a 17-14 lead into a 37-17 loss to Buffalo.
"It happened so fast," wide receiver Torry Holt said.
So fast and, pardon the expression, so furious. The Rams got kicked in the gut
by Buffalo's kicking game in the third quarter. Over and over again.
First came a 53-yard punt return by Jonathan Smith to the Rams 5. Tight end
Mark Campbell caught a touchdown pass on the next play, giving Buffalo a 24-17
lead just 1 minute 17 seconds into the second half.
Then came an 86-yard punt return for a TD by Buffalo's Nate Clements after the
Rams' next possession.
And after the Clements score, Erik Flowers of the Rams couldn't field a pop fly
kickoff by Buffalo's Rian Lindell and Buffalo's Jason Peters recovered at the
Rams 31. A Lindell field goal followed and, just like that, the Bills led 34-17
less than seven minutes into the second half.
"The special teams stuff is revolting to say the least," Martz said. "And it's
going to be hard to win another game until we get that cleared up."
Cleared up? It's been a mess for several seasons, not several games.
Call Sunday's game a case of Bobby's Revenge. Sent packing after three
struggling seasons in St. Louis, special teams coach Bobby April put on a
clinic in the second half with his new team, the Bills.
When asked if April had devised anything differently with Buffalo than he used
in St. Louis, Martz replied sarcastically: "I don't think so. Super sleuth? You
mean that tricky Bobby? They just flat returned it. They've got good people."
Shoddy special teams play may have been the main problem for the Rams -
"pitiful" was the word Martz used to describe the unit's performance - but it
was far from the only trouble spot.
Once again, Rams defenders had trouble defending the tight end. Campbell, who
hadn't caught a pass in Buffalo's three previous games, did something no other
Bills tight end had done: He caught three TD passes in one game.
One came at the expense of strong safety Adam Archuleta and two came against
coverage by free safety Rich Coady. Sometimes the coverage was good against
Campbell; sometimes it wasn't so good.
"It wasn't a situation where they fooled us or we were in the wrong coverage,"
Archuleta said. "It was nothing like that. Plain and simple, I was in position
to make a play in a one-on-one battle and he ended up winning it. That
For those scoring at home, opposing tight ends have caught 45 passes for 494
yards and six TDs against the Rams this season. Campbell's first two scores
came in the first half, allowing the Bills to erase an early Rams lead of 10-0.
The third TD catch started Buffalo's third-quarter onslaught. And while the
Bills pounded the Rams on special teams in the quarter, the Rams offense picked
a bad time for a siesta.
On their first four possession of the quarter, the Rams went three-and-out
three times, and went three-and-interception once. The Rams didn't get a first
down in the second half until the final play of the third quarter. By then,
they trailed 37-17.
"Marc (Bulger) missed a couple throws there on that first series of the second
half, which is so unlike him," Martz said. "You'd like to adapt at that point.
Slow down the pass rush by running the ball effectively. And that's why we
tried to get that going a little bit. But you get in third and one, you've got
to convert on that."
They didn't. Trailing 24-17 three minutes into the second half, the Rams faced
a third-and-1 situation from their 35. But Bills defensive tackle Sam Adams
burst through the middle of the line to drop Marshall Faulk for a 3-yard loss.
The Rams gained a mere 20 yards on 15 plays in the third quarter. Included
among those plays was the first of three interceptions by Bulger, matching his
season high for interceptions.
"The first half, you saw our line was going great and we were moving the ball,"
Bulger said. "But once the momentum switches on the road and you get down 17
... then they know exactly what we're going to do. We have to throw the ball to
get back into it. And they can get right to their nickel blitzes."
The Bills blitzed on almost every down after taking the big lead in the third
quarter. Two of Bulger's second-half interceptions came on passes that were
tipped high into the air. The third interception came in the end zone, on a
play in which Martz said intended receiver Isaac Bruce had his jersey pulled by
a Bills defender with no call.
It added up to another disappointing loss for the Rams (5-5), who found
themselves in second place in the NFC West before their plane touched down in
St. Louis on Sunday evening. The Seahawks (6-4) moved into first with a 24-17
victory over Miami.
"You can take this game, and you can break it down if you want," defensive
lineman Tyoka Jackson said. "But at the end of the day, you've just got to ask
yourself did you do enough to win the game?"
Nope. Not even close.
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