Martin Leads Rams to Win
Friday, August 12, 2005

By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

While the Chicago Bears were beginning to think about life with a backup quarterback in the starting role, the Rams were busy watching their backup prove his value.

Second-string quarterback Jamie Martin replaced starter Marc Bulger to begin the second quarter and showed why coach Mike Martz has such confidence in him. Martin’s performance paved the way to a 17-13 win at the Edwards Jones Dome on Friday night. St. Louis is 1-0 in the preseason while Chicago fell to 1-1.

Martin played about a quarter and a half, finishing his evening with about six minutes to go in the third quarter when he gave way to rookie Ryan Fitzpatrick. Martin was 12-of-19 for 143 yards and a pair of touchdowns on his way to a 121.2 rating for the night.

Although Martin has been with the Rams many times, it is his decision to sign with the team early that has helped him according to Martz.

“I think the biggest issue for Jamie in his career that I am aware of is that he has never been brought in in the offseason,” Martz said. “He is as accurate as Kurt (Warner), Trent (Green), Marc (Bulger). He is in that persona. I have always been high on Jamie. I always felt like with the right preparation he could be a real good player for us. He did a couple of things in coverage where he threw the ball that I didn’t think he’d see.”

After the Bears scored first on running back Adrian Peterson’s 9-yard touchdown run, Martin promptly answered by leading a 12-play, 74-yard drive that he capped with a 7-yard scoring strike to wideout Kevin Curtis.

St. Louis opened the second half with a similar scoring drive, traveling 73 yards on 10 plays and finishing with a touchdown from Martin to receiver Shaun McDonald from 5 yards out.

Martin came back to the Rams for his third stint on Dec. 7, 2004 when Bulger was lost for a few weeks because of a shoulder injury. After Chris Chandler struggled in Bulger’s stead, Martin came in against Arizona on Dec. 19 with less than two weeks of preparation for the appearance. While Martin didn’t play great, he performed better than Chandler in throwing for 188 yards.

While Martin was proving that he could be a solid fill in if the opportunity presented itself, Chicago took another crushing blow to its season hopes. Quarterback Rex Grossman suffered a broken left ankle on a pass play with 11:08 to go in the second quarter.

Grossman, who was appearing in his second game since returning from a knee injury that cost him all but three games of the 2004 season, is likely out for about three months. Chad Hutchinson replaced Grossman, who was six-of-11 for 52 yards before the injury.

The Bears have played musical quarterbacks for the better part of the past seven seasons. In six of the past seven years, Chicago has used at last three quarterbacks during the regular season. Hutchinson will probably compete with Kyle Orton, Kurt Kittner and Ryan Dinwiddie for the quarterback spots.

“I knew right away but I was kind of in denial to start with. I tried to walk it off but I knew I heard it pop. I tried to make it work. I knew when it happened that I was caught in one of those situations where someone kind of twisted me and sat on my leg.

“It is not going to do me any good to be angry. All I can do is be positive and know I have another tough challenge ahead of me. I’ve been through hell and I am going to come out of it.”

As for the Rams’ starters, there was little to speak of aside from running back Steven Jackson’s 33-yard burst on the team’s second offensive play. Jackson exited after the first quarter with 47 yards on seven carries. Bulger was three-of-five for 38 yards and an interception. Bulger was sacked twice.

Playing behind a patchwork offensive line that started Matt Willig at left tackle, Rex Tucker at right tackle, Tom Nütten at right guard, Claude Terrell at left guard and Andy McCollum at center, the Rams struggled to get much going with Bulger and company on the field.

While the starting offense was unable to provide any points, the starting defense was impressive. St. Louis held the Bears to 25 yards and one first down in the first quarter, the only quarter the starters played.

“I felt like during this game the defense was ahead of us,” Martz said. “I was excited and anxious to see them play. Twenty-five yards and one first down, that’s pretty dramatic. I’m very pleased with that defense.”

One group, in particular caught Martz’s eye. The debuts of free-agent additions Chris Claiborne and Dexter Coakley at linebacker were nothing short of a success. The difference was obvious as the Rams stifled the Bears’ attempts to run the ball, as at least one linebacker always seemed to be near the ball.

“Defensively we went out there and swarmed the ball,” Coakley said. “The first unit got out there pretty good (and) the second unit came in and played pretty solid. There’s some things to clean up. It was a good first start.”

The Rams defense also was able to force three turnovers, including rookie Oshiomogho Atogwe’s interception to seal the victory. Corey Ivy also had an interception and cornerback DeJuan Groce recovered a fumble.

Defensive end Brandon Green also played a major part in sealing the victory. Green came up with all kinds of pressure, blowing by any lineman who got in his way to record a sack and force an important intentional grounding.

“The situation is what makes it most fun for me when it really counts at the end of the game when they are trying to drive to put it in the endzone and put points on the board to win it,” Green said. “It feels really good to stop them.”

Although the Rams emerged with a win, it was obvious that it was the preseason for both teams. The teams combined for 23 penalties and 122 yards, a common occurrence during the preseason as teams grow accustomed to each other and young players learn the speed of the game.

Above all else, though, the Rams emerged from the game with one extremely important number.

“We came out of this thing clean injury wise,” Martz said.

As the Bears have found out the hard way, that’s the most important statistic of all.