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Martz in good mood at Rams' late stand
Defense credited with helping to even team's record
BY STEVE KORTE
ST. LOUIS - Being 1-1 isn't so bad when you know, like the St. Louis Rams do, that you easily could be 0-2.
"It feels good obviously to win a division game on the road," Rams coach Mike Martz said Monday, the day after the team's harrowing 17-12 win over the Arizona Cardinals. "Those things are hard to do, particularly at the beginning of the year. After a disappointing start up in San Francisco, to be 1-1 feels good."
The Rams are 6 1/2 -point favorites over the Tennessee Titans (1-1) at noon Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.
The Rams-Cardinals game went down to the wire.
The Cardinals had first-and-goal at the St. Louis 5 with 27 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Rams strong safety Adam Archuleta sacked Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner, and then the Cardinals let the clock run down to seven seconds as they tried to run a play instead of spiking the ball.
Cardinals left tackle Leonard Davis was called for a false start, resulting in a 10-second runoff on the clock, and the end of the game.
"Obviously we were trying to take a shot and get it in the end zone on the next play," Warner said. "We changed personnel, and we had to change gears a little bit."
For the game, the Cardinals had four trips inside the red zone, and came away with three field goals and no touchdowns.
"That's something our defense can be proud of," Archuleta said. "That's something the defense can hang their hat on, but we have more challenges ahead. We're trying to establish our character and our identity."
The Rams collected five sacks and limited the Cardinals to 82 rushing yards.
"I thought we played real good team defense," Martz said. "We competed to the ball, we rallied to it, and we got them out in an awful lot of third-down situations, which was a difficult thing for us in years past. Third-and-long, we weren't very good. (Defensive coordinator) Larry (Marmie) has done a real nice job here putting this defense together and this package. It was a real nice call on that blitz to get a sack to win the game."
The Rams currently rank fourth in the NFL in rush defense after ranking 29th in rush defense last season. They've allowed an average of 58 rushing yards per game to their first two opponents.
Martz credited the Rams' linebacking corps, especially middle linebacker Chris Claiborne, for the team's improved run defense.
"The linebacker play is paramount to everything," Martz said. "Claiborne, anything inside the tackles, he's just going to splatter it. I was watching their reads and their run fits, and they were perfect in this game."
Martz said defensive tackle Ryan Pickett was chosen by the Rams' coaching staff as the team's defensive player of the game over Archuleta and defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy, who had two sacks, a forced fumble and two quarterback pressures in "probably one of his best games of his career here."
Pickett had four solo tackles, five assists, a forced fumble and a hit on the quarterback in the game.
Running back Steven Jackson was the offensive player of the game, while rookie punter Reggie Hodges was the special teams player of the game.
The Rams' offense has produced only 42 points so far this season.
Martz blamed himself for the team's inconsistency on offense. He's been battling a virus with flulike symptoms that has swept through the team in the last two weeks.
"A lot of that is just me," Martz said. "The last couple of weeks, I have been struggling to get through this stuff. I just haven't done a very good job. Our game plan stuff hasn't been as sharp. I haven't done a very good job of calling the game."
Martz said he regretted being too conservative on offense late in the game. He called two running plays after getting the ball at their own 46 with 3:02 left to play.
"I wish in that last drive, that I would have thrown it," Martz said. "At that time, it just seemed like it was inappropriate. Punt it down inside the 20 and make them go the distance."
Pro Bowl left tackle Orlando Pace as well as cornerback-kickoff returner Chris Johnson and left guard Tom Nutten were inflicted with the same virus.
Martz said the fact that Pace was struggling to stay on the field factored in his decision to go conservative on offense.
"We had a tackle that was hurting pretty good," Martz said. "I was a little concerned about the pressure, doing something dumb and turning the ball over
Re: Martz in good mood at Rams' late stand
I can see the Rams' rushing defense being ranked pretty high for a while. Tennessee hasn't established much of anything on offense yet. Seattle is potentially a tough rushing team but the Rams always play them well. Indy passes more than runs so even if they put up some yardage, it'll most likely be through the air. Jacksonville's offense is sporadic. Their defense is simply great, but their offense let's them down a lot. There really isn't a good rushing team until week 17 agains Dallas. By then, they might not even be trying (a la 2004 when they mailed it in against the Giants in week 17).
So, look for the Rams' rushing D to be ranked pretty high all year. Overall and Pass D I have no idea about, but the rush D will probably save Marmie's job for another year.