Martz pleased with Rams' running attack
Admits he lost track of score against Raiders

BY STEVE KORTE
skorte@bnd.com

ST. LOUIS - St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz was pleased with what his team accomplished in the preseason -- especially in showing that it could effectively run the ball -- despite winning only one of their four games.

The Rams rushed for 480 yards -- an average of 120 yards per game -- in their four preseason contests.

The Rams gained 171 yards on the ground in their 28-24 loss to the Oakland Raiders on Thursday night.

"I feel good with where we are, I really do," Martz said. "The area where we wanted to get better was running the football, and we made a big emphasis on that the last few games.

"Regardless of who was in the game, we wanted to run the football."

The Rams were 30th among the NFL's 32 teams in rushing offense last season. They averaged only 93.5 rushing yards per game and only 3.6 yards per rushing attempt.

"Running the football well was a big deal to me in the off-season," Martz said. "We were not an effective team running the football. We give a lot of attention to our passing game, but we've always been able to run the ball very effectively, and last year we didn't do that.

"We have to get back to doing some of the things that are basic to this offense."

Running back Marshall Faulk had only four carries for 11 yards against the Raiders. He also had two receptions for 20 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown reception.

Martz said he has seen enough of Faulk in his limited play in the preseason to feel he's close to being his old self after a series of knee problems.

"I was really impressed with Marshall last night," Martz said. "He's got his juice, boy. When he was in there, they were coming after us with safeties and linebackers, they didn't want him to get going.

"He was very physical running up in there. He made some big plays -- both of those passes, the check-down on third down, and of course, the touchdown -- he looks terrific to me."

Rookie Steven Jackson rushed for 72 yards on 12 carries, while Lamar Gordon rushed for 77 yards on 22 carries in his first action of the preseason.

Gordon underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone chip from his ankle last month.

"That's the first time that he has been hit or put the pads on for four weeks," Martz said. "To go and take the ball up in there like he did ... he took some horrendous hits there out on the edge and spun and jumped and twisted and turned and stayed in the game.

"I was very impressed with his toughness and the burst he had and the acceleration he showed."

Martz admitted that he mistakenly thought the Rams were trailing by three points instead of four points in the closing minute against the Raiders.

"I'm embarrassed to tell you that," Martz said. "The old coach screwed up."

Martz said he thought Oakland place-kicker Sebastian Janikowski missed an extra-point attempt after the Raiders scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 10-yard pass from Marques Tuiasosopo to Alvis Whitted.

"First of all, I was upset that they scored," Martz said. "I was walking down the sideline and I saw the holder drop the ball and bobble it, and I saw the kick, and it looked to me like it went off to the left.

"I just turned and thought, 'Good, they missed it. We'll get down there and tie it up.' Just like a knucklehead, I didn't look at the scoreboard. It's hard for me stand here today and admit that. I should have kept it quiet."

Asked why he would admit such a thing, Martz said, "It happened. It's the truth. Sometimes the truth does hurt."

Martz was going to call for a field goal when rookie quarterback Jeff Smoker let him know that Rams were actually down by four points.

"Smoker came over and the look on his face was like, 'What, are you nuts?" Martz said. "I think in a regular-season game I will be a little more tuned in."

The Rams suffered no major injuries against the Raiders.

Rookie tight end Erik Jensen suffered a slight knee strain, while tight end Cameron Cleeland suffered a mild sprained ankle.

Martz said he wasn't concerned about the back spasms that kept wide receiver Torry Holt out of the final preseason game.

"There is just being cautious on our part," Martz said. "We didn't plan on playing him and Isaac more than a few plays anyway."