By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
Saturday, Nov. 13 2004

Mike Martz began the week in a frenzy, and never really calmed down. He is at
his wits' end over the current state of the 2004 Rams and is trying shock
therapy to revive his team's fortunes.

"I've never seen him like this," wide receiver Torry Holt said. "I hate to see
him like this, because that tells us we ain't getting things done. But it shows
me that he does care how we perform as a football team, and where we are as a
football team.

"So hopefully, we can go out there and give him a performance to kind of cool
him down."

Martz's tense, at times abrupt, and at times surly interchanges with the media
weren't for show this week. The players got a similar - even stronger - message
behind closed doors. He's tired of mistakes. He's tired of counting on players
who aren't delivering. He's tired of missed blocks and half-hearted tackles.

"After that meeting, it was a little quiet around here," Holt said. "Guys were
a little more focused. Guys were a little more quick in their steps. If that's
what it takes for us to get back on the winning edge, then I'm all for it."

Which meeting? Monday's?

"Every day, actually," Holt said, laughing.

There is no time like the present, because if ever a season boiled down to one
game, it's Sunday for the Rams. Seattle comes to the Edward Jones Dome in first
place in the NFC West with a 5-3 record. The Rams are 4-4.

Both teams would be 5-4 if the Rams win, but by virtue of their comeback
victory Oct. 10 in Seattle, the Rams would have the tiebreaker edge. In
essence, they'd have the lead in the NFC West.

And what if the Rams lose? They would be 4-5 with four of their next five games
on the road. Seattle would be 6-3 with their next three games at home against
Miami (1-8), Buffalo (3-5) and Dallas (3-5). In short, that's not a pleasant
possibility for the Rams, even with seven games remaining in the unpredictable
NFL.

"With all the problems we've had, we're sitting in a situation where if we can
win one game right now, then we'll be OK," defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson
said.

"We've been pretty fortunate in that respect," quarterback Marc Bulger said.
"We are not playing our best right now, but we are still in halfway decent
shape in this division. We could've built a nice lead, but we didn't. But
playing as bad as we have, and knowing that we could be tied for first place
after this game, is a saving factor."

But even Bulger concedes it's a dire outlook if the Rams lose Sunday.

"Giving Seattle more momentum, it'd be tough to catch 'em, I think, if we don't
start playing better this week," Bulger said.

After squandering a 27-10 late in the fourth quarter, Seattle lost that Oct. 10
contest to the Rams 33-27 in overtime. For the Seahawks, it was a colossal
collapse. For the Rams, it was a rally of epic proportions - the second-biggest
comeback in the final 6 minutes of a game in NFL history.

With that in mind, the Seahawks have been in full "Remember the Alamo" mode
this week.

Not unlike the Oct. 10 matchup, they view this as a statement game - an
opportunity to signal a changing of the guard in the NFC West. Seattle wide
receiver Darrell Jackson likened the Rams-Seahawks rivalry to Florida-Florida
State. Former Rams defensive end Grant Wistrom - now with Seattle - recalled
that the Rams never liked the Seahawks very much.

So make no mistake, the Rams are expecting Seattle to be focused and intense on
Sunday.

"They're definitely going to be ready to come in here and play, especially
after we went and stole that win up in their place," said Rams wide receiver
Shaun McDonald.

It was McDonald who caught the game-winning 52-yard touchdown pass in Seattle,
as Bulger calmly threw over a seven-man Seahawks blitz in OT.

But given the crisis atmosphere at Rams Park, underscored dramatically by live
tackling periods in practice Wednesday, the Rams haven't had much time to dwell
on their budding rivalry with Seattle.

In a sense, even the division race is secondary to Martz given the way his
football team has played the last two times out. He just wants his team to play
better. To play with an attitude. To play fast, physical football.

"I'm not happy with how we're playing, period, regardless of a division race or
anything else," Martz said. "There's no excuses. We have just got to play this
game in a real physical state of mind."

He has drilled home that point all week, in every session with the media - and
most important - in every speech to the team.

"There's a time and place for everything," wide receiver Isaac Bruce said.
"Now's the time.

"We're .500 right now, in the middle of the season. I feel like if guys can't
realize and see what's ahead of us as far as being able to be in first place
after this game, they don't need to be here."

But what about the younger players, who need to be brought up to speed on what
it takes to compete in the NFL week in and week out?

"I feel like eight weeks is long enough for anybody," Bruce said. "Even the
rookies stop being rookies after eight weeks in this league. You expect them to
do a lot more things.

"There's no room for babies. Guys have to grow up, and not stop growing. We all
have to grow. Even the older guys, we have to be accountable. That should be
the word for the week - accountability. And taking ownership on what your job
is around here."

If they do that, they just might take ownership of the NFC West on Sunday.