By Jeff Gordon
Online Sports Columnist
Monday, Sep. 19 2005

Upon Further Review, Rams coach Mike Martz was quite pleased with the play of
his defense and special teams Sunday in Arizona.

“Special teams play improved remarkably,” Martz said during his Monday news
conference. “Our kickoff coverage, the average starting field position was the
20-yard line, which is outstanding. In the kicking game, the battle really is
for field position. Anything else from the turnover standpoint is a bonus. I
think from field position standpoint, our (special) teams were excellent,
particularly coverage teams.”

Defensively, Martz cited safety Adam Achuleta, defensive end Leonard Little,
linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa, cornerback DeJuan Groce and defensive tackles Jimmy
Kennedy and Ryan Pickett for extra praise.

“I thought we played really good team defense,” Martz said. “We rallied to (the
ball), we got them out on an awful lot of third-down situations, which was a
difficult thing for us last year and years past. Third and long we weren’t very
good. We rallied here. Larry (Marmie) has done a real good job putting this
defense together. A real nice timed call down in the red zone on that blitz to
get the sack and win the game.

Here was Martz’s take on some other issues:

On his overall thoughts about the victory: “We’re starting to come
together a little bit. We’re not where we need to be, obviously. We were very
pleased with the effort. Down there in the heat, our guys performed very well.
We had a number of players go down with the stomach flu. It was a tough
afternoon, a hard-fought win.”

On positive changes in his kick coverage teams: “We got some
veterans more involved. It’s difficult . . . you project some of these rookies
based on the preseason and their play, then the regular season started and the
speed of this game changes so dramatically. They were a little shocked by it.
We’ve had to make a move quickly and we did that in a couple of areas that
helped us.”

On potential for adjustments in the kick return teams: “There are a
couple of things we’re going to do here in the next week from the personnel
standpoint that we think might give us a little boost, particularly in the punt
return. Kickoff return, we’ll just have to see. We want to make sure when we
look at the tape that we’re getting guys blocked. It doesn’t really make sense
to change those kinds of thing unless the returner is the fault.”

On going back to Arlen Harris for some returns: “I think that (Chris
Johnson) was involved defensively quite a bit. That was probably the main
reason. The biggest thing about Arlen is with the loss of weight, his speed has
improved dramatically. His weight is way down, 15 pounds. He is excited about
the potential of doing that. He’s given us outstanding field position to begin
with, which is the first step. C.J. is a long-distance guy. He’s like Tony
Horne. Those guys are hard to come by. (Arlen) is not C.J. with his speed, but
he is capable of doing it.”

On punter Reggie Hodges: “He was very consistent. The thing we
always asked of Reggie is that consistency that allows us good field position.
He hung the ball up nice. He turned the ball over, difficult balls to return.
He was outstanding in this game. It was what he hoped we get when we drafted
him. I hope he continues along those lines.”

On the replay challenges: “We have guys upstairs that wait on that
TV (replay) copy. Sometimes that doesn’t come soon enough. If I see it on the
field, like the first challenge. Joe Vitt saw it right away. He said you have
to challenge it. If I can see it, I’m going to challenge it regardless of what
they saw up there . . . you rely on those guys upstairs to a certain extent,
but anything that I see on the field or the coaches see it . . . some of the
replays are hard to see. The best rule of thumb is if you see it, and you’re
clear with it on the field, that’s what you do.”

On getting too conservative with his offensive play-calling late:
“Our defense was playing so well. I was a little conservative, probably more
conservative than I should have been. We had a tackle that was hurting pretty
good. I was a little concerned about the pressure, doing stuff, turning the
ball over. I did get real conservative at the end of the game and kind of
regret it. We had those corners up there one-on-one. It was a situation where
we could have been very effective with some simple plays out there.

“Steven (Jackson) was eager to have the load put on him. He was going so good.
We just had a couple of broken assignments inside, where would have had some
real good runs break out of there. Especially that last one. We get the ball at
the 50 or so, and not get the first down, not push it down in there and get
three points, that was the more regrettable thing about this game for me.”

On getting Jackson more carries in the second half: “That means you’
ve come out and put some points on the board and you can control that game,
that’s a nice feeling when you ahead like that. You’d like to do that. But what
they had done since the first half, when they came out, their corners were so
isolated in some of the coverages and their ends were so up the field, we went
into some screens and some balls to the wide receivers. Seemed to work pretty
well, loosen them up a little bit and Steven puts the ball in the end zone.

“You just kind of get a feel for the game, I’ve always done it that way. If we
feel like we can get those guys isolated . . . I think at the end of the game,
we could have thrown some nice shorter balls and had some completions and put
that game away. But I would like to get him the ball more.”

On the play of fill-in right tackle Blaine Saipaia: “He did OK. Just
like anybody else when he hasn’t been playing there, he got a little anxious.
On a couple of runs, had he made his block, it would have helped us a great
deal. Then he made some outstanding blocks. That will get cleaned up. Right
now, he’s our best choice out there. He’s playing well. Not as well as he can
or will. I’ve always felt really good about Blaine. I know he is a guard
probably, eventually, but he is athletic enough and has that presence to go out
there and compete and not get overwhelmed by all that stuff.”

On the prospect of tackle Alex Barron playing later this season: “He
has done a terrific job in camp. He is way further ahead than I would have ever
given him credit for. The toughness and tenacity, knowledge of what we’re doing
has come along. It’s different out here in practice as well. The game is so
much faster The best thing for Alex to do is no play this year if we can win.
It’s like a quarterback. Then they can play the right way. They get in there
and they don’t get overwhelmed and develop bad habits, all the stuff that
happens with tackles. If he had to play here in a few weeks, he probably would
play.”