Martz won't let Rams' heads sag
By CLARE FARNSWORTH
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
It was offense in excess: 44 points, 456 yards, four touchdown passes, an average of 5.7 yards per rushing attempt.
Just the kind of onslaught Mike Martz envisioned that afternoon in August, when the head coach of the St. Louis Rams proclaimed, "We can be as good offensively as any team we've had here."
One small problem. Those "Greatest Show on Turf" totals belonged to the New York Giants on Sunday, and came at the expense of Martz's team.
"There's some very significant concern about where this football team is on my part," Martz told reporters in St. Louis on Monday.
Drastic times call for maniacal measures, and who better to scheme them than the man they call "Mad Mike."
Sunday night, Martz called a team meeting after the club had flown home from the Meadowlands -- an unprecedented event since the franchise moved to St. Louis in 1995. Monday, the coaches did not watch video of the 44-24 loss to the Giants with the players -- something Martz said he has done before, but couldn't remember the last time he did it.
Martz called the events that led to the lopsided loss to the Giants "an anomaly." He also referred to the collective effort as "an old-fashioned whipping."
So instead of harping on all the obvious negatives, Martz shifted the emphasis to the Rams' personal whipping boys -- the Seahawks, who play the also 2-2 Rams on Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.
The Seahawks won the NFC West title last season, despite losing three times to the Rams. Once in Seattle, with a miracle comeback that continues to defy explanation and gnaw at the Seahawks' psyche. Once in St. Louis, where the Rams have beaten the Seahawks in each of the three seasons since realignment made them division rivals. Once in the playoffs, denying the Seahawks a chance to halt their 20-season drought without a postseason victory.
Truth be told, Martz is -- and always has been -- much more concerned with his team and how it plays than anything any opponent might do.
"You know, Coach Martz and that system over there, they barely acknowledge the other team," Seahawks defensive end Bryce Fisher said.
He should know. Fisher played the past three seasons with the Rams before signing with the Seahawks during the offseason.
"They pretty much say, 'It's all about what we do. Just keep doing what we do, and in the end, you'll make enough plays to win,' " Fisher added. "The thing about them over there, they believe that no matter what they do, they have the talent to overcome that."
With that in mind, here are some of the items on Martz's we-shall-overcome checklist this week:
Start fast: In three of their first four games, the Rams have fallen behind (28-9 vs. the *****, 10-0 vs. the Titans and 27-7 vs. the Giants).
Martz loves to throw the ball around as much as, or more than, the next guy. But trying to levitate from holes that deep puts too much pressure on the passing game. In the season-opening loss to the *****, Marc Bulger attempted a career-high 56 passes. In Sunday's loss to the Giants, Bulger put the ball up a franchise-record 62 times.
Protect Bulger: You throw that many times, your quarterback is going to get hit. Not surprisingly, Bulger was sacked a league-high 15 times in the Rams' first three games.
Martz might have already corrected a big part of that problem by inserting first-round draft choice Alex Barron at right tackle. In the first three games, six of those 15 sacks were allowed from the right side by either Rex Tucker or Blaine Saipaia.
Barron did not allow a sack in his first NFL start, despite facing the Giants' Michael Strahan, whose only sack came on a stunt into the middle of the line.
Get Steven Jackson going: The second-year running back from Oregon State carried only 10 times for 17 yards against the Giants. Not even close to what Martz is expecting from last year's first-round draft choice.
"We can play power football with him down after down," Martz said at training camp. "He can take that punishment."
Jackson bruised his sternum against Tennessee in Week 3, when he sat out parts of the second and third quarters. The injury was obviously bothering Jackson against the Giants.
Play some defense: No explanation needed here, but Martz might be expecting one from strong safety Adam Archuleta. Five days after being named NFC defensive player of the month, Archuleta was guilty of letting Plaxico Burress get deep to catch a 46-yarder.
An assortment of injuries to the Seahawks' receivers should lessen that concern this week.
"That's over with," Martz reiterated one last time when asked about Sunday's Giants-sized problems. "We're going to move on."
HAWK TALK: Shaun Alexander leads the league in rushing (455 yards), the NFC in first downs (27) and shares the conference lead in touchdowns (six). ... Former Seahawks safety Terreal Bierria had a tryout with the Rams on Tuesday, who also brought in ex-Seahawks defensive tackle Cedric Woodard for a physical.
UP NEXT: ST. LOUIS
WHEN/WHERE: Sunday, 10 a.m., Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis
RAMS RECORD: 2-2, tied for NFC West lead with Seahawks
WHERE THEY RANK: No. 4 on offense (21st rushing, second passing); No. 25 on defense (eighth rushing, 27th passing)
SERIES: Rams lead 9-4, including three straight wins in St. Louis
STAR POWER: Marc Bulger. All he did in Sunday's loss to the New York Giants was set franchise records for completions (40) and passing attempts (62). But his impact goes beyond one record-setting afternoon. He is the focal point of the Rams' passing game, and therefore their offense. The Rams are only as good as Bulger, and he is much more effective when given time to allow his receivers to complete their routes that are deeper than most NFL teams use.
UNSUNG HERO: Torry Holt. Of all the hands on a Rams roster stocked with talented receivers, his are the best. Holt is second in the NFC in receptions (30), tied for second in touchdown catches (three), averaging 110 receiving yards, and on pace for a league-record sixth consecutive season with at least 1,300 yards.
ON THE SPOT: The Rams' rebuilt defense. The Giants slapped the Rams around to the tune of 44 points, 456 yards and scores on their first five possessions. As Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress put it, "We did to the Rams what everybody thought they were going to do to us." It wasn't supposed to happen this season. Not after they signed linebackers Dexter Coakley and Chris Claiborne in free agency. Not with the continuing development of Jimmy Kennedy and Ryan Pickett in the middle of the line. Now, the Rams face a balanced Seahawks offense that ranks No. 2 in the league.
BURNING QUESTION: What's wrong with Steven Jackson? Last year's first-round draft choice from Oregon State looked like a beast during training camp. He was going to bring some slam and bam to complement the Rams' flim and flam. But he is averaging 3.7 yards per carry and 54.5 yards per game -- which will produce an 872-yard season. Jackson is playing with a bruised sternum, and also averaging less than 15 carries a game because the Rams have fallen behind 28-9, 27-7 and 10-0 in three of their first four games.
INJURY REPORT: TE Roland Williams is out for the season after dislocating his right knee on Sunday. WR Isaac Bruce (hyperextended toe) missed the Giants game and is not expected to play this week. TE/FB Brandon Manumaleuna (sprained left knee) was inactive against the Giants, but will try to practice today.
FAMILIAR FACES: WR Dane Looker played at the University of Washington and Puyallup High School. TE Cam Cleeland, re-signed Tuesday to fill Williams' roster spot, played at the UW and Sedro-Woolley High School. DT Brian Howard played at Kent-Meridian High School. Assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Vitt was a Seahawks assistant from 1982-91. Strength coach Dana LeDuc held the same job with the Seahawks from 1995-98.
THE LAST WORD: "We were thinking Seattle all the way." -- LT Orlando Pace, referring to the Rams' miracle comeback against the Seahawks in Week 5 last season when asked about the team's second-half rally against the Giants
-- Clare Farnsworth
KIRKLAND -- The Seahawks' injury-ravaged receiving corps got some reinforcements Tuesday when wide receiver Jerheme Urban was re-signed. Urban made the 53-man roster this season, but was released Sept. 13 to clear a spot for defensive end Robert Bailey.
Urban is needed because starting split end Bobby Engram has two cracked ribs and is not expected to play Sunday when the Seahawks travel to St. Louis to meet the Rams. Also hurting are leading receiver Darrell Jackson (sore knee), wide receiver Peter Warrick (sore groin) and tight end Jerramy Stevens (dislocated finger).
"Bobby has been so good to start this year," coach Mike Holmgren said of Engram, who has 27 receptions after catching nine passes for 106 yards in Sunday's 20-17 overtime loss to the Washington Redskins despite cracking the ribs on the first play of the game.
"The other guys have to crank it up a notch," Holmgren added.
Joe Jurevicius is the likely replacement for Engram. Defensive end Alain Kashama was released to clear a roster spot for Urban.