By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Monday, Sep. 26 2005

They haven't quite reached the status of the 1974 Cardiac Cardinals, but the
2005 Rams certainly are heading down that path.

The '74 Big Red, the first St. Louis NFL team to reach the playoffs, were
involved in nine games decided by a touchdown or less in what was then a
14-game regular season.

So far, all three games for the '05 Rams have been decided by five points or
fewer.

"I'm going to need some heart pills here soon," wide receiver Torry Holt said.

Only twice previously since the move to St. Louis have the Rams been involved
in three consecutive games decided by five points or less:

-- In 2000, the Rams lost 38-35 at Tampa Bay on Dec. 18; won 26-21
at New Orleans on Dec. 24; and lost 31-28 at New Orleans on Dec. 30 in a
wild-card playoff game.

-- In 2002, the Rams won 28-24 at home against San Diego on Nov. 10;
won 21-16 at home against Chicago on Nov. 18; and lost 20-17 at Washington on
Nov. 24.

And now comes '05 ... Marc Bulger throwing an interception at the San Francisco
24 with 52 seconds left in what became a 28-25 loss. ... Kurt Warner poised to
take a shot into the end zone, only to have the game end on a 10-second runoff
of the clock because of an Arizona penalty in a 17-12 Rams victory. ...
Tennessee's Steve McNair throwing high and wide into the end zone with 29
seconds left in a 31-27 Rams victory.

For those watching at home, the unofficial motto of the '05 Rams is: No lead is
safe; no deficit insurmountable. Don't touch that dial.

"It's good that we were able to close it out (against Tennessee)," Holt said.
"But at some point in time we have to say enough is enough. Let's finish a
ballclub out early, and let's get out of here with a clean victory."

Easier said than done in the NFL, in which nearly half of the games in any
given season are decided by seven points or less.

"That's the NFL today," Bulger said. "Every game seems to be close. The rare
exception is you'll have a blowout, or you'll get blown out. It looked like it
was going to go that way against us" Sunday.

It sure did. Rarely has a Rams squad looked as outclassed in the opening
quarter as the team did against Tennessee.

Not only were the Titans ahead 10-0 after one quarter, they outgained the Rams
111 yards to 5 in the process.

"They took us to the woodshed offensively in that first quarter," coach Mike
Martz said. "They outhit us. They outdid everything. We couldn't move the ball;
we couldn't get a first down."

But if the '05 Rams have shown anything, it's that they never feel they're out
of a game.

In the opener, against San Francisco, they nearly rallied from a 28-9 deficit
in the third quarter. And with Adam Archuleta's interception return for a TD
providing a huge spark, the Rams eventually were able to overcome Tennessee.

"The toughness and the attitude that has come out in these last two games in
tight ballgames is pretty terrific," Martz said. "That's what you feed on.
That's what gets you going."

Instead of panicking early against Tennessee, the Rams regrouped.

"You can't get down mentally," offensive guard Tom Nutten said. "Obviously,
there's still a lot of game left to play. You're trying figure out where the
mistakes are. And you realize, they're not doing anything crazy. It's nothing
that we haven't seen. It's just one breakdown here, another breakdown there.
And it's just: 'Let's tighten up and let's play.'"

In situations like that, Martz relies on the moxie of veterans such as Nutten.

"We call on that at halftime a great deal," Martz said. "When we say, 'We've
been through this before men. We know how to react to this. What needs to be
done? Here's what we need to do."'

Against the Titans, pass protection issues had a lot to do with the Rams' early
struggles. For a while, taking a seven-step pass drop was hazardous to Bulger's
health.

"Blaine (Saipaia) was struggling to be blunt about it," Martz said. "We were
trying to get things going, and we couldn't."

The good teams, of course, figure out a way to win the close ones regardless of
the circumstances. And so far, the Rams are 2-1 in the close ones - but with a
lot of season to go.