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O-line goes from outhouse to penthouse
By Bill Coats
Of the Post-Dispatch
In a matter of a few short weeks, the Rams offensive line has gone from a rag-tag group holding open auditions to turning in what coach Mike Martz called "the best performance of an offensive line since I've been here."
Except for the 1997 and '98 seasons, when he was the Washington Redskins' quarterbacks coach, Martz has been in the Rams organization since 1992. So he had plenty of landscape to consider when he issued such a glowing pronouncement of Sunday's performance.
"Any time you rush for those kind of yards and don't give up any sacks, that's pretty exceptional for any offensive line," Martz said.
In turning aside Arizona 17-10 in the season opener, the Rams pounded out 176 yards on the ground, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. Marshall Faulk rolled up 128 yards on 22 tries, and rookie Steven Jackson added 50 yards on seven attempts.
"Guys aren't used to seeing these guys run-block the way they have," Faulk said. "We really emphasized that in camp (and in) this preseason, and it carried over."
Right guard Adam Timmerman and left tackle Orlando Pace are in the same spots as last year. Center Andy McCollum moved from left guard, with veterans Chris Dishman (left guard) and Grant Williams (right tackle) filling out the unit.
"They're just a tough group," Martz said, who lauded offensive line coach John Matsko and his assistant, John Benton, for doing "a terrific job of keeping this thing together. We've had all kinds of different combinations in there throughout the training camp. But they kept everybody focused. ... Somebody's got to be doing some coaching there."
Martz heaped the most praise on McCollum, an 11-year veteran, saying, "I really have to single (him) out as having the best game he's had since he's been here. He was dominating."
Turnovers halt drives
Overall, the Rams rolled up 448 yards to only 260 for the Cardinals. But three turnovers - all deep in Arizona territory - short-circuited the Rams' attack.
On the team's first three series, Jackson fumbled at the 24-yard line, quarterback Marc Bulger was intercepted at the 2, and wide receiver Dane Looker fumbled at the Arizona 18.
The Rams led the NFL in takeaways last year but came up with none vs. the Cardinals. Still, the defense responded to those three giveaways with two three-and-outs and then a four-play series that produced only a field goal.
"That's key," free safety Aeneas Williams said. "You can't come into a game and ask, 'Why is this happening?' That's what I loved; it didn't matter. We were ready to go out and play defense."
In particular, Martz commended defensive end Bryce Fisher (10 tackles, including a 16-yard sack), tackle Damione Lewis (six tackles, with an 8-yard sack) and cornerback Jerametrius Butler (nine tackles and two pass breakups).
"By and large, I thought it was a terrific afternoon defensively," Martz said.
Kicker Jeff Wilkins became the Rams' career scoring leader Sunday, and he did it in style. Wilkins drilled a 50-yard field goal - his franchise-best 13th of that distance or longer - in the first quarter that snapped a tie with another kicker, Mike Lansford (1982-90).
Wilkins, 32, added two more field goals and heads into next Sunday's game in Atlanta with 798 points in eight seasons with the Rams.
"I was thrilled for Jeff," Martz said. "That's a terrific achievement."
Wilkins, who played his first three years in San Francisco, has 985 career points.
Last year, Wilkins topped the NFL in scoring and earned his first Pro Bowl invitation. He racked up 163 points, on 39 of 42 field goals and 46 of 46 extra points.
Re: O-line goes from outhouse to penthouse
The o-line did look especially solid Sunday....granted the Cards aren't a big test, but they were pretty much owned. I think this is a good group...what worries me isn't the o-line, but our O in the Red zone..& Bulger's propensity to lock on..and rarely check down. I think our running game is going to surprise some peolple this year
Re: O-line goes from outhouse to penthouse
I really like the run game. I think it will open up the passing game. Hopefully Martz will throw in more play action. :ramlogo:JUST WIN ONE FOR THE FANS
"HIT HARD, HIT FAST, AND HIT OFTEN"Adm. William "Bull" Halsey
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