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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    With playoffs on line, Martz goes down with ship

    By Bryan Burwell
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Sunday, Jan. 02 2005

    Well now, isn't this just how he likes it? There is this great, big, hostile
    world of detractors swirling all around him once again, yet we find Mike Martz
    standing in the midst of this not-so-quiet storm doing what he always does,
    raging against the onslaught.

    In similar situations, some embattled souls might meekly peek their heads out
    the portal for just a second to cautiously gauge the conditions. But there is
    just a bit of Captain Ahab in the besieged head coach as he leads his St. Louis
    Rams into the final day of the NFL regular season at high noon Sunday inside
    the Edward Jones Dome. There he stands, defiant and combative as ever, chest
    puffed out, ignoring the turbulence churning around him. As always, he is Ahab,
    feet firmly planted on the deck of the Pequod, his eyes riveted just slightly
    above the horizon. All he cares about is the blind passion of his life's
    mission.

    You might want to know about Steven Jackson. You might beg for more dirt on
    Kyle Turley. You might want to know about running the ball more, and passing
    the ball less. You might be either overly embarrassed or deeply alarmed as the
    7-8 Rams stand here teetering on the edge of postseason elimination in this
    sudden-death showdown with the New York Jets.

    This is great theater for you. But you are not Mike Martz.

    "First of all, I'm not aware of all that - who's alarmed," he said earlier this
    week, his lip curling, his tone snarling. "Nor do I care, to be honest with
    you.

    "Next question."

    So he really is some kind of football Ahab, or at least that is how it seems
    sometimes. Doesn't it always appear as if he's on some monomaniacal mission?
    His friends say it is blind focus and hail it as his greatest strength. His
    enemies call it excessive compulsion, and swear it is his biggest weakness.

    So now by the grace of the football gods - not to mention the parity-challenged
    NFC - Martz has this flawed 7-8 team still in the hunt for a postseason berth,
    and he's not about to apologize for it. Does it matter that the Rams could
    sneak into the postseason as the unlikeliest division champ in NFL history if
    things fall into place by the end of the day?

    No, not at all, he'll tell you. "Have no fear of failing," he tells his crew.
    "Don't worry about how many games it takes to win it. .... You want to play at
    the highest level as well as you possibly play. And however that ends up, and
    how many games you win, well that's what it is. You can't do anything more than
    that."

    And ultimately, after all the turmoil of this strange season, can anyone
    justifiably begrudge Martz if he does find a way to will this Rams squad into
    the playoffs?

    That remains to be seen. The answer will depend largely on what the Rams do if
    granted a postseason gift. A year ago, Martz turned an overachieving squad into
    an impressive and surprising 12-win division winner, and earned a first-round
    bye. But he then gave away a home game in the conference semifinals with some
    reluctant play-calling in the final moments of the loss to the Carolina
    Panthers. That was a huge black mark on his record, not to mention a severe hit
    on his image as the NFL's ultimate "fast and furious" offensive free spirit.

    Yet if he can get this unlikely team to beat the Jets in a game filled with
    playoff-like consequence for both teams, it could be a new lease on life for
    Martz. I don't care how much they have struggled all season with inconsistent
    play on the defense and injuries and questionable play calling on offense.
    Winning washes away a multitude of sins in this business.

    So imagine the possibilities if the Rams beat the 10-5 Jets, and the sorry,
    no-account Seattle Seahawks actually lose to Atlanta today. That would give the
    Rams the NFC West title, and even with an 8-8 record, they would host a playoff
    game in the first round.

    The Rams are a different team at home (5-2) than on the road (2-6). They are
    also a lot healthier now than they have been in a while. Strange things can
    happen once you get into the postseason. Martz keeps telling us that his team
    is on the verge of getting its act together now, that they are jelling at just
    the right time. He keeps insisting that his young squad has matured and is
    ready to shock the world.

    Okay, prove it. Now's the chance. The opportunity is right in front of them.
    The coach says his team is ready. His players say they would die for their
    coach. If he can get an 8-8 team to travel deep into the postseason, that could
    make up for a lot.

    But can Ahab navigate his ship through these troubled waters, or will his blind
    obsessions spoil another playoff journey? Earlier in the week, there he was
    firmly and defiantly standing on the Pequod deck, once again exposing his
    maddening philosophical preoccupation with the passing game. The Rams are 4-0
    this season when they have a 100-yard rusher, and 39-0 in those circumstances
    since 1995. Just as significant, they are 5-0 this season when they run the
    ball 30 or more times, and 26-0 under similar conditions since 1999. So the
    numbers clearly don't lie. Running the ball - or at least utilizing a more
    balanced offensive attack that relies equally on runs and passes - makes the
    Rams a more successful team.

    Yet even though he knows those statistics by heart, Martz still has an
    out-of-control fixation with the "fast and furious" way of football life. Even
    though he actually reveled in the way Steven Jackson and Marshall Faulk
    galloped through the Philadelphia defense in Monday night's 20-7 victory, you
    just can't shake the feeling that our football Ahab is going to keep chasing
    that darned (passing-game) whale no matter what the cost.

    "It was different from what we normally do," he said. "But everything we do and
    who plays every week and how we use them is relative to the defensive structure
    and the defensive personal, not how we feel about it. I don't know if that
    makes sense, but that's how we do it. ...

    You might see us throw 30 balls in a row (against the Jets)," he added with
    that devious smile of his. "You might see us throw 25 passes. Who knows? ... I
    don't know. I don't know what I might do."

    Oh, brother, why do I have that sinking feeling?


  2. #2
    UtterBlitz's Avatar
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    Re: With playoffs on line, Martz goes down with ship

    Quote Originally Posted by RamWraith
    By Bryan Burwell
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Sunday, Jan. 02 2005

    You might see us throw 30 balls in a row (against the Jets)," he added with
    that devious smile of his. "You might see us throw 25 passes. Who knows? ... I don't know. I don't know what I might do."
    Let's hope Martz is not back on the all pass offense.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  3. #3
    RAMMAN68's Avatar
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    Re: With playoffs on line, Martz goes down with ship

    You might see us throw 30 balls in a row (against the Jets)," he added with
    I don't care if you run it 30 times or throw it 100l Just win! :ramlogo:
    JUST WIN ONE FOR THE FANS


    "HIT HARD, HIT FAST, AND HIT OFTEN"
    Adm. William "Bull" Halsey

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