Rams' defense is getting stingy
By Bill Coats
Of the Post-Dispatch
Sunday, Jan. 02 2005

Rams defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy was astonished when he realized that the
New York Jets offense had mustered only a single touchdown Sunday at the Edward
Jones Dome.

"Wow, the scoreboard didn't show that," Kennedy said. "I didn't know it was
just one touchdown. I just look at wins and losses."

Wins in their final two games, over Philadelphia on Monday, then 32-29 vs. the
Jets in overtime, shoved the Rams into the 12-team playoff field despite their
8-8 record. The Eagles also managed just one TD vs. the Rams, although many of
Philly's starters saw limited action because the Eagles already had clinched
home-field advantage throughout the postseason.

Still, the Rams' defensive upturn in the past few weeks has been striking. The
unit that was near the bottom of the league in late November has found its way.

"We've got a group of guys that play with heart," free safety Antuan Edwards
said. "You can't ask for anything more. As long as you go out there and compete
and play your hearts out, good things happen. ... Now we've just got to keep
fighting. It's a brand-new season."
The Jets came to St. Louis with the 12th-best offense in the NFL. Yet even
though they had a time-of-possession edge of 10 minutes 18 seconds and ran 81
plays to the Rams' 62, they totaled just 324 yards - nearly 17 under their
season average.

The Jets' offensive TD came in the second quarter, on an 8-yard pass. Doug
Brien drilled field goals of 47, 33 and 27 yards. The rest of New York's
scoring came on a kickoff return and an interception return.

Quarterback Marc Bulger threw a second interception, and the Rams also coughed
up a fumble. "Without those turnovers, I don't think it would've been a game,"
defensive end Leonard Little said.

"The defense showed resiliency," coach Mike Martz said. "Over the last few
weeks, I think you can see the defense that we're trying to be. They're playing
with great enthusiasm. We're not there yet, but this has been a great step
forward for us."

The Rams yielded an average 364.0 yards in the first 11 games; in the past
five, that norm was 269.8.

New York's Curtis Martin churned out 153 yards on 28 carries, but the Rams
stifled the Jets' air attack. They tied their season high by sacking Chad
Pennington six times and limited New York to 144 passing yards - almost 50
under its season average.
End Bryce Fisher recorded two sacks, boosting his team-high total to 8.5.
Little, end Tyoka Jackson and tackles Damione Lewis and Ryan Pickett had one
each.

"To go through what we went through and to finish out as a playoff team, that's
a blessing," Kennedy said."We're starting to come together at just the right
time."