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Rams have health, schedule to make playoff run
By Dan O'Neill
Updated: 6:28 p.m. ET Nov. 8, 2005
ST. LOUIS - They still are a show. They are not necessarily the “Greatest Show,” as they once were. And their theatrics don’t always take place “on turf,” as they once did.
But, no mistake about it, the St. Louis Rams still put on a show, even if the programming is most suited for day-time drama. To this point in the 2005 season, the show has centered around Mike Martz, his physical well being and his professional well being.
The Rams were off to a shaky 2-3 start when it was discovered their coach had a serious bacterial condition affecting his heart. Martz took a leave of absence, turning the team over to assistant coach Joe Vitt. A power struggle between Martz and front-office personnel continued, even during his “absence.”
After more examinations indicated his condition was not improving, Martz announced his condition would force him to miss the remainder of the season. He vows to be back, but team president John Shaw’s endorsement of that return was something less than convincing, leaving everyone near a microphone or laptop to speculate Martz has as much chance of coming back as Neil Sedaka and leisure suits.
Meanwhile, Vitt, an NFL understudy for 26 years, has done good things. After a loss to Indianapolis in his first game, Vitt has coaxed the disheveled Sheep back to respectability with consecutive wins over New Orleans and Jacksonville.
Those wins came with placebo quarterback Jamie Martin calling signals. They came in the absence of All-Pro offensive contributors Marc Bulger, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, and pass-rush specialist Leonard Little. The more conventional Vitt re-introduced Steve Jackson to the NFL and the wrecking ball running back has 276 yards in his last two games, including 179 yards on 25 carries in the 24-21 victory over Jacksonville.
Imagine, the “Greatest Show on Turf” actually on turf. Who’d a thunk it?
And it gets better. The Rams finessed those two wins, in the midst of all those disruptions, at an especially opportune time, just before a bye week. Thirteen days of peace, love and healing has allowed the walking wounded — like Bulger, Holt, Bruce, and defensive backs Chris Johnson and Travis Fisher — a chance to re-up. Little also is back after mourning the death of his brother.
A season on the brink now carries a promising waiver, an opportunity to re-boot. The Rams return from the break straddling a 4-4 record, a position from which they can choose their own destiny. Vitt comes back from the break with an extra week of acclimation and a roster that is considerably more formidable.
“We’re probably about as healthy now as we have been all year long,” Vitt said.
The Rams have all their planets aligned as they reach a turning point in their 2005 universe. They travel to play division-leading Seattle on Sunday, the ideal taking off point. The Rams lost 37-31 to the Seahawks in St. Louis earlier this season, but they beat the Coffee Grinders three times last season, including twice in Seattle
At 6-2, the Seahawks are toying with the notion of running away with the NFC West and joining the NFL elite. Gil Haskell’s West Coast offense is running smoothly these days, with Shaun Alexander driving the engine and Matt Hasselbeck pushing the right buttons.
The Rams are the only obstacle in the way. A victory by Seattle puts three games between the two teams — and puts Don Meredith’s version of “Turn out the lights, the party’s over …” on the turntable. But another Vitt-ory and more rejuvenation from the Rams paints a different landscape. The teams are suddenly one game apart, the Rams have a three-game winning streak, the game is on.
“If we can go there and get a win there, man, the sky’s the limit,” Holt said.
Down the road, the Seahawks still have tough opponents on the schedule, like the New York Giants (6-2), Philadelphia (4-4) and Indianapolis (8-0). The Rams also play Philly, as well as Washington (5-3) and Dallas (5-3). They also have home dates with Arizona (2-6) and San Francisco (2-6), road stops at Houston (1-7) and Minnesota (3-5).
If the Rams are capable of turning their season around, they have a schedule to do so. Last season, St. Louis became only the seventh 8-8 team in NFL history to make the playoffs, qualifying as a wild card. It will take more than .500 to gain wild-card entrance this time. Given the strength of the NFC South and NFC East, it might take 10-6.
In the South and East, there are six teams with records of 5-3 or better. Right now, the Rams’ 4-4 log is the 10th-best record in the NFC. To join the six playoff qualifiers from the conference, the Rams must keep winning while teams in the South and East start knocking each other off.
For all this figuring and speculating, Sunday holds the key. The Martz Madness, for the time being anyway, has faded to the background. The injuries and distractions have subsided. The Rams are in Seattle, the right place at the right time, with a chance to right their season.
“This is going to be a big month for us coming up,” Vitt said. “This is when you have to establish yourself and what is your intent. Are you going to be for real? Or are you just waiting for the season to be over and run for the bus?
“I know what we’ll do. We’ll prepare hard, and we’ll have great intent.”
In other words, “the show must go on.”
-11-09-2005 #2sbramfan Guest
Re: Rams have health, schedule to make playoff runanother Vitt-ory
Re: Rams have health, schedule to make playoff runOriginally Posted by RamWraith