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Rams should find out what bench can do
By Bryan Burwell
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
On the day after the hideous nightmare in the Meadowlands, Mike Martz looked surprisingly like a new man. The excruciating limp was gone, and so too was that poor, haggard, despondent look. There was a pep in his step and a glide in his stride.
Twenty-four hours after he staggered through the locker room in Giants Stadium as if he'd just been sacked 20 times by a wrecking ball, about the only outward sign that something was physically wrong with the Rams head coach was a bandage around his right index finger.
"Had a little accident," Martz said, flashing a faint grin. "Had to stop the bleeding."
Symbolism sometimes comes in wonderfully unexpected, yet perfectly timed moments. Martz was talking about a paper cut on his index finger, but he might as well have been discussing the far more daunting task of nursing back to health his banged and battered football team.
After watching hours of game tape - which probably led to the bloody index finger, punching the rewind button endlessly - Martz wasted no time in coming up with the salve for what ails the Rams.
"There's some very significant concern about where this football team is," he said. "I believe this is an anomaly. I do. ... I understand what we need to do from a coaching perspective to get this thing right. I do know some of the player issues that we have and the guys that played well and did not play well. That will be confronted and corrected and if we have to make a change, we'll make a change."
The worst thing a coach and a team can do after a major beatdown like the Rams received in Giants Stadium is to fluff it off as some little hiccup. Martz doesn't sound like a man who thinks what he saw on tape was an "anomaly."
He sounds like a man who knows that something needs to be fixed in a hurry, which means that somebody (safety Michael Hawthorne?) might be losing his starting job this week. He sounds like a man who understands that the mistakes that allowed this defense to get gashed repeatedly by the Giants must be cut out and tossed aside before they spread like an incurable disease.
"There are a lot of things we can do better. I'm not very pleased with some of the guys and their effort. And we'll rectify that. That, I know we can fix," Martz kept repeating.
He didn't pinpoint any players, but like he said, we saw the tape. We know what went wrong, and we know who did it. "If it shows its ugly head again, then we will make the change," he said with a stern tone. "That's just the way it's going to be."
Here's what went wrong: the same annoying miscues that doomed this team a year ago, bad tackling and missed assignments. Hawthorne and Jerome Carter carelessly freelancing or simply not knowing where they were supposed to be on pass coverage. Those were their most obvious transgressions, but there were plenty more. On all those running plays where Tiki Barber cut back for huge gains, you could see repeatedly where linebackers and defensive backs were overpursuing or jumping into the wrong gaps.
So here's the simple solution for Martz:
Give other players a chance to see if they can do a better, more reliable job. If Hawthorne and Carter are blowing assignments, then it ought to be time to get Mike Furrey off the bench and rookies OJ Atogwe and Ron Bartell off the inactive list and see what they can do. The simplicity of football is part of its beauty. When people do what they're supposed to do in harmony, it's amazing how good a defense can look.
But the moment guys start straying off the ranch and being lone rangers, it creates nightmares like that 44-24 destruction in the Meadowlands. Martz has quickly discovered that No. 1 draft pick Alex Barron can handle the pressure of starting in the NFL. It's about time he found out what his other top picks can do.
The Rams drafted Bartell in the second round and Atogwe in the third round for a very good reason. They believed they were capable of becoming starters. But just in case they forgot, the nightmare in New Jersey served as a sobering reminder.
Re: Rams should find out what bench can do
I like the thoughts written in this article, but they are only good for the Rams if this is what the coaching staff sees and not just what Bryan Burwell sees.
If Martz thinks this is just an anomaly and nothing needs to be fixed, we are in big trouble, but I have learned to not listen too closely to what Martz tells the press.
Last edited by UtterBlitz; -10-07-2005 at 08:06 AM.[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]