By Jim Thomas Of the Post-Dispatch

Sunday, Oct. 17 2004

Never feel like you're out of a game - no matter what the circumstances at the
time. That's something Mike Martz has stressed since he became head coach of
the Rams in 2000.

The Rams took those words to heart Oct. 10 in Seattle, staging one of the
biggest comebacks in NFL history.

"I was so proud of the way we played that game in every phase," Martz said.
"Special teams, defense, offense. The coaches kept coaching hard."

And the Rams erased a 17-point deficit in the last 5 1/2 minutes of regulation
to defeat the Seahawks 33-27 in overtime.

"And we'll enjoy that," Martz said.

Just not right now. Martz enjoyed the plane ride back from Seattle, but by
Monday morning, he was back watching tape and all business.

On Wednesday he said Seattle "is done and over with. It doesn't have any
bearing on this week."

When the players returned to practice Thursday, the message was the same. Just
like Martz doesn't want them to dwell on a tough loss, he doesn't want them
dwelling on a big victory.

"It's really the same thing," Martz said. "It goes both ways. This thing you
put to bed. ... We're moving on. Just like a heartbreaking loss."

In essence, Martz didn't want the Seattle victory to be a distraction. It might
seem like a strange approach, but then again, maybe not.

"I think it's really boosted morale," Martz said. "We want to keep that good
feeling of winning. That confidence. But one game does not make a season. We've
got the entire season left."

Starting with tonight's "Monday Night Football" encounter with Tampa Bay at the
Edward Jones Dome. "We've got to stay focused on Tampa Bay," Martz said in the
days leading up to the game. "Otherwise you won't be at your best, and we
certainly want to be at our best."

The message seemed to sink in with the Rams players, although we won't know for
sure until about 11 o'clock tonight.

"If we're sitting here concerned about how great we played in the fourth
quarter against Seattle, then we're not going to play well against Tampa Bay,"
safety Adam Archuleta said. "So you look at it, you enjoy it. Pat yourself on
the back, but then you've got to get back to work."

Rather than dwelling on Seattle, why not build on it?

"That's what we've been talking about in practice," defensive tackle Ryan
Pickett said. "Let's build on this comeback. And on defense, let's go out and
start the game and finish it like we did the second half of the Seattle game.
Nobody's thinking about the win. But we're trying to build on to what we
started last week. Wins like that slingshot a season."

A victory tonight could slingshot the Rams to a 4-2 record while moving them
into first place in the NFC West. That's because Seattle fell to 3-2 Sunday
with a 30-20 loss at New England. If the Rams take care of business against the
Bucs (1-4) tonight and next week at Miami (0-6), they will be 5-2 and in charge
of the NFC West entering their bye week.

"Well, that's our plan, regardless of who we're playing," Archuleta said. "We
have to get some momentum going. We have to string some wins together.

"Instead of playing good, playing bad, we need to start building on the
positive things that we're doing. November's coming, and everybody knows that
the games that you win in November and December are really going to determine
what type of team you are."

Looking past the Buccaneers because of their 1-4 record or their offensive woes
wouldn't be wise. For one, the Bucs haven't lost to the Rams since the 1999
season's NFC championship game. Tampa Bay is 3-0 against the Rams since then,
with all of those games played on Monday night.

For another, the Bucs remain tough to score on, even without longtime defensive
mainstays Warren Sapp and John Lynch.

"They're still a great defensive football team," defensive lineman Tyoka
Jackson said. "In the past couple weeks, they've kind of been waiting for their
offense to get it going, and they got it going last week. That's why they beat
the Saints."

The same New Orleans Saints who beat the Rams in overtime, 28-25, three weeks
ago in St. Louis. The return of running back Michael Pittman after a three-week
suspension has taken the Bucs' running game out of neutral. At quarterback,
Brian Griese makes the Tampa passing game more dangerous - at least in the
short term - than it would be with youngster Chris Simms under center.

"They're not the same team offensively that they were" a few weeks ago, Martz
said. "And that is what I've told our football team. This (Tampa) football team
will be very good on offense."

And as usual, the Tampa Bay defense will not be intimidated by the sight of
Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt and friends.

"I love matching up against those guys," Tampa linebacker Derrick Brooks told
Bucs reporters earlier in the week. "It brings out the best in this defense."