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Rams would be foolish to ditch Martz's offense
By Bernie Miklasz
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
The flyboys are returning from injuries. Quarterback Marc Bulger will be operating the controls Sunday in Seattle. He'll probably be rejoined in the lineup by wide receiver Torry Holt, and wideout Isaac Bruce wants to play.
So where does this leave the battering ram, Steven Jackson? Does the punishing but nimble second-year running back get left in the shed, idling as the Rams dial up 40 passes against the Seahawks?
If Mike Martz wasn't on sick leave, he'd be calling the plays in Seattle, and we could count on a lot of passes. But Steve Fairchild chooses the plays now, and the Rams have seemingly turned in a more physical direction under interim head coach Joe Vitt.
Is the Martz offense obsolete? It's true that the Rams tried to pass the ball on 70 percent of their plays during their first five games this season, with Martz in command. Granted, the Rams trailed in some of those games and had to throw, but under any circumstances the ratio was crazed.
Over the past three games, Fairchild has balanced things out with a virtual 50-50 mix between run and pass. Is the "Greatest Show" on hiatus - or closed for good?
"They do look a little different, but you have to be careful there," Seattle head coach Mike Holmgren said. "Because I think with Mike getting sick and stepping back, it also coincided with injuries to some of the big offensive guns the Rams have. ... My suspicion is, if I have Torry Holt back, and Isaac Bruce back, and Marc Bulger back, we'll see it maybe the way the Rams have always played us in the past. That's my feeling."
The Rams would be advised to keep Martz in mind, at least for now. Don't be trashing the man's offense, because it's still useful and potentially devastating. It's crazy to turn this attack into some conservative ball-control offense. Few teams match up to the Rams' healthy four wideout set of Holt, Bruce, Kevin Curtis, Shaun McDonald. And don't forget Jackson, who is developing into an outstanding receiver.
The key, as always, is to avoid being predictable. And running the ball too often is just as silly as constantly airing it out. But if the Seahawks are vulnerable through the air, then by all means, zap 'em. And please, no more bogus statistics. The Rams like to haul this one out: Since moving to St. Louis, they're 37-0 when a back rushes for 100 yards in a game.
The stat means little, because backs often crank out the yards after a team has established a solid lead, and it makes sense to burn off some clock. Of those 37 wins, the Rams won 27 of the games by 10 or more points. Of course they were going to pound the ball more to protect the lead.
"I kind of smile when I hear certain stats popped out all the time," Holmgren said. "Usually when that happens, you can afford to hand the ball off, because you're ahead, or you're running out the clock."
Again, the goal isn't to be stubborn and force-feed a back so he can get 100 yards. The key is to be pragmatic. Run the ball if the defense sets up to stop the pass - and flip it around if the defense adjusts.
It's become fashionable at Rams Park to trash Martz's offense. Typical is this comment from offensive tackle Orlando Pace: "I think when (defenses) look at tape now, especially over the past couple of weeks, they'll say 'Wow, these guys are running the ball.' Before that, they would say 'Oh, we're in a situation where they are going to pass the ball 50 times per game.' Now, they have to prepare for the run as well."
How soon we forget. The Martz offense carried the team to two Super Bowls and playoff berths in five of the last six years. It's the offense that has averaged nearly 30 points a game since Martz brought it here in 1999. Tweak it, yes. Balance it out a little, sure. But don't be stupid enough to junk it.
Re: Rams would be foolish to ditch Martz's offense
Martz's OffenseTweak it, yes. Balance it out a little, sure. But don't be stupid enough to junk it.