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Thread: St. Louis Set for Season Opener
St. Louis Set for Season Opener
Friday, September 9, 2005
By Nick Wagoner
After having their share of struggles on the road last season, the Rams will start this year on the road. Against a division opponent. Twice.
St. Louis travels to San Francisco for the season opener Sunday at Monster Park. The Rams and ***** were two teams traveling in opposite directions last year, but both made a number of offseason changes that could change the dynamic of the rivalry.
Without worrying about things out of their control, the Rams are focused on getting a leg up on the NFC West Division with a road win against the *****. Next week finds St. Louis traveling to Arizona for its second consecutive game on the road against a division opponent.
Coach Mike Martz said it would be nice to get off to a good start with a pair of wins on the road, but he is only concerned with San Francisco right now.
“These are two divisional games that we spent some time in the offseason and through camp preparing for them,” Martz said. “On the road against two divisional opponents, you have just got to make sure that everything is right.”
Although Martz declared it 49er week soon after the end of the final preseason game against Kansas City, this game has been on the minds of the coaching staff and team for much longer.
“I guess probably since they were on our schedule that first, when the schedule came out,” Martz said. “We do that each year, but particularly the fact that it’s a division game out there, so we have been thinking about this for some time.”
With so many variables coming into play this weekend, it will be a lot easier to figure out the direction of both teams after Sunday. The ***** have undergone as much change as just about any team in the league in the offseason and this will be their first opportunity to display it.
Mike Nolan took over as head coach after spending three seasons as the defensive coordinator in Baltimore. He brings with him a new staff, new defensive schemes and a renewed emphasis on running the ball.
Nobody knows what kind of success San Francisco will have with all of those changes, but it can be hard to game plan for a team that has made as many changes as the *****.
“Anytime you play a team that’s new like this with new coordinators, new on both sides of the ball there is a little bit of trepidation,” Martz said. “You need to go back and do your homework on it. Obviously you have got to have a number of things ready just in case, so to speak. I think we have done our homework and we are prepared for those kinds of things. We’ll adjust as we go on.”
The biggest alteration Nolan made is switching to his preferred 3-4 defensive scheme. The 3-4 has become the vogue defense in the league for a number of reasons, but Nolan had plenty of success with it while in Baltimore.
Nolan coached the Ravens defense against Martz’s Rams on Nov. 9, 2003. St. Louis won that game 33-22 but gained just 121 yards in total offense. That isn’t to say that Nolan’s defense will be as good in San Francisco, especially considering the differential in talent level, but the Rams are preparing for some interesting looks.
One advantage the Rams have is the fact that they played a similar defense when they took on San Diego in the second game of the preseason. St. Louis got off to a rough start in that game before an offensive outburst in the second quarter.
“We got to practice it a little against San Diego, but they do so many things,” quarterback Marc Bulger said. “With Baltimore they did a good job. I’m sure they’ll have something ready for us that we didn’t see in preseason. We’ll prepare for everything. It’s their first year in that system so they will have a little bit of learning to do. We’ll see where they’re at.”
The reconfiguration of the defense means a lot of changes and shifts among the personnel. The ***** will send Bryant Young and Marques Douglas as ends with Anthony Adams as the nosetackle.
Pro Bowl linebacker Julian Peterson remains outside, but he will be asked to do more pass rushing than in years past and is flanked on the other side by Jamie Winborn. Derek Smith and Jeff Ulbrich are solid in the middle and the ***** can still bring former end now linebacker Andre Carter off the bench.
All of those changes have yet to reveal how they will work out, but Bulger said the key is attention to detail and being prepared for the unexpected.
“That’s part of the 3-4 scheme, they try to confuse you,” Bulger said. “We’ll have to be mentally sharp this game. It’s a lot of guessing. You see what they do during the preseason but you never know what they’re going to show if they show anything. You get a little more comfortable four or five games in because you can see them on tape in the regular season. These coaches go from team to team and they don’t completely switch their defenses. So we know what (Nolan) has done in the past and I’m sure he has a lot of input.”
The Rams swept the ***** last year as San Francisco fell to a 2-14 record. The ***** wasted no time revamping in the offseason, but the Rams also did some tweaking of their own. Sunday will be the first regular season look at the free-agent linebackers (Dexter Coakley and Chris Claiborne) as well as the new free safety (Michael Hawthorne) and right tackle Rex Tucker.
A big part of preparing for the first game is the fact that the ***** remain the Rams’ biggest rival. For the veterans, the knowledge of the rivalry runs deep and for the youngsters, the lessons were endlessly pointed out this week.
Handling the emotions of the rivalry in addition to the fact that it’s a road game and the ***** are a bit of an unknown commodity makes Sunday’s game a dangerous one, despite last year’s record.
“We’ve seen Tim Rattay beat us, we’ve seen Kevan Barlow rush for over 100 yards,” defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson said. “We respect them. I don’t know how you guys feel about them, but we respect them.
-09-10-2005 #2SameolRams Guest
Re: St. Louis Set for Season Opener
You'll respect us even more when we beat you guys!!!
Re: St. Louis Set for Season OpenerOriginally Posted by SameolRams
Re: St. Louis Set for Season Opener
Respect you guys, don't make me laugh:tongue: :tongue: :tongue: