By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
12/04/2004
To blitz or not to blitz?

That is the question San Francisco must answer Sunday against the still-potent Rams passing game. Last week against Miami, the ***** blitzed 31 times in 60 defensive plays. And that's how the 'Niners have attacked opposing offenses in recent weeks - with what Rams coach Mike Martz has called a "blitz-a-thon."

"Yeah, I think anywhere from 50 to 60 percent of the time, you're getting some sort of pressure out of them," Martz said. "And they're good at doing it. They've got good speed at the linebacker position. They do a real nice job with their schemes. They attack your protections."

But the Rams gave San Francisco defensive coordinator Willy Robinson something to think about because of the way they handled the blitz against Green Bay.

Unofficially, the Packers blitzed the Rams 16 times Monday night, sending as many as eight pass rushers at quarterback Marc Bulger on three occasions. Bulger went 10 for 15 passing against the pressure, including a 56-yard completion to Isaac Bruce.

(On one of those 16 blitzes, the Rams got a first down because of a defensive holding penalty.)

Because of that success, Bulger isn't expecting to see the ***** blitz half the time Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.

"Especially after what we did to Green Bay against the blitz, I think they'll hold back a little bit," Bulger said. "But if they want to bring it 50 percent of the time, that'll be beneficial for us, I think."

Martz said Bulger's development has reached the point where the Rams are becoming as good in attacking the blitz as they were in the heyday of Kurt Warner and the Greatest Show on Turf.

"That's the evolution Marc's going through," Martz said. "You kind of hope they blitz. He's so good with the ball, and where to go with it."

It also helps that young slot receivers Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald are becoming more adept at "hot reads," that is, knowing when to alter their routes when a blitz is coming.

One man short

It's been hard enough for the Rams to play defense with 11 men this season. But they had only 10 men on the field late in the second quarter Monday against Green Bay, and they paid for it in a big way.

On first and 10 from the Rams' 39 with 3 minutes 37 seconds to go in the first half, the Packers came out in "jumbo" personnel. They had two tight ends, a fullback, a running back and only one wide receiver.

Normally this is a personnel grouping tailored to running the football. And because Najeh Davenport had just gashed the Rams around left end for 31 yards on the previous play, the Rams had every reason to think run.

That probably explains why safety Antuan Edwards, in an otherwise strong Rams debut, bit on Brett Favre's play fake. That may not have been too big of a problem if the Rams had 11 guys on the field. But they had only 10 - four defensive linemen, three linebackers and just three defensive backs.

So when Edwards, who was playing close to the line of scrimmage, took the bait on Favre's fake handoff, there was no deep help on his side of the field as Packers tight end Bubba Franks raced by. Franks caught a 29-yard pass, to the Rams' 10.

Green Bay scored on the next play, taking a 21-3 lead. Even though the Rams defense was caught shorthanded, no one on the team had the presence of mind to call a timeout.

Extra points

With a roster spot available, the Rams have promoted tight end-fullback Nick Burley from the practice squad to the active roster. ... Defensive starters Leonard Little and Pisa Tinoisamoa were used on kickoff coverage against Green Bay with good results and are expected to run down kicks Sunday, too.