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  • [*****] Rams' game may be flying circus

    Janny Hu, Chronicle Staff Writer
    Thursday, September 30, 2004

    What was once the Greatest Show on Turf returns to San Francisco this weekend, toting a clear challenge for the *****' defense. St. Louis throws more and runs less than any team in the NFL, and if the *****' secondary doesn't tighten up, Sunday's prime-time game could morph into the greatest show on grass.

    The Rams are averaging nearly 300 yards passing per game, while the ***** have given up 513 yards through the air over their last two outings. With some of those completions tracing back to sloppy play, coach Dennis Erickson has turned to trimming mental errors in preparation for the pass-happy Rams.

    "You're going to give up passes in this league, we just don't want to give them up by making mental mistakes, by not being where we're supposed to be," Erickson said. "If a guy makes a catch and physically beats you, that's one thing. To not be at the right place when you should be, that's something that we can control."

    The burden of stopping the Rams' offense will fall mainly on the secondary, which should get a boost with the return of starter Mike Rumph. He has healed sufficiently from his groin injury and will play right corner, sliding inside on nickel packages.

    Watching last week's game from the sidelines, Rumph said he was impressed with the team's patchwork defensive line, as well as its run-stopping ability. Slowing the aerial attack, however, has proved difficult.

    "With the Rams coming in (bringing) one of the top offenses every year consistently, it poses a threat to us," Rumph said. "Defensively, we had a couple of mental breakdowns (against Seattle) that allowed them to get plays on us. (We can't) try to do too much because (the Rams) have so many plays. You can't sit out there and try to match them play by play."

    The Rams' play has been largely predictable so far. Their unbalanced offense has earned coach Mike Martz much criticism lately, as only 30 of the Rams' 110 plays have been runs. St. Louis has the league's two leading receivers in Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, and quarterback Marc Bulger tops the NFC in pass completions (79) and attempts (114).

    Still, the ***** say they don't want to get caught solely trying to defend the pass.

    "You got to play those guys true," safety Ronnie Heard said. "You can't just rely on the pass because Marshall Faulk is in the backfield, and he can whip off 100 yards gained on seven carries if you're not playing to stop the run."

    Rattay on pace: Quarterback Tim Rattay practiced Wednesday for the first time since separating his right shoulder during the season opener. If his arm continues to show improvement, he will be the starter against the Rams.

    "Is he 100 percent? No. Is he getting toward that? Yes," Erickson said. "The thing that he did do is come out and make the right throws at the right places, the mental stuff he's been doing going through this rehab."

    Rattay has suited up as the backup quarterback the past two weeks, without any practice time but with plenty of pain injections. He was sans shots Wednesday and does not plan to take any injections before Sunday.

    "It feels much better today without shots than Sunday with shots, so I'm hoping I've turned the corner," he said.

    Some of the credit might belong to Pro Bowl safety Tony Parrish, who suggested acupuncture to help Rattay's healing process. Parrish first tried the treatment when he tore ligaments in his left elbow and thumb during his first year with the team. He has been a regular user since, including this season on his calf.

    "I was just at a point where I'm trying everything," Rattay said. "It's hard to tell (what effect it's had) since I'm doing so much, but it can't hurt and I think it's helping."

    Briefly: Another week brings another defensive lineman for the ***** as Daleroy Stewart was signed on Monday. This is Stewart's third team this year; he began the season with the Cowboys and was later picked up by the Jets. Rams defensive back Aeneas Williams will return to free safety after one game at cornerback.

    E-mail Janny Hu at [email protected].

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  • RamWraith
    Rams QB puts a focus on getting points
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Friday, Dec. 31 2004

    As far as quarterback Marc Bulger is concerned, the Rams' offense has spent far
    too much time bouncing between the 30-yard lines.

    "We've been getting tons of yards all year, but points are more important,"
    Bulger said. "Our confidence hasn't been shaken, but we do need some more
    points."

    Statistics support Bulger's point: The Rams are No. 6 in the 32-team NFL in
    total offense, with an average of 359.9 yards a game. But their 19.1-point
    average is good only for a 21st-place tie with Baltimore.

    That trend could be problematic Sunday, when the Rams (7-8) and New York Jets
    (10-5) clash at the Edward Jones Dome, with both teams' playoff aspirations
    hanging in the balance. The Jets have the sixth-ranked defense in the league
    (293.3 yards a game), but are even more adept at keeping the scoreboard quiet.

    They're giving up just 15.3 points a game, third best in the league behind
    Philadelphia (14.8) and Pittsburgh (15.1) - the top postseason seeds in the NFC
    and AFC, respectively.

    The Rams, who scored in bunches in the days of the "Greatest Show on Turf,"
    have topped 30 points just once this year. And that came in an overtime victory
    in Seattle, 33-27. More recently, the offense was limited to a total of seven
    points in losses at Carolina and Arizona, while Bulger was sidelined with a
    bruised shoulder.

    Bulger returned Monday night against Philadelphia, connecting on 20 of 27
    passes for 225 yards and a 7-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Isaac Bruce.
    Bulger said that "in warm-ups, it took a little while" to work out the
    tenderness in his throwing shoulder.

    "And then after, it was a little sore," he said. "But during the game, I think
    adrenaline takes over." He reported Friday that his arm is "not 100 percent
    yet, but it feels a little better each day."

    Decals go without fine


    Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt weren't sanctioned by the NFL for
    wearing a "92" decal on their helmets in Monday night's game, a tribute to the
    late Reggie White. They could have been subject to a minimum $5,000 fine.

    A league official said the three were warned that they were not permitted to
    display personal messages on any part of the uniform.

    "I thank the league," Holt said. "If they would've fined us, then I'd have been
    OK with it, because we felt like we were doing something good. Reggie did so
    many great things for the National Football League. A lot of us looked up to
    him - offensive and defensive players - because...
    -01-01-2005, 04:59 AM
  • RamWraith
    USA Today's Inside Slant
    by RamWraith
    The Rams weathered a storm with their win over San Francisco Sunday night, and now they head west again with a chance to make a statement against the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks are 3-0, ranked at the top of the league on defense and coming off their bye week.

    A win, and the Rams would be just one-half game behind Seattle. Lose, and the gap widens to 2.5 games. While the second half of Sunday's game plodded along, the Rams were able to show some different things throughout the game that could make Seattle's preparation a bit more vexing.

    The balance shown on offense against San Francisco wasn't as much about coach Mike Martz proving the critics wrong as it was about showing that the offense is capable of running or passing depending on the situation. And that the offensive line, while a work in progress, is coming together as a unit.

    Said Martz, about the line, "I mentioned last week that (in our) nine-on-seven drills, the offensive line has practiced as well as I have ever seen a group here practice. It was exciting to watch. So when we got into the game, we have always been pragmatic about things, that's our approach. You stand on the sidelines, you look and see that they are playing a soft cover-2, you start handing the ball off, and they start rolling pretty good. The offensive line took it upon themselves to make things happen, and they certainly did.

    "It's just like in the passing game, you hit guys and you keep going with it. You do whatever it takes to win. If you get rolling in one particular area, you'd like to mix the other in there. Our offensive line at this point allows us to do both, which is something we haven't had in a while. At this point our offensive line is playing as well as any that we've had. I'm very pleased with them."

    What Martz is also mixing in are other players. While running back Marshall Faulk had another 100-yard game and wide receiver Isaac Bruce had his fourth straight 100-yard receiving game, three players scored their first NFL touchdowns against the *****.

    In addition to some crushing blocks leading the way for Faulk, fullback Joey Goodspeed scored on a 2-yard run. Rookie running back Steven Jackson scored on a short run, while second-year wideout Shaun McDonald had a six-yard scoring play. While Dane Looker was the most-used third receiver last season because McDonald and Kevin Curtis were often injured, the latter duo is beginning to contribute more to the offense.

    "These are guys that we've been counting on" to contribute, Martz said. "This isn't the Isaac and Torry and Marshall Show. To be able to use all of those people is vital. They're integral parts of what you do offensively. It's very important. And it's hard on the (opposing) defense."

    Defensively, the Seahawks' offense will present more of a challenge to the Rams than San Francisco did, but...
    -10-07-2004, 02:02 PM
  • txramsfan
    Buffalo's defense deserves high billing
    by txramsfan
    http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/sports/stories.nsf/rams/story/80BC3C01664A32B586256F51001C8E63?OpenDocument&Headline=Buffalo's+defense+deserves+high+billing

    Buffalo's defense deserves high billing
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    11/18/2004


    One more Sunday, and the Rams are done running the gantlet. When the Rams offense takes the field at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, it will be facing its fifth top-10 defense in six games.

    The stretch began Oct. 10 in Seattle, when the Rams faced what was then the NFL's top-ranked defense in Grant Wistrom and the Seahawks.

    Next came Derrick Brooks, Simeon Rice and fourth-ranked Tampa Bay.

    Followed by Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas and third-ranked Miami.

    Then, came a respite against 19th-ranked New England, the defending Super Bowl champion.

    Last Sunday, it was a rematch with the Seahawks, still ranked eighth in total defense entering the game.

    And now, the fifth-ranked Bills, featuring mammoth tackles Sam Adams and Pat Williams and speedy, aggressive linebackers London Fletcher and Takeo Spikes.

    That's quite a stretch of defensive competition.

    "I don't ever recall having that happen before," said Mike Martz, in his 13th season as an NFL assistant or head coach.

    It certainly hasn't happened to the Rams lately. With all respect to quarterback Kurt Warner and his well-earned accomplishments with the Rams, he faced only eight top-10 defenses in the regular season during the "Greatest Show on Turf" period - 1999, 2000 and 2001.

    Buffalo will be Marc Bulger's fifth top-10 defensive opponent in 42 days.

    "We've never had a quarterback face defenses that are like this," Martz said. "We just haven't. That's why I think Marc's been remarkable."

    And it probably helps explain why Martz said Monday that Bulger currently is playing the quarterback position "as well as anybody I've ever been around."

    The Rams came closest to such a stretch in 2000, when they played five top-10 defenses in their final seven games of the season. That November, they faced the New York Giants (ranked seventh), Washington (No. 2) and New Orleans (No. 3) back-to-back-to-back. But Warner was out with a broken pinkie finger at that time, so Trent Green was the quarterback in those contests - which included a victory over the Giants and losses to the Redskins and Saints.

    After facing second-tier defenses in Carolina (No. 25) and Minnesota (No. 18), the Rams closed out the 2000 regular season with Warner losing to Tampa Bay (No. 7) and defeating New Orleans (then No. 6).

    For Martz, the quality of a top-10 defense is evident quickly when he puts on a tape.

    "The first thing you look...
    -11-19-2004, 06:12 AM
  • DJRamFan
    Droschak: Baker Ready for NC State
    by DJRamFan
    The senior quarterback's toughness was on display in the loss to Wisconsin.

    Sept. 20, 2005

    by David Droschak, TarHeelBlue.com

    CHAPEL HILL - What attracted John Bunting to Matt Baker in high school? Most think it was Baker's arm or his intelligence. But the one intangible Bunting kept seeing in Baker was his toughness, something the senior quarterback displayed this past weekend when he took a pounding in a 14-5 loss to Wisconsin.

    Baker left the game holding his ribs and limping on a bum ankle, his body aching and his pride hurt. But he'll be back for more this Saturday at arch-rival N.C. State.

    Anyone who knows Baker or has been around him for any length of time knows full well he won't be backing down in Raleigh against one of the ACC's best defenses, a unit that will likely apply more pressure on the UNC pocket than last Saturday.

    Baker has waited too long for this opportunity to back down now.

    "He's tougher than nails," Bunting said of his QB, who is listed at 100 percent for practice this week but can't be feeling close to that physically. "I talked with him and the captains like I do every Monday and he had a big smile on his face. I was giving him a hard time, telling him I'm going to put some armor on him. He's a tough kid. He's anxious to get back into the thick of it."

    Bunting recalls watching Baker stand tall in the pocket against the rush numerous times at Brother Rice High School in Michigan.

    "He said he had never been hit like the other night and I said, `Yes you have, I saw you in high school.' That's one of the reasons I was attracted to him. He was a tough lacrosse player and a tough dud. I saw him throwing the football with people around him. There is no fear in that kid."

    Baker was wearing a protective vest for his ribs the other night, but still got bruised by Wisconsin's heavy rush.

    "We've got a new one coming for him. We're getting him a better one," Bunting joked when a reporter asked if Baker has worn out his flak jacket. Baker's first two starts have been above average, but the offense has bogged down around him and, as one of the team leaders, he's taken most of the blame, fairly or unfairly.





    "The only place that I can point the finger is at me," Baker said. "We've got to be able to run the game better, make better decisions, make better calls, get people lined up in the right place. I'll take the majority of the heat. That's how it works."

    Baker may not have mastered the finer points of the offense just yet, but he's mastered the blame game, and when an offense struggles in football, he knows the blame always shifts to the quarterback.

    In this case, it's unfair.

    The offensive line, with four...
    -09-20-2005, 02:33 PM
  • RamWraith
    Big Game, Big Numbers
    by RamWraith
    Saturday, January 1, 2005

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    Torry Holt has proven himself as one of the league’s best wide receivers over the course of his career. He has put up statistics in just about every season that would place him in the select company of some of the best ever to play his position.

    On Sunday, Holt will have the opportunity to do something no player in the NFL has ever done. With 44 receiving yards, Holt will become the first player in league history to have 1,300 or more receiving yards in six straight seasons.

    Along with that, Holt can move up in the ranks in Rams’ history in a number of other categories.

    Holt said the record would mean something to him.

    “Records are meant to be broke,” Holt said. “It feels good to be placed in NFL history. That’s a tremendous feeling. Just looking back at the things I have done, the records I have broken and the history that I’m making…it’s just funny to me, it’s mind-boggling thinking of what I have come from, what I’ve been through…it’s crazy.”

    Holt has 87 catches on the season for 1,256 yards and eight touchdowns. He has caught a pass in 90 consecutive games, the longest streak in Rams’ history.

    Martz said he is impressed by what Holt has accomplished, considering the injuries and difficulties he has faced in recent seasons.

    “There’s so many good things about him, he’s so competitive,” Martz said. “He plays with such great speed, it just seems like he never tires. He is in there on every snap. He’s such a rare athlete. But the last part of it and probably the most significant part is he’s really tough.”

    MIRROR IMAGES? When the Rams’ defense glances across the field in practice this week, it will get a good glimpse of what it will see when St. Louis takes on the New York Jets on Sunday.

    More often than not, a future Hall of Famer will be gearing up to run the ball right at them. Occasionally, though, a young, more powerful back will take the snaps and attempt to bulldoze his way through the Rams’ defense.

    However, on Sunday, the Rams won’t be facing Marshall Faulk (their own future Hall of Fame running back) and rookie Steven Jackson (their powerful young back). Instead, they will face New York’s Curtis Martin and Lamont Jordan.

    St. Louis is used to it, but the question remains, can the Rams stop it? New York boasts one of the league’s most powerful rushing attacks. The Jets rank fourth in the league in rushing offense with 147.2 yards per game.

    New York’s attack is led by a rejuvenated Martin, who has rushed for 1,544 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. Earlier this season, Martin became the second player in league history to rush for over 1,000 yards in his first 10 seasons, tying Barry Sanders.

    Martin is just 47 yards away from passing Eric Dickerson for...
    -01-02-2005, 04:01 AM
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