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Martz reflects: Rams on the bubble may be in trouble

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  • Martz reflects: Rams on the bubble may be in trouble

    Martz reflects: Rams on the bubble may be in trouble
    By Jim Thomas

    Of the Post-Dispatch

    MACOMB, Ill. - Mike Martz looked downright sour after the game Thursday. He barely said anything to his team in the locker room. He answered only a handful of questions in his postgame news conference. And then he retired to the privacy of his locker room area at the Edward Jones Dome to stew over the Rams' 13-10 overtime loss to Chicago.

    "Down deep inside, you can play marbles, and my blood's going to get going," Martz said Saturday. "I mean, you just compete."

    For most of the first three quarters Thursday, the Rams did just that. It wasn't always pretty. But the Rams were winning 10-3, and when the Bears took over at their 12 late in the third quarter, St. Louis had a 248 to 161 edge in yards gained.

    "I felt like we were in control," Martz said. "They had a couple big runs where we just overran things. Otherwise, I think we shut them down really good. And I know that first group in there on offense - I think they're ready to roll."

    In a game that Chicago seemed to treat a lot more like a regular-season contest - with lots of blitzing on defense and some trick plays on offense - the Rams still appeared to be headed for victory.

    But then it unraveled over the rest of regulation and the 17 seconds of overtime, when the Rams were mainly using players who either won't make the team or will be down on the depth chart.

    "I knew what was going on out there, and it's hard to bite the bullet sometimes," Martz said. "But I just don't like to lose. ... But I also know that it's my responsibility as a head coach to make sure that we have an opportunity to evaluate all these (young) guys in these types of situations."

    So Martz and new defensive coordinator Larry Marmie kept things basic - and watched.

    "We've got to know about these guys," Martz said. "You can't trick things up. You've got to kind of keep it simple and just let 'em play and see what they do."

    By early Saturday evening, after film review and with nearly two days to digest the game, the big picture was back in focus for Martz. And he felt much better about what transpired Thursday night.

    "All in all, I was very pleased, particularly in the first half with both groups (offense and defense)," Martz said. "I'm happy with this football team. I'm happy with the first (units) that I know we're going to play with."

    On the offensive line, he singled out the play of right guard Adam Timmerman and right tackle Scott Tercero for praise.

    "Scotty Tercero has really come to the forefront," Martz said. "He has really, really done well in the last few weeks. I hate to admit this: I didn't know he'd play this well. But he did. He played exceptionally well."

    In a crowded wide receiver picture behind starters Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, Martz said Shaun McDonald got his attention.

    "I thought Mac was terrific," Martz said. "In every phase - from a blocker, to a receiver, punt returner, on special teams. He was quite remarkable."

    Defensively, he liked the work of cornerback DeJuan Groce, several linemen, and especially middle linebacker Robert Thomas.

    Martz praised Thomas' "leadership on the field. The calls - just taking charge of the entire defense to begin with before the ball's even snapped. His reads. Everything was impeccable. There wasn't any wasted motion. ... And once the ball's committed, he's there. I mean, he's there in a heartbeat."

    When it came to discussing those who didn't play all that well, Martz declined to provide a critique. Except in the case of rookie cornerback Dwight Anderson, who committed a critical holding penalty on a Bears receiver - a penalty that kept Chicago's only touchdown drive alive.

    "He grabbed his jersey," Martz said. "He definitely grabbed his jersey. You can see him reach his hands to the jersey. ... That's the right call."

    As for Anderson's judgment ...

    "It's third and 27," Martz said. "You just don't do that. I mean, you just don't do that. Those are the kinds of things that when these guys get their opportunity, sometimes they get exposed a little bit."

    That play was a microcosm of the most disappointing aspect of Thursday's outcome for Martz: The game got away when the backups, the bubble players and the fringe guys were on the field.

    "You want them to do well, and when they don't, you get frustrated," Martz said. "I want to see some of these guys step to the forefront and get excited. Like an Arlen Harris did last year, for instance."

    For some of the younger players, Thursday's game may have been their last chance to make an impression on Martz, as he starts slowly honing in on the regular season.

    "This was the biggest opportunity they'll have of all the (preseason) games," Martz said. "Playing time, exposure - the whole thing. From this point on, it will be lessened to a great extent."

    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

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  • ramavenger
    Martz rumors unnerved team
    by ramavenger
    Martz rumors unnerved team
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    St. Louis Rams head coach Mike Martz
    (Alan Diaz/AP)

    Story continues below adMike Martz was getting ready to board the team bus Saturday afternoon for the drive to Lambert Airport and the flight to Arizona when he got a call from ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

    "He wanted to know if there was any chance that I wouldn't be here next year," Martz said.

    As in fired or resigned. Martz said no, he didn't plan on resigning and didn't think he was about to be fired.

    "If it were true, then you deal with it, that's fine," Martz said. "But when it's not true, it's just maddening and aggravating."

    Martz said he didn't know until after the Rams' 31-7 loss to Arizona that Mortensen reported Sunday morning that Martz could be in trouble at the end of this season.

    But with the Rams playing a late game against the Cardinals, apparently several players watched or heard about the report on television in their hotel rooms.

    "So the players were very, very concerned and upset when they got on the bus to go to this game," Martz said. "Well, that was a nice, warm, fuzzy way to play a game. I didn't know about it till after the game, because nobody wanted to tell me."

    Martz said that after the game "a couple of the (assistant) coaches had relayed the concern from players. ... It was an emotional thing before the game for some guys. I'm very close to some of these guys.

    "It was very divisive, destructive and did hurt this football team. Not because they love me or anything else like that. It's just disruptive. Guys are always worried about their future. But (assistant) coaches are worried about it, too."

    Just to make sure, Martz said he spoke with team owner Georgia Frontiere and club president John Shaw about his status after the Sunday report.

    "Georgia was very encouraging," Martz said.

    Shaw told the Post-Dispatch on Monday that Martz had the "complete support" of the organization, and that the possibility of firing Martz "totally hasn't entered my mind."

    When Martz addressed the team at a meeting Monday, he told them he was not resigning and was in no danger of being fired.

    On Thursday, Martz said Shaw's words of support helped a great deal.

    "The one thing that's been constant for me in my tenure here, that's never wavered, has been John Shaw," Martz said. "Everything he says is absolutely the way it is. So I feel at peace with all that. He knows we're busting our butts trying to get this thing done. He knows the issues that we have, and what we're dealing with. He understands all those things. And he's trying...
    -12-24-2004, 04:41 AM
  • RamWraith
    Martz says Rams worked against fake
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    The Rams worked Friday on defending a fake field goal by New England. They even covered the possibility of the kicker taking a quick snap and tossing a pass toward a wide receiver on the sideline.

    "We'd practiced that," coach Mike Martz said Monday. "Walked through it, talked about it, ran it."

    And sure enough, the play unfolded Sunday early in the third quarter at the Edward Jones Dome. "The exact same thing," Martz noted. But rather than being ready for it, the flummoxed Rams were caught flat-footed.

    As they milled about the line of scrimmage, long snapper Lonie Paxton zipped the ball to kicker Adam Vinatieri, whose toss to a wide-open Troy Brown on the left side resulted in a 4-yard touchdown.

    Instead of a field goal making it 22-14, the Patriots' lead ballooned to 26-14. A 40-22 loss dropped the Rams (4-4) into second place in the NFC West, with pacesetting Seattle (5-3) coming to town Sunday.

    While viewing the game tape, Martz discerned the fatal flaw on the fake kick: Cornerbacks Jerametrius Butler and Dwight Anderson were scurrying to switch sides so that Anderson's sore shoulder would be protected in the rush scheme. No one was within 10 yards of Brown when the ball floated into his arms.

    "Not too much to say about that," defensive end Leonard Little said. "It's another mistake we made."

    The most egregious error on that play was the failure to call a timeout, Martz said, even though the players on the field noticed that something was up. "They recognized it, but they were caught in the middle changing over. It was a comedy of errors," Martz said. "You can't blame it on the two corners. We should have enough experience here that ... you need to see it and just burn a timeout. It's just inexcusable, really. I'm really kind of at a loss for words on that one."

    Upon further review

    As he promised to do, Martz phoned Mike Pereira, the NFL's supervisor of officials, on Monday morning. Martz probably brought up several areas of concern, but it's a good bet that a non-call on Pats linebacker Mike Vrabel, who clobbered sliding Rams quarterback Marc Bulger, was at the top of his agenda.

    That was particularly galling for the Rams because Little later received a dubious 15-yard, roughing-the-passer penalty for hitting New England quarterback Tom Brady just after the ball had been released. Martz wouldn't disclose the details of his chat with Pereira, but he said he was satisfied with the talk.

    Problems vs. running game

    Only four teams in the NFL are yielding more rushing yards per game than the Rams, which throws their next three games into the "Yikes!" category.

    Seahawks running back Shaun...
    -11-09-2004, 05:24 AM
  • AvengerRam_old
    Martz: "I'm not quitting."
    by AvengerRam_old
    Martz: I'm not quitting


    Associated Press

    ST. LOUIS - As bleak as the situation looks, there's no giving up for St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz.

    Martz, whose fifth season with the team has been a semi-disaster, on Monday had a strong rebuttal to an ESPN report that he might consider quitting. The Rams were among the preseason Super Bowl favorites after going 12-4 last year but are 6-8 heading into the final two games.

    "I would never resign from this job," Martz said. "I love this job and I would never leave these guys. We've got a real solid crew of young players and it's going to eventually be a terrific team, and I'm not going to ever walk away from something like that."

    Martz has two years left on a contract that pays him $3.5 million annually, and he noted that he's financially secure.

    "I coach because I want to coach, and I love being here," Martz said. "That hasn't changed. We're going to forge on and get this thing back up and running the way it should be.

    "I'm one of those guys where that glass is always half-full and not empty. Sometimes it's hard to look at it like that but no, no, this guy's not going anywhere. No way, Jose."

    Martz is 51-32, counting the playoffs, since leading the Rams to their first Super Bowl championship as Dick Vermeil's offensive coordinator in 1999 and led the Rams to a 14-2 record and his own Super Bowl in 2002. This year has unraveled due to big problems early on with shaky defense and special teams, and lately with what used to be a high-powered offense.

    But this is where he wants to stay. Martz noted that earlier in the season he shot down speculation he'd be interested in the Dolphins vacancy.

    "This is where I want to retire," Martz said. "I have no interest in ever coaching for any other NFL team. We love living here, we love the organization."

    Martz hopes the return of quarterback Marc Bulger after missing two weeks with a bruised right shoulder can reinvigorate an offense that produced one touchdown while he was out. Bulger threw again on Monday with minimal problems.

    "He's ready to go," Martz said. "He's got very little effect on the followthrough, which is really the biggest concern."

    Backup Chris Chandler, 39, has been a major disappointment and might get released. He threw six interceptions last week in a loss at Carolina, then got yanked after going 1-for-6 for 1 yard and producing zero first downs in the first quarter of Sunday's 31-7 loss at Arizona.

    Jamie Martin, signed on Dec. 7 after being out of the NFL for more than a year, is the likely backup this week after playing the last three quarters on Sunday.

    "I believe in him," Martz said. "He's...
    -12-20-2004, 03:48 PM
  • RamWraith
    Martz puts Rams on notice
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Mike Martz fielded all the questions Monday about what went wrong against New England. And there was a lot of ground to cover, because obviously, a lot went wrong in the Rams' 40- 22 loss to the Patriots.

    But then totally unsolicited, he offered some thoughts about accountability. More specifically, the accountability of Rams players.

    "This is my fifth year here," Martz told reporters, referring to his 4 1/2-season tenure as Rams head coach. "You guys have been with me long enough to know, I've never tried to mislead you. Sugarcoat it. If I've screwed something up, I'll tell you.

    "You try and take a bullet (for a player) whenever you can. But there comes a time when some of these guys have just got to play. Step up and make a play. Players make plays. That's just the way it is.

    "And that's not a cop-out, or brushing it off on these guys. But I'm upset. We've got some guys that we're counting on, that have got to step up. That's the way it is."

    Martz wouldn't name names. But it's clear he has put his team on notice. He is growing increasingly frustrated over execution - or lack thereof - on the playing field. The team continues to make too many mistakes, and too few plays, on game day.

    Martz made many of these points to his players and coaches Monday during a team meeting. Right now, Martz is searching for something to jolt his team out of its current skid - a skid that includes two straight losses, but also recurring problems on special teams, on defense, and in pass-blocking.

    The sense of urgency has never been greater because if the Rams don't display a dramatic reversal of fortunes this Sunday against Seattle, the season could be all but lost.

    The Seahawks are 5-3; the Rams 4-4. If the Rams win, they pull even with Seattle record-wise at 5-4, but actually take the NFC West lead because they hold the tiebreaker edge by virtue of a 2-0 sweep in head-to-head competition.

    But if the Rams lose to Seattle, they're two games back, and face the daunting task of playing four of their next five contests on the road.

    "We just didn't play well (against New England)," Martz said. "That's not a secret. We all saw that. We've played much better in the past and I'm confident that we'll do that again."

    But how? What's the way out?

    "We understand what our problems are, and what we need to address," Martz said. "And there may be some personnel changes."

    But eight games into the season, it's not like Martz and the Rams can reinvent the wheel. The 53-man roster is what it is, and there's not much left on the streets.

    So it looks like Chris Dishman will continue to start at left guard and Grant Williams will continue...
    -11-09-2004, 05:25 AM
  • RamWraith
    Martz to Rams: All is forgiven
    by RamWraith

    Knight Ridder Newspapers

    ST. LOUIS, Mo. - (KRT) - St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz just wants his team to have some fun.

    Martz feels like the Rams have been too uptight during their current slump, which has included four losses in their last five games.

    "It is legal to have fun and play professional football," said Martz as the Rams (5-6) prepared to play their archrivals, the San Francisco ***** (1-10), at noon today at Edward Jones Dome. "You can do that. That's what we have tried to stress with our guys. They are concerned about making mistakes, and they've played tight.

    "You can't do that. You can't play tight. I want to get them away from that."

    Martz said he's adopted a policy of amnesty toward any player who makes a mistake as long as they are hustling at the time. That includes wide receiver Isaac Bruce, who fumbled twice resulting directly in two touchdowns for the Green Bay Packers in their 45-17 win over the Rams on Monday night.

    "When you have good people and people with good character and you know where their heart is, all sins are always forgiven," Martz said. "That's why I'd never say anything to Isaac about the fumbles. I know Isaac. Nobody hurts more than Isaac does when that happened.

    "Nobody works harder or is more committed. Those things you just move on from."

    Despite their recent troubles, the Rams remain in the thick of the NFC West race, one game behind the division-leading Seattle Seahawks in the win column.

    "Every week is an opportunity," Rams defensive end Bryce Fisher said. "The one thing about the National Football League is you have 16 times to prove yourself. We really want to get back out there on Sunday and show we can play better than we have."

    The ***** own the worst record in the NFL. They've lost six straight games. But they'd like nothing better than putting a big dent in the Rams' playoff hopes.

    "You always want to be beat the Rams," ***** tight end Eric Johnson said. "We wouldn't mind taking them out of the playoffs. It should be a good battle. We're looking to get our first win in a long time."

    The Rams' defense has been shredded for 556 rushing yards over their last three games.

    Overall, the Rams rank 28th in overall defense and 31st in rushing defense.

    Martz blamed his team's defensive troubles on the transition from a Cover-2 defense to a defense that relies on multiple schemes and more pressure under new defensive coordinator Larry Marmie.

    Martz said he tried to institute the change gradually because he didn't want confuse his players, but that decision backfired as players have been slow to embrace the change in philosophy after three seasons under former...
    -12-05-2004, 06:26 AM