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Rams Recap: More good than bad in last-minute loss

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  • Rams Recap: More good than bad in last-minute loss

    Rams Recap: More good than bad in last-minute loss
    BY JEFF GORDON
    Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
    Thursday, Sep. 02 2004

    Orlando who?

    For a night, anyway, the Rams excelled with their various offensive line
    combinations at Oakland on Thursday night. They didn't miss the unsigned
    Orlando Pace, the hobbled Chris Dishman, the disabled Kyle Turley or the
    retired Dave Wohlabaugh.

    The Rams played a strong, sound, well-rounded offensive game. They got their
    key starters in and out of their preseason finale without incident.

    They didn't quite get the victory the Raiders rallied for a 28-24 victory in
    the final minute of the exhibition but this final exhibition game produced
    more good than bad.

    The makeshift offensive line created consistent running room for Marshall
    Faulk, Lamar Gordon, rookie Steven Jackson and Arlen Harris. This impressive
    foursome took turns pounding the Raiders defense.

    Also, quarterbacks Marc Bulger, Chris Chandler and Jeff Smoker all got ample
    time to operate the passing game. The Rams consistently moved the ball
    regardless of who was running the show.

    On the down side, the defense missed too many tackles and allowed Oakland a
    couple of late touchdown drives. That unit will have plenty to work on before
    the Rams, 1-3 in the preseason, face Arizona in their season opener Sept. 12 at
    The Ed.


    THE GOOD

    * There's another combination that works! Bulger fired a strike to tight end
    Cam Cleeland, who bounced off three tacklers on a terrific 46-yard gain. The
    Rams are threatening to make better use of their tight ends in the passing game
    this season.

    That would be a good thing.


    * Just like in the old days, Bulger threw a quick outlet pass to running back
    Faulk in the red zone. That 7-yard passing play was the Rams' first touchdown
    in a first quarter during this preseason.

    Bulger earned a perfect quarterback rating for his brief three-pass outing.


    * Rookie linebacker Brandon Chillar blew in on a blitz, crushed Raiders
    quarterback Kerry Collins and jarred the football loose. He got the sack, but
    not the fumble recovery. Still, this is the stuff Tommy Polley used to do.


    * It was good to see receiver Kevin Curtis sort-of-recovered from his case of
    shin splints. He accelerated on a slant route to nab the first pass Chandler
    threw in the game.


    * Then he ran a deep curl-in route to catch still another pass from Chandler.
    Curtis showed some heart playing through that injury.


    * It was great to see running back Gordon recovered from his ankle surgery. He
    had some nice bursts out there, which may help land the No. 3 job behind Faulk
    and Jackson.


    * How about that sideline catch by Dane Looker for a 19-yard gain later in the
    second quarter? How did he get his feet down? Now THAT is what a possession
    receiver does.


    * Defensive tackle Brian Howard nearly scored a safety after blowing up a
    screen pass to Amos Zereoue with about 2 minutes left to play in the first
    half. And that wasn't the only time Howard made himself noticeable.


    * Smoker had the whole second half to make a spectacle of himself. And he did.
    He marched the Rams into the end zone on his first try, zipping a quick
    three-yard, over-the-middle pass to Cleeland to push the Rams ahead 17-14.


    * Linebacker Tony Newson, another Ram outplaying Polley these days, scored an
    impressive sack off a third-quarter blitz.


    * The Raiders kept testing young cornerback Kevin Garrett, but he held up just
    fine on the deep routes.


    * Smoker did a splendid job escaping a Raiders blitz long enough to fling the
    ball to Cleeland for a 16-yard gain. Then he fired another brilliant pass to
    Mike Furrey, good for 18 yards, to advance the ball back in the red zone.


    * All this led to Gordon's touchdown burst up the middle and a 24-21 lead
    midway through the fourth quarter.


    THE BAD

    * The Rams defense suffered death by 1,000 cuts on Oakland's first drive. For
    the fourth time in four games, they yielded points on their first sequence of
    the game.

    In this case, the combination of Rich Gannon's short passing and effective
    running by various backs led to a quick 7-0 Raiders lead. There was nothing
    glaring in that 13-play, 77-yard series, except for some missed downfield
    tackles by various Rams defenders.

    Finally, Gannon finished off the drive with a wild scramble capped with a
    five-yard lob to Justin Fargas in the end zone. Ouch.


    * Wide receiver Torry Holt sat out the game with a sore back. That sort of
    injury is never a good thing, even during the preseason.


    * It took fill-in Scott Tercero, just moved over to left tackle, slightly more
    than one quarter to get flagged for illegal motion.


    * With the Rams continuing to miss tackles, the Raiders marched to another
    touchdown in the second quarter. Kerry Collins hit Alvis Whitted with a 60-yard
    bomb to push the Oakland lead to 14-7.


    * Tight end Brandon Manumaleuna got nabbed for holding while run blocking in
    the second quarter, undermining a potential scoring drive.


    * When right tackle Greg Randall got a chance to show something, he probably
    shouldn't have drawn a first-down, illegal-motion penalty in the red zone.


    * Then the makeshift line (Tercero in particular) allowed Chandler to get
    hammered after the Raiders rushed just three linemen on third down. So the Rams
    had to settle for a field goal that cut Oakland's lead to 14-10 at the half.


    * Early in the third quarter, Randall was flagged for a holding penalty the
    Raiders opted not to accept.


    * We suppose the lineup shuffling had something to do with it, but the Rams
    suffered a noticeable relapse in their kick coverage Thursday night. We realize
    that kicker Jeff Wilkins has a linebacker mentality, but the team really
    doesn't want him to be using it so much.


    * If Mike Furrey is going to return punts, then he better learn to let 'em go
    once he backs up to his 5-yard line.


    THE UGLY

    * Those cats calling the game on KPLR where did they come from?


    * How about that "crowd" in Oakland? Were the rest of their fans meeting with
    the probation officer Thursday night?

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  • Nick
    Bulger, Faulk on in finale
    by Nick
    Bulger, Faulk on in finale
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Friday, Sep. 03 2004

    OAKLAND, Calif. - Marc Bulger, Marshall Faulk and Co. looked sharp on the
    opening drive for the Rams. Very sharp. Then they called it a night. Next stop,
    Arizona on Sept. 12 at the Edward Jones Dome in the Rams' regular-season
    opener.

    Bulger completed three of three passes for 66 yards and a touchdown, before
    giving way to Chris Chandler in the Rams' preseason finale Thursday against
    Oakland. Call it a short and very sweet night, because Bulger left with a 158.3
    passer rating - the highest passer rating possible.

    Faulk got five opening-drive touches, later giving way to Lamar Gordon. That's
    right, Gordon was back three weeks after undergoing ankle surgery.

    "We like to get the ball to Marshall, and things went to plan," Bulger said.
    "Hopefully, it'll give us some momentum going into the Arizona game. I think we
    were ready to go after last week's performance. But it's nice to shore some
    things up and then get a look at the young guys."

    But despite the good start by the Rams' offense, the defense faltered in the
    fourth quarter. A late Oakland touchdown gave the Raiders a 28-24 victory.
    Rookie Jeff Smoker's Hail Mary pass for the Rams was intercepted in the end
    zone by linebacker Tim Johnson as time expired.

    The Rams finished the preseason with a 1-3 record, their third straight losing
    record in preseason play. The Rams are 2-10 in exhibitions since the start of
    the 2002 preseason.

    After a strong finish in the Washington game, the Rams defense struggled
    through another slow start against Oakland.

    The Raiders marched 77 yards with the opening kickoff for a touchdown, making
    it four straight games that Rams opponents had scored on their first
    possession. Chicago and Washington opened with field goals, and Kansas City
    started with a touchdown.

    Oakland converted three third-down plays on the drive, including a scrambling
    five-yard TD pass from Rich Gannon to Justin Fargas. Rams tackle Damione Lewis
    got a hand on Gannon but was unable to bring him down.

    Sloppy tackling helped the Raiders keep the drive going, with Adam Archuleta
    and Aeneas Williams missing a tackle on one third-and-9 play, and Pisa
    Tinoisamoa missing a tackle on another third and 9.

    After the Oakland touchdown, the Rams' offense responded in kind. The Rams had
    managed only one first-quarter field goal all preseason. But this time, the
    Rams put up seven on their first possession.

    Faulk was featured on the drive, carrying three times for nine yards and
    catching two passes for...
    -09-03-2004, 01:09 AM
  • Nick
    Jeff Gordon's Rams Recap
    by Nick
    Rams Recap: Makeshift line and Chandler hold up well
    BY JEFF GORDON
    Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
    08/11/2004

    As dress rehearsals go, Thursday night's exhibition with the Chicago Bears was fairly productive.

    The Rams got plenty done during their 13-10 preseason overtime loss to the penalty-prone Bears at the Edward Jones Dome.

    Youngsters Andy King and Scott Tercero got to take their bows with the first-team offense during the pre-game introductions. Then they held up admirably at left guard and right tackle, respectively, despite their inexperience.

    The makeshift offensive line allowed only one sack, on a linebacker blitz, until well into the third quarter. Under the circumstances, that is not bad.

    The front defensive seven had an excellent surge for most of the game, despite the constant rotation of personnel. Captain Tyoka Jackson spent a great deal of time in the Bears backfield.

    Back-up quarterback Chris Chandler didn't always look sharp up at Macomb, Ill. -- but he was most impressive during his first Rams game in a long, long time. He looked surprisingly nimble in the pocket during his first-half appearance and made accurate throws all over the field.

    Here is what else caught our eyes:


    THE GOOD

    * With the Bears in scoring position, we loved the way cornerback Kevin Garrett smothered receiver Marty Booker on a corner route into the end zone. That Rex Grossman pass landed harmlessly out of bounds.

    * Rams quarterback Marc Bulger appeared to be in midseason form when he found receiver Isaac Bruce for 19- and 24-yard passes on back-to-back plays. He also threw a nice third-down strike to receiver Dane Looker, good for 13 yards along the right sideline and a first down.

    * On their first defensive sequence, the Rams applied decent pass pressure but didn't get results. But on the first play on of the second sequence, veteran Jackson burst in and dumped Jonathan Quinn.

    * The assault continued with defensive ends Leonard Little and Bryce Fisher arriving simultaneously to sack Quinn.

    * Receiver Shaun McDonald reminded us why the Rams liked him so much last summer; he snagged a Chandler pass while slicing right to left through the Bears secondary. He turned on his jets and turned that into a 40-yard gain.

    * Chandler showed his veteran poise to throw his first Rams touchdown pass in some time. He looked left and found nothing, then rolled back right and flipped a pass to fullback Joey Goodspeed -- who released into the right flat for a 13-yard TD reception.

    That capped an impressive 86-yard scoring drive engineered by Chandler. Maybe he does have a little bit left in that 900-year-old body.

    * Nice pass, nice catch -- rookie quarterback Jeff Smoker gunned a nice throw down the middle...
    -08-13-2004, 01:19 AM
  • RamWraith
    Gordo-Good, Bad and Ugly
    by RamWraith
    BY JEFF GORDON
    Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
    Friday, Aug. 27 2004

    Geez, what a difference four days make.

    The Rams relocated their urgency Friday night. Coach Mike Martz stormed up and
    down the sidelines, ripping off his headset, dogging officials, riding the
    game's emotional ebb and flow.

    His players answered his call for more inspired play. The Rams looked nothing
    like the disorganized, disinterested team that rolled over in a 24-7 loss four
    days ago in Kansas City.

    They got decent blocking from their makeshift offensive line and sturdy effort
    from their starting front seven. The result: A thorough 28-3 preseason victory
    over the Washington Redskins at the Edward Jones Dome.

    Admittedly, the Redskins played an absolutely horrendous football game. But
    that's their problem. The citizens of Rams Nation wanted to see their team step
    forward -- and it did.

    Quarterback Marc Bulger threw some strangely off-target passes while playing
    his 1 quarters, but he marched the team, avoided turnovers and left the game
    with a 7-3 lead. His 98.6 quarterback rating told the story of his game.

    Back-up Chris Chandler took it from there and threw the ball around The Ed with
    great confidence and accuracy, completing nine of 15 passes for 190 yards. Dare
    we say he throws the long ball better than Bulger?

    Nah. But he did put on quite a display while proving he has a few miles left in
    his 900-year-old body.

    Rookie running back Steven Jackson put on a show as well, gaining 125 yards on
    25 carries and breaking many big runs with his unique combination of power and
    speed. Why, again, did he drop so low in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft?

    All-Pro receiver Torry Holt reminded us that he is still Torry Holt, catching
    seven passes for 143 yards and a touchdown.


    THE GOOD

    * With Don Coryell in the house, Martz put a few sprinkles on his vanilla
    preseason offense. We liked the end-around pitch to receiver Isaac Bruce, who
    attempted to hit Holt downfield with a bomb. Alas, his long throw came up just
    a bit short.


    * Defensive end Bryce Fisher disrupted Rock Cartwright's second-and-10 sweep,
    then linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa tackled Cartwright for a two-yard loss. That
    led to the first Redskins punt of the game.


    * Jackson's second carry of the game went for 18 yards off left tackle; the
    big kid showed his explosiveness while getting into the Redskins secondary.


    * Receiver Dane Looker absorbed massive punishment after going up to get a
    19-yard pass from Bulger but he hung onto the ball. Nice.


    *...
    -08-28-2004, 06:52 AM
  • RamDez
    RamView - Raiders
    by RamDez
    From the Couch

    (Report and opinions from the game.)

    Preseason Game #4: Raiders 28, Rams 24



    The Rams churn out a lot of ground yardage, but don't do enough on defense to stave off the Raiders.



    Bright spots: Good offensive line play all-around; no significant new injuries.



    Position by position:

    * QB: Marc Bulger played only the first series and was perfect (3-3-66), sandwiching a 46-yard pass to Cam Cleeland within two quick hitters to Marshall Faulk, who scored a 7-yard TD on the last one. Not as much of Bulger as I would have preferred to see, but he ended the Washington game well and was rolling in this one, so I guess he's maintaining positive momentum. Chris Chandler (6-9-85) played the rest of the first half and looked fine, again getting mostly excellent protection. Jeff Smoker played the whole second half, mostly handing off, but he got enough action (10-15-105) to show nice poise on third down, and he drove the offense to a couple of TDs. Jeff's got some mechanics to work out, though. Many of his passes were too low, at the receiver's feet, or too low at the line of scrimmage, where he gave up a couple of tip balls, one of which the Raiders intercepted. His second interception was the game-ending pass, so the two picks aren't as bad as they look at first. Heading into the season opener, then, it looks like Bulger's back into the groove a little bit, and his backups are capable and know what they're doing for the most part a nice place to be.



    * RB: The Ram running game was Hydra-like, a multi-headed threat that scared up 171 yards on the ground. Faulk was just 4-11 but had two catches for 20. The receptions engaged him more in the offense than last week, and he flashed a little more speed and drive than we saw against Washington. Lamar Gordon had his annual "oops, my job is being threatened" night, where he suddenly puts all his aches and pains aside and has a big night, 22-77. Lamar ran with a lot of power and effort behind the solid Rams front, and also had some outside runs where he turned the corner quite well. He's probably the Rams' best outside runner. He foolishly pulled himself off the field at one point for some little ding, though, or maybe a breath, and that was Stephen Jackson's cue. The rookie tore off another 72 yards on 12 carries. He did a lot of his work right up the middle again, and showed not just Gordon's power and effort, but some of Faulk's footwork and elusiveness. Another good night from the team preseason offensive MVP. All the RBs took good care of the ball, too, including Arlen Harris, who added another 19 yards on 6 rushes, as the Rams seem likely to carry all four tailbacks into the regular season. Waiver bait: Dusty McGrorty.



    * WR: Marchin' Martz only called pass plays about 40% of the time, so it wasn't a big receiving night....
    -09-04-2004, 03:45 AM
  • RamDez
    Rams Recap: Nightmarish game for Bulger, makeshift line
    by RamDez
    Rams Recap: Nightmarish game for Bulger, makeshift line

    BY JEFF GORDON
    Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
    08/23/2004

    Online Columnist Jeff Gordon

    When a team hasn't won a Super Bowl in a while, it has to chase whatever trophy is out there.

    So the Kansas City Chiefs went hard after the Governor's Cup -- again -- on Monday night at Arrowhead Stadium. The result was a one-sided 24-7 preseason victory.

    This was the Gunther Cunningham Show. Back in the saddle as Chiefs defensive coordinator, Cunningham threw the (play) book at the Rams and made them look foolish.

    The Rams couldn't run or pass the ball in Kansas City. Their makeshift offensive line buckled in the face of constant pressure.

    Quarterback Marc Bulger had a nightmarish game. He suffered sacks, threw an interception the Chiefs returned for a touchdown, fumbled the ball and missed a variety of throws he normally makes.

    Before the last of the first-teamers got off the field, the Rams trailed 24-0. Twenty-four to nothing!

    Adding injury to insult, the Rams lost starting cornerback Travis Fisher to a broken arm. Ouch.

    All in all, not a whole lot of positives came from this crummy exhibition of football.

    Here's our Rams Recap:


    THE GOOD


    * It was great to see running back Marshall Faulk back on the field running and catching the football. It's too bad he didn't get any blocks during his brief playing stint.


    * The Chiefs tried to pick on cornerback Kevin Garrett with a deep ball early in the second quarter, but he maintained blanket coverage. Later in the quarter, they tried to go over the top of him for a touchdown -- but failed.


    * Say, the Rams actually got a sack! Defensive end Leonard Little took down back-up quarterback Todd Collins late in the second quarter. That led to the Chiefs settling for a field goal after reaching the red zone.


    * Running back Arlen Harris helped in the first-half damage control, recovering a Bulger fumble with 38 seconds left in the second quarter.


    * Fighting for a job, second-year receiver Kevin Curtis made a nifty adjustment on a Chris Chandler throw and caught a 23-yard pass. Then he ran a nice slant pattern to catch a 14-yard pass. He continued catching passes in garbage time.


    * Rookie running back Steven Jackson finally got the Rams into the end zone, running in on a nice misdirection play. He continued pounding out decent yardage into garbage time, showing much-desired toughness on inside runs.


    * Also in garbage time, Rams defensive linemen Tyoka Jackson, Anthony Hargrove and Brian Howard poured in and hassled Collins.


    * Rookie Jeff Smoker got to throw the ball around the field in the fourth quarter, showing a bit of his long-range...
    -08-24-2004, 02:13 AM
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