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Rams Recap: Not pretty, but it's a win

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  • Rams Recap: Not pretty, but it's a win

    BY JEFF GORDON
    Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
    09/12/2004

    No, it wasn't pretty. Yes, it still counted as one full victory.

    The Rams managed to beat the lowly Arizona Cardinals 17-10 at The Ed, but they should have demolished them.

    "We just couldn't put them away when we had the opportunity," coach Mike Martz said.

    Tackle Orlando Pace and the rest of the jerry-rigged offensive line dominated the Gridbirds. Veteran Marshall Faulk ran like a kid again -- adding another 100-yard game to his list -- and young Steven Jackson ran like a vet.

    The defensive unit played solidly across the board, holding the injury-riddled Gridbirds to one touchdown drive. The Rams owned the line of scrimmage all afternoon.

    So why did it take them almost three hours to gain control of this game? First-half fumbles by Jackson and Dane Looker -- combined with quarterback Marc Bulger's first-quarter interception -- kept the Rams from building a big lead early.

    Also, the red zone inefficiency from last season seemed to carry over to this opener.

    "That's more play selection than anything else," Martz said. "I'm to blame for that."

    In the first half, they outgained the Cards 229-134. But those turnovers limited them to a 6-3 halftime lead.

    The Rams controlled the second half as well, save for one Cardinals drive, and finally put their season opener in the bank.


    THE GOOD

    * Martz established his ground game right away, giving Faulk four consecutive carries to gain two first downs. The highlight was a 15-yard burst that very nearly went for many more yards.

    Faulk and Jackson combined for 99 yards rushing in the first half.


    * Defensive end Bryce Fisher essentially killed the second Cardinals possession with a 16-yard sack of quarterback Josh McCown.


    * Mixing it up, Martz opened his second possession with a four-receiver set and got Bulger into a nice passing rhythm. Aside from a mishap here or there, he stayed in sync with his receivers all game.


    * Faulk turned back the clock on the third possession, busting a 16-yard gain on a turn-on-a-dime cutback. Did he look this good at any time last season?


    * Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa crushed Bryant Johnson to break up a third-down slant pass early in the second quarter.


    * Jeff Wilkins finally put the Rams on the board, muscling up with a 50-yard field goal with 11 minutes 21 seconds left in the first half. Points at last!


    * Bulger marched the Rams 83 yards on a 14-play, 9:10 drive to start the second half. He spread the ball around, hitting passes to Torry Holt, Faulk, Isaac Bruce and Shaun McDonald.


    * Jackson proved his red zone value in that sequence, muscling for a first down on a third-and-one sweep, then cutting back for a 13-yard gain on the next play.

    Alas, he and the Rams couldn't punch the ball in after earning a first-and-goal opportunity on the Arizona 4.


    * The Rams FINALLY got into the end zone with 14:27 left to play, on Bulger's 8-yard slant pass to Bruce to cap an 80-yard drive. A two-point conversion run pushed the Rams ahead 17-10.


    * Rookie linebacker Brandon Chillar helped end a fourth-quarter Arizona possession by reading an end-around run by Larry Fitzgerald. He grabbed him for a one-yard loss.


    * Yes, that was defensive tackle Damione Lewis finishing off the Gridbirds with his timely third-down sack of McCown with 4 ˝ minutes left.


    THE BAD

    * The Rams defense got burned by a flea-flicker right out of the gate, with Smith taking a handoff and flipping the ball back to McCown, who connected with receiver Fitzgerald for a 37-yard gain.

    Cardinals coach Dennis Green sent the early message that he brought his team to St. Louis to play.


    * With 5:49 left in the first quarter, the Rams had to burn their second timeout of the half when the process of putting this guy and that guy in motion ate up the play clock.


    * Bulger stayed in his passing rhythm to finally move the Rams into the red zone, but then the offense sputtered – as it did for too much of last season. The Rams had to settle for a 28-yard Wilkins field goal and a 6-3 lead.


    * On a third-and-goal call at the Arizona 2 in the third quarter, Martz called for tight end Cam Cleeland to get the ball on an inside reverse run. No kidding.

    Cleeland got stuffed for a two-yard loss, forcing the Rams to settle for still another field goal.


    * The Rams lost a DeJuan Groce interception at their 2-yard line, due to a defensive holding call on Tyoka Jackson. On the next play, Emmitt Smith added to his Hall of Fame credentials with an 11-yard touchdown run that put Arizona ahead 10-9.


    * Once the Rams got a seven-point lead, it would have been nice to see them sustain a clock-eating drive. But neither their play-calling or their execution was very good, so Arizona managed to hang around until the final two minutes.


    THE UGLY

    * Jackson's first NFL carry ended badly; he fumbled at the end of a 14-yard run, thus killing a potential scoring drive. There was no reason to challenge the call, but Martz did so anyway and burned a timeout.

    Good to see Mad Mike was in midseason form!


    * The Rams moved into scoring position on their second drive, only to see Bulger float a deep punt/pass to Cardinals free safety Quentin Harris on the Cardinals 2.


    * The Rams moved into scoring position on their third drive, only to see to Looker spit up the ball to Harris after catching a slant pass.


    * Josh Scobey roared through a gaping hole in the Rams kickoff coverage and raced 71 yards to the Rams 29. Safety Rich Coady managed to keep his angle on Scobey to prevent the touchdown.


    It's all Bobby April's fault. Oh, um, never mind.

    The Cardinals parlayed that special teams break into a game-tying 22-yard field goal by Neil Rackers.


    __________________________________________________________
    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

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  • Nick
    Gordon: Good, Bay, Ugly
    by Nick
    For a change, Rams play a clean, smart, relentless game
    BY JEFF GORDON
    Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
    Sunday, Oct. 03 2004

    OK, we can all get off Mike Martz's back – for a week anyway.

    His Rams flew out to San Francisco and played clean, smart, relentless football
    while handling the overmatched ***** 24-14.

    After this team's disappointing 1-2 start, fans were clamoring for improvement
    across the board. In Sunday night's nationally televised ESPN game, they got it.

    Coach Martz produced a sensible offensive game plan, establishing a powerful
    running game to set up a very efficient passing game. Not only did Marshall
    Faulk (40th 100-yard game in his career) get plenty of work, but first-round
    draft pick Steven Jackson stayed busy as well.

    Quarterback Marc Bulger played pitch and catch with Isaac Bruce (fourth
    straight 100-yard game!), Torry Holt, Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald as the
    passing game diversified.

    Defensive coordinator Larry Marmie's beleaguered unit scored two early
    takeaways to help the Rams maintain control of the game. These guys were
    overdue; those were the first two Rams takeaways this fall.

    For the first time all season, the Rams' offense got some short fields to work
    with. And they took good advantage of their opportunities.

    Also, their kick coverage was fine for a change . . . the Rams avoided the
    costly penalties that plagued them during the first three weeks . . . the
    defense pursued hard and hit hard, breaking down the Niners offense . . . this
    team pretty much checked everything off the checklist.

    Meeting Martz's mandate to play "fast and furious," the Rams raced to a 24-0
    halftime lead and sent ESPN viewers to bed early.

    Now the Rams' schedule turns ugly, starting with the upcoming trip to Seattle.
    But at least this team, unlike once-proud teams like the Buccaneers and
    Dolphins, still has a chance to make a move this season.


    THE GOOD


    * It was nice to see linebacker Trev Faulk back from his hamstring tear. Back
    on the kickoff return coverage team, he helped stop ***** return man Jamal
    Robertson short of the 20-yard line. He continued to make notable plays on
    subsequent kickoffs.


    * Blitzing with abandon during the game's first series, the Rams defense
    scored a quick sack with linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa leading the charge. That
    thwarted the Niners' first foray into scoring position.

    That doesn't go into the book as a turnover, but the impact was about the same.


    * On the Rams' first possession, Martz established the run with his two-back
    "I" formation....
    -10-03-2004, 10:53 PM
  • RamDez
    AP Game Story: Rams hold off Big Red
    by RamDez
    AP Game Story: Rams hold off Big Red
    By R.B. Fallstrom
    Associated Press
    09/12/2004

    Competition for his job is bringing out the best in Marshall Faulk.

    The St. Louis Rams' running back shared time with first-round pick Steven Jackson in Sunday's 17-10 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. But Faulk, who has missed 11 games due to injuries the last two seasons, carried the load with 128 yards on 22 carries. His steady play helped the Rams overcome three costly turnovers that kept the margin from being very comfortable.

    Jackson also played well in his debut, shaking off a lost fumble on his first career carry after a 14-yard gain. Jackson, the first running back taken in the draft, finished with 50 yards on seven carries.

    The Rams beat the Cardinals for the fifth straight time and sent Arizona to its 14th straight road loss, but did it the hard way. Each of the turnovers came deep in Arizona territory, and they also ran out of gas at the Arizona 10 and 4, settling for field goals by Jeff Wilkins.

    Emmitt Smith, the NFL's career leading rusher, had a resurgent game with 87 yards on 16 carries, including an 11-yard touchdown run that put the Cardinals ahead 10-9 in the final minute of the third quarter. Smith was limited to only 256 yards last year due to injuries.

    Cardinals first-round pick Larry Fitzgerald also had a nice beginning with four catches for 70 yards, including a 37-yard catch on a flea-flicker from Josh McCown on the first play from scrimmage.

    Both were overshadowed by Faulk's 39th career 100-yard game, which featured four gains of 10 or more yards. After only 14 preseason carries for 38 yards to prepare for his 11th season, Faulk signaled he was ready when he jitterbugged for a 15-yard gain on his first carry. He has 11,341 yards rushing and passed O.J. Simpson for 13th place.

    Faulk also scored on a 2-point conversion run to give the Rams a seven-point cushion after Marc Bulger hit Isaac Bruce for an 8-yard touchdown for the winning score with 14:27 to go. Bruce rolled the last few yards into the end zone.

    The Rams outgained the Cardinals 229-134 in total offense in the first half, but had only a pair of field goals to show for it. In addition to Jackson's fumble, wide receiver Dane Looker fumbled after a catch and Bulger was intercepted by Quentin Harris at the Arizona 2.

    Arizona's only other big play of the half was a 71-yard kickoff return by Josh Scobey that set up a 22-yard field goal by Neil Rackers.

    Bulger, 19-4 as the Rams' starting quarterback, was 23-for-34 for 272 yards. His main target was Isaac Bruce, who caught nine catches for 112 yards and the clinching touchdown.

    The Cardinals had no sacks against a rebuilt line led by tackle Orlando Pace, who had only four practices to prepare for the opener after agreeing to a one-year contract last Sunday.
    ...
    -09-12-2004, 03:09 PM
  • RamWraith
    Rams regain their balance
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    10/03/2004


    SAN FRANCISCO - Coaches will try just about anything to motivate their teams. And in the days leading up to Sunday night's contest with San Francisco, Mike Martz told his squad he didn't think the ***** were very good.

    "Yeah, and he was (saying things) like - 'And it's San Francisco, and it's personal,'" defensive tackle Damione Lewis said.

    The Rams players apparently took the coach at his word. Offensively, they pounded the ***** on the ground, and in the air. Defensively, they harassed ***** quarterback Tim Rattay and kept running back Kevan Barlow bottled up most of the evening. The result was a much-needed 24-14 victory over rival San Francisco that evened the Rams' record at 2-2.

    "This win is very important to us," Martz said. "It's a good feeling, because we came out here the last two years and were embarrassed."

    The Rams lost 30-10 here a year ago and 37-13 here in 2002. But they dominated the ***** in the opening half, and really didn't let them back in the game in the second half - despite a couple of fourth-quarter touchdowns.

    Eschewing the traditional pregame player introductions, the Rams came out on the field en masse, headed directly to midfield, and proceeded to stomp on the *****' helmet painted on the turf at Monster Park. It proved to be symbolic of what was to come.

    By halftime, St. Louis had a 24-0 lead, had outgained the ***** 251 yards to 82, and had given NFC West-leading Seattle - next week's opponent - something to think about. Rediscovering the running game, the Rams had a 2-to-1 advantage in time of possession in the first half.

    After seeing their NFL-record 420-game scoring streak end last week in a shutout loss to Seattle, the ***** didn't get on the scoreboard Sunday until early in the fourth quarter, with a touchdown before a missed 2-point conversion. But it was too little, way too late.

    Isaac Bruce enjoyed his fourth consecutive 100-yard receiving game. Marshall Faulk enjoyed his second 100-yard rushing day of the season. The Rams are 26-0 when Faulk rushes for at least 100 yards.

    Fast and furious became methodical and productive on the Rams' opening drive. After running the ball only 15 times in each of the two previous games, Martz called nine running plays on the series, with Faulk handling the first eight carries for 34 yards.

    But the ninth carry went to - surprise! - fullback Joey Goodspeed. In his third season, Goodspeed made his first NFL carry a memorable one. On fourth and 1 from the San Francisco 2, he plowed up the middle for a touchdown.

    The surprises continued on the next play from scrimmage. The Rams sent linebacker Tommy Polley on a blitz and he hit ***** quarterback Tim Rattay from behind just as Rattay was about to throw downfield....
    -10-04-2004, 08:53 AM
  • RealRam
    Rams win over Cards / Wagoner
    by RealRam
    Rams Win Tough Battle in Desert
    Sunday, September 24, 2006

    By Nick Wagoner

    Senior Writer


    GLENDALE, Ariz. – Four takeaways by the Rams' defense, including three in the red zone helped to preserve a hard-fought 16-14 win on the road in Arizona.


    The win improves the Rams to 1-2 on the year and the Cardinals dropped to 1-2 with the loss.


    A strange ending to the game saw the teams trade fumbled snaps in the final two minutes of the game. QB Marc Bulger's fumbled snap gave Arizona the ball at the Rams' 30. Three plays later, Kurt Warner's fumble snap was recovered by the Rams' Will Witherspoon at the Rams' 18.


    Fourth Quarter


    Arizona took over early in the quarter and went 87 yards on 16 plays in 8:24 as James cashed it in from 6 yards out for a touchdown. Neil Rackers’ extra point made it 16-14 St. Louis with 4:13 to go.


    St. Louis got the ball back on the kickoff at its 20 needing a pair of first downs to end the game. Holt came up with a big catch on third-and-2 to get one first down. But Bulger dropped the ball as he attempted to hand the ball or fake to fullback Madison Hedgecock and Arizona recovered at the Rams’ 30.


    Just when it appeared Arizona was going to get a miracle victory, Kurt Warner and the Cardinals returned the favor by fumbling it back.


    Third Quarter


    St. Louis carried its momentum into the third quarter, coming up with timely defensive plays and and big plays in the passing game on its way to a 16-7 lead entering the fourth quarter.


    The Rams opened the third quarter with another impressive drive, highlighted by a 28-yard completion for Isaac Bruce and some powerful running by running back Steven Jackson. Wilkins booted a 21-yard field goal to make it 16-7 Rams with 8:08 to go.


    St. Louis stood up strong with the red zone defense again. This time it was Dexter Coakley who intercepted Warner in the end zone to end Arizona’s potential scoring drive. The Rams responded quickly on offense with a quick 45-yard strike to Bruce. But the drive stalled deep in Arizona territory when Shaun McDonald fumbled after a catch and run.


    Second Quarter


    St. Louis had a strong second quarter for the second week in a row, forcing a pair of turnovers and getting the passing game into gear on their way to a 13-7 halftime lead.


    The Rams put together a nice drive to begin the second quarter, highlighted by a one-handed catch by receiver Torry Holt for a 23-yard gain. After a 32-yard gain on a pass interference call against Arizona’s Antrel Rolle, the Rams appeared to break through and score a touchdown on a second down pass to Holt.


    Holt was shoved out of the back of...
    -09-24-2006, 05:57 PM
  • RamDez
    Rams respond, slam Seattle
    by RamDez
    Rams respond, slam Seattle


    BY JEFF GORDON
    Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
    11/14/2004


    Now THIS was fast and furious football.

    Rams coach Mike Martz was furious this week. And the Rams were certainly fast when they hit the field Sunday afternoon -- scoring the first three times they touched the ball to get rolling toward a 23-12 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

    Outraged by his team’s uninspired play during losses at Miami and at home against New England, Martz cracked the whip this week.

    He challenged his players from the podium, during his news conferences at Rams Park, and he challenged them in meeting rooms and on the practice field as well.

    Really Mad Mike got the desired result. After building an early 17-0 lead, the Rams played sturdy defense at their end of the field and forced the Seahawks into two critical red-zone turnovers.

    By beating the Seahawks, the Rams (5-4) pulled back into a tie for the NFC West lead and put themselves back into position to make a playoff run. They own the tiebreaker after beating Seattle twice.

    Martz decided to use his passing game to set up the run, instead of vice-versa. With the offensive line providing ample protection, quarterback Marc Bulger was able to spread the ball to all his targets and get the Air Martz attack into full flight.

    With the Seahawks back on their heels, running backs Steven Jackson and Marshall Faulk went to work on the ground. Martz’s offensive game plan played out beautifully in the first half.

    Even the loss of All-Pro receiver Torry Holt to a first-quarter concussion and All-Pro left tackle Orlando Pace to a third-quarter ejection couldn’t derail the Rams in this game.

    Guard Chris Dishman (sprained knee) and cornerback Travis Fisher (mouth injury) also missed time in this game, but the Rams persevered with the likes of Blaine Saipaia, Tom Nutten and Mike Furrey filling offensive roles.


    THE GOOD


    * The oft-maligned Rams special teams opened with a prank -- an end-around pitch on the opening kickoff, with DeJuan Groce taking the ball out to the 29. Surprisingly, nobody threw an illegal block on this play.


    * Martz came out firing, calling pass after pass after pass. Completions to Isaac Bruce, Holt, Bruce again, Faulk and finally Kevin Curtis put the Rams up 7-0 just 2 minutes 37 seconds into the game.

    The pass protection was notable through that six-play, 71-yard drive -- especially on the touchdown pass to Curtis. Bulger could have run through his progressions twice and not gotten touched on that play.


    * The Rams defense fed off that opening TD drive by delivering a three-and-out stop on their first turn on the field. The front seven stuffed the run and applied pressure on Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.

    ...
    -11-15-2004, 12:22 AM
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