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  • All's well that ends well for Rams

    All's well that ends well for Rams
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Sunday, Sep. 12 2004

    This, of course, is the start of the 10th season for the Rams in St. Louis, and
    things haven't changed all that much.

    Ten Septembers ago, Isaac Bruce scored the first touchdown of the very first
    game for the "St. Louis" Rams. (Chris Miller to Isaac Bruce vs. Green Bay in
    '95.)

    On Sunday, Bruce got the 10th year started in the same fashion - scoring the
    first TD of the season.

    "Hey, that's karma," defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson said. "That might be a
    good sign for the whole season."

    Bruce's eight-yard TD catch on Sunday helped the Rams to a 17-10 victory over
    the surprisingly stubborn Arizona Cardinals at the Edward Jones Dome. Up until
    that play, the day was shaping up as some sort of weird Bidwillian prank on the
    football fans of St. Louis.

    What better way to spoil the start of season No. 10 than to have Bill Bidwill's
    Big Red spring a big upset? Such a scenario seemed a very real possibility when
    the Cardinals took a 10-9 lead into the fourth quarter.

    "It was a little frustrating to look up at the board and see 10-9, and we
    really felt like we were handling them," offensive guard Adam Timmerman said.

    That's because the Rams were handling them. By game's end, they had
    outgained Arizona by nearly 200 yards (448 to 260). They spent enough time in
    the red zone to establish residency for tax purposes. Defensively, they kept
    Arizona bottled up in its own end most of the afternoon.

    But there was the not-so-little matter of three turnovers, one on each of the
    Rams' first three possessions. Then there was a 71-yard kickoff return by
    Arizona's Josh Scobey that set up a Big Red field goal. And a critical
    defensive holding penalty against Jackson led to Arizona's only TD.

    All of which made the Rams' 78th consecutive home sellout crowd unusually
    restless.

    "Sometimes we have to keep the crowd into it," safety Aeneas Williams said. "We
    don't want them to leave early. . . .We need to get a little drama."

    There was drama all right. Particularly when Arizona linebacker James Darling
    intercepted a Marc Bulger pass and returned it 95 yards for an apparent
    touchdown, a TD that would have given Arizona a 17-9 lead with 14 minutes 35
    seconds to go in the fourth quarter.

    That play brought more boos from the crowd. They booed Orlando Pace in pregame
    introductions, booed Bulger a time or two after an errant pass, and booed a
    burned timeout or two from the Rams as well.

    What about all that?

    "I usually don't hear the crowd anyway," Williams said. "To me, they were
    saying, "Bruuce!"

    That cheer would come a couple of plays later after the Darling runback.
    Darling wasn't even in the end zone yet, when Bulger calmly motioned to bring
    it back because of a penalty on the play.

    "I saw the flag before he even got in the end zone," Bulger said. "But you
    don't even want to know what I was thinking for those first three or four
    seconds."

    Arizona linebacker LeVar Woods was penalized for holding intended receiver
    Brandon Manumaleuna. That nullfied the play, bringing the ball all the way back
    to the Arizona 8 and making it first and goal for the Rams.

    "I watched the guy mug him, so I saw the flag coming out," Rams coach Mike
    Martz said. "He got collisioned (sic) as soon as Brandon stopped. I mean, it
    was pretty obvious."

    Arizona coach Dennis Green disagreed. "Look into the rule," Green told
    reporters. "Ask, 'Can you have a defensive holding within five yards,
    particularly if the receiver has the potential to be a blocker?'"

    Two plays after the flag, the Rams were finally in the end zone on the
    Bulger-to-Bruce pass.

    "It's a play that we run a lot," Bulger said. "It's what we call a post route,
    but there was a lot of clearing out that had to happen. Basically I had trust
    (in Bruce) to get underneath."

    Bruce got underneath, all right. He got in front of Cardinals cornerback
    Renaldo Hill for the catch, and then rolled his way into the end zone.

    Bruce, 31, finished with nine catches for 112 yards. It is the 34th 100-yard
    receiving game of his career.

    Up 15-10 after the score, Martz opted to go for a two-point conversion.
    Marshall Faulk ran in off left tackle to increase the lead to 17-10.

    Faulk, 31, finished with 22 carries for 128 yards, the 39th 100-yard rushing
    game of his career.

    It was quite an afternoon for two of the Rams' Old Reliables.

    "Every week, or every year, it's the same thing," Martz said. "People want to
    know if Isaac or Marshall is diminished. Maybe I see them too much. I'm too
    close to them, I don't know. But I don't see it. Maybe you all do.

    "They always rise to the occasion. Just incredible competitors. What a blessing
    to have them."

    Arizona's offense had three more possessions following the Bruce touchdown, but
    never crossed midfield. As a result, St. Louis posted its first opening day
    victory since 2001.

    Too close for comfort?

    "It was a little close," defensive end Leonard Little said. "But when it was
    time to get down and dirty, and try to hold them down, we were able to do
    that."

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  • 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
  • RamDez
    Rams Recap: Not pretty, but it's a win
    by RamDez
    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
    ...
    -09-12-2004, 03:04 PM
  • RamWraith
    Believe It Or Not: Strange finish favors Rams
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    09/25/2006

    Rams Big Red


    GLENDALE, ARIZ. First the ball squirted out and onto that retractable grass field at Cardinals Stadium. Then, Arizona defensive end Antonio Smith emerged from the pile with the football. And then the celebration, with the sellout crowd going absolutely nuts.

    For Marc Bulger, this was "Twilight" Zone material. He stood all by his lonesome on the Rams' sideline. As the clock ticked down, and Arizona maneuvered for a game-winning field goal, it was as if Bulger's football life flashed in front of him.

    "Everything came on me at that point," Bulger said. "You work all year round. You know how hard everyone in this (locker) room works. And the organization, the accountants -- everyone.

    "And then to lose the ballgame. That's a big deal. One-16th of the season gone because of one stupid little ball-handling thing."


    But that's not what happened. Because just 16 seconds after Bulger's botched fumble with 2 minutes 3 seconds remaining in the game, Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner amazingly did the same thing. Warner's eighth fumble of the season came on a botched exchange with center Alex Stepanovich. Linebacker Will Witherspoon fell on the ball, preserving a 16-14 St. Louis victory.

    "I didn't have a chance to take a step," Witherspoon said. "The ball was there ... just right there. So I just jumped on the pile to get on top of it. And that's where the end of the story is."

    Well, not exactly.

    It's rare enough for a close game to feature a botched fumble in the final two minutes by both starting quarterbacks. But the ending got even weirder. Arizona had a timeout remaining, so the Rams couldn't quite run out the clock following the Warner fumble.

    Matt Turk punted the ball away with 5 seconds left with Troy Walters fielding the football with a fair catch as time expired. There was an offsides penalty against Arizona on the play, so the game was over. Right?

    Uh, no. For a few minutes, mass confusion reigned. Here's what was going through offensive guard Adam Timmerman's head at the time:

    "Whose ball is it? Is it the offense? Are we going to punt again? What's the deal here?" Timmerman said. "That was weird."

    Under NFL rules, a team can attempt an uncontested free kick after a fair catch at any point in the game. This is so even if time expires at the end of the fair-catch play, as was the case here.

    When the Rams originally declined the penalty, it was explained to them by the officiating crew that declining would allow Arizona to attempt a free kick. So instead of giving St. Louisan Neil Rackers a chance at a 77-yard -- that's right -- 77-yard desperation field goal, the Rams accepted the...
    -09-25-2006, 05:29 AM
  • RamWraith
    Failure to gain a few inches is costly in loss
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Monday, Sep. 20 2004

    The Rams' 34-17 loss at the Georgia Dome truly was a game of inches.
    Specifically, the 3 inches that separated rallying St. Louis from a first down
    late in the third quarter and stripped away its building momentum.

    After trailing 14-0 early in the second period and 17-7 at the half, the Rams
    had trimmed Atlanta's edge to 17-14 and were driving for the lead. A pass from
    quarterback Marc Bulger to wide receiver Torry Holt on the left sideline made
    it second down and a quarter of a foot to go at the Falcons 25-yard line.

    Bulger took a shot at wideout Isaac Bruce in the end zone on second down that
    fell incomplete. On third down, running back Marshall Faulk tried to slip
    through the left side but was stuffed by tackle Ed Jasper for a 2-yard loss.
    Jeff Wilkins drilled a 48-yard field goal, but the Falcons had retained a share
    of the lead at 17-17.

    "Sometimes those plays go overlooked, but that was really a pivotal play,"
    Atlanta coach Jim Mora said. "Momentum had shifted a little bit, it had gotten
    a little bit quiet. Our team did a great job of rallying."

    From that point on, the Falcons dominated. They ran 26 plays, producing 162
    yards, two touchdowns and a field goal; conversely, the Rams had just nine
    offensive attempts and netted a mere 12 yards. And, of course, zero points.

    Rams coach Mike Martz agreed Monday that the failed third-down play blunted his
    outfit's charge. "It did," he said. "And had we not lost the yardage on that
    play, we probably would've gone for it on fourth down."

    Martz said he decided against a quarterback sneak because in a similar
    situation earlier, the Falcons had "covered all three down linemen and put the
    two linebackers inside." But they changed their alignment, and Faulk had
    nowhere to go.

    "I was surprised, to be honest with you," Martz said. "The play that we ran, we
    felt . . . we had a real good shot at it."


    Bruce tops NFL

    If Bruce maintains his pace, he'll put together one of the most productive
    seasons in his 11-year career. After two games, Bruce leads the league in
    catches (17) and is third in yardage (214). That projects to 136 receptions for
    1,712 yards over 16 games.

    Bruce, 31, was at his best in 1995, the Rams' first season in St. Louis, when
    he grabbed 119 balls for 1,781 yards.

    Right behind Bruce is teammate Torry Holt, who led the NFL in receptions and
    yards last year. Holt is second in catches (16) and yards (217), which projects
    to 128 receptions for 1,736 yards.
    ...
    -09-21-2004, 06:21 AM
  • RamWraith
    Inside slant
    by RamWraith
    CBSsportsline

    Although the Rams escaped with a 17-10 victory over Arizona in their season opener and rushed for 176 yards on 30 attempts, some of the team's previous problems remain.

    The Rams had turnovers on their first three possessions, and also failed to score touchdowns on their first two trips to the red zone. But there is no arguing with what they were able to accomplish offensively, thanks to rejuvenated running back Marshall Faulk and an offensive line that protected quarterback Marc Bulger to the tune of no sacks.

    There have been those that questioned how much Faulk and wide receiver Isaac Bruce have left, but Faulk was like a spry colt, galloping for 128 yards on 22 carries while Bruce had nine receptions for 112 yards and a touchdown, which was the one that won the game.

    Asked about Faulk and Bruce, coach Mike Martz said, "Every week and every year it's the same thing, people want to know if Isaac or Marshall have diminished. Maybe I'm too close to them, but I don't see it, maybe you guys do. They always rise to the occasion, and they're just incredible competitors. It's just a blessing to have them."

    Asked about offseason questions regarding his future, Faulk said, "Questions. That's all it is -- questions. I've got a whole season to go for this knee and this body to hold up, and hopefully for many more seasons."

    Faulk hailed the team's offensive line, which just got left tackle Orlando Pace back from a summer-long absence the Monday before the opener.

    "They didn't just hold there own, they were outstanding out there," Faulk said. "They've been criticized throughout camp, but they did well. If someone is grading that unit, they should make up a new grade for them."

    Asked about a grade, Pace said, "I would have to give us an A-plus because we rushed the ball pretty good, and I don't know if there were any sacks registered today. If you can do that you will have success and you will win the ball game."

    Pace had just four practices prior to the game after signing his one-year tender Sept. 6. But he reported in excellent shape and said he never felt winded during the game. As for the boos from fans when he was introduced with the starting offense before the game, Pace said, "They feel the way they want to feel. It's a free country. All I can do is go out and play my style of football and help my team win."

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    REPORT CARD VS. CARDINALS

    PASSING OFFENSE
    B - QB Marc Bulger threw one bad interception, but still completed 67.6 percent of his passes, and led the Rams on an 80-yard drive for the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter after the Cardinals had gone ahead, 10-9. He needs to find Marshall Faulk more on checkdowns, but the passing game was good enough for Isaac Bruce and...
    -09-14-2004, 09:16 AM
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