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  • Rams have Georgia silence on their minds

    By Jim Thomas

    Of the Post-Dispatch

    Isaac Bruce (left) and Torry Holt figure to see one-on-one coverage when the Falcons blitz.
    (Chris Lee/P-D)


    ATLANTA - From 1995-2001, when Atlanta was part of the NFC West, the St. Louis Rams played before almost as many empty seats as occupied ones on their annual treks to the Georgia Dome.

    In 1996, for example, 26,519 spectators watched the Rams beat the Falcons 34-27 behind three touchdown passes from Tony Banks to Eddie Kennison.

    Even in 1998, the Falcons' Super Bowl season, a mere 37,996 made their way into the 71,000-seat Georgia Dome to watch the Falcons improve to 6-2 with a 37-15 thrashing of the Rams.

    But this Sunday, the Rams will see something entirely different in the Georgia Dome. Excitement. Energy. Michael Vick. And a packed house.

    "I know it's going to be loud," Rams wide receiver Torry Holt said. "I know they're going to be excited. It's their home opener. Hopefully, we can go down there, stay focused, and come out of there with a 'W.' "

    New Atlanta coach Jim Mora is telling everyone within shouting distance to show up wearing Falcons red. Adding to the festivities, Atlanta will christen its Ring of Honor on Sunday honoring former Falcons greats.

    Last week, the Falcons ended a 10-game losing streak in San Francisco. This Sunday, they'd like nothing better than to end their seven-game losing streak to the Rams.

    "Usually, when we went there, that stadium by the end of the game would be a pro-Rams stadium," defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson said. "I don't expect it to be that way this year. I expect it to be a hostile crowd for four quarters. They're excited about their football team, obviously. They're excited about their quarterback."

    And excited about playing the Rams. Isn't everybody? They are, after all, the NFL's winningest franchise since the start of the 1999 season.

    "There are a lot of people that don't like us out there," defensive end Leonard Little said. "We know that. So we've just got to go out there and try to play our game. Try to get off to a good start, silence the crowd early, and go from there."

    The Rams' very best teams since the move to St. Louis have at least held their own on the road:

    The '99 Super Bowl championship team went 5-3 away from home.

    The '01 Super Bowl runner-up squad was 8-0.

    Last season's 12-4 squad broke even at 4-4.

    So any road victory is a good victory. And with subsequent away games this season against Seattle, Miami, Green Bay, and Carolina, the Rams would love to fly out of Georgia with a 2-0 record.

    "Like Coach (Mike Martz) said earlier in the week, the same passion and emotion and skill that we play with at home - do the same thing on the road," Holt said. "I think that's the biggest challenge."

    As for all the hoopla surrounding this game for the Falcons, 14-year veteran Aeneas Williams says: "None of it matters when you're on the field. Very seldom do I ever hear crowds anyway. Once you get tuned in, those things are not even an issue. It's more focusing. ... doing what we do best, and not letting the other variables change the way that we play the game."

    Make no mistake, the Falcons will try to change the way the Rams play the game on offense. For one, they hope the expected crowd noise will affect quarterback Marc Bulger and the Rams' offensive line. For another, familiar nemesis Jim Mora will be concocting all manner of blitzes to disrupt the Martz offense.

    "I know Jim Mora's not going to let their defense play bad," Rams guard Chris Dishman said. "He's going to try to make a statement on us in their first home game."

    Mora is in his first season as Falcons head coach after serving as San Francisco's defensive coordinator the past five seasons. Last year with the *****, Mora mesmerized the Rams with his zone-blitzing schemes. He's brought many of those elements to the Atlanta defense this year.

    "I know they have it in their packages," Bulger said. "We have certain down and distances, and different things, where we think they'll bring it more. When they're successful blitzing, he'll keep bringing it."

    That certainly was the case last year with the *****. On Sept. 14, 2003, in Bulger's first start replacing Kurt Warner, Mora blitzed the Rams 23 times. But the Rams pulled out a 27-24 overtime victory.

    Seven weeks later, at 3Com Park, Bulger was sacked five times and threw two interceptions in a 30-10 loss to the *****. Martz is quick to point out that the Rams were playing with a rookie running back (Arlen Harris) and a tight end at fullback (Brandon Manumaleuna) in that game.

    "So we made some significant mental errors in our blitz pickups," Martz said.

    Martz doesn't think that will be the case this time. Bulger has another year of experience at handling blitzes. And based on last week's game with Arizona, the Rams have re-discovered the kind of running game that keeps defenses honest.

    If the blitz is picked up and properly blocked, that normally means one-on-one coverage for Holt and Isaac Bruce. And that's the surest way to take the air out of the Georgia Dome on Sunday.

    "That's what we're hoping for," Holt said. "We've focused on that all this week."

    Reporter Jim Thomas
    E-mail: [email protected]
    Phone: 314-340-8197

    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

Related Topics


  • RamWraith
    'New Look' Falcons Brace for Rams
    by RamWraith
    Saturday, September 18, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    For the second consecutive week, the Rams will face a team in transition. While Arizona spent its offseason getting used to new coach Dennis Green, Atlanta was warming up to new coach Jim Mora Jr.

    After beating Green’s Cardinals 17-10 in the opener, St. Louis travels to Atlanta to take on the Falcons in the Georgia Dome on Sunday at noon. Atlanta is also 1-0, beating San Francisco 21-19 in its first game.

    Mora replaced Dan Reeves and then Wade Phillips, who coached the final three games, after a 7-9 campaign in 2003. The Falcons named Mora head coach and Executive Vice President on Jan. 9. Although Atlanta’s players aren’t too familiar with Mora, St. Louis certainly is. Mora comes to the Falcons from San Francisco, where he was the defensive coordinator for the past five seasons.

    That time with the ***** gives the Rams a working knowledge of many of the things Atlanta will attempt to do. For example, during last season’s San Francisco-St. Louis game in San Francisco, the ***** threw zone blitz after zone blitz at the Rams on their way to a 30-10 win.

    St. Louis began to adjust at halftime and quarterback Marc Bulger threw for 378 yards, but he was sacked five times and the Rams rushed for only 9 yards. At the time, Mora said San Francisco’s defense was finally faster than St. Louis’ offense.

    Mora laughed about it in good nature when asked about the comment.

    "Don't bring that one up," Mora said, jokingly. "I saw that in the paper this morning and I said. 'Ah, I know they are going to ask me about that one.' I don't think they need that quote out of me to get motivated."

    Mora is probably right. The Rams have plenty of motivation for the meeting with Atlanta, without thinking about something that happened when Mora coached elsewhere. Going to 2-0, winning its first road game, continuing to run the ball effectively and playing solid defense again is just some of the motivation St. Louis has.

    Rams’ coach Mike Martz said he didn’t take offense to Mora’s comments.

    “I think they were a lot faster than what they have been,” Martz said. “When he made that comment, they had improved their defense significantly.”

    Besides, Mora is playing with a different hand. He takes over an Atlanta defense that finished last in the NFL in total defense in 2003. There is some talent on the Falcons’ defense, but they are switching to a more common 4-3 defense from a 3-4.

    Mora’s defense will get a big test this weekend on the fast track at the Georgia Dome. The Rams rolled up 448 yards against Arizona with a dominating performance from the offensive line and a punishing running game.

    The Falcons had plenty of problems with St. Louis’ offense last year when the Rams rolled to a 36-0...
    -09-19-2004, 08:42 AM
  • RamDez
    Confident Rams try different approach
    by RamDez
    Confident Rams try different approach
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Friday, Jan. 14 2005

    ATLANTA - In September, the Rams took the field in the Georgia Dome secure in
    the knowledge that they hadn't lost to Atlanta since 1998. Arthur Blank didn't
    own the Falcons; the Rams did.

    "We beat them seven in a row, and some of those were 30, 40 points plus," Rams
    offensive guard Adam Timmerman said.

    Actually, the Rams scored 30-plus points in all seven of those games. The
    "closest" game in that streak was a 16-point St. Louis victory in 2000. The
    average score of those seven contests: Rams 38, Falcons 13.

    So why should anything have been different on Sept. 19?

    "It looked like the same guys on paper," Timmerman said. "I think it was hard
    to get ready for that game mentally."

    Well, the Falcons were ready. And so were their fans. Atlanta jumped to a 14-0
    lead, withstood a third-quarter rally by St. Louis that briefly tied the score,
    and then left the Rams in the dust in the fourth quarter.

    That 34-17 Atlanta victory in Game 2 helped jump-start the Falcons to an 11-5
    record and the NFC South championship.

    "I think (the Falcons) were still trying to figure out how good they were,"
    Timmerman said. "I don't think anybody knew what kind of season they were going
    to have. They put together a real nice season."

    No doubt. On the other hand, the Rams were searching for their identity - a
    process that ended up taking most of the season.

    But a different-looking Rams team will take the field in tonight's NFC
    semifinal in Atlanta. And the Rams will tell you, they're a much better team
    than the one that lost to the Falcons in September.

    "We look like a completely different team," defensive tackle Ryan Pickett said.
    "It's like a night and day difference in how we played then and how we're
    playing now."

    The Rams will have seven different starters on the field tonight than they did
    in September. (Compared to three new starters for Atlanta.)

    Travis Fisher is at cornerback after missing the first six games of the season
    with a broken arm. Jimmy Kennedy is making his mark at defensive tackle after
    missing the first seven games of the season with a broken foot.

    Energetic rookie Anthony Hargrove has moved into the starting lineup at right
    defensive end. Linebacker Tommy Polley didn't play in September, partly because
    of a rib injury and partly because rookie Brandon Chillar had beaten him out in
    training camp.

    At free safety, Antuan Edwards has stabilized the position after a season of
    injury problems for Aeneas...
    -01-15-2005, 02:46 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams storm back, but lose 34-17
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Sunday, Sep. 19 2004

    ATLANTA - The Rams had spent the better part of the first half watching Michael
    Vick run circles around them. Surprisingly, they watched the normally
    accommodating Falcons run defense put the clamps on Marshall Faulk.

    They stared at 14-0 and 17-7 deficits on the Georgia Dome scoreboard. But after
    a 46-yard field goal by Jeff Wilkins late in the third quarter, suddenly it was
    17-17 and the momentum was all Rams.

    But momentum can be a fleeting thing, especially when you're playing on the
    road in the NFL. Just when it looked like St. Louis had gained control of
    Sunday's game with Atlanta, things went south for the Rams in the Heart of

    The result was a 34-17 loss to Atlanta, a loss that left glaring questions
    about the Rams' run defense, run offense, pass blocking, takeaway-giveaway
    ratio, play calling. ... Well, you get the point. It's a long list.

    "We just didn't do much of anything, really, in any phase of the game," coach
    Mike Martz said. "It's hard to identify. They just wanted it more than we did.
    They played harder than we did. They were more physical. We got outplayed and

    Apparently, effort, attitude and physical play were at the crux of Falcons
    coach Jim Mora's pregame speech to his team. According to Falcons wide receiver
    Peerless Price, Mora told his team: "Just close the gate, lock 'em in here, and
    don't let 'em out until you kick their (butts)."

    The Falcons pretty much played that way in front of an enthusiastic sellout
    crowd, and the Rams couldn't match their energy level - particularly in the
    fourth quarter when the Rams were outscored 17-0.

    "That's the life of playing on the road in the NFL," Rams wide receiver Isaac
    Bruce said. "We've got to make sure that when we're on the road, that we treat
    it like we're at home. And try to make sure that we have as (few) mistakes as
    we possibly can, and put the ball in the end zone."

    But there were a lot of mistakes, including 10 penalties and two turnovers.

    Only two touchdowns, despite 100-yard receiving games by Bruce and Torry Holt,
    and an impressive 102.2 passer rating by Marc Bulger.

    And several close plays down the stretch that went the Falcons' way.

    None was bigger than Brady Smith's strip and fumble recovery against Bulger in
    the end zone that resulted in an instant Atlanta touchdown and a 31-17 Falcons

    Martz generally takes a high-risk, high-reward approach to offensive football,
    and this time that approach backfired as the Rams attempted a deep pass...
    -09-20-2004, 04:13 AM
  • MauiRam
    The pressure's all on Atlanta against upstart Rams
    by MauiRam
    By Jim Thomas

    ATLANTA • The numbers speak volumes and help explain why all the pressure is on the Atlanta Falcons this Sunday in the Georgia Dome.

    Since the NFL went to the 12-team playoff format in 1990, only 22 teams (11.5 percent) of the squads that started a season 0-2 have made it to postseason. Only three teams in that span have won the Super Bowl after starting 0-2.

    For a team with a Super Bowl-or-bust mentality, that’s bad math. Atlanta absolutely, positively wants to avoid getting tripped up by the upstart Rams in Sunday’s game that has a noon (St. Louis time) kickoff.

    When you coax a 37-year-old tight end (Tony Gonzalez) back for another season, when you sign a 30-year-year old running back (Steven Jackson) and a soon-to-be 32-year-old pass rusher (Osi Umenyiora) in free agency, you’re not building for the future. You’re trying to win now.

    A year ago, the Falcons were stopped on the 10-yard line with 1 minute 13 seconds to play in a 28-24 loss to San Francisco in the NFC title game. After coming that close, the Falcons want to take that last big step to football’s big game.

    After losing their 2013 opener 23-17 to division rival New Orleans, the Falcons don’t want to fall to 0-2 at the hands of a Rams team that has everything to gain and nothing to lose in this one. Nothing to lose because when the schedules came out last spring, it was universally marked down as an “L” by almost everyone who doesn’t draw a paycheck from Rams Park.

    However, just one week into the season, the task doesn’t seem nearly as daunting for the Rams. For one, the biggest problem area for the defending NFC South champion Falcons is pass-blocking; the biggest strength for the Rams is their pass rush.

    For another, Atlanta’s dynamic duo at wide receiver — Julio Jones and Roddy White — are banged up and listed at ‘‘questionable.’’

    White in particular has a high ankle sprain and isn’t anywhere near to full strength. Overall, the Falcons’ injury list reads more like it would in late November when bodies start to wear down, than for Week 2 of the regular season. No fewer than six Atlanta starters are listed as questionable, which by NFL definition means they have a 50-50 chances of playing.

    After parachuting into Atlanta at the end of the preseason, Gonzalez looked a little rusty against New Orleans and might need more practice time to get up to speed. Jackson, the long-time Rams great, still is feeling his way in terms of his role in Atlanta and how much he will be used.

    So for a team that remains under the radar league-wide, what would it mean for the Rams to somehow head home from Atlanta with a 2-0 record and a signature road victory?

    “It would mean a lot to us,” right tackle Rodger Saffold said. “I prefer us to just stay under the radar, just let us keep chipping away.”

    -09-14-2013, 10:53 PM
  • RamDez
    Rams' season closes with a rush
    by RamDez
    Rams' season closes with a rush
    By Bryan Burwell
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Sunday, Jan. 16 2005

    ATLANTA - At the end of this draining night in Georgia, inside the visitor's
    locker room in the lower reaches of the Georgia Dome, the Rams' traveling
    football show was ready to close down. Down the hall in the upbeat Atlanta
    Falcons locker room, little kids with footballs and Michael Vick jerseys darted
    back and forth getting autographs from their hometown heroes. Players checked
    their cell phone voice mails, and perused the gaudy stat sheet that gave all
    the gory details of their 47-17 rout of the Rams in Saturday night's NFC
    conference semifinal playoff.

    The Falcons' dazzling show is still playing to rave reviews this morning. The
    NFC South champs are on their way to the NFC Championship Game, and they are
    brimming with a verve and confidence that only dominant victories like this can
    bring. Yet here inside the Rams' subdued visiting quarters, the show was
    closing down for the season. Equipment men packed all the pads and helmets,
    jerseys, tape and footballs into large trunks and shoved them onto waiting
    moving vans. The glum-faced front-office brass milled quietly around the room,
    shaking hands with players and offering soothing words of comfort. The players
    quietly stuffed their belongings into expensive leather carry-alls, then tried
    to make sense of this abrupt and decisive destruction at the hands of the

    "I just knew we were going to do better than that," Leonard Little said as he
    leaned against his locker stall. "I swear, we practiced against every single
    play they ran. We knew every scheme they threw at us. I just don't get how it
    turned out so bad."

    From start to finish, there was scant evidence that the Rams had a clue that
    they knew what they were doing against the Falcons. If you believe in
    premonitions, maybe the Rams should have known what was in store for them from
    the beginning of the stunning pre-game pyrotechnics that were so hot they could
    singe eyebrows from 50 yards away.

    The Falcons came jogging out of the Dome end zone tunnel for pre-game
    introductions to the dazzling fanfare of exploding fireworks, giant
    flame-throwing torches and throbbing hip-hop music that was so loud and so cool
    that it turned this rowdy place into a giant domed dance club.

    Oh, if only that was the extent of the explosions. But unfortunately for the
    Rams, the biggest bangs and most devastating detonations on this night were not
    reserved solely for the pre-game festivities. From start to finish, the Falcons
    detonated creative pyrotechnics in all of the very familiar weak spots of the

    We all knew this...
    -01-16-2005, 03:47 AM