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  • By late Sunday, which mastermind will be at wit's end?

    By Bryan Burwell

    Of the Post-Dispatch

    "It's probably arrogant, but (the *****' defense is) faster than the Rams'. .. It didn't used to be that way, and now it is. That might sound ****y, but it's a fact."

    - Falcons coach Jim Mora, then ***** defensive coordinator, after a 30-10 San Francisco victory November 2, 2003

    * * * * * *

    ATLANTA - Sometimes it really is about You vs. Him.

    Under normal circumstances, most Sunday afternoon NFL conflicts are all about the players. The sight of the quicksilver Michael Vick, the artistic Marshall Faulk or the fluid Isaac Bruce and Tory Holt are more than enough to tickle our fancy.

    But every once in a while, there are the rare occasions when the game's normal intrigue can be enriched far beyond the anticipation of the physical confrontations on the field. Sunday inside the Georgia Dome, with the Rams squaring off with the Atlanta Falcons, we are about to get one of those moments.

    There is a rich subplot brewing here, thanks to all the possibilities created by the X's and O's duel between those two football mad scientists Mike Martz and Jim Mora Jr. This is one of those games in which the players are mere game pieces in a high-tech chess game between Martz, the Rams' offensive genius, and Mora, the young defensive mastermind in his first year as an NFL head coach.

    Wouldn't it be perfect if we could somehow have Martz and Mora standing there in the middle of the Georgia Dome, with nothing separating them but a giant blackboard?

    How fascinating would it be to be able to look over their shoulders and eavesdrop on their headsets as they flip through their game notes and charts? How much fun would it be to see them taking turns diagramming all their schemes, each guy taking turns countering the other's last move with their elaborate football hieroglyphics?

    The 42-year-old Mora, the third-youngest head coach in the league, might be too young to know any better so he seems to embrace the idea of the game within a game.

    "It is the ultimate challenge and it's one of the reasons I like playing them so much," said Mora, who spent the last seven years with the San Francisco *****, the last five as their defensive coordinator. "This will be the 15th time I have played them in the last seven years and every one has been a great challenge. They have, No. 1, great talent at all positions. No. 2, a great scheme. I've always had so much respect for Mike Martz and the way he calls a game, in terms of staying aggressive. .. (He's) always going for it. The mentality of the team is to go for it, 'Let's just go, no matter what, just go.' That's why they are able to go in a game like (last week's 17-10 victory over Arizona) and survive three turnovers. Most teams couldn't do that. ... It really presents the ultimate challenge to you as a defensive coach."

    They have been matching football wits and schemes for years in all those great Rams vs. Niners clashes in the NFC West, and now the coaching rivalry is renewed with Mora in his first year as an NFL head coach. Last year, Mora got a little full of himself when the Niners beat the Rams 30-10 in a midseason game in San Francisco.

    Afterward, perhaps in a bit of youthful exuberance, Mora crowed a bit about how well his defense had played, bragging that his players were faster than those of the Rams, while overlooking Marshall Faulk's absence from the contest. He also overlooked the fact that in his five years as the Niners' defensive boss, Martz's Rams had beaten them eight out of 10 games, and that the Rams averaged nearly 32 points a game in those victories.

    When someone mentioned his notorious quote to Mora on Wednesday, he just started laughing.

    "Oh man, don't bring that one up," he said. "I saw that (quote) in the paper this morning and I said, 'Ah, I know (the media is) going to ask me about that one.' I don't think they need that quote out of me to get motivated."

    When the Mora quote was brought up to Martz last week, he immediately downplayed everything. Martz would like you to believe that he hasn't given even the slightest thought to Mora's in-your-face trash talking from last year. He barely smiled when the question was asked about the battle of X's and O's with Mora. In fact, he almost had a grim, business-as-usual expression when the question was raised.

    "I think there is a lot less of that than you realize," Mr. Serious said. "It's more guys just playing, the type of people that changes each year that you have on the roster, both sides of the ball. That changes what you are able to do, whether to run it or throw it, whatever it is, blitz or play man, those types of things. Each year on your roster, you make that sort of adjustment.

    "It's more about them than it is about you."

    Yeah, OK. But how many of us actually believe that?

    Part of what makes these guys tick is a similar athletic arrogance that makes them both confident enough to believe that their X's are always better than your O's - and the boldness to be unafraid to let you know it, too.

    So I'm not buying into that humble stuff Martz was trying to peddle all week long. I know he's been locked in his office all week like the prideful mad scientist that he is, trying to concoct just the right game plan that will allow him to leave a large footprint all over his brash young rival's .. uhhh ... ego.

    I can hardly wait for somebody's victory speech after the game.

    E-mail: [email protected]
    Phone: 314-340-8185

    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

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  • RamDez
    Martz remembers Mora's mouth ---- FIGHT FIGHT
    by RamDez
    Martz remembers Mora's mouth

    Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
    Thursday, Sep. 16 2004

    Last season, San Francisco ***** defensive coordinator Jim Mora got fired up
    about the progress of his fledgling defensive unit in the Bay Area.

    The Niners blitzed the Rams silly while rolling to a 30-10 victory last Nov. 2.

    "We're faster than the Rams," Mora said. "Our defense didn't used to be faster,
    and now it is. That might sound ****y, but it's true. I mean no disrespect to
    them. I love playing against those guys, but as a team, we have more team speed

    That game -- and that comment -- got Mike Martz's competitive juices flowing.
    The Rams and ***** have enjoyed a tremendous rivalry over the years -- and
    Martz got to match wits against Mora during recent seasons.

    Now Mora is head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, so some of that personal rivalry
    shifts over to Sunday's game. Post-Dispatch scribe Jim Thomas asked Mora about
    that "faster" comment during a conference call Wednesday.

    "Don't bring that one up," Mora said with a laugh. "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."

    Probably not, but Martz vs. Mora adds some juice to this match-up. Mad Mike is
    one of the NFL's most innovative minds and Mora is one of the league's
    brightest young coaches.

    Just as Martz maintains a special interest in the Rams' offense, Mora has put
    his own stamp on the Falcons defense. Mad Mike will throw lots of formations,
    personnel packages and motion at Atlanta and the Falcons will reciprocate with
    insidious zone blitzes on passing downs.

    The result will be fun viewing for football fans who enjoy breaking down the
    strategic Xs and Os. You can count on both men cooking up something special for
    this game.

    "He does a good job with the pressure, always has," Martz said of Mora. "He
    understands what we do, what we are attempting to do."

    Mora's take on the Rams?

    "Any time you pressure the Rams, you're gambling -- because they make you pay
    for it," Mora said. "If you're going to pressure them, it's going to have to
    be well-designed so that you don't expose coverage flaws."

    For the record, Martz tried to play down the chess match against his
    counterpart on the Falcons sideline.

    "There is probably too much attention to that part of it," Martz said. "I think
    there is a lot less of that than you realize. It's more guys just playing, the
    type of people that changes each year...
    -09-16-2004, 03:28 PM
  • RamWraith
    More and Mora: Martz and Mora have healthy egos
    by RamWraith
    By Bernie Miklasz
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Wednesday, Jan. 12 2005

    It's one of the NFL's most underrated coaching rivalries, Mike Martz vs Jim
    Mora Their egos will meet again in the NFC playoffs on Saturday night in
    Atlanta, and let's hope the Georgia Dome has the space to accommodate all of
    this, uh, confidence.

    Our mention of the Martz-Mora egos should not be misinterpreted as a slur. If
    Martz and Mora weren't saturated with self-esteem and competitive vanity,
    they'd be just two X's and O's guys with no soul. Their teams would be dull,
    and out of the playoffs.

    Mora seems to know this. He might not be president of the Martz Fan Club, but
    apparently sits on the board of directors.

    "I love that he's always in the attack mode," Mora said. "He's always thinking,
    'Go for it.' And I respect that. He's not conservative in his approach, and he
    loves to go for it. His team embodies that feel of, 'Here we go. Let's not
    worry about the other team. Let's take care of us, let's go, let's attack.'
    I've always been impressed with that mentality. You might call it arrogance. I
    call it confidence."

    The Rams were the worst possible combination - awful and bland - before Martz
    arrived in 1999, to crank up the offense and reboot the franchise. After
    spending the last five seasons as San Francisco's defensive coordinator, Mora
    came to Atlanta as the new head coach and gave the Falcons an immediate
    personality makeover.

    Mora isn't bashful. His biography in the Atlanta media guide stops just short
    of declaring that he'll do for the Falcons what Ted Turner did for cable TV. In
    citing influences, Mora checks so many big names - including Bill Walsh, Don
    Coryell, Bobby Beathard, Steve Mariucci, Ernie Zampese, Dan Fouts, Steve Young,
    Kellen Winslow, Charlie Joiner, Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott, Jerry Rice and Rod
    Woodson - you wonder how the Falcons lost five games this season.

    Mora even insists on lavishing his musical taste on the players and citizens of
    Atlanta by selecting the pregame music at the Georgia Dome. "Tell the Rams
    players I'll have a good mix for their pregame," he said.

    In his first NFL game as head coach, Mora faced the ***** and told some of his
    former Niners players to conduct themselves as pros, and quit yapping. The next
    day, during a live show on the NFL Network, in-studio analyst Jim Mora Sr.
    instructed Jim Jr. to coach his own team from now on.

    With no disrespect to the senior Mora, junior Mora is more like Son of Martz in
    that both are ****y coaches. After the ***** slowed the Rams in a 2002 win,
    Mora chirped about how his defense was faster than Martz's...
    -01-13-2005, 05:38 AM
  • 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, 09:42 AM
  • RamDez
    Rams have Georgia silence on their minds
    by RamDez
    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
    -09-19-2004, 04:40 AM
  • RamWraith
    Martz has fans waiting to see if Rams respond
    by RamWraith
    By Bryan Burwell
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Sunday, Nov. 14 2004

    It sure has been some wild and wacky week right here in the River City, hasn't
    it? First our favorite gray-haired football eccentric goes all Norman Vincent
    Peale on us - not once, but TWICE this week - in a very public
    effort to make friends and influence football players.

    "We don't hold hands and get in a seance and sing Kumbaya. I'm not into
    that. ... You're on the train or you're not. Get out, period. I know where I'm
    going, you're either with me or you're not."

    -Mike Martz

    So now that Mike Martz has thrown down another verbal gauntlet to a world full
    of doubters - and in the process minimizing the importance of really good, old
    fashioned campfire songs - here we are again in a very familiar place. The Rams
    are in another do-or-die situation as the Seattle Seahawks come to the Edward
    Jones Dome with supremacy of the NFC West at stake. And once again Martz has us
    all on the edge of our seats, intrigued with how his football team will respond
    to his urgent words.

    Will they take to heart his warnings that this 4-4 season is at a crossroads
    and treat this game as though it is a desperate playoff game? Will they be
    inspired by his angry words and use them as emotional fuel to turn what has
    been a half-season of mediocrity into a strong second-half run to the

    "This is a game of attitude, pure and simple. This is not about ability,
    it never has been, never will be. Everybody in this league has got ability to
    play. Everybody's talented. Everybody's fast, everybody's big, everybody's
    strong. If you think that's the difference, you're sorely mistaken. This is
    purely a game of attitude."

    Martz was a man on fire this week, from his Monday afternoon rant when he said
    he was tired of "taking bullets" for underachieving players, to his
    inspirational, but exceedingly short Wednesday press briefing when he continued
    to challenge the players, then made them go through a full-contact scrimmage.
    He was so fired up as he stormed out of the news conference that by the time he
    marched onto the practice field, he was stalking around the field from one
    group of players to another. Martz looked like an emotional volcano. He looked
    like a man itching for a fight. He looked like a guy who was almost begging to
    find just one half-stepping player.

    "I am not happy with how we are playing period, regardless of a division
    race or anything else. I think the way we have played in the last two games is
    embarrassing. Not so much, whether you win or lose the game, just the way we
    play the game,...
    -11-13-2004, 08:04 PM