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  • 'New Look' Falcons Brace for Rams

    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 win on Monday Night Football. The Rams had 496 yards in a game that was never close.

    Atlanta attempted to boost its defense in the offseason, adding cornerback DeAngelo Hall with the eighth pick in the draft, cornerback Jason Webster from San Francisco and defensive tackle Rod Coleman from Oakland.

    Martz said he could see potential for Atlanta’s additions on defense to help it improve.

    “I think it can be very fast,” Martz said. “I love the way their linebackers move. I like their linebacking crew a great deal. They move around a great bit. I think Jim does a good job with their defense, in terms of making it hard on you offensively.”

    The additions helped some in week one, but the Falcons still allowed the ***** to gain 359 yards.
    Mora said he looks forward to the opportunity to try to devise ways to stop a Rams’ offense that has dominated for the past five years.

    “I’ve always had so much respect for Mike Martz and the way he calls a game, in terms of staying aggressive,” Mora said. “It really presents the ultimate challenge to you as a defensive coach. On one hand, you dread having to go into a dome and play those guys, and on the other hand, if you are a competitor, you look forward to it, because it’s the ultimate challenge.”

    Mora’s ultimate challenge is coming to Atlanta, coincidentally that challenge is coming…fast.

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  • 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
  • RamDez
    Rams have Georgia silence on their minds
    by RamDez
    By Jim Thomas

    Of the Post-Dispatch
    09/18/2004

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


    Advertisement

    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
    Disrespected Rams big underdogs vs. rock-solid Falcons
    by RamWraith
    BY JEFF GORDON
    Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist


    Talk about your classic playoff scenarios . . .

    On one hand, you have the resurgent Rams. After a season-long struggle with injuries, lineup shuffling and generally poor execution, the Rams won their last two regular-season games and beat Seattle in the wild-card playoff round.

    On the other hand, you have the rock-solid Atlanta Falcons. They parlayed a strong rushing game and an aggressive defense to score old-school success during the regular season.

    The Rams are the massive underdogs, since they were 6-8 just three weeks ago and headed toward a major overhaul.

    The Falcons have been one of the NFL’s feel-good stories, with exciting Michael Vick breaking out at quarterback and Jim Mora emerging as the league’s brightest young coach.

    The Rams must venture back onto the road, albeit to play in an environment much like their own at the Edward Jones Dome. But the Falcons will have a potentially disruptive crowd working for them as Rams coach Mike Martz tries to orchestrate his offense.

    The Falcons feature a physical defense that forced 32 turnovers this season. The Rams are the most mistake-prone team to EVER reach postseason play; their minus-24 turnover ratio is the worst any playoff-bound team has recorded.

    The Rams still have issues along their offensive line, where left guard Tom Nutten has been attempting to hold the fort on one leg. The Falcons will attack with a talented front four, led by Rod Coleman, Patrick Kerney and Brady Smith.

    The Falcons feature a three-pronged ground game, with the speedy Vick, the elusive Warrick Dunn and bruising T.J. Duckett. The Rams have only recently improved their rushing defense; earlier this season the Falcons ran the ball 38 times for 242 yards while rolling toward a 34-17 victory in the Georgia Dome.

    The Rams can play pitch and catch all day, especially indoors on artificial turf. Earlier this season at Atlanta, quarterback Marc Bulger completed 24 of 31 passes for 285 yards and a touchdown.

    They have revived their four wide-out attack, thanks to the development of young receivers Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald, and Bulger can also throw to both running backs and both tight ends.

    On the other hand, the Rams rushed for just 30 yards on 15 carries during that loss to the Falcons and now running backs Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson are trying to play hurt.

    Both teams are just glad to be in this game. The Falcons raised expectations by rolling to a division title, but they are still an upstart. The Rams slid into the playoffs through the back door, so they, too, see this as a gravy game.

    The Falcons played their back-ups for much of their last two games, to protect their battered stars from further injury. Then they enjoyed a bye...
    -01-11-2005, 02:10 PM
  • RamWraith
    Atlanta next stop for Rams
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Sunday, Jan. 09 2005

    Before the game on Sept. 19, Atlanta coach Jim Mora had some words of
    inspiration for his Falcons.

    "Just close the gate, lock 'em in here, and don't let 'em out until you kick
    their (butts)," he said.

    And that's pretty much what happened. Outscoring the Rams 17- 0 in the fourth
    quarter, the Falcons snapped a seven-game losing streak against St. Louis with
    a 34-17 victory at the Georgia Dome.

    Led by quarterback Michael Vick's dazzling 109 yards rushing, Atlanta gained
    242 yards on the ground. It's the second-highest rushing total yielded by the
    Rams in their 10 seasons in St. Louis.

    The Rams got fooled by an onside kick in falling behind 14-0 midway through the
    first half.

    Quarterback Marc Bulger was sacked five times, one of which resulted in a
    critical fourth-quarter TD after Brady Smith got around Orlando Pace with an
    outside rush and stripped Bulger from behind in the end zone.

    Atlanta's active front seven limited the Rams to just 30 yards rushing on 15
    carries.

    And in what would become a season-long problem area, the St. Louis defense came
    up with no takeaways for the second consecutive game.

    "We didn't do much of anything, really, in any phase of the game," Mike Martz
    said after the game.

    But that was fourth months ago. It was still summer. Steven Jackson was
    returning kickoffs. Brandon Chillar was starting ahead of Tommy Polley at
    linebacker. Cornerback Travis Fisher was out with a broken arm.

    The Rams were searching for their identity offensively and defensively, a
    process that would take much of the season.

    And now they meet again. As a result of Minnesota's first-round playoff victory
    Sunday over Green Bay, the Rams get Atlanta in the NFC semifinals Saturday at
    the Georgia Dome. The winner advances to the NFC championship game.

    While the NFC South champion Falcons were resting with a first-round bye, the
    Rams defeated Seattle 27-20 Saturday in a first-round playoff game at Qwest
    Field. It was the third victory in a row for the Rams.

    Afterward, Martz offered no apologies for making the playoffs despite an 8-8
    record.

    "We did make it in because we won enough games to get in," Martz said. "So it's
    well-deserved. And at this point, only the strong survive. The strong keep
    going and the others fall off."

    It will take an inspired effort against the Falcons for the Rams to keep going
    this postseason. By the numbers, the Falcons aren't overwhelming. They finished
    the regular season ranked 20th in...
    -01-10-2005, 06:33 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, 03:46 AM
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