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All give, no take

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  • All give, no take

    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Thursday, Sep. 23 2004

    In their first nine seasons in St. Louis, the Rams had only 20 games in which
    their defense failed to come up with a turnover. Basically, that's an average
    of two such games a year.

    Unfortunately for the Rams, they've already hit their quota for 2004, after
    failing to come up with a turnover against Arizona or Atlanta.

    The no-takeaway game in the season opener against Arizona ended a streak of 20
    straight contests - regular season and playoffs - with at least one takeaway by
    the Rams defense.

    That streak was just one game off the Rams' high total since the move to St.
    Louis. From Game 15 of the 2000 season through the '01 season's NFC
    championship game, the Rams went 21 consecutive games with at least one

    So the current takeaway drought, even if just two games, is a totally
    unexpected occurrence, particularly since the Rams led the league in takeaways
    last year (46).

    As defensive tackle Ryan Picketts puts it, "We're pitching a shutout right now.
    When we get one (takeaway), we'll be happy. Maybe they'll start rolling then,
    because we practice very hard at getting them every day."

    Like most NFL teams, the Rams work on stripping the ball to create fumbles in
    practice. But they could work harder at it, according to safety Adam Archuleta.

    "I would say that we probably could put more of an emphasis on stripping the
    ball, like really going in there hard," Archuleta said. "Actively going at it.
    We could probably do a better job of that."

    Last season, the Rams recovered 22 opposing fumbles - just two off the
    franchise record. Two games into '04, the opposing team hasn't even fumbled
    once - much less lost a fumble.

    "I think when you're tackling really well, you're going to cause some fumbles,"
    coach Mike Martz said. "We didn't tackle as well (against Atlanta) as we had
    been. If you tackle well, the first guy there holds him up, and the other guy
    gets the ball out."

    Practicing last week in "shells" - or light padding - didn't help, either.
    Normally, Martz doesn't have the Rams practice in shells so early in the
    season. But he felt too many players were banged up to work in full pads last
    week. In hindsight, the lack of contact work showed in the form of sloppy
    tackling against the Falcons.

    "And that's a coaching error on my part," Martz said. "I think when you do
    (drills) in pads in practice, you can slam each other and pull that ball out.
    And that's where you get your work."

    The Rams were in full pads this Wednesday, the first practice day of the week.
    Normally players aren't thrilled about working in full pads once the regular
    season starts, but apparently there were no complaints this time.

    "After playing Atlanta, we felt like we probably needed it," Pickett said. "So
    we're not against the pads right now. We're trying to do anything to get

    Getting to the quarterback more often would help. The Rams have a modest three
    sacks in two games; only seven teams in the NFL have fewer.

    "For a defensive lineman, the majority of times when we get to cause a turnover
    is when we hit the quarterback," defensive end Bryce Fisher said. "If we're not
    hitting the quarterback, and getting the ball tipped up in the air, then it's
    harder for us to get turnovers. Up front, we've got to do that."

    Again, this point gets emphasized on the practice field. If the defensive line
    doesn't force a turnover in practice, they have to do "up-downs" - a drill
    where players run in place, drop to the ground, then pop up quickly and
    continue running.

    Of course, the other half of the turnover picture is interceptions, and here
    the Rams have had their chances. Many chances. Against Arizona, DeJuan Groce
    had an interception nullified by a penalty, while Aeneas Williams, Jerametrius
    Butler and Archuleta couldn't hang onto potential interceptions.

    Against Atlanta, Butler swooped in for what looked like a sure interception,
    only to have the ball deflect off his fingertips and into the hands of Falcons
    tight end Alge Crumpler for a 33-yard gain.

    In practice, Rams players have to drop to the turf and do pushups when they
    drop an interception. If that same policy were in place on game day, there'd be
    enough pushups going on to make a fitness video.

    "We've definitely had some drops," safety Rich Coady said. "If we catch the
    ball, we'd probably have three or four easily. So it's just a matter of guys
    concentrating a little bit more."

    On four previous occasions in St. Louis, the Rams have gone back-to-back games
    without a takeaway, most recently late in the 2002 season. But they've never
    gone three straight games without a takeaway.

    "We're due, right?" Coady said. "They're supposed to come in bunches. If we
    keep doing what we're doing in practice, put even more emphasis on it . . . I
    think they'll come. I don't see us doing anything different than what we did
    last year. And last year, we led the league

Related Topics


  • RamWraith
    St. Louis Continues Search for Takeaways
    by RamWraith
    Wednesday, September 29, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    Turnovers. The one defining characteristic of the Rams’ defense in their dominant five-year run has been turnovers.

    Interceptions and fumble recoveries, no matter the method, takeaways can cure a lot of what ails a defense. Give up 450 yards of offense? No big deal, get the ball. Without them, an opportunistic defense becomes a mediocre one.

    A defense that forces turnovers can alter a game in a matter of moments. Last year, St. Louis had such a defense, as they had a league-leading 46 takeaways. That number more than made up for the 315.8 yards per game it allowed. The totals did more than keep the opponent from scoring; it instantly gave the ball back to one of the league’s most prolific offenses.

    With three games in the books this season, the Rams find themselves still searching for their elusive first takeaway. At the same stage of the season last year, St. Louis had three fumble recoveries and an interception.

    During the offseason, there were a few changes on the defensive coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Lovie Smith left to take the head job with Chicago. Former Arizona defensive coordinator Larry Marmie replaced him. The philosophy didn’t change much, but there is still an adjustment to a new coach and that might have contributed to the lack of takeaways.

    Rams’ coach Mike Martz said any time a new coach is added there is an adjustment period.

    “I think anytime you inherit a system and he’s very aware of the system, he has to put his own stamp on it and be able to adjust with the personnel,” Martz said. “We’re in the process of going through some of that. I said at the beginning of the year we’ll have some growing pains early, but eventually we’ll be a pretty good team.”

    The opportunities for turnovers have been there. Instead of converting, though, those close plays have resulted in near misses instead of big plays, none more than the painstaking almost got it miss by cornerback Aeneas Williams in the Rams’ 28-25 loss to New Orleans on Sunday.

    Saints’ quarterback Aaron Brooks fired a pass over the middle into the endzone with his team trailing 17-16 and more than eight minutes to play in the game. Williams broke on the ball, as he has so many times in his career, and appeared to have a game-saving interception. Instead, the ball squirted through the future Hall of Famer’s hands and fell into Saints’ receiver Joe Horn’s for a touchdown.

    After the game, Williams shouldered the blame for the loss, pointing directly to that play.

    "When I have an opportunity in the end zone to make a play on a ball and don't, that's a serious letdown to my teammates," Williams said. "We wouldn't even be in the situation that we were in at the end of the game. I have to make that play."
    -09-30-2004, 06:38 AM
  • RamDez
    Martz sensitive about Rams' struggling defensive unit
    by RamDez
    Martz sensitive about Rams' struggling defensive unit
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Saturday, Oct. 02 2004

    The many penalties have been puzzling. Special teams have been anything but
    special, with the exception of Jeff Wilkins. As for timeouts, replay
    challenges, and use - or is it neglect? - of the running game, well, "Mad" Mike
    Martz has been particularly maddening this season.

    But when all is said and done, the most disappointing element in the Rams' 1-2
    start has been the play of the defense. The Rams rank 30th in total defense and
    30th in rushing defense. That's third from the bottom.

    For the first time since the move to St. Louis in 1995, the Rams have gone
    three straight games without a takeaway.

    Arizona's Emmitt Smith ran like he was 25 instead of 35 against them in the
    season opener. In Week 2, Atlanta's Michael Vick played like Superman; he's
    looked like Clark Kent against everybody else. And last week, New Orleans'
    Aaron Stecker gashed them for 106 rushing yards. Not only was this a career
    high for Stecker - it was practically a career. He had never run for more than
    175 yards in a season in his four previous NFL campaigns.

    "We've just got to play better," Martz says. "I don't think it has anything to
    do with Larry (Marmie)."

    This obviously is a sensitive subject for Martz. He replaced one good friend
    (Lovie Smith) with another good friend (Marmie) as defensive coordinator after
    Smith became head coach in Chicago. In fact, it's such a sensitive subject that
    Martz refused to make Marmie available to be interviewed for this article.

    Marmie's hiring in St. Louis drew some criticism because of the
    less-than-stellar performance by the Arizona Cardinals' defense during his four
    seasons there as defensive coordinator.

    "Whatever problems we have right now on defense, we certainly ended up last
    season with," Martz said. "It's not like we were playing such great defense at
    the end of the season last year. When you look at the rushes and the yards per
    rush, that's a big concern, whoever the coordinator is.

    "We've just got to do a better job of tackling at the point. We've had some
    missed tackles that have ended up in big plays. You can't have that. And that
    has nothing to do with who's coaching the defense. Or the system. Or anything
    else. We've just got to make a play, and make a tackle."

    Not stepping up

    The Rams haven't been swarming to the ball, one of their trademarks under
    Smith. So when somebody misses a tackle, there's no one there to bail him out.
    Or no one there to jar the ball loose for a fumble after the initial tackler
    -10-03-2004, 12:43 AM
  • RamWraith
    Inside Slant
    by RamWraith
    It's clear the Rams face a crossroad in their season Sunday against Seattle. The team enters the game one game behind the Seahawks in the NFC West. The implications are clear.

    A victory would create a tie in the division at 5-4, but the Rams would win any tiebreaker because of sweeping the season series. A loss would put the Rams two games behind Seattle as they would begin a stretch of playing four of five games on the road.

    Asked whether the Rams can turn things in the opposite direction after two straight losses in which they've allowed 71 points, safety Adam Archuleta said, "You have to. As long as you are a professional and you care about your sport and you care about what you are doing, absolutely. This season isn't over, we just have to get better and win games. We have to get on a run. We have a big game coming up. It's a must-win game. We just look forward to winning that game.

    "I don't think there is pressure because we lost two in a row. There is just pressure to play well and play like we know that we can and stop making the mental mistakes. I think that the effort is good regardless of what happened (against New England) and what happened in Miami. We just have to go out and beat Seattle."

    While the defense continues to struggle, the special teams often put them in difficult positions. While quarterback Marc Bulger is on pace to pass for more than 4,500 yards, critical mistakes on offense have killed drives and also led to bad field position.

    But against Seattle, the Rams know they have to come together to stop running back Shaun Alexander.

    Commenting on the run defense, coach Mike Martz said, "That is one of the issues that we needed to address. I think I have a pretty good understanding, looking at the tape, what we need to do. I talked to (defensive coordinator) Larry (Marmie) for quite some time this morning (Monday). I talked to our players. I have a pretty good feel for it."

    Earlier in the season, the biggest problem in run defense was over-pursuing and players losing their gap discipline. Martz said that wasn't the focal point against New England.

    "That's not the issue right now," Martz said. "The results are the same, just a different scenario."

    Overall, the linebacker performance has been poor. Middle linebacker Robert Thomas hasn't been able to stay healthy, so Brandon Chillar and Trev Faulk have had starts there. Chillar has also suffered some injuries, while Tommy Polley has been inconsistent. Only Pisa Tinoisamoa has been solid, but he also has been guilty of mistakes.

    Martz hinted at changes, but with the present players on the roster, it's difficult to see from where help could come. The best hope is that the offense scores enough to alleviate the pressure on the defense.

    SERIES HISTORY: 13th meeting....
    -11-12-2004, 06:30 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams Getting Defensive
    by RamWraith
    Monday, September 19, 2005

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    It has been quite awhile since the Rams last put a game in the hands of their defense, but that’s exactly what they did Sunday afternoon in Arizona.

    And to the credit of that revamped St. Louis defense, it did the job when it needed to. The Rams held the Cardinals to four field goals and were able to keep Arizona from scoring on a last-minute drive to preserve a 17-12 victory at Sun Devil Stadium.

    “It would have been nice to hold them to three or four and out in their territory and let our offense take a knee,” strong safety Adam Archuleta said. “But this was a good test for our defense. I think we kind of needed that to get some confidence. I’m glad it ended up this way.”

    There have been few Rams’ teams in recent years that anyone would rather see the defense on the field than the offense with the game on the line. Of course, anytime a team has a lead it would prefer to have its offense on the field to run the clock out, but it’s a change of pace to hear one of the Rams’ defensive leaders saying that they wanted to be on the field.

    That is the type of change that could pay huge dividends down the road for a team that has spent the better part of the past year searching for a defensive identity. That’s not to say that the Rams boast the best defense in the league, but after a couple of weeks, it certainly stacks up among the top half of the league.

    With a pair of Monday night games still to be played, the Rams sit at No. 15 in total defense, allowing 298 yards per game. But a further glimpse at where those yards have come from would seem to indicate that St. Louis has been even better in those two games against San Francisco and Arizona.

    The ***** boosted their yardage total with the help of a number of trick plays, including a pass by receiver Arnaz Battle that netted 24 yards. The Cardinals had modest numbers in Sunday’s game until they were able to post almost 80 yards on their frantic, last-minute drive.

    But the biggest difference so far for the Rams defense resides in the front seven, where the defensive line is getting push on passing downs and eating up blockers on run plays and the improved linebacker crew is hitting its fills and punishing the running backs.

    Before Monday night’s games, the Rams ranked fourth in the league against the run, allowing just 58 yards per game on the ground. Some might scream that is because St. Louis has yet to play a premier back the likes of Shaun Alexander or Priest Holmes, but the fact is that the Rams still have to do their job against the run, something that was difficult a season ago.

    “Who knows?” coach Mike Martz said. “You still have to play, and if you are good, you still have to make those plays. They are competing very well, and they are getting better every week. So,...
    -09-20-2005, 06:14 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams hope to find a tonic in Houston
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas

    HOUSTON — They are a team that doesn't seem to be playing with much confidence or intensity.

    Following an embarrassing 38-28 loss to Arizona, they stand 4-6 and with next to no hope of making the playoffs. Another round of injuries has left them perilously thin in the secondary and the offensive line.

    In a season of discord, featuring one controversy after another, there's a distinct possibility they will have a new coach next season - at least those players who will be back themselves in 2006.

    No, it's not much fun being a Ram these days.

    "Definitely, adversity has come our way," strong safety Adam Archuleta said. "We don't seem to be able to get over it. Sooner or later, you think you're going to look up and the clouds are going to part, and you're going to see that sunshine. So far, we haven't seen it."

    The most puzzling thing is that this isn't 2002, when the Rams finished 7-9. Or 1998, when the club finished 4-12. The talent is better than that; the talent is good enough to be 10-6 or 11-5. But for a variety of reasons, it isn't happening for the 2005 Rams, who at the moment appear destined for only their second losing season since '98.

    "I'm telling you, this is the most talented team I've been around since the Super Bowl years," defensive end Leonard Little said. "But that means a hill of beans if you don't go out there and execute, and do the things you need to do on the field.

    "We haven't been executing like we should, and we've had a lot of mental breakdowns and stuff like that. That's been killing us in games."

    Little has been slowed by an ankle problem, hindering a pass rush that has registered only one sack in the past two games. Archuleta is one of three starters in the secondary who will miss Sunday's game against the Houston Texans because of injuries.

    And, oh by the way, the Rams will be without injured quarterback Marc Bulger (shoulder), who just happens to be the top-rated passer in the NFC at the moment.

    "It's tough," defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson said. "I don't like it. I came into the year thinking that No. 10 (Bulger) had a chance to be MVP of the league.

    "I believe that. Obviously, he's been hurt a couple times, and that's a killer to our team. You don't like to go in games without all your guns. We need him. But unfortunately he won't be there. So we're going to rally with who we've got. And if it takes everybody else to raise their game up, raise their level of responsibility up, put a little extra weight on their shoulders, that's what we'll do."

    The Texans, who have the NFL's worst record at 1-9, certainly provide a golden opportunity for the Rams to end their two-game losing skid and feel...
    -11-26-2005, 08:11 PM