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Defense Makes Statement

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  • Defense Makes Statement

    Monday, October 4, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    SAN FRANCISCO- With complaints in St. Louis ranging from play-calling to the offensive line, the Rams’ defense has, perhaps, been the most maligned.

    Entering Sunday night’s game against the *****, the group had been pushed around by the likes of New Orleans’ running back Aaron Stecker. The questions swirled around the unit like a tornado. Why couldn’t they stop the run, some cried. How come they can’t get a turnover, others inquired.

    Consider those questions answered. Every member of the defense emphasized every day that nobody wanted to create big plays more than they did. Defensive end Leonard Little even went as far as taking the blame for the loss to the Saints, claiming that he needs to carry the defense at times.

    It was no coincidence then that Little came up with the ball when the Rams finally got that long-awaited takeaway. With 1:45 to go in the first quarter, linebacker Tommy Polley broke through the offensive line and pried the ball loose from San Francisco quarterback Tim Rattay as he brought his arm backward. The ball bounced forward where Little caught sight of it and made his move. With a golden opportunity to get that first turnover, Little said he wasn’t about to let it get away.

    “We work on scooping and scoring every day in practice, so I just wanted to pick the ball up first,” Little said. “I just picked it up, but the first objective was to get that possession and that first turnover.”

    The Rams’ sackmaster spent most of his evening moving all over the field, lining up on both sides of the line and generally wreaking havoc in the *****’ backfield.

    He said he doesn’t worry about where he plays as long as he is making things happen.

    “I don’t care, they can line me up at safety, I do not care,” Little said. “As long as the team wins and we keep getting on this roll.”

    Getting turnovers wasn’t the only goal for the Rams entering Sunday night’s game. The defense had been prone to allowing big running plays and was set on improving in that area. Defensive tackle Ryan Pickett insisted that his teammates were much better than they had shown in the first three games, but were waiting to break out.
    That problem appeared to be corrected, also. The Rams held San Francisco to 58 rushing yards and only 3.1 yards per carry. Running back Kevan Barlow gained just 42 yards on 15 carries.

    Little said that kind of effort was exactly what the defense was looking for.

    “Our main objective was trying to stop the run,” Little said. “We were able to do that pretty much tonight. We did a good job.”

    LONG-TIME LISTENERS: Cornerback Kevin Garrett and offensive lineman Scott Tercero made their first career regular season starts against San Francisco.

    Garrett started in place of DeJuan Groce, who has battled a sprained right knee. Coach Mike Martz said earlier this week that he expected Groce back, but Groce was not quite healthy enough to make the start. Garrett finished with three tackles and a pair of pass defenses.

    Garrett is in his second season out of Southern Methodist. He appeared in nine games in his rookie season.

    Tercero replaced Chris Dishman at left guard. Dishman missed practice all week with a sprained knee after he injured it in the first quarter of the Sept. 12 game against New Orleans. Tercero was solid against the Saints and again Sunday night, helping pave the way to 360 total yards, 174 of which came on the ground.

    Tercero spent the final three weeks of the 2003 season on the active roster after spending the rest of the time on the practice squad.

    INJURY REPORT: More good news from Monster Park included the lack of injuries the Rams suffered. There were no substantial injuries. Receiver Torry Holt gave Rams’ fans a scare early in the game when he limped to the sidelines, but he returned shortly.

    The news was not so good for San Francisco on the injury front. Cornerback Mike Rumph stuck his arm out in front of a freight train known as Rams’ running back Steven Jackson. The result of the failed arm tackle was a broken arm. Rumph will probably miss serious time with the injury.

    INACTIVITY: In addition to Groce and Dishman, the other Rams’ inactives were: quarterback Jeff Smoker, cornerback Travis Fisher (broken forearm), linebacker Tony Newson (ankle), guards Blaine Saipaia and Darnell Alford (coaches decision), and defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy (foot).

  • #2
    Re: Defense Makes Statement

    A half a game a statement does not make. They let the Whiners dictate the 2nd half tempo. One will not learn how to play 60 minutes if one doesn't play the full 60 minutes. Why not punish the Whiners unmercifully? Coasting is a bad habit not worth picking up.


    • #3
      Re: Defense Makes Statement

      I will be more supportive once the Ram's Defense makes a statement against an upper echelon team. I hope they can make that statement this weekend. I am optimistic - however.


      • #4
        Re: Defense Makes Statement

        I think the Rams were using this game to A) hide whatever Martz is dreaming offensively and B) let other teams know that the defense for the Rams is evolving and will constantly try to get better. Little playing the monster screws up O lines blocking schemes. Little played LB in college, and was moved to the D line very successfully (thanks Martz, great call there). This gives the Rams the chance to possibly play as close to a 3-4 as possible to utilize their speed.


        • #5
          Re: Defense Makes Statement

          What statement was sent by their play against the 9ers? They won a game that they should have won, but weren't very convincing in the process IMO.


          • #6
            Re: Defense Makes Statement

            Originally posted by akseahawkfan
            What statement was sent by their play against the 9ers?
            Game's on.


            • #7
              Re: Defense Makes Statement

              Originally posted by adarian_too
              Game's on.
              As the warrior adarian-too shows the enemy the color of his blade.


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              • RamWraith
                Run Defense Focuses on Discipline
                by RamWraith
                Thursday, September 30, 2004

                By Nick Wagoner
                Staff Writer

                The Rams’ defense isn’t exactly getting a break when it lines up opposite San Francisco running back Kevan Barlow. It will, however, get some relief with Tim Rattay or Ken Dorsey at quarterback.

                The appearance of one or both of those quarterbacks in the *****’ backfield is a welcome change to the mobile quarterbacks St. Louis has faced in each of the past two weeks.

                Atlanta’s Michael Vick rolled up 109 rushing yards and New Orleans’ Aaron Brooks, Vick’s second cousin put up 27 yards on five carries, including a 12-yard run in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal. Those quarterbacks hurt the Rams with their arms, also, combining for 495 yards through the air.

                The Vick family tree does not extend its branches to San Francisco and for that, defensive tackle Ryan Pickett is thankful.

                “That’s like a gift,” Pickett said. “We are happy about that. We’re not worried about the running as much. Now we have a chance to get after a quarterback who is not as mobile as Brooks and Vick.”

                The run defense’s struggles haven’t been limited to attempting to stop the quarterbacks, though. Through three games, the Rams are allowing 164.7 rushing yards per game.

                The Saints’ Aaron Stecker had his first career 100-yard game last Sunday, rushing for 106 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown. His touchdown run spanned 42 yards. Take away that run and he is averaging about 3.7 yards per carry. That reveals what many already know to be true. The Rams’ run defense isn’t that bad, but has a tendency to allow big plays.

                Defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson confirmed.

                “I would say a lot of it is mental mistakes,” Jackson said. “When you have a one-gap defense, everybody has to be in their gap and we are all accountable. When one guy, myself or anybody else, gets out of their gap, it makes the defense look bad because there is no one else there to help you.

                “You have to go out and execute what you are supposed to do. When you make mistakes, you get exposed by good teams and we have played three good teams. We beat one of them and made a ton of mistakes in the other two games and we lost because of that. If we cut the mistakes down, we will be fine.”

                The Rams’ defense is predicated on discipline and without it, a big play can happen at any moment. Likewise, if everybody on the unit stays disciplined, it will likely lead to a big play for the defense.

                St. Louis will spend a lot of practice time this week focusing on that obedience to stay home and fill the proper space on every play.

                Echoing the sentiments of his teammates, defensive end Leonard Little said this defense is all about focus.

                “We need to stay in our gaps,” Little said. “That’s the biggest thing with this defense, staying in our...
                -10-01-2004, 05:30 AM
              • RamWraith
                USA Today's Inside Slant
                by RamWraith
                The Rams weathered a storm with their win over San Francisco Sunday night, and now they head west again with a chance to make a statement against the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks are 3-0, ranked at the top of the league on defense and coming off their bye week.

                A win, and the Rams would be just one-half game behind Seattle. Lose, and the gap widens to 2.5 games. While the second half of Sunday's game plodded along, the Rams were able to show some different things throughout the game that could make Seattle's preparation a bit more vexing.

                The balance shown on offense against San Francisco wasn't as much about coach Mike Martz proving the critics wrong as it was about showing that the offense is capable of running or passing depending on the situation. And that the offensive line, while a work in progress, is coming together as a unit.

                Said Martz, about the line, "I mentioned last week that (in our) nine-on-seven drills, the offensive line has practiced as well as I have ever seen a group here practice. It was exciting to watch. So when we got into the game, we have always been pragmatic about things, that's our approach. You stand on the sidelines, you look and see that they are playing a soft cover-2, you start handing the ball off, and they start rolling pretty good. The offensive line took it upon themselves to make things happen, and they certainly did.

                "It's just like in the passing game, you hit guys and you keep going with it. You do whatever it takes to win. If you get rolling in one particular area, you'd like to mix the other in there. Our offensive line at this point allows us to do both, which is something we haven't had in a while. At this point our offensive line is playing as well as any that we've had. I'm very pleased with them."

                What Martz is also mixing in are other players. While running back Marshall Faulk had another 100-yard game and wide receiver Isaac Bruce had his fourth straight 100-yard receiving game, three players scored their first NFL touchdowns against the *****.

                In addition to some crushing blocks leading the way for Faulk, fullback Joey Goodspeed scored on a 2-yard run. Rookie running back Steven Jackson scored on a short run, while second-year wideout Shaun McDonald had a six-yard scoring play. While Dane Looker was the most-used third receiver last season because McDonald and Kevin Curtis were often injured, the latter duo is beginning to contribute more to the offense.

                "These are guys that we've been counting on" to contribute, Martz said. "This isn't the Isaac and Torry and Marshall Show. To be able to use all of those people is vital. They're integral parts of what you do offensively. It's very important. And it's hard on the (opposing) defense."

                Defensively, the Seahawks' offense will present more of a challenge to the Rams than San Francisco did, but...
                -10-07-2004, 02:02 PM
              • RamWraith
                Little playing Monster position
                by RamWraith
                Anyone catch Little lining up in the Monster Linebacker position, giving him a rage of gaps and dropping back into coverage. Basically giving us 4 linebackers and 3 down lineman.
                -10-04-2004, 06:06 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, 05:14 AM
              • 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, 05:38 AM