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It's come to pass: Martz discovers a running game

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  • It's come to pass: Martz discovers a running game

    By Bryan Burwell
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    Just before he walked out of the cramped visitors' locker room inside Monster Park Sunday night with a much-needed victory in his pocket, Marc Bulger paused for a moment to recognize the obvious. Something extra had happened on that perfectly manicured grass field of old Candlestick Park, something even more substantial than a mere victory over the pitiful *****.

    "I think we got a little credibility back," Bulger said.

    With a national television audience watching - and probably anticipating (perhaps even hoping for) a big, fat embarrassing Rams meltdown - the Rams had reclaimed no small measure of personal, professional and local pride. The pro football world is filled with all sorts of buttoned-down, less adventurous folks would have liked nothing more than to have seen Bulger's audacious boss Mike Martz get a little comeuppance on national TV.

    But within a blink of an eye, the Rams ruined all those plans. They took complete control of the night, broke out to an emphatic 24-0 first-half lead and gave the unbeaten Seahawks something substantial to ponder as they prepare for next weekend's big showdown in Seattle.

    At last tossing aside his pass-happy, run-thin philosophy, Martz put together the sort of well-balanced, clock-controlling attack that might be able to put the 2-2 Rams back into serious contention against Seattle (3-0) in the NFC West.

    The Rams did everything a good and smart football team is supposed to do in plundering the *****. Martz pragmatically used every one of his offensive weapons of mass destruction. He called running plays when the ***** were looking for passes. He called passes when they were stacking up to stop the run. Instead of fast and furious, he gave us choice blend. Instead of stubborn insistence on guns blazing, he chose a more surgical approach.

    But I'm a pessimist by nature. And even as I kept watching Marshall Faulk galloping all over Monster Park, a little voice in my head kept whispering:

    "How long will this last?"

    We've been to this party too many times before. We all know that just as often as he takes two steps forward, he's just as likely to take three steps back with a few one-dimensional air shows like he did against the Falcons and Saints.

    So again, that's why I keep hearing that little voice.

    "How long will this last?"

    So as a public service, I think it is important that we again bombard Mad (or is it Methodical?) Mike with some valuable numbers to look at in case he gets that predictable urge to stray from running the ball, particularly when some manic defensive coordinator plots out endless strategies to take Faulk out of the game.

    Remember Mike, statistics don't lie. Putting the ball in Faulk's hands is still the surest way to victory. If I've written it once, I've written it 100 times, the Rams simply don't lose football games when he gets the bulk of the workload (26-0 when Faulk gains 100 yards or more on the ground).

    We know Martz knows this already. It's been a part of the weekly game notes for the past two seasons. But with an assist from USA Today, I can now quote even more numbers for Martz to consider whenever he starts to lean toward those "fast and furious" instincts.

    Look at this four-year NFL offensive trend:

    Winning percentage for NFL teams with 100-yard rushers: 2001: .766 (95-29); 2002: .706 (96-40); 2003: .709 (107-44); 2004: .718 (28-11).

    Winning percentage with 100-yard receivers: 2001: .591 (94- 65); 2002: .598 (101-68); 2003: .567 (85-65); 2004: .385 (15-24).

    Winning percentage with 300-yard passers: 2001: .486 (35-37); 2002: .570 (45-34); 2003: .517 (31-29); 2004: .389 (7-11).

    It's not even close. Clip and save, Mike. Clip and save.

Related Topics


  • RamDez
    Sunday's victory shows importance of running game
    by RamDez
    Sunday's victory shows importance of running game
    By Bryan Burwell
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Monday, Sep. 13 2004

    Of all the days on a pro football calendar, Mondays are usually the best
    indicator of the delicate, almost razor-thin line that separates winners from
    losers in the National Football League. All across the NFL map yesterday, 32
    head coaches stood in front of banks of microphones for their Monday
    post-mortems, with the losers offering begrudging excuses and regrets and the
    winners tossing around compliments free and easy.

    It hardly mattered how many mistakes were made, how many yards were gained, how
    many tackles were missed or made. The harsh reality of the NFL is based on one
    simple fact of life:

    Did you win or lose on Sunday?

    On Monday afternoon at Rams Park, Mike Martz was one of the lucky ones,
    comforted in the knowledge that winning cures all the evils of the somewhat
    bumpy road his Rams encountered in their 17-10 season-opening victory over the
    Arizona Cardinals. Martz knew he could stand there at his afternoon news
    conference armed with the only statistic that mattered now that the race for
    Paul Tagilabue's silver Super Bowl trophy has begun.

    The Rams won.

    They are 1-0 and everything about this Monday just felt a lot better than last
    year's Day After Opening Day. Remember how after last year's 23-13 loss to the
    New York Giants, Martz spent most of that uncomfortable day trying to explain
    why Kurt Warner's head was all scrambled, and why Marc Bulger was now going to
    take the starting QB job after Warner's six-fumble disaster in the Meadowlands?

    Yet oddly enough, there are still some odd similarities between those two
    Mondays, because there's just as much uncertainty about exactly where this
    young season is headed as there was this time last year.

    Sure, there are plenty of positive signs, such as an offense that showed an
    impressive mean streak with a dominant running attack, and a defense that
    limited the Arizona offense to only 10 points. But there are still just as many
    question marks about a team still too prone to turnovers and so prone to
    injuries that you have no idea how long any of this good stuff will last.

    But right now, being 1-0 is still a lot better than being 0-1. So Martz smartly
    accentuated all the positives of his undefeated patchwork Rams. And the thing
    that he accentuated the most - and with good reason - was his surprisingly
    productive offensive line, whose nickname ought to be The Musical Chairs for
    all the position switches that these guys have gone through over the past few
    weeks because of injuries, retirements and contract squabbles.

    "They haven't missed a beat,"
    -09-15-2004, 11:10 PM
  • txramsfan
    Chris Mortensen gets it....from
    by txramsfan
    Tuesday, October 12, 2004
    Criticizing is easy; winning isn't

    By Chris Mortensen
    ESPN Insider

    Before I wax a lot about Mike Martz and a little about Marty Schottenheimer, let me concede something.

    One of the flaws in my game, so to speak, is that I give head coaches a lot of rope in analyzing their performance on the sidelines. There are reasons for that. My career goal was to be a coach my high school coaches were great influences on me. I ended up in journalism, and at one stretch I spent 10 years covering major league baseball only to switch to the NFL on a full-time basis 20 years ago. I immersed myself in the offices and film rooms of coaches who were willing to re-teach me the game of football. Even then, the constant evolution of the sport leaves me as a remedial observer.

    I have a great appreciation and respect for the amount of time coaches pour into their jobs. I understood perfectly what former Saints coach Jim Mora meant when he told the New Orleans media, "You think you know, but you don't know." It was blunt but true. The game is never as simple as we think. The quarterback isn't at fault for half his interceptions. The offensive line isn't guilty of about half the sacks you see. That cornerback you think blew coverage may have been doing exactly what he had been taught.

    So only reluctantly will you see me criticize coaches, and seldom will you see me attack a coach, although as Giants owner Wellington Mara reminds me, "The great thing about our profession is that every (coach) ultimately grades his own performance by his record." Yes, the bottom line is winning.

    That brings me to Martz and Schottenheimer, two coaches who have been slapped around in recent years. If I I trusted everything I heard on TV, heard on the radio and read in print, you would think Martz and Schottenheimer are two of the biggest buffoons in the history of football. This follows the same line more than a month ago when our media world was demonizing Giants coach Tom Coughlin.

    Martz and Schottenheimer are different in many respects. Schottenheimer is a great fundamentalist coach, and Martz is, well, he's just out there, on the edge so much so that former ***** coach Bill Walsh has said, "You can't emulate what Martz does."

    I know they should never be characterized as buffoons. These guys have won a lot of football games.

    * * *

    Has anyone noticed what Martz has done for the St. Louis Rams? True, his team is only 3-2, which makes him 46-22 during the regular season since he became the Rams' head coach in 2000. And, I'm sorry, but I have a difficult time not crediting him with 13 more wins and a Super Bowl championship in 1999, when the Rams won it all with Kurt...
    -10-12-2004, 01:33 PM
  • RamWraith
    Ingredients are ideally suited for Martz magic
    by RamWraith
    By Bernie Miklasz
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Friday, Jan. 07 2005

    SEATTLE - In the wild-card round of the NFC playoffs, wild-man head coach Mike
    Martz has a chance to create a masterpiece.

    Martz can put all of the regular-season controversies behind him, and remind
    everyone of how he made his name and reputation in the NFL. Martz will be in
    his element, working at what he does best: conceptualizing an offensive
    strategy, identifying the weak spots on the defense, getting the ball into the
    hands of his playmakers and game-breakers, and attacking.

    All of the essentials are in place for the Rams to do serious damage to the
    Seattle Seahawks. Martz has one of the NFL's hottest quarterbacks in Marc
    Bulger. He has an improving offensive line. He has four outstanding receivers
    in Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald. Martz has a rookie
    running back (Steven Jackson) who runs like an old pro, and an old pro back
    (Marshall Faulk) who still has the energy of a rookie.

    And Martz gets to turn his offense loose to attack one of the league's most
    vulnerable defenses. Seattle ranked 26th among 32 teams in yards allowed. The
    Seahawks were 23rd against the pass, 24th in defending the run, 27th in sack
    percentage, 27th in stopping third-down plays. In the last six games, Seattle's
    defense has been plundered for an average of 394 yards and 31.3 points. And
    Martz knows where to aim his arrows, having faced this Seattle defense twice
    this season.

    But this isn't just about the Seahawks' thin defense. It's more about the Rams
    offense, and how it's coalescing at an ideal time. After a period of
    stagnation, the offense stirred in the last two games. The Rams powered up
    against Philadelphia with a bullish running game, then scorched the New York
    Jets with every variety of pass.

    This Rams offense isn't at the same level as the "Greatest Show" era
    (1999-2001) but it's establishing an identity.

    "The right thing for me to say is, well, I think we have a nice future and it's
    going to work out real good, but I'm thrilled," Martz said. "I'm really and
    truly thrilled with this group. ... I've said this before, but I'm so excited
    for this organization and this city. We are not where we can be, but sometimes
    at night, I get goose bumps just thinking about what these guys are capable of.
    It's thrilling for me and I can't wait to continue this for a long time."

    The offense is amped for several reasons. Bulger has played assertively after
    returning from injury. Jackson's increased role gives the Rams the kind of
    wallop they've lacked on the ground since moving to St. Louis,...
    -01-07-2005, 05:52 PM
  • RamWraith
    Martz does things his own way--ESPN Insider
    by RamWraith
    By Jeff Reynolds
    Pro Football Weekly

    ST. LOUIS It's June 1, and the temperature, climbing above 85 degrees on a cloudless day at a tucked-away corporate park west of St. Louis, creates the slightest haze outside the oversized windows at Rams Park.

    The blinds, tilted upward in his second-floor corner office, rob Rams head coach Mike Martz of a view of an empty practice field and a justifiably quiet blacktop parking lot.

    Even in a navy and gray floral printed polo shirt embroidered with the logo of a past golf tournament, Martz portrays perfectly the image of a studious football coach. Angling toward the front edge of his mahogany U-shaped desk, Martz shifts an iced Diet Pepsi to the right to uncover a bound, double-sided printout. The standard white, 8-by-11-inch paper stands about two inches thick, lying flat in Martz's outstretched hand.

    "Third-down plays we had ready and never called," Martz says, a sense of dissatisfaction in his voice. "We don't have a playbook. We have a book with the system in it as described with some of the base offense. If you put everything together on that top rack , that is about half of what we do. It's never-ending."

    Mike Martz has a 51-29 regular-season record as the Rams head coach.This is Mike Martz, the subject of justifiably passionate debate among football fans who can't agree whether he's brilliant, smarmy, stubborn, ignorant or some combination of those traits. The man often portrayed as a prima-donna dictator displays only pictures of his dogs, Rocky and Buddy, and his family. There is no Super Bowl ring, no glamorous display of career achievements. Nothing that says Martz is the extroverted narcissist many assume him to be.

    He is asked about defensive coordinator Larry Marmie, who has been ridiculed frequently since replacing Lovie Smith, who went on to become the head coach of the Bears.

    "Criticism, most often, is without understanding," Martz says in a persuasive tone, sounding like an attorney during closing arguments.

    He's not back on his heels, but there is evidence in his irritatingly relaxed posture that Martz has been here before.

    Many things make Martz an easy target. For one, his offense sits with some traditionalists the 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust generation as well as poetry does with a butcher. He also refuses to bother with self-defense, leading second-guessers to keep guessing. Take Super Bowl XXXVI for example, a loss that one confidant says still "haunts him" as has been widely speculated.

    Smith, who worked with Martz at Arizona State, was on the St. Louis coaching staff from 2001-03 and called that game "the toughest loss I've ever been a part of."

    The Rams lost to the Patriots 20-17 on a last-second field goal, and following the game, the Rams'...
    -06-30-2005, 01:01 PM
  • RamWraith
    Give the coach his due, he had the Rams ready
    by RamWraith
    By Bryan Burwell
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    Because he possesses an audacious and occasionally brazen coaching style that is equal parts hair raising and hair pulling, Mike Martz tends to be a rather polarizing fellow. There is no other head coach in the NFL whose every move is as scrutinized or criticized as much as Mad Mike. There's no other sideline boss in pro football who's so roundly imitated or so routinely denigrated as the Rams' head coach.

    Truly there have been a few too many Sundays when the hair pulling overwhelms the hair-raising nature of his football philosophies. But sometimes, the bashing needs to take a rest. Sometimes you just must give the man his due.

    This is one of those times. Criticize him next week. Save the hand wringing over his fast-and-furious approach to football for some other day, too. Just hold your tongue, put down your angry placards and stop with the irrational e-mails, because Sunday -all week, really - Mad Mike coached his rear end off.

    As he walked off the field at Edward Jones Dome after the Rams' inspiring (and inspired) 23-12 victory over the fraudulent Seattle Seahawks, our favorite gray-haired football eccentric was a man loving life. Mad Mike blew kisses to a few admiring fans, pumped his fist in the air and smiled broadly as he trotted gleefully through the end zone tunnel toward the locker room to the cheers of 66,044 witnesses to one of the most significant regular-season victories of his career.

    "I was just excited about getting these guys passionate again," Martz said. "If you don't coach passion every day, they start to slide."

    Well, Martz surely had done his job. He'd just coached a near-perfect game and a near-perfect week. No one mumbled about any failed strategies or any odd clock management. Heck, even when he threw two red flags to challenge a few officials' calls, the only booing that this delirious mob spit out was directed at the zebras.

    For the past six days, Martz had turned this week into a high-energy referendum on his ability to motivate a team that was on the verge of floundering into mediocrity. He had ranted and raged and challenged his players to step up and make plays and stop making excuses. It is always risky business when a coach goes public like this, because if the Rams had lost, it would have given Martz the appearance of nothing more than a desperate man.

    But the scoreboard glowed with good news. Rams 23, Seahawks 12, and he looked like a wise strategist. Martz kept talking about players making plays and that's precisely what they did as they once again exposed these phony-baloney pretenders from Seattle and reminded them who still has a firm grip on the supremacy of the NFC West.

    But if this was a game about players making plays as Martz kept telling us it would be, ultimately it was...
    -11-16-2004, 05:41 AM