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  • St. Louis Braces for Challenge

    http://www.stlouisrams.com/article/46233/
    St. Louis Braces for Challenge
    Wednesday, October 6, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    It might seem like the same old song and dance, but this it isn’t. Every week players and coaches alike say that week’s game is the most important.

    While it might be essential to always focus on the task at hand, it isn’t always true that one game doesn’t mean more than another. For instance, the Rams’ game against San Francisco was important because they were playing their biggest rivals and a loss would have dropped them to 1-3.

    Perhaps no game, though, has more implications than the game St. Louis began preparing for with practice Wednesday. The Rams travel to Seattle for a 3:15 p.m. game against the Seahawks on Sunday. At stake is a lot.

    St. Louis is the defending NFC West Division champions and will be until someone takes it away. Seattle is the biggest threat to the crown with a 3-0 record and the Rams at 2-2, while the rest of the division wallows in losing records. A Seahawks’ win will put them another game up in the loss column and make it difficult for St. Louis to recover. The teams’ burgeoning rivalry will also be rehashed as they have emerged as the class of the division in the past two years.

    Rams’ coach Mike Martz said he isn’t surprised by the Seahawks’ position as one of the favorites.

    “In our division at this point, they really are the team to beat,” Martz said. “They are playing so well in all phases. They have the top defense in the league at this point. This is going to be fun; it’s a real challenge. It’s a division game with a lot of ramifications… this is a playoff atmosphere. We look forward to it.”

    After an important win against the ***** on Sunday night, the Rams enter this week with a lot of confidence. They proved they could run and pass with equal aplomb and the defense made many strides. Even the special teams got an important shot in the arm from linebacker Trev Faulk. With all of those things working for it, St. Louis has an opportunity to earn its biggest, by far, win of the young season.

    Working against the Rams, though, is the game Seattle is not coming off. The Seahawks likewise pounded the ***** 34-0, but then had a bye week. That bye allowed Seattle an extra week to gameplan and prepare for St. Louis’ visit.
    Martz said this challenge is one of the things he loves about the game.

    “This is a good football team,” Martz said. “It should be a heck of a game, a heck of a matchup for us.”

    INJURY REPORT: The Rams escaped Sunday night’s game relatively unscathed. Left guard Scott Tercero, who made his first career start, was the only injury of note, according to Martz.

    Tercero fractured his hand, but should be ready to play against Seattle. He sat out Wednesday’s practice because of the injury, but is listed as probable.

    Strong safety Adam Archuleta continues to battle back problems and will probably play, but not start against Seattle. Rich Coady started against the ***** in Archuleta’s place and Martz said Coady will do so again this week. Coady played well in Archuleta’s stead, racking up 10 tackles and earning the team’s defensive player of the week honors.

    Also sitting out Wednesday’s practice were cornerback Travis Fisher (out-broken forearm), defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy (out- broken foot), and guard Chris Dishman (questionable- knee), Tercero and linebacker Robert Thomas (probable- ankle).

    Linebacker Tony Newson (ankle) is also questionable. Running backs Arlen Harris (hamstring) and Marshall Faulk (shoulder) and cornerback DeJuan Groce (knee) are also listed as probable.

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  • RamWraith
    Rams, Bucs No Strangers to Monday Night
    by RamWraith
    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    In a season that thus far has seemed to reunite the Rams with former players and coaches, there has also been a rekindling of many popular rivalries. Aside from the usual division rivals, St. Louis has played former division rivals Atlanta and New Orleans.

    Now, the Rams are set to square off against another of their (former) rivals. Tampa Bay cruises into town for Monday Night Football at the Edward Jones Dome. This game might not have the history of the rivalry with San Francisco or the pure angst of the New Orleans’ battles, but it certainly has enough ingredients to make it a big game for both sides.

    St. Louis is riding an emotional high after an astonishing comeback against Seattle on Sunday. That win improved the Rams to 3-2 and put them in a good position to make it to the bye week with a three-game winning streak.

    Rams’ coach Mike Martz said the team can’t let an emotional win affect it any more than it could if the comeback had happened to the Rams.

    “It goes both ways,” Martz said. “This thing you put to bed, it’s over with,” Martz said. “We’re moving on. (It’s) just like a heartbreaking loss, you have got to really focus on this week, otherwise you won’t be at your best.”

    Tampa Bay is coming off its first win of the season, beating New Orleans on Sunday to go to 1-4 on the year.

    The Buccaneers and Rams don’t have a long history, but in recent years, it has been a matchup of two elite teams usually squaring off in an important game.

    St. Louis holds the overall edge, with an 8-6 record against Tampa Bay, but the Buccaneers have won the past four regular season meetings. Despite all of that, the Rams won the teams’ biggest matchup in 1999. That game was for the NFC Championship and St. Louis prevailed 11-6 on receiver Ricky Proehl’s late touchdown catch. This is the fourth game between the teams on Monday Night Football since 2000.

    Martz said he loves games like this.

    “This is kind of why you coach and why you play, for games like this,” Martz said. “It’s good for the National Football League; I look forward to it.”

    INJURY REPORT: Cornerback Travis Fisher and defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy are one step closer to making their return from injury. Fisher broke his forearm against Kansas City in the second preseason game on Aug. 23 and Kennedy broke his foot on Aug. 8.

    Both players began practicing again Thursday after spending the past few weeks starting to run again. Martz said they will be limited in activities and kept from contact, but will participate in some drills. Fisher and Kennedy are listed as out for the Tampa Bay game.

    Defensive end Tyoka Jackson, who injured his hamstring against Seattle on Sunday, is listed as doubtful, but could play Monday.

    Guard Chris Dishman (knee) linebacker Trev Faulk...
    -10-15-2004, 05:18 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, 05:30 AM
  • RamWraith
    Versatile Coady proves valuable for defense
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    10/07/2004


    Two decades ago, the Cardinals had a "secret weapon" in Jose Oquendo, so dubbed by broadcaster Mike Shannon for his ability to fill in effectively at several positions. Now the Rams have their own version.

    Utilityman Rich Coady will make his third start in a row Sunday when the Rams (2-2) travel to Seattle to face the NFC West-leading Seahawks (3-0). For the second week in succession, he'll replace ailing Adam Archuleta (back) at strong safety. Two weeks ago, Coady filled in at free safety for Aeneas Williams, who made a one-week return to cornerback.

    "We're fortunate to have" Coady, coach Mike Martz said. "This is a message to all the other players. It's like Marc Bulger: He's the third quarterback (in 2002), and all of a sudden by midseason he's starting. Those guys, when they weren't playing, they weren't wasting time."

    Coady, a Texas A&M product who had a total of six starts in his five previous NFL seasons, gets most of his playing time with the Rams as an extra defensive back in the nickel and dime alignments. But he said he's learned to gear his readiness for all possibilities.

    "Every week I go in and I prepare like I'm going to start. I go through the film like I'm going to start," he explained. "So whether the coach tells me that I'm going to start on Monday for the following Sunday's game or five minutes before the game, it's not going to change how I prepare."

    Whatever system he uses, it seems to work: Coady was named the Rams' defensive player of the week after collecting 10 tackles, two pass break-ups, a forced fumble and a quarterback hit in Sunday's 24-14 victory in San Francisco.

    "I think everyone on defense played well. And when you get all 11 guys playing well, it makes it easier," Coady said. "A lot of the stuff that I did well was a direct result of everyone else being in their gap and doing what they were supposed to do."

    The task looming for the Rams this week should be considerably stiffer. Whereas the winless ***** are near the bottom of the league in several statistical categories, Seattle is hovering near the top, particularly on defense. The Seahawks are No. 1 in total defense (242.3 yards a game) and scoring defense (4.3 points). Plus, they're rested after a bye week.

    "When you watch them on film, they really play mistake-free football," Coady said. "They don't turn the ball over, they don't have assignment gaps, they're not giving up free sacks, they're not running the wrong routes. ... You don't go 3-0 in this league unless you're doing something right, and they're doing everything right."

    Groce is ready

    With the Rams short of defensive backs Sunday, the temptation to rush cornerback DeJuan Groce...
    -10-08-2004, 07:05 PM
  • 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
    Rams Look to Continue Post-Bye Success
    by RamWraith
    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    It might feel like forever since the Rams last played, but in reality, it has been just a little more than a week since they lost to Miami.

    Heading into the bye week it would have been easy to stew about the loss that dropped St. Louis to 4-3, but it was more important to look ahead than back. Like any disappointing loss, the Dolphins game was hard to swallow, but there was no time to rest for the Rams’ coaching staff with the task at hand this weekend.

    As has been his custom, coach Mike Martz gave the players the week off and kept the staff working during the off time. The players were required to do some weight lifting and conditioning at least three times, but otherwise, they had the rest of the week as off time.

    Martz said the plan has been effective in years past, so he wanted to stick by it.

    “All of our byes have kind of fallen around the seventh, eighth, ninth week and when you look at camp and the preseason and the first half of the season, their bodies kind of need a break,” Martz said. “We have gone into bye with some pretty good records, undefeated at times, but still they need that body a chance to catch up. It seems to work pretty good.”

    It has indeed, worked well for the Rams, who are 4-0 under Martz in games after a bye week. Last year, St. Louis came off the bye week with a convincing 36-0 win against Atlanta on Monday Night Football. St. Louis is going to need some more of that magic this weekend.

    The Rams get a visit from defending world champion New England on Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome. The game certainly lost a little luster because of the Patriots’ loss to Pittsburgh yesterday, but it still carries a lot of weight for both teams for many reasons.

    Primarily, the Rams want to get back on track after the loss to the Dolphins. Heading into Miami, that track appeared to be the fast one, headed straight for another NFC West Division championship. A prime opportunity to expand their lead was missed when the Rams had trouble stopping Miami from making big plays and making any big plays of their own. St. Louis remains undefeated in the division and is still the leader in the clubhouse.

    Martz said winning the division is at the top of the priority list.

    “For us right now, where we are, we are struggling to stay on top of the division any way we can,” Martz said. “That’s the most important thing. Obviously, the Patriots and the history we have with them is kind of special. We are just trying to get in and we are going the right direction, so we are going to try to stay on top of it.”

    Now, St. Louis faces its tallest order yet in the form of the Patriots. The last time these two teams met, the stakes were much larger in Super Bowl XXXVI. The Patriots won their first of two world titles in the past three years on kicker Adam Vinatieri’s...
    -11-03-2004, 05:19 AM
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