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  • Seattle test will tell us which way Rams are headed

    BY JEFF GORDON
    Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
    10/08/2004


    The Rams got better last week. They ran the ball, they stopped the run, the covered kicks, they won a division game on the road . . . all in all, it was a splendid Sunday night in San Francisco.

    But now we'll learn so much more about this team. Rams coach Mike Martz insists that the early turbulence was expected and that his team will continue improving as the season unfolds.

    The Seahawks will test that theory -- because they have all the tools to deliver the Rams a severe beating in Seattle.

    Here is what we'll be looking for over in this corner of cyberspace:


    * Can the Rams really stop the run?

    The Seahawks will pound running back Shaun Alexander into Larry Marmie's defensive unit, looking to set up play-action passing opportunities.

    The Rams got a handle on Kevan Barlow last Sunday in Frisco, but this will be a much greater challenge.

    "You need to try to keep their linemen off our linebackers with the defensive front," Martz observed during his Wednesday news conference. "It's like putting your finger in a leak in the dam, it will spring somewhere else."

    Like with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who is building on last season's progress.

    "All of a sudden he is pulling the ball out of Alexander's belly," Martz said, "and throwing it down the field. That's how they work."


    * Can the Rams really establish the run?

    The Niners are nothing special on defense and Martz made the point of punishing them with Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson. Will he still favor the run this week if Seattle has early success stopping it?

    The Seahawks have the league's third-ranked rush defense, so opening holes will be a chore -- especially with the Rams offensive line so banged up.

    We'll all monitor the play-calling closely. If Mad Mike abandons the run, the Seahawks have the personnel to get after quarterback Marc Bulger while making it difficult to connect on deep passing strikes. The Seahawks have an excellent secondary.

    So far, former Rams defensive end Grant Wistrom has been everything Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren hoped for. So far, Seattle's defensive line has been very disruptive.

    "Our defensive line, I'm not saying I'm surprised, but they put it together nicely," Holmgren told the St. Louis media during a conference call Wednesday. "We're playing a lot of folks in there. We drafted (Marcus) Tubbs in the first round. He's in there and he's a rookie. And Rashard Moore is a young guy, second-year player in there, and I'm pleased with how the defensive line is playing. They set the table for the linebackers and secondary."


    * Will Martz get Faulk out in space?

    The Seahawks linebackers aren't great. If ever Martz was going to throw lots of passes to Faulk releasing from the backfield, this would be the game.

    Faulk looked more like his old self against the Niners last week. Now Martz has an opportunity to get him lots of touches in different ways.


    * Finally, will the Rams play a clean game?

    Last Sunday they played nearly mistake-free football, avoiding the sorts of penalties, turnovers and kick coverage gaffes that led to their 1-2 start.

    If the Rams make lots of mistakes at Seattle, they will get blown out. If they can minimize their mishaps, then they will give their playmakers the opportunity to take their shot.

    This matchup provides an excellent test. Just where are the Rams these days? Are they moving back into playoff contention or are they headed south, as so many naysayers believe?

    By the end of the weekend, we'll have a much better read on this football team.

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  • RamDez
    Seattle test will tell us which way Rams are headed
    by RamDez
    Seattle test will tell us which way Rams are headed


    BY JEFF GORDON
    Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
    Friday, Oct. 08 2004

    The Rams got better last week. They ran the ball, they stopped the run, the
    covered kicks, they won a division game on the road . . . all in all, it was a
    splendid Sunday night in San Francisco.

    But now we’ll learn so much more about this team. Rams coach Mike Martz insists
    that the early turbulence was expected and that his team will continue
    improving as the season unfolds.

    The Seahawks will test that theory -- because they have all the tools to
    deliver the Rams a severe beating in Seattle.

    Here is what we’ll be looking for over in this corner of cyberspace:


    * Can the Rams really stop the run?

    The Seahawks will pound running back Shaun Alexander into Larry Marmie’s
    defensive unit, looking to set up play-action passing opportunities.

    The Rams got a handle on Kevan Barlow last Sunday in Frisco, but this will be a
    much greater challenge.

    “You need to try to keep their linemen off our linebackers with the defensive
    front,” Martz observed during his Wednesday news conference. “It’s like putting
    your finger in a leak in the dam, it will spring somewhere else.”

    Like with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who is building on last season’s
    progress.

    “All of a sudden he is pulling the ball out of Alexander’s belly,” Martz said,
    “and throwing it down the field. That’s how they work.”


    * Can the Rams really establish the run?

    The Niners are nothing special on defense and Martz made the point of punishing
    them with Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson. Will he still favor the run this
    week if Seattle has early success stopping it?

    The Seahawks have the league’s third-ranked rush defense, so opening holes will
    be a chore -- especially with the Rams offensive line so banged up.

    We’ll all monitor the play-calling closely. If Mad Mike abandons the run, the
    Seahawks have the personnel to get after quarterback Marc Bulger while making
    it difficult to connect on deep passing strikes. The Seahawks have an excellent
    secondary.

    So far, former Rams defensive end Grant Wistrom has been everything Seahawks
    coach Mike Holmgren hoped for. So far, Seattle's defensive line has been very
    disruptive.

    “Our defensive line, I’m not saying I’m surprised, but they put it together
    nicely,” Holmgren told the St. Louis media during a conference call Wednesday.
    “We’re playing a lot of folks in there. We drafted (Marcus) Tubbs in the first
    round. He’s in there and he’s a rookie. And Rashard Moore is a young guy,
    second-year player in there, and I’m pleased with...
    -10-09-2004, 09:21 AM
  • RamDez
    Seahawks' D gets first real test vs. Rams
    by RamDez
    Seahawks' D gets first real test vs. Rams
    Seattle gunning for 4-0 start, but St. Louis stands the way

    The Associated Press
    Oct. 9, 2004

    SEATTLE - Say what you want about Grant Wistrom’s big free agency deal. The Seattle Seahawks believe he’s earning his paycheck, plus this week they get part of the bonus back.


    Nobody on Seattle’s side has to block him.

    The high-energy defensive end switched teams in what is becoming one of the NFL’s freshest rivalries. Wistrom left St. Louis for a free agency offer that included a $14 million bonus.

    “We always had to account for Grant and he gave us the same sort of problems he creates now for other teams,” Seattle coach Mike Holmgren said. “He’s just a good player and I’m glad he’s on our side now.”

    If Holmgren is happy now, he could be ecstatic by Sunday night.

    A victory would make the Seahawks (3-0) unbeaten through four games for the first time ever, extend Seattle’s home-field winning streak to 11 games and open an early but comfortable 2½-game lead in the NFC West.

    But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, not with the Rams (2-2) recovering after a slow start.

    Holmgren thinks the St. Louis defense remains formidable, even without Wistrom. The Rams have been slowed by injuries, but they still have Leonard Little, Adam Archuleta and Aeneas Williams.

    “It’s still a great defense even without Grant,” Seattle guard Steve Hutchinson said. “They’re a good unit. They play really good team defense.”

    And the offense?

    Marshall Faulk is coming off his 40th career 100-yard rushing game in last week’s 24-14 win at San Francisco, when Rams coach Mike Martz embraced what for him seemed an extraordinary run-first approach.

    “I don’t know why that’s such an issue,” Martz said. “I’ve always been pragmatic. I get in a game and I have an idea about what we want to do. If things don’t turn out well in an area, you change gears and move.”

    The offensive line, though, is coming together. Even better, Faulk catches an occasional breather — even if defenses don’t — because of promising rookie Steven Jackson.

    “Anybody who thinks Marshall Faulk has lost a step isn’t watching the same football,” Wistrom said. “He looks as quick as ever and now he’s got another running back who can come in and spell him, something he hasn’t really been afforded since he’s been in St. Louis.”

    Marc Bulger still has Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt running patterns. Orlando Pace is still taking up plenty of room at left tackle. In fact, he’ll match up with Wistrom for the first time at game speed.

    “They are a powerful offensive football team,” Holmgren said. “They have been and they are very, very capable still of lighting things up.”

    Can the same be said of the Seahawks?

    Seattle is coming off a bye week. Before...
    -10-10-2004, 01:08 AM
  • Nick
    Here's the Rams' to-do list for beating Seattle - PD
    by Nick
    Here's the Rams' to-do list for beating Seattle


    BY JEFF GORDON
    Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
    Monday, Jan. 03 2005

    A few weeks back, we figured the Rams would be packing up their stuff right
    about now. We figured the coaches would be turning the page on 2004 and
    starting preparations for 2005.

    Playoffs? After the injury-depleted Rams bottomed out at 6-8 with that horror
    show at Arizona, it was impossible to imagine this team in postseason play.

    But here they were Monday, busily preparing for Saturday’s game at Seattle. So
    what if they got in with an 8-8 record.

    “Once you get in, you’re in,” Rams coach Mike Martz said at his Monday news
    conference. “It’s how you’re playing right now. It’s just who is playing well
    now, not how you were playing in September or November or if you’re 15-1. It’s
    how you are playing right now. Right now.

    “If we can continue to grow like we have over the last few weeks, anything is
    possible.”

    Beating the Seahawks for a third time this season will be a chore. Here is
    their “to-do” list for the game:


    * Adapt to the environment:

    Sure, the Rams staged a heroic rally to beat the Seahawks the last time they
    played at Seattle. But under Martz, the Rams have been nearly unbeatable at
    home in the Dome and less than ordinary (2-6 this season) on the road.

    On the painted asphalt at The Ed, quarterback Marc Bulger has little trouble
    playing pitch and catch with his various targets. On the road, he’s mortal.

    Our suggestion: the Rams ought to be prepared to run, run and run some more at
    Seattle, just in case. Remember, they are unbeaten this season when they rush
    the ball 30 times or more in a game.


    * Shore up the offensive line play:

    The potential loss of left guard Tom Nutten is huge. He played very well
    against Philadelphia and early on against the Jets.

    Now the Rams advance with Blaine Saipaia at right tackle and, possibly, Larry
    Turner at left guard. This helps the team get a head start into the ’05 camp,
    since both youngsters figure prominently in the Rams future.

    But postseason play is a terrible time for on-the-job training. Martz raved
    about the interior pass blocking of his guards and center against the Jets, but
    Nutten is integral to that success.

    The Seahawks will try to pull some pranks on Turner if the kid is forced into
    action.


    * Bend less against the run:

    Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander ran wild on the Rams twice this season.
    Jets running back Curtis Martin ran wild on Sunday. So it’s no secret what
    Seattle will attempt...
    -01-03-2005, 09:37 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
    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
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