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Rams' Run Defense Faces Tough Task

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  • Rams' Run Defense Faces Tough Task

    Rams' Run Defense Faces Tough Task
    Saturday, October 9, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    The Rams’ run defense has faced quite a bit of scrutiny in recent weeks, but with its biggest challenge on the way, the group is playing its best football of the season.

    St. Louis takes on Seattle at Qwest Field on Sunday in what is probably the most important game of the young season for both teams.

    That challenge for the Rams comes in the form of running back Shaun Alexander. In his four seasons, Alexander has racked up 4,241 yards and 46 touchdowns. There is little doubt that Alexander is one of the league’s top running backs. The Rams might be up for the challenge, though.

    Safety Rich Coady said the run defense must be mistake-free if it wants to slow Alexander.

    “When defenses start making mistakes, he’s going to take advantage of it,” Coady said. “I think he’s done that, and I think that’s why they’ve been so successful.”

    After a thoroughly dominating performance in shutting the *****’ Kevan Barlow down, the defense’s confidence is at its highest point this season. Barlow rushed for just 42 yards on 15 carries, and San Francisco finished with 58 yards on the ground. That effort came after the Rams surrendered big days to Aaron Stecker, Michael Vick and Emmitt Smith.

    So, why the change? Simply put, the defense did a better job of staying home and fulfilling assignments.

    Defensive tackle Ryan Pickett had his best performance of the season, causing havoc in the *****’ backfield and plugging the middle. Pickett took some criticism earlier this year for his performance, but Rams’ coach Mike Martz said it is difficult to evaluate a defensive tackle based solely on statistics.

    “I have always felt this way, that inside tackles in the National Football League, it’s very unusual for a guy to be consistently good,” Martz said. “There is so much to learn inside there and it’s just so different. I think both of those guys (Pickett and Damione Lewis) are developing very well this year.”

    CAN’T BYE WINS: Much is made of a team getting an extra week of practice because of the bye. It is even more noticeable when a team gets that bye the week before playing one of its best divisional opponents.

    Seattle had its bye last week after winning three games. That gave the Seahawks extra time to review film and evaluate the Rams. Does that give them an advantage?

    “I don’t know,” Martz said. “It’s an interesting question, and everybody has different feelings about that. I like the bye week in the middle of the season because it gives everyone a chance to catch their breath, and if you have some injuries you would like to give some guys the ability to mend. If you’re on a roll, sometimes people feel like it interrupts that, I don’t believe that. I’m kind of ambivalent about it. I don’t know what to tell you about it, I never really think much about it.

    “Our bye is in the middle of the season, so I think when we get to it, everybody physically, will appreciate a little bit of a break. There’s so many factors involved, it’s not an easy question to answer. There’s so many things, everywhere from where the team is from an emotional standpoint, your preparation and how much you change what you’re going to do. You can take that time and over work it. My philosophy has always been, give them the week off. Get them away mentally as well as physically, and bring them back and be ready to go. A bye in the middle or late in the year gives your staff a chance to kind of recharge their batteries a little bit too.”

    INJURY REPORT: Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa missed Thursday’s practice with an infected elbow, but returned fine Friday. Tinoisamoa said he is fine and expects to play Sunday. Martz said there didn’t appear to be any aftereffects from the infection. “He’s fine,” Martz said. “He came in this morning and was much, much better.”

    Cornerback Travis Fisher (broken forearm) and defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy (broken foot) are listed as out. Left guard Chris Dishman (sprained knee) and linebacker Tony Newson (ankle) are questionable.

    Probable for the Rams are running back Marshall Faulk (shoulder), Groce (sprained knee), running back Arlen Harris (hamstring strain), left guard Scott Tercero (broken bone in hand), linebacker Robert Thomas (sprained ankle), and P Sean Landeta (groin). Thomas went easy on his ankle for the second week in a row, but should be ready to play against the Seahawks, according to Martz. “If you don’t give those ankles a chance, it’s always going to be something that is going to nag them throughout the season,” Martz said.

    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

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  • 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
    Versatile Coady proves valuable for defense
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    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
    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
    Defense leads Rams into second round
    by RamWraith

    Associated Press

    ST. LOUIS - It took the St. Louis Rams almost the entire season to learn a new defense. They got the hang of it just in time to make a little playoff run.

    The Rams held the Seahawks to 20 points in their wild-card playoff victory on Saturday, a week after limiting the Jets to 324 total yards in a regular-season finale win that allowed them to sneak into the postseason with a .500 record. Once ranked as low as 28th in the NFL in total offense earlier this year while struggling to grasp the scheme of new defensive coordinator Larry Marmie, St. Louis finished a respectable 17th.

    "The thing I like about our defense is we're capable of new things every week," coach Mike Martz said Monday. "Once they bought into that whole concept, it's a whole different ballgame."

    The Rams held Shaun Alexander to 40 yards on 15 carries, a key to the Rams advancing to the divisional round on Saturday at Atlanta. Alexander gouged them for 326 yards in the first two meetings, but found no holes the third time around.

    "We did a real good job of stopping Alexander," defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy said. "He took advantage of our mistakes the first two games."

    Kennedy's sack of Matt Hasselbeck late in the fourth quarter helped the Rams hold on. He has become a factor lately after missing the first seven games of the season with a broken foot sustained early in training camp.

    "Jimmy has just amazed me," Martz said. "What he did quietly while he was away, the way he redefined himself physically, is pretty remarkable."

    This week the Rams will get a stiffer test. Michael Vick is the most dangerous run-pass quarterback threat in the NFL, and he ran for 109 yards on 12 carries and passed for 179 in the Falcons' 34-17 victory in Week 2 in Atlanta.

    "He certainly is unique and probably as an athlete is the best in the league, there's no question about that," Martz said. "The first thing you do is you need to account for him."

    Vick led the NFL with an average of 7.5 yards per carry and rushed for 902 yards, third-best ever for a quarterback. He'll be well-rested: the Falcons earned a first-round bye and Vick directed two scoring drives in three possessions in the regular-season finale.

    "When you keep a guy out like that, obviously they've got a plan for him," Martz said. "I know they'll have something different that involves him to a large extent."

    The Rams' defense features five first-round picks, three of them on the line. Martz said one of them, noseguard Ryan Pickett, played his best game in four seasons with the team with four tackles and three assists, a quarterback hit and a quarterback pressure.

    "As a noseguard, you just don't get...
    -01-11-2005, 05:09 AM
  • 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