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  • Secondary receivers make a primary contribution

    Secondary receivers make a primary contribution
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Sunday, Oct. 10 2004

    SEATTLE - A week ago in San Francisco, second-year wideout Shaun McDonald
    caught his first NFL touchdown pass. On Sunday at Qwest Field, he caught his
    first game-winner.

    "If that happens every other week, I'll be happy," McDonald said in the raucous
    Rams locker room moments after their 33-27 overtime victory over the Seahawks.
    McDonald and quarterback Marc Bulger hooked up for a 52-yard touchdown 3
    minutes 2 seconds into the extra period that completed a staggering comeback.

    The Rams were trailing 27-10 before Bulger found tight end Brandon Manumaleuna
    for an 8-yard strike across the middle with 5:34 remaining in the fourth
    quarter. The fourth-year pro made the catch in heavy traffic for his first
    touchdown of the season. Then 2:04 later, Bulger connected with second-year
    wide receiver Kevin Curtis on a post pattern that produced a 41-yard score -
    Curtis' first TD of the year, too - and trimmed the Seattle edge to 27-24.

    After Jeff Wilkins forced OT with a 36-yard field goal, the Rams won the toss
    and were on the march again. On third and 8, the Seahawks blitzed and the Rams
    adjusted: McDonald streaked past safety Terreal Bierria and Bulger lofted the
    ball onto his fingertips.

    "It came up perfect," McDonald said. "Marc waited for me, and he put the ball
    right where it needed to be." Once the ball was in his hands, McDonald had just
    one thought. "It was, 'Get to the end zone,'" he said. "I know not too many
    people are going to be able to catch me once I get moving."

    Curtis, hobbled early in the season by shin splints, seemingly has taken over
    the No. 3 wideout spot from veteran Dane Looker. He's the team's fastest
    receiver, and he sprinted by Bierria and cornerback Ken Lucas to get open for
    his TD catch. "I had a feeling, for some reason, it was coming to me on that
    play," Curtis said. "I just tried to run as hard as I could and make a play for
    this team."

    Manumaleuna altered his route when he saw Bulger scramble to the left on a play
    that was designed to go to the right. "I just tried to mirror him, and he threw
    it up there for me. "Luckily, I made the play," Manumaleuna said. He said the
    score was vital for the Rams to "get a little momentum going. We were down in
    the red zone so many times, and just being able to get a touchdown was big."

    Wideouts Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt are the unchallenged leaders among Rams
    pass-catchers: Together, they've hauled in 68 balls for 889 yards this year.
    Although McDonald, Curtis and Manumaleuna have combined for only 18 catches and
    219 yards, their contributions to Sunday's triumph were larger than their

    "It's big," Bulger said. "It takes the pressure off Isaac and Torry a little
    bit. You need your third and fourth receivers against their nickel guy and dime
    guy to win. That's the matchups you look for in this offense, and I think we
    have some guys now that can beat those third and fourth guys.

    "It forces (opposing defenses) to play more man and less zone, because we'll
    keep beating them."

Related Topics


  • RamDez
    McDonald makes his presence felt
    by RamDez
    McDonald makes his presence felt
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    Although Sacramento Kings guard Mike Bibby, a former All-American at Arizona and the No. 2 overall selection in the 1998 NBA draft, is his cousin and confidant, Shaun McDonald figured out long ago that basketball wasn't his sport.

    "I quit in eighth grade," he explained. "I kind of knew I wasn't going to be too tall, so I had to give that dream up real fast."

    But McDonald is making a nice living as a professional athlete: He is in his second season as a wide receiver and punt returner with the Rams. Over the last two games, he has been a key factor in victories at San Francisco and Seattle.

    McDonald's first NFL touchdown reception, on a 6-yard pass from quarterback Marc Bulger, put the Rams up 14-0 in the first quarter against the ***** at Monster Park. Bibby attended the game, won by the Rams 24-14, but he missed the TD catch.

    "He got out of practice too late," McDonald said. "But it was great to see him."

    McDonald made three big plays Sunday, when the Rams rallied past the Seahawks 33-27 in overtime:

    His 24-yard catch, on a third-and-8 play, took the team to the 8-yard line. Bulger hit tight end Brandon Manumaleuna for a touchdown on the next play that cut Seattle's lead to 27-17 with 5 1/2 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

    Three plays later, McDonald lugged a punt 39 yards to the Seahawks 41-yard line. On the next snap, Bulger found wideout Kevin Curtis in the end zone, and it was 27-24 with 3:30 to go.

    On the first series after Jeff Wilkins' 36-yard field goal with 8 seconds remaining forced overtime, Bulger spotted McDonald sprinting down the right size on a "hot" read in reaction to a Seahawks blitz. The pass hit McDonald on the fingertips, and the 52-yard TD ended the proceedings.

    "Any time the ball's in the air, I think it's mine, I think I'm going to get it no matter what," he said. "The whole time, I was thinking, 'touchdown.' .. As a competitor, you want the game on the line and you want to be able to contribute to the play that wins it."

    McDonald, a fourth-round draft pick last year, is listed at 5 feet 10, but he acknowledged that he's at least an inch shorter. He said he weighs 180 pounds -but probably only after a heavy meal.

    "My whole life, people have been saying I'm too small to play football," said McDonald, a Phoenix native. "So it's something I'm used to. It doesn't really bother me anymore. I think it's about how big you play, and not about your size."

    At Arizona State, McDonald's 2,993 receiving yards fell just 126 short of John Jefferson's school record. But largely because of a thumb injury that limited him to eight games, McDonald's impact last year as a rookie
    -10-17-2004, 10:37 AM
  • RamWraith
    Practice makes perfect for Cleeland
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Saturday, Jan. 08 2005

    SEATTLE - On Fridays, the Rams typically work on red-zone situations, and tight
    end Cam Cleeland typically is the star.

    "I think I lead the league in Friday practice touchdowns," he said.

    In games, though, Cleeland has been counted upon most as a blocker this year.
    Going into the Rams' first-round playoff contest at Qwest Field, Cleeland had
    recorded just seven catches for 57 yards - and no touchdowns - all season.

    But with just over 2 minutes remaining in the game, Saturday turned into Friday
    for Cleeland. Just as in practice, he snagged quarterback Marc Bulger's 17-yard
    toss over the middle in the end zone. This one counted, though, and it helped
    hand the Rams a 27-20 victory in front of 65,397.

    Bulger put the ball up high, which is exactly where the 6-foot-5, 270-pound
    Cleeland wants it.

    "With my height, I like to jump for the ball," he said. "That way it doesn't
    give the other guys a chance to knock it out."

    Quick-closing Seahawks free safety Ken Hamlin did his best; he drilled Cleeland
    a split-second after the ball arrived.

    "I didn't see anything except the ball," said Cleeland, a seven-year veteran.
    "I said, 'You'd better hang on to this sucker, because you know you're going to
    get hit.'

    "I think I took a pretty good hit; I can't really remember it. I just fell down
    and cradled it."

    The catch was especially pleasing for Cleeland because he grew up in the
    Seattle area, played his college ball at cross-town Washington and had spent
    his youth rooting for the hometown NFL team.

    "I grew up as an avid Seahawks fan, and I'll always be a Seahawks fan ...
    except when I'm playing them," he said. "It's good to finally get one in front
    of the family. It's just very surreal right now."

    While Cleeland had just the one reception, wideouts Torry Holt, Kevin Curtis,
    Isaac Bruce and Shaun McDonald continually harassed the Seahawks' secondary.
    Bulger passed for 313 yards, connecting with Holt six times for 108 yards and
    Curtis four times for 107.

    Bruce added three catches for 40 yards, and McDonald's lone grab went 31 yards
    into Seattle territory on the Rams' winning drive. McDonald lined up on the
    left side, shifted into the backfield, took a short toss from Bulger in stride
    and steamed down the right sideline.

    "We had that play in about the last four or five weeks, but I don't think we'd
    even run it in a game," McDonald said. "It came out just like Coach (Mike
    Martz) drew it up." ...
    -01-09-2005, 05:10 AM
  • RamWraith
    Anatomy of a Comeback
    by RamWraith
    Wednesday, January 5, 2005

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    In almost every great comeback in every major sport, the story is almost always the same. The situation, the result and especially the hero are usually the same.

    Take any great comeback the Denver Broncos ever had and quarterback John Elway was prominently involved. Same with San Francisco and Joe Montana and ditto for Dan Marino and the Dolphins.

    When the Rams found themselves down by 17 with 8:42 to go against Seattle on Oct. 10, any hope of a comeback appeared to rest squarely on the shoulders of the usual cast of characters. A long touchdown pass to receivers Isaac Bruce or Torry Holt or a scintillating play by running back Marshall Faulk would usually be in the offing.

    But the usual suspects were not the heroes, not on that day. Instead, young receivers Shaun McDonald and Kevin Curtis filled the roles of Bruce and Holt. Tight end Brandon Manumaleuna made the catch of his life. Quarterback Marc Bulger was the driving force, bouncing back from a rough three quarters and emerging as the kind of clutch player teams dream of having behind center.

    A 27-10 deficit turned into a stunning 33-27 win. It was the type of win that can turn a season that could have been ruined by a devastating loss to New Orleans two weeks prior into another division championship season. And this time, the story wasn’t written about the guys you would expect.

    Rams’ coach Mike Martz said many of his lesser-known players got a lesson in how to win big games on that day.

    “There were a lot of young players that learned how to compete, and stay in it,” Martz said. “We had some players show up in this game that made plays to help us win this game. Guys like McDonald, Curtis, of course Brandon with his touchdown catch.”

    The lesson learned that day by guys who before the game were role players went beyond any that could be gleaned in a film room.

    Seattle kicker Josh Brown booted a 34-yard field goal with 8:47 to play to give the Seahawks a 27-10 lead. At that point, any chance of a comeback for St. Louis seemed to sink away into Puget Sound. Instead, the Rams erupted like Mount St. Helens.

    On their ensuing possession, the Rams moved 66 yards on eight plays in 3:08 capped by Manumaleuna’s spectacular 8-yard touchdown catch in traffic. Kicker Jeff Wilkins’ extra point made it 27-17 with 5:43 left. It was a small glimmer of hope, but it was enough of an opening for St. Louis to take momentum.

    The defense earned a three and out, setting up a Seattle punt. The Rams took over on Seattle’s 41 after McDonald’s 39-yard punt return. St. Louis then connected on the quickest of quick strikes. Bulger threw a perfect, arcing spiral over the top of the Seahawks’ secondary to a streaking Curtis for a 41-yard touchdown. The one-play drive took all of seven...
    -01-05-2005, 12:56 PM
  • RamWraith
    Final scoring drive was Rams at their best
    by RamWraith
    Bulger was 9-9 in 12-play stretch
    ST. LOUIS - It may not become etched in the minds of St. Louis Rams fans forever, but the game-winning drive to beat San Francisco on Sunday was definitely something special.

    The drive began after a stop by the defense, which held the ***** on third-and-1 and forced a field goal by Joe Nedney. That gave San Francisco a 17-13 lead with 3:54 remaining, but it wasn't enough as the Rams came back to win 20-17.

    "Basically that was the game," Rams running back Steven Jackson said. "The defense held up their end of the bargain. They held them to a field goal and as an explosive offense, we never felt like we were out of the game."

    The Rams took over at their own 20 and a first-down sack by Bryant Young knocked them back to the 10.

    Then quarterback Marc Bulger led a surgical strike against the *****, completing nine straight passes with the final one a 5-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Curtis with 27 seconds to play.

    Bulger was 9-for-9 for 66 yards at the helm of the 12-play, 80-yard drive. It marked the 10th time that Bulger has directed a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime.

    "We were very confident," Bulger said. "We've done it many times, more here at home than on the road. The line was doing their thing, so I was able to get with the receivers and running backs and say 'Let's go.'"

    The drive also had a heaping helping of Jackson, who converted twice on fourth-and-1 plays. Jackson also caught four passes, relieving pressure on Bulger and keeping the drive moving down the field.

    Receiver Isaac Bruce had a 20-yard catch and the ***** helped out with a delay of game penalty for not allowing Jackson to get up after a running play.

    "We got in some good situations where they thought we were going to pass and we were running the ball, so that worked out good," Rams guard Adam Timmerman said.

    Curtis was in on two of the Rams' biggest plays of the game.

    With time running out in the first half, Curtis hauled in 27-yard a pass from backup quarterback Gus Frerotte. Untouched by a defender, Curtis scrambled up and got out of bounds to stop the clock with three seconds left.

    That set up a 51-yard field goal by Jeff Wilkins that gave the Rams a 13-7 halftime lead.

    "Thank goodness no one touched me when I was down on the ground," Curtis said.

    Curtis also found a seam in the 49er defense for the game-winning 5-yard TD pass, cradling a low throw from Marc Bulger.

    "I was just trying to get inside of the cornerback and Marc kept it low and away in a place where the corner couldn't make a play," Curtis said. "I had a little room and Marc put it right there."

    -11-27-2006, 10:27 AM
  • RamWraith
    Backups boost passing game
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats

    As he soared for Marc Bulger's second-quarter pass in the end zone Sunday, Kevin Curtis knew that the ball and ***** strong safety Tony Parrish would arrive simultaneously, and that it wouldn't be pleasant.

    Sure enough, Parrish hammered Curtis, knocking the ball away and leaving the Rams' wide receiver stunned. But Curtis hauled himself off the turf and back into the fray.

    "I was a little dizzy for a second," he said, "but I was fine."

    Curtis also suffered a dislocated ring finger on his right hand in the opening minutes and a slightly sprained ankle in the second half. Yet he persevered, winding up with seven catches for 63 yards. He assured that none of his assorted dings would hinder him Sunday, when the Rams play at Arizona.

    "I'm good to go," said Curtis, a 5-foot-11, 186-pound speedster from Utah State.

    The continuing emergence of Curtis and fellow third-year wideout Shaun McDonald - he also made seven catches, for 73 yards, in the Rams' 28-25 loss to the ***** - not only adds to coach Mike Martz's arsenal, but also removes some of the burden from first-teamers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt.

    After combining for 14 catches and 75 yards as rookies in 2003, both young wideouts had breakthrough seasons last year. McDonald, 24, had 37 receptions for 394; Curtis, 27, caught 32 passes for 421 yards.

    "Both these guys can start just about anywhere," Martz said. "They're playing at a high level. They're a terrific, terrific addition to what we do offensively."

    Bulger launched a franchise-record 56 passes Sunday, which, on the surface, would appear to be a wide receiver's dream come true. But as Curtis noted, the circumstances behind that flurry of tosses weren't desirable.

    "Not when you have to throw, because that usually means that you're losing," he said. "Definitely, as a receiver, you like it when they put the ball up a lot. But when you're in a situation like that, it's not always ideal because you're trying to come from behind."

    The Rams charged back after lagging 28-9 early in the third quarter, and Curtis and McDonald were Bulger's main targets during the rally. Curtis had five catches for 49 yards and McDonald had four, also for 49 yards, from that point on. Holt, the leading receiver on the day (10 catches for 125 yards) did most of his damage in the first half.

    The season-opening defeat, particularly against a team that went 2-14 last year, has steeled the team's resolve for the outing against the Cardinals, Curtis stressed.

    "Any time you come off a loss, you're eager to just get back out on the field," he said. "You kind of have that bad taste in your mouth that you want to get out and have the good feeling...
    -09-16-2005, 04:58 AM