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  • Rams are fearless, and nearly peerless, in Seattle

    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    10/11/2004

    Aeneas Williams' sarcastic gesture drives home the point to an already muted crowd after the Rams' improbable comeback win.
    (Gabriel B. Tait/P-D)

    The Rams' 33-27 overtime victory over Seattle was improbable, unexpected and - in the annals of NFL history - almost unprecedented.

    Only once in the 85 seasons of NFL football has a team rallied from a larger deficit with so little time remaining in a regular-season game.

    Interestingly, it happened just last season, when Indianapolis overcame a 21-point deficit in the final 6 minutes of regulation to defeat Tampa Bay 38-35 in overtime on Oct. 6, 2003.

    According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Rams' rally from a 27-10 deficit in Seattle was the second-largest comeback within the final 6 minutes of play in league history.

    Small wonder then, that Mike Martz rated it as one of the most meaningful victories he has been involved with as a coach.

    "I think it's obviously at the top of the list," Martz said. "Right there next to the '99 Super Bowl, I would think."

    Martz was offensive coordinator on that squad, which defeated Tennessee 23-16. The stakes weren't nearly as high Sunday at Qwest Field, but there was still a lot on the line against the Seahawks.

    "God forbid if we would've lost the game, it would've been tough to close on them," offensive guard Adam Timmerman said. "They'd have been 4-0; we'd have been 2-3 - down three games on people in your division."

    But as a result of Shaun McDonald's game-winning touchdown reception from Marc Bulger, the Rams (3-2) are just a half-game behind the Seahawks (3-1). And there's a good chance the Rams could be back on top of the NFC West by this time next week.

    That's because the Seahawks travel to New England next Sunday to play the defending Super Bowl champions. The Patriots are in the midst of a league-record 19-game winning streak.

    Meanwhile, the Rams play host to Tampa Bay (1-4) on Oct. 18 in a Monday night game at the Edward Jones Dome. After that game, the Rams travel to Miami - currently winless (0-5) and offensively impaired - on Oct. 24, then take their bye week.

    If the Rams take care of business against the Buccaneers and Dolphins, they should be 5-2 entering critical home games against New England (Nov. 7) and Seattle (Nov. 14). The picture would have been bleaker - much bleaker - had things ended differently Sunday.

    "This was such a thrill," Martz said. "To watch these guys. Just to be on the sideline and watch them - their attitude. How they responded to everything. How positive they stayed throughout the game, even in the first half."

    But as happy as he was about the Seattle game, Martz isn't ready to make any sweeping statements about his team, or this season.

    "We're not there," Martz said. "We won a game. ... We had a great win. But we've got a lot of season left, and there's still a lot of bumps in this road to go.

    "We haven't matured like we need to. And we're not where we need to be, or want to be, or will be. But we're making progress. And (the players) believe in what we're doing, and that's the most important thing."

    If they didn't believe, they probably don't get off the mat after getting pummeled by Seattle in the early going Sunday. When Josh Brown's field goal gave the Seahawks a 10-0 lead 43 seconds into the second quarter, the Rams had been outgained 125 yards to 11.

    "Man, they were clicking on all cylinders that first half," defensive end Leonard Little said.

    "Coming off that bye, they were fresh," Timmerman said. "You could tell at the beginning of the game. The tempo was up."

    And the Rams, making back-to-back West Coast trips, struggled to keep pace.

    "Coming back from San Francisco, last week in practice, our execution was terrific," Martz said. "But we were a tired football team."

    It may have showed in the early going Sunday.

    "Once we got going, the emotion took over, and we got going pretty good," Martz said. "The intensity really picked up in the second half."

    Even so, it was almost as if the Rams were on a treadmill for much of the second half.

    "We got pretty deep in the fourth quarter and I'm thinking: 'We're still at the same deficit we were at halftime, and we've been doing a lot of work,'" center Andy McCollum said.

    Sure enough, after trailing 24-7 at halftime, the Rams still found themselves down 27-10 midway through the fourth quarter. But then lightning struck in the form of touchdown passes to Brandon Manumaleuna, Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald - plus, the Jeff Wilkins field goal that sent the game into overtime.

    "I wish I could take responsibility for being a smart coach and calling the right plays, but I can't," Martz said. "There were no miracle calls. There wasn't anything super smart about what we did. This is just about a bunch of guys blocking and making some plays. That's all it was. They just played their hearts out in the second half."

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  • RamWraith
    Martz puts emphasis on playing with attitude
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Saturday, Nov. 13 2004

    Mike Martz began the week in a frenzy, and never really calmed down. He is at
    his wits' end over the current state of the 2004 Rams and is trying shock
    therapy to revive his team's fortunes.

    "I've never seen him like this," wide receiver Torry Holt said. "I hate to see
    him like this, because that tells us we ain't getting things done. But it shows
    me that he does care how we perform as a football team, and where we are as a
    football team.

    "So hopefully, we can go out there and give him a performance to kind of cool
    him down."

    Martz's tense, at times abrupt, and at times surly interchanges with the media
    weren't for show this week. The players got a similar - even stronger - message
    behind closed doors. He's tired of mistakes. He's tired of counting on players
    who aren't delivering. He's tired of missed blocks and half-hearted tackles.

    "After that meeting, it was a little quiet around here," Holt said. "Guys were
    a little more focused. Guys were a little more quick in their steps. If that's
    what it takes for us to get back on the winning edge, then I'm all for it."

    Which meeting? Monday's?

    "Every day, actually," Holt said, laughing.

    There is no time like the present, because if ever a season boiled down to one
    game, it's Sunday for the Rams. Seattle comes to the Edward Jones Dome in first
    place in the NFC West with a 5-3 record. The Rams are 4-4.

    Both teams would be 5-4 if the Rams win, but by virtue of their comeback
    victory Oct. 10 in Seattle, the Rams would have the tiebreaker edge. In
    essence, they'd have the lead in the NFC West.

    And what if the Rams lose? They would be 4-5 with four of their next five games
    on the road. Seattle would be 6-3 with their next three games at home against
    Miami (1-8), Buffalo (3-5) and Dallas (3-5). In short, that's not a pleasant
    possibility for the Rams, even with seven games remaining in the unpredictable
    NFL.

    "With all the problems we've had, we're sitting in a situation where if we can
    win one game right now, then we'll be OK," defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson
    said.

    "We've been pretty fortunate in that respect," quarterback Marc Bulger said.
    "We are not playing our best right now, but we are still in halfway decent
    shape in this division. We could've built a nice lead, but we didn't. But
    playing as bad as we have, and knowing that we could be tied for first place
    after this game, is a saving factor."

    But even Bulger concedes it's a dire outlook if the Rams...
    -11-13-2004, 07:04 PM
  • RamWraith
    Win over Seattle shows Rams are listening to Martz
    by RamWraith
    By Bryan Burwell
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Monday, Oct. 11 2004

    Deep in the catacombs of Seattle's fabulous football stadium early Sunday
    evening, the Qwest Field visitors' locker room was filled with all the familiar
    background noise of victory.

    "Ooooooh baby, that was sweeeeet!!"

    "Awwww they thought they had us, didn't they?"

    "Shoooot, that's what I'm talkin' about, man! This is OUR house, baby, OUR
    HOUSE!!"

    Amid the distant hiss of shower water, rowdy Rams players could not stop
    reveling in the feel-good buzz of their come-from-behind 33-27 overtime victory
    against the previously unbeaten Seahawks. Scattered throughout the room,
    players savored the sweet taste of victory, still fresh in their mouths. "The
    only thing missing is a little bubbly," Torry Holt hooted. "But I guess that'll
    have to wait."

    But if you listened very carefully, there was another sound emanating
    throughout this locker room on Sunday. It was the sound of players swelling
    with confidence. Both championship-hardened veterans and wide-eyed NFL
    neophytes roamed through the locker room with a strut and a resolve that we
    hadn't seen before.

    Given up for dead barely two weeks ago, the Rams are walking a little taller
    right now, flexing their muscles just a bit more, thanks to that potentially
    season-defining victory over the Seahawks. It's impossible to overplay the
    prospective value of a game like that to both the Rams and Seahawks. When you
    kick a so-called Super Bowl contender in the gut like that in their own house,
    and do it in such a spectacular fashion, it's no telling how high it could
    propel the Rams soaring, or how low down it could send the Seahawks reeling.

    Victories like this can be stimulants. But defeats like that can be
    season-killing downers. We know the Rams have the championship-seasoned
    veterans who understand the benefits of moments like this. The question now is
    whether the green-but-growing 'Hawks will develop a similar resolve.

    But here's something else to mull over while waiting for the NFC West race to
    define itself.

    If games like that can alter the course of a season for teams, is it possible
    that it could do the same thing for Mike Martz's NFL profile? With nearly 70
    percent of the country watching this game on TV, Martz did everything in that
    second half that we've all been begging him to do. He called a great game. He
    showed both a patient and fast and furious side when no one expected it, but
    always precisely when the Rams needed it most.

    But the funny thing is, while all of us outside that locker room seem...
    -10-12-2004, 05:19 AM
  • RamWraith
    Mike Martz: NFL's Mr. October?
    by RamWraith
    Associated Press
    10/19/2004
    Move over Reggie Jackson. Mike Martz is the NFL's version of Mr. October.

    The Rams have won three straight since a 1-2 start after a 28-21 victory over Tampa Bay Monday night. They are 3-0 in October this season, 3-0 last October and 18-4 in the month since 1999. Martz took over as offensive coordinator that Super Bowl-winning season and became head coach the following year.

    This season's October rejuvenation has moved the Rams (4-2) into first place in the NFC West heading into this weekend's game at winless Miami. After a sluggish September that ended with a 28-25 overtime loss at home to New Orleans -- when St. Louis surrendered a three-point lead in the final 23 seconds -- the Rams suddenly look like the team that has made the playoffs four of the last five seasons.

    "We're getting some momentum going, and we're getting better every week," Martz said. "This is all you can ask for."

    The Rams struggled early this year. Their offense sputtered along, averaging fewer than 20 points a game through September. On defense, the Rams gave up 34 points in a loss at Atlanta on Sept. 19, then forced just one punt in the loss to the Saints, and it was called back because of a roughing the kicker penalty.

    The streak started with a 24-14 win at San Francisco on Oct. 3. Then came the potential season-saving rally at Seattle a week later. The Seahawks, undefeated at the time, appeared on the verge of moving 2.5 games ahead of St. Louis, leading 27-10 midway through the fourth quarter.

    But Marc Bulger directed three scoring drives in the final six minutes and sent the game into overtime, where Bulger and Shaun McDonald connected on a 52-yard game-winning touchdown pass.

    In the win over Tampa, the defense that allowed only three second-half points against Seattle stepped up again with an interception and three fumbles, one that set up a score and another that Adam Archuleta returned 93 yards for a touchdown.

    The third fumble came in the game's waning seconds at the Rams 15 when Aeneas Williams stripped the ball from wide receiver Tim Brown as Tampa neared a potential game-tying score.

    It may be early, but Archuleta said it feels good to be in first place.

    "It's very big," he said. "We've been in a situation where we've played two good teams and we've won the tight games."

    Staying on top won't be easy. After Miami the Rams have a bye week, then host the Patriots and Seattle the first two Sundays in November.
    -10-19-2004, 04:20 PM
  • RamWraith
    Martz puts Rams on notice
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    11/08/2004
    Mike Martz fielded all the questions Monday about what went wrong against New England. And there was a lot of ground to cover, because obviously, a lot went wrong in the Rams' 40- 22 loss to the Patriots.

    But then totally unsolicited, he offered some thoughts about accountability. More specifically, the accountability of Rams players.

    "This is my fifth year here," Martz told reporters, referring to his 4 1/2-season tenure as Rams head coach. "You guys have been with me long enough to know, I've never tried to mislead you. Sugarcoat it. If I've screwed something up, I'll tell you.

    "You try and take a bullet (for a player) whenever you can. But there comes a time when some of these guys have just got to play. Step up and make a play. Players make plays. That's just the way it is.

    "And that's not a cop-out, or brushing it off on these guys. But I'm upset. We've got some guys that we're counting on, that have got to step up. That's the way it is."

    Martz wouldn't name names. But it's clear he has put his team on notice. He is growing increasingly frustrated over execution - or lack thereof - on the playing field. The team continues to make too many mistakes, and too few plays, on game day.

    Martz made many of these points to his players and coaches Monday during a team meeting. Right now, Martz is searching for something to jolt his team out of its current skid - a skid that includes two straight losses, but also recurring problems on special teams, on defense, and in pass-blocking.

    The sense of urgency has never been greater because if the Rams don't display a dramatic reversal of fortunes this Sunday against Seattle, the season could be all but lost.

    The Seahawks are 5-3; the Rams 4-4. If the Rams win, they pull even with Seattle record-wise at 5-4, but actually take the NFC West lead because they hold the tiebreaker edge by virtue of a 2-0 sweep in head-to-head competition.

    But if the Rams lose to Seattle, they're two games back, and face the daunting task of playing four of their next five contests on the road.

    "We just didn't play well (against New England)," Martz said. "That's not a secret. We all saw that. We've played much better in the past and I'm confident that we'll do that again."

    But how? What's the way out?

    "We understand what our problems are, and what we need to address," Martz said. "And there may be some personnel changes."

    But eight games into the season, it's not like Martz and the Rams can reinvent the wheel. The 53-man roster is what it is, and there's not much left on the streets.

    So it looks like Chris Dishman will continue to start at left guard and Grant Williams will continue...
    -11-09-2004, 05:25 AM
  • Nick
    Rams Inside Slant
    by Nick
    Inside Slant

    The unit has been maligned throughout the early stages of the season. The rankings don't lie; the Rams' defense is at the bottom of the NFL in yardage allowed: 28th overall, 28th against the pass and 29th against the run.

    But it was the defense that kept the Rams in the game against Seattle, allowing the offense to hit some big plays and win in overtime. It was the defense, after being gashed for 306 yards at halftime, that allowed only 85 yards in the second half and just 44 after running back Shaun Alexander ran for 41 yards on Seattle's first play of the third quarter. Of those 44 yards, 14 were on a scramble by quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.

    "None of this is possible without the terrific effort by our defense in the second half," coach Mike Martz said. "We throw an interception on the sideline, give them great field position, and we hold them to a field goal. That wins the game for us ... that clearly wins the game for us."

    Martz was referring to a Marc Bulger interception as the fourth quarter began. The Seahawks started on the Rams' 40-yard line but later were stopped at the 16, and a field goal gave them a 27-10 lead. From that point on, Seattle ran eight plays and gained 11 yards. The Rams never forced a takeaway, but they made plays when that had to.

    "The three-and-outs (were important)," Martz said. "That third and one at the end of the game and they don't get it. The intensity really picked up in the second half. The fight that's in this group is incredible."

    "This team never gave up," defensive end Leonard Little said. "Coach Martz has talked about resolve all year and we showed that today. We knew if we made plays on defense and get the offense the ball that we could score points and get back into the game. That's just what we did."

    What has also been talked about is limiting big plays. It sounds insane to say the Rams defense actually didn't play that badly in the first half, but it's not far from the truth.

    Of the Seahawks' 306 yards on 44 plays in the first half, 165 yards came on just six plays. Do the math, and you see that Seattle gained just 141 yards on 38 plays in the rest of the half, or 3.7 yards per play.

    Taking it further, running back Shaun Alexander had 98 yards on 14 attempts at halftime, 65 coming on three attempts. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck had passed for 188 yards on 15 completions, with 100 yards gained on three of those passes.

    For the game, Alexander rushed for 150 yards on 23 carries, and 95 were on three rushes. He averaged less than three yards a pop on his other 20 runs.

    But what happened in that game is nothing new. The Rams play a gap-control defense, and the problem of giving up big plays is nothing new for them. The only game where it hasn't been an issue was against...
    -10-14-2004, 05:03 PM
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