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  • Rams Inside Slant

    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 San Francisco, where the ***** had just one run for 10 yards or more and one reception of 20 yards or more.

    In the Rams' other four games, they have given up 23 such runs and 12 passes.

    "It's just a matter of staying in our gaps and being disciplined," cornerback Jerametrius Butler said. "We get burned at times on misdirection running plays. If we just play the defense, we'll be OK."

    Monday night is the next test for a defense that needs to play a 60-minute game. The turnover draught continues after the Rams failed to generate a takeaway against Seattle. Last season, the Rams led the NFL with 46 takeaways. This season, they have four games with no takeaways and managed only two against San Francisco.

    SERIES HISTORY: 15th meeting. Rams lead 8-6, but the Buccaneers have won three straight in the series, all of those games having been played on Monday Night Football. The Bucs won 38-35 in Tampa in 2000, 24-17 in 2001 in St. Louis and 26-14 in Tampa in 2002. Before those games, the Rams advanced to Super Bowl XXXIV with an 11-6 victory over Tampa in the 1999 NFC Championship Game.

    NOTES, QUOTES

    —The Rams' comeback win over Seattle was the second-largest in NFL history within the last six minutes of a game. The Rams trailed 27-10 and scored 17 points in the final 5:42. The biggest comeback was the 21-point deficit faced by Indianapolis against Tampa Bay last year on Oct. 6. The Colts also tied the game and won in overtime.

    Asked where the game ranks in his career, coach Mike Martz said, "I think it is obviously at the top of the list. Right there next to the '99 Super Bowl, I would say. This was such a thrill to watch these guys. Just to be on the sideline and watch their attitude, and how they responded to everything, and how positive they stayed throughout the game, even the first half."

    —An almost overlooked aspect of the Rams' win over Seattle was the strategy at the start of the second half. The Rams trailed 24-7, but they came out running and changed the tempo of the game. The Seahawks entered the game on an emotional high, coming off their bye, being undefeated and facing the Rams.

    "They were fresh," guard Adam Timmerman said. "You could tell at the beginning of the game. The tempo was up."

    But when the Rams came out pounding the run in the second half, they set the tempo, keeping the Seahawks defense on the field for 10 plays and nearly six minutes. The Rams failed to score, but from then on they owned the game.

    "We tried to mix in more of the running game because they were up the field so bad on our tackles," coach Mike Martz said. "We didn't try to get it back in chunks, which is more my personality each and every snap. But it was the right thing to do. We just tried to manage it as well as we could."

    "Mike said it was the way he had to do it," tackle Orlando Pace said. "So he came out, he ran the ball. We were surprised, but I think that loosened (Seattle) up. That opened up the pass down the stretch."

    Added Timmerman, "It was just unbelievable discipline on his part. Because it would have been so easy to just start passing."

    Concluded defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson, "It said to us that there was no panic. It said to us that coach Martz knew we could still win this game. And it said that it was time for us to start making plays."

    Knowing how the critics are quick to question Martz's play-calling and game management when the Rams lose but rarely give credit after victories, running back Marshall Faulk said to no one in particular as he ran off the field after the game, "Did my coach manage a good game?" Tell everyone about the way he managed this game."

    —With the Rams playing Monday night, after playing two straight games on the West Coast, coach Mike Martz gave the players Wednesday off in addition to the normal Tuesday off day. The team will practice Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

    Asked if back-to-back games out West wears on a team, Martz said, "It does. And they're both division games, both big games, obviously. To win on Sunday night and then turn around and go back out there and play a team that has had two weeks to prepare for you ... that says a lot about these guys, it really does. I do know this, coming back from San Francisco, last week in practice our execution was terrific, but we were a tired football team."

    —A St. Louis County judge denied an effort by the attorneys for defensive Leonard Little to have his drunk driving case moved because of the publicity associated with it. Judge Emmett M. O'Brien gave no explanation for his ruling, which came Tuesday (Oct. 12), except to say the motion was denied "under the law."

    Earlier in the day, O'Brien had questioned about 20 people in the current jury pool to see if they were aware of the case or the player. Little was arrested in April for drunk driving and has been charged as a persistent offender because of a 1998 incident in which he was driving under the influence and killed a St. Louis woman.

    The current trial is scheduled to begin March 28.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're not there. 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." — Coach Mike Martz following the overtime victory over Seattle.

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    The Rams have been finally achieved roster stability after signing safety Kwamie Lassiter on Sept. 21. Since then, the Rams have made no changes on their active roster or practice squad.

    That's a switch from the six days following the cutdown to 53 players on Sept. 5. In that period alone, the Rams made six changes in their active roster.

    PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

    —DL Tyoka Jackson, the Rams' defensive captain, probably won't be available to play against his former team Monday night. Jackson suffered a strained hamstring against Seattle and is listed as doubtful on the injury report.

    —LB Trev Faulk is bothered by a problem hamstring again, and it has made him questionable for Monday's game against the Buccaneers. Faulk missed two games because of the hamstring and since returning has been a standout on special teams, registering four tackles in each of the last two games.

    —S Aeneas Williams, who suffered a pinched nerve in his neck against the Seahawks, is expected to play against the Buccaneers after being listed as probable on the injury report.

    —OG Chris Dishman has been slow to recover from a knee injury suffered against New Orleans Sept. 26 and remains questionable for another week.

    —FB Joey Goodspeed is expected to play against the Buccaneers despite injuring his heel against Seattle.

    GAME PLAN: Despite their 1-4 record, the Bucs still have a formidable defense that is ranked fourth overall in yards allowed. However, they are ranked 24th against the run, making it intriguing to see how Rams coach Mike Martz will approach things. Will he try to run on the Bucs or come out flinging on Monday Night Football? Tampa Bay's pass defense has just six sacks but has also allowed opponents to complete 49.6 percent of their passes when the league average is 60.9.

    Defensively, the Rams' plan is simple: Don't allow big plays against an offense that is averaging only 283.4 yards per game.

    MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Rams DLE Leonard Little vs. Buccaneers RT Kenyatta Walker: Walker has yet to live up to expectations, and he will have his hands full with Little, who has one sack in each of the last three games.

    RBs Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson vs. Bucs run defense: Jackson has shown the ability to make big plays, and the Tampa Bay defense has allowed 4.2 yards per carry. Bucs opponents have also rushed for at least 145 yards in three games this season.

    Rams WRs vs. Bucs pass defense: It usually comes down to this. The battles between Rams wideouts Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt going against Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly will be ongoing. But the outcome could hinge on the Rams' nickel receivers — Kevin Curtis, Shaun McDonald and Dane Looker — and how they produce going against Mario Edwards and Corey Ivy.

    INJURY IMPACT: The physical nature of Sunday's game against Seattle added players to the injury list, although none of the injuries is serious. DEL Tyoka Jackson (hamstring), LB Trev Faulk (hamstring), FB Joey Goodspeed (heel), CB DeJuan Groce (shoulder) and S Aeneas Williams (neck) were all injured against the Seahawks. Jackson and Faulk are the ones whose status for Monday is in the most doubt.

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  • RamDez
    Rams engage after the rage
    by RamDez
    Rams engage after the rage
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    Sunday, Nov. 14 2004

    Make no mistake, Marshall Faulk has seen Rams coach Mike Martz in foul moods
    before.

    "But I've never heard him express it to us as a team," Faulk said.

    Not that Faulk's complaining. "Every once in awhile, you've got to see the head
    coach like that," Faulk said. "Every once in awhile, it's good."

    The entire Rams roster got an earful of Really Mad Mike all last week, as did
    the media, and it paid dividends in Sunday's 23-12 victory over Seattle.

    "People around here probably didn't think he had that in him," Faulk said,
    laughing. "I know him. I know he has it in him. I know the fire boils deep down
    inside of him when things go wrong. And it was time he let it out."

    Martz let it out just in the nick of time. With the 2004 season very much on
    the line, Rams players responded favorably in a key NFC West showdown at Edward
    Jones Dome.

    The outcome left the Rams and the Seahawks with un-identical 5-4 records. By
    virtue of sweeping both games with Seattle this season, the Rams have the
    tiebreaker edge in the West. In essence, they're in first place.

    "We knew (Seattle) had to come through us to win the West," defensive end
    Leonard Little said. "They had to come in and beat us in our home spot, in a
    critical game. Our team stepped up to the plate."

    Not that there weren't a few whiffs and foul balls along the way. Not to
    mention some unusual plot twists.

    In a game that began in an Air Martz flurry, with quarterback Marc Bulger
    throwing passes on the Rams' first 13 plays, the team finished with a
    season-high 202 yards rushing.

    The high-powered Seattle offense had the ball inside the Rams' 30 on six
    possessions but couldn't score a touchdown. Alexander the Great, aka running
    back Shaun Alexander, averaged a whopping eight yards per carry. But he lost a
    critical fumble in the fourth quarter on his longest run of the day.

    At first, it looked ridiculously easy for the Rams. They jumped to a 14-0 lead
    by scoring on their first two possessions, with Bulger continually finding open
    receivers over the middle. The Rams outgained Seattle 214 yards to 54 yards in
    the first quarter
    But hey, these are the 2004 Rams. When push came to shove, they had to do it
    the hard way.

    They did it without Torry Holt, the game's most productive receiver since 2000,
    for most of the game. Holt suffered a concussion midway through the first
    quarter and did not return.

    They did it without Orlando Pace, a five-time Pro Bowler at left tackle, for
    the last quarter...
    -11-15-2004, 12:16 AM
  • 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, 03:02 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, 06:30 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams let it slip away
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    Sunday, Oct. 09 2005

    Never mind that the scoreboard read: Seattle 37, St. Louis 31.

    Given the recent history of the series, the Rams had the Seahawks right where
    they wanted them. They were getting the ball back with just over 3 minutes to
    play. And in good field position, too, since the Seahawks' Tom Rouen was
    punting in the shadow of his end zone.

    A couple of passes here, a run there, and - Presto! Whammo! - the Rams would
    score a dramatic game-winning touchdown, thus driving another dagger into the
    hearts of the Seahawks. That's the way it's always supposed to go against the
    Seahawks, right?

    Well, not this time.

    Last year at this time - on Oct. 10, 2004 - Shaun McDonald's career-long punt
    return of 39 yards helped launch an improbable St. Louis comeback in a 33-27
    overtime victory at Qwest Field in Seattle.

    On Oct. 9, 2005, McDonald fielded Rouen's 41-yard punt in a crowd at the St.
    Louis 40, tried to cut back, but was stripped of the ball by Seattle's Jordan
    Babineaux at the St. Louis 39. Seahawks teammate Jean-Phillippe Darche
    recovered the fumble on the St. Louis 37. And the Rams were done.

    Oh, there was still 2:51 left to play and the Rams had a timeout in their
    pocket. But the Rams haven't stopped anybody the last two games, and the final
    2:51 Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome would be no different. Three runs by Shaun
    Alexander netted two first downs, ate up the Rams' final timeout and took the
    clock to the 2-minute warning.

    Three kneel-downs by quarterback Matt Hasselbeck took care of the rest of the
    clock, snapping the Rams' 12-game home winning streak against NFC West foes.
    Seattle left town at 3-2 and in first place in the division, winning for the
    first time in five tries against St. Louis.

    The Rams fell to 2-3, their worst record after five games since the '02 squad
    started 0-5. Barring some miraculous turnaround by the defense - particularly
    the pass defense - the Rams are staring at 2-4, because their next opponent is
    unbeaten Indianapolis, in a Monday night game Oct. 17 in Indy.

    In winning two of their first three games, the Rams' defense played noticeably
    better than the defense of the '04 squad. But in losses to the New York Giants,
    and now Seattle, the bottom has fallen out. In those two games, the Rams have
    yielded 81 points and 889 yards.

    What's going on there?

    "That's a good question," defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson said. "I don't have
    an answer for you right now. But we're going to try to come up with one.

    "I know one thing: I'm going to show up to work Monday....
    -10-10-2005, 06:48 AM
  • RamWraith
    Defense Does its Part
    by RamWraith
    Monday, October 11, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    With so many stars emerging for the Rams’ offense against Seattle on Sunday, it would be easy to overlook what was perhaps the most important part of St. Louis’ comeback win.

    In any good comeback, a team must have a high-scoring, quick-strike offense capable of taking large chunks of yards and scoring points rapidly. The Rams certainly had that, as they scored 23 points in a dizzying span of eight minutes and 32 seconds.

    Of course, a comeback isn’t possible if the team you are chasing continues to score and with that comes the necessary defensive performance. Trailing by 17 with about eight minutes to play means there is no room for error. A touchdown would kill, a field goal would hurt and a first down would sting. Any little thing could dash comeback dreams in a hurry.

    Knowing this, the Rams’ defense played an inspired fourth quarter and, overall, a superb second half. After getting shredded by a Seahawks’ offense fresh from a bye week for 306 first half yards, St. Louis made all of the necessary adjustments at halftime and held Seattle to 85 second-half yards.

    As hard as it might be to believe, the defense was actually better than the 85 yards. Almost half of that yardage came on running back Shaun Alexander’s 41-yard run with 9:13 left in the third quarter. That means the defense allowed just 44 yards during the remaining 24 minutes.

    Rams’ coach Mike Martz said the defense was nothing short of excellent in the second half.

    “We talk about such a great comeback on offense in the second half, but none of this is possible, I mean none of it is possible without the terrific effort by our defense in the second half,” Martz said.

    More importantly, the Rams held the Seahawks to a meager 3 points in the second half, allowing the offense an opportunity to forge its comeback. It would have been easy for the defense to relax after watching St. Louis’ offense sputter in the third quarter, but instead, it kept fighting and allowed Bulger and company a chance.

    In a second half that featured a number of big plays on offense, the defense provided some fireworks of its own.
    Safety Rich Coady was having a rough day, getting beat by a pump from Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who hit receiver Darrell Jackson for a 56-yard touchdown to end the first half and put the Rams down 24-7. It took a little while for Coady to get his redemption, but he was in on one of the most unheralded stops of the day.

    After the Rams trimmed the deficit to 27-17 with 5:34 remaining, the defense took the field needing nothing less than a three-and-out. Alexander gained 9 yards on the first two plays and it looked as though Seattle was going to be able to run the ball and clock. Alexander finished with 150 yards and is one of the league’s best running...
    -10-12-2004, 06:20 AM
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