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Rams, Bucs No Strangers to Monday Night

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  • Rams, Bucs No Strangers to Monday Night

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    In a season that thus far has seemed to reunite the Rams with former players and coaches, there has also been a rekindling of many popular rivalries. Aside from the usual division rivals, St. Louis has played former division rivals Atlanta and New Orleans.

    Now, the Rams are set to square off against another of their (former) rivals. Tampa Bay cruises into town for Monday Night Football at the Edward Jones Dome. This game might not have the history of the rivalry with San Francisco or the pure angst of the New Orleans’ battles, but it certainly has enough ingredients to make it a big game for both sides.

    St. Louis is riding an emotional high after an astonishing comeback against Seattle on Sunday. That win improved the Rams to 3-2 and put them in a good position to make it to the bye week with a three-game winning streak.

    Rams’ coach Mike Martz said the team can’t let an emotional win affect it any more than it could if the comeback had happened to the Rams.

    “It goes both ways,” Martz said. “This thing you put to bed, it’s over with,” Martz said. “We’re moving on. (It’s) just like a heartbreaking loss, you have got to really focus on this week, otherwise you won’t be at your best.”

    Tampa Bay is coming off its first win of the season, beating New Orleans on Sunday to go to 1-4 on the year.

    The Buccaneers and Rams don’t have a long history, but in recent years, it has been a matchup of two elite teams usually squaring off in an important game.

    St. Louis holds the overall edge, with an 8-6 record against Tampa Bay, but the Buccaneers have won the past four regular season meetings. Despite all of that, the Rams won the teams’ biggest matchup in 1999. That game was for the NFC Championship and St. Louis prevailed 11-6 on receiver Ricky Proehl’s late touchdown catch. This is the fourth game between the teams on Monday Night Football since 2000.

    Martz said he loves games like this.

    “This is kind of why you coach and why you play, for games like this,” Martz said. “It’s good for the National Football League; I look forward to it.”

    INJURY REPORT: Cornerback Travis Fisher and defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy are one step closer to making their return from injury. Fisher broke his forearm against Kansas City in the second preseason game on Aug. 23 and Kennedy broke his foot on Aug. 8.

    Both players began practicing again Thursday after spending the past few weeks starting to run again. Martz said they will be limited in activities and kept from contact, but will participate in some drills. Fisher and Kennedy are listed as out for the Tampa Bay game.

    Defensive end Tyoka Jackson, who injured his hamstring against Seattle on Sunday, is listed as doubtful, but could play Monday.

    Guard Chris Dishman (knee) linebacker Trev Faulk (hamstring), and G Darnell Alford (knee) are listed as questionable

    The probables are quarterback Marc Bulger (shoulder), fullback Joey Goodspeed (heel), safety Adam Archuleta (back), cornerback DeJuan Groce (shoulder) and safety Aeneas Williams (neck).

    Rich Coady has replaced Archuleta in each of the past two weeks. Groce returned from a knee injury against Seattle and played well, but injured the shoulder on receiver Shaun McDonald’s fourth quarter punt return.

    SPECIAL TEAMS SPECIAL: The Rams’ special teams unit has improved in most every area since the beginning of the season. Faulk’s return to healthy and the continuity that the group is developing has been the main reason for the renaissance, according to Martz.

    “We are getting the same guys involved in special teams,” Martz said. “We have been able to kind of zero in and keep guys in the same position. All of the injuries to the secondary and linebackers, that was hard. Those are the guys that really are the center point of your special teams.”

    Faulk has eight special teams’ tackles to tie with receiver Mike Furrey for the team lead. Defensive end Erik Flowers earned the team’s Special Teams Player of the Week honor this week for his performance against Seattle.

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  • RamDez
    Nothing Easy for Rams' Playoff Drive
    by RamDez
    Nothing Easy for Rams' Playoff Drive

    Friday, December 3, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    It doesn’t quite have the same feel as the usual 49er-Rams matchup, but that doesn’t make this week any less important for St. Louis.

    The Rams are sitting squarely on the bubble for the NFC playoffs despite a 5-6 record. They have the best record in NFC West divisional play at 4-0 and have a chance to go undefeated and win the division again. With their biggest rival coming to town Rams coach Mike Martz said this game still has meaning.

    “It’s 49er week,” Martz said. “It’s a big week. We are excited about being back in this division with this game… we’re ready to go.”

    If only things were similar for the *****, Sunday’s meeting at the Edward Jones Dome would have meaning to both teams.

    On the other hand, this season can pretty much be chalked up for San Francisco. Sitting at 1-10, the ***** have little to play for besides draft position. That record is the worst in the league and the injuries have continued to mount. Coach Dennis Erickson’s job might be in trouble and there could be plenty of changes to the offense in the offseason.

    Tight end Eric Johnson said his team has to embrace the role of spoiler if it wants to have any kind of a finish to the season.

    “We always want to beat the Rams,” Johnson said. “It’s a rival from years back. We wouldn’t mind taking them out of the playoff (race). It should be a good battle. We are looking to get our first win in a long time here.”

    All of the problems San Francisco has had might make it a dangerous task for the Rams. With not much to play for except pride, the ***** have nothing to lose heading into Sunday’s game. They can let it all hang out and do whatever they want. Erickson probably will do just that with his job on the line. Playing the role of spoiler down the stretch would probably be the best way to stay employed.

    None of that matters much to Martz, though. He is well aware of the dangers of any game in the league.
    “I don’t think that ever has anything to do with anyone when you lineup,” Martz said. “Whoever it is, whether it’s the ***** or anyone else, when you coach or play in this league long enough, you understand that it’s hard every week no matter who you are.”

    EDWARDS SET FREE: Free safety Antuan Edwards made his debut against Green Bay and played well, finishing with eight tackles. Edwards didn’t start in that game, but Martz said Thursday that he would get his first start against San Francisco.

    “Antuan Edwards did a real nice job,” Martz said. “I was very pleased with him.”

    Edwards is the third free safety to start this season, joining Aeneas Williams and Rich Coady. Coady started against the *****, but is better suited to strong safety.

    SPECIAL TEAMS MAKES STRIDES: The Rams special...
    -12-04-2004, 01:03 AM
  • RamWraith
    St. Louis Braces for Challenge
    by RamWraith
    St. Louis Braces for Challenge
    Wednesday, October 6, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    It might seem like the same old song and dance, but this it isn’t. Every week players and coaches alike say that week’s game is the most important.

    While it might be essential to always focus on the task at hand, it isn’t always true that one game doesn’t mean more than another. For instance, the Rams’ game against San Francisco was important because they were playing their biggest rivals and a loss would have dropped them to 1-3.

    Perhaps no game, though, has more implications than the game St. Louis began preparing for with practice Wednesday. The Rams travel to Seattle for a 3:15 p.m. game against the Seahawks on Sunday. At stake is a lot.

    St. Louis is the defending NFC West Division champions and will be until someone takes it away. Seattle is the biggest threat to the crown with a 3-0 record and the Rams at 2-2, while the rest of the division wallows in losing records. A Seahawks’ win will put them another game up in the loss column and make it difficult for St. Louis to recover. The teams’ burgeoning rivalry will also be rehashed as they have emerged as the class of the division in the past two years.

    Rams’ coach Mike Martz said he isn’t surprised by the Seahawks’ position as one of the favorites.

    “In our division at this point, they really are the team to beat,” Martz said. “They are playing so well in all phases. They have the top defense in the league at this point. This is going to be fun; it’s a real challenge. It’s a division game with a lot of ramifications… this is a playoff atmosphere. We look forward to it.”

    After an important win against the ***** on Sunday night, the Rams enter this week with a lot of confidence. They proved they could run and pass with equal aplomb and the defense made many strides. Even the special teams got an important shot in the arm from linebacker Trev Faulk. With all of those things working for it, St. Louis has an opportunity to earn its biggest, by far, win of the young season.

    Working against the Rams, though, is the game Seattle is not coming off. The Seahawks likewise pounded the ***** 34-0, but then had a bye week. That bye allowed Seattle an extra week to gameplan and prepare for St. Louis’ visit.
    Martz said this challenge is one of the things he loves about the game.

    “This is a good football team,” Martz said. “It should be a heck of a game, a heck of a matchup for us.”

    INJURY REPORT: The Rams escaped Sunday night’s game relatively unscathed. Left guard Scott Tercero, who made his first career start, was the only injury of note, according to Martz.

    Tercero fractured his hand, but should be ready to play against Seattle. He sat out Wednesday’s practice because of the...
    -10-07-2004, 05:41 AM
  • RamWraith
    Adjustments Could Improve Special Teams
    by RamWraith
    Friday, November 26, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    In any dire situation desperate means eventually become necessary. For the Rams’ special teams, the predicament has gotten so difficult that coach Mike Martz has reached his boiling point and changes are set to be made for Monday night’s matchup at Green Bay.

    Amidst speculation for various changes on each special teams unit this week, most alterations won’t be evident until the teams take the field Monday night.

    After a brisk Thanksgiving Day practice at Rams Park on Thursday, defensive end Leonard Little hinted at one important addition to the kickoff coverage units.

    “You might see me on kickoff coverage,” Little said with a wink and a nudge. “I used to do that a long time ago. I might have to come out of retirement. Be on call, be on watch for that, and see me on kickoff coverage on Monday.”

    Little is probably the Rams most valuable defensive player, but was a special teams dynamo when he first arrived in St. Louis. In 1998, Little’s rookie season, he made eight special teams stops, but he became that group’s most consistent performer soon after.

    In just six games in 1999, Little made nine tackles on special teams, but 2000 was his best season on the special units. He made 18 special teams tackles that season before making 11 in 2001. He made enough of an impression with his nonstop motor and speed during that season to start taking more snaps with the defense.

    Seemingly out of nowhere, Little racked up 14.5 sacks that season and established himself as one of the league’s best defensive ends. The following season was his first as a full-time starter.

    Now, Little is likely going to get back to his roots on the special teams. His addition certainly can’t hurt, but Martz said earlier this week that he would prefer not to have his starting defensive players pull double duty.

    Martz said his biggest problem with the special teams struggles is just that, seeing the starters forced to help in areas they normally wouldn’t.

    “Not only is it hard, it’s unfair,” Martz said. “There are guys who should be doing a better job. That’s what I am angry about. That’s really disturbing.”

    A prime example of a player who has struggled doing both is middle linebacker Trev Faulk. By all accounts, Faulk is the Rams most consistent performer on special teams, but when he took over the job from Robert Thomas, he was forced into doubling his output.

    His performance on both units has suffered because of the extra workload. Not that Faulk has been bad; it’s more a matter of being able to keep his energy level up, according to Martz.

    “He’s been on special teams, but he’s also started, (so) he’s exhausted,” Martz said.

    That physical wear and tear attributed to Thomas getting his job back this...
    -11-27-2004, 04:45 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams try to get over big win
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas Of the Post-Dispatch

    Sunday, Oct. 17 2004

    Never feel like you're out of a game - no matter what the circumstances at the
    time. That's something Mike Martz has stressed since he became head coach of
    the Rams in 2000.

    The Rams took those words to heart Oct. 10 in Seattle, staging one of the
    biggest comebacks in NFL history.

    "I was so proud of the way we played that game in every phase," Martz said.
    "Special teams, defense, offense. The coaches kept coaching hard."

    And the Rams erased a 17-point deficit in the last 5 1/2 minutes of regulation
    to defeat the Seahawks 33-27 in overtime.

    "And we'll enjoy that," Martz said.

    Just not right now. Martz enjoyed the plane ride back from Seattle, but by
    Monday morning, he was back watching tape and all business.

    On Wednesday he said Seattle "is done and over with. It doesn't have any
    bearing on this week."

    When the players returned to practice Thursday, the message was the same. Just
    like Martz doesn't want them to dwell on a tough loss, he doesn't want them
    dwelling on a big victory.

    "It's really the same thing," Martz said. "It goes both ways. This thing you
    put to bed. ... We're moving on. Just like a heartbreaking loss."

    In essence, Martz didn't want the Seattle victory to be a distraction. It might
    seem like a strange approach, but then again, maybe not.

    "I think it's really boosted morale," Martz said. "We want to keep that good
    feeling of winning. That confidence. But one game does not make a season. We've
    got the entire season left."

    Starting with tonight's "Monday Night Football" encounter with Tampa Bay at the
    Edward Jones Dome. "We've got to stay focused on Tampa Bay," Martz said in the
    days leading up to the game. "Otherwise you won't be at your best, and we
    certainly want to be at our best."

    The message seemed to sink in with the Rams players, although we won't know for
    sure until about 11 o'clock tonight.

    "If we're sitting here concerned about how great we played in the fourth
    quarter against Seattle, then we're not going to play well against Tampa Bay,"
    safety Adam Archuleta said. "So you look at it, you enjoy it. Pat yourself on
    the back, but then you've got to get back to work."

    Rather than dwelling on Seattle, why not build on it?

    "That's what we've been talking about in practice," defensive tackle Ryan
    Pickett said. "Let's build on this comeback. And on defense, let's go out and
    start the game and...
    -10-18-2004, 04:21 AM
  • Guest's Avatar
    Martz keeps team working
    by Guest
    Martz keeps team working
    The Associated Press

    ST. LOUIS (AP) - Even with an extra day to prepare for their next game, the St. Louis Rams won't be relaxing at home on Thanksgiving.

    Extra practice time also will be devoted to horrid special teams, the end result of a frustrating, up-and-down season and 5-5 record for coach Mike Martz, even if the Rams don't play until Monday at Green Bay.

    "If this wasn't a Monday night game, obviously we'd practice," Martz said Wednesday. "If we had a veteran team that was playing really well ..."

    But Martz doesn't. The Rams have 17 players with two or fewer years experience, players he's counting on to come through on special teams. He's still trying to get them used to the realities of life in the NFL.

    "What's irritating is their role primarily is special teams and it's almost as if they feel they shouldn't have to do that," Martz said. "But they'll learn because they'll either do it or they won't be here." Martz is reluctant to use too many starters on special teams for fear of wearing them out for regular duty.

    "You get all these other guys that should be doing a better job that don't, and you can't put them in there because they're going to beat you because they've demonstrated it," Martz said. "That's what I'm angry about."

    Players didn't seem to mind practicing on Thanksgiving. They also worked out on the holiday last year, although that was on a regular work week.

    "This is our job, this is the time of year we practice and play during the holidays," tight end Cam Cleeland said. "You've got to do it."

    Plus, Martz also is worried players might not retain everything that was installed in practice on Wednesday.

    "We practiced Thanksgiving last year and we were rolling, and we've practiced in years past, too," quarterback Marc Bulger said. "It's an extra day to prepare and to give us a whole day off, you forget everything you put in and come back a little rusty on Friday.

    "So I think it's a good idea to keep things going."

    Special teams rank 30th in the NFL in punt returns and 31st in kickoffs, kickoff returns and punt coverage. Sean Landeta is 31st out of 33 rated punters in the NFL.

    This week, there'll be an additional special teams walkthrough.

    "You can't really do special teams full go because that's a little dangerous," punt returner Sean McDonald said. "We've just got to know what we're doing more and be confident in what we're doing."

    Definitely, there will be changes in the lineup. Middle linebacker Robert Thomas, a first-round pick in 2002, will be restored to his job after five games, and Grant Williams will start at right tackle after missing...
    -11-26-2004, 05:35 AM