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  • Role Reversal Wins for Rams

    Wednesday, October 20, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    Tampa Bay’s defense has been one of the league’s best for quite awhile. It has been able to stop the run, defend the pass and create turnovers seemingly at will.

    On Monday night, when the Buccaneers played the Rams, it was little surprise to see a defense doing all of those things. It was surprising, though, to see which team was doing the stopping and stealing the takeaways.

    Sure, Tampa Bay did its part defensively, holding St. Louis to 324 yards of offense and forcing a pair of turnovers. But it was the Rams defense that looked like the vintage Buccaneers.

    St. Louis entered the game with just two takeaways on the season and ranked toward the bottom of the league in total defense, but had the momentum of a thoroughly dominant performance in the second half a week ago against Seattle. In that half, the Rams held the Seahawks to just 85 yards.

    The mojo gained from that effort appeared to carry over to Monday night’s game, especially in redzone situations.

    “I can’t say enough about our defense,” Rams’ head coach Mike Martz said. “They had their backs to the wall throughout that game, and responded. They had three turnovers created in the redzone. Then, coming out, they create a turnover at the 5-yard line to set up a score. It just doesn’t get any better than that; (just) a terrific job defensively.”

    St. Louis finished Monday night’s game with four takeaways, double the output of what it had on the season going in. That low output of turnovers was cause for concern, especially coming a year after the Rams led the league in takeaways with 46.

    Martz said it wasn’t like St. Louis was trying to avoid getting takeaways; it was just one of those things that will take its own course.

    “We are not doing anything differently than we normally do,” Martz said. “It’s going to happen. You just keep working at it and you can’t get discouraged by it.”

    The Rams certainly weren’t discouraged by anything defensively Monday night. After falling behind 14-7 in the second quarter, St. Louis pinned the Buccaneers at their 4 with a perfect punt from Sean Landeta. Two plays and two penalties later, quarterback Brian Griese and center John Wade couldn’t make the exchange and defensive end Leonard Little recovered. So began an avalanche of takeaways that essentially won the game for St. Louis.

    That recovery at Tampa Bay’s 5 set up running back Marshall Faulk’s 1-yard touchdown plunge and tied it at 14. That takeaway was simply the precursor for the biggest play of the night.

    After quarterback Marc Bulger threw an interception to linebacker Ian Gold that was returned to the St. Louis 15, safety Adam Archuleta decided to make the defense go on the offensive.

    On first-and-10, Griese handed to running back Michael Pittman, who darted down the left sideline for an 8-yard gain before Archuleta wrapped him up and dragged him down. In this case, down wasn’t to the ground, though, as Pittman rolled over the top of Archuleta and in the process lost control of the ball before his knee hit the ground.

    The alert Archuleta snatched the ball and darted 93 yards to the endzone, turning what seemed destined to be a sure Tampa Bay score into a game-altering touchdown that gave the Rams a 21-14 lead.

    Bulger said he was grateful to see Archuleta return to the form that allowed him to make big plays throughout his four-year career.

    “Turnovers are the name of the game, and for Arch to bail me out personally with the fumble recovery, that was huge,” Bulger said. “We had a lot of that last year, and it is nice that we are starting to get some more turnovers. We will win a lot of games if we can keep doing that.”

    But the Rams defense was just getting warmed up with the takeaways. It came up with two big takeaways deep in its territory and late in the game. After taking a 28-21 lead, Tampa Bay took over on its 23, promptly marching to the St. Louis 21. Defensive end Erik Flowers came up with a sack to push the Buccaneers back to the 29 and, two plays later, cornerback Jerametrius Butler picked off a Griese pass in the endzone, thwarting Tampa Bay’s comeback attempt with 5:51 to play.

    Butler wasn’t done coming away with the ball, though. He helped to seal the game a little more than five minutes later as Tampa Bay was driving again. With the game on the line and the Buccaneers at the St. Louis 36, Griese fired a strike to receiver Tim Brown for a 21-yard gain to the Rams 12. As Brown was falling, safety Aeneas Williams ripped the ball loose from behind and it bounced into Butler’s awaiting arms. Butler returned it 2 yards before falling to the ground to secure the win.

    The fumble recovery capped an excellent performance from Butler, who finished with the interception, the fumble recovery, 12 tackles and three passes defensed. He contributed half of the Rams’ turnovers and since he had two, there was no doubt about the defense’s productivity, especially considering where the ball was when the takeaways were earned.

    “That is what we wanted to do,” Archuleta said. “Everybody knows the more turnovers you get, the better chance you have to win the football game. They haven’t been coming to us early in the season, but we are still working on those little things in practice and keep trying to get those turnovers.”

    Most everyone around the league is fully aware of the Rams’ offensive capabilities, but if the defense can continue to create chances for that potent offense with takeaways, it won’t matter much how many yards it allows. For now, St. Louis (4-2, 3-0 in the NFC West) is happy to be back in first place in the division, a spot it is quite familiar with.

    Rams’ running back Marshall Faulk said the rest of the division might want to get used to it.

    “I believe we won the West last year and in order to win the West, you’ve got to come through us and that’s how we feel about it,” Faulk said. “It’s not bragging or anything. That’s just how it is.

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  • RamWraith
    Rams take away good feeling
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Tuesday, Oct. 19 2004

    In three previous Monday night games against Tampa Bay under coach Mike Martz,
    the Rams were a combined minus-9 in takeaway-giveaway ratio.

    St. Louis coughed up the football 13 times in those three games - on nine
    interceptions and four lost fumbles - while coming up with only four takeaways.
    Little wonder, then, that the Rams lost all three contests.

    But on Monday at the Edward Jones Dome, Tampa Bay felt the Rams' pain. For a
    change, it was the Buccaneers who were charitable, committing four turnovers.
    And for the first time in five games against the Bucs, the "St. Louis" Rams
    ended the evening in the plus category in takeaway-giveaway ratio at plus 2.

    (The Rams were minus 1 in the 1999 season's NFC championship game but still
    defeated the Buccaneers 11-6.)

    Although the Rams moved the ball about as well as they have against Tampa in
    recent years, they probably would not have defeated the Buccaneers 28-21
    without the takeaways by their defense.

    "Turnovers are the name of the game," quarterback Marc Bulger said. "And for
    Arch (Adam Archuleta) to bail me out personally with the fumble recovery - that
    was huge. We had a lot of that last year, and it's nice that we are starting to
    get some more turnovers. We will win a lot of games if we can keep doing that."

    Bulger threw his only interception of the game midway through the third period.
    Linebacker Ian Gold's interception return of 31 yards allowed Tampa to take
    over at the St. Louis 15 with seven minutes 41 seconds left in the third
    quarter.

    But just when it looked like Tampa Bay was poised to break a 14-14 tie,
    Archuleta came up with the defensive play of the game. In wrestling Bucs
    running back Michael Pittman to the ground on a carry around left end,
    Archuleta stripped the ball away with his right hand. After tossing Pittman to
    the ground, Archuleta had the presence of mind to pick up the loose ball and
    race 93 yards for a touchdown.

    It was the Rams' first defensive touchdown since Game 13 of last season, a
    26-20 Monday night victory at Cleveland. It was the third-longest return of a
    recovered fumble in Rams history. Interestingly, each of the three longest
    returns were made by safeties.

    Toby Wright returned a fumble 98 yards at New Orleans in 1994, the Rams' last
    season in Los Angeles, and Keith Lyle returned a fumble 94 yards at Atlanta in
    2000.

    And now, Archuleta. For Archuleta, it was his second career touchdown. He
    returned a Kyle Boller fumble 45 yards for a TD last season against Baltimore.
    Monday's return...
    -10-20-2004, 06:17 AM
  • RamWraith
    Big plays spark Rams
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Tuesday, Oct. 19 2004

    Things started out oh so easy Monday for the Rams, with a fast and furious
    lightning bolt of a touchdown pass to Torry Holt less than three minutes into
    the game.

    But, hey, the opponent was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And Rams fans know what
    that means. It has been a slugfest and a struggle against the Bucs ever since
    the teams met in the 1999 season's NFC title game. That epic struggle went to
    the Rams 11-6.

    Since then, the Bucs have turned into Mike Martz's personnel Monday night
    nemesis. Tampa won Monday nighters against the Rams in 2000, 2001 and 2002.

    But not this time. With some long-distance dialing by Marc Bulger to Holt,
    Marshall Faulk's 100th NFL rushing touchdown and takeaways by the defense, the
    Rams finally have defeated the wicked witch of the Southeast.

    Holt's second touchdown catch of the day, a 36-yard reception with 10 minutes
    46 seconds to play, snapped a 21-21 tie. The 28-21 victory was the third in a
    row for St. Louis, boosted the Rams' record to 4-2 and moved them into sole
    possession of first place in the NFC West ahead of Seattle (3-2).

    "There was never any doubt - shoot," a drained Martz said. "What a great
    performance by the defense. They made plays when they had to make plays just
    like last week."

    The St. Louis defense spent much of the night helping Michael Clayton's rookie
    of the year candidacy at wide receiver for Tampa Bay. (Clayton finished with
    eight catches for 142 yards). And Rams linebackers and safeties couldn't cover
    a Buccaneers tight end to save their lives.

    But the Rams defense came up with four turnovers - it had only two all season
    entering the contest.

    A fumble recovery by Leonard Little at the Tampa 5 set up Faulk's 100th TD - a
    1-yard run on fourth and goal late in the second quarter.

    Safety Adam Archuleta, back in the starting lineup for the first time in three
    weeks, forced a Michael Pittman fumble. Archuleta picked the ball up and
    scooted down the sideline for a 93-yard TD midway through the third quarter. It
    was the third-longest return of a fumble recovery in Rams history and gave them
    a 21-14 lead.

    After Holt's second TD catch gave the Rams that 28-21 lead, cornerback
    Jerametrius Butler snuffed out a Bucs scoring drive with a leaping interception
    in the end zone with 5:42 to play. The pass was intended for - who else? -
    Clayton.

    Butler also recovered a fumble by Tim Brown at the St. Louis 12 with just 26
    seconds to play, with Rams safety Aeneas Williams forcing the fumble. A replay
    booth review of the play...
    -10-19-2004, 02:13 PM
  • RamWraith
    St. Louis Continues Search for Takeaways
    by RamWraith
    Wednesday, September 29, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    Turnovers. The one defining characteristic of the Rams’ defense in their dominant five-year run has been turnovers.

    Interceptions and fumble recoveries, no matter the method, takeaways can cure a lot of what ails a defense. Give up 450 yards of offense? No big deal, get the ball. Without them, an opportunistic defense becomes a mediocre one.

    A defense that forces turnovers can alter a game in a matter of moments. Last year, St. Louis had such a defense, as they had a league-leading 46 takeaways. That number more than made up for the 315.8 yards per game it allowed. The totals did more than keep the opponent from scoring; it instantly gave the ball back to one of the league’s most prolific offenses.

    With three games in the books this season, the Rams find themselves still searching for their elusive first takeaway. At the same stage of the season last year, St. Louis had three fumble recoveries and an interception.

    During the offseason, there were a few changes on the defensive coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Lovie Smith left to take the head job with Chicago. Former Arizona defensive coordinator Larry Marmie replaced him. The philosophy didn’t change much, but there is still an adjustment to a new coach and that might have contributed to the lack of takeaways.

    Rams’ coach Mike Martz said any time a new coach is added there is an adjustment period.

    “I think anytime you inherit a system and he’s very aware of the system, he has to put his own stamp on it and be able to adjust with the personnel,” Martz said. “We’re in the process of going through some of that. I said at the beginning of the year we’ll have some growing pains early, but eventually we’ll be a pretty good team.”

    The opportunities for turnovers have been there. Instead of converting, though, those close plays have resulted in near misses instead of big plays, none more than the painstaking almost got it miss by cornerback Aeneas Williams in the Rams’ 28-25 loss to New Orleans on Sunday.

    Saints’ quarterback Aaron Brooks fired a pass over the middle into the endzone with his team trailing 17-16 and more than eight minutes to play in the game. Williams broke on the ball, as he has so many times in his career, and appeared to have a game-saving interception. Instead, the ball squirted through the future Hall of Famer’s hands and fell into Saints’ receiver Joe Horn’s for a touchdown.

    After the game, Williams shouldered the blame for the loss, pointing directly to that play.

    "When I have an opportunity in the end zone to make a play on a ball and don't, that's a serious letdown to my teammates," Williams said. "We wouldn't even be in the situation that we were in at the end of the game. I have to make that play."
    ...
    -09-30-2004, 06:38 AM
  • RamDez
    Big-play Rams beat Bucs
    by RamDez
    Big-play Rams beat Bucs


    BY JEFF GORDON
    Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
    Monday, Oct. 18 2004

    Ah, big plays.

    The Rams made them on offense and defense while dispatching the Tampa Bay
    Buccaneers 28-21 on Monday Night Football.

    Sure, they gave up some yards to the mediocre Brian Griese-led Buccaneers
    offense. That was a bit disconcerting. And Rams quarterback Marc Bulger
    suffered a couple of costly turnovers.

    But defensive end Leonard Little recovered a fumble that set up one touchdown;
    safety Adam Archuleta forced a Buccaneers fumble and returned it for a
    touchdown; cornerback Jerametrius Butler intercepted a pass in his end zone;
    on the final Buccaneers drive, safety Aeneas Williams stripped receiver Tim
    Brown of the ball and Butler recovered it.

    And, oh yeah, Bulger went up top on a couple of touchdown passes to Torry Holt.

    So the Rams built on last Sunday’s comeback win at Seattle with a solid
    home-field performance on the big stage.

    At 4-2, the Rams lead the NFC West. The hapless Miami Dolphins are up next.

    Just think, things looked so bleak just a few weeks ago . . .


    THE GOOD


    * The Rams come out throwing to Marshall Faulk and handing the ball to Steven
    Jackson. There is nothing wrong with using two feature backs at once,
    especially when they have those skills.


    * Talk about timing and touch! Bulger led Holt beautifully on a 52-yard
    touchdown pass; when Holt made his last move and turned for the ball, there it
    was. In a nanosecond, the Rams led 7-0.


    * Back off Holt and he’ll catch a little curl pass, then beat you with a move
    for a 23-yard gain. And Tampa Bay is supposed to have a GOOD secondary.


    * On their second defensive series, the Rams stuffed Michael Pittman twice to
    force a three-and-out. That was more like it.


    * Hello, Mr. Little! After getting a little eager and jumping offsides, he
    pounced on a Griese fumble to give the Rams the ball at the Tampa Bay 5. That
    was a HUGE moment in the game.


    * We loved coach Mike Martz’s decision to take his shot on fourth and goal
    from inside the Tampa Bay 1. Faulk muscled the ball over the goal line with a
    nice second effort and the Rams tied the game at 14.


    * With the Buccaneers poised to take the lead in the third quarter, Archuleta
    pried the ball away from Pittman, then got up with the ball and ran 93 yards
    for an enormous defensive touchdown.

    Suddenly the Rams led 21-14.


    * On a third-and-14 play, a screen pass to Jackson went for 28 yards as he
    showed his moves, acceleration and power in one flourish.


    ...
    -10-19-2004, 03:51 AM
  • RamWraith
    Giants Too Tall for Rams
    by RamWraith
    Sunday, October 2, 2005

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Just when it seems the Rams have finally corrected a hole, another leak seems to spring up.

    Such was the case Sunday at Giants Stadium, where New York combined a dominant offensive display with some opportunistic and fortunate defensive play en route to a 44-24 win against the Rams.

    The win improves the Giants to 3-1 while St. Louis drops to 2-2 with the loss. Records and numbers aside, it was the thorough dominance of New York’s offense that should cause the Rams to ring the emergency bell yet again.

    After having its defense of all units bail it out, St. Louis began to get excited about the possibilities of a solid defense to go with an offense that was on the verge of a breakout.

    In fact, the Rams’ defense had essentially come up with the biggest of the big plays in each of the team’s victories. Against Arizona in week two, Adam Archuleta came up with a sack late in the game to preserve the win and he followed it with an 85-yard interception return for a touchdown last weekend against Tennessee.

    But none of that seemed to matter much to the Giants on Sunday.

    “The past doesn’t really mean anything,” Archuleta said. “It’s what we do today. We can’t sit here and say we did this last week. We have a job to do on Sundays and we have to go out and play as good as possible. We didn’t do that.”

    No, the Rams didn’t do that. The Giants torched St. Louis all day, using a mix of run and pass but having the most success through the air. By the time it was said and done, New York had 456 total yards, led by the combination of quarterback Eli Manning and receiver Plaxico Burress.

    Those two connected 10 times for 204 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Things got so bad for the Rams that at one point they trailed 27-7 early in the second quarter. Manning found Burress early and often and that became a trend that continued throughout the day.

    Of course, the St. Louis secondary was no match to the taller, more physical Burress. More often than not Manning would just float one anywhere near Burress, who would make the play and take it to the end zone.

    “We couldn’t stop him,” cornerback Travis Fisher said. “He’s a big, tall receiver and that’s to his advantage.”

    Burress wasn’t the only Giant taking the name on his helmet a little too literally against a smaller St. Louis secondary. Amani Toomer caught a fade for a 1-yard touchdown in the first quarter during New York’s early run on points.

    While the defense was busy struggling in a way similar to the defense of 2004, the Rams appeared to find the future at right tackle. Rookie Alex Barron did a better than average job in protecting quarterback Marc Bulger, who would eventually need as much protection as he could get.
    ...
    -10-03-2005, 05:55 AM
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