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  • Rams expect tough game in their bid to keep Miami winless

    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    MIAMI - First Seattle, then Tampa Bay. Now Miami. For the third week in a row, the Rams are playing a top 10 defense. And for coach Mike Martz, the quality is evident as soon as he pops in the tape.

    Even before he starts the particulars of breaking down an opposing defense, Martz looks for signs of intensity, how players run to the ball and finish plays, what's happening on the line of scrimmage and what the technique of the defensive backs is like.

    "There's a lot of things I like to look at before I even look at structure, just on the attitude and how they play the game," Martz said. "And these guys, on defense, they look like a 6-0 team. This is a hard nut to crack. They're a really good group."

    The Dolphins, of course, are considerably south of 6-0. We're talking tip of Argentina, not far from Antarctica, south. At 0-6, they are the NFL's only winless team. So Martz's words may be nothing more than a motivational ploy designed to prevent any letdown by his players.

    But for those who think 0-6 is 0-6, Martz offers these words:

    "If you had to line up and put your hand on the ground against Jason Taylor, you wouldn't be worried about their record," Martz said.

    No, you'd be worried about survival. Taylor is a two-time Pro Bowl defensive end who has 56 1/2 sacks since the start of the 2000 season. He's joined on the Miami defensive line by tackle Tim Bowens, a two-time Pro Bowler who is tough to budge at 325 pounds. He just returned to the lineup after missing five games with a back injury.

    At middle linebacker, Zach Thomas is a five-time Pro Bowler who some observers think is enjoying the best season of his career. At weakside linebacker is future Hall of Famer Junior Seau, who may be on the down side of his career at 35, but remains a productive player, is a threat on the blitz, and is more comfortable with the system in his second season with Miami.

    The secondary includes four-time Pro Bowler Sam Madison and two-time Pro Bowler Patrick Surtain at cornerback.

    So any ineptness in Miami is strictly limited to the offensive side of the football. As usual, the "D" in Dolphins stands for defense. Miami enters Sunday's game with the Rams ranked No. 3 in the NFL in total defense, and No. 1 in passing defense. Miami is yielding only 17.8 points a game, and no one has scored more than 24 points against them this season. Those kinds of numbers usually aren't associated with 0-6.

    "We realize that they're a dangerous team," wide receiver Isaac Bruce said. "They have one of the better defenses in the league. We're going to go in with that mindset, and make sure we play like that. ... We're definitely going to respect them. Because in the NFL, anything can happen. We've seen that many a time before."

    From both sides of the fence. In 2002, the Rams stumbled to an 0-5 start. They played host to a 4-0 Oakland team on Oct. 13, an Oakland team that led the league in total offense and was first in rushing defense at the time.

    But quarterback Marc Bulger threw three touchdown passes in his first NFL start, Marshall Faulk rushed for 158 yards, and the Rams beat the Raiders 28-13 - a Raiders team that went on to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.

    Fast forward to Dec. 28, 2003. The Rams, with a 12-3 record and a chance for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, closed the regular season at Ford Field against a 4-11 Detroit team playing for nothing but pride. But Detroit rallied from a 20-10 halftime deficit to stun the Rams 30-20.

    In the case of Miami, the Rams know the Dolphins are desperately hungry for a victory.

    "We just want to make sure it's not against us," running back Steven Jackson said.

    "We don't want to be the first one," linebacker Brandon Chillar said. "Nobody wants to be the first one to give up that win to them."

    It's something Martz stressed to the players during the week.

    "We don't want to be that starting point," he said. "We just don't."

    For those with extremely short memories, Martz adds: "I think Tampa was 1-5. And it was all we could do to beat them."

    Actually, the Buccaneers were 1-4 entering Monday's game, but you get the point. The Rams needed a fourth-quarter TD pass from Bulger to Torry Holt, plus a couple of late defensive takeaways in the red zone, to win a nip-and-tuck affair 28-21.

    "You just don't know," Martz said. "There are no breathers in this league."

    Martz doesn't expect one Sunday in Pro Player Stadium against the Dolphins.

    "They're very capable of beating us," Martz said. "There's no question about it."

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  • RamWraith
    Big Plays Costly to Rams Defense
    by RamWraith
    Wednesday, October 27, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    For a team that ranks toward the bottom of the NFL in total defense it certainly seems like the Rams defense has been pretty good most of this season.

    Much like the other six games, though, the same problem plagued the defense against Miami on Sunday: Big plays. Every time it appeared the Rams had the Dolphins stopped and set to punt, they came up with something. Usually those plays weren’t simply move the chains plays, but rather score points type of plays.

    Rams’ coach Mike Martz said the defense must improve in that area after watching Miami post some big numbers in key situations.

    “We gave up three plays in the passing game worth 160 yards, which ends up being three touchdowns,” Martz said. “I think that is a significant number and obviously, it had an impact in the game.”

    Those three plays actually add up to 161 yards, but regardless, they all hurt the Rams on the scoreboard and might have cost them a shot at their fifth win heading into the bye week.

    Perhaps none of those plays was bigger than the one at the end of the first half. After Miami took over at the St. Louis 47, it seemed certain the Dolphins would score, but the defense as it has done many times this season with its back to the wall, got a pair of stops in Miami’s backfield and a penalty to push the Dolphins back to their 42. On third-and-28, quarterback Jay Fiedler picked up on a Rams’ blitz and hit tight end Randy McMichael for a 42-yard touchdown, giving Miami a 14-7 lead at halftime.

    Martz said the play was his fault, as he tried to take the reins on a defensive play, calling for an all-out blitz on the play.

    “That was the only defense I have called as a head coach,” Martz said. “And we gave up a touchdown.”

    The Dolphins ended any hopes the Rams had of a comeback in the fourth quarter when cornerback Travis Fisher slipped and receiver Chris Chambers caught a slant pass in stride for a 71-yard touchdown. That touchdown gave Miami a 31-14 lead and put to rest St. Louis’ hopes of a Seattle-like comeback.

    The other big play came right away in the first quarter on a reverse pass from receiver Marty Booker to Chambers for a 48-yard gain. That set up running back Sammy Morris’ 8-yard touchdown scamper and put Miami up 7-0. That play worked for the first time all year, as Miami coach Dave Wannstedt said after the game it hadn’t worked, even in practice a single time.

    Safety Aeneas Williams and his teammates in the secondary struggled to make plays, being burned by a few trick plays and missing some opportunities to make interceptions. The unit did force a fumble, but it was overturned by a Miami challenge.

    Williams said he and his teammates have to start coming up with the near misses.

    “We have to go back and correct...
    -10-28-2004, 05:09 AM
  • RamWraith
    Martz to Rams: All is forgiven
    by RamWraith

    Knight Ridder Newspapers

    ST. LOUIS, Mo. - (KRT) - St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz just wants his team to have some fun.

    Martz feels like the Rams have been too uptight during their current slump, which has included four losses in their last five games.

    "It is legal to have fun and play professional football," said Martz as the Rams (5-6) prepared to play their archrivals, the San Francisco ***** (1-10), at noon today at Edward Jones Dome. "You can do that. That's what we have tried to stress with our guys. They are concerned about making mistakes, and they've played tight.

    "You can't do that. You can't play tight. I want to get them away from that."

    Martz said he's adopted a policy of amnesty toward any player who makes a mistake as long as they are hustling at the time. That includes wide receiver Isaac Bruce, who fumbled twice resulting directly in two touchdowns for the Green Bay Packers in their 45-17 win over the Rams on Monday night.

    "When you have good people and people with good character and you know where their heart is, all sins are always forgiven," Martz said. "That's why I'd never say anything to Isaac about the fumbles. I know Isaac. Nobody hurts more than Isaac does when that happened.

    "Nobody works harder or is more committed. Those things you just move on from."

    Despite their recent troubles, the Rams remain in the thick of the NFC West race, one game behind the division-leading Seattle Seahawks in the win column.

    "Every week is an opportunity," Rams defensive end Bryce Fisher said. "The one thing about the National Football League is you have 16 times to prove yourself. We really want to get back out there on Sunday and show we can play better than we have."

    The ***** own the worst record in the NFL. They've lost six straight games. But they'd like nothing better than putting a big dent in the Rams' playoff hopes.

    "You always want to be beat the Rams," ***** tight end Eric Johnson said. "We wouldn't mind taking them out of the playoffs. It should be a good battle. We're looking to get our first win in a long time."

    The Rams' defense has been shredded for 556 rushing yards over their last three games.

    Overall, the Rams rank 28th in overall defense and 31st in rushing defense.

    Martz blamed his team's defensive troubles on the transition from a Cover-2 defense to a defense that relies on multiple schemes and more pressure under new defensive coordinator Larry Marmie.

    Martz said he tried to institute the change gradually because he didn't want confuse his players, but that decision backfired as players have been slow to embrace the change in philosophy after three seasons under former...
    -12-05-2004, 07:26 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams blitzed by 1-6 Miami
    by RamWraith
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Sunday, Oct. 24 2004

    MIAMI -- With the score tied 7-7 and half a minute to go in the first half
    Sunday, the Miami Dolphins faced a third-and-28 dilemma from the Rams' 42.

    Rams defensive coordinator Larry Marmie planned to play a soft Cover 2. Keep
    the receivers in front of you, prevent the big play, and the worst thing that
    happens is a moderate gain and a field goal.

    But coach Mike Martz asked Marmie to blitz.

    ``I said, `Just go after them,' '' Martz recalled later. ``That was the only
    defense I've called as a head coach, and we gave up a touchdown. How do you
    like that?''

    The blitz never got there. Miami quarterback Jay Fiedler found Randy McMichael
    open over the middle, and with Rams defenders slipping all around him on the
    grass surface at Pro Player Stadium, McMichael had an easy journey to the end
    zone. His touchdown gave Miami a 14-7 lead with just 22 seconds remaining until

    It was that kind of day for the Rams in a numbing 31-14 loss to the previously
    winless and offensively inept Dolphins. For the Rams, whatever could go wrong
    did. At 4-3, they remain atop the NFC West only because Seattle lost to Arizona

    The Rams dropped passes and muffed interceptions. They committed several costly
    penalties. They got fooled on one trick play after another. And they somehow
    made one of the league's most feeble offenses look potent.

    ``It was just a comedy of errors,'' Martz said.

    Except no one in Rams Nation is laughing.

    ``Obviously, we're upset,'' Martz said. ``This is not what we wanted. It is
    what it is.''

    What it is is the type of game that teams with serious playoff aspirations
    shouldn't have. Especially against a downtrodden team such as Miami.

    So what happened? There were no easy answers in the locker room.

    ``You got me,'' offensive guard Adam Timmerman said. ``I don't know. We made so
    many mistakes -- everywhere.''

    ``They were more hungry than us, or something,'' defensive tackle Ryan Pickett
    said. ``We just got outplayed.''

    Why? ``I have no idea,'' Pickett said. ``I couldn't give you an explanation of

    Booed loudly in pregame introductions, Fielder played more like Dan Marino than
    the NFL's lowest-rated passer entering Sunday's play.

    ``We played the run real well and broke down in other areas,'' Pickett said.
    ``We gave them too many big plays. Too many big passing plays. And we had
    missed tackles. It's just disappointing.''

    Nearly two-third of Miami's passing yardage came on three big plays:

    * Wide receiver...
    -10-25-2004, 05:12 AM
  • RamWraith
    Stuck in the middle
    by RamWraith
    Rams can light it up, but they're not super
    By John Powers, Globe Staff | November 5, 2004

    The last time we saw the guys in the horned helmets, they were standing numbly in Nawlins while their star-spangled rivals carried Adam Vinatieri off the Superdome floor. The Patriots have earned another set of championship rings since then and strung together a 21-game winning streak. And the St. Louis Rams have gone on a jolting carnival ride that still hasn't quite leveled off.

    Since they lost to New England on the final play of Super Bowl XXXVI 2 1/2 years ago, the Rams have gone 7-9 (after starting 0-5) and 12-4, losing to Carolina (remember them?) in double overtime in the playoffs. Now, they're 4-3 and coming off an embarrassing loss to the league's worst team.

    So, whatever happened to the "Greatest Show On Turf"?

    "I don't know what you would call us now, but we are still pretty good on offense," said Marc Bulger, who'll be calling signals for his shoulder-padded track team when St. Louis hosts the Patriots Sunday afternoon.

    The Rams now may be merely "The Really Good Show," as Bulger acknowledges, but they still have enough flash and dash to dazzle a banged-up New England secondary. "St. Louis is explosive whenever you play them," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "First week or 10th week."

    The Rams can also be implosive, having given up 34 points to Atlanta, 28 to New Orleans, 27 to Seattle, and a shocking 31 to a Miami bunch that has averaged barely a dozen a game. Which is why the Rams aren't talking about any Patriotic payback this weekend. They're just trying to stay on top of the NFC West and make the playoffs.

    "Payback really isn't an issue with me," said Rams coach Mike Martz. "We are just trying to keep our head above water, so I just don't look at it like that. If we were better, then maybe I would consider that."

    The Rams are in transition now, somewhere between where they were three years ago and where they'd like to be again. "We are trying to get back there," said Martz. "We are not there. We are a fairly good team. I think we will eventually be a real good team, but we are a ways away from being there."

    Two games -- the crazy victory over the Seahawks and the inexplicable loss to the Dolphins -- tell the tale of a team betwixt.

    St. Louis, trailing, 27-10, at Seattle with fewer than six minutes to play, coolly ran off 23 points, tying the game with eight seconds left in regulation and winning in overtime on a 52-yard pass from Bulger to Shaun McDonald. "That really sums up how explosive they are," said Belichick, "and how many points they can score in a hurry."

    The Rams can also give up a lot in a hurry -- 17 in the fourth quarter to the Dolphins, who...
    -11-05-2004, 05:21 PM
  • RamWraith
    Whiner press blasts Martz
    by RamWraith
    Wednesday, September 29, 2004

    Martz instrumental in demise of Rams

    Ira Miller

    In the Super Bowl following the 2001 season, the New England Patriots played a nickel defense virtually the entire game, daring St. Louis to run.

    The Rams didn't take the bait. Of course, you might remember, New England, a two-touchdown underdog, won the game -- the second-biggest upset in Super Bowl history.

    St. Louis coach Mike Martz did not get his reputation as an offensive wizard by ordering his quarterbacks to hand off. Three seasons later, Martz has not changed. The Rams still live -- and, frequently these days, die -- by the pass.

    St. Louis, which is averaging fewer running plays than any other team in the NFL, will bring a 1-2 record to San Francisco for a Sunday night game against the *****. The Rams have beaten only winless Arizona -- in a game the Cardinals led after three quarters -- and their roster includes better talent than their won-lost record shows.

    The quarterback, Marc Bulger, leads the NFL in completions and has a completion percentage of 69.3. One receiver, Isaac Bruce, leads the league in receptions and receiving yardage, and the other, Torry Holt, was the league leader in 2003. Left tackle Orlando Pace might be the best in the game. Running back Marshall Faulk has slipped with age, but remains effective. And nine of the 11 starters return on a defense that at least was decent in the recent past.

    So how come the Rams stink?

    Yeah, it's time to take another look at Mad Mike.

    As a head coach, Martz makes an easy target because he is outgoing, outspoken and different. But for all his offensive flair, Martz still doesn't get it. The Rams thought they were starting a dynasty when they won the Super Bowl under Dick Vermeil following the 1999 season, but they haven't come close to fulfilling their promise.

    A month ago, this game looked like a certain loss for San Francisco. Now, despite how wretchedly the ***** played at Seattle, it's up for grabs.

    The Rams have had the same problems for five seasons under Martz. They lack attention to detail, play sloppily, allow their quarterback to take too many hits (which is what happened to Kurt Warner) and use questionable strategy and play-calling that ignore the running game.

    Since Martz became their head coach, the Rams have been more than 37 percent above the league average in losing turnovers and 17 percent above the league average in giving up quarterback sacks. Except for last season, they also have been penalized at a rate well above the league average.

    Yet, rather than change, Martz apparently has become defiant about doing it his way.

    When he was questioned in St. Louis this week about the abject lack of balance on offense -- 29 runs, 91 passes called in...
    -09-30-2004, 06:40 AM