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  • Martz sticks to bye-week routine

    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    10/25/2004

    With an inelegant defeat looming large in their rear-view mirror and the heretofore unbeatable New England Patriots just up the road, the Rams are going on vacation.

    OK, not really. But Mike Martz plans to give his troops plenty of time to heal their wounds and catch their breath during this bye week. They won't return to the practice field until Monday - six days before the defending Super Bowl-champion Patriots, 6-0 this season and winners of their past 21 games - visit the Edward Jones Dome.

    Martz said the Rams would "lift and run this week. This has been our procedure each year with bye. It's not contingent on anything other than, I've always felt like these players need time to recover physically. For about five weeks here, we've had a pretty good run, out to the (West) Coast and back (twice), and Monday night, and got things kind of off schedule a little bit. We need to let them calm down a little bit, get back physically.

    "We can come back and kind of regroup on Monday and get going again."

    Martz's method has worked to perfection in the past: He's 4-0 in games after a bye week, a record second only to Philadelphia's Andy Reid (6-0) among active NFL coaches. Martz also said he and his staff would use the extra time for evaluation - and re-evaluation - in the wake of Sunday's 31-14 loss to the previously winless Dolphins in Miami.

    "It gives us a chance sit down and look at some things," he said, "particularly any changes from a personnel standpoint that we feel like we need to make, anything we want to do differently on either side of the ball."

    Those figure to be lengthy sessions, given the multitude of breakdowns that scuttled the Rams' chances vs. the Dolphins. Martz was particularly unhappy about the shoddy special-teams play.

    "We've got to address a lot of things with our special teams," Martz said. "We need to look at our special teams in its entirety and figure out where we're going with it. ... We've started to put starters on special teams, and we shouldn't have to. Because we've got some guys, they're here because that's part of their role. We feel like we've got to compensate for those guys, and that's just not good."

    Still on top

    While the Rams were taking a header in Miami, their chief NFC West rival was committing a pratfall of its own. Seattle's 25-17 loss at Arizona kept the Rams (4-3) in first place in the division, a half-game ahead of the Seahawks (3-3). No other division leader has a record worse than 5-2.

    "It's a step-by-step process, and we need to win the division. That needs to be our focus," Martz said. "And however you get that done, that's what you have to do; whatever your record is, it is. And as long as we can stay atop the division by the end of the season, you've achieved that goal and now you're ready to move on to the next step. ...

    "So being atop the division at this point still feels good, even though it was obviously a very devastating, disappointing loss."

    Wilkins gets his kicks

    Martz knew that a Jeff would be kicking vs. the Dolphins, but he was almost certain that it would be Chandler and not Wilkins. The sprained left ankle that Wilkins suffered Oct. 18 while making a tackle on a kickoff against Tampa Bay prompted the Rams to sign Chandler last week.

    Wilkins told Martz on Sunday morning that his ankle was improved but that he was worried about his ability to get distance on his kicks. "He was concerned that the game could come down to a long field goal," Martz said. "I said, 'Physically, do you feel like you're all right?' And he said, 'Yeah, I feel pretty good.' So I told him, 'Then don't worry about it. If you miss it, you miss it.'

    "He's very competitive, and he just doesn't want to let anybody down. He was OK. He kicked the ball well."

    Wilkins hit both of his extra-point tries and didn't attempt a field goal. His three kickoffs were a little shorter than usual; they were fielded at the 5- , 15- and 12-yard lines.

    Return problems

    With Arlen Harris scrubbed because of a hamstring injury, rookie Dwight Anderson became the fourth kick returner of the season for the Rams.

    None has fared especially well: Harris and Steven Jackson are averaging 19.8 yards a return, and Mike Furrey 19.7. Anderson averaged just 17.8 yards on four returns Sunday and missed an obvious hole on one run.

  • #2
    Re: Martz sticks to bye-week routine

    Originally posted by RamWraith
    Martz's method has worked to perfection in the past: He's 4-0 in games after a bye week, a record second only to Philadelphia's Andy Reid (6-0) among active NFL coaches.
    Can't really argue with that, I guess.

    I just hope that the players, not just the staff, will be spending some of this extra time reviewing tape about what went wrong in Miami.

    Comment

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    • RamWraith
      Martz says Landeta needs to produce
      by RamWraith
      By Jim Thomas
      Of the Post-Dispatch
      Monday, Nov. 22 2004

      Sleepless in St. Louis.

      It has come to that for Rams coach Mike Martz as he grapples with how to keep
      his team afloat. And more precisely, how to get a handle on the ongoing
      nightmare that is Rams special teams.

      "I went back and looked at it really hard this morning," Martz said Monday
      afternoon. "Didn't sleep at all last night. This is the first night in my
      coaching career that I didn't sleep. A lot of things went through my head. But
      the more I thought about it, the more clear it became.

      "And as I was able to talk to more coaches this morning, it even became more
      clear. I do know what the approach is and the course that we'll take."

      Martz declined to provide specifics. But a couple of things were clear by late
      Monday afternoon. For one, veteran punter Sean Landeta is now officially on
      notice. That became clear during Martz's Monday news conference.

      Buffalo returned three Landeta punts for 148 yards Sunday - a Bills franchise
      record.

      The punt return yardage total also was the second-highest ever recorded against
      a Rams team - exceeded only by Washington's 155 yards in punt returns against
      the Los Angeles Rams on Sept. 21, 1963. Martz made it a point Monday to mention
      that not all of those Buffalo return yards were caused by faulty coverage.

      "We just punted the ball very poorly," Martz said. "A 26- yard punt, you know,
      that's not good. That's going to come back at you no matter how you look at it.
      Sean didn't punt well at all. He hasn't for some time now. So that's a major
      issue."

      Landeta's 26-yard punt came in the first half Sunday. Actually, there was no
      return on the play, with Nate Clements fielding it on a fair catch. But Buffalo
      took over on its 49 and scored its second touchdown of the game three plays
      later.

      Of course, the major damage occurred in the third quarter, when a 39-yard
      Landeta punt was returned 53 yards by Jonathan Smith to the Rams' 5, setting up
      a Buffalo TD. Less than 3 minutes later, Clements returned a 54-yard punt 86
      yards for a TD. Martz said the hang time on the 54-yarder was not good enough.

      "No, it wasn't," Martz said. "And those always come back at you - those rockets
      that go down the middle of the field."

      During his news conference, Martz also indicated in general that some players
      were in the process of playing themselves out of jobs - at least jobs with the
      Rams beyond this season. And in the case of defensive back Tod McBride, the
      Rams didn't wait until next season.

      The Rams were...
      -11-23-2004, 03:38 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
    • 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
    • RamWraith
      Martz says Rams worked against fake
      by RamWraith
      By Bill Coats
      Of the Post-Dispatch
      11/08/2004
      The Rams worked Friday on defending a fake field goal by New England. They even covered the possibility of the kicker taking a quick snap and tossing a pass toward a wide receiver on the sideline.

      "We'd practiced that," coach Mike Martz said Monday. "Walked through it, talked about it, ran it."

      And sure enough, the play unfolded Sunday early in the third quarter at the Edward Jones Dome. "The exact same thing," Martz noted. But rather than being ready for it, the flummoxed Rams were caught flat-footed.

      As they milled about the line of scrimmage, long snapper Lonie Paxton zipped the ball to kicker Adam Vinatieri, whose toss to a wide-open Troy Brown on the left side resulted in a 4-yard touchdown.

      Instead of a field goal making it 22-14, the Patriots' lead ballooned to 26-14. A 40-22 loss dropped the Rams (4-4) into second place in the NFC West, with pacesetting Seattle (5-3) coming to town Sunday.

      While viewing the game tape, Martz discerned the fatal flaw on the fake kick: Cornerbacks Jerametrius Butler and Dwight Anderson were scurrying to switch sides so that Anderson's sore shoulder would be protected in the rush scheme. No one was within 10 yards of Brown when the ball floated into his arms.

      "Not too much to say about that," defensive end Leonard Little said. "It's another mistake we made."

      The most egregious error on that play was the failure to call a timeout, Martz said, even though the players on the field noticed that something was up. "They recognized it, but they were caught in the middle changing over. It was a comedy of errors," Martz said. "You can't blame it on the two corners. We should have enough experience here that ... you need to see it and just burn a timeout. It's just inexcusable, really. I'm really kind of at a loss for words on that one."


      Upon further review

      As he promised to do, Martz phoned Mike Pereira, the NFL's supervisor of officials, on Monday morning. Martz probably brought up several areas of concern, but it's a good bet that a non-call on Pats linebacker Mike Vrabel, who clobbered sliding Rams quarterback Marc Bulger, was at the top of his agenda.

      That was particularly galling for the Rams because Little later received a dubious 15-yard, roughing-the-passer penalty for hitting New England quarterback Tom Brady just after the ball had been released. Martz wouldn't disclose the details of his chat with Pereira, but he said he was satisfied with the talk.


      Problems vs. running game

      Only four teams in the NFL are yielding more rushing yards per game than the Rams, which throws their next three games into the "Yikes!" category.

      Seahawks running back Shaun...
      -11-09-2004, 05:24 AM
    • RamWraith
      Rams' swagger returns for playoffs
      by RamWraith
      Martz says club has 'enthusiasm' entering postseason

      BY STEVE KORTE




      ST. LOUIS - In a manner of speaking, the St. Louis Rams won the lottery by making the NFC playoffs with an 8-8 record.

      Only eight teams prior to this season had ever qualified for the playoffs without a winning record.

      The Vikings and the Rams, who play the Seattle Seahawks at 3:15 p.m. Saturday at Qwest Field, have raised that number to 10 teams.

      "If we continue to grow like we have in the last two weeks, anything is possible," Rams coach Mike Martz said of his team making an extended playoff run. "I'm exciting about the potential. The possibilities are interesting."

      The Rams' playoff berth becomes even more improbable when you take into account such mitigating factors as:

      They had the worst takeaway-giveaway ratio in the NFL this season.

      They had the worst special teams in the NFL this season.

      They got routed by two of the NFL's worst teams -- the Miami Dolphins (4-12) and the Arizona Cardinals (6-10).

      "Sometimes you have roller-coaster seasons, and unfortunately, we are in the midst of one," Rams wide receiver Isaac Bruce said. "The best thing is that we are on a high right now."

      The Rams ended the regular season at minus-24 in takeaway-giveaway ratio with 39 giveaways and only 15 takeaways.

      The next closest team was the San Francisco ***** with a minus-19 giveaway-takeaway ratio. Of course, the ***** had the worst record in the NFL at 2-14.

      "I don't know," Martz said of his team's turnover disparity. "I know we had a run with Chris (Chandler) with quite a few interceptions, and I think that you just kind of take that out. Obviously, we need to take the ball away more defensively. We lost a lot of fumbles with receivers this year, which is very unusual. Some of those things I can't explain, to be honest with you."

      Chandler had eight interceptions in his two starts, but that doesn't explain how the Rams went from an NFL-leading 46 takeways last season to an NFL-low 15 takeaways this season.

      The Rams nearly pulled off an unwanted grand slam in special teams as they ranked 32nd in kickoff coverage, 31st in kickoff and punt returns and 30th in punt coverage this season.

      "There is some issues," Martz said of his special teams. "Some of it, is personnel, some of it is coaching. And, I think we can resolve both of those."

      The Rams had been using several defensive starters on special teams in recent weeks, but they got away from that during their 32-29 overtime win over the New York Jets on Sunday.

      The Rams surrendered a 94-yard kickoff return to Jerricho Cotchery in the game.

      "We had to take...
      -01-05-2005, 03:41 PM
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