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Can the Rams lift fans' spirits?

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  • Can the Rams lift fans' spirits?

    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    These are dark days for St. Louis area sports fans.

    In case you missed it, the Cardinals got bounced in four games in the World Series by the Boston Red Sox.

    The Rams lost their most recent outing to Miami, one of the NFL's worst teams.

    On the college football scene, Missouri is on the skids, and Illinois can't beat anybody. In hockey, the NHL lockout continues with no end in sight.

    "The River Otters are doing good though," offered Rams offensive guard Tom Nutten, a hockey fan.

    Yeah. But short of getting a World Series do-over for the Cardinals, the surest way to lift the spirits of Gateway City sports fans would be a victory Sunday over the New England Patriots.

    "We've got to pick them back up," linebacker Trev Faulk said.

    "We can't make up for a couple years ago in New Orleans," defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson said, referring to the Rams' 20-17 Super Bowl loss to New England after the 2001 season. "And we can't make up for losing the World Series. But we can get a little bit of that respect back ... by taking care of business. We don't like the way we left that thing before the bye week. We didn't play Rams football."

    Not even close. Shoddy special teams play, a porous secondary and inconsistent offense added up to a 31-14 loss to the previously winless Dolphins. And if the Rams didn't feel bad enough about that setback, the New York Jets' 41-14 trampling of the Dolphins on Monday night only reinforced the fact that Miami isn't very good.

    "It was probably a good thing to have the bye after that (Miami game)," offensive tackle Grant Williams said. "Just to kind of catch your breath, put that in the past, and come back."

    Many Rams spent at least part of Sunday watching New England's record 21-game winning streak end in a lopsided 34- 20 loss at Pittsburgh.

    "They lost that game the way they've been winning games," coach Mike Martz said. "They gave the ball up early, and Pittsburgh was able to get some points on them, and held on. That's kind of been (New England's) formula."

    Despite scoring first for the 15th consecutive game, the Patriots fell behind 21-3 in the first quarter with the Steelers converting two New England turnovers into 14 quick points. By game's end, the Patriots were minus-4 in takeaway- giveaway differential. The last time the Patriots were minus-4 was also the last time they lost - 20-17 to Washington on Sept. 28, 2003.

    During the 21-game winning streak, the Patriots were remarkably consistent in the turnover game. They had been on the minus end only four times - and just minus-1 on all four occasions. Overall, New England was plus-22 in takeaway- giveaways during the streak.

    Because of those miscues in Pittsburgh, the Rams won't have the opportunity to end the Patriots' winning streak - an opportunity that seemed enticing to some at Rams Park.

    "It's a huge game regardless," Faulk said. "But I guess it would've been a little bit more exciting if we would've gotten an opportunity to break their streak. But that doesn't take anything away from the game."

    Not in the big picture, anyway. Despite the stumble in Miami, the Rams remain atop the NFC West. Seattle has an identical 4-3 record, but the Rams hold the tie- breaker by virtue of their 33-27 overtime victory over the Seahawks on Oct. 10

    Taking on an unbeaten New England team, "would have been cool for the headlines and everything," Jackson said. "But it really doesn't matter. ... What matters is what our record is. We're 4-3, and that's not good enough. We want to be 5-3 next week - it's just as simple as that."

    Martz agrees.

    "For us right now, where we are, we're struggling to stay on top of the division any way we can," Martz said. "So that's the most important thing.

    "Obviously, the Patriots and the history we have with them is kind of special. But we're just so concerned right now about getting better. And guys like (rookie) Tony Hargrove and some of those guys, they have no idea."

    True, but they figure to get a history lesson before the week is out.

Related Topics


  • 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
  • RamDez
    Super Bowl reunion for Rams, Patriots
    by RamDez
    Franchises haven't met since New England's upset

    The Associated Press

    ST. LOUIS - The last time the St. Louis Rams and New England Patriots played, everything was at stake.

    In their heyday as the Greatest Show on Turf, the Rams were the oddsmakers’ two-touchdown favorite in the 2002 Super Bowl. They were one of the biggest favorites to fall, losing 20-17 on Adam Vinatieri’s 47-yard field goal as time expired.

    “I still remember just turning around and watching that ball sail through the uprights and all of that confetti falling in the wrong color,” defensive tackle Tyoka Jackson said. “That’s the memory I’ll think of always.”

    Not all of the Rams who were around then have that same depth of feeling. Wide receiver Isaac Bruce said there’s nothing special about facing the Patriots for the first time since then, He doesn’t even think about the game that could have solidified the Rams as one of the great offensive forces in league history.

    St. Louis won its first Super Bowl after the 1999 season and was attempting to win two championships in a three-year span — something the Patriots subsequently did.

    “I don’t hold any grudges,” Bruce said. “It’s spilled milk and the milk’s been cleaned up, so you just move on.”

    Now, the focus is more on the Patriots’ amazing record since then. New England (6-1) had won an NFL-record 18 straight games and 21 in a row counting the postseason before collapsing under the weight of four turnovers in a 34-20 loss to the Steelers last week.

    The loss was the Patriots’ first since Sept. 28, 2003 against the Redskins.

    Understandably, they’re more proud of accomplishing what the Rams couldn’t: those two Super Bowls wins.

    “We’ve always said that you’re defined in this league by championships, and not how many regular season games you win in a row,” linebacker Mike Vrabel said. “People always remember the champion, and that’s our goal every year.”

    The Rams (4-3) had known Bill Belichick was building something special earlier in the 2001 season when they won 24-17 at New England. After that game, coach Mike Martz referred to them as a Super Bowl-caliber team, and earlier in the game week he called Belichick a “Hall of Fame coach.”

    “I mean this sincerely when I tell you that he’s the standard we’re all trying to get to,” Martz said. “He may be as good as there’s ever been.”

    Belichick returns the favor, admitting he’s borrowed aspects of the Rams’ offense over the years.

    “Don’t get me wrong, we’re not the Rams — not even close,” Belichick said. “The things that we do, we’ve definitely studied a lot of what they’ve done, and used some of it as it applies to what we do.”

    To start a new streak, the Patriots will have to control an offense that while still greatly respected isn’t as dynamic as it used to be. The...
    -11-07-2004, 04:05 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams preparing for Patriots visit
    by RamWraith
    By R.B. Fallstrom
    AP Sports Writer
    Monday, Nov. 01 2004

    The St. Louis Rams would have liked being the team to end the New England
    Patriots NFL record 21-game winning streak, considering their last trip to the
    Super Bowl was a loss to New England after the 2001 season.

    Instead, the Steelers beat them to the punch. The Patriots (6-1) play at St.
    Louis (4-3) on Sunday.

    "Of course you would have liked to have gotten a crack at it," tight end Cam
    Cleeland said Monday. "But they're still Super Bowl champions, so they're going
    to be just as good as they were before that loss.

    "I guarantee you they're going to be hyped and want to come in and prove
    they are the best."

    Watching the Patriots lose 34-20 to Pittsburgh was among the bye week
    activities for most Rams players, including coach Mike Martz. He watched the
    game again on tape before the team returned to practice in full pads on Monday.

    "They lost that game the way they'd been winning games," Martz said. "They
    gave the ball up early."

    But to Martz, it doesn't make any difference that the Patriots are no longer
    unbeaten. To him, it's always been about the Rams' performance.

    "We're struggling to stay on top of the division any way we can," Martz said
    "Obviously the history we have with them is kind of special, but we're just so
    concerned right now about getting better."

    The Rams have plenty to prove. In the last game before their midseason
    break, they became the first team to lose to the lowly Dolphins.

    "We don't like the way we left that thing before the bye," defensive tackle
    Tyoka Jackson said. "We've got an extra day of practice just to focus on who we
    are and what we did, and try to eliminate the mistakes and play like the Rams."

    Under Martz, they're more likely to be themselves after some time off. He's
    4-0 after the bye, perhaps because he's willing to treat the week as a break.

    Players showed up three times for lifting and running but otherwise had time
    to heal from aches and pains. Cornerback Travis Fisher, shaky in his first game
    back from a broken forearm sustained in the preseason, will have more time to
    reacclimate himself with the defense.

    Offensive guard Chris Dishman is closer to health from a knee injury; tackle
    Grant Williams has gotten over a stringer; defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy could
    play for the first time since breaking a foot early in training camp, and
    Jackson expects to be back at close to full strength after missing two games
    with a pulled left hamstring.

    "We're by and large healthy,"...
    -11-02-2004, 06:18 AM
  • Nick
    Rams extend their bye week - PD
    by Nick
    Rams extend their bye week
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    The Rams couldn't pass block. They couldn't get a break from officials. And their field goal "block" unit couldn't find Troy Brown. As a result, they couldn't defeat New England on Sunday at Edward Jones Dome.

    The Patriots' 40-22 victory represented the worst margin of defeat, and the most points allowed, by the Rams at home in Mike Martz's 4 1/2 seasons as head coach.

    Refreshed from the bye week, and catching New England's secondary in an injury-depleted state, the Rams were supposed to be at the starting point of a second-half run. A bit of revenge for that Super Bowl XXXVI loss three years ago, and a statement that the Rams could hang with the best in the NFL. Instead, the Rams (4-4) looked very much like just another team.

    Afterward, the frustration was obvious everywhere you went in the Rams' locker room. Defensive captain Tyoka Jackson, normally a positive-thinking, even-tempered spokesman for the team, lost his cool when asked by a reporter to rate the loss.

    "Every loss is (bleeped), that's what every loss is," Jackson said, using a form of profanity he had never been heard to utter previously. "So I characterize every (bleeping) loss the same way."

    More frustration. Running back Marshall Faulk grated at reporters looking for some kind of analysis on what went wrong Sunday.

    "I'm not here to degrade anybody on my team or my coach," Faulk said. "Or say anything out of the ordinary. I'm here to play football. When my number's called I try to produce, and when it's not, I try to help the other guy produce."

    Thanks in part to Leonard Little's first NFL touchdown, on a recovery of a Tom Brady fumble in the end zone, the Rams hung with the Patriots in the first half.

    But three calls by Ed Hochuli's crew drew the ire of Martz, several Rams, and the 81st consecutive sellout crowd in St. Louis:

    -A hit on Bulger by Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel with 8 1/2 minutes left in the first half appeared to be flagrant.

    -A fumble by Bulger appeared to be out of bounds before being recovered by Jarvis Green with 1:02 to play in the first half.

    -And a hit by Little on Brady appeared to be legal, on the play after the Green "recovery."

    The Rams went 0-for-three on those calls. The combination of the Green fumble recovery and the roughing the passer penalty on Little proved to be a six-point swing. It ended a field-goal opportunity by St. Louis and jump-started a New England field goal drive that left the Patriots with a 19-14 lead at intermission.

    The no-call on Vrabel and the call on Little left Martz particularly frustrated.

    "So I will call Mike Pereira and find out what...
    -11-07-2004, 11:46 PM
  • DJRamFan
    Steelers snap Patriots' record winning streak
    by DJRamFan
    By Bob Ryan, Globe Staff | November 1, 2004

    PITTSBURGH -- To the question of whether it would end with a bang or a whimper, here is the unequivocal numerical answer: Pittsburgh 34, New England 20.


    ''It was pretty clear the Steelers were the better team," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. ''They outcoached us. They outplayed us. They certainly deserved to win, and they won convincingly."

    Thus ended yesterday an almost unimaginable football feat. The New England Patriots had gone 21 games and 13 calendar months without losing a game, and had become the National Football League champions for the second time by winning the Super Bowl last February. But their bid to make it 22 victories in succession ended under ideal conditions on a late afternoon when the Steelers delighted a franchise record gathering of 64,737 with a truly inspired performance.

    To the end, the Patriots stayed relentlessly on message regarding their endless succession of victories. The word ''streak" had been officially banned from their vocabularies by Belichick. In the team's pregame notes, the media was informed that "The Patriots have recorded a one-game winning streak 21 consecutive times, setting an all-time record for the 85-year history of pro football." "It was never about the streak," said linebacker Mike Vrabel. "It was not in our preparation this week."

    Week after week the Patriots had, as the pundits like to say, "found a way to win." This time, however, they submitted a brilliant formula for defeat, combining a sputtering offense with a defense that allowed a disturbing 417 yards, of which a whopping 221 came on the ground. Four turnovers led to 24 Pittsburgh points.

    "We didn't do anything near the way we are capable of doing it, and they played an outstanding game" said Belichick. "That's the result you get when those two forces collide."

    There is nothing disgraceful about losing to the Steelers. Pittsburgh is a good team. The Steelers entered the game with a 5-1 record and they regarded this game as something akin to an mid-semester exam. They always have enjoyed the backing of a raucous crowd. No one ever looks forward to playing in Pittsburgh. This was true when they played in Three Rivers Stadium, and it remains true now that they play in the outstanding facility known as Heinz Field.

    The problem is that the Patriots feel they didn't give themselves much of an opportunity to win this particular game. "We knew that, eventually, we were going to lose a game," said safety Rodney Harrison. "But we don't want to lose in that fashion."

    The Patriots started the game the way they normally do, which is to say they scored first. Pittsburgh won the toss and elected to receive. The Patriots got them off the field quickly,...
    -11-01-2004, 10:46 AM