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Run defense also a concern (pats press)

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  • Run defense also a concern (pats press)

    Run defense also a concern

    Friday, November 06, 2004 By CHRIS KENNEDY
    [email protected]

    The Patriots defense has more to worry about tomorrow than simply their depleted secondary.

    While injuries that will sideline starting cornerbacks Ty Law and Tyrone Poole will encourage St. Louis coach Mike Martz to call pass plays to his wide receivers early and often, the Patriots were not exactly stalwarts against the run in last week's 34-20 loss at Pittsburgh.

    The Steelers gained 221 yards on the ground, the second team in seven games to crack the 200-yard rushing mark against the Patriots. Edgerrin James and the Colts piled up 202 in the season-opener. With Kansas City's Priest Holmes and Baltimore's Jamal Lewis on the horizon, the Patriots need to solidify that area of their game in a hurry.

    As for this week, New England has to hope any added emphasis they put on shoring up their secondary does not come at the expense of their run defense. The Rams will never be run-oriented, but they certainly have what it takes to mix in an effective ground game that might make them seem unstoppable.

    Marshall Faulk, still one of the most feared combination backs in the league, is averaging 4.2 yards per carry over 111 rushes and is the team's third-leading receiver with 28 catches. Oregon State rookie Steven Jackson, the 24th overall pick in last April's draft, is averaging 5.7 yards over 46 carries.

    One of the two is in most of the time, but there have been occasions when both are on the field. Faulk is a better receiver than most wide receivers, so having both on the field certainly can work. The bigger Jackson is obviously a more powerful back, the smaller but still hard-nosed Faulk is one of the most dynamic players in league history.

    Martz said the carries might now be split right down the middle over the coming weeks because the Rams are confident the 6-foot-1, 231-pound Jackson can handle his responsibilities.

    "To be honest, if something were to happen to Marshall, with Steven we wouldn't miss a beat in terms of what we are doing," Martz said. "It doesn't diminish our offensive package at all, which I could never say about a rookie before and never thought I would say about a rookie back.

    "I can't tell you how pleased I am with his maturity, his ability to absorb and be a student of the game."

    Jackson's progress allows the Rams to give the 5-11, 211-pound Faulk the kind of breaks that will leave him fresh late in games and perhaps late in the season as well. Faulk, in his 11th year, has been hampered by hand and knee injuries in recent seasons.

    "He is playing very well," Martz said of Faulk. "His weight is down. His knee feels good. He has the speed back. I just think it is a very healthy situation, and that is what is encouraging as we go down the stretch here, to have those guys healthy."

    Jackson was viewed as a top 20 or so pick in last April's draft, but the couple of teams that might have picked a running back - Dallas and Denver, most notably - did not, so Jackson fell to the Rams.

    The Patriots had traded for Corey Dillon to replace Antowain Smith before the draft, so they did not need a running back. The Dolphins selected 19th, five spots in front of the Rams, but they assumed Ricky Williams would be playing for them in 2004 as did everyone else. Miami offensive lineman Vernon Carey was their pick.

    "We weren't really thinking about a running back," Martz said.

    "It was a remarkable situation for us, and we were just fortunate he was there."

    EXTRA POINTS: The Patriots did not change their injury report. Receivers Troy Brown (shoulder), Deion Branch (knee) and David Givens (knee), running backs Corey Dillon (thigh) and Patrick Pass (thigh), right tackle Tom Ashworth (back) and linebacker Larry Izzo (knee) all missed at least a portion of practice yesterday, according to the team. All are questionable with the exception of Branch, who is doubtful. ... Starting right tackle Grant Williams, receiver Dane Looker (12 catches) and tight end Cam Cleeland (2 catches) are former Patriots now with the Rams. Looker is doubtful with an ankle injury. "You're talking about a man who prepares more than any one you have ever seen," Cleeland said of New England coach Bill Belichick, "Film study, situations, those kinds of things beyond belief. He doesn't want you to make any mistakes at all." Added Williams about Belichick, "He talks a lot about getting each game into the fourth quarter with a chance to win."

    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

Related Topics


  • RamDez
    He's got it covered Patriots' Samuel ready for Rams
    by RamDez
    He's got it covered

    Patriots' Samuel ready for Rams

    By Joe Burris, Globe Staff | November 6, 2004

    FOXBOROUGH -- To hear Patriots coach Bill Belichick tell it, the St. Louis Rams aren't necessarily prone to subscribe to the adage, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again," when it comes to their offensive game plan. He said as far as play-calling is concerned, New England's opponent tomorrow won't run a particular formation on consecutive downs even if it does succeed.

    "The Rams don't have many tendencies because they make it a point of never running the same play twice," Belichick said yesterday.

    Therefore, regardless of how New England's secondary fared in a play where Torry Holt ran a slant pattern and Isaac Bruce went long, the Patriot defensive backs might as well forget about it as they move on to the next down. Belichick was asked if that meant St. Louis had as many as 70 formations in their playbook.

    "It's more like 300," he said.

    It will present quite a challenge for a Patriots secondary looking to bounce back from last Sunday's debacle in Pittsburgh, where All-Pro cornerback Ty Law suffered a broken bone in his left foot that will sideline him 4-7 weeks. That means the two starting cornerbacks are on the injured list, as Tyrone Poole is out with a knee injury.

    After its troubles with Pittsburgh wideouts Plaxico Burress and Hines Ward, the New England defense must face an offense that ranks sixth in the NFL in total yards (375.4 per game). Led by Bruce (44 catches, 635 yards, 1 touchdown) and Holt (37 catches, 491 yards, 4 TDs), St. Louis ranks fifth in the league in passing offense (264.1 yards per game).

    What's more, running back Marshall Faulk is a perennial pass-catching threat, placing third on the team with 28 receptions for 216 yards. Faulk leads the Rams in rushing with 111 carries for 465 yards and 3 touchdowns, and this season has been bolstered by the exceptional running of rookie Steven Jackson (46 carries, 260 yards, 1 TD).

    Asante Samuel, who has been the Patriots' starting right cornerback since Poole's injury, said the Rams merely offer another challenge.

    "You've got Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, and all those guys are very fast and they run very good routes," said Samuel. "They've got good hands and they play real good ball. This is the NFL, you never know what you're going to get. You can get [particular plays] twice or you may not get them twice.

    "Every game is a different kind of challenge, so you have to just approach it by watching film and figuring out what to do."

    After starting for the first time this season Oct. 10 against Miami, Samuel had 3 tackles, 2 passes defensed, and a forced fumble in the Oct. 24 win over the Jets. He had three tackles and a forced fumble in last Sunday's loss in...
    -11-07-2004, 03:04 AM
  • Undertaker #59
    Being a Show-stopper is one tough task for Pats
    by Undertaker #59
    The St. Louis Rams, though downgraded to a "Really Good Show on Turf," still are expected to be a tall order for the battered and bruised Patriots on Sunday.

    01:00 AM EST on Thursday, November 4, 2004

    Journal Sports Writer

    FOXBORO -- It's said that the Rams' offensive plays are like snowflakes -- no two are ever the same. And when they string enough of those adorable little snowflakes together, a defense can find itself first snowblind and then buried.

    Is it still "The Greatest Show on Turf" (one of the all-time great team nicknames, by the way)? St. Louis quarterback Marc Bulger said the 2004 offensive edition of the Rams probably isn't. But he does believe they're at least "A Really Good Show on Turf."

    The Patriots, battered, bruised and bandaged (but also 6-1), have the chore of trying to stop "The Show" on Sunday. Stop it after St. Louis has had a week off to rest its bones and regroup after a stunning 31-14 loss to hopeless Miami. Stop it without the best cornerback in football the last seven seasons -- Ty Law -- and his secondary colleague Tyrone Poole. Stop it as the Rams look to rev it up and close the first half of their season on an uptick.

    Even with the Patriots' injuries (in addition to being without Law and Poole, Corey Dillon and David Givens are 50-50 to play), this is a Class A matchup. It's the first meeting between the teams since Super Bowl 36, which was a pretty exciting game. And Bill Belichick and Mike Martz are simply the best in the business on their respective sides of the ball.

    "Mike has as sophisticated and tough an offensive system to defend as anybody we ever played," Belichick said yesterday. "When I go into the (team) meeting today, (I) can't stand there and say, 'Here's two things we got to take care of.' There's going to be 82. And they mightdo 10 things that you didn't even talk about that you have to deal with."

    So good are the Rams, Belichick divulged that he lets Martz's system take him to school in the offseason.

    "Every year in the offseason, I watch them, study them, try to learn more about the passing game from them so I can implement certain aspects of it into our team. Our assistant coaches -- Josh (McDaniels, quarterbacks coach), Brian (Daboll, receivers coach) and Charlie (Weis, offensive coordinator) -- we spend time in the offseason watching them throw because, in all honesty, nobody throws it better."

    Some of the usual culprits are still with the Rams -- wide receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, running back Marshall Faulk and tackle Orlando Pace. But Bulger is new to the Patriots, and St. Louis also has added burly and versatile running back Stephen Jackson.

    The Patriots played the Rams twice in 2001. The first...
    -11-04-2004, 05:46 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams-Patriots: The Breakdown
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas

    When the Rams run the ball

    Don't be confused by those early rushing yards the Patriots gave up against Denver. For strategic reasons, the Patriots lined up in their nickel package when the Broncos came out in sets with two wide receivers and two tight ends. They were willing to give up rushing yards in order to limit Broncos tight ends in the passing game. New England's sturdy front seven, which includes five Pro Bowlers, remains tough to beat with conventional running games. The group is fundamentally sound, tackles well and has good gap discipline. Miami had success with an unbalanced line against the Patriots; don't be surprised if the Rams go that way on some carries.

    EDGE: Patriots

    * * * * * * *

    When the Patriots run the ball

    With Sammy Morris (knee) and Lamont Jordon (calf) expected to be sidelined Sunday, the Patriots will use a running-back-by-committee of Kevin Faulk, rookie BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Heath Evans. Evans (6-0, 250) is a fullback by trade, but has 151 NFL carries, had 149 carries in college at Auburn, and could be used Sunday in some one-back sets. Faulk is the team's best pass protector and remains a productive third-down back at age 32. But he hasn't had more than 13 carries in a game since 2003. Green-Ellis was promoted from the practice squad two weeks ago and gained 65 yards on 13 carries against Denver.

    EDGE: Rams

    * * * * * * *

    When the Rams pass the ball

    The Patriots normally don't blitz much, but if they see or sense a weakness, they can adjust accordingly. It's the Bill Belichick way. The New England secondary obviously misses cornerback Asante Samuel, who signed a big-money deal with Philadelphia in free agency. The unit has had its ups and downs and has been vulnerable to the big play at times. (Donnie Avery, that's your cue.) The Patriots frequently scheme to protect their secondary. But with or without Steven Jackson, if the Rams can establish any kind of running game to keep New England honest, they should have some opportunities in the passing game.


    * * * * * * *

    When the Patriots pass the ball

    The key for St. Louis will be to force neophyte quarterback Matt Cassell into predictable passing situations. Because when he has to throw downfield, the sacks pile up. Last season with Tom Brady at quarterback, the Patriots yielded only 21 sacks. They've already given 26 in six games this season. Even so, the left side of the Patriots' offensive line remains formidable: Left tackle Matt Light, left guard Logan Mankins and center Dan Koppen are all Pro Bowlers. There could be pass-rush opportunities on the right side, however, where Rams castoff Mark LeVoir is expected to start again for the injured Nick Kaczur. LeVoir figures to need some help against...
    -10-26-2008, 05:15 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, 05:18 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, 04:21 PM