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  • Kicked when they're down

    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Sunday, Nov. 21 2004

    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - They got knocked down and couldn't get up. And by the time
    the Rams knew what hit them, a game that was there for the taking had
    disintegrated from a 17-14 lead into a 37-17 loss to Buffalo.

    "It happened so fast," wide receiver Torry Holt said.

    So fast and, pardon the expression, so furious. The Rams got kicked in the gut
    by Buffalo's kicking game in the third quarter. Over and over again.

    First came a 53-yard punt return by Jonathan Smith to the Rams 5. Tight end
    Mark Campbell caught a touchdown pass on the next play, giving Buffalo a 24-17
    lead just 1 minute 17 seconds into the second half.

    Then came an 86-yard punt return for a TD by Buffalo's Nate Clements after the
    Rams' next possession.

    And after the Clements score, Erik Flowers of the Rams couldn't field a pop fly
    kickoff by Buffalo's Rian Lindell and Buffalo's Jason Peters recovered at the
    Rams 31. A Lindell field goal followed and, just like that, the Bills led 34-17
    less than seven minutes into the second half.

    "The special teams stuff is revolting to say the least," Martz said. "And it's
    going to be hard to win another game until we get that cleared up."

    Cleared up? It's been a mess for several seasons, not several games.
    Call Sunday's game a case of Bobby's Revenge. Sent packing after three
    struggling seasons in St. Louis, special teams coach Bobby April put on a
    clinic in the second half with his new team, the Bills.

    When asked if April had devised anything differently with Buffalo than he used
    in St. Louis, Martz replied sarcastically: "I don't think so. Super sleuth? You
    mean that tricky Bobby? They just flat returned it. They've got good people."

    Shoddy special teams play may have been the main problem for the Rams -
    "pitiful" was the word Martz used to describe the unit's performance - but it
    was far from the only trouble spot.

    Once again, Rams defenders had trouble defending the tight end. Campbell, who
    hadn't caught a pass in Buffalo's three previous games, did something no other
    Bills tight end had done: He caught three TD passes in one game.

    One came at the expense of strong safety Adam Archuleta and two came against
    coverage by free safety Rich Coady. Sometimes the coverage was good against
    Campbell; sometimes it wasn't so good.

    "It wasn't a situation where they fooled us or we were in the wrong coverage,"
    Archuleta said. "It was nothing like that. Plain and simple, I was in position
    to make a play in a one-on-one battle and he ended up winning it. That
    disappoints me."

    For those scoring at home, opposing tight ends have caught 45 passes for 494
    yards and six TDs against the Rams this season. Campbell's first two scores
    came in the first half, allowing the Bills to erase an early Rams lead of 10-0.

    The third TD catch started Buffalo's third-quarter onslaught. And while the
    Bills pounded the Rams on special teams in the quarter, the Rams offense picked
    a bad time for a siesta.

    On their first four possession of the quarter, the Rams went three-and-out
    three times, and went three-and-interception once. The Rams didn't get a first
    down in the second half until the final play of the third quarter. By then,
    they trailed 37-17.

    "Marc (Bulger) missed a couple throws there on that first series of the second
    half, which is so unlike him," Martz said. "You'd like to adapt at that point.
    Slow down the pass rush by running the ball effectively. And that's why we
    tried to get that going a little bit. But you get in third and one, you've got
    to convert on that."

    They didn't. Trailing 24-17 three minutes into the second half, the Rams faced
    a third-and-1 situation from their 35. But Bills defensive tackle Sam Adams
    burst through the middle of the line to drop Marshall Faulk for a 3-yard loss.

    The Rams gained a mere 20 yards on 15 plays in the third quarter. Included
    among those plays was the first of three interceptions by Bulger, matching his
    season high for interceptions.

    "The first half, you saw our line was going great and we were moving the ball,"
    Bulger said. "But once the momentum switches on the road and you get down 17
    ... then they know exactly what we're going to do. We have to throw the ball to
    get back into it. And they can get right to their nickel blitzes."

    The Bills blitzed on almost every down after taking the big lead in the third
    quarter. Two of Bulger's second-half interceptions came on passes that were
    tipped high into the air. The third interception came in the end zone, on a
    play in which Martz said intended receiver Isaac Bruce had his jersey pulled by
    a Bills defender with no call.

    It added up to another disappointing loss for the Rams (5-5), who found
    themselves in second place in the NFC West before their plane touched down in
    St. Louis on Sunday evening. The Seahawks (6-4) moved into first with a 24-17
    victory over Miami.

    "You can take this game, and you can break it down if you want," defensive
    lineman Tyoka Jackson said. "But at the end of the day, you've just got to ask
    yourself did you do enough to win the game?"

    Nope. Not even close.

Related Topics


  • RamWraith
    TE puts Rams in tight spot
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Sunday, Nov. 21 2004

    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Safety Rich Coady slumped against a wall just outside the
    locker room Sunday and tried to explain how the Rams yielded three touchdown
    passes to a tight end who had averaged one per year in five previous NFL

    "He made the plays and we didn't. I don't know what else to say," Coady said.
    "Me personally, I didn't play well enough for us to win. And I'm sure a lot of
    other guys feel like that."

    Buffalo's Mark Campbell wouldn't exactly call it a premonition, but he had a
    feeling he might be in for a busy afternoon at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

    "I told my wife, Michell, that I thought that there was a good chance I was
    going to have a good day," Campbell said. And so he did.

    His trio of scoring catches sparked the Bills to a 37-17 triumph. Campbell, a
    6-foot-6, 255-pound University of Michigan product, has a career-high five TD
    grabs this season, his second in Buffalo after being traded from Cleveland.

    Campbell scored on 10- , 19- and 5-yard tosses from veteran quarterback Drew
    Bledsoe, who had thrown for only nine TDs in nine games and was absorbing
    increasing flak.

    "I can't say enough about Drew," Campbell said. "For as much heat as he's been
    under, he made some great reads out there and made some perfectly thrown

    On the first touchdown, safety Adam Archuleta had good position deep in the end
    zone, but Campbell outfought him for the score, which cut the Rams' lead to
    10-7 early in the second quarter.

    "It doesn't matter how good the coverage is; it's the end result. He scored,"
    Archuleta said.

    Coady was beaten clearly on Campbell's two other scores. One put the Bills up
    14-10; the other made it 24-17 just after halftime and ignited Buffalo's
    second-half burst.

    "Good throws or not, we've got to find a way to get the ball out and make a
    play," Coady said. "The game's usually decided by one or two big plays, and
    they made the big plays and we didn't at all."

    Wideout Eric Moulds is Buffalo's primary receiver; he had 52 catches for 662
    yards coming into the contest. But this was Campbell's time.

    "We thought they were going to throw to Moulds, which they did a little bit,"
    linebacker Trev Faulk said. "But we really weren't anticipating them throwing
    to the tight end as much as they did."

    Actually, it wasn't all that much. Campbell had four catches for 37 yards,
    boosting his season totals to 14 receptions for 172 yards. Moulds and running
    -11-22-2004, 06:07 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams regain their balance
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    SAN FRANCISCO - Coaches will try just about anything to motivate their teams. And in the days leading up to Sunday night's contest with San Francisco, Mike Martz told his squad he didn't think the ***** were very good.

    "Yeah, and he was (saying things) like - 'And it's San Francisco, and it's personal,'" defensive tackle Damione Lewis said.

    The Rams players apparently took the coach at his word. Offensively, they pounded the ***** on the ground, and in the air. Defensively, they harassed ***** quarterback Tim Rattay and kept running back Kevan Barlow bottled up most of the evening. The result was a much-needed 24-14 victory over rival San Francisco that evened the Rams' record at 2-2.

    "This win is very important to us," Martz said. "It's a good feeling, because we came out here the last two years and were embarrassed."

    The Rams lost 30-10 here a year ago and 37-13 here in 2002. But they dominated the ***** in the opening half, and really didn't let them back in the game in the second half - despite a couple of fourth-quarter touchdowns.

    Eschewing the traditional pregame player introductions, the Rams came out on the field en masse, headed directly to midfield, and proceeded to stomp on the *****' helmet painted on the turf at Monster Park. It proved to be symbolic of what was to come.

    By halftime, St. Louis had a 24-0 lead, had outgained the ***** 251 yards to 82, and had given NFC West-leading Seattle - next week's opponent - something to think about. Rediscovering the running game, the Rams had a 2-to-1 advantage in time of possession in the first half.

    After seeing their NFL-record 420-game scoring streak end last week in a shutout loss to Seattle, the ***** didn't get on the scoreboard Sunday until early in the fourth quarter, with a touchdown before a missed 2-point conversion. But it was too little, way too late.

    Isaac Bruce enjoyed his fourth consecutive 100-yard receiving game. Marshall Faulk enjoyed his second 100-yard rushing day of the season. The Rams are 26-0 when Faulk rushes for at least 100 yards.

    Fast and furious became methodical and productive on the Rams' opening drive. After running the ball only 15 times in each of the two previous games, Martz called nine running plays on the series, with Faulk handling the first eight carries for 34 yards.

    But the ninth carry went to - surprise! - fullback Joey Goodspeed. In his third season, Goodspeed made his first NFL carry a memorable one. On fourth and 1 from the San Francisco 2, he plowed up the middle for a touchdown.

    The surprises continued on the next play from scrimmage. The Rams sent linebacker Tommy Polley on a blitz and he hit ***** quarterback Tim Rattay from behind just as Rattay was about to throw downfield....
    -10-04-2004, 08:53 AM
  • Nick
    Playoffs next stop for Rams - PD
    by Nick
    Playoffs next stop for Rams
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Sunday, Jan. 02 2005

    The Rams were up, they were down, and just about every place in between. They
    were staring at elimination when Doug Brien lined up for a 53-yard field goal
    in overtime.

    They were minus-3 in giveaway-takeaway differential. Statistics show you're a
    loser 90 percent of the time when that happens.

    Throw in the fact that the Rams allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown, plus
    an interception return for a TD, and normally, the chances for success dwindle
    even further.

    But this hasn't been a normal season. This has been a season in which the Rams
    have done it the hard way. Or not done it at all.

    So perhaps everything that happened Sunday was fitting. Right down to the fact
    that it took the longest game of the NFL season for the Rams to outlast the New
    York Jets and earn their fifth playoff berth in six seasons.

    Jeff Wilkins' eighth winning field goal as a Ram - a 31-yarder, 11 minutes 58
    seconds into overtime - gave the Rams a 32-29 victory over the Jets.

    "I think it's only appropriate," a grinning Stan Kroenke, the team's vice
    chairman and part owner, said in the locker room Sunday. "We hung on by the
    skin of our teeth, and finally fought our way into it."

    As such, the Rams are only the seventh 8-8 team in NFL history to make the
    playoffs. They qualified for a wild card thanks to Minnesota's 21-18 loss to
    Washington. (Seattle's 28-26 victory over Atlanta gave the Seahawks a 9-7
    record and the NFC West title.)

    "What can I tell you?" coach Mike Martz said. "This is the team that I've
    always felt that we could be. Along the way, there were so many things that
    have happened to us. ... Who knows where we're going? But it's good to be in it

    Actually, they're going to Seattle - for the first round of the NFC playoffs
    Saturday. Kickoff is 3:30 p.m., Central time. The Rams swept the season series
    against the Seahawks, but it took one of the greatest late-game comebacks in
    NFL history to beat Seattle on Oct. 10, in a 33-27 overtime road victory.

    "It'll be fun," safety Adam Archuleta said. "We had the edge against them this
    year. But we need to win one more."

    It took some gritty work by the St. Louis defense, plus a 450-yard passing
    effort by Marc Bulger, to get the Rams into the postseason. The Rams defense
    gave up 153 rushing yards to NFL rushing champion Curtis Martin but allowed
    only one touchdown. Bulger's passing total was just 14 yards off the league
    high for the season - Donovan McNabb's 464-yard effort...
    -01-02-2005, 11:20 PM
  • RamWraith
    False Start
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    St. Louis Post-Dispatch

    SAN FRANCISCO -- On a day when so much went wrong for the Rams, it looked as if there might be a way out.

    Storming back from a 28-9 third-quarter deficit, the Rams had the ball on the San Francisco 33 with 59 seconds remaining, trailing 28-25. Plenty of time to get into position for a Jeff Wilkins field goal. The player known as "Money" already had kicked four field goals Sunday at Monster Park.

    There might even be enough time for a game-winning touchdown that would have marked quarterback Marc Bulger's 10th fourth-quarter comeback in his NFL career.

    But Bulger's 56th pass of the day, which set a franchise record for single-game attempts, was one that he and the Rams would like to have back.

    The ball was thrown behind wide receiver Isaac Bruce on a crossing pattern over the middle, and Bruce tried to reach back for the grab. Instead, San Francisco defensive back Mike Adams snared the football, literally grabbing any chance at victory away from St. Louis.

    The Rams were out of timeouts, and out of luck. Two kneel-downs by Tim Rattay gave the ***** a 28-25 victory over the Rams.

    St. Louis' sixth consecutive regular-season road loss was stunning on several levels.

    For openers, the ***** won only two games a year ago. As mentioned, their quarterback is Rattay. Their top receiver is University of Illinois product Brandon Lloyd. With all due respect, we're not talking Joe Montana and Jerry Rice here. Or even Steve Young and Terrell Owens.

    For another, all the numbers favored the Rams. They outgained the ***** by nearly two to one - 405 yards to 217. They dominated time of possession - 39 minutes 23 seconds to San Francisco's 20:37. They even won the takeaway-giveaway battle - two to one - something that hasn't happened all that frequently in recent years under coach Mike Martz.

    And they still lost.

    "It goes to show that the best team doesn't always win," wide receiver Torry Holt said. "I think we were the better team at times today. Stats-wise, we showed we were a better team, but they beat us to the punch. They made more plays to win the ballgame than we did."

    Especially on special teams. These may not be the "Same old sorry (bleep) Rams." The days of those woebegone Rams are lost somewhere in the '90s.

    But as Sunday showed, they remain the "Same old sorry (bleep) Rams special teams." This is so despite a new-found emphasis on special teams; despite the hiring of not one but two special teams coaches; despite the addition of several players known for their special teams play.

    "We had some things on special teams, obviously, that we have to clean up," Martz said. "That I'm not very happy with. . . . Obviously, we...
    -09-12-2005, 06:14 AM
  • RamWraith
    Super, in its own way
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas

    This time, Tennessee was stopped on the 28-yard line instead of the 1.

    This time, there were 29 ticks left on the clock instead of none.

    And where was Mike Jones when you needed someone to make a tackle?

    "Actually I think Mike Jones was in the stands," tight end Roland Williams said.

    So, by Super Bowl XXXIV standards, Sunday's 31-27 Rams victory was a breeze.

    "Right. What a breeze," Williams chuckled. "I'm definitely going to need some Tylenol if they're all a breeze like this one."

    OK, it was no breeze. The Rams fell behind 10-0 quickly in the first quarter. Later, they squandered a 24-10 advantage in the third quarter, only to regain the lead in the fourth.

    With the clock winding down, the Rams tried to protect their slim lead. But quarterback Steve McNair guided the Titans down the field on a frantic, closing drive. Sound familiar?

    "I looked at brother Ray (Agnew), and said, 'Here, we go again,' " wide receiver Torry Holt said.

    Agnew, a starting defensive tackle on that Rams Super Bowl squad, is now director of player development and team pastor.

    Holt continued: "I said, 'Steve McNair drops back; he looks left; he looks right.' I was going into my commentating mode."

    Nearly six years ago, McNair's last pass in Super Bowl XXXIV was caught by Kevin Dyson, who was dropped by Jones at the 1-yard line on the final play of the game.

    On Sunday, McNair's final pass sailed out of bounds to the right of the end zone. On fourth and 7 from St. Louis' 28-yard line, McNair missed wide receiver Drew Bennett, who was behind cornerback Travis Fisher on the play.

    That's how it ended, save for a kneel-down by Bulger.

    "That was a heck of a game," coach Mike Martz said. "That was a very physical and violent game."

    And once again, a nail-biter. The Rams lost by three in their season opener in San Francisco; won by five last week in Arizona; and prevailed by four points Sunday in their home opener. In all three games, the losing team had the ball deep in enemy territory with a chance to win in the final minute.

    "If we have to do it that way, we'll do it," defensive end Leonard Little said. "Last week, we made just enough plays to win the game. And (Sunday), we made just enough plays to win the game."

    None was bigger Sunday than Adam Archuleta's 85-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the second quarter. On third and goal from St. Louis' 20-yard line, McNair attempted to throw to Bennett on a crossing route over the middle.

    "I didn't expect him to throw it," Archuleta said. "But I made eye contact with...
    -09-26-2005, 05:28 AM