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  • Rams' bullpen does the job

    Rams' bullpen does the job
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Sunday, Dec. 05 2004

    Chris Chandler has seen Marc Bulger go down - and go down hard - on more than
    one occasion this season. But this time, Bulger was slumped over, holding his
    shoulder.

    "And then he started running off the field, waving," Chandler said.

    Waving for Chandler to take over. Like clockwork, you can count on Chandler at
    quarterback for the Rams once every 10 years. He played in 10 games for the Los
    Angeles Rams in 1994. On Sunday he made his St. Louis Rams debut at quarterback
    when Bulger went down with a sprained right shoulder late in the first quarter.

    The Rams got just enough passing from Chandler, with plenty of runs sprinkled
    in from rookie Steven Jackson, to sweep the season series from rival San
    Francisco with a grinding 16-6 victory at the Edward Jones Dome.

    There weren't many points, or style points, for that matter. The offensive
    showing was a far cry from the "Greatest Show on Turf." Sunday's point total
    was the lowest for the Rams in a victory since a 15-14 bloodletting over the
    New York Giants in 2001.

    Nonetheless, a victory it was, something the Rams had accomplished only once
    since mid- October.

    "There's winning and there's death," defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson said. "And
    we won today. So come check with me next week."

    The Rams have been doing a lot of "dying" lately, losing four of their previous
    five games. But Sunday's victory evened their season record at 6-6, gave them a
    5-0 mark in the NFC West and kept their sagging division and playoff hopes
    alive.

    "We needed it," safety Adam Archuleta said. "We needed a win. We needed the
    defense to play well. We needed a confidence booster back there.

    "We've got to get some momentum. We've got four more games. We're still there.
    The season is far from over."

    Chandler threw for 216 yards and a touchdown. Jackson, replacing the injured
    Marshall Faulk, rushed for 119 yards. Wide receiver Torry Holt had a
    season-high 10 receptions for a season-high 160 yards.

    Holt scored the only touchdown of the game on a 22-yard reception from Chandler
    with 9 minutes 29 seconds to play in the first half. Just two plays earlier,
    Holt hauled in a grossly underthrown Chandler lob for 40 yards.

    "On that deep ball, Torry's so fast," Chandler said. "You have to release it
    and throw it far, early. When I was getting ready to throw it, he was only 15,
    18 yards down field."

    So Chandler kind of hesitated on his follow-through.

    "It's kind of like quitting on a golf swing," said Chandler, an avid golfer.
    "You kind of shank it. And that's basically what I did on that first one."

    But as a backup quarterback in the Rams offense, Chandler had gotten zero work
    throwing to starters since the end of preseason play. In fact, the 40-yard play
    to Holt marked the first time Chandler had thrown that particular route.

    At least Chandler didn't make the same mistake twice.

    "We had a very similar route on the touchdown pass, and I just threw it to the
    back corner on 'time,' " Chandler said.

    Meaning, Chandler threw the ball blindly to the area where Holt was supposed to
    be. Guess what? Holt was there.

    "This offense has a lot of (blind throws)," Chandler said. "And that's what
    takes a little while. You've just got to trust it."

    Martz entrusted Steven Jackson with 26 carries, the most for a Rams running
    back this season, and Jackson was up to the challenge. His longest gain was for
    a modest 13 yards, but he moved the chains and moved the pile.

    "I knew early (in the week) that I was getting the start, and that I was going
    to be playing a lot in this game," Jackson said. "I challenged myself to go
    over 100 yards, and Coach Martz did a good job sticking with the run."

    Martz set the play-calling tone right away, giving Jackson eight carries on the
    Rams' opening possession, a 63-yard drive culminating in the first of three
    field goals by Jeff Wilkins. The instant workload got the butterflies out early
    for Jackson.

    "Once you get some carries under your belt and you get hit a couple of times,
    it just turns into a game," Jackson said.

    It turned into a game in which the Rams never trailed but never could put away
    the woebegone ***** (1-11).

    As late as the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, San Francisco had the
    ball deep in Rams territory with a chance to tie the score with a touchdown.
    But on third and 5 from the Rams 19, cornerback Jerametrius Butler stepped in
    front of a slant pass intended for Brandon Lloyd.

    The lunging interception, Butler's fourth of the season, gave the Rams the ball
    on their 7.

    "I knew the slant was coming by the formation," Butler said. "I had to stretch
    out for it. I wish I would've kept my balance. But I did a good job of holding
    on to the ball."

    Following the interception, the Rams marched 60 yards for an insurance field
    goal by Wilkins, his second 52-yarder of the afternoon. In the process, they
    drained nearly 6 minutes off the clock.

    Defensively, the Rams allowed a season-low 160 yards, including just one play
    longer than 12 yards - albeit a 52-yard pass to Lloyd that set up one of two
    San Francisco field goals. The ***** advanced inside the Rams 20 only once all
    day - on the play before Butler's interception.

    "I'm very happy for the defense, in particular (coordinator) Larry Marmie, who
    is the best," Martz said. "I'm very pleased with their effort, and the fact
    that there were very few if any mental errors as I watched the game. So the
    progress there is significant. The intensity level was pretty obvious."

    Like the Rams' season as whole, better late than never.

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  • RamWraith
    Carolina intercepts Rams' playoff bid
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Sunday, Dec. 12 2004

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Just when the Rams needed him most, Chris Chandler came up
    with probably the worst performance in his 17 NFL seasons.

    And no one felt worse than Chandler, who threw six - that's right, a half dozen
    - interceptions in the Rams' 20-7 loss to Carolina.

    "After everything I did good last week to help this team win (against San
    Francisco), I can take all the blame for this loss," Chandler said.

    When Carolina cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. gains more yards off Chandler passes
    than Isaac Bruce, you know it's a long day. But that's exactly what happened
    Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.

    Manning, a Rams nemesis last season in the playoffs, picked off two Chandler
    passes and returned them for 46 yards. Bruce had three catches for 27 yards.

    "Chris made some real poor 'judgment throws' where the ball didn't come out
    when it should," coach Mike Martz said. "On some of those things he was
    throwing the ball too quickly instead of letting the guy get into the hole."

    Martz theorized that some of that may have been because Chandler was reverting
    to old habits from past teams. The Rams ask their quarterbacks to approach
    things differently in terms of how they go through their reads.

    "A little bit," Chandler said. "But it's not anything that's too different. I
    had no answers. No excuses, either. It was just not good."

    The Rams entered the game in first place in the NFC West, holding the No. 4
    seed in the playoffs. But at 6-7, the Rams are now on the outside looking in.

    Seattle (7-6) took over the division lead by winning in Minnesota. And Carolina
    (6-7), with its fifth straight victory, now holds the sixth - and final -
    playoff spot. (It has the tiebreaker edge over the Rams because it defeated the
    Rams head to head.)

    But all that was on anybody's minds early Sunday evening were interceptions,
    not playoff scenarios. The six interceptions were a career high for the
    39-year-old Chandler - his previous high was four against San Diego, way back
    in 1990.

    Chandler's interception total tied for the second most in Rams franchise
    history, trailing the seven thrown by Bob Waterfield against Green Bay in 1958
    and Parker Hall against Green Bay in 1942.

    The tone was set on the Rams' opening possession. Facing a third and 3 on the
    Carolina 27, Chandler was flushed out of the pocket, had Dane Looker open over
    the middle for a first down, but overthrew him with Manning coming down with
    the interception.

    Two additional interceptions came on deflected...
    -12-13-2004, 06:35 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams win with something old, something new
    by RamWraith
    BY JEFF GORDON
    Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
    12/05/2004

    The Rams got younger on offense when rookie running back Steven Jackson filled in for the hobbled Marshall Faulk on Sunday.

    And then they got older when grizzled Chris Chandler relieved quarterback Marc Bulger -- who suffered a separated right shoulder while absorbing a second-quarter sack

    The results were mixed, but the Rams were able to outlast the horrendous San Francisco ***** 16-6 in a mistake-filled mess at The Ed.

    Jackson’s powerful running (26 carries, 119 yards) allowed the Rams, now 6-6, to defeat their no-longer-formidable rivals. Jackson ran hard between the tackles and also accelerated impressively to get outside and up the field.

    Chandler, 36, threw a touchdown pass to Torry Holt -- but also threw one interception, lost a fumble and nearly had two other passes picked off.

    At times, Chandler operated effectively in the offense . . . and at times he looked like a rusty veteran many years past his athletic prime.

    He didn’t have much more luck in scoring territory than Bulger did, so Jeff Wilkins had to kick three field goals -- two from 52 yards out -- to make certain the Rams won this game.

    Defensively, the Rams punished the battered ***** (now 1-11!) with a variety of blitzes and stunts that prevented them from mounting a consistent passing or rushing attack.


    THE GOOD


    * Rams defensive spokesman Tyoka Jackson dumped quarterback Tim Rattay for the game’s first sack on the game’s third play.


    * Steven Jackson got the Rams offense rolling in the right direction by gaining 32 yards on his first five carries.


    * Bulger used his feet to get out of trouble on a third-and-two play, then earned the first down with a nine-yard scramble. That led to a 29-yard Wilkins field goal and an immediate 3-0 lead.


    * Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa swatted a Rattay pass on a critical third-down play later in the first quarter, forcing the Niners to settle for a game-tying field goal.


    * Jackson proved nimble in the open field as well, scampering 21 yards with a second-quarter swing pass from Chandler.


    * Torry Holt adjusted to a badly underthrown Chandler bomb on the next play, coming back to get a 40-yard completion. Two plays later, Chandler threw a perfect TD strike to Holt to push the Rams' lead to 10-3.


    * Tinoisamoa and Leonard Little poured in to disrupt another Niners third-down passing play and force San Francisco to kick the ball away again.


    * Say, was that linebacker Tommy Polley in the ***** backfield, dumping running back Terry Jackson for an eight-yard loss? That forced the Niners to kick the ball away again.


    * Isaac Bruce prevented...
    -12-05-2004, 05:16 PM
  • RamWraith
    Chandler and Rams have game to forget
    by RamWraith
    By Jeff Gordon
    Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
    12/12/2004
    Rams coach Mike Martz was determined to play “fast and furious” offensive football Sunday. He held nothing back with his ambitious game plan.

    Mad Mike apparently forgot that ancient Chris Chandler was running his attack in place of injured quarterback Marc Bulger. He was also on the road, matched up against a strong, well-coached, highly motivated defensive team.

    He didn’t have top running backs Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson. He also had greenhorn right tackle Blaine Saipaia matched against Panthers elite pass rusher Julius Peppers.

    So the results were predictable -- the creaking Chandler threw six--SIX!--interceptions as the Rams lost 20-7 at Carolina.

    The Panthers knocked the Rams, 6-7, out of the NFC West lead while enhancing their own wild-card playoff hopes. (Seattle regained the NFC West lead with a spirited 27-23 victory at Minnesota.)

    Along the way, the Rams also lost defensive end Leonard Little, linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa and cornerback Travis Fisher, their defensive catalysts, for significant stretches due to illness and injury.

    The injury-riddled Rams competed hard in this game. But they just didn’t have enough to beat the resurgent Panthers on the road, not with the unfortunate Chandler running the show.

    We hate to say “we told you so” about Chandler, but, hey, we told you so. Martz should have hired a contemporary quarterback to back up Bulger this season.


    THE GOOD

    * Defensive end Bryce Fisher sacked Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme for a 10-yard loss on the Rams’ first defensive play.

    * Chandler’s highlight of the game late in the first quarter, when he launched a 75-yard touchdown pass to Torry Holt to cut Carolina’s lead to 14-7.

    * Fisher raced in to score his second sack of the game on the first play of the second quarter.

    * With a crunching hit on a third-down pass to Muhsin Muhammad, safety Antuan Edwards broke up the play and forced the Panthers to settle for a second-quarter field goal.

    * Running back Arlen Harris managed to bust some moves on his 22-yard pass reception.

    * Cornerback Jerametrius Butler broke up a would-be touchdown to Muhammad in the finals of the first half, playing the fade route perfectly.

    * Harris did a nice job running the ball in the third quarter, breaking runs of nine, 14 and six yards to FINALLY established a ground game.

    * The Rams defense, in turn, stuffed Delhomme on a fourth-and-inches quarterback sneak to turn the ball back over on downs. Give linebacker Robert Thomas much of the credit for thwarting that play.

    * Butler made a nifty interception, his fifth of the season, to keep the Rams alive in fourth quarter. It’s too bad the Rams had no offense...
    -12-13-2004, 06:37 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams leave Tempe empty--MUST READ
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    12/19/2004

    Arizona's Josh McCown fumbles the ball after a sack by Anthony Hargrove of the Rams (on the ground behind McCown). Leonard Little (91) recovered and returned the fumble for a touchdown.
    (Rick Hossman/AP)

    TEMPE, Ariz. - Even before the opening kickoff, the Rams knew the scores, understood the playoff picture, realized the opportunity that was at hand.

    "We knew Carolina lost," defensive end Leonard Little said. "We knew Seattle lost. We knew Philly won, but one of their major players (Terrell Owens) got hurt. We were aware of everything. Was that an incentive for us to go out there and win? Yes."

    So with just three hours of hard labor Sunday at Sun Devil Stadium, the Rams could move up from the No. 7 seed in the NFC - and out of the playoff picture - to the No. 4 seed and in.

    And with just two weeks remaining in the regular season. Many NFL players live for the opportunity to be in such a situation. But with so much at stake, the Rams responded with one of their worst efforts since the move to St. Louis in 1995.

    Playing against a 4-9 Arizona team that had lost four in a row, the Rams got outscored 31-7 and outgained 402 yards to 185. How in the world did that happen?

    "I don't know," offensive guard Adam Timmerman said.

    "There's no easy explanation," wide receiver Isaac Bruce said.

    "I wish I had a clue," defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson said.

    Well, coach Mike Martz had some thoughts on the subject, and those thoughts started and ended with stinging criticism of starting quarterback Chris Chandler.

    "I think everybody realized what was at stake," Martz said. "I'm sure that's why it hurts so much. Not just losing, but to lose it so decisively. It goes back to the inability to function at one position. You hold the whole team hostage."

    Martz was talking about the quarterback position. More specifically, Chandler at the quarterback position.

    "He made some bad decisions," Martz said. "You'd call plays, and the ball's going to the wrong guy completely. I have no idea what he was doing. He had to come out of there."

    Not even in the dark ages of Rams football, when the team went 22-42 from 1995 to 1998, had the team been as pathetic in an opening quarter as it was Sunday.

    Arizona outgained the Rams 108 yards to minus-20, and outscored them 10-0 in the opening quarter. And if you thought Chandler was shaky last week against Carolina, well, he took it to another level against the Big Red.

    In three series against the Cardinals, Chandler was one for six for 1 measly yard. He threw an interception on an out pattern in which Torry Holt slipped making his cut. And he was sacked...
    -12-20-2004, 06:14 AM
  • RamWraith
    Jokes get old fast for Rams, Chandler
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Thursday, Dec. 09 2004

    Rams coach Mike Martz isn't a big fan of the Chris Chandler age jokes.

    "He's not 500 years old," Martz said Wednesday. "I think he's 38. It doesn't
    matter how old he is. He can play."

    Actually, Chandler is 39. This is his 17th season in the National Football
    League. He has played for seven NFL teams, including two stints with the Rams.
    On Sunday he makes his 151st NFL start, 154th if you count playoffs, replacing
    the injured Marc Bulger against Carolina.

    When punter Sean Landeta was released two weeks ago, Chandler became the oldest
    player on the Rams' roster. The "old man" jokes only intensified.

    "You name it, I get all kinds of things," Chandler said. "We saw Steve Bono
    walking off the field Sunday, and Marshall (Faulk) kept asking me if I came in
    the league before Steve Bono did."

    Bono, now an alumni coordinator for the San Francisco *****, came into the NFL
    in 1985, just three seasons before Chandler's rookie season in Indianapolis.

    "Actually, nowadays, I laugh at it," Chandler said. "A few years ago, it would
    kind of bother me. But being as old as I am, and being in the league as long as
    I have been, and playing at the level I'm playing at, I kind of hang my hat on
    that now."

    Despite spending much of his career with lousy teams, Chandler has made two Pro
    Bowls and played in a Super Bowl. He has thrown more than 4,000 passes. At this
    stage of his football like, he feels that he has nothing to prove. He no longer
    worries about stats.

    "Now I'm playing to have fun for myself," Chandler said. "But mainly, I'm
    playing for all the other guys in this locker room. They're counting on me, and
    the only thing I want to do is stand up for those guys."

    The Rams certainly need Chandler to stand up and make something happen. Bulger
    could miss a couple of games, and the team is in the thick of a playoff race
    despite a 6-6 record.

    "That's the best thing about it," Chandler said. "We're playing a meaningful
    game in December, and there's a lot of teams who aren't. So that's what makes
    it a lot more exciting."

    Until Bulger went down with a bruised throwing shoulder late in the first
    quarter against San Francisco, Chandler hadn't thrown a pass this season. He
    served as Jeff Wilkins' holder against New England and Seattle early last month
    when Dane Looker was sidelined with a sprained ankle. But that was it for
    playing time.

    After three months of serving as the scout team quarterback, running...
    -12-10-2004, 04:01 PM
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