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  • Rams hope bad dream will begin to fade away

    Rams hope bad dream will begin to fade away
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    12/12/2004

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Jake Delhomme over the middle to Steve Smith for 69 yards. Touchdown. Panthers win in double overtime. See you next season, Rams.

    "I don't think there's any doubt it's a play that will stand out in my mind for many years to come," Delhomme said. "It was a great play. It was a great game. It was just too bad someone had to lose that game."

    Too bad for the Rams, that is.

    Carolina used that 29-23 playoff victory as a springboard to the NFC championship. St. Louis, despite a 12-4 regular season, was stymied in its bid to reach the Super Bowl for the third time in five years.

    Rams defensive tackle Ryan Pickett still dreams about the way that game - and that season - ended. Unfortunately, safety Jason Sehorn never catches Smith in any of those dreams.

    "Every night, (Smith) seems to score some kind of way," Pickett said, shaking his head.

    To Rams fans, the mere mention of last season's Carolina game conjures up images of Sehorn lunging for Smith.

    It was a tough way to lose a game, and no one realizes this more than Rams coach Mike Martz. Season-ending losses, whenever they come, are tough for him to take. He's a sore loser. And once his team is finished, he can't bear to watch any more of the playoffs.

    "It angers me," he said. "I've got to go do something else and get away from it. It's just too hard for me to deal with. It's just too much of a disappointment. It takes me a long, long, long time to get through that, and get over it."

    Never was this more so than in the aftermath of the Carolina loss 11 months ago.

    "I'm still not over that one," Martz said. "It still hangs in my craw."

    Suffice it to say, the passage of time has not heightened Martz's appreciation for the classic nature of that Rams-Carolina contest.

    "No," Martz said, bluntly. "We played so well at times. Got in the red zone. You get touchdowns instead of field goals, and you've got control of your own destiny, and who knows what happens after that."

    On the Rams' first three possessions against Carolina that day, they reached the Panthers' 2-, 6- and 8-yard lines. They settled for a field goal each time.

    "That's hard for me," Martz said. "It was really hard for me to look at that tape."

    Then, in a surprising revelation, Martz added, "It was really even more hard than the Super Bowl. We played so well and moved the ball, and got into scoring position, and we didn't get the ball in the end zone."

    Obviously, the Super Bowl reference was to the Rams' 20-17 loss to New England in three years ago.

    Of course, to some Rams fans, the hardest thing to take about the Carolina game was Martz's decision to play for the tie in regulation rather than going for the victory.

    Trailing 23-12 late in the fourth quarter, the Rams closed to 23-20 with 2 minutes 39 seconds to play on a Marshall Faulk TD run and a 2-point conversion pass from Marc Bulger to Dane Looker.

    On the next play, Jeff Wilkins recovered his own onside kick, giving St. Louis possession on its 42 with 2:38 left to play. Despite having the 2-minute warning and one timeout remaining, the Rams ran only four plays before Wilkins' 33-yard field goal sent the game into overtime as time expired.

    Martz said it at the time, and still insists, he would do nothing different at the end of regulation.

    "It was the right thing to do in my mind," Martz said. "Just absolutely it was. When you come back from that far behind, and your team has made that great of an effort, you owe them the opportunity to continue to play.

    "It reflects back to that situation in Washington more than anything else."

    In 2002, the Rams trailed Washington 20-17 late in the fourth quarter at FedEx Field. A last-minute Rams drive reached the Redskins' 6-yard line. But on first and goal, Washington linebacker LaVar Arrington knocked the ball loose from quarterback Kurt Warner. The Redskins recovered with 11 seconds to play.

    Martz planned to take one shot at the end zone, and if that didn't work, kick a field goal to send the game into overtime tied 20-20. But on this day, the best-laid plans went awry.

    "Sack, fumble, we lose," Martz said.

    The Rams were 5-5 entering the game, having clawed their way back from an 0-5 start that season. Had they won, they might have made a run at the playoffs.

    "No question," Martz said. "That (loss) devastated this football team. And I've never forgotten that."

    And despite Martz's late-game conservatism against Carolina, the Rams definitely had their chances to win in overtime.

    St. Louis reached the Carolina 35 on its first possession of OT. But Wilkins' 53-yard field goal was short. On their second possession, the Rams had a first and 10 on the Carolina 38, when Ricky Manning Jr. intercepted a Bulger pass intended for Torry Holt. Bulger was a little late with the throw, and Manning practically took the ball right out of Holt's hands.

    Smith scored three plays later.

    "That thing was won and lost about three or four times for both teams," Carolina coach John Fox said. "It was probably as grueling and agonizing of a game as I've ever been involved with, just with the excitement of it and the length of it."

    On Sunday at Bank of America Stadium, the Rams have a chance to avenge that stinging defeat. A victory won't erase what happened last Jan. 10 at the Edward Jones Dome. But it would all but eliminate the Panthers from playoff contention this season.

    "It's hard to forget losing a game like that," Pickett said. "It was the same way when we lost the Super Bowl in 2001. It sticks in your mind. So you just try to feed off of it."

    Feed off it, and make sure the same thing doesn't happen twice.

    "If we win, we can knock them out of the playoffs," Pickett said. "That's how we're looking at it. A little bit of revenge. ... It'll take a lot of the pain away."

    A lot, but not all.

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  • 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
    still."

    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, 10:20 PM
  • txramsfan
    Chris Mortensen gets it....from ESPN.com
    by txramsfan
    Tuesday, October 12, 2004
    Criticizing is easy; winning isn't

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    By Chris Mortensen
    ESPN Insider

    Before I wax a lot about Mike Martz and a little about Marty Schottenheimer, let me concede something.

    One of the flaws in my game, so to speak, is that I give head coaches a lot of rope in analyzing their performance on the sidelines. There are reasons for that. My career goal was to be a coach – my high school coaches were great influences on me. I ended up in journalism, and at one stretch I spent 10 years covering major league baseball only to switch to the NFL on a full-time basis 20 years ago. I immersed myself in the offices and film rooms of coaches who were willing to re-teach me the game of football. Even then, the constant evolution of the sport leaves me as a remedial observer.

    I have a great appreciation and respect for the amount of time coaches pour into their jobs. I understood perfectly what former Saints coach Jim Mora meant when he told the New Orleans media, "You think you know, but you don't know." It was blunt but true. The game is never as simple as we think. The quarterback isn't at fault for half his interceptions. The offensive line isn't guilty of about half the sacks you see. That cornerback you think blew coverage may have been doing exactly what he had been taught.

    So only reluctantly will you see me criticize coaches, and seldom will you see me attack a coach, although as Giants owner Wellington Mara reminds me, "The great thing about our profession is that every (coach) ultimately grades his own performance by his record." Yes, the bottom line is winning.

    That brings me to Martz and Schottenheimer, two coaches who have been slapped around in recent years. If I I trusted everything I heard on TV, heard on the radio and read in print, you would think Martz and Schottenheimer are two of the biggest buffoons in the history of football. This follows the same line more than a month ago when our media world was demonizing Giants coach Tom Coughlin.

    Martz and Schottenheimer are different in many respects. Schottenheimer is a great fundamentalist coach, and Martz is, well, he's just out there, on the edge – so much so that former ***** coach Bill Walsh has said, "You can't emulate what Martz does."

    I know they should never be characterized as buffoons. These guys have won a lot of football games.


    * * *

    Has anyone noticed what Martz has done for the St. Louis Rams? True, his team is only 3-2, which makes him 46-22 during the regular season since he became the Rams' head coach in 2000. And, I'm sorry, but I have a difficult time not crediting him with 13 more wins and a Super Bowl championship in 1999, when the Rams won it all with Kurt...
    -10-12-2004, 01:33 PM
  • RamWraith
    Turnovers subtract from Ram pluses
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Tuesday, Sep. 14 2004

    In many ways, Sunday's 17-10 season-opening victory over Arizona was a
    microcosm of the best - and worst - of Rams offensive football in recent years.

    On the plus side was the work of the Rams' offensive line, the running game,
    and the overall offensive productivity.

    Rams pass blockers logged the team's first sackless game since Game 5 of 2003,
    a 36-0 Monday night victory over Atlanta - this week's opponent in the Georgia
    Dome.

    In the running game, the team's 176 yards rushing was the most for the Rams
    since November 3, 2002 - a 192-yard rushing output at Arizona.

    The average yards per carry of 5.9 was the highest for the club since the
    regular-season finale of 2001, a 31-13 victory over Atlanta in which the Rams
    averaged 6.6 yards per carry.

    "When you look at the tape, the sustaining of blocks, and the things that they
    were able to do, I was very pleased with (the offensive line)," coach Mike
    Martz said. "I was very pleased at how physical they were."

    The offensive line efforts helped the Rams log 448 yards of total offense, a
    figure topped only once last season, against - do we see a trend here? -
    Atlanta.

    The problem was, all those yards Sunday got the Rams only 17 points and only
    one touchdown. It was the first time since a 13-10 loss to Dallas in 2002 that
    the Rams had scored as little as one touchdown in a home game.

    Three turnovers, plus a one-for-three day in the red zone, kept the Rams from
    routing Arizona.

    "I think it would be more frustrating if we couldn't get outside of our own
    30-yard line or something, and we were just not moving the ball," quarterback
    Marc Bulger said. "Certainly it's a little frustrating, but we knew if we just
    kept going at it, the ball's going down the field, eventually we're going to
    get it in the end zone and score some points."

    Against Arizona, the Rams finished minus 3 in giveaway/takeaways - meaning
    their defense came up with no turnovers to counter those three turnovers by the
    St. Louis offense. Minus 3 is usually a recipe for defeat - teams that are
    minus 3 normally lose about 90 percent of the time in the NFL. (The Rams were
    minus 3 in the 20-17 Super Bowl loss to New England three seasons ago.)

    Fumbles by Steven Jackson and Dane Looker accounted for two of the Rams'
    turnovers. The other came on a Bulger interception. After the game, Martz said
    the INT was simply a bad decision by Bulger. But after reviewing tape, Martz
    noticed that a receiver ran a wrong route.

    "We had a receiver basically...
    -09-15-2004, 03:51 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
  • Nick
    Rams' victory looked more like a non-loss
    by Nick
    Rams' victory looked more like a non-loss
    BY JEFF GORDON
    Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
    Sunday, Dec. 05 2004

    Rams coach Mike Martz tried to ooze confidence and enthusiasm after the Rams’
    16-6 victory over the San Francisco ***** on Sunday afternoon.

    “I’m just excited about where this team is going,” Martz gushed. “What it does
    is get you excited about the rest of the season.”

    Well, we’re glad one person is excited about the 6-6 Rams heading into the
    final month of the season. This reporter cannot join that club.

    The Rams should have destroyed the horrendous ***** inside The Ed. Instead,
    they lost quarterback Marc Bulger to a sprained shoulder and had to scuffle for
    their modest 10-point victory.

    Their pass blocking was lousy, as Bulger can attest, and the offense needed a
    couple of 52-yard Jeff Wilkins field goals to beat a shorthanded, overmatched
    defense.

    Bulger suffered his shoulder separation when Bryant Young sacked him late in
    the first quarter. (The fact that hapless Rams tackle Grant Williams fell onto
    the pile, too, probably didn’t help.)

    Martz said Bulger’s injury is similar to one he suffered against Miami, only
    somewhat worse.

    “He’ll be back,” Mad Mike assured us. “Whether it’s this week or not, I don’t
    know. But he should be back relatively soon.”

    Well, Bulger better jet back soon -– because back-up Chris Chandler nearly
    suffered a four-turnover game filling in for him. He threw an interception,
    lost a fumble and nearly had two other passes picked off.

    “I thought he was outstanding,” Martz said of the 900-year-old Chandler. “To go
    in there and have the awareness of where everybody is and make the plays . . .”

    Yeah, well, Chandler threw one terrific touchdown pass to Torry Holt -– but
    only after Holt came back to snatch a badly under-thrown bomb moments before.
    Otherwise, Chandler wasn’t as dazzling as he was during the preseason.

    Let’s face it, the Rams needed to thrash the *****. They needed to punctuate
    their inevitable victory with an exclamation point.

    The Rams have been teetering for a month and a half. They had lost four of
    their previous five games before facing the 1-10 *****.

    The list of struggling Rams seemed to grow by the week: Grant Williams, Damione
    Lewis, Sean Landeta, Tommy Polley, Adam Archuleta, Robert Thomas, Ryan Pickett,
    Tom Nutten . . . players were buckling left and right.

    Some of these key individuals had folded completely, making you wonder if they
    had already scoped out new careers.

    In addition, team leaders Marshall Faulk (battered knee) and Aeneas Williams
    (neck/shoulder...
    -12-06-2004, 12:10 AM
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