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  • Rams make a run for it

    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Tuesday, Dec. 28 2004

    Go ahead, Eagles, just try to play your junior varsity against the Rams.

    On a night when Philadelphia was playing for nothing, and the Rams were
    fighting for survival, the Rams showed good survival instincts. With
    Philadelphia either resting or pulling many of its regulars, the Rams kept
    their flickering playoff hopes alive Monday with a dominating 20-7 victory at
    the Edward Jones Dome.

    "We should dominate," said Isaac Bruce, who just missed his seventh 100-yard
    receiving game of the season with eight catches for 98 yards. "They've got
    second- and third-team guys out there."

    True, in terms of personnel, the Eagles (13-2) didn't exactly go with their
    best. But for the Rams (7-8), who had lost six of their previous eight games, a
    win is a win is a win.

    "It's been a long time since we smiled in the locker room after the game,"
    defensive end Bryce Fisher said. "It seems like a month, because that's
    probably true."

    "But Coach (Mike Martz) always told us if it's a Pro Bowler or it's a pigeon,
    you play the same way. We had a good day against the guys that won't see the
    field too often."

    Rediscovering the St. Louis running game, Martz handed the ball off early and
    often to both Steven Jackson and Marshall Faulk.

    Yes, Steven Jackson. After sitting out the Arizona game in a befuddling set of
    circumstances, Jackson was in the game Monday. And even Martz had to know about
    it.

    As for anybody who didn't, Jackson had this suggestion: "You can watch it on
    ESPN."

    By halftime alone, the Rams had 163 yards rushing - which was higher than their
    total for the entire game in any of their previous five contests.

    Jackson left the game in the fourth quarter with a bruised right knee and a
    career-high 148 yards rushing on 24 carries. He had missed the Carolina game
    with a sprained right knee, and then didn't play a down in Arizona game - a
    circumstance that Martz said he was unaware of at the time.

    Jackson certainly made his presence felt Monday. The revived running game, plus
    the return of Marc Bulger at quarterback, sparked the Rams to a 17-7 lead
    midway through the third quarter. Bulger finished with 20 completions in 27
    attempts for 225 yards and a season-high 110.9 passer rating.

    When Bulger completed a 7-yard touchdown pass to Isaac Bruce with 7 minutes 38
    seconds to play in the third, he had completed 12 of 17 passes for 116 yards
    and a 108.9 passer rating.

    The Rams needed to win Monday to stay alive in the playoff race. A loss to the
    Eagles, who already have clinched home-field advantage in the NFC, would
    eliminate St. Louis.

    At 7-8, the Rams can still clinch the NFC West with a victory Sunday at home
    against the New York Jets coupled with a Seattle loss to Atlanta. Even if
    Seattle wins, the Rams can clinch a wild-card berth with a victory over the
    Jets, coupled with a Minnesota loss at Washington.

    "At least we have a chance," Bulger said. "We're not completely out of it.
    Usually with eight losses you are. We have something to play for."

    Faulk started, but on the second play of the game, Jackson came out and joined
    Faulk in a two-back set.

    Faulk split out to the right as a wide receiver, and then Jackson got the ball
    and raced 28 yards around left end. That got the crowd going and got the Rams
    into Philly territory just two plays into the game.

    With Jackson and Faulk sharing the workload, Martz called runs on 10 straight
    plays. Pssst. That's as many runs as the Rams had in the entire Arizona game
    last week.

    On carry No. 10 on the 10-play drive, Jackson made a nifty cutback up the
    middle, scoring his third NFL touchdown on a 5-yard run. All told, Jackson
    carried six times for 46 yards on the drive. Faulk had four carries for 27.

    Bulger, in his first start since suffering a bruised throwing shoulder Dec. 5,
    didn't throw his first pass of the game until just 54 seconds remained in the
    opening quarter, completing a quick slant to Torry Holt for 12 yards and a
    first down.

    The impressive ground game may have caught the fans - and the Eagles' defense -
    by surprise. But the Philly offense didn't miss a beat. In Donovan McNabb's
    only series of the game, the Eagles drove 63 yards in 12 plays for a matching
    touchdown, tying the score at 7-7 late in the first quarter. The Eagles
    converted three third-down plays on the possession, twice beating Rams blitzes
    to move the chains.

    After throwing a 7-yard TD pass to wide receiver Fred Mitchell, who drew
    coverage from safety Antuan Edwards, McNabb gave way to Koy Detmer.

    The Eagles didn't even suit up running back Bryan Westbrook or Pro Bowl right
    tackle Tra Thomas on Monday. But given the state of this highly disappointing
    season for the Rams, St. Louis wasn't complaining. By late in the third
    quarter, Philadelphia was going with only three of its usual starters on
    defense.

    It became August in December in the fourth quarter for Philadelphia, when
    third-string quarterback Jeff Blake replaced Detmer. For the Eagles, the game
    had all the feel of a preseason contest. But the Rams kept playing their
    regulars, because they needed the victory.

    Besides the TDs by Jackson and Faulk, the Rams got two field goals by Jeff
    Wilkins. The second came from 29 yards with 5:24 to play, giving the Rams a
    20-7 lead. It followed a sack and forced fumble by Bryce Fisher against Blake,
    and a fumble recovery and return by linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa.

Related Topics

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  • RamWraith
    Returns to Health Keep Rams in Hunt
    by RamWraith
    Tuesday, December 28, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    The past two weeks have left the Rams searching for answers on what has gone wrong. The answers came this week with the return of two players and the early exit of a number of Eagles.

    Quarterback Marc Bulger and running back Steven Jackson returned to action after two weeks on the sidelines with injuries. Their return and Philadelphia’s already locked up playoff spot made for a 20-7 win at Edward Jones Dome on Monday Night.

    The win moves the Rams to 7-8 and gives them a continued glimmer of hope in the playoff picture. With one week left in the regular season, St. Louis sits in position to not only claim a playoff spot, but also win the NFC West Division.

    Coach Mike Martz said he is stunned at the situation that is still available to the Rams.

    “After all of the drama that we have been through this year, to be in a position to potentially be in the playoffs…how awesome is that, anyway?” Martz said. “We’re excited. We’ll show up next week and lay it all out there.”
    Most Rams and fans remember 2000 when St. Louis got in after beating New Orleans and getting a late field goal by Chicago’s Paul Edinger to knock Detroit out of the playoffs in a game that was “meaningless” for the Bears. It could take another odd occurrence for the Rams to get in again, but there are a few possibilities.

    To win the division, the Rams will need to win against the Jets next week and have Atlanta beat the Seahawks at Seattle. That would put both teams at 8-8 and the Rams hold the tiebreaker based on their two wins against the Seahawks.

    Winning the division is not the only way the Rams can get into the playoffs. Minnesota is 8-7 and plays Washington next week. If the Vikings lose that game and the Rams win, then St. Louis would advance to the playoffs based on its better performance against NFC teams.

    The most unlikely, but possible playoff scenario is a Rams’ win coupled with a tie between 7-8 Carolina and 7-8 New Orleans. Both teams have tiebreaker over the Rams based on head-to-head matchups.

    Fortunately for St. Louis on Monday night things were made easier by Philadelphia’s lack of need to position itself in the playoffs. With the No. 1 seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs wrapped up, the Eagles rested many of their regulars and pulled the ones that did play early in the game.

    Eagles’ coach Andy Reid said there is no right or wrong way to approach the end of a season when a team’s position is set.

    “Well, you have to make a decision,” Reid said. “There have been some good ones that have gone this route and some bad ones. I don’t think there is an answer. I just look at past history of what has happened to this football team when I’ve been here and I made the decision to rest the guys.”

    That,...
    -12-29-2004, 05:31 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams' Jackson still ready to run
    by RamWraith
    By R.B. Fallstrom
    The Associated Press



    ST. LOUIS - Steven Jackson is looking forward to an encore of last week's career-best 148-yard game despite a right knee that has a partially torn ligament and a bruise.
    The St. Louis Rams might need it on Sunday in the season finale.

    ``I'm hoping I can do the same thing I did on Monday night,'' the former Oregon State star said Thursday. ``Coming off a game like that, kind of hot, you want to get out there and see if you have the same things going for you.''

    But coach Mike Martz said Marshall Faulk again would start Sunday against the Jets (10-5) in a game that carries playoff implications for both teams. Faulk and Jackson were together in the backfield on the second play of a 20-7 victory over the Eagles on Monday, and the pair combined for 202 yards on 41 carries.

    Faulk has 759 yards rushing and a 4.0-yard average and Jackson, the first running back taken in this year's draft, has 644 yards and a 5.2-yard average. Faulk's streak of receptions ended at 158 games in the Eagles game - the streak had led active players.

    ``It kind of tickles me in some respect that people were always on me about making sure Marshall got the ball,'' Martz said. ``Now we don't want Marshall to have the ball, we want Steven to have the ball.

    ``I understand that, but Marshall is a good player and he's going to start and continue to do the things we always do.''

    Jackson was injured in the fourth quarter. An MRI exam the following day showed just a bruise with limited swelling.

    When Jackson first injured the knee three weeks ago, a considerable amount of fluid was drained the next day.

    ``It shocked him,'' Martz said. ``I think it scared him more than anything else because of the way it happened, but it's just a superficial bruise, really.''

    The Rams can clinch the NFC West with a victory and a loss by the Seattle Seahawks (8-7) later Sunday. They also can clinch a wild-card berth with a victory combined with a loss by the Vikings (8-7), or with a victory along with a tie in the Saints-Panthers game that starts at the same time as the St. Louis-New York game.

    ``It kind of sums the season,'' Jackson said. ``Ups and downs, and through all of it we still have a chance to come out victorious and hopefully with a division title.''
    -01-01-2005, 04:59 AM
  • RamWraith
    Jackson runs for 148 yards in his return
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Tuesday, Dec. 28 2004

    This time, Steven Jackson did play.

    The Rams' rookie running back took a handoff from quarterback Marc Bulger on
    the second play of the game Monday night and ripped off a 28-yard gain around
    left end. And that was just the beginning.

    Jackson, the team's first-round draft pick in April, carried six times on the
    Rams' opening possession, picking up 46 yards on their 10-play, 73-yard drive
    for a 7-0 lead against the Philadelphia Eagles at the Edward Jones Dome.
    Jackson scored on a 5-yard run.

    By halftime, Jackson already had moved into triple figures, rushing for 114
    yards on 13 carries.

    Jackson finished with 148 yards on 24 attempts in the Rams' 20-7 victory. He
    left midway through the fourth quarter after reinjuring his right knee. Coach
    Mike Martz said Jackson had suffered a bone bruise and would have an MRI today.

    "It was a statement game," Jackson said. "I hadn't had a chance to be out there
    in two weeks, so it was a big statement. I wanted to make up for lost time."

    Turn back the calendar a week. There was Jackson, recovered from the bruised
    knee that kept him out Dec. 12 at Carolina, on the sideline at Sun Devil
    Stadium. Marshall Faulk started, and Jackson waited for his chance.

    And waited ... and waited ... and waited ...

    When the game ended, Arizona had steamrolled the Rams 31-7. And Jackson hadn't
    played a down. This, against a Cardinals outfit that ranked near the bottom of
    the league in run defense.

    Work in Faulk's ineffectiveness - he gained only 22 yards on 10 carries - and
    Jackson's absence seemed even more puzzling. The final chapter in this bizarre
    saga was added by Martz, who said after the game - and repeated again Monday -
    that he hadn't realized during the action that Jackson didn't move off the
    sideline.

    This time, Jackson got most of the workload in the backfield, as the Rams
    gashed the Eagles for a season-high 209 yards on the ground. He had career
    highs in carries and yards, and averaged a whopping 6.2 yards an attempt.

    "We wanted to come out and run the ball," Jackson said. "We haven't done it too
    much this season. Once we got off to a fast start, we knew it was something we
    wanted to keep on doing."

    The emphasis on the run game at the outset "was important, because we got into
    a rhythm," tackle Orlando Pace said. "We had some success with the running
    plays, and it got the ball rolling for us."

    As for his individual performance - especially after missing the last two games
    - Jackson said:...
    -12-28-2004, 04:34 PM
  • RamWraith
    Rams regain their balance
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    10/03/2004


    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, 07:53 AM
  • RamWraith
    Jackson is playing key rushing role
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Tuesday, Oct. 19 2004

    When Rams running back Marshall Faulk bulled into the end zone from the 1-yard
    line in the second quarter Monday night, it marked the 100th rushing touchdown
    of his 11-year NFL career.

    That's 99 more than rookie Steven Jackson has recorded. But despite that
    disparity, Jackson more and more is becoming an important contributor to the
    team's attack, as he and Faulk increasingly share time in the backfield.

    "Coach (Mike) Martz and his staff are doing a great job in involving me in the
    offense," Jackson said after the Rams turned aside Tampa Bay 28-21 at the
    sold-out Edward Jones Dome. "They want to utilize my talent, so every
    opportunity I get out there, I try to make something happen."

    Faulk and Jackson split the ball-carrying duties virtually down the middle
    against the Buccaneers. Faulk had 15 attempts for 40 yards, and Jackson carried
    13 times for 48 yards. Each also had three receptions, Faulk picking up 29
    yards and Jackson 30.

    Jackson rambled 28 yards with a short pass on a third-and-14 play early in the
    fourth quarter that kept the Rams' game-winning drive alive. The play took them
    to the Tampa Bay 42-yard line, and three plays later quarterback Marc Bulger
    connected with wide receiver Torry Holt for a 36-yard touchdown and a 28-21
    lead.

    "We needed the drive to keep going," Jackson said. "I caught the ball, I saw
    the yardstick, and I knew I had quite a ways to go. I just had to make a hard
    run out of it."

    Jackson had 10 carries for 46 yards two weeks ago in the Rams' 24-14 victory in
    San Francisco. Last week in Seattle, he tacked on 64 more yards on five
    attempts as the Rams rallied for a 33-27 overtime win.

    "I feel like a guy who's contributing, helping this team win, and the more I
    get in there, the more plays I can make," said Jackson, the team's first-round
    draft pick in April. "If you have to share time, I wouldn't pick any other guy
    in the National Football League."

    Faulk has served as a low-key mentor for Jackson, an Oregon State product.
    "It's on-the-job training," Jackson said. "If I make a mistake, he coaches me
    up. But he doesn't over-teach me. He lets me go out there and do what I know
    how to do."

    Fullback Joey Goodspeed said he's seen Jackson's confidence building over time.
    "He knows what he's doing, and he's a lot more aggressive," Goodspeed said.
    "Steven brings that youth and excitement, and he gives Marshall a break; you're
    able to keep two running backs fresh. And they're both different runners....
    -10-19-2004, 01:11 PM
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