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  • Returns to Health Keep Rams in Hunt

    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, combined with the play of Jackson and Bulger, made for a relatively easy victory in a game St. Louis never trailed.

    After his first career start on Dec. 5 against San Francisco, Jackson missed the next two games with an injured knee and the running game suffered. Upon his return against the Eagles, the running game took off, as it hadn’t in quite awhile.

    The “fast and furious” Rams became the balanced Rams, running the ball 44 times and throwing it 28 times. St. Louis gained 419 yards, running and passing with equal aplomb, gaining 209 on the ground and 210 through the air.

    Jackson finished with 148 yards on 24 carries and Bulger went 20-of-27 for 225 yards. The news wasn’t all good for the young running back, though. Jackson bruised his knee in the fourth quarter and hobbled off the field. He did not return and his status is uncertain for next week.

    Martz said Jackson’s bruised knee came about for the same reason he injured it the first time, the turf. Jackson said he will have his knee looked at first thing Tuesday morning.

    “I’m a little banged up right now,” Jackson said. “The turf is pretty bad. You’re taking two hits basically on every play. You get hit by the opponent and you get hit by the turf.”

    The game started unlike any other the Rams had played this season. After 14 games of sticking to what it knows best, St. Louis hit the ground running. Ten, that’s right 10 straight running plays started the Rams first drive and it paid off handsomely.

    “Whenever we’ve had the most success against Philadelphia, we have run the ball well,” Martz said. “I just felt like if we could stay committed to it, with all the blitzes and calls that they do…I didn’t think we would do that well, obviously. It wasn’t hard to do.”

    Jackson was the main cog in the newfound ground success, getting six of the carries. The other four went to Marshall Faulk. Jackson gained 47 of the drive’s 73 yards, including a 28-yarder on the drive and capped it with a 6-yard burst up the middle for a touchdown. Kicker Jeff Wilkins’ extra point made it 7-0 St. Louis.

    Playing with most of its starters on the bench because of injury or precaution of injury, Philadelphia managed to answer with a drive of its own.

    Quarterback Donovan McNabb’s only series was similar to the Rams’ first drive, as McNabb handed off to running backs Dorsey Levens and Reno Mahe for most of the drive. He ended his night with a 7-yard touchdown toss to receiver Freddie Mitchell in the back of the endzone.

    St. Louis started its next drive with another run by Jackson before Bulger hit receiver Torry Holt on a quick slant for 12 yards. When Bulger threw his first pass, there was 54 seconds left in the first quarter. The devotion to the run lasted for most of the game, especially as more Eagles’ starters made their way to the bench.

    Jackson continued to grind in the second half, getting six carries to set up Bulger’s 7-yard touchdown pass to receiver Isaac Bruce for a 17-7 lead. Wilkins added a 29-yard field goal in the fourth quarter for the final margin.

    After the game, Martz revealed that Bulger has been nursing a sore shoulder for most of the season, making his season all the more impressive. Bulger said he felt fine after the game.

    “I think everyone in here…you don’t feel as good at the end of the year as you do at the beginning,” Bulger said. “That’s pretty much everyone in here.”

    Perhaps worried about more injuries to starters after losing Pro Bowl receiver Terrell Owens last week, Philadelphia rested most of its defense and its entire starting offensive line on the bench for the majority of the game. Consequently, the Eagles struggled to get anything going, drawing 13 penalties and failing to get much going offensively.

    The Rams held the Eagles to 155 yards of total offense and kept them off the scoreboard for the game’s final three quarters. Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa led the way with four tackles and a fumble recovery.

    Regardless of the personnel on the field for Philadelphia, the game meant everything to the Rams. For one more week, the Rams kept their playoff hopes alive.

    Defensive tackle Tyoka Jackson said his team needs to stay focused on its future and not think about what might happen in other games.

    “At the end of the day this is where we are,” Jackson said. “I don’t really think about the different scenarios, maybe I’m not smart enough to come up with all of these different scenarios. I do know this, though, if we win the game, we have a heck of a shot.”

    St. Louis will get no more chances after next week, but with another win and a little luck, it could return to the playoffs for the second consecutive year. Stranger things have happened and, with as strange as the NFC has been all season, they might happen again.

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  • RamWraith
    Rams make a run for it
    by RamWraith
    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....
    -12-28-2004, 05:33 PM
  • RamWraith
    Season In Review - Part III
    by RamWraith
    Thursday, January 18, 2007
    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    Soon after the shutout loss to Carolina, Head Coach Scott Linehan decided that a change needed to be made.

    The Rams’ team, not just the offense, needed Linehan’s full attention and he needed to be there for them. With that, Linehan did something almost unheard of for a head coach.

    In a day and age when many head coaches seek more control, Linehan boldly ceded some of his as he handed over the play calling duties to offensive coordinator Greg Olson.

    At 4-6, the Rams were flailing and sitting squarely on the bubble of the playoff picture. But things changed when San Francisco came to town for a Nov. 26 tilt.

    As so many of their games had to that point, this game came down to the final moments. And this time, it was the offense putting together the drive necessary to come up with the win.

    With Olson handling play calling duties for the first time, the Rams put together a nearly flawless final drive that not only resulted in the winning points, but left San Francisco with little to no chance at re-taking the lead.

    After taking a sack on first down, quarterback Marc Bulger took over. He threw a pair of passes to running back Steven Jackson for 19 yards. On fourth down, Jackson converted the first of two fourth down chances he would make on the drive and Bulger continued to pick the ***** apart with surgical precision.

    “We are always confident,” Bulger said. “We have done it many times, more here than on the road. I realized that we could get down the field getting checkdowns and 8 or 9 yards a pop. It got us all the way down the field and got us in. We knew we could get down there and finish it off.”

    There were no huge plays as Bulger found Stephen Davis for 11 yards here or Isaac Bruce for 20 yards there. Bulger took what was given to him and put the ball on the money on all of his opportunities.

    On first-and-goal at San Francisco’s 5, Olson was looking for San Francisco to be in a short defensive zone.

    In that defensive scheme, the ***** use a zone to double cover both Torry Holt and Bruce, who are options in the back half of the end zone. That leaves slot receiver Kevin Curtis isolated against the opponent’s nickel back. The play call gives Bulger the option for throws based on the look he gets, whether it be a man look for Holt or Bruce or the expected zone look.

    The Rams got the expected zone and Curtis ran a quick out into the flat, just beyond the goal line. Bulger zipped a pass low and to the outside where only Curtis could catch it. Curtis hauled it in as he was falling to the ground and landed safely just beyond the end zone.

    A booth review left Curtis waiting breathlessly, but it was clear that he had possession and was just inside the end zone.

    The referees confirmed...
    -01-19-2007, 06:03 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams surprise us with their heart
    by RamWraith
    By JOE OSTERMEIER

    Belleville (Ill.) News-Democrat


    BELLEVILLE, Ill. - I know it's true. I saw it on my television set Saturday afternoon, right there between the ads for "Desperate Housewives" and "The Bachelorette" and "Alias."

    How`s this for an alias? St. Louis Rams, NFL playoff winner.

    Say it again. Out loud if you want. You`re allowed, now that the Rams and their fans are banking in one of their most remarkable (and least likely) postseason victories since coming to St. Louis 10 years ago.

    The Rams are still standing. And all the rest of us_everyone but the true believers_standing corrected.

    "We know we`re a good team, we have talent," quarterback Marc Bulger told ESPN sideline analyst Suzy Kolber after the Rams` 27-20 win in Seattle. "But we`ve made a lot of mistakes this year. Seattle played us good, but fortunately we`ve been making plays the last three weeks when we`ve had to.

    "And that wasn`t the case all year."

    Like you, I watched this one from my couch, wondering how this 8-8 team would compete against teams that actually had_imagine this_won more games than they had lost during the season.

    But even two thousand miles away from the action, we learned something we didn`t know for certain before Saturday:

    This Rams` team has a heart after all. And a pulse, after making plays on both sides of the ball to win a game hardly anybody (yours truly included) thought they would even play.

    After all, let`s not forget that three weeks ago this team was 6-8, written off and ready to resume work at training camp in July 2005. Three weeks and three wins later, that timetable has been moved up to mid-January.

    Philadelphia next weekend? No big deal: The Rams beat the Eagles three weeks ago to start this improbable run.

    Or will it be Atlanta instead? Let`s remember: The Rams owe Michael Vick a thing or two after he embarrassed them 34-17 in Week 2 of the regular season.

    If that seems like a long time ago, so do the doubts that dogged the Rams before wins over the Eagles (handily, as it turned out) the New York Jets (barely, in overtime) and the Seahawks.

    Nothing seems out of reach after the win Saturday, a game that saw the Rams play better on both sides of the ball than they have for most of the year.

    St. Louis coach Mike Martz said it this week, and he was right: It doesn`t matter now what the Rams` record is. It doesn`t matter now what they did in September and October. It doesn`t matter now that they lost games to New Orleans and Arizona that they should have won.

    This, and only this, matters: If you`re still playing in January, you have a shot. And the Rams took that shot Saturday afternoon.

    There was Bulger throwing darts...
    -01-09-2005, 06:09 AM
  • RamWraith
    Stayin' Alive: Win keeps Rams in playoff mix
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    Monday, Dec. 25 2006

    Once he handed the ball to Steven Jackson, there was nothing for Marc Bulger to
    do but watch.

    "Once he broke through, I knew he was going to be at least inside the 15,"
    Bulger said. "And that's like an extra point (for kicker Jeff Wilkins). But
    Steven can sniff the end zone. He's such a big guy, you kind of figured he was
    going to get in. And then you look for flags."

    He got in, all right, for a 21-yard touchdown in overtime. There were no flags.
    Rams win. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

    Just like that, the Rams were 37-31 winners over Washington. With a 7-8 record,
    they remain in the hunt with five other clubs for two wild-card playoff berths.
    During the week, coach Scott Linehan said he didn't even want to think about
    playoff scenarios unless the Rams beat Washington.

    So ... is it time to start studying those scenarios?

    "You guys tell me what they are because I'm not smart enough to figure out what
    they are because there's so many of them," Linehan told reporters.

    True. But at least the Rams are in the discussion, something that seemed w-a-y
    outside of the realm of possibility after getting shut out by Carolina on Nov.
    19 and getting embarrassed at home by Arizona two weeks later.

    "It feels good," Bulger said. "We had to keep our end of the bargain and win.
    And we needed a little help (in other games). We need a lot more help,
    obviously. But the only thing we can control is going to Minnesota and winning."

    The Rams close out the regular season on New Year's Eve in Minnesota, where
    Linehan's NFL coaching career began in 2002 as the Vikings' offensive
    coordinator.

    "We've got to take care of business," Linehan said.

    The Rams took care of business Sunday, largely on the strength of an offensive
    display worthy of the Greatest Show on Turf. The Rams piled up 579 yards of
    offense, the eighth-highest total in franchise history and the highest total
    since a 57-31 thrashing of San Diego in 2000 netted 614 yards.

    Bulger threw for 388 yards and matched his career high with four touchdown
    passes. Before Sunday, the Rams had only two offensive touchdowns go longer
    than 20 yards. But they had three touchdowns of 20-plus yards against the
    Redskins: a 64-yard catch by Jackson, a 27-yard reception by tight end
    Dominique Byrd and Jackson's game-winning 21-yard run.

    "The offense has been rolling," defensive end Leonard Little said. "We've got
    some of the greatest players in the league over there, with Torry (Holt), Isaac
    ...
    -12-25-2006, 06:34 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams will get Vick, Falcons in next round
    by RamWraith
    By R.B. Fallstrom
    Associated Press
    Sunday, Jan. 09 2005

    The confounding St. Louis Rams are suddenly on a roll. They became the first
    .500 team to win a playoff game with a 27-20 win in Seattle that capped a
    three-game winning streak.

    "The last three weeks this is a different team than the previous 14 weeks,"
    coach Mike Martz said. "This is kind of who I think we are."

    The Rams were among the NFC's preseason favorites but just squeezed into the
    postseason at 8-8.

    They were hurt by injuries and infighting, including Martz' confrontation
    with the entire team after an 18-point loss to New England. Then there was the
    yearlong struggle to grasp the scheme of new defensive coordinator Larry Marmie
    and the woeful special teams.

    "We have had a lot of turmoil," said tight end Cam Cleeland, who caught the
    game-winning touchdown pass with 2:11 left. "A soap opera team."

    Martz thought St. Louis, a 12-4 division champion last year, would be up to
    speed by midseason. Instead it finally came together in weeks 15 and 16 when
    the Rams beat the Eagles and the Jets. But there's an asterisk -- Philadelphia
    had already clinched home-field advantage in the playoffs and rested most of
    their key performers for the playoffs.

    "Here we are," Martz said. "At this point, only the strong survive."

    Better late than never for the Rams, who will play at Atlanta next Saturday
    night in the divisional round after completing a three-game sweep of the NFC
    West champion Seahawks. With Minnesota's 31-17 win over Green Bay, the Vikings
    travel to Philadelphia Sunday to take on the NFC East champion Eagles.

    "Every week now for three weeks it's been do or die," quarterback Marc
    Bulger said. "With the way that everyone is playing it's fun again. It wasn't
    there for a while."

    The confidence is growing although the Rams have won only three times on the
    road -- twice at Seattle and once at San Francisco, the NFL's worst team.

    In Seattle, Marc Bulger threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns, the
    fast-improving defense held Shaun Alexander to 40 yards on 15 carries and
    special teams were no longer a liability.

    "You are going to see an even better team next week," Cleeland said. "This
    was a complete and utter team victory."

    Bulger puts little stock in his first career playoff victory, partly because
    of what lies ahead.

    "This isn't the end of the season," Bulger said. "We're just to the point
    where we were last year. Whoever we play is going to be tough but it's nice
    that we're...
    -01-10-2005, 06:29 AM
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