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  • Ingredients are ideally suited for Martz magic

    By Bernie Miklasz
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Friday, Jan. 07 2005


    SEATTLE - In the wild-card round of the NFC playoffs, wild-man head coach Mike
    Martz has a chance to create a masterpiece.

    Martz can put all of the regular-season controversies behind him, and remind
    everyone of how he made his name and reputation in the NFL. Martz will be in
    his element, working at what he does best: conceptualizing an offensive
    strategy, identifying the weak spots on the defense, getting the ball into the
    hands of his playmakers and game-breakers, and attacking.

    All of the essentials are in place for the Rams to do serious damage to the
    Seattle Seahawks. Martz has one of the NFL's hottest quarterbacks in Marc
    Bulger. He has an improving offensive line. He has four outstanding receivers
    in Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald. Martz has a rookie
    running back (Steven Jackson) who runs like an old pro, and an old pro back
    (Marshall Faulk) who still has the energy of a rookie.

    And Martz gets to turn his offense loose to attack one of the league's most
    vulnerable defenses. Seattle ranked 26th among 32 teams in yards allowed. The
    Seahawks were 23rd against the pass, 24th in defending the run, 27th in sack
    percentage, 27th in stopping third-down plays. In the last six games, Seattle's
    defense has been plundered for an average of 394 yards and 31.3 points. And
    Martz knows where to aim his arrows, having faced this Seattle defense twice
    this season.

    But this isn't just about the Seahawks' thin defense. It's more about the Rams
    offense, and how it's coalescing at an ideal time. After a period of
    stagnation, the offense stirred in the last two games. The Rams powered up
    against Philadelphia with a bullish running game, then scorched the New York
    Jets with every variety of pass.

    This Rams offense isn't at the same level as the "Greatest Show" era
    (1999-2001) but it's establishing an identity.

    "The right thing for me to say is, well, I think we have a nice future and it's
    going to work out real good, but I'm thrilled," Martz said. "I'm really and
    truly thrilled with this group. ... I've said this before, but I'm so excited
    for this organization and this city. We are not where we can be, but sometimes
    at night, I get goose bumps just thinking about what these guys are capable of.
    It's thrilling for me and I can't wait to continue this for a long time."

    The offense is amped for several reasons. Bulger has played assertively after
    returning from injury. Jackson's increased role gives the Rams the kind of
    wallop they've lacked on the ground since moving to St. Louis, and Martz has
    done a good job of inserting Faulk for a change-up look. Placed in a spread
    formation with Bruce and Holt, the young receivers can stretch any nickel or
    dime defense beyond its limits. The line has firmed up its pass protection. And
    Bulger and Martz have gotten the tight end more involved in the passing game.

    And Martz has sharpened his play-calling. After some shaky games, after dealing
    with injuries and coping with distractions, Martz seems to have his Mojo back.
    And make no mistake: Martz's mind can be even more valuable than Bulger's arm,
    Jackson's strength, Bruce's hands and Holt's legs.

    Add it all up, and the Rams offense poses the same type of problems that the
    "Greatest Show" cast once did. What's a defense to do?

    "When you deal with their offense, it's hard to say, 'OK, if we stop this then
    we'll deal with this,' " Seattle coach Mike Holmgren said. "They have a lot of
    weapons. Mike (Martz) can call, and go to, a lot of different things. It's just
    a tough team to defend. I have tremendous respect for Mike and the job he's
    done there. I think he's a very bright guy."

    There are two potential dangers: The Rams could ruin all of their offensive
    production by repeatedly turning the ball over. They have the worst turnover
    ratio (minus 24) of any team to ever make the NFL playoffs. And second, Martz
    must stay one move ahead of Seattle defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes. If Martz
    is taken by surprise, he must adjust and do it quickly without losing
    composure.

    "I expect him to pressure us," Martz said of Rhodes. "We have to get our
    running game up to snuff, too, and change gears when we need to. If you go into
    this game with the thought, 'This is how we are going to beat them,' and you
    start that way, and they change, then you have to morph into something else."

    If Martz holds true to that philosophy, it means that he's locked in, fully
    focused on his play-call sheet. You get the feeling that the Rams offense is on
    the verge of a break-out game. It can surely happen in Seattle, where the Rams
    ran mad dashes through the Seahawks in a minor-miracle comeback victory in
    October. The Rams are capable of hitting Seattle with Part II, Martz II. His
    masterpiece game

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  • RamWraith
    Martz to Rams: All is forgiven
    by RamWraith
    BY STEVE KORTE

    Knight Ridder Newspapers


    ST. LOUIS, Mo. - (KRT) - St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz just wants his team to have some fun.

    Martz feels like the Rams have been too uptight during their current slump, which has included four losses in their last five games.

    "It is legal to have fun and play professional football," said Martz as the Rams (5-6) prepared to play their archrivals, the San Francisco ***** (1-10), at noon today at Edward Jones Dome. "You can do that. That's what we have tried to stress with our guys. They are concerned about making mistakes, and they've played tight.

    "You can't do that. You can't play tight. I want to get them away from that."

    Martz said he's adopted a policy of amnesty toward any player who makes a mistake as long as they are hustling at the time. That includes wide receiver Isaac Bruce, who fumbled twice resulting directly in two touchdowns for the Green Bay Packers in their 45-17 win over the Rams on Monday night.

    "When you have good people and people with good character and you know where their heart is, all sins are always forgiven," Martz said. "That's why I'd never say anything to Isaac about the fumbles. I know Isaac. Nobody hurts more than Isaac does when that happened.

    "Nobody works harder or is more committed. Those things you just move on from."

    Despite their recent troubles, the Rams remain in the thick of the NFC West race, one game behind the division-leading Seattle Seahawks in the win column.

    "Every week is an opportunity," Rams defensive end Bryce Fisher said. "The one thing about the National Football League is you have 16 times to prove yourself. We really want to get back out there on Sunday and show we can play better than we have."

    The ***** own the worst record in the NFL. They've lost six straight games. But they'd like nothing better than putting a big dent in the Rams' playoff hopes.

    "You always want to be beat the Rams," ***** tight end Eric Johnson said. "We wouldn't mind taking them out of the playoffs. It should be a good battle. We're looking to get our first win in a long time."

    The Rams' defense has been shredded for 556 rushing yards over their last three games.

    Overall, the Rams rank 28th in overall defense and 31st in rushing defense.

    Martz blamed his team's defensive troubles on the transition from a Cover-2 defense to a defense that relies on multiple schemes and more pressure under new defensive coordinator Larry Marmie.

    Martz said he tried to institute the change gradually because he didn't want confuse his players, but that decision backfired as players have been slow to embrace the change in philosophy after three seasons under former...
    -12-05-2004, 07:26 AM
  • RamWraith
    Martz put his credibility on the line with latest ploy
    by RamWraith
    BY BERNIE MIKLASZ
    Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist
    Friday, Nov. 12 2004

    Mike Martz, playing the role of Bear Bryant?

    The casting, to say the least, is unusual. But with Martz, we should never be
    surprised. The NFL's most fascinating and quirky head coach was at it again
    this week at Rams Park.

    Leave it to Martz to conduct a psychology experiment in the middle of a season.
    This player-friendly coach cracked down on his players, publicly calling them
    out for their lackluster play. Then he put the boys through a tough,
    full-contract practice, which went against his previous coaching standards.

    It's good to see Martz morph into "Mad Mike" in a different way. We'll see if
    the motivational ploy works on Sunday against the visiting Seattle Seahawks.

    A few observations:

    * The Rams' primary problem is a decline in overall talent. The offensive
    line, neglected in the draft, is mediocre. The defense has only one player,
    pass-rusher Leonard Little, consistently capable of altering a game with
    big-play moments. Poor drafts are the root cause of the erosion in personnel.
    The Rams have missed on too many premium picks. Period.


    * If Martz wants a tougher and more physical team, fine. But you're supposed
    to cultivate that attitude in training camp. It's difficult to transform a
    team's personality over a few days. The culture must be gradually changed over
    a period of time.


    * Martz has, to an extent, put his credibility on the line as never before. By
    going off on his players, he's gambling that they'll respond in a positive way.
    But suppose the psychological tactic fails, and the same old Rams show up on
    Sunday? He could lose the respect of his players. And then he could lose the
    team.


    As Others See Us


    Bob Oates, Los Angeles Times, says that Martz should forget about the running
    game, be himself, and air it out:

    "Through three years and two Super Bowls, Coach Mike Martz has shown that he's
    the best passing coach football has yet seen, but, now, he wants to integrate
    running plays with pass plays and can't find the right recipe. In their big
    years, the Rams didn't need a running game. And now, every week, they're
    proving that they still don't understand the problem. Thus, Martz has been
    operating a schizoid offense. Running the ball when defenses expect a run, he
    bulks up with tight ends and blocking backs. Then, passing the ball when
    defenses expect him to pass, he takes out the beef and inserts more speed.

    "The result is that, at the start of most of their offensive series, the Rams
    -- instead of passing...
    -11-13-2004, 06:42 AM
  • RamWraith
    In riveting battle with Rhodes, Martz is in his right mind
    by RamWraith
    By Bernie Miklasz
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Sunday, Jan. 09 2005

    On Saturday in Seattle, Rams coach Mike Martz took us on another journey to the
    center of his football mind. And what a strange, thrilling but satisfying trip
    it was.

    Martz's offense came out a 27-20 winner over an old nemesis, Seahawks defensive
    coordinator Ray Rhodes. Martz prevailed with brilliant play-calling early in
    the game and by finding the golden touch again in the final minutes.

    Of course, things did get muddled in between. It's never entirely smooth, is
    it? And after all these years, do we expect anything else? Of course, the Rams
    wasted timeouts, and I don't intend that as criticism. Spending timeouts
    quickly is a way of life around Rams football, and the habit hasn't cost the
    Rams a victory.

    Complicating matters were transmitter problems. For a time, quarterback Marc
    Bulger couldn't hear the plays being sent in by Martz. That cost the Rams a
    couple of timeouts, at least. Martz was slow to send in some plays. And the
    confusion caused a little tension, with Martz going off and Bulger snapping
    back. Relax - there was no need for Martz to call NFL security.

    "Obviously (Martz) wants to know why the play didn't get in," Bulger said.
    "It's tough to explain it to him. ... Coach doesn't want to hear that. We talk
    to him and say, 'Can we get the play in a little quicker?' When he gets in the
    mode of calling plays and we're moving the ball, he's great. But if we get a
    penalty and it's second and 15 and you've got to think about a play, it's
    tougher for him. You ask him to go quicker, so you say it in a nice, slow way.
    You don't want to offend him."

    Then Bulger summed up the customary Martz-related drama with these succinct
    words: "The give and take of all we do is worth it."

    And the strategy used in the win over Seattle demonstrated the finer side of
    "Martz Madness." Martz's initial game plan was superb: He wanted to exploit
    Michael Boulware, Seattle's young and overly aggressive safety. Indeed,
    Boulware was suckered by the Rams' formations and Bulger's fakes, got caught
    out of position, and was nailed on deep passes to set up the Rams' first two
    touchdowns.

    Rhodes is wily, however. Naturally, he adjusted. Rhodes got the Rams
    off-balance with his line stunts, and the Seahawks sacked Bulger five times.
    The stunts also gummed up the Rams' running game. And Rhodes seemed to do a
    shrewd job of disguising his coverages; the Rams' passing attack struggled in
    the game's middle stages. Bulger completed only nine of 21 through one cold
    spell.

    After taking a 14-3 lead 1...
    -01-10-2005, 06:32 AM
  • RamWraith
    The Rams and Martz Regroup Just in Time-NY Times
    by RamWraith
    By RAY GLIER

    Published: January 13, 2005


    LOWERY BRANCH, Ga., Jan. 12 - The St. Louis Rams looked like a broken team last month. Hours before a game against the Arizona Cardinals, there were news reports that Coach Mike Martz could be fired. Martz fumed, calling the reports irresponsible and destructive. The Rams went out and were trounced by the Cardinals, 31-7, dropping their record to 6-8.

    Controversy continued to churn after the game when Martz's play-calling was called irresponsible by the St. Louis news media. Martz, renowned for his innovative offense, let running back Steven Jackson, a first-round draft pick and the team's second-leading rusher this season, behind Marshall Faulk, languish on the bench during the game.

    The loss came five days after a heated shouting match between Martz and offensive tackle Kyle Turley, who was placed on injured reserve before the season.

    Playoffs? Not for the 6-8 Rams. They were in the checkout line of the season.

    The Rams somehow regrouped, winning their last two games of the regular season, including an overtime victory over the Jets, to qualify for the playoffs. Last Saturday in Seattle, they repelled the Seahawks in the waning seconds to secure a 27-20 victory in the National Football Conference wild-card round.

    As the Rams prepared to face the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on Saturday in a divisional playoff game, Martz said the return of quarterback Marc Bulger was the key to the turnaround.

    Bulger, who injured his shoulder in a victory over San Francisco on Dec. 5, was sidelined the next two games; the Rams lost both, and the offense scored just one touchdown. Since his return Dec. 27 against the Eagles, Bulger has completed 68 percent of his passes and has thrown six touchdown passes.

    "Getting Marc back was very significant to this team," Martz said Wednesday in a conference call. "When he was hurt, he was playing at such a high level. We just had to have better play at the quarterback position at that point."

    The Falcons have marveled over Bulger's ability to read a defense and run through a progression of receivers until he finds a target. That is why Atlanta will disguise coverages and try to pressure him out of the pocket.

    "I can't think of another guy, besides Peyton Manning possibly, who could run that offense as well as he does," Atlanta safety Bryan Scott said. "He definitely comes off his first receiver to his second and even sometimes to his third. And if that's not there sometimes, then he'll dip it down to Marshall Faulk or Steven Jackson.

    "I think what makes that offense so amazing is that he doesn't call audibles," Scott added. "They pretty much go off what they see, so the receiver and the quarterback have to see the same thing. That's really cool...
    -01-13-2005, 04:49 PM
  • eldfan
    Let's hope Martz proves us wrong with his madness
    by eldfan
    Let's hope Martz proves us wrong with his madness
    By Bryan Burwell
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    09/27/2004

    Sports Columnist Bryan Burwell

    If most of the football world already thought Mike Martz was a maddeningly stubborn football eccentric more than willing to bite off his nose to spite his face, wait until they get a load of him now.

    At his Monday afternoon news conference at Rams Park, the Rams head coach fiercely defended his swashbuckling way of football life as if ... well, as if his life depended on it, which in a way it probably does. He is coaching an obviously flawed football team with a 1-2 record and a defense that is springing more leaks than the Titanic. But as Martz relies on his signature aggressive offensive methods for rescuing this young but very shaky season, he knows he's being confronted with outside resistance.

    He is surrounded by a world full of conventional football thinkers who want to fit this aggressive, damn-the-torpedoes square peg into a very conservative round hole. We want him to play it by the old-school book. If the defense can't stop anyone - and after three weeks of play, there is faint evidence that this bloodied and battered group can - then why not go with a clock-gobbling, smash-mouth style of offense that relies on Marshall Faulk's fleet feet and Steven Jackson's brutish blasts?

    In essence, what we want is for Martz to stay inside the lines, which of course is just about the most repugnant thing you can say to a guy with his aggressive offensive temperament. Why not just ask dogs to start living with cats?

    "Look ... look ... don't ... uhhh," he said, practically spitting out the words like they were a bad piece of meat. "You need to find another coach, then. We're going to play fast and furious, that's what we do. We're going to run it when we ... want to run it, not because somebody (uh, that would be you and me) feels like you have to be balanced."

    He smiled almost defiantly when he said that. And just in case you didn't understand it the first time, Martz put this exclamation point on his soliloquy:

    "That's the way it is. Get used to it. That's the way it is."

    Now here's what I learned from this rather revealing State of the Rams address: Mike Martz doesn't particularly care what the outside world thinks he should do. He has a plan, and he's going to stick with it. It may not be the plan you want, but it's the plan you're going to get. And here's something else gleaned from Martz's feisty words: He will get every opportunity over the next 13 weeks to either sink or swim with his convictions.

    I don't presume to know more about football than Martz. His credentials as an offensive innovator and a football motivator are certified by his impressive NFL head-coaching won-loss record, a trip to the Super Bowl, and...
    -09-28-2004, 06:41 AM
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