Sunday, January 30, 2005

Coming Back with a Vengeance

The Rams ended the season with an 8-8 record. This placed them as a pretty mediocre team, but it was still good enough to advance them to the NFC Divisional Playoffs. It didn’t do too much for them, since Atlanta destroyed St. Louis in the Playoffs by a score of 47-17.

Now the Rams have a season to look back over. Which players are going to stay and who will be coming in? As of now, the Rams have 14 unrestricted free agents during this offseason. They’re trying to get as much of a jump start as possible.

"We've come a long ways and yet there's a long ways to go. When we started the season we felt like we could develop into a pretty good team. With all of the things that happened to us, obviously we fell short of where we thought we'd be."
–Mike Martz, head coach

Sunday, January 23, 2005

We know what we need to fix to improve

The St. Louis Rams fired special teams coach Mike Stock on Friday and replaced him with Bob Ligashesky, who becomes the fourth man to try and turn around a unit that has struggled since Mike Martz took over as head coach in 2000.

The Rams ranked at or near the bottom of the NFL in all special teams categories this season. In a season-ending 47-17 playoff loss at Atlanta last Saturday, the Falcons' Allen Rossum had an NFL playoff record 152 punt return yards, including a 68-yard touchdown return.

The Rams also allowed an 86-yard punt return for a touchdown in a loss at Buffalo on Nov. 21 and a 94-yard kickoff return in a season-ending 32-29 overtime win over the New York Jets.

Stock was in St. Louis just one season. He replaced Bobby April, who was fired in 2003 after three seasons. April had replaced Larry Pasquale, who was let go after one season in 2000.

Ligashesky has coached just one year in the NFL, serving as assistant special teams coach at Jacksonville last season. Before that, he was an assistant coach in college for 19 years.

The Jaguars ranked 10th in the NFL in three special teams categories: punt return average (9.6 yards), gross punting average (42.8 yards) and net punting average allowed. They were sixth in kickoff return average defense, allowing only 19.9 yards per return.

``He's what I'm looking for in an assistant coach, with the passion for what he does, the high energy level,'' Martz said. ``He's a terrific teacher. He knows the details and the fundamentals of the kicking game.''

Our team improvement for next year, starts with a new special teams coach. We still have a long way to go to become the team we want to eventually become, but its a start to a better Rams team. GO RAMS!

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

.500 is a meaningless number

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 either Atlanta or Philadelphia next week in the divisional round after completing a three-game sweep of the NFC West champion Seahawks.

``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 playing our best football.''

Second-year player Kevin Curtis caught four passes for 107 yards, his first career 100-yard game, and he and Sean McDonald are becoming effective complements to the team's established duo of Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce.

Bulger noted that the Rams that went to two Super Bowls from 1999-2001 had this kind of diversity with the likes of Az-Zahir Hakim and Ricky Proehl diverting attention.

``You can't double everyone,'' Bulger said. ``I think we're starting to get that matchup with the third and fourth guy on safeties and linebackers.''

These next couple of games will be, by no means a walk in the park. Lets pick up the intensity, and show them that your record loses all credibility when a shiny ring is at stake. Keep up the good work guys, We are going all the way!