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Archive for Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Rams back on track, but against weaker competition

October 15, 2003

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— Two years removed from a Super Bowl, the St. Louis Rams appear to be back in championship form.

But was it the Rams' skill or the ineptitude of the Atlanta Falcons Monday night and the Arizona Cardinals two weeks ago that's responsible? Coach Mike Martz doesn't know for sure yet, and a day after the Rams' 36-0 victory over the Falcons, he didn't care.

"Last year at this time we were 0-5," Martz said. "I would have taken a win against Christian Brothers High School.

"It's hard to win any game in the National Football League against anybody, and the Packers did lose to Arizona."

He stopped well short of saying the Rams (3-2) have arrived, even if they have won the last two games by a combined 73-13. They're too young at many positions, too banged up at others, to start looking ahead. Plus, the other victory came against the struggling 49ers (2-4).

Dominant? Ask him Sunday after taking on Brett Favre and the Packers.

"We've got a terrific challenge this week in Green Bay," Martz said. "I don't know where this team's going. I don't know if any of us knows. That's the exciting part of it."

Marc Bulger has 11 career starts after sending two-time MVP Kurt Warner to the bench earlier this year. Second-year player Lamar Gordon has been starting at tailback while Marshall Faulk recovers from a broken left hand, and is still learning that playing the position in the NFL means lots of pain.

"I think he understands that now," Martz said. "I know as a rookie he didn't understand that."

The team remains thin in the secondary with inexperienced Jerametrius Butler and Travis Fisher manning the cornerback positions. Butler was badly beaten on two long pass plays that fell incomplete early in the Atlanta game.

Jason Sehorn remains sidelined indefinitely while recovering from a broken foot suffered in the opening week of training camp, forcing veteran cornerback Aeneas Williams to stay at free safety for the time being.

There's a rookie, second-round pick Pisa Tinoisamoa, starting at outside linebacker.

"We're such a young team in specific areas where we're really counting on players that it's enough just to keep them focused this week and help them get better," Martz said. "And wherever that takes us, it takes us."

Players weren't crowing too much, either, after the Rams' first shutout since 2001 and first whitewash at home since 1993, when they were still in Anaheim, Calif.

"I don't know if this was a statement game," defensive end Grant Wistrom said. "We know we just have to go out and win."

They're certainly not thinking about the return of what once was nicknamed "The Greatest Show on Turf." Not even prolific wide receiver Torry Holt, who had 23 catches and three touchdowns the last two weeks.

"We're not really thinking about that now," Holt said. "We're a team that's trying to put together some wins to continue on doing the things that we've done in the past."

Injuries continue to hold the Rams back. The latest casualty is strong safety Adam Archuleta, who sprained his left ankle on punt protection in the second half and might not be able to play against the Packers.

"It's going to take several days to know where he is," Martz said. "You'd have to say he'd be questionable for this game."

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