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Time to panic? Defending NFC champs are 0-3

Posted: Wednesday, September 25, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- January seems a long time ago for the St. Louis Rams. That was the last time they won a football game.

The New England Patriots beat them in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3. Then there was an 0-4 preseason, followed by a three-game losing streak to start the regular season, one more defeat than in all of 2001.

''You just cannot lose heart. You've got to keep fighting and work through those things,'' Rams coach Mike Martz said. ''We've dug a hole here, and we've got to climb out ourselves.''

The ascent will have to start Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, and it's unclear whether injured running back Marshall Faulk will play.

Faulk hurt his neck in the second quarter of Monday night's loss when he was upended by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks.

Results of an MRI were expected Wednesday, but the team said it believes Faulk strained ligaments in his neck.

''It didn't appear to be nearly as dramatic or as serious as what we initially thought,'' Martz said. ''That's good news.''

Only one team in the last five years has started the season 0-3 and made the playoffs, the 1998 Buffalo Bills. At least the schedule gets a little easier with the Cowboys (1-2) coming to town on Sunday and then games against the Seattle Seahawks (0-3) and Cardinals (1-2).

The Rams' offense, their claim to fame during their run to two Super Bowl appearances in three years, is taking the blame.

Kurt Warner threw four interceptions against Tampa Bay, the last a backbreaking TD return by Derrick Brooks in the final minute of the 26-14 defeat. The NFL's MVP last year, Warner is 15th in quarterback rating after three games, with one touchdown pass and seven interceptions.

Martz denies that Warner is locking on his primary receiver, especially when facing pressure.

''He's never tracked a receiver, unless it's man-to-man coverage, and then it doesn't matter because the defensive back doesn't see it,'' Martz said.

The offensive line shares criticism for the drop in points. The Rams have scored two fewer touchdowns per game so far, averaging 17 points after putting up 31 last year.

Warner was sacked five times and pressured all night by the Bucs. Tackle John St. Clair struggled before leaving with a hip flexor injury that's not expected to keep him out of the Cowboys' game, and guard Adam Timmerman has limited mobility because of a knee injury.

The defense seems to need time to get rolling: The Rams have been outscored 46-20 in the first half. And St. Louis is near the bottom of the league in takeaway-giveaway ratio, minus-6.

''It's not one particular area,'' Martz said. ''You have a dropped ball here or there, you have a protection breakdown or a missed block, whatever it is. A guy can play real well and have one or two bad plays, and it reflects on the outcome.''

The Rams' schedule appeared daunting heading into the season. The Denver Broncos and New York Giants, teams the Rams usually have problems with, beat them by a total of 12 points in Games 1 and 2.

The Rams have been held to under 20 points seven times since 1999, three by the Bucs.

BYLINE1:By R.B. FALLSTROM

BYLINE2:AP Sports Writer

ST. LOUIS -- January seems a long time ago for the St. Louis Rams. That was the last time they won a football game.

The New England Patriots beat them in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3. Then there was an 0-4 preseason, followed by a three-game losing streak to start the regular season, one more defeat than in all of 2001.

''You just cannot lose heart. You've got to keep fighting and work through those things,'' Rams coach Mike Martz said. ''We've dug a hole here, and we've got to climb out ourselves.''

The ascent will have to start Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, and it's unclear whether injured running back Marshall Faulk will play.

Faulk hurt his neck in the second quarter of Monday night's loss when he was upended by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks.

Results of an MRI were expected Wednesday, but the team said it believes Faulk strained ligaments in his neck.

''It didn't appear to be nearly as dramatic or as serious as what we initially thought,'' Martz said. ''That's good news.''

Only one team in the last five years has started the season 0-3 and made the playoffs, the 1998 Buffalo Bills. At least the schedule gets a little easier with the Cowboys (1-2) coming to town on Sunday and then games against the Seattle Seahawks (0-3) and Cardinals (1-2).

The Rams' offense, their claim to fame during their run to two Super Bowl appearances in three years, is taking the blame.

Kurt Warner threw four interceptions against Tampa Bay, the last a backbreaking TD return by Derrick Brooks in the final minute of the 26-14 defeat. The NFL's MVP last year, Warner is 15th in quarterback rating after three games, with one touchdown pass and seven interceptions.

Martz denies that Warner is locking on his primary receiver, especially when facing pressure.

''He's never tracked a receiver, unless it's man-to-man coverage, and then it doesn't matter because the defensive back doesn't see it,'' Martz said.

The offensive line shares criticism for the drop in points. The Rams have scored two fewer touchdowns per game so far, averaging 17 points after putting up 31 last year.

Warner was sacked five times and pressured all night by the Bucs. Tackle John St. Clair struggled before leaving with a hip flexor injury that's not expected to keep him out of the Cowboys' game, and guard Adam Timmerman has limited mobility because of a knee injury.

The defense seems to need time to get rolling: The Rams have been outscored 46-20 in the first half. And St. Louis is near the bottom of the league in takeaway-giveaway ratio, minus-6.

''It's not one particular area,'' Martz said. ''You have a dropped ball here or there, you have a protection breakdown or a missed block, whatever it is. A guy can play real well and have one or two bad plays, and it reflects on the outcome.''

The Rams' schedule appeared daunting heading into the season. The Denver Broncos and New York Giants, teams the Rams usually have problems with, beat them by a total of 12 points in Games 1 and 2.

The Rams have been held to under 20 points seven times since 1999, three by the Bucs.

HEAD:Time to panic? Defending NFC champs are 0-3

BYLINE1:By R.B. FALLSTROM

BYLINE2:AP Sports Writer

ST. LOUIS -- January seems a long time ago for the St. Louis Rams. That was the last time they won a football game.

The New England Patriots beat them in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3. Then there was an 0-4 preseason, followed by a three-game losing streak to start the regular season, one more defeat than in all of 2001.

''You just cannot lose heart. You've got to keep fighting and work through those things,'' Rams coach Mike Martz said. ''We've dug a hole here, and we've got to climb out ourselves.''

The ascent will have to start Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, and it's unclear whether injured running back Marshall Faulk will play.

Faulk hurt his neck in the second quarter of Monday night's loss when he was upended by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks.

Results of an MRI were expected Wednesday, but the team said it believes Faulk strained ligaments in his neck.

''It didn't appear to be nearly as dramatic or as serious as what we initially thought,'' Martz said. ''That's good news.''

Only one team in the last five years has started the season 0-3 and made the playoffs, the 1998 Buffalo Bills. At least the schedule gets a little easier with the Cowboys (1-2) coming to town on Sunday and then games against the Seattle Seahawks (0-3) and Cardinals (1-2).

The Rams' offense, their claim to fame during their run to two Super Bowl appearances in three years, is taking the blame.

Kurt Warner threw four interceptions against Tampa Bay, the last a backbreaking TD return by Derrick Brooks in the final minute of the 26-14 defeat. The NFL's MVP last year, Warner is 15th in quarterback rating after three games, with one touchdown pass and seven interceptions.

Martz denies that Warner is locking on his primary receiver, especially when facing pressure.

''He's never tracked a receiver, unless it's man-to-man coverage, and then it doesn't matter because the defensive back doesn't see it,'' Martz said.

The offensive line shares criticism for the drop in points. The Rams have scored two fewer touchdowns per game so far, averaging 17 points after putting up 31 last year.

Warner was sacked five times and pressured all night by the Bucs. Tackle John St. Clair struggled before leaving with a hip flexor injury that's not expected to keep him out of the Cowboys' game, and guard Adam Timmerman has limited mobility because of a knee injury.

The defense seems to need time to get rolling: The Rams have been outscored 46-20 in the first half. And St. Louis is near the bottom of the league in takeaway-giveaway ratio, minus-6.

''It's not one particular area,'' Martz said. ''You have a dropped ball here or there, you have a protection breakdown or a missed block, whatever it is. A guy can play real well and have one or two bad plays, and it reflects on the outcome.''

The Rams' schedule appeared daunting heading into the season. The Denver Broncos and New York Giants, teams the Rams usually have problems with, beat them by a total of 12 points in Games 1 and 2.

The Rams have been held to under 20 points seven times since 1999, three by the Bucs.



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