Rams surging against lesser foes

Posted: Wednesday, October 15, 2003

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

But is it the Rams' skill or the ineptitude of the Atlanta Falcons on 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 Tuesday. ''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.''

But Martz stopped well short of saying the Rams (3-2) have arrived, even if they have won the last two games by a combined score of 73-13 over the Cardinals and Falcons, two of the league's worst teams. They're too young at many positions, too banged up at others, to start looking ahead.

Dominant? Ask Martz on 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.''

The inexperience is evident.

Quarterback Marc Bulger, who sent two-time MVP Kurt Warner to the bench earlier this year, has 11 career starts. 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.

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

Jason Sehorn is sidelined indefinitely while recovering from a broken foot sustained in the opening week of training camp. That has forced veteran cornerback Aeneas Williams to stay at free safety for now.

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 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 has 23 catches and three touchdowns the last two weeks.

''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,'' Holt said.

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.

Rookie wide receiver Kevin Curtis, also out since the preseason, will miss at least one more game while recuperating from a broken leg.

There was a bit of positive news on Faulk, who could return next week at Pittsburgh after results of a test on Tuesday.

''I was kind of surprised,'' Martz said. ''It was better than anticipated. He does make a difference, there's no question about it.''

The secondary also might get some help with the return from injured reserve of James Whitley, a nickel back last year before breaking his foot. The Rams are so needy that Martz said Whitley, rusty or not, likely will be active this week.

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