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BLITZ: Martz now must rely on Martin

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David Moore

David Moore has been the senior football writer for FOX Sports since Aug. 2005. He appears weekly on the FSN Baseball Report and MLB on FOX. One more line lorem ipsum dolor sit amet e pluribus unum.

 
   
 
St. Louis coach Mike Martz has shown he has a beautiful, offensive mind with as his quarterback. Now, we're about to see if Martz can accept and adapt to the lesser skills of , or if his offensive creativity is also his greatest flaw. The little hope the had of rising from the ashes of an 0-4 start was extinguished Monday when the club discovered Warner will miss the next eight-to-10 weeks with a compound fracture on the little finger of his throwing hand. The pedal-to-the-metal approach Martz has taken with Warner — and briefly, — the last three years won't work with Martin and a suspect offensive line. "I can probably do a much better job of play selection," Martz allowed at his Monday press conference when asked if Warner's absence will force the coach to alter his approach. It's one thing to go for broke with your play-calling when you're ahead and preside over a team that averages 30-plus points every time it takes the field. When the rest of the league hovers in the low 20s, you can afford a misfire or two without being penalized. But when your offense is broken — and the offense was broken before Warner went down, ranking in the bottom third of the league in points scored — each decision carries more weight. Martz understands on an intellectual level that he must modify his approach to help this St. Louis team win. Still, it goes against every fiber of his aggressive being. The final moments of the team's loss to Dallas illustrates the internal battle that lies ahead. The score was tied at 10-all with 1:40 remaining. The had a third-and-three on the Dallas 25-yard line. St. Louis had lost the first three games of the season. It had lost Warner. It was at home against a team that had just one victory to show in its last 15 road games. Common sense dictates you hand the ball to . If he fails to pick up the first down, you still force Dallas to burn a timeout and line up for nothing worse than a 43-yard field goal. Martz decided it would be better to hit on a quick slant. But Bruce was covered, Martin was sacked for a six-yard loss and the wound up attempting a 49-yard field goal that bounced off the upright. The , with an extra timeout and six less yards to travel, moved into position to kick a 48-yard field goal on the final play to win. The coach — despite what detractors would have you believe — is always quick to take the blame for what he considers a bad call. The fact he didn't consider this to be a bad call after nearly 24 hours of reflection shows the transition to a more conservative approach will be difficult. "I felt like we needed to get a little closer," Martz said. "I felt it was a safe call. "Obviously, it didn't work out that way." Martin took the blame for not dumping the ball and avoiding the sack. But it's Martz's responsibility to not put a backup quarterback in that position behind a shaky offensive line. In the more exciting days of the Greatest Show on Turf, a field goal represented failure. These days, it represents a significant percentage of the offense. The sooner Martz comes to grips with this frustrating reality, the sooner his team has a chance to move forward.

Shame on me

Martz wasn't the only head coach Monday who conceded he needs to call the game differently. Jim Fassel was still smarting over his decision to let quarterback throw a sideline pass in the final seconds of the first half of the New York game with Arizona. The ball was intercepted and returned 38 yards for a touchdown, sending both team into the locker room tied at 7-7. "I said listen men," Fassel said. "I made a tactical error at the end of the half. Every time I make a decision, depending on how it works out, I either look like a guy who is being very aggressive or is being a buffoon about it." Fassel wanted a deeper route than the one that was called by coordinator by Sean Payton. Still, most coaches are averse to looking like a buffoon since it doesn't do much for their image or longevity. The interception in the 21-7 loss to the , coupled with a failed fourth-down attempt in the opener against San Francisco, has Fassel vowing to take a more cautious approach. "Right now, we've tried to be aggressive twice and both have blown up in our faces," Fassel said. "I'm out of that business for now. "The first time, it's shame on you. The second time, it's shame on me for trying it again. When I said shame on me, that's it."

Henry holds on

Buffalo appeared to be on its way to an early 14-0 lead over Chicago when running back fumbled. The returned it 62 yards and suddenly the score was tied, 7-7. One fumble can be excused. Maybe even two. But that was Henry's fourth fumble in four games. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, understandably livid, pulled Henry from the game and handed the ball to backup . "It was rough," Henry said. "But not one time did I doubt my skills or my toughness to go back out there and show my teammates and my coaches that I was going to do everything and anything to get that fumble back." Henry didn't return until the fourth quarter with the game tied at 20 and the offense struggling. He immediately ripped off runs of 12 and 14 yards, the second on a draw play where he cradled the ball to keep from fumbling and put the on the 1-yard line for their go-ahead touchdown. He carried seven times for 42 yards in the fourth quarter and took a screen pass from for 26 yards and the winning score in overtime. "We always will stick with Travis," Buffalo coach Gregg Williams said. "He is a tremendous competitor."

Fourth and short

  • Some athletes focus and perform better when they face adversity off the field. I ask you, does Minnesota's seem like the sort who is disciplined enough to bear down and not become distracted by what swirls around him? No. That's why his poor performance in Sunday's loss to Seattle shouldn't be surprising. There's a difference in being a great athlete and a great football player. Moss is a great athlete, but that doesn't make him a great player.
  • Bill Cowher's decision to pull quarterback for received most of the attention nationally in the wake of Pittsburgh's overtime victory over Cleveland. Just as interesting was his decision to pull running back for Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala for much of the second half. Bettis finished with just 24 yards on 14 carries and was only on the field for the decisive drive because Ma'afala was hurt.
  • The New York ' decision to bench and go with isn't a change as much as it's an early concession speech.
  • should do a nice job of filling in for , Chicago's underrated weak-side linebacker who will be out the remainder of the season. The problem is depth. Holdman's injury leaves as the only true backup linebacker on the roster. Rookie is listed at linebacker, but is viewed more as someone to use as a rusher in passing situations.
  • Tennessee's special teams aren't feeling so special these days. The gave up two punt returns for touchdowns in the first quarter of their 52-25 loss to Oakland. This came just one week after Tennessee gave up another punt return for a touchdown and failed to recover an onsides kick in the fourth quarter of an overtime loss to Cleveland.

    The final word ...

    ... comes from San Diego defensive end on running back , after watching him rush for 217 yards in a victory over New England. "I call him the Joystick. He can do anything you can do in a video game in real life." David Moore can be reached at his e-mail address: dmoore@foxsports.com.
  • Tagged: Bills, Bears, Cowboys, Titans, Chiefs, Rams, Vikings, Giants, Jets, Steelers, Chargers, Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, Kurt Warner, Randy Moss, Drew Bledsoe, Kerry Collins, Chad Pennington, Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afal, Jerome Bettis, Kordell Stewart, Marcellus Wiley, LaDainian Tomlinson, Bryan Knight, Tommy Maddox

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