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MOORE: Faulk injury only part of Rams' story

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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.

 
   
 

TAMPA, Fla.

Somewhere over the last seven months, between a devastating Super Bowl loss and the realization that Mike Martz may not be the greatest coaching mind in the football universe, the offensive swagger that defined the St. Louis has been lost. Now, this team simply staggers and lists from one loss to another. Nothing changed Monday — other than the opponent. Apologists will argue the 26-14 loss was the result of ¿s injury and doesn¿t reflect the team¿s confused offensive state. They would be wrong. The have scored just 51 points in the first three weeks of this season. There are 23 teams in the NFL that average more. The team¿s 17-point average is nearly half of what it has been the previous three seasons. ¿We¿re making so many mistakes out there, it doesn¿t even resemble the same team I¿ve seen here for three years, especially from an offensive standpoint,¿¿ quarterback said. ¿I¿m a little bit baffled because it¿s the same team that¿s been here for so long. ¿It¿s taken this long and we still haven¿t gotten out of this rut that we¿re in. We¿ve got to put our finger on it.¿¿ At this 0-3 stage, it¿s easier to point fingers than finger the problem. Martz has been criticized for not using Faulk enough. On this night, he had no choice. The league¿s Most Valuable Player in two of the last three seasons went out early in the second quarter with a strained neck and didn¿t return. Obviously, his absence played a major role in the evening¿s outcome. But Faulk had been on the field for the first two games of the season and that didn¿t prevent the team¿s losing ways. What has happened to the St. Louis offense is one of the league¿s most compelling questions in the first three weeks of this season. The happened to them Monday night. As defensive tackle observed before the game, the question of which offense would show up wasn¿t as crucial as the question of which Tampa Bay defense would take the field. After allowing a touchdown drive on the opening series, the Bucs were at their aggressive best. Tampa Bay went to a three-man defensive front, moving Sapp outside, and frustrated the the rest of the evening with five sacks and four interceptions. There is a lot St. Louis isn¿t doing these days. Where to start? Let¿s go to Warner. No quarterback has been more prolific since the start of the 1999 season. His pass to in the opening drive got him to 1,000 completions quicker than any quarterback in league history. That is what makes Warner¿s numbers this season even more amazing. The accuracy — a 70.4 completion percentage — hasn¿t suffered. But his four interceptions Monday inflated his touchdown-to-interception ratio to a cockeyed 1-to-7. That¿s one touchdown pass to seven interceptions. Warner is turning into Arizona¿s before our very eyes. Martz defended his quarterback, saying Warner threw the ball where it was supposed to go. He blamed poor routes on the part of his receivers — Martz singled out running back , who replaced Faulk — and said he was very upset. ¿Hey, I¿m throwing the ball,¿¿ said Warner, refusing to take an excuse and declaring — again — that he¿s completely healthy. ¿I¿ve got to hit them. That¿s my job. You know, I¿m the one releasing the ball. When that doesn¿t happen, it¿s on me. ¿We all have to step up and take care of our part in this. I have to quit putting this team in bad positions. ¿It¿s got to start with me. Then everyone else will follow.¿¿ The aren¿t getting the same sort of vertical stretch with their offense they have in past years. Warner¿s longest completion of the season is 43 yards. No pass picked up more than 25 yards on this evening. There are two reasons for this. One, defenses are content to stay back in a Cover 2 zone and keep the receivers in front of them. The idea is to make them pick up yards after the catch. So far, that isn¿t happening. The St. Louis receivers entered Week 3 ranked 23rd in the league in yards after the catch. Two, the miss Az Zahir-Hakim more than they acknowledge. His speed as the third receiver spread the field and gave Holt and more room to operate. Without him — he left for Detroit in free agency — has slipped into that role. Proehl is an outstanding possession receiver, but his speed doesn¿t scare anyone. This compacts the defense and makes it tougher for Holt, Bruce or Faulk to break into the open. Even when Warner is able to get the ball deep, it doesn¿t work out. He hit Bruce behind the Bucs secondary for what should have been a 47-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, only to watch Bruce drop the ball as he extended to make the catch. ¿We¿ve got some mistakes here and there that we¿re not good enough to overcome,¿¿ Martz said, referring to turnovers and penalties (six for 67 yards) more than dropped passes. ¿In the past, we¿ve been good enough to do some of that.¿¿ All the blame can¿t be laid at Warner¿s cleats. It¿s been said that no man is an island unto himself, but must feel like one. The right tackle has been victimized in pass protection all season. Martz refuses to keep a tight end or back in the formation to help him. St. Clair played poorly again before leaving the game with a hip flexor. His replacement, , played even worse. The explosive flashes, the blink-of-an-eye touchdown drives that demoralized opponents in the past, just aren¿t there. Example: cornerback took the ball away from with 5:49 left in the third quarter to give St. Louis the ball on the Tampa Bay 39-yard line. This was a chance to get back in the game. Five plays and one yard later, St. Louis punted. The only saving grace is that five teams have overcome an 0-3 start to make the playoffs and that Dallas is next on the schedule. ¿We¿ve got to suck it up, dig down deep and work through this thing,¿¿ Warner said. ¿It¿s been a long three weeks. But there is so much more to go and so much to accomplish. ¿We have to understand that and move on, get this thing turned around. We¿ve got to fight through this, whatever it takes. ¿I¿m ready.¿¿ Senior writer David Moore can be reached at his e-mail address, cjudge@foxsports.com.
Tagged: Rams, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, John St. Clair, Kurt Warner, Torry Holt, Ricky Proehl, Grant Williams

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