Len Pasquarelli

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Sunday, October 21
Updated: October 23, 2:04 AM ET
 
Rams' Martz decides not to play nice

By Len Pasquarelli
ESPN.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Noted more for his acumen in drawing up mind-numbing offensive game plans than for drawing circles around inflammatory quotes from opposing players, St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz dabbled in both last week, preparing his team on and off the field to launch retaliatory salvos at its critics.

And in disposing of the New York Jets here by a 34-14 count, Martz proved himself not only a master manipulator of grease board X's and O's, but also a wily motivator who knows precisely what behavioral buttons to push.

Mike Martz
Mike Martz raised some eyebrows on the Jets sideline with some of the moves he made Sunday.

In readying his charges for the Sunday opponent Martz leaned heavily on two points -- the suggestion that the New York Giants last week demonstrated to the rest of the league how to defend St. Louis and the hints by members of the Jets secondary that the Rams offense is based strictly on finesse -- and hammered them home with the subtlety of a cattle prod.

"There were a lot of things said about this football team coming into this game," allowed Martz after the Rams had dismantled the Jets to remain undefeated. "All of that garbage, you know how it is."

And so Martz, a brilliant strategist who spent a lot of time Sunday evening playing dumb and rather poorly rationalizing several in-your-face-Jets game decisions, dumped garbage on garbage by trashing his opponent.

There are few things worse to Martz than terming his high-flying offensive circus show a "finesse" attack. One of those few things might have been the contention that, by limiting St. Louis to just 15 points last week, the Giants proved that the Rams could be physically manhandled and would back off when challenged.

So as unpatriotic as it might be, particularly given the tragedy that transpired last month just across the river from here, Martz decided Sunday to take out his anger on New York. It was a message, Rams players acknowledged, that was clearly woven into the fabric of the team's practices last week.

It was a message, it seemed from the lopsided victory, well heeded.

The Giants, who play here on Monday night, staged a 7 a.m. walk-through practice, and Jets rookie coach Herman Edwards might have done better had he bolted the locker room door and kept guys like Michael Strahan around. But had it been the Giants on the other sideline, the results might not have been different, so stoked were Rams players.

"You keep hearing all of that 'finesse' (stuff) and it gets to you," said Rams right guard Adam Timmerman, who will never be mistaken for a shrinking violet. "We play the game as physical as anyone does. No one can ever say we're not aggressive."

That's true both literally and figuratively and, for anyone who doubted it, Martz showed again Sunday that he can be a ruthless coach who goes for the jugular. And a guy who, when the opponent is hemorrhaging, isn't about to offer a tourniquet.

There were numerous examples of Martz in the role of evil genius Sunday, but these three stuck out, and clearly galled some Jets veterans:

  • Leading 31-7 with less than five minutes remaining in the third quarter, Martz surrendered to the entreaties of special teams coach Bobby April and ordered an onside kick. St. Louis reserve cornerback Dre Bly recovered the squib kick and that little gambit led to a Jeff Wilkins field goal. Asked about the unusual strategy, the equivalent of stealing second base with an eight-run lead, Martz denied he was just rubbing the Jets' noses in it. "It was to keep the ball away from them," said Martz, alluding to a second-half comeback victory New York scored last week against Miami.

    You keep hearing all of that 'finesse' (stuff) and it gets to you. We play the game as physical as anyone does. No one can ever say we're not aggressive.
    Adam Timmerman, Rams right guard

  • With four minutes left in the game and still ahead 31-7, the Rams decided to challenge a fumble by reserve tailback Robert Holcombe, which was recovered by defensive tackle James Reed of the Jets. The replay upheld the call on the field and the Jets were awarded possession at the St. Louis 33-yard line. "Again, we just didn't want them to have the ball and so we asked for the play to be reviewed," Martz explained, straight-faced.

  • Shortly after the instant replay review Martz granted permission for quarterback Kurt Warner, out of the game at that point, to stand at the field level seats and sign autographs for the local fans who were calling to him. Such a move is highly irregular in the NFL and the Jets did not ignore the one-upsmanship of the moment.

    "Classless," said Jets outspoken center Kevin Mawae. "I mean what was some of that stuff about anyway?"

    A few New York teammates agreed that the St. Louis moves were unusual. But just as many noted that, when you are as good as the Rams, you can perhaps get away with a few things other teams can't even imagine trying. In the visitors' locker room, the St. Louis players demonstrated a "who cares" attitude.

    Said tailback Trung Canidate, who had a combined 232 yards from scrimmage starting in place of injured Marshall Faulk, and whose only shortcomings were a few missed blitz pickups early in the game: "We're not sorry for anything that happened out there."

    In running up the score, Martz wasn't quite ready to run away from controversy, but he certainly wasn't going to apologize for what some in the league might consider a lapse in the standard and unspoken coaching etiquette.

    "We don't have different speeds we play at," Martz said. "We play at one speed."

    To the Rams, it is warp speed. For the Jets, it was warped speed. And for Martz, it was simply satisfying.

    Noted one St. Louis functionary as he headed out of the stadium: "Hey, finesse this."

    Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.







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