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St. Louis is 4-4 after two straight losses

ST. LOUIS -- Mike Martz is tired of taking the heat for the St. Louis Rams and he's ready to make changes if his players don't start performing to their ability.

"You guys have been here with me long enough to know that I've never tried to mislead you or sugarcoat anything," the coach told reporters. "If I've screwed something up I'll tell you, and you try to take a bullet whenever you can to help them.

"There comes a time when some of these guys have just got to play," he said.

A 40-22 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday left the Rams with two dispiriting losses in a row and a 4-4 record.

Martz said he discussed a number of changes, which he did not disclose, in a morning meeting with his players. Offensive tackle Grant Williams is the most culpable player on a struggling line that allowed five sacks, and he is most likely to lose a starting job.

The Rams also lost 31-14 at previously winless Miami two weeks ago. They had been 4-0 after a bye under Martz before losing on Sunday.

"We understand what our problems are and what we need to address," Martz said. "There may be some personnel changes."

Martz said he's long been aware of potential trouble spots on he team. Williams is a stand-in starter for Kyle Turley, out for the season with a back injury, for instance.

The line was so porous against the Patriots that one of the sacks on Mark Bulger came with the Rams in what he referred to as max protection, meaning at least two extra blockers. Martz said it wasn't a case of Patriots coach Bill Belichick coming up with
"magical schemes."

Against the Patriots, Martz found other areas of concern.

"There's some things that rose up in this game that I didn't believe was a problem in the past," Martz said. "We know we've got some weaknesses in certain areas that we've tried to cover up a little bit.

"There's some areas we've played very well that did not play well in this game," he said.

Several players vented their frustrations in the locker room Sunday. Defensive tackle Tyoka Jackson, normally the team's most eloquent spokesman, peppered his language with four-letter words.

On Monday, it was Martz's turn to vent.

"Players make plays; that's just the way it is," he said. "That's not a cop-out or brushing it off onto these guys, but I'm upset.

"We've got some guys we're counting on and they've got to step up," he said.

Another area that could see some changes is the defensive line, which includes three No. 1 draft picks. New England's Corey Dillon had 112 yards rushing, and he's the fourth opponent to rush for 100 yards in eight games.

Jimmy Kennedy, the Rams' top pick last year, returned from a broken foot sustained in training camp on Sunday and could get more playing time.

Special teams have struggled all season. It was especially glaring Sunday when no one covered Troy Brown on a touchdown pass from Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri on a fake field goal in the third quarter.

Martz said the two cornerbacks decided to switch sides because one of them had a banged-up shoulder, and they didn't complete the switch in time. But he also said the Rams practiced defending that trick play several times.

"You need to see it and just burn a timeout," Martz said. "Just inexcusable, really. That's something we practiced, and not just once. I really am kind of at a loss for words on that one."

Martz also found fault with the officiating. The Rams complained after their Super Bowl loss in 2002 to New England that their wide receivers were held beyond the 5-yard limit, and Martz cited at least one glaring instance on Sunday involving Brown, the Patriots'
converted wide receiver, and the Rams' Shaun McDonald.

"It doesn't take much to play defensive back if all you do is grab a hold of a guy," Martz said. "We've got pictures of (McDonald) running across the field with him in his hip pocket.

"Don't get too excited about him as a defensive back, I guess," he said.