St. Louis RamsReview and Information
Under new coach Mike Martz the Rams did not miss a beat winning their first 6 games scoring 37 or more points in each game. However trouble was brewing as the Rams allowed at least 20 points in every game. The Rams would lose their first game in Kansas City against the Chiefs 54-34, but was more painful was a broken finger suffered by QB Kurt Warner. The Rams would win only 3 of their next 8 games despite strong performances from Offensive Player of the Year Marshall Faulk, and back up QB Trent Green, and Kurt Warner when he returned form his broken finger. The problem was the Rams defense was awful, and was allowing more then 30 points in every game. The Rams entered the final week of the season with a 9-6 record needing a win in New Orleans against the Saints just to get the final playoff spot. The Rams would rise to the occasion beating the Saints 26-21, setting up a rematch one week later in New Orleans. However in the Wild Card game the Rams defense was porous allowed 31 points, as a woozy, but valiant Kurt Warner could not lead the Rams back, as they fell 31-28.
2001: After a season in which the Rams defense let them down, the squad is completely over hauled; Lovie Smith comes in as the new defensive coordinator, as 7 of 12 defensive starters are replaced. The Rams defense shows improvement as they get off to a 6-0 start. The defense suffered a set back in a 34-31 loss at the dome to the New Orleans Saints. The Rams would win their next 2 games before a hard fought Monday Night loss at Dome at American Center to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After the loss to the Bucs the Rams caught fire again winning their final 6 games to close the season with an impressive 14-2 record, as Marshall Faulk won his 3rd straight Offensive Player of the Year, and Kurt Warner won his 2nd MVP in 3 years. The Rams path to the Super Bowl was clear; all they need was 2 home wins at the Dome at American Center to return to the Super Bowl. The first opponent was the Green Bay Packers, most expected an offensive shoot out, and instead Rams fans were treated to a blowout. The Rams dominated on both sides of the ball forcing 6 turnovers in a 45-17 romp. In the NFC Championship Game the Rams fought off a challenge from the Philadelphia Eagles to hold to a 29-24 win for a return trip to the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XXXVI: Going in to the Super Bowl in New Orleans the Rams were 14-point favorites, as most viewed the game as a coronation of the unstoppable Rams. However, the patriotic atmosphere of the Super Bowl seemed to be just right for the New England Patriots, who were looking to stun the world. The Rams offense could not get going all day, and trailed 17-3 going into the 4th Quarter. In the 4th the Rams offense began to click as they scored twice to tie the score at 17-17. With 2 minutes left the Rams had momentum, as the game appeared to be heading to overtime. However the Rams defense allowed the Patriots to get in Field Goal range where Adam Vinatieri stunned the Rams and the World by kicking the Pats to a 20-17 win.
2002: Coming off their stunning Super Bowl loss the Rams looked as if they were still in a daze as they dropped their first 4 games. Making matter worse QB Kurt Warner was knocked to the sidelines with a broken hand. The Rams would fall to 0-5 as Jamie Martin struggled in a 37-13 road loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Facing the undefeated Oakland Raiders at home in Week 6 the Rams turned to another Quarterback Marc Bulger with hopes of turning around their season. Surprisingly Marc Bulger would lead the Rams to 5 straight wins starting with a 28-13 win over the Raiders. At 5-5 the Rams were suddenly back in the playoff picture as Kurt Warner returned to action, which was good timing since Bulger himself suffered a hand injury. However Warner continued to struggle as the Rams lost 2 straight before a stress fracture shut down Warner's season. Kurt Warner who won the rookie of the year in 2001 was winless in 7 start in 2002 throwing just 3 TD passes to 11 interceptions. Things would go bad to worse the following week as the Rams were mauled by the Kansas City Chiefs 49-10 with Jamie Martin at QB. Bulger would return the following week and improve to 6-0 as a starter. Bulger's magical run would end a week later as the Rams lost on the road to the Seattle Seahawks 30-10. In the season finale on Monday Night Jamie Martin would lead a stirring 4th Quarter comeback over the 49ers at home. However, it would not salvage the season for the Rams who finished with a disappointing record of 7-9.
2003: After a year of injury Kurt Warner returned to the Rams starting lineup as the Rams kicked the season off on the road against the New York Giants. Warner looked shaky from the start and had trouble just holding on to the ball as he had 6 fumbles while being sacked 6 times in a 20-13 loss. Warner would suffer a concussion in the game and would be benched in favor of Marc Bulger. With Bulger under center the Rams would recover winning 4 of their next 5 games. By the time Warner was able to play he had lost his job to Bulger who had the Rams offense firing on ally cylinders despite missing Marshall Faulk who was sidelined for 5 weeks with a knee injury. Warner even suggested himself that Bulger, remain the starter to avoid controversy. Despite an early 2-game deficit the Rams played consistent football all year and would go on to finish with a solid 12-4 record winning the NFC West for the 3rd time in 5 years while earning a first round playoff bye. Among the Rams having great year was Tory Holt who racked up 1696 receiving yards while scoring 12 Touchdowns. In the playoffs the Rams would play host to the surprise Carolina Panthers. The game would go back and forth for the first 30 minutes before the Panthers took control in the 3rd Quarter. Trailing 23-12 late in the 4th Quarter the Rams went on a 15 play drive which was capped by a 1-yard TD run by Marshall Faulk to pull within a Field Goal Bulger hit Dane Looker for a successful 2-point conversion. Needing to get the ball back the Rams recovered the onside kick and were in business driving toward a possible game winning TD. However inexplicably after getting the ball to the Panthers 25, Coach Mike Martz decided to run the clock out and let Jeff Wilkins send the game to overtime. In overtime the teams played without a score through the first 15 minutes as each side missed long field goal attempts. However on the first play of the 2nd OT the Rams season came to a sudden end as the Panthers connected on a 69-yard TD pass to give the Panthers a dramatic 29-23 win. Following the game Coach Martz was widely criticized. Things also would unravel between Martz and 2-time MVP Kurt Warner who publicly feuded, before Warner was released to clear up salary cap space, while Marc Bulger finally was established as the starting QB, after capping his season with the Pro Bowl MVP.
2004: The Rams would start the season off with a win over the Arizona Cardinals before losing their next 2 games as they played inconsistent football all season. At times they were brilliant such as a comeback road win over the Seattle Seahawks in overtime as Marc Bulger connected with Shaun McDonald on a 52-yard Touchdown pass for the 33-27 win. However two weeks later they would frustrate their fans with a 31-14 loss to a 0-6 Miami Dolphins team. The loss to the Dolphins would be the start of 2 months of struggles as the Rams won just 2 of their next 6 games, only keeping their playoff hopes alive by beating the Seahawks for a 2nd time. As the season wore on the Rams would rely less on a Marshall Faulk who was slowed by age and injuries as Rookie Stephan Jackson began to take a bulk of the carries. At 6-8 the playoffs were a long shot at best as the Rams entered their final 2 games of the season. However a solid 20-7 win over a Philadelphia Eagles team not playing their full complement of stars gave them a chance to make the playoffs with a win in their final game. The Rams as they did much of the season needed to rally as Marc Bulger passed for 450 yards as the Rams beat the New York Jets in overtime 32-29 to reach the playoffs at 8-8. In the playoffs the Rams would face the Seahawks for a 3rd time returning to Seattle, and once again pulling off the upset beating the Seahawks 27-20 to become the first 8-8 team to win a playoff game. However a week later the Rams would come crashing back to earth hard as they lost to the Atlanta Falcons in the Divisional Round 47-17.
2005: The Rams got off to a rough start losing the opener to the San Francisco 49ers 31-28, despite 362 yards passing by Marc Bulger. The Rams would rebound to win the next two games, but a Week 4 loss on the road to the New York Giants exposed their porous defense as they lost 44-24 spoiling a 442 yards passing from Bulger. After a tough 37-31 loss at home to the Seattle Seahawks the Rams season took another rough turn as Marc Bulger suffered a sprained shoulder in a Monday Night 45-28 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, in which they saw a 17-0 lead quickly disappear. Following a 28-17 win over the New Orleans Saints, Coach Mike Martz was hospitalized with a heart infection. With Assistant Coach Joe Vitt taking over the Rams led by back up QB Jamie Martin and RB Steven Jackson who had become the Rams primary back the stunned the Jacksonville Jaguars 24-21 to improve to 4-4. The Rams would get Marc Bulger back in time for a rematch with the Seahawks, but once again were beaten 31-16, as turmoil began to swirl through the front office and the team. Martz who was unable to Coach due to a heart infection was not even being allowed to talk to the team as it became apparent he would be dismissed at the end of the season. Meanwhile Bulger would go down again and so too would back up Jamie Martin as they were forced to rely on 3rd stronger Ryan Fitzpatrick , who did play well leading the Rams to a stunning comeback 33-27 overtime win over the Houston Texans in his first game, but there would be no saving their season as they ended up with a disappointing 6-10 record as former offensive stalwart Marshall Faulk was a shell of his former self scoring just 1 TD, in what would likely be his final season as lingering knee injuries would force him to miss the entire 2006 season, as Scott Linehan was named the new Rams Coach.