Rams' offense finally cranks it up

Tuesday, October 3, 2006
Rams receiver Isaac Bruce was lifted by teammate Adam Goldberg after catching a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter Sunday against the Lions. The Rams won 41-34. (Associated Press)

After two touchdowns in its first three games, St. Louis posted five on Sunday.

ST. LOUIS -- Scott Linehan pleaded patience after the St. Louis Rams' offense stumbled the first few weeks of the season. Then he outscored Mike Martz' attack.

The Rams' new coach isn't sure a 41-point day on Sunday against the Lions means the growing pains are over, and he doesn't really care as long as the bottom line is in his favor.

"I think it's fun to win," Linehan said. "If you win by six field goals to whatever or six touchdowns, whatever you've got to do that day to win.

"But it's only one game. You've got to do it every week in this league."

The Rams (3-1) totaled two touchdowns in the first three games, leaning on a defense that leads the NFL with a plus-10 turnover margin after three more takeaways against the Lions. They made it to the end zone three more times in a shootout against the Lions, including their first rushing touchdown by Steven Jackson.

Neither Linehan nor offensive coordinator Greg Olson wanted to gloat about besting Martz, although defensive coordinator Jim Haslett did a bit of sniping. Haslett was 5-3 against Martz when he coached the Saints and Martz led the Rams, counting a loss last year when Martz was ill and Joe Vitt was the interim coach.

"We won the game, we got the turnovers, that's kind of our past history," Haslett said. "When he was here as the head coach, they'd rack up a lot of offense on us but we'd get seven or eight turnovers and win the game."

Linehan said quarterback Marc Bulger's comfort level with the new offense had a lot to do with the sudden increase in output. Bulger is the only quarterback who has started four games without throwing an interception in a safer offense than the Rams used to run.

That didn't prevent him from going 26-for-42 for a season-high 328 yards and two touchdowns, including the go-ahead score to Isaac Bruce, plus a 2-point conversion pass to Bruce with 1:56 to go.

Bruce and Torry Holt both had 100-yard receiving games.

"We didn't do anything crazy this week to get better," Bulger said. "We just kept plugging away. We had a good bead on what coverages they would be in."

Olson said game day finally matched what he has been seeing on the practice field. Olson disagreed with assessments that the attack was conservative.

"We want to take the shots down the field," Olson said. "But we want to be smart when we're taking those shots."

Linehan considered it a necessity to open up the attack against the Lions, who busted out of their early season offensive doldrums the previous week in a 31-24 loss to the Packers and could have scored more in that game. He has often talked about balancing the attack but ran 42 pass plays and 27 run plays.

"I think we felt we had to," Linehan said. "We knew they were a potentially dangerous offensive team."

Jackson opened the year with consecutive 100-yard rushing games but has fallen short the last two weeks, gaining 81 yards on 22 carries against the Lions. He also caught six passes for 65 yards.

"A lot of teams have focused on stopping our running game because we started off so well in the first two games," Jackson said. "So coach Linehan is finding other ways for me to contribute."

The Rams, who finished 6-10 last year in the last of Martz' six seasons, are off to a 3-1 start. Linehan is guardedly pleased.

"It's a good place to be," he said. "But it's really too early to feel too good about where you're at."

It's their best start since going 6-0 three straight years from 1999 to 2001.

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