Rams treat Jets to day full of tricks, no Faulk

St. Louis puts on show without one of its stars

Nedney makes his points

NFL Week 6 in review

October 23, 2001|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Minus his MVP running back, St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz dazzled the New York Jets with a display of trickery befitting the moniker, The Greatest Show on Earth.

There was the option pitch from Az-Zahir Hakim to Trung Canidate, straight off some wishbone diagram. There was the quarterback draw - with Canidate, a running back, alone in the backfield and quarterback Kurt Warner lined up as a wide receiver. There was the onside kick with a 31-7 third-quarter lead.

The option pitch became a touchdown covering 56 yards, the quarterback draw a 12-yard score, and the onside kick a point of contention after St. Louis' 34-14 win provided the chuckles in a wild Week 6 to the NFL season.

Martz even threw in a replay challenge of a lost fumble with three minutes left and a 34-7 lead (unlike the other tricks, the challenge failed).

What in the name of Brian Billick dynamics is going on here?

Well, to say Martz was toying with the Jets is putting it mildly. The irascible coach was answering all the veiled criticisms of the Rams as a finesse team, a label that seems to hang around his neck like an albatross. And the Jets contributed a few quotes to that label last week.

In truth, finesse is a big part of the Rams' fast-break offense, but it's not the only part. Martz, who called 17 consecutive passes two weeks ago, called more runs (34) than throws (28) on Sunday - even though Marshall Faulk was inactive with a bone bruise in his right knee. The Rams rushed for 234 yards, 195 by Canidate in his first NFL start. Not surprisingly, the Jets are the worst team in the league against the run.

Asked later if the persistent finesse comments had an effect, Martz said, "Yeah, all of that garbage. You know how that goes."

The Jets collapsed under the weight of Martz's gadget plays, and only center Kevin Mawae criticized the Rams' style, calling it "classless."

Martz defended the means and the end.

Of the onside kick: "My deal is, if there are seven, eight minutes left and you have a comfortable lead, then you back off."

Of the replay challenge: "You don't understand. We don't have different speeds on how we play. We have full speed, and that's it."

A Super Bowl between the Rams and Ravens certainly would not be short of braggadocio.

Nedney's time arrives

Joe Nedney is the difference between 0-5 and 2-3 for the Tennessee Titans this season. They won on Sunday for the second straight week on a Nedney field goal. His 46-yarder with five seconds left beat Detroit, 27-24.

The well-traveled journeyman appears finally to have found a football home. Tennessee is his ninth NFL team in seven years, and one of those stops was a one-month stint with the Ravens in 1999. It wasn't the best of times.

"The fall foliage was beautiful," he said. "I was there pretty much to tell Matt Stover that he better get his butt in gear, and he did. From the time I got there, he became all-world. It's kind of hard to go in and play when the competition doesn't miss."

While Nedney cashed in four field goals to rescue a sputtering Tennessee offense, Stover set a league record by kicking a field goal in his 32nd consecutive game on Sunday. When Stover led the league with 35 field goals a year ago, Nedney was second with 34 (in 38 attempts), splitting time between Denver and Carolina as an injury replacement for Jason Elam and John Kasay.

The Titans signed him after Al Del Greco's playoff flop against the Ravens.

Beaten down

When the NFL adopted realignment for the 2002 season last May, the AFC South - with Indianapolis, Tennessee, Jacksonville and expansion Houston - was dubbed the Super Division. After six weeks of the season, the Colts, Titans and Jaguars are each 2-3 and a collective 6-9, which hardly seems super anymore.

Two-minute drill

Tampa Bay quarterback Brad Johnson was sacked 10 times by Pittsburgh. His previous career high was five. ... The Bucs are 6-14 in October under coach Tony Dungy. ... The past four games between Green Bay and Minnesota have been decided by a total of 18 points. ... Indianapolis lost for only the second time in 13 games that wide receiver Marvin Harrison and running back Edgerrin James both had 100-yard performances. ... Kansas City ran only three offensive plays in the third quarter against Arizona's 30th-ranked defense. ... New Orleans is 9-2 against NFC West rivals under coach Jim Haslett. The Saints visit the Rams in a key game Sunday. ... Atlanta is 33-29 with Chris Chandler starting at quarterback and 2-9 when he has been sidelined.

Good, bad and ugly

The good: In his first pro start, Rams RB Trung Canidate gouged the Jets for 195 rushing yards - 44 on an option pitch from Az-Zahir Hakim - and two touchdowns. It was the most rushing yards for a first-time starter since Atlanta's Gerald Riggs gained 202 in 1984.

The bad: The Bucs allowed 10 sacks in a loss to Pittsburgh, and the Ravens surrendered seven in a loss to Cleveland.

The ugly: The Colts (2-3) qualify as biggest disappointment of the early season after losing three in a row, two against New England. They had two field-goal attempts blocked in the first quarter and gave up three one-play touchdown drives in the first half in a 38-17 loss to the Patriots.- Ken Murray

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