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NFL SPOTLIGHT / WEEK 13

Looking for Reasons? Use the Marshall Plan

November 27, 2000

While everyone talks about Kurt Warner and Trent Green, the real reason the Rams are suddenly struggling continues to play, though obviously hampered by injuries.

Running back Marshall Faulk was not much of a factor for the Rams in their 31-24 loss to New Orleans on Sunday, totaling 43 yards rushing and receiving. He had 27 yards in eight carries and two catches for 16 yards.

While national TV commentators are placing much of the blame for the recent Ram woes at Green's feet, it's obviously not his fault. Consider the numbers the Rams have put up since Faulk injured his knee before a game against Carolina four weeks ago:

* Before that game, Rams averaged 124.5 rushing yards a game. Since: 62.5

* Before that game, Faulk averaged 5.4 yards a carry. Since: 3.5

* In approximately 5 1/2 games since Warner's injury, Green has thrown 230 passes. In 6 1/2 games before he was injured, Warner threw 230 passes, which shows the Rams have had to pass more to adjust for the poor running game.

* Warner's numbers: 158 for 230, 2,445 yards, 18 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 111.6 passer rating. Green: 139 for 230, 1,948 yards, 16 touchdowns, five interceptions, 101.9 passer rating.

* Ram record before Faulk's injury: 7-1. Since: 1-3.

Also, remember that Faulk's game-breaking abilities forced the defense to key a linebacker and safety on him, opening up passing routes for Warner and Green. Now that Faulk plays injured and his backups are ineffective, the defense can just wait for the pass, cutting off Green's openings.

But the Rams will hear none of that talk, and refuse to point any fingers. After Sunday's loss, they felt there was enough blame to go around.

"Whether it be missed passes on my part, or drops or protection problems, I think everybody took a turn today," Green said. "There were enough mistakes in all three phases that I don't think anybody can warrant pointing fingers."

Coach Mike Martz remained optimistic.

"We can regroup," Martz said. "We have to. Darn right we can."

And what about Warner? What's his view on the recent skid?

"I definitely want to be back in there," Warner said. "I'm tired of losing, just like everybody else."

OH, MY ACHING HEAD

Buffalo quarterback Doug Flutie replaced Rob Johnson for two plays during Buffalo's 31-17 loss to Tampa Bay. The Bills' starter was shaken up on a near sack by linebacker Derrick Brooks, returned for a third-down play before the field goal and then sat out Buffalo's final possession.

"I don't even remember what happened. They said they slammed my head down pretty hard. What happens there, you just kind of lose it for a second," Johnson said. "I was fine. I went back in, but after that I got a little nauseous. After we were down by 14, they didn't see any point in me going back in."

SAPP AVERTS STICKY SITUATION

Before the win over the Bills, Warren Sapp made critical remarks about offensive coordinator Les Steckel's system, hoping to light a fuse under his teammates after a dismal performance in a 13-10 loss at Chicago last week.

The defensive tackle said the offense lacked an identity, questioned Steckel's play-calling and asked why the Buccaneers haven't been able to get Keyshawn Johnson more involved in game plans.

The remarks earned Sapp a trip into Coach Tony Dungy's office before the game, but the defensive standout was all smiles after the win.

"Thirty-one points in not too shabby," Sapp said before likening his trip to Dungy's office to visiting the principal in school. "[Steckel] was smart enough to know he had to put us in a better position in certain situations."

OH NO, NOT HIM AGAIN

Cleveland's Spergon Wynn took over for Doug Pederson at the start of the second half of a 44-7 loss to Baltimore, and showed why he is perhaps the worst quarterback in NFL history. He lost a fumble on his second play, and Baltimore recovered to set up a field goal.

"They don't have all those shutouts for nothing," Wynn said.

OUR THEORY: HE'S NO GOOD

Pittsburgh's 48-28 win over Cincinnati involved the two lowest-ranked passers in the AFC, Kordell Stewart and Akili Smith.

Smith, ranked last in the league, made his first start in two weeks because Scott Mitchell's sprained left knee bothered him during pregame warmups.

Smith started well, completing six of his first seven throws, but struggled in the second half as Pittsburgh pulled away. He completed 10 of 20 passes for 129 yards. He was sacked four times.

Coach Dick LeBeau was noncommittal about who would start next week against Arizona.

"I think we saw what Akili can do," LeBeau said. "Today, he showed some pretty good signs of where he can go with the ball with his mobility. I thought the offense, up until that one point where they had a couple of silly plays, played pretty good football."

So, a quarterback completes half his passes for only 129 yards and that's a good sign? Maybe Spergon Wynn isn't the worst quarterback in the league after all.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Rush to Judgment

Since Marshall Faulk suffered a knee injury against the 49ers on Oct. 29, the Rams have sputtered. A look:

*--*

Rams Rushing Passing PPG PA Fum. W-L Last 4 62.5 311.5 41.3 28.8 1.8 1-3 First 8 124.5 366.9 26.5 31.5 0.3 7-1

*--*

The Rams have averaged 43.8 rushing yards in four losses, and 133.9 rushing yards in eight wins this season.

*

--Compiled by HOUSTON MITCHELL

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