Ram System Makes Faulk
Playing for the championship of Missouri, in a stadium where either side can win, undefeated St. Louis (6-0) will be at Kansas City (3-3) Sunday with a running back who gained 208 yards the other day.
That's Marshall Faulk, who, despite his impressive rushing yards for the game, lost a yard on third and one, forcing a Ram punt.
Third and one is a running down in pro football, meaning that NFL defenses stack against running backs on such a play.
For that reason, many of the league's best ballcarriers falter there.
This year, accordingly, the Rams have only rarely called on any runner on third and one.
So how did the man get his 208 yards?
Count the ways.
As St. Louis won, 45-29, Faulk surprised Atlanta by carrying the ball:
On passing downs.
On the plays when Atlanta fielded a four-man line fronting seven teammates playing pass defense.
Whenever the Falcons feared Kurt Warner's arm more than Faulk's runs, prompting them to drop into a variety of pass defenses.
And when the Rams surmised that Atlanta was ready to double-cover Faulk on pass plays.
Faulk is a great back, true, but it's the Ram system that enables him to do so much more than he did in Indianapolis--where the Colts kept him running on third and one.
Pass Defense Harder to Play
Ram Coach Mike Martz, after his first year and a half in St. Louis, is currently football's foremost offensive leader and among the all-time leaders.
And one explanation is that, as a summa cum laude college man, he's made the discovery that pass-defense mistakes are more serious than run-defense mistakes.