|Faulk felt out of 'touch' with Rams' plan
By Len Pasquarelli
NEW ORLEANS -- The old adage insists that numbers, cold and hard and absolute, don't lie. That wasn't the case for Super Bowl XXXVI, however, and more specifically for St. Louis Rams tailback Marshall Faulk, the league's premier offensive playmaker. Look at the stat sheet and it shows that Faulk got 21 "touches," 17 rushes and four receptions in St. Louis' stunning 20-17 loss to the New England Patriots. The "touches" were just 3½ less than Faulk averaged in his 14 regular-season appearances and only 1.4 less than the mean for his three seasons with the Rams. But when Rams head coach and resident offensive guru Mike Martz reviews the videotape of the galling defeat, he is apt to conclude that Faulk didn't get the ball nearly enough. And, unlike his game plan for attacking the Patriots' defensive scheme, Martz will be right. "I don't want to get into it," said Faulk, his shield quickly going up, minutes after the loss. "You do what they tell you to do. You run the plays they call. That's how it is and that's how it will be. I don't want to get into second-guessing now." True enough, revisiting the Rams' approach will do nothing now to mollify the hard feelings they will carry for at least six months, until training camp commences in July at Macomb, Ill., and the quest begins again. But the fact Martz got the ball so infrequently to Faulk, particularly with the running game, only serves to fuel the contentions of the critics who suggest the Rams head coach too often outthinks himself. In a brilliant but potentially volatile game plan, New England coach Bill Belichick dared Martz to run the ball, with the Patriots using "nickel" or "dime" personnel on 54 of 69 snaps. The scheme cried out for the Rams to run at the smallish Patriots' front, to muscle up and pound the football inside the tackles, to take another step toward expunging their "finesse" reputation. But the Rams never tried hard enough to run at the Patriots and, in essence, made New England's job easier in covering explosive wide receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. The New England defense never really had to commit strong safety Lawyer Milloy to stopping the run and he and free safety Tebucky Jones were able to roam the deep zones and make big hits on the St. Louis receivers as they ran across the hashes or up the seams.