Gunshy St. Louis Gets Out-"Foxed"
January 12, 2004
by Ward Lowe
I think I heard people 900 miles away in St. Louis screaming in agony Saturday when Rams coach Mike Martz elected to take his chances in overtime against the Carolina Panthers.
Martz’s Rams, down by three, had a first down at the Carolina 15 with 39 seconds to go and one timeout remaining. He chose to run down the clock and kick a field goal, instead of taking one or two shots at the end zone for the win. Huh?
Of course, the Rams lost when Carolina coach John Fox decided to take a shot with a long pass play at the start of the second overtime—exactly the type of play Martz avoided in the fourth quarter.
After the game, Martz defended his decision: “I was concerned about a shot to the end zone from where we were; I would have hated to have the ball tipped or intercepted.” I bet St. Louis quarterback Marc Bulger felt real confident trotting out to begin overtime knowing his coach was afraid to let him attempt a pass with the game on the line.
Yes, Bulger tossed three interceptions in the game. Does that mean Martz shouldn’t call a pass for the rest of the game?
I’m not qualified to coach football at any level, but I know that you can’t compete successfully in sports if you always play to not lose. Martz controlled his team’s fate with 39 seconds left in the game. That responsibility proved too much for him, so he relinquished control of the game and let someone else decide the outcome.
Who is destiny’s child?
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning went from a guy who couldn’t win a playoff game to a guy who can’t lose. In two playoff games this season Manning is 44 of 56 for 681 yards and eight touchdowns as Indianapolis whipped Denver 41-10 and beat the Chiefs 38-31 at Arrowhead. Manning and the Colts seemed destined for great things this postseason, unless …
I thought the New England Patriots cornered the market on the Team of Destiny label early this year. The Pats have won 13 straight games and look ready for number 14 after dispatching the Tennessee Titans 17-14 at frigid Foxborough. New England has mastered playing sound football just well enough to win.
Whom will the fates shine on?
Philly takes three
For the third season in a row, the Eagles sit one win from the Super Bowl. Philadelphia outlasted Green Bay 20-17 in overtime for the right to play the Panthers for the NFC championship. In the end, the Packers lost because Brett Favre was Brett Favre. The Green Bay quarterback heaved an ill-advised pass—one of many he’s thrown during Green Bay’s playoff run—into the arms of Eagles safety Brian Dawkins. Part of Favre’s greatness is trying to make something out of nothing, and this time he failed.
I’m not sure if Donovan McNabb will escape the rabid Philly fans at Lincoln Financial Field if the Eagles fail to advance to the Super Bowl this year. After a slow start Sunday night, McNabb certainly played like a man leading his team to the big game. And maybe he’ll get there this time.
Ward Lowe is a writer and editor in Austin, Texas, who believes that 2004 will be The Year for his beloved Boston Red Sox. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.