Held in check
Rams' offense fails to show season-long sizzlePosted: Sunday February 03, 2002 10:24 PM
Updated: Monday February 04, 2002 4:10 AM
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The "Greatest Show on Turf" got grounded.
The St. Louis Rams are the only team in NFL history to score more than 500 points three straight seasons and are loaded with playmakers. They've grown accustomed to scoring touchdowns with ridiculous ease.
Not in the Super Bowl.
They misfired more often than not in their 20-17 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday night, committing three costly turnovers and squandering a chance for their second championship in three seasons. The Rams' mantra all season was that the only team that could stop them was the Rams -- and it happened.
"It wasn't a matter of execution," Marshall Faulk said. "It was a matter of taking care of the ball."
All but three of the Patriots' points came as a result of St. Louis mistakes.
"I don't think we were confused," Warner said. "I think we played well. It was just those turnovers."
Even sure-handed wide receiver Ricky Proehl coughed it up. Proehl fumbled after his first catch of the postseason, leading to a Patriots touchdown before the end of the half that put New England ahead 14-3.
"He put a helmet on the ball," Proehl said. "Everybody fumbles. I'm human."
Proehl atoned for the mistake with a 26-yard touchdown catch with 1:30 to go to tie the game. But then the Rams' defense failed as the Patriots drove into position for Adam Vinatieri's 48-yard field goal as time ran out.
"When it came time to step up and make some plays, we didn't do it," defensive coordinator Lovie Smith said. "You've got to be able to stop them at the end."
The result left a very sour taste for the 14-point favorites.
"For a long time, this is going to be painful," defensive tackle Tyoka Jackson said. "I was really looking forward to that parade."
Martz reacted angrily when asked if the Rams had overlooked the Patriots.
"Oh please, that's insulting to me," he said. "This is the Super Bowl. How can you overlook somebody in the Super Bowl?"
The Rams, who averaged 31 points during the regular season, had their most feeble output since a 24-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Nov. 26. St. Louis committed six turnovers in that game.
Outside of scoring range, St. Louis moved the ball well. But then Martz's wide-open attack met its match in Bill Belichick's confusing defense.
"We seemed to move the ball well enough," Martz said. "We just had too many errors that they were able to take advantage of."
St. Louis led the NFL with 44 giveaways in the regular season -- 14 coming in their two losses. That included 11 harmless turnovers in the last five games, all victories. Ball security was not an issue in their first two playoff games, when they had only one turnover.
A banged-up offensive line forced Warner to move around more than usual. Right tackle Rod Jones left in the second quarter after reinjuring his groin, an injury he sustained in the NFC Championship Game. Left tackle Orlando Pace wore a knee brace for the first time in his career after also getting hurt in the NFC title game, and said afterward it limited his mobility somewhat.
Faulk had a playoff-best 159 yards on 31 carries against the Eagles, including a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs in the second half as the Rams rallied from a 17-3 deficit. He was limited to 76 yards rushing on 17 carries, getting only got five carries in the second half as the Rams played catch-up.
Faulk's biggest contribution came on a fourth-and-goal from 3 when Willie McGinest tackled him on a pass route -- without the ball. That set up Warner's TD run that cut the gap to 17-10.