Martz: No regrets on missed field goal

Posted: January 28, 2002

ST. LOUIS — The decision to allow placekicker Jeff Wilkins to attempt a 53-yard field goal early in the second quarter turned out to be a catalyst of sorts for the Eagles' offense, which scored its first touchdown after the miss and enjoyed a fruitful run until halftime.

St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz didn't dispute the effect the decision had, but he had no regrets about it either.

"He didn't make it, but once you make that decision you don't second-guess it," Martz said. "It's the Super Bowl. You just let it go."

Martz said that after Kurt Warner threw incomplete on third and 7, he turned to his special-teams coach, Bobby April, and asked about Wilkins. April reported that Wilkins' leg looked very strong in pregame warm-ups and that he had been very accurate as well.

Wilkins' attempt bounced off the right upright, and the Eagles took over with their best field position of the game at that point, at their own 43-yard line.

Five plays were needed to tie the score at 10-10 after Duce Staley crashed in from the 1-yard line.

Williams is clutch. Few Rams were happier with the game's outcome than Aeneas Williams, the 11-year veteran cornerback who spent his first 10 Super Bowl-less seasons with the lowly Arizona Cardinals.

If there was one moment in the contest that constituted poetic justice for Williams, it came late in the fourth quarter, when he intercepted Donovan McNabb on fourth down to kill the Eagles' upset chances.

"We were in a man-to-man situation," Williams said, explaining the play. "I was able to get my hands on my receiver [Freddie Mitchell] and stick close to him. When the receiver and I look back and McNabb still had the ball, I knew I had to stay close to my receiver and make a play on the ball.

"It wasn't the biggest pick of my life, but it definitely ranks up there."

Humble pie. Martz is often described as aloof and arrogant because of the zeal with which he leads his offense. But when the NFC championship trophy ceremony was going on at midfield after the game, he refused to take the microphone despite several attempts by the organizer of the ceremony to get him to do so.

Martz remained off to the side, out of the camera's range while Rams owner Georgia Frontiere, Warner, running back Marshall Faulk and Williams had their turns at speaking to the adoring crowd.

"Mike told me that he was going to let us do our deal from the Hall of Fame Game [to open the season] to the tough crunch at the end, and he has remained the same," defensive coordinator Lovie Smith said. "It has been a great working relationship. We couldn't have a better leader."

Injuries. The Rams came out of the game relatively injury-free, but two starters did get nicked.

Offensive tackle Orlando Pace, who missed some of the first half, suffered a strained medial collateral ligament in one of his knees but returned to the game.

Defensive tackle Brian Young suffered a hyperextended knee and had to leave the game.

Another turncoat. As if it weren't bad enough that Philadelphia icon Bill Cosby is on the Rams' board of advisers, Dick Vermeil, the last coach who led the Eagles to a Super Bowl, was rooting against the Eagles.

"I'm a Ram through and through," Vermeil told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch "No question who I'm rooting for."

Hmm. While Vermeil does have strong local ties, having led the Rams to a Super Bowl triumph two seasons ago, his smiling face does not appear on any billboards or TV ads in St. Louis.

A shot in time. Warner, who had never before taken a pregame injection, got one yesterday to ease the ache in his ribs.

"Just to kind of take the edge off," Warner said. "I really felt pretty good when I was out there throwing before I had gotten it. But . . . I just didn't want it to become a problem if I took another hit there."

Will it happen again, perhaps before the Super Bowl on Sunday? "I don't like to do that," he said. "I do not want to do that. . . . I felt it was the best thing I could do for the team and myself."

Blitz? What blitz? Warner said he was extremely surprised that the Eagles didn't blitz more, particularly since that's practically all he'd been asked about this week.

"The first game, I think they blitzed us every snap," he said. "So we were kind of going off that. They did some zone dogs, but they didn't use as many corner blitzes and safety blitzes as they did the first time."

Rams look ahead. The Rams played earlier this season against New England, their Super Bowl opponent on Sunday, and Warner expects the matchup to be fun.

"We played them once and had a great football game," Warner said of the 24-17 St. Louis win in Foxboro, Mass., on Nov. 18. "It's a very talented football team, a fun team to watch and play, and they do some different things."

He feels their pain. Rams defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson played for Tampa Bay two years ago when the Rams beat the Buccaneers for the NFC title. He knows what it feels like to lose this game. That's why he felt so good afterward.

"I was crying tears of sadness two years ago," Jackson said. "I was on the other end of the celebration. I know what it feels like to be the Eagles. They fought hard. They deserve a lot of credit.

"Never did I dream I would go to the biggest one. I haven't even realized it yet. I am very emotional about beating this great football team. They came in and fought us tooth and nail, which I knew they would do."

Mike Bruton's e-mail address is mbruton@phillynews.com.

Staff writers Ron Reid and Todd Zolecki contributed to this article.

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