Monday, October 23
Can Carson rectify the Rams' defense?

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Defensive whiz Bud Carson, 69-years-old and with heart problems, sat in an empty office at Rams headquarters Sunday breaking down tapes of next Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Bud Carson
Bud Carson has come out of retirement to help solve the Rams' defensive problems.
Having just recovered from angioplasty surgery, Carson, hired Saturday as a defensive consultant, is supposed to be a cure to what ails the Rams' defense. For his health, he best not spend too much times studying tapes of Sunday's 54-34 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. For his own health, head coach Mike Martz might want to avoid reading reports from his trainer.

The invincible suddenly looks vincible. The Rams entered the game averaging an NFL-record 8.2 yards a play on offense, but their defense surrendered 8.1 a play to the Chiefs. Todd Lyght, their $4 million man, was benched in the second half and told he'll be replaced by Dre Bly next Sunday.

Martz's offensive line is so banged up that it has become dangerous to their quarterback. Steve Everitt came off the bench on a reshuffled, hobbling line to snap the ball so hard in the second quarter that it broke the base of Kurt Warner's pinky and sidelined him for four to six weeks. Halfback Marshall Faulk badly bruised his left shoulder and could be out next week. Offensive linemen Tom Nutten, Adam Timmerman and Ryan Tucker are all playing on leg injuries that would make it advisable for them to miss a week or two.

"I'd say the rain didn't hurt us," Martz joked about a wet forecast that surprising kept the Arrowhead Stadium grass dry. "Listen. We didn't play well. We didn't play like we can play. We turned the ball over. Anytime you turn the ball over four times, you don't win. We didn't slow them down in the fourth quarter to get the chance to come back in."

It wasn't the grass or the rainy forecast that stopped the Rams' unbeaten season. This team isn't perfect. Torry Holt dropped Warner's first pass. His second was intercepted by Chiefs cornerback James Hasty. Chiefs defensive linemen noticed that Warner has a tendency to throw some of his short crossing passes low, so defensive end Duane Clemons tipped one in the first quarter to defensive tackle John Browning for an interception.

"We've done it before where we turned the ball over before and got away with it," Faulk said. "Today, we didn't."

At 6-1, the Rams have come to one reality. Their only defense is their offense, and if their offense makes turnovers, the Rams are defenseless. In the first 18 minutes, the Chiefs converted two Warner interceptions and a blocked punt into 13 points en route to a 20-0 first-quarter lead.

"You can't dig yourself into a hole like that and expect to come out, but we tried," Martz said.

And they almost succeeded. Warner adjusted to the Chiefs' five- and six-defensive back schemes and had touchdown drives of 70 and 52 yards to cut the Chiefs lead to 27-14. To put pressure on Warner, Chiefs defensive coordinator Kurt Schottenheimer rushed a safety or a linebacker. Warner readjusted his calls knowing that Isaac Bruce was singled up and coverage was rolled to Holt's side.

That left the middle of the field open for Warner to work his magic. But something was off this day. Timmerman played only a series on his bad knee. Tucker's sore ankle gave up on him, and then Nutten, the left guard, suffered a bad ankle injury.

"We had three different new guys on the line, but I don't think it affected our game plan," Tucker said. "We just had to gut it out."

Of course, the injured middle of the line exposed Warner to hit after hit. Late in the second quarter, Warner almost broke his left hand when two helmets collided on it. Complete disaster happened when Everitt killed a scoring drive and Warner's right pinky finger with a hard snap at the Chiefs' 8-yard line with 16 seconds left in the first half.

We need some help over there on defense right now. There's some things that we have to shore up, and I think that Bud's contribution can help us.
Mike Martz, Rams head coach

Instead of getting a touchdown that would have trimmed the lead to 27-21, the Chiefs led 27-14, and Warner was done for the day. Trent Green became the Rams' starter for the next month.

"The ball came up and caught my finger," Warner said. "I hoped it was dislocated so I could pop it back in."

Warner will visit a hand specialist Monday to determine if he needs surgery. Martz, however, indicated that Warner is out four to six weeks. And to be honest, it's hard telling the difference with Green at quarterback.

In one half, Warner produced 201 yards on 38 plays and 14 points in the first half. Had it not been for his three turnovers, he probably would have had 28 points. Green produced 227 yards on 32 plays and 20 points in the second half.

"In this offense, there is so much shifting that the starting quarterback has to take all the snaps, so I haven't had anything with the first unit," Green said.

But face it, the defense stinks, and Carson has to fix the problem. He hasn't been with the Rams since 1997 when he retired with asthma and emphysema. Twice since July, he's had heart procedures. But he is the coach who created the defense now being directed by coordinator Pete Giunta, his understudy.

"I think Bud can help us," Martz said. "We need some help over there on defense right now. There's some things that we have to shore up, and I think that Bud's contribution can help us. He can help me on offense. He's the consultant, but he can have half of my job if he wants as long as he can help us win."

Martz even said he made some dumb play calls that led to a season-high four three-and-out series that Carson might have helped had he been on the sidelines.

"Bud's one of those quick injection guys who makes you feel better," defensive tackle D'Marco Farr said. "He's going to come in and tell you what's wrong. You better grow thick skin. He'll put a defense up, and you better know it by the time practice starts."

Overall, the Rams aren't panicking even though they've fallen a game behind Minnesota for homefield advantage. "If you panic in this business, you should get out of it," Martz said.

Faulk, meanwhile, hopes he can play against the 49ers next week, but he will be more careful about his beverages. At breakfast Sunday, he got into a conversation with a teammate and drank some orange juice. Orange juice makes him sick during physical activity, so he threw up five seconds before making a play.

Carson and the team may have a similar feeling watching tapes together on Monday.

John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for

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VIDEO  St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Bernie Miklasz analyzes the Rams' defense and the addition of Bud Carson.
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