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5 Things to Watch: All Pros Match Up in Rams vs. Broncos
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Bailey vs. Holt
1In the 1999 draft, the Rams took some heat locally for taking WR Torry Holt at No. 6 overall instead of CB Champ Bailey, who went No. 7 to Washington. Holt went on to become one of the feature pieces of the "Greatest Show on Turf;" Bailey has made six Pro Bowls with Washington and Denver. Sunday marks only their third meeting in the NFL; it's the first since Bailey was traded to Denver in 2004.
"Champ's deceptively fast, amazingly quick," Holt said. "His ball instincts are incredible. He can jump. He has it all. Great size. He's physical on the outside when it comes to tackling. He's definitely a complete corner."
Bailey normally lines up at left corner, but occasionally shadows a marquee receiver all over the field. Will the Broncos' play the Rams receivers straight up? Or will Bailey be matched up with Holt? Oh, by the way, Bailey has made an opening-day interception five times in seven seasons.
Rod & Javon
2In St. Louis, much of the attention has focused on stopping the Denver running game. But it will be just as important to keep Broncos WRs Rod Smith and Javon Walker in check. Smith remains the Broncos' go-to receiver. He's close to perfect technically, runs great routes, and is a master of body positioning to shield off defenders.
Walker, acquired in a draft-day trade with Green Bay, is coming off knee surgery. A healthy Walker is quick off the ball -- a big target with big hands. He has the speed to get downfield, but he will go over the middle to make the tough catches.
Chess match, Denver style
3Expectations in Denver are that the Broncos will blitz less this season and play teams more straight up with their 4-3 defensive front. Seeing will be believing for QB Marc Bulger and the Rams.
"They're pressure-oriented," Bulger said. "It's no secret. They like to constantly bring (John) Lynch into the box -- a lot like Adam Archuleta used to do here. They have good corners, too, that can allow them to do that."
FS Lynch and LBs Gold and Wilson combined for 10 sacks last season.
4The Broncos expect the Rams to place a greater emphasis on running the football, and "The Mastermind," Denver coach Mike Shanahan, tried to drill that point home during the week. He posted the numbers "38-0" in the Broncos' team meeting room. That's the Rams record when they have a rusher gain 100 yards or more since the team moved to St. Louis in 1995.
"That zero kind of grabs you," Denver middle linebacker Al Wilson told the Rocky Mountain News.
Denver was second in the NFL in run defense a year ago, yielding only 85.2 yards per game. Two members of their front four -- end Courtney Brown (knee) and tackle Gerard Warren (toe) -- are gimpy for this game. Brown's availability may be a game-day decision. The Broncos' speedy LB corps of Wilson, Ian Gold, and D.J. Williams make it tough to run outside.
"We just have to run at them," Rams RB Steven Jackson said. "We can't run side to side and expect them to overrun things."
5Denver QB Jake Plummer is 1-2 as a starter against the Rams, but all of those starts came as an Arizona Cardinal. He played fairly well in those games, completing 64.8 percent of his passes (57 of 88) for 662 yards, with four TDs, three interceptions, and a passer rating of 88.4
Plummer's 80-yard TD on a screen to Marcel Shipp in 2002 remains an opponent record for the longest TD pass in the Edward Jones Dome. But only DE Leonard Little and CB Travis Fisher remain from the Rams' starting defense that day. In some ways, Plummer's different, too. After three seasons with Shanahan in Denver, Plummer has become more careful with the football. He doesn't force the ball as much, but remains as dangerous as ever on rollouts and bootlegs.
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Re: 5 Things to Watch: All Pros Match Up in Rams vs. Broncos
Jackson has to run between the tackles. We can wear down this Bronco defense with ball control. They have speed at linebacker but Jackson and Davis have the brawn. If the Rams can keep this game close or lead after 3 quarters i like are chances of outlasting them. Another important factor is keeping Jake in the pocket.