Bruce and Holt: Rams Dynamic Duo
By Bill Coats
Of the Post-Dispatch
There was a method to Detroit general manager Matt Millen's madness when he drafted Texas receiver Roy Williams in the first round last April. Sure, the Lions already had Charles Rogers, one of the top young wideouts in the NFL.
But if lining up one dangerous pass-catcher is good, sending out two is downright intriguing, Millen concluded.
"The more you get, the better," he explained to reporters.
Not so long ago, star wide receiver tandems were all the rage in the NFL: Rice-Owens in San Francisco, Swann-Stallworth in Pittsburgh, Clayton-Duper in Miami, Moss-Carter in Minnesota, etc.
Whether it's a trend or a coincidence, those kinds of duos are hard to find today. Not in St. Louis, though, where the Bruce & Holt Show is in its sixth season and still earning rave reviews.
"Right now, that group is myself and Isaac. That's the honest truth," Torry Holt said.
"I don't know that there's all of a sudden shortage of great receivers in the league," said Paul Wiggin, former head coach of the Chiefs and now the Vikings' director of pro scouting. "There are still some great ones, but not many teams have two of that magnitude."
While other wideout pairs have come and gone, Bruce, 31, and Holt, 28, continue to terrorize NFL defenders.
"There's nobody that you can zero in on and say, 'Hey this is the guy we've got to stop,'" said Miami coach Dave Wannstedt, whose Dolphins (0-6) will challenge the NFC West-leading Rams (4-2) on Sunday at Pro Player Stadium.
Rams coach Mike Martz feels Wannstedt's pain.
"It makes it hard defensively to take one or the other away," he said. "When you do, one might catch two or three (passes), and the other one might catch 11."
That was illustrated early in the season, when teams tried to double up on Holt, who last year topped the NFL in receptions (117) and yards (1,696). With added room to operate, Bruce opened with four consecutive 100-yard-plus games. Then last Monday night , when Tampa Bay limited Bruce to one catch, Holt hauled in six passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns.
"You look around the league, and some teams have no one to throw to," Rams quarterback Marc Bulger said. "I'm blessed. I have two Pro Bowl guys."
Bruce and Holt have combined for 75 catches, the most of any wide receiver tandem in the NFL. They've piled up 1,024 yards, a total surpassed only by Green Bay's Donald Driver and Javon Walker, who have 1,040 on 70 receptions.
With 39 catches and 537 yards, Bruce is on pace to finish the 16-game regular-season schedule with 104 receptions and 1,432 yards. Holt, who has 36 catches for 487 yards, projects to 96 and 1,299. Their totals of 200 catches and 2,731 yards would fall just short of record numbers that Detroit's Herman Moore and Brett Perriman compiled in 1995, when they combined for 231 receptions and 3,174 yards in 1995.
Bulger has passed for 1,690 yards, second in the league to Minnesota's Daunte Culpepper (1,766). The Rams are collecting 263.3 yards per game through the air, the third-best average in the league. The Dolphins counter with the NFL's stingiest pass defense: 122.7 yards per game.
"Miami's played all close games; they've haven't been blown out at all," Bulger pointed out. "Their defense keeps them in a lot of games."
But the Dolphins haven't encountered a two-headed monster such as Bruce and Holt. Together, they're averaging more receiving yards per game (170.7) than all but one of Miami's foes has produced as a team.
"I think there will be more tandems in the future, as guys continue to develop," Holt said. "But right now, there's not a lot out there that is as good as me and Isaac on a consistent basis."
Isaac Isidore Bruce grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he planned to enjoy a rare family homecoming Saturday night. Bruce, a Memphis State product, has made four Pro Bowl appearances, and is the franchise leader in receptions (727), receiving yards (10,998) and touchdown catches (69). Only 18 players in NFL history have caught more passes, and just 13 have racked up more yardage.
Torry Jabar Holt is a native of Greensboro, N.C., who was a consensus All-American as a senior at North Carolina State. He's been to three Pro Bowls and has topped 1,300 receiving yards in all his NFL seasons but one.
Bruce and Holt each caught a touchdown pass in the Rams' 23-16 Super Bowl victory over Tennessee following the 1999 season. Holt's 9-yarder put the Rams up 16-0 in the third period; after the Titans rallied to tie, Bruce's 73- yarder with just under 2 minutes to play won it.
Both emphasized that a key component of the collective effectiveness is their mutual respect, which, Bruce noted, produces a shared sense of selflessness:
Holt, on Bruce: "We all are fortunate as receivers to sit back and watch him work, to see how he goes about his business and then to see it carry over to game day. He makes everybody raise their level of play."
Bruce, on Holt: "He's one of the better players in this league, not only at his position but at any position. I've learned a lot from him since he's been here."
Another factor, Holt pointed out, is their almost uncanny awareness of what the other is thinking and doing.
"We don't really have to talk a whole lot," he said. "We understand what we both have to do in order for us to be successful on that particular play."
Both have flourished in the "fast and furious" offensive approach that Martz consistently has deployed - and staunchly defended - first as the Rams' offensive coordinator under Dick Vermeil and then in four-plus seasons as head coach. They came of age with Kurt Warner tossing them the ball, and they've continued their assault with Bulger at the helm.
Still, Bruce said, it's more than the system that makes them click.
"I feel like both of us, if we were placed into another offense, we could be productive in it, no matter what," he said. "Because I believe that we're first and foremost football players, and somewhat smart. So I think we could adjust.
"It just so happens that we're playing in this offense, which is a vertical offense. It gives us a chance to get the ball in our hands and get up the field."
Much to the consternation of defensive coordinators leaguewide.
"It's an incredible problem," said the Vikings' Wiggin, who with a laugh added, "Thank goodness I don't have to put together defensive game plans anymore."
Re: Bruce and Holt: Rams Dynamic Duo
and that's why we should have traded Bruce for the Ravens MLB LOL