With Bruce out of action, defenses focus on Holt
By Jim Thomas
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
(KRT) - ST. LOUIS - With Isaac Bruce sidelined with a turf toe injury, Torry Holt figured to get extra attention Sunday from the New York Giants' secondary. But even he was surprised by just how much attention that turned out to be.
"I would line up and I'd have a guy over top of me, a guy behind me, a guy on the inside," Holt said. "One time I lined up and there were three guys. . . . They kind of had me triangled in. It threw me off guard. It kind of made me laugh. I said, `Wow, they must kind of respect me out here a little bit.'"
Why shouldn't they? Since the start of the 2000 season, Holt has more receiving yards (7,810) than anyone in the National Football League.
"Everyone talks about who is the best receiver in the game," Giants defensive end Michael Strahan said following his team's 44-24 victory over the Rams. "In my opinion, when you go back and look at numbers, he probably is the best receiver in the game."
Even with the extra attention from the Giants, Holt still had a good day, with seven catches for 84 yards and a touchdown.
Holt should get used to the extra attention. Turf toe injuries don't disappear in a few days, and if you try to come back too soon they can linger. So Bruce probably won't return for at least a couple more weeks.
"The other guys like Shaun (McDonald), and Kevin (Curtis), and Dane (Looker) are going to have to step up and make some plays," Holt said. "And those guys did (against the Giants). I think they came out and did a hell of a job."
McDonald's nine catches and 121 receiving yards against the Giants were career highs. So were Looker's eight catches for 90 yards. They were on the field most of the day because the Rams fell behind big early. In addition, Curtis missed a good chunk of the third quarter after being shaken up.
"I took a shot to the head and was just a little cloudy," Curtis said afterwards. "I had some blurred vision for a while. So I just had to sit out a series or two."
It's not the first time this has happened to Curtis.
"My vision just goes blurry," he said. "It's happened before, and usually I just wait, and in about 15, 20 minutes, it clears up and my sight's back to normal.
"I guess they're calling them migraines. I don't think they're concussions. I know where I'm at and everything."
Losing Curtis for part of Sunday's game caused headaches for coach Mike Martz when it came to play calling. Minus Bruce, the Rams dressed only four wide receivers for the game. So when Curtis had to sit, the best Martz could do was three-receiver sets. That's not the ideal circumstance for playing catch-up considering his team faced a double-digit deficit most of the game.
"In fact, Mike Furrey said, `You know, I can still play wide receiver,'" Martz said.
Furrey, the team's sixth wide receiver a year ago, has bulked up by 20 pounds and made a surprisingly successful transition to backup free safety this season. He's also one of the Rams' top special teams performers.
But it looks as if Martz will take up Furrey's offer if the Rams find themselves shorthanded again at wide receiver.
"We will carry about 30 plays in (the game plan) for him if it ever gets to that from this point on," Martz said. "Mike can come in and do a good job there. I know he can go over and play X (flanker). He remembers the X position."
The Rams already were down to one tight end at the time of Curtis' blurred vision, so Martz's personnel options were severely limited in the third quarter. He couldn't call two-tight end sets, or four-receiver sets.
"That's why they call you coach," Martz said. "You've got to do what you've got to do. They're looking to you for answers and you've got to have `em. So you've got to figure out how to do it."
Given the game circumstances and the injury situation, the result was a bunch of three-receiver sets and a franchise-record 62 passing attempts by Marc Bulger.
"We got going all right," Martz said. "There's some things you can get to. And I'm proud of the way they responded to it. The linemen didn't bat an eye. They just kept going."
Martz also noted that part of the extra attention for Holt was a result of the Giants' big lead. Instead of blitzing Bulger, the Giants frequently dropped eight men in coverage later in the game.
"I think they gave all those receivers a little extra attention," Martz said. "Once you get that lead, they know you're in a position where you need to throw that ball. They weren't so concerned about the pressure, they were just making sure they had guys covered."