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Bruce's injury gives Curtis chance to shine
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
When Isaac Bruce went down with a severe turf toe injury Sept. 25 against Tennessee, Kevin Curtis had no idea he'd be starting in Bruce's place for the next five weeks.
But Curtis, the speedy third-year receiver from Utah State, has made the most of the opportunity. Sunday against Jacksonville, Curtis logged the first 100-yard receiving day of his career in the regular season. And it took him only two catches to get there.
Curtis' 83-yard touchdown catch four minutes into the game gave the Rams a 14-7 lead in a game they eventually won 24-21. Curtis added a 17-yard reception in the second quarter, then grabbed a 5-yarder in the fourth quarter to finish with three catches for 105 yards.
With Bruce slowed by a groin injury at the end of last season, Curtis topped 100 yards receiving against both Seattle and Atlanta in the playoffs. But until Sunday, his regular-season high had been 99 yards against the New York Jets in the 2004 season finale.
In those five starts since Bruce's injury, Curtis has caught 20 passes for 388 yards and three TDs. His 83-yard reception Sunday was the longest TD catch against Jacksonville in the Jaguars' 11-year history.
"Steve (Fairchild) drew that play up early in the week," quarterback Jamie Martin said, referring to the Rams' offensive coordinator. "He knew off that formation, we'd get a certain defensive look. And they did it. We saw it coming and Kevin was able to beat the guy. I threw it out there and it just worked perfect."
Curtis beat Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis on the play, then outraced safety Deke Cooper to the end zone. Curtis promptly leaped up to the stands and handed the football to a fan.
"I don't know what I was doing," Curtis said. "I kind of wish I would have kept that ball."
Ivy doesn't give in
With cornerback Travis Fisher a pregame scratch because of a groin injury, Corey Ivy was thrust into the starting lineup for only the sixth time in five NFL seasons. Technically, Ivy had started three previous games this season on defense, but only as a nickel back when the opposing team opened the game with three wide receivers.
Minus Fisher, the Rams needed Ivy on every play, and Ivy did what he does best - compete - even though he was giving up nearly a foot to several Jaguars receivers.
"That's been his M.O. since the first day he's been here," interim head coach Joe Vitt said. "He brings great passion, work habits. He's got tremendous courage. He loves to play the game, and he loves to accept those type of challenges."
Ivy is generously listed as 5 feet 10 inches. He's 5-8 - at best. Meanwhile, Jacksonville trotted out 6-1 Jimmy Smith, 6- 4 Reggie Williams, 6-4 Ernest Wilford and 6-6 Matt Jones among its top four receivers.
Jacksonville tried to pick on Ivy from the start. But he held his own and finished with a team-high eight tackles according to unofficial press box stats.
"I expected them to come after me," Ivy said.
Ivy helped finish off the Jaguars with a blitz late in the game. Jacksonville quarterback Byron Leftwich couldn't quite finish off his throw with Ivy bearing down on him. The pass fell incomplete on fourth and 10 from the St. Louis 45. The Rams took over on downs with 1 minute 21 seconds to play and ran out the clock.
After the play, Ivy went over to the stands where his mother and father, Gail and Willie, were sitting, and saluted them. They came from Oklahoma City for the game.