Wednesday, January 12, 2005

By Nick Wagoner
Staff Writer

When receiver Isaac Bruce injured his hip in the final game of the season against the Jets on Jan. 2, the Rams were left searching for another big-play option to complement Torry Holt.

There were a few options that could emerge, but the one that did left no questions about the brightness of his future. Second-year speedster Kevin Curtis emerged with a flash against New York. Curtis made six grabs for 99 yards in that game.

With Bruce still slightly limited by the hip problem, Curtis had another big outing against the Seahawks. He caught four passes for 107 yards, including a 50-yard grab to set up the Rams’ second touchdown. That effort earned him the team’s Offensive Player of the Week award.

Curtis’ blazing speed has become an important addition to an offense that now boasts a number of weapons.

"That’s the best, when everyone is getting involved and contributing,” Curtis said. “It make us that much more dangerous.”

St. Louis has had plenty of options in the passing game in recent seasons, but probably hasn’t been as dangerous on the deep ball since third receiver Az-zahir Hakim left for Detroit via free agency.

The past few years have been spent searching for a deep threat that could replace Hakim’s speed. The Rams thought they had addressed that last year when they drafted Curtis and Shaun McDonald.

Injuries slowed Curtis last season, but he has been continually getting better each week and there is no longer any doubt about quarterback Marc Bulger’s confidence in him.

“With those guys, (Holt and Bruce), how good they are I talked at length at how they get doubled a lot in the cover two, but you can’t double everyone and that is why I think the Rams back with Az back in 1999 and 2000 were so good because they had that third guy with that match-up,” Bulger said. “ And I think that we are starting to get that match-up with the third and fourth guy on safeties, on linebackers and once you do that they have to get away from the cover two a little bit,” Bulger said. “That is when Issac and Torry get matched-up so it’s nice not only to have Kevin (Curtis) but Shaun McDonald, what he can do after he gets the ball, is impressive.”

Of course, none of what Curtis had done would be possible without Bulger throwing the ball well. Curtis said he has never been around a quarterback throwing as well as Bulger is right now.

“Marc was throwing dimes to people,” Curtis said. “That deep one he threw to me, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a ball so pretty. Everyone was playing well at the same time.”

HONOR ROLL: Joining Curtis on the weekly honor roll are defensive tackle Ryan Pickett and receiver Mike Furrey.

Pickett’s efforts don’t often show up in the box score, but he had seven tackles, a quarterback hurry and a quarterback pressure against the Seahawks. Pickett was stout against the run, also, helping the Rams hold Seattle running back Shaun Alexander to 2.7 yards per carry.

INJURY UPDATE: The Rams came out of the weekend surprisingly healthy, according to coach Mike Martz.

Martz doesn’t often divulge injury information on Monday, but he did have a few comments about the state of his guys.

“The only thing I will tell you is that everything looks positive for everybody with the exception of Tyoka (Jackson),” Martz said. “We are in much better shape than I would have anticipated. I think we’re going to be just fine physically for this game.”

One player who didn’t appear to be fine after the Seattle game was left guard Tom Nütten. Nütten wasn’t able to finish that game because of a knee injury he aggravated in the fourth quarter. Nütten hobbled off the field, but there was no more damage done as Nütten is wearing a brace to protect the knee from any further injury. Martz expects him to be ready against the Falcons on Saturday.

“Since 1999, his nickname has been Lazarus because he has always raised up,” Martz said. “I’m sure we’ll have him, he should be fine.”