Pats wary of variety: Rams full of looks, options (pats press)
By Rich Thompson
Saturday, November 6, 2004
FOXBORO - The Greatest Show on Turf never performs the same act twice in a game, and that's the biggest problem confronting the Patriots defense as they prepare to face the high-flying Rams tomorrow in St. Louis.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick yesterday said the Rams never repeat a play because they have so many variations to their base offense. Quarterback Marc Bulger has a staggering number of plays at his disposal and he never tips his hand as to what is coming next. That gives wide receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt an edge in the passing lanes.
``They give you a ton of different looks,'' Belichick said. ``The Rams don't have too many tendencies. They make a point of never running the same play twice. . . . They have more like 300 (plays). They can run their Ram pass 20 different ways. They are going to run (Bruce) and (Holt) on those end cuts and they probably have 20 different ways of doing it.''
Bruce (44 catches, 637 yards, one TD) and Holt (37-491-4) aren't Bulger's only assets. Tailback Marshall Faulk has 28 receptions this season and 693 in his career, 20th on the NFL's career list. Wide receivers Shaun McDonald and Kevin Curtis are inserted when Bulger wants to stretch the defense, and tight end Brandon Manumaleuna is a big target over the middle.
Rams coach Mike Martz no doubt will attempt to exploit the Patriots secondary, which is ravaged by injuries. Starting corners Ty Law (broken foot) and Tyrone Poole (knee) are out, and the Pats will turn to second-year pro Asante Samuel and rookie Randall Gay to contain Bruce and Holt on the outside. Samuel is aware of the Rams' potential for deception, and respects the skills of Bruce and Holt.
``They have Issac Bruce and Torry Holt and they are very fast with very good route skills, and they have great hands around the ball,'' Samuel said. ``You never know what you are going to get. You may see (a play) twice or you may not see it twice.
``Every game is a different kind of challenge, so you have to watch film and figure out what they are going to do. I learn more and more each game, and I think that's pretty good for me.''
Martz built his club around the concept of team speed on both sides of the ball. The Rams play indoors on a swift carpet at the Edward Jones Dome, and they invite opposing teams to play into their style. Patriots strong safety Rodney Harrison feels his team has the personnel to match up with the Rams, despite all the injuries.
``It's especially true for a team like that because that's what they pride themselves on,'' Harrison said. ``It's no different for us. We have fast guys on our team and we are going to utilize our speed just like they utilize their speed.
``They may play on it more than us on a weekly basis, but we have guys that have played on turf in college so I don't think it will be a major problem or an excuse.''