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PD: Torry Holt is 'Big Game' hunting
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
On third and 8 from the Rams' 39 Sunday, Torry Holt left San Francisco cornerback Walt Harris grabbing air at midfield, with a nifty in-and-out move. As Holt streamed downfield, he had a good five yards of separation on Harris.
The safety help, coming from the other side of the field, was way late. In today's NFL, it's about as open as a wide receiver can get.
But the ball was overthrown by quarterback Marc Bulger. Holt trotted over to pick up the football and flung it in frustration about 40 yards over to the St. Louis sideline.
"I'd be disappointed if he didn't get frustrated ..." coach Scott Linehan said. "I think great competitors get pretty ticked off if you miss a chance for a big play. It's not because he wants big numbers; he wants to win. He knows that play would've had a big impact on the game."
The Rams trailed 14-13 at the time, early in the fourth quarter. Holt probably scores on the play if he catches the ball in stride. At the very least, he advances the ball inside the San Francisco 20.
A week earlier at Carolina, Holt had a similar but less obvious moment late in the fourth quarter.
"I ran a slant-and-go, and (Carolina safety) Mike Minter bit on the slant," Holt said. "And the corner even bit some."
That left the middle of the field wide open for Holt.
"That's where Marc was aiming for, if he had time," Holt said. "And I had inside position."
But Bulger never got to throw what could have been a 95-yard TD pass. He was tackled in the end zone for a safety.
"That might have been a play we could've broke out," Holt said. "We had a couple other plays there in the course of the (Carolina) game where we had the potential of having some breakouts."
So it's not as if Holt and teammate Isaac Bruce suddenly have forgotten how to get open on deep routes.
"It's there," Holt said. "We've taken our shots this year. ... So the deep balls are being called."
Holt then paused and repeated himself for emphasis. "The deep balls are being called; we just haven't had an opportunity to connect on them."
The results haven't been there, at least not lately. The Rams have had only two pass completions longer than 20 yards over the past three games. Since the Kansas City game Nov. 5, opposing teams have been playing both safeties deep a lot against the Rams, in a Cover 2 look designed to take away the big play.
The approach certainly has cut back on Holt's numbers. After catching four passes for just 30 yards against the *****, Holt has gone five games without a 100-yard receiving day. That's his longest 100-yard dry spell since 2001. Holt also has gone five games without a touchdown reception, his longest TD drought since 2002.
And it is Holt — not Marvin Harrison, or Terrell Owens, or Chad Johnson — who has been the game's most prolific receiver this decade.
How prolific? With five games remaining in this, his eighth season, Holt already has more receiving yards (10,282) than any player in NFL history in his first eight seasons.
But after Holt caught eight passes for 154 yards and three TDs on Oct. 15 against Seattle, opposing defenses have been very tough on him.
"Torry gets very few looks that are what you'd consider one-on-one," Linehan said. "We missed our one shot (Sunday), and that's the frustrating part. And when you miss them, you know you're not going to get many more."
Linehan estimates that the Rams are seeing almost 95 percent zone coverage lately, which allows teams to bracket Holt with a safety behind him and a corner underneath. San Francisco went one step further, flipping corners so that Harris — a savvy veteran enjoying a Pro Bowl-caliber season — was on Holt's side almost all of the game.
"I think a lot of people looked at what Kansas City did," Linehan said. "Kansas City basically played soft zone coverage, made sure they had two guys deep with Torry the whole game. We're seeing a lot of that."
One way to beat that style of coverage is to run the football, like the Rams did against San Francisco when Steven Jackson matched his season high with 121 rushing yards. "I think running the ball is going to eventually bring (safeties) back down," Bulger said. "Because if you can consistently run the ball like we did last week, it'll start opening things up, because no team likes to get the ball run on them."
It will be interesting to see how this week's opponent, Arizona, defends the Rams. The Cardinals normally like to play strong safety Adrian Wilson up in the box, using him almost like a linebacker to stop the run and blitz the quarterback. In Game 3 at Arizona, Jackson was limited to only 62 yards on 24 carries against the Cardinals.
But Bulger and the passing game broke out of an early-season funk with 309 yards passing — including eight catches for 120 yards and a TD by Holt.
No matter what the Cardinals, or any opposing defense, throws at the Rams schematically, offensive coordinator Greg Olson said, "We're still going to have the deep vertical passing threat to Isaac and Torry. But understand first that the run will set that up for us. When we do get our shots, let's make sure that we convert 'em."
Re: PD: Torry Holt is 'Big Game' hunting"Because if you can consistently run the ball like we did last week, it'll start opening things up, because no team likes to get the ball run on them."
"We're still going to have the deep vertical passing threat to Isaac and Torry
Last edited by Rambos; -11-30-2006 at 09:36 AM.
Re: PD: Torry Holt is 'Big Game' hunting
This is all about patience and recognition by our Offensive Coordinator combined with Marc Bulger and the WR's. With Linehan's focus on protecting the ball all season the dink and dunk should be very effective. Until the Homerun play shows itself.
Re: PD: Torry Holt is 'Big Game' hunting
To beat the zone you need to run routes through the zone (lot's of slants over the middle). But if we keep pounding the ball with Wilson playing up, play-action will be a killer.JUST WIN ONE FOR THE FANS
"HIT HARD, HIT FAST, AND HIT OFTEN"Adm. William "Bull" Halsey