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Powerful Rams' offense will reveal the real Colts' defense
BY CHARLES BRICKER
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - (KRT) - No one knows better than Tony Dungy that his papier mache defense, which has given up only two touchdowns in the first five games, is going to come crashing down Monday night against the St. Louis Rams.
That doesn't mean Dungy isn't going to coach Indianapolis to 6-0. There is a very good chance the Colts will remain the NFL's only undefeated team, playing an opponent that not only lacks adequate defense but which has an offensive line that can't consistently protect quarterback Marc Bulger.
Still, this isn't the Ravens or Browns, to name two of the offensive stiffs the Colts have chewed up during the first third of the season.
This is a Rams team that has three excellent receivers in Torry Holt, Shaun McDonald and Kevin Curtis even without injured Isaac Bruce. And Bulger, when he hasn't been on his backside, has completed 64.7 percent of his passes, 10 for touchdowns.
The Rams are going to be scored upon, but they are going to score as well, and it wouldn't be surprising if the Colts slip away from this litmus test with a 38-34 victory that will surely put them in a more sober perspective.
"We've played games where we knew we wouldn't be challenged and we wouldn't have to score a lot of points and could still win. This is a game where we're going to have to score some points," Dungy said.
For those that don't understand the oblique language known as coach speak, what he's saying is, "The free ride is over."
There was ample evidence of the fragility of the Colts' defense a week ago in San Francisco, where the Colts struggled for most of three quarters to knuckle under a very bad ***** team.
If you're an apologist for the Colts, you can take a higher road by attributing key interceptions in that game to the great pressure that has been applied by defensive ends Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney, and by defensive tackle Montae Reagor in the middle.
But if you examine this Indianapolis secondary with a sense of balance, it hasn't profited nearly enough by the pass rush. No one is sending cornerbacks Jason David and Nick Harper to the Pro Bowl and free safety Bob Sanders is questionable to play this game because of injury.
Meanwhile, the Rams' problems have been well documented. Coach Mike Martz is trying to recover from a very serious viral infection attacking the lining of his heart and the play-calling has been turned over to offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild.
Fairchild, if he's given complete authority, will probably run Steven Jackson more than 15 times, which is his average. He should, given the sloppy tackling the Colts exhibited against Barlow.
But Bulger remains the key factor in the St. Louis offense. He's been sacked 20 times, and that has forced the Rams receivers into shorter routes. Also, he's very accurate and on a fast track in a domed stadium, which is where the Rams play their best ball.
It's not likely they'll win this game, but it's also not likely that the Colts are going to intimidate Bulger the way they bullied Smith. This is the game that reveals the real Colts and, even at 6-0, they don't look as dangerous as the teams they put on the field in 2003 and 2004.
The head-scratching optimism of Houston Texans owner Bob McNair, who says, "We have four losses. If we go 12-4, we still make the playoffs." ...
Bucs quarterback Brian Griese, who doesn't possess those first-round skills, relies on his intelligence. So why is he throwing down the middle of the field from his 40 with 10 seconds to play on Sunday and trailing by two points with no time outs. Joey Galloway caught the pass. Hurrah. And the game was over. Griese needed to go to the sideline, then pray Matt Bryant could strike a fifth field goal for the win. ...
Quarterback with the best completion percentage in the fourth quarter? Not Tom Brady, even with his well known late-game heroics. It's the Colts' Peyton Manning, who has completed 80 per-cent of his throws (24 for 30).