Rams get their chance to home in
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Home has been sweet, indeed, for the Rams since the start of their Super Bowl-championship season in 1999. Their record at the Edward Jones Dome since then is 39-9, the best home mark in the NFL.
So the belated arrival of their Dome opener is a much-welcomed occurrence. "Oh, man, it's been tough the last two weeks playing on the road," wide receiver Isaac Bruce said. "I'm happy to be here for an entire week, be here Saturday, watch some college football, and be ready to play Sunday."
In fact, the team's protracted journey extends back even further than the first two games of the regular season, both vs. NFC West foes - a 28-25 loss at San Francisco and a 17-12 win at Arizona. Two of the Rams' last three preseason games also were on the road, at San Diego and at Detroit.
"Four out of the last five weeks, three of them on the West Coast. It's quite a challenge," coach Mike Martz said. "Even if it is the preseason, it's still traveling and it's still hard on you."
The Rams were the only one of the league's 32 teams scheduled to open the season with back-to-back away games. So the fact that the Rams take a 1-1 record into Sunday's game vs. Tennessee (1-1) isn't all that bad, quarterback Marc Bulger maintained.
"You can look at it both ways," he said. "You want to get off to a real quick start with games at home. At the same time, you can get some of these (away games) out of the way. So, 1-1 wasn't our plan, but we'll take the one win."
After next week's game against the New York Giants in East Rutherford, N.J., the Rams will play seven of their last 12 regular-season games inside the 66,000-seat Dome. "If we can fight through these games, and stay healthy, then we might have an advantage later in the season," Bulger noted.
All 85 regular-season and postseason home games since the team moved here in 1995 have been sellouts. "Players will tell you that playing in this stadium, with these fans, (is) totally different than wherever they've been," Martz said. "It can be intimidating. It's a special place, and I think the fans make it that way."
Because of new NFL measures that subject everyone entering the building to security pat-downs, fans are encouraged to arrive early Sunday. Doors will open at 10:30 a.m., 90 minutes before kickoff.
No bags larger than a handbag or ***** pack will be allowed inside. Bags may be inspected at the gates. Still cameras are permitted, but not video cameras.
Second-year linebacker Brandon Chillar is carving a niche for himself as a "specialist" in first- and second-down passing situations. The rangy Chillar and a defensive back are deployed in place of starting linebackers Chris Claiborne and Dexter Coakley.
"It's great. Any time I can get on the field and play defense, I'm happy," said Chillar, a fourth-round pick from UCLA. He said his individual assignment is "different each time. You've just got to be able to run and keep up with some of the backs."
Although cornerback Terry Fair returned to practice Monday, he was listed as "questionable" on the week's first injury report. Fair suffered a neck injury Aug. 29 vs. the Lions. Offensive tackle Rex Tucker (calf) won't play for the second week in succession. . . . Former University of Missouri running back Damien Nash, the Titans' fifth-round draft pick in April, was inactive for the first two games.