Wednesday, September 21, 2005
By Nick Wagoner
After spending the majority of the past month on the West Coast, the Rams are more than happy to be spending this weekend in St. Louis and, more important, playing their first game in front of their hometown fans.
“It was tough the last two weeks playing on the road,” receiver Isaac Bruce said. “I’m happy to be here, I’m happy to be home.”
After a string of road trips that included San Diego, Detroit, San Francisco and Arizona with only a short stop in St. Louis for practice and the final preseason game against Kansas City, the Rams open their home slate against Tennessee at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday at noon.
Bruce said it was a little different spending so much time living out of a suitcase to open the season, but he knew that he and his teammates would handle it just fine.
“It is kind of interesting that we had two of our opening games on the road,” Bruce said. “I guess it fell on us this year. You have just got to play through it. It goes like this sometimes. I think we have enough (veteran) guys on this team that can handle something like that.”
The Rams came out of the two regular season games against San Francisco and Arizona with a 1-1 record. Obviously, they would prefer to be 2-0, but with two road games in the division out of the way, it could help keep the Rams fresh at the end of the season with less long trips.
“We’ve been traveling away,” quarterback Marc Bulger said. “Two west coast trips against two division opponents in their openers is tough. It will be nice to see our crowd. It feels like we’ve been away forever. You want to get off to a really quick start with games at home, but at the same time, you can get some of these out of the way. 1-1 was not our plan, but we’ll take the one win, and it’s favorable for us later in the season. So, if we can fight through these games and stay healthy, we might have an advantage later in the season.”
Adding to the excitement of playing at home is the chance for a few old faces to make their regular-season debut in front of the home fans after venturing to different teams. Tight end Roland Williams is at the top of the list of those looking forward to the home opener after spending some time in Oakland.
“The Raider fans are special people,” Williams said. “I’ve never seen as many elderly women with tattoos or people actually named after players. I’ve never seen so many children named Tyrone Wheatley or Fred Biletnikoff. That was different. Our fans are equally committed to the team and it’s exciting to come back home. I definitely like the Edward Jones Dome as opposed to the Black Hole. There’s just something about the air conditioning and all of those nice things that make it great.”
A DIFFERENT LOOK: Tennessee has had a pair of difficult tasks on both sides of the ball in the opening weeks with games against Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
The Titans have generally been a run-oriented team in Jeff Fisher’s tenure as head coach and have also featured a defense that focuses its efforts on being a physical, run-stopping group.
“Those guys play physical football,” Bruce said. “They pretty much are what you would call old NFC football. They are black and blue. They get in the mix and try to finish every play they have.”
The Ravens and Steelers have similar characteristics that made both of the Titans’ games battles of will and power more than finesse and speed. Tennessee was torched for 161 yards by Steelers back Willie Parker in week one, but responded by holding Jamal Lewis to 9 yards on 10 carries Sunday.
But Tennessee will no get a taste of two more balanced and dangerous offenses with games against St. Louis and Indianapolis.
The Titans defensive strength lies up front, leaving some questions for an untested secondary. Tennessee starts Andre Woolfolk and a combination of Pacman Jones and Tony Beckham at cornerback (combined experience – five years).
Beckham and Jones alternated at the spot opposite Woolfolk last week and both are expected to get plenty of opportunities this week, but the Titans are well aware of the fact that their secondary has yet to get a stiff test the likes of the Rams or Colts.
“The challenge this week is we have an offense that can do both now, they can run it and they throw it very, very well,” Fisher told the Tennessee media. “They can put pressure on any part of your defense at any time with the running game and the passing game.”
NUMBERS GAME: After further review from the Elias Stats Bureau, there were a few changes to the statistical rulings on the team’s sack totals from the game against Arizona.
A sack in the first quarter that was originally given to defensive end Leonard Little has been switched to defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy. Kennedy also receives credit for a forced fumble on the play.
A sack in the fourth quarter that was originally given to defensive tackle Ryan Pickett is now split between Pickett and Little.
Those alterations leave the sacks totals for the season as follows: Little has two and a half sacks for -13.5 yards, Kennedy had two sacks for -10 yards, Adam Archuleta has a sack for -5 yards, Pickett has half a sack for -4.5 yards and there is one team sack for -8 yards.
INJURY REPORT: The Rams once again have a limited injury report that almost directly mirrors each of the reports from last week’s game against Arizona.
Offensive tackle Rex Tucker (calf) is out. Receiver Kevin Curtis (ankle) was probable last week and is no longer on the report. Cornerback Terry Fair said last week he hopes to play this week after a few weeks of recovery from the neck injury he suffered in Detroit.
“He thought he would be able to go this week,” Martz said. “But Dr. Fair doesn’t know.”
Fair was doubtful last week but has been upgraded to questionable for this week. He took part in most of Wednesday’s practice with Tucker being the only player to miss the workout.
Tennessee’s injury report is far more lengthy. Safety Vincent Fuller is out because of an ankle injury and will probably be replaced by Michael Waddell.
The rest of the Titans’ injury report reads like a who’s who of the Tennessee roster. Receiver Drew Bennett (foot), running back Chris Brown (concussion), defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (knee), receiver Courtney Roby (toe), safety Justin Sandy (foot) and linebacker Peter Sirmon (knee) are questionable for Sunday.
Bennett, Brown, Haynesworth, Roby and Sirmon have been starters in some capacity for Tennessee.