By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
09/10/2006

The last time the Denver Broncos came to town, it was also opening day. And it was also the debut of a new Rams head coach. If Sunday's contest has any other similarities with that 41-36 Rams victory over Denver on Sept. 4, 2000, it could be quite an afternoon.

"We were just coming off that Super Bowl win, so we had a lot of adrenaline going," wide receiver Torry Holt said. "It was a shootout. It was an incredible game. We were doing our thing on offense, and they were doing their thing."

It was Mike Martz's first game as Rams head coach, and even NFL Commissioner Paul Taglia-

bue was on hand to take in the matchup between the Super Bowl XXXIV winners (the Rams) against the Super Bowl XXXIII and XXXII champions (the Broncos).

In the first Monday Night Football game in St. Louis since 1986, the teams combined for 937 yards. Holt, Marshall Faulk and Az-Zahir Hakim all had more than 100 yards receiving, and the Rams scored three TDs of 72 yards or longer.

One of them, an 80-yard TD reception by Hakim, may have been the signature play of the "Greatest Show On Turf." Hakim caught a short pass from Kurt Warner, eluded a Denver tackler near the line of scrimmage, and was off to the races. No one came close to catching him. Hakim was escorted to the end zone by Holt, with the two of them laughing and talking to each other along the way.

"We were just having fun, young men playing a kid's game, and loving it," Holt said. "Hopefully, we'll have some action like that Sunday."

Klop's debut

Tight end Joe Klopfenstein, a second-round pick from Colorado, will be the only rookie in the starting lineup Sunday for the Rams.

"I'll probably be pretty nervous going into the first game," Klopfenstein said. "But once you get that first hit, it's all football."

Making the day even more memorable for Klopfenstein is that he's opening against his hometown team.

"All the guys that I'll be going up against, I have been cheering for the last few years," Klopfenstein said Thursday. "Every day that passes, I'm getting a little more butterflies."

On draft day, about 100 people told Klopfenstein they were coming to St. Louis for the game. Turns out, Klopfenstein only had to come up with 10 tickets.

"I don't know who they'll be cheering for," he said. "Hopefully, they'll be cheering for the Rams, but they're pretty die-hard Broncos fans out there."

For openers

Fans attending Sunday's game will notice several changes at the Edward Jones Dome.

There's a new FieldTurf surface this year. And new "LED" scoreboards, which were installed after the second exhibition game. And for the first time, a new 3,000-square-foot Rams store had opened on the 100 level of the stadium.

The LED scoreboards are the narrow boards in each corner of the end zones. "They'll be able to do better graphics and statistics," Rams executive vice president Bob Wallace said.

And yes, the new boards will help with advertising as well. "It'll be a much brighter presentation," Wallace said.

Overall, Wallace says there will be less "pure commercials" during the game and more advertising "associated with football."

As for the music?

"We did a (league) survey, to be honest with you, because we do hear these complaints," Wallace said. "We play the exact same music as Kansas City. And everything we do is very similar to Pittsburgh, Green Bay."

Quotable

"I was kind of looking for you guys. I thought you guys were back there having barbecue or something, and talking with the cheerleaders." -- Rams DE Anthony Hargrove, on the first day reporters were barred from watching the entire practice.

jthomas@post-dispatch.com | 314-340-8197