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Thread: Rams Inside Slant
Rams Inside Slant
It might not have much of an effect on the game, but on the rare occasions when the Rams play the Tennessee Titans, memories of Super Bowl XXXIV aren't far behind.
In fact, the game that ended the 1999 season is the only time the two teams have played since the franchise became the Titans after moving from Houston. The franchises have played only three times since 1990.
Not surprisingly, both rosters have undergone big changes, although many of the Rams that played in that game are still around, including four of the current starters on the offensive line: Orlando Pace, Tom Nutten, Andy McCollum and Adam Timmerman. McCollum was a backup that season.
Asked how often he thinks about that game against the Titans, Nutten said, "It's definitely not a thought in my mind, especially leading up to this game. What I'm referring to is that yes, we are playing the Titans, who we played six years ago in the Super Bowl, five and a half years. But, it's a new season, it's a new time and there aren't too many guys left from that team on both sides. You have to move on."
Rams coach Mike Martz concurred, saying he hasn't watch highlights of the Super Bowl since 2000.
"If you look at the rosters, where it is now and what it was then, on both teams really. You've defined yourself completely different. There are some, obviously, guys still there, Isaac (Bruce) is still with us, obviously. Big O (Orlando Pace), the quarterback (Steve) McNair, so there are some familiar faces, but it is different."
Said Timmerman, "I don't really think about it. I'm sure they've had a ton of personnel changeover, as we have, too. We got a couple of those guys back (Nutten, Roland Williams, Matt Willig), but so many things have changed, and it has been so long since we have played them that I don't think about it a whole lot."
Bruce, who caught the game-winning touchdown pass in the game, was one player that enjoyed talking about the memories.
Said Bruce, "I have very fond memories of how hard the Titans played and how hard the Rams played. I think the head coach over there (Jeff Fisher) is one of the better head coaches in the league, definitely a guy who can get the best out of any player that he coaches. And he did that that game. It was an amazing game."
Asked how often his winning touchdown is mentioned, Bruce said, "I get it a lot, mainly because I live in Memphis, and there are a lot of Titans fans in Memphis. I hear how hearts were broken. But at the same time, it was a great game. Someone had to win, someone had to lose. I thought that year the two best teams in the NFL played each other. So it was just an amazing game, an amazing stop on the 1-yard line by Mike Jones, and I thank God I got a ring out of it."
Williams was on that team, left after the 2000 season for Oakland, and is back with the Rams this season. He thanks Bruce for his ring.
Said Williams, "I tell him all the time, thank you very much for helping me get a ring. We play around a lot because I actually had the first touchdown of the season, and he had the last. I was the Alpha and he was the Omega."
The two teams have met only in the preseason since 1999, and the Titans practiced with the Rams the following summer. Several Rams players were injured, and there have always been whispers about the Rams being upset with Fisher's Titans for how they approached the workouts.
But Martz downplayed any bad blood between the teams.
"I know Jeff real well," Martz said. "I think the rivalry was from the natural competitiveness of the few years there when we played each other in the preseason and the Super Bowl."
As for what is at stake Sunday and what it will be like facing Fisher, Martz said, "I think Jeff manages the game better than anybody. He's like (Bill) Belichick in that respect. Their team is always going to be very well disciplined."
SERIES HISTORY: 9th regular season meeting. The Rams lead 5-3, with all the regular-season games being played when the Titans were the Houston Oilers. The Rams won Super Bowl XXXIV over the Titans, 23-16, in Atlanta.
—Aside from the Saints, the Rams will be the last NFL team to play a home game when they host the Titans Sunday. Since the second week of the preseason, the Rams have played four of five games on the road, with three of the trips to the West (San Diego, San Francisco and Arizona).
Asked if it feels like the team has been on the road for a while, coach Mike Martz agreed b saying, "Because we have been, four of the last five weeks, three of them on the West Coast. At the time we did it, we didn't tell the players that. We just hoped that they didn't happen to notice it. We talked about it today, as a matter of fact, with the team. It's quite a challenge, even if it is preseason. It's still traveling, and it's still hard on you."
Said quarterback Marc Bulger, "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."
—WR Isaac Bruce believes a breakout game is coming for the offense.
"I believe it's right around the corner," he said. "We've been moving the ball pretty easy. We've been in the red zone a lot. We just haven't capitalized with touchdowns. It's a little bit more work this week. I believe playing at home will help, and I'm looking forward to it."
QB Marc Bulger said, "Last week, I don't know if it was the heat, but we just didn't seem in sync. We'll get there. We have to help the defense out more. Fortunately, they have been bailing us out a little bit. We haven't had that in the past couple years."
—Blaine Saipaia will likely get another start at right tackle this week against Tennessee. Saipaia replaced Rex Tucker, who is out because of a calf injury.
Said Saipaia, "If it's for the rest of the year, that's great. If it's just for the next couple games, until Rex gets back and gets better, then that's what it is. We're a team, and we're a family."
Martz said of Saipaia's play against Arizona, "He did OK. When he hasn't been playing out there, he gets a little anxious. ... He had a couple of errors that hurt a little bit in the running game, but he made some terrific blocks, too. Right now, he's our best choice out there, and he's playing well - not as well as he can or will, but I've always felt really good about Blaine."
BY THE NUMBERS: 39-9 - The Rams' regular-season home record since 1999, best in the NFL over that span of six seasons. In two of the years, the Rams were 8-0 at home.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The Raider fans are special people. 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." - TE Roland Williams, comparing Rams fans to Raiders fans.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Rams added C Shawn Lynch to the practice squad, replacing Toby Cecil. Lynch was signed two days before the game against the Cardinals, noteworthy since Lynch started the season opener for Arizona, but was waived the Tuesday after the game.
—RT Rex Tucker is out this week because of a calf injury, but he is walking without the aid of the boot he wore last week.
—T Alex Barron, who took his first snaps at right tackle with the scout team last week, got some reps at right tackle with the first unit Wednesday. Barron has been inactive for the Rams' first two games.
—OL Blaine Saipaia is expected to start his second game this season at right tackle as the replacement for Rex Tucker, who is sidelined with a calf injury.
GAME PLAN: Move the ball and score quickly. Look for the Rams to try and go after Tennessee's young secondary with play-action and quick passes to their speedy receivers.
Defensively, the improving line will work to bottle up running backs Chris Brown and Travis Henry. The Rams have allowed just 116 yards rushing in the first two weeks of the season.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Rams WRs Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce vs. Titans CBs Andre Woolfolk and Tony Beckham - Also in the mix is WR Kevin Curtis and CB Pacman Jones. Tennessee's secondary could be hard-pressed to slow down the Rams' high-powered offense in the team's first home game.
Rams DLE Leonard Little vs. Titans RT Michael Roos - This has mismatch written all over it, with Little going against a rookie. The Titans will hope they are able to run the ball in order to slow the pass rush.
INJURY IMPACT:—CB Terry Fair not only practiced for the second day in a row, but participated in team work including some reps with the first unit. Fair is looking to return after suffering a neck injury Aug. 29. He remains questionable for this week's game against Tennessee. ... RT Rex Tucker is probably one or two weeks away from returning, but the boot is off his right foot. Tucker strained his calf in the season opener.