For Rams, road win against Giants would be huge
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Saturday, Oct. 01 2005

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. Each victory that's tucked away in September
and October is one less to worry about when jockeying for playoff position in
December.

And when those early-season victories come on the road, well, that's almost
like sticking a precious gem in your pocket. The Rams have another such
opportunity Sunday in the Meadowlands. They stubbed their toes in San
Francisco. Survived a last-second scare in Arizona.

Now, if they can escape from New York with a victory over the Giants, they
reach the quarter pole of the season with a 3-1 record. And not just any old
3-1. It would be 3-1 even though the Rams will have played three of their first
four games away from home.

"That would be huge," quarterback Marc Bulger said. "We know how well we play
at home. Not that you take home games for granted. But if you can win a couple
- two out of the first three road games - you never know the dividends it'll
pay later on in the year."

A victory over the Giants (2-1) would help ease the sting of that
season-opening loss in San Francisco. And it would assure the Rams of no less
than a first-place tie in the NFC West entering their Oct. 9 get-together with
defending West champion Seattle at the Edward Jones Dome.

"We've had a tough road schedule up to this point," safety Adam Archuleta said.
"We just need to get on a roll. We've got to get some momentum. This team in
the past, we've shown that we can get on a run and win a lot of games in a row.
So that's what we want to do."

During the "Greatest Show on Turf" days, the Rams-Giants series turned into a
pretty fair rivalry. The teams have played frequently since the Rams moved to
St. Louis, with Sunday's game marking the seventh meeting since 1997.

Throw in a 2001 game against the New York Jets, who share Giants Stadium with
the "G-men," and this marks the Rams' fourth trip to the Meadowlands in six
seasons.

"I think the Giants are very tough at home," wide receiver Torry Holt said.
"They're a physical bunch. They're familiar with us. They enjoy playing against
us, and they enjoy trying to go out there and whip our tails."

The Giants have done just that in the past two matchups, defeating the Rams
23-13 at Giants Stadium in 2003, and 26-21 in 2002 in St. Louis.

The '03 game in New York was memorable because it proved to be Kurt Warner's
last start as a St. Louis Ram. He fumbled six times, suffered a concussion, and
spent the night in a New York hospital for observation.

"The last time we were there, obviously it didn't go well," said Bulger, who
replaced Warner as the Rams' starter after that contest. "That's a tough place
to play. They're coming off a loss. ... They're a good team right now, but they
didn't show it the other night. If we can win up there, I think it'll prove to
us that the San Francisco game might have been a fluke."

If they lose, it'll show that the Rams still can't get it together on the road.
The Giants are smarting after a defensive meltdown in last Sunday night's 45-23
loss at San Diego. They yielded 485 yards against the Chargers, the most by a
Giants defense in 17 years. And they didn't sack San Diego quarterback Drew
Brees, who threw only three incompletions all night.

For a franchise with a history of defensive prowess, it was a humbling
experience. The last thing St. Louis wants to happen Sunday is for the Giants
to take out their frustration on the banged-up Rams.

Wide receiver Isaac Bruce isn't expected to play Sunday because of a turf-toe
injury suffered against Tennessee. In fact, Bruce could be sidelined for
several weeks.

"We'll miss Isaac's leadership," Bulger said. "Obviously, he's one of the best
route-runners in the league."

Kevin Curtis will step in for Bruce. The Rams also have a gimpy Tom Nutten
(turf toe) at left guard. Starting free safety Michael Hawthorne, who came up
with two turnovers against the Titans, is nursing a sprained ankle. Running
back Steven Jackson will play in pain because of a bruised sternum. And
fullback-tight end Brandon Manumaleuna's status is iffy because of a sprained
knee.

Although Nutten, Hawthorne and Jackson are all expected to start, there's no
guarantee they'll be able to finish. Either way, Jackson's workload could be
limited because of his injury.

So this could be one of those games in which the Rams count on their reserves
to get them through. For example, Claude Terrell may have to step in for
Nutten, which would give the Rams two rookie starters on the offensive line.
(Right tackle Alex Barron being the other.)

"They're prepared," coach Mike Martz said. "We tell these guys all the time, as
every coach on every team in the league does, that if you're on the roster,
you're here to be a starter eventually. You don't know when that's going to
happen."

For some, Sunday could be that day.