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    St. Louis Rams Prepare For Tough Indianapolis Colts D

    St. Louis Rams prepare for tough Indianapolis Colts D

    Understandably, much of the pregame buildup for Sunday's home game against Indianapolis has focused on Peyton Manning and the Colts' precision offense. But that's only half the problem for the winless Rams, because Indy's defense presents its own set of problems.

    In what falls into the category of well-kept secrets, the Colts come to town with the NFL's seventh-ranked defense. That's a higher rating than any of the Rams' previous opponents this season except for No. 5 Washington.

    "They're a fast defense," Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "We just got done playing a big physical style (Jacksonville), and this is the flip side of the coin. Very fast. Very explosive. They really like it when you're in passing situations, so they can just rare back and come after you."

    The Colts love playing with the lead. That's when they unleash what might be the NFL's best set of pass-rushing ends in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Freeney and Mathis have played side-by-side for much of the decade and have five Pro Bowls between them. Mathis has averaged 10 sacks a season over the past five seasons; Freeney has averaged 10 sacks a season over his entire seven-year career.

    They're up to their old hijinks this season, with a combined 10 1/2 sacks in five games. (Indianapolis is coming off its bye week.)

    "They've got the athletes over there, and the speed to make you try to beat 'em," Rams quarterback Marc Bulger said. "So we just can't let them get up big on us. If you play from behind against that team, it's very difficult because of their pass rush, and how well they play their (Cover 2)."

    Until Sunday's overtime loss at Jacksonville, where the Rams held a slim lead for most of the game, St. Louis had led for only 12 1/2 minutes all season. Of course, the easiest way to keep the score from getting out of hand Sunday is to keep the ball out of Manning's hands.

    "We're going to need to control the football," Shurmur said.

    Steven Jackson, that's your cue. Somehow, the Rams need to chew up the clock with a steady progression consisting of Jackson running the ball, combined with an efficient passing game.

    "They're really trying to put you in third down-and-long situations," Jackson said. "We have to be really good on first and second down. You don't have to get eight yards on first down. If you can keep getting four-yard gains, that puts you in third-and-2.

    "We just have to be good and manageable on first down. Switch things up. See what the defense is anticipating and try to do what they're not expecting."

    Indianapolis doesn't have a reputation for good run defense, but you'd never know it by what has taken place over the past three games. The Colts allowed only 163 yards rushing combined in victories over Arizona, Seattle and Tennessee. That's the second-lowest total over any three-game span in franchise history. Over that stretch, the Colts allowed only 3.1 yards per carry.

    That was done without the services of safety Bob Sanders, the Colts' top run defender. Sanders hasn't played this season because of a knee injury. But the Rams' run of buzzard's luck continues, because Sanders is expected to make his 2009 debut by starting Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.

    "He's the life of that defense," Jackson said. "Not taking anything away from Mathis and Freeney, but he's a guy that fills the run pretty hard. He's a tough tackler. He applies the big hits. He gets the crowd into it. ... I really respect what he brings to that defense."

    With the departure of head coach Tony Dungy and defensive coordinator Ron Meeks, the Colts have more of an attacking defense than the bend-but-don't-break units of the past. Even so, they haven't strayed far from their Cover 2 roots under new head coach Jim Caldwell and new defensive coordinator Larry Coyer.

    "There are some things that are a little bit different, that you can tell," Shurmur said. "But for the most part, the base of their defense is similar to what they've been."

    Which means the safeties generally play deep in the Cover 2 shell, and the front four is asked to generate pressure on its own in passing situations.

    "They don't do a whole heck of a lot of things," Bulger said. "But what they do, they do well. They make you make mistakes, and that's a formula that's worked there for a long time."

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    Re: St. Louis Rams Prepare For Tough Indianapolis Colts D

    Playing a team like this can only make us better itís a lotto long shot to win it but we can only learn from it.

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