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Rams-Saints: 5 Things To Watch

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  • Rams-Saints: 5 Things To Watch


    Defending Brooks

    The good news is the Rams don't have to face Michael Vick this week. The bad news is they're facing his second cousin, underrated New Orleans QB Aaron Brooks. Although he doesn't lack for mobility, Brooks isn't the running threat that Vick is.

    "Vick likes to get rushing yards down the field," Rams defensive tackle Tyoka Jackson said. "Aaron is looking to slide around and use his evasiveness in the pocket, or to just buy more time. But he's trying to get the ball downfield with his arm. ... Aaron can run. He's a great athlete. But he wants to be a pocket passer."

    According to Rams coach Mike Martz, with the exception of Green Bay's Brett Favre, Brooks may be the best in the league at making the big play downfield with the deep ball. That may be a bit of a stretch, but there's no doubt Brooks has gotten much better throwing the deep ball, which was a weakness for him when he entered the league. Brooks also excels at seam routes, and passes down the middle, perhaps a by-product of his height (6 feet 4) and his ability to see downfield over linemen.

    On the receiving end

    The Saints like to go vertical in the passing game with three-time Pro Bowler Joe Horn and the emerging Donte Stallworth at wide receiver. Horn talks a good game and backs it up on the field. Horn is very competitive, and is explosive in and out of cuts. He's not a burner, but plays strong and physical, and will make the tough catch.

    "Horn likes to go up for the ball," Rams CB Jerametrius Butler said. "When the ball's in the air, he's going to try to get it from you."

    Stallworth, the No. 13 overall pick in the 2002 draft, appears to be coming into his own after two disappointing seasons marred by hamstring, ankle and leg injuries.

    "I think Stallworth's really getting a feel for the league right now," Butler said. "He's their deep-threat guy. Not taking anything away from Horn - Horn's (also) a deep threat. But I think Stallworth shows more speed on the field."

    No. 3 wide receiver Jerome Pathon isn't real strong and sometimes gets knocked around, but he nonetheless can be effective over the middle on underneath routes.

    Life without Deuce

    With two-time Pro Bowler Deuce McAllister out with a high ankle sprain, the Saints are counting on Aaron Stecker and Ki-Jana Carter to generate a ground game against the Rams' 29th-ranked rushing defense. In four seasons with Tampa Bay, Stecker's primary duty was returning kicks. He never had more than 37 carries, or 174 yards rushing, in any one season there.

    "Stecker runs between the tackles very hard," Rams defensive tackle Ryan Pickett said. "He's not very elusive, but more of a power runner."

    In large part because of injuries, Carter has been one of the biggest draft busts in recent NFL history. The No. 1 overall pick in 1995 by Cincinnati, Carter has only 1,127 career rushing yards. At age 31, he's clearly lost a step from his days at Penn State. Or even from 1996, when in his only appearance in St. Louis he carried 14 times for 14 yards for the Bengals in the season opener.

    Old reliables

    Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt have been the two constants in the Rams' offense this season. Bruce ranks first in the NFC in catches (17), with Holt second (16); Holt is first in the NFC in reception yards (217), with Bruce a close second (214). New Orleans counters with one of the league's most experienced secondaries: cornerbacks Ashley Ambrose and Fred Thomas, plus safeties Jay Bellamy and Tebucky Jones, have 529 NFL games among them.

    Bruce and Holt faced Ambrose six times between 1999-01, when Ambrose was with New Orleans and Atlanta.

    "He's a smart guy," Bruce said. "Kind of like Aeneas (Williams). He's going to be real patient with you, make sure he takes the right angles to try to cut you off at the top of your routes. He's going to make sure everybody's lined up. You can pick that up on film. ... He's kind of a leader back there, making sure everybody's where they're supposed to be."

    The Saints have played a lot of press coverage so far this season, but Bruce cautions, "Things seem to change when we play teams. It may be something totally different."

    In the trenches

    The Saints' defensive line is getting healthy just in time for a Rams offensive line that followed a stellar opener against Arizona with a clunker against Atlanta. LT Orlando Pace yielded two sacks against the Falcons, one of which resulted in a critical Atlanta touchdown. LG Chris Dishman yielded a sack as well.

    After missing the Saints' first two games with a neck injury, DE Darren Howard returned to practice this week and is expected to start. Steady but not dominant, Howard is the Saints' best all-around lineman. His return gives New Orleans a good three-man rotation with Charles Grant and 2004 first-round pick Will Smith at the end positions.

    Former Ram Brian Young is expected to start at DT after sitting out last week because of hip and groin injuries. The Saints' front seven needs all the help it can get, ranking 31st in run defense after two games.

    -Jim Thomas

Related Topics


  • RamWraith
    Conwell's back - as a Saint
    by RamWraith
    By Lori Shontz
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    Ernie Conwell was born in Reston, Wash., and he stayed at home for his college years at the University of Washington. Since 2002, he has played tight end for the New Orleans Saints.

    But when people ask Conwell and his wife, Andrea, where they're from, they often fail to mention either of those places.

    "My wife and I, we still have a tendency to say we're from St. Louis," said Conwell, who played in St. Louis for seven years after the Rams chose him in the second round of the 1996 NFL draft. "That's where we really grew into adulthood as a married couple. Where our kids grew up."

    So when Conwell returns to the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday for the first time as an opposing player, he expects to feel a twinge or two.

    "I'm sure it's going to be a weird feeling to be on the opposite sideline," he said. "And it'll be a different experience. But I think all that'll happen in pre-game, the warm-ups, and then just like anything else, when the game starts we're playing football and it'll kind of just subside, I'm sure."

    The Saints, as usual, are looked upon as a team with plenty of talent, particularly offensively, with running back Deuce McAllister (who was injured a week ago against the *****), quarterback Aaron Brooks and wide receivers Joe Horn and Donte' Stallworth. Somehow, however, that talent rarely turns into results.

    "The key right now is we don't want to talk about talent, ability, potential," Conwell said. "They're almost like four-letter words in this business. We just know that we have to take care of business every week and that we're only as good as we are on game day.

    "I think we're just maturing in that we realize that we're going to have to prepare like champions, we're going to have to practice like champions, and then go out and play hard and winning will take care of itself. I think we're starting to learn that as a team."

    That said, the Saints started the season with a loss to the Seattle Seahawks, and although they beat San Francisco a week ago, they played sloppily at times. They also lost McAllister with a high-ankle sprain. He will be out for four or five weeks, leaving the running back duties to Aaron Stecker and Ki-Jana Carter.

    "We'll package them up based on what they do best," Saints coach Jim Haslett said in his Monday news conference. "I think both of them have good qualities; both of them are good running backs.

    "I think Aaron showed (Sunday against San Francisco) that he has good, pretty good running skills, he's tough. You can see why Ki-Jana Carter was the No. 1 pick in the draft - he's got great vision. He's lost a little bit of speed, but he's a good player."

    By necessity, Haslett said, the Saints will...
    -09-26-2004, 05:48 AM
    The Field Goal: Saints Edge Rams in OT 28-25
    After finishing a dismal 8-8 in 2003 and John Haslett's team in some form of disarray. The Saints are at a crossroads in 2004. With every other NFC South team having reached the playoffs or Super Bowl for that matter, these Saints are on a mission to prove they too can reach the playoffs and beyond. The word around Cajun country is this team lacks maturity and professionalism. 2004 is not easier for the Saints with Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons also rising and the Panthers looking to get back to the big dance.
    With a 1-1 record so far in 2004 the Saints arrived at The Edward's Jones Dome with a mission. The Rams with a similar record are still asking questions from their previous game versus the Atlanta Falcons and Michael Vick. With the Falcons rising, the Saints were here to prove a point with their former NFC West rivals.
    Six year veteran quarterback Aaron Brooks and Joe Horn led the Saints attack. With Deuce McAllister out with an ankle sprain, the Saints called upon a guy named Aaron Stecker to carry the load. Stecker's first start was huge, 19 carries for 106 yards and a 42yard touchdown to boot.
    Aaron Brooks looked impressive from the start. With a good defensive front by the Rams in the first quarter with Polley,Little and Coady leading the way, the Saints were forced to settle for a 52yard field goal by John Carney. The Rams and Marc Bulger looked determined to amend the previous weeks loss to the Falcons and came out shooting. By mixing the plays Bulger devised a six play sixty-six yard drive using Kevin Curtis, Isaac Bruce and ending with a 32 yard touchdown pass to Torry Holt . This is the style of play that the fans are accustomed to at the Dome. This put the Rams ahead 7-3.
    The second quarter was a rude awakening, the Saints and Aaron Brooks went to work on the Rams secondary. Brooks finished 24 of 41 for 316 yards and a touchdown. Early in the second, Brooks hit Horn for a 24 yard strike on a 3rd and 6 from the New Orleans 34 to setup the Stecker 42 yard touchdown. Saints went seven plays and 80 yards in a flash and tied the contest. Joe Horn and Donte Stallworth combined for 12 catches for 156 yards and a touchdown.
    Then the Charles Grant and John Carney show began to unfold. The Saints combined for 5 sacks on the day with Grant having totaled 3 of the 5. The Saints defense led by C.Grant,A. Ambrose, D. Rodgers,and Courtney Watson led the Saints rush that forced the 33 yards total loss in sacks and a forced fumble. Combined with John Carney's 5 for 6 field goal day, the Saints win in overtime 28-25. With the victory, the Saints end the Rams dome streak of 15 straight games.
    For the Rams and Marc Bulger another tough loss and lots of concerns. Bulger played solid football minus the fumble early. Bulger was 32 of 49 for 358 yards. He spread the ball in a passing offensive scheme with Isaac Bruce getting most of the catches. Bruce finished 8 for 134 and his third straight 100...
    -09-27-2004, 12:43 AM
  • RamWraith
    Saints carry confidence into meeting with Rams
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Something is strangely amiss. A Saints-Rams game week has come and gone without New Orleans wide receiver Joe "Hollywood" Horn saying anything inflammatory before kickoff.

    Horn has leveled many a zinger at the Rams in the past. But he did nothing but make nice this past week in New Orleans.

    When asked by New Orleans reporters if this was still a big rivalry game for the Saints, he replied: "No. You want to know why? They've got a Super Bowl ring. They've been to multiple Super Bowls. ... I can't say nothing negative about them and try to spark a rivalry."


    And there's more.

    "Coach (Mike) Martz has done a hell of a job," Horn said.

    Take that!

    What about former Saints tight end Cam Cleeland, now with the Rams, and his anti-Saints and anti-Jim Haslett remarks on Wednesday from Rams Park?

    "That's just Cam getting off some frustrations that he felt," Horn said. "He and Kyle (Turley) had some issues that they didn't like (with the organization). But they're very good friends of mine, and I love them to death."

    In your face!

    In a conference call with St. Louis reporters, Haslett, the New Orleans coach, made it sound like he and Martz were bosom buddies. Strange, since in 2000 and 2001 - when the Saints and Rams played each other five times over a 12 1/2- month period - they looked very much like mortal enemies.

    So perhaps this is some sort of a setup. Now a couple of years older and wiser, maybe Horn and Haslett are trying to kill the Rams with kindness.

    Make no mistake, the Saints aren't going to be the least bit intimidated by the Rams' 15-game regular-season winning streak at the Edward Jones Dome. New Orleans has won its last two contests here, including one of only two regular-season losses by the NFC-champion Rams in 2001.

    No Deuce McAllister (ankle) at running back? No problem. The Saints won here in 2000 with Jerald Moore and Chad Morton as their feature backs.

    Besides, the Rams have more on their minds these days than whether the Saints remain a rival. They left the Georgia Dome on the short end of a 34-17 score to Atlanta last Sunday, bewildered by the scrambling sorties of Michael Vick and befuddled by a Falcons front four that played like the Fearsome Foursome.


    "We don't need to look any further than the fact that we need a win," defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson said. "Coming off a loss you need a win even more. It's just the way it feels. So we want to get back in the winner's column, get that good feeling again, and build off of it."

    It's as simple as that. The last thing the Rams want to do is stub their toe at home against...
    -09-26-2004, 05:47 AM
  • RamWraith
    Five Keys to the Game
    by RamWraith

    Friday, September 24, 2004

    This game could feature super-charged emotions. Both teams want to win this game badly and the team that tempers those emotions and stays poised will probably come out on top.

    Saintsí running back Deuce McAllister is probably out and New Orleans is expected to use a combination of Ki-Jana Carter and Aaron Stecker to replace him. Neither has proved themselves in the league, but will hope to against a Ramsí run defense that has struggled. This is a golden opportunity for both sides. Stecker and Carter could prove they belong or St. Louis could take advantage and force the Saints to throw.

    A week after facing dual-threat quarterback Michael Vick, the Rams get to attempt to stop Aaron Brooks. Brooks isnít as good of a runner as Vick, but is more polished as a passer, which could present problems to a banged-up St. Louis secondary. The problems in the defensive backfield reached their peak this week when free safety Aeneas Williams was moved back to cornerback, his original position. The ability of Williams to make the move back and the performance of his replacement (most likely Rich Coady) will go a long way toward determining a winner.

    New Orleansí run defense has struggled in its first two games, allowing 180 yards on the ground to San Francisco and 169 to Seattle. That could bode well for St. Louis, which looks to get going on the ground again after a great effort against Arizona and a subpar game against Atlanta. Marshall Faulk had one of his best games ever against the Saints on Dec. 24, 2000, when he ran for 220 yards and three touchdowns. Another performance like that from Faulk will probably equal a Ramsí win, just like it did on that day.

    St. Louis has won 15 consecutive regular season games at home. The Rams must hold serve at the Edward Jones Dome if they are going to make a serious run at the playoffs. The added sour taste from the last time they played the Saints in St. Louis should be added motivation to extend the streak to 16 for both the team and the fans. New Orleans should expect an extremely hostile environment in the unfriendly confines of the Edward Jones Dome Sunday.
    -09-25-2004, 08:44 AM
  • RamWraith
    Coady, Conwell will cross paths
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Thursday, Sep. 23 2004

    Former teammates on
    opposing missions now

    If Rich Coady and Ernie Conwell have a reunion Sunday, it won't exactly be a
    tea-and-cookies affair.

    With Aeneas Williams moving to cornerback, Coady is expected to start at free
    safety for the Rams against New Orleans. Conwell, who played in St. Louis from
    1996 through 2002 and had a locker near Coady's, is the Saints' starting tight

    So Coady and Conwell could meet again, this time on the Edward Jones Dome turf.
    "Playing against (Conwell) every day in practice for three or four years, it'd
    be nice to go live against him," Coady said.

    Conwell represents only a small part of Coady's concerns, though. The Saints'
    top running back, Deuce McAllister, is sidelined with a high-ankle sprain,
    meaning that coach Jim Haslett will have to rely on journeymen Aaron Stecker
    and Ki-Jana Carter for any semblance of a ground game.

    So logic indicates that New Orleans quarterback Aaron Brooks will have the ball
    in the air much of the afternoon. "We expect to have a busy day," Coady said.
    "You like that, though, when the action's around you and when you're around the
    ball. It'll be fun for us to go out there and do the best we can and try to
    shut that down."

    The Saints (1-1) hardly have been on offensive juggernaut: They're averaging
    291.5 yards (22nd in the 32-team NFL) and 18.5 points (17th) per game. Yet
    Brooks' 502 passing yards are exceeded by only eight quarterbacks.

    Wide receivers Joe Horn (14 catches, 204 yards) and Donte' Stallworth (12, 149)
    are his favorite targets. Conwell has three catches for 32 yards.

    The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Coady said Brooks is especially effective when he
    throws "over the middle and deep outside. He's got a real live arm, quick
    release, throws the ball well. And he's got two great receivers to throw to, so
    that makes it easy."

    Coady, 28, was the Rams' third-round pick (No. 68 overall) in the 1999 draft
    out of Texas A&M. He has started 11 games in six seasons, but most of his work
    this year has been as an extra back in passing situations.

    "Instead of playing 30 plays, I'll play 60. So it won't be that big of a
    difference for me," Coady said. "You prepare to start every week, and I've been
    here long enough that I'll know what I'm doing every play. It's not one of
    those things where I've got to go in there and learn a bunch of new
    terminology. It should be pretty simple and pretty basic."

    Chillar rests foot

    First-team linebacker Brandon Chillar sat...
    -09-24-2004, 06:04 AM