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Rams ready for either Patriots QB

By Times wire and staff report

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 3, 2002


NEW ORLEANS -- Tom Brady or Drew Bledsoe consumed the Patriots' camp last week, but registered only a blip or two on the Rams' radar.

NEW ORLEANS -- Tom Brady or Drew Bledsoe consumed the Patriots' camp last week, but registered only a blip or two on the Rams' radar.

"It doesn't matter" who starts as the New England quarterback, said Lovie Smith, Rams defensive coordinator.

Smith said there will be small adjustments made in response to the strengths of both. But because St. Louis has a straightforward approach on defense and the quarterbacks are not radically distinct, some players said their strategy would not be affected by Brady or Bledsoe.

"They're both great quarterbacks, and they're not so different in style that you have to prepare for one individually," defensive end Grant Wistrom said. "You're really just preparing for their system; they both could go out and run that offense."

Coach Mike Martz said Bledsoe probably has the stronger arm, with the ability to throw the ball into smaller spaces.

"(Brady) gets rid of the ball well," Wistrom said. "He knows how to run an offense, and he's an incredibly accurate passer. The most underrated part of their team is their offensive line; they've done a pretty good job of protecting him. ... They're the ones who bought him the kind of time where he could go out and learn on the job."

CATCHING LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE: If the Patriots are to win, they likely will have to contain Rams running back Marshall Faulk. At least. That task falls to defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, but he said stopping the versatile Faulk is almost a lost cause.

"He has proven that there's not many defenses that can stop him," Crennel said. "I mean, he runs it, he catches it. He probably can throw it. That's one I might have to work on."

USING YOUR HEAD: Patriots coach Bill Belichick is known for his successful yet complex defensive schemes. But cornerback Terrell Buckley said the defense is actually pretty simple in its philosophy. He calls it the "common sense defense."

"To give you an example, if a team is trying to pick the cornerback out of a man-to-man defense, (Belichick) allows a way where a (defensive back) from the other side of the field can pick that guy up if the cornerback gets picked," Buckley said. "But on other teams the coach will tell you to fight through all that and still run down this receiver who's just as fast as you are and make a play on the ball. That's crazy. We don't play that here. We've got a common sense defense."

-- DARRELL FRY, TIMES WIRES

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