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Defense's spy scheme shuts Faulk down

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© St. Petersburg Times, published January 24, 2000

ST. LOUIS -- The Bucs defense wanted to shut down Rams running back Marshall Faulk and shut him down they did.

Faulk, who logged more than 1,000 yards in rushing and receiving this season, only the second man in NFL history to do so, was held to 44 yards on the ground.

"The game plan was to keep him contained," said linebacker Derrick Brooks. "We didn't want to let him make any big plays."

Faulk, who finished the regular season with 1,381 yards rushing and 1,048 receiving, caught three passes for five yards against the Bucs.

"He was one of our priorities," strong safety John Lynch said. "He is one of their major weapons and we wanted to limit his opportunities."

The Bucs were able to keep Faulk's numbers low by never letting him out of their sight. The defense assigned one player to "spy" on Faulk at all times. Brad Culpepper and Shelton Quarles shared the duty.

How well did it work?

"You tell me," Culpepper said. "Just look at his yardage. He didn't do much, but he still ended up on the winning team, so that is enough."

Faulk carried the ball 17 times, averaging 2.6 yards a carry.

Quarles said the defense wanted to keep Faulk from breaking a big play. "He is an explosive player," Quarles said. "He can break tackles. But we tried to be physical and make it to the ball. I worked."

Faulk's lackluster performance contributed to the low score. Without a running game, the Rams were forced to go to the air.

"The game plan was sound," Brooks said. Defensive tackle Warren Sapp saw Faulk as a critical link in the Rams normally high-powered offense.

"We knew we had to eliminate the ground game," Sapp said. "We wanted to make it a war and that is what we did."

Linebacker Hardy Nickerson said he could tell thegame plan was taking a toll on Faulk.

"He was getting frustrated," Nickerson said. "He couldn't get outside, he couldn't make the screen plays. He was the guy we had to hold in check and for the most part we did."

Defensive end Chidi Ahanotu echoed Nickerson's sentiments.

"They really didn't have a running game," he said. "We suffocated him. For me that was very satisfying.

"There had been a lot of talk," Ahanotu said. "I think this was a reality check for the Rams. That is one good thing we can take away from this."

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