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Rams stretch field until D breaks

With Torry Holt covering the middle ground and Isaac Bruce running deep, the St. Louis receivers eventually subdue the Titans.

[AP photo]
St. Louis Rams Torry Holt, right, celebrates a 10-yard touchdown in the third quarter as teammmate Isaac Bruce looks on.

By ERNEST HOOPER

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 31, 2000


ATLANTA -- Torry Holt was the jab, Isaac Bruce was the knockout punch.

With an outstanding effort from its Warner Brothers receivers, the St. Louis Rams outpointed the Tennessee Titans 23-16, but the most noteworthy aspect of the corps' performance was the contrasting styles.

Bruce watched Holt break the century mark in the first half with intermediate gains, but it was his big receptions in the second half that helped St. Louis hold off the Titans.

None was bigger than the 73-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown catch that proved to be the winner. Bruce raced down the right sideline with Tennessee cornerback Denard Walker in stride, but the ball was slightly underthrown and Bruce adjusted.

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Rams stretch field until D breaks

"I saw his face and he overran me," Bruce said. "So I kind of ducked under him, and after that it was just a race to the end zone."

Said Warner: "We had called a play earlier and they came back and told me Isaac could beat him. So we knew we needed a big play and Isaac is our go-to guy, and he came up with a big play for us."

The catch gave Bruce six receptions for a whopping 162 yards. He also had a 31-yard catch that helped set up the Rams' first touchdown, a 9-yard catch by Holt.

For the sixth-year receiver, the Super Bowl victory was the culmination of a great comeback season. Bruce had been plagued with injuries the past two years, not to mention the mounting losses of the Rams' organization.

On Sunday, the last remnants of that frustration were buried.

"Every training camp, I found myself asking, "What I am doing here? Why? Why are we in Macomb, Ill.?' " said Bruce, one of only five Rams left from the franchise's Los Angeles days.

"This is why, right here today."

Holt, who finished with seven catches for 109 yards, could not be halted whenever the Titans choose to play him in man coverage, and he made the most of the mismatch in the third quarter. He beat Dainon Sidney on a slant move and put St. Louis up 16-0 in the third quarter.

The reception sounds simple, but Holt couldn't have gotten it done without trapping the ball on his face mask. It also rekindled the Rams' belief they could score touchdowns. Until that point, the offense had produced only one in the past six quarters.

"We were going to score some touchdowns," said Bruce, who saw his team get in the red zone five times in the first half but come up with only three field goals. "We had been down there so many times and field goals weren't going to win this game. We have to get in the end zone."

Holt, the rookie out of North Carolina State, cut up the Titans secondary with precise routes in the first half. His six receptions for 100 yards were jabs that helped the Rams take a 9-0 advantage at halftime.

Included in that cache was a 32-yarder that helped set up St. Louis' first field goal.

In the second quarter, he really got hot, with receptions of 13, 15, 16 and 18 yards. The only blemish was a near touchdown reception he juggled and dropped.

He accomplished this despite twice leaving the game, first with bruised ribs, then with a shoulder injury.

"On a scale of one to 10, it was a six maybe. But I had to suck it up," Holt said.

"I was just into my game. I was just vibing, I was into the rhythm, and was able to use my athletic ability to get open."

Overall, the Rams had nine receivers listed on the statistics sheet, including tackle Fred Miller, who grabbed a deflected pass for minus-1 yard.

Marshall Faulk had five receptions for 90 yards. Az-Zahir Hakim, Ernie Conwell, Ricky Proehl, Roland Williams and Robert Holcombe had one each.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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