|What's next for Rams, Pats in unusual year?|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 23 October 2008 14:07|
New England was rocked by the season-ending knee injury to Tom Brady in the opener. Then it rallied from a lopsided loss two weeks ago to a stunning romp Monday night.
St. Louis sacked coach Scott Linehan during its bye week after losing its first four games. Then it charged back with wins in its last two games under Jim Haslett.
The unexpected is fitting for two franchises that produced one of the most shocking results of the decade: The Patriots 20-17 win over the heavily favored Rams in the 2002 Super Bowl, the first of New England's three championships.
St. Louis quarterback Marc Bulger, set to start Sunday against New England, was a third-stringer on that Rams team.
team the last seven to eight years and that's the one thing that hasn't changed for them.''
That ability will be tested with many injuries to key players, especially the running backs. Laurence Maroney is out for the year with a shoulder injury, LaMont Jordan didn't practice Thursday after missing the past two games with a calf injury, and Sammy Morris, who rushed for a career-high 138 yards in Monday night's 41-7 win over Denver, has a knee injury and didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday.
The Patriots (4-2) lost safety Rodney Harrison for the season in Monday night's 41-7 win over Denver with a torn quadriceps muscle in his right thigh. Starting tackle Nick Kaczur and defensive end Jarvis Green missed the Broncos game and didn't practice Thursday.
It wouldn't be surprising if the Patriots overcame all that, just as they shook off a 30-10 loss to San Diego the week before dominating Denver.
``Somehow, some way, we just continue to move on,'' cornerback Ellis Hobbs said, ``through the doubters, through the onlookers, and through people who consistently say we're down and out. We just continue to focus.''
St. Louis (2-4) had the NFC's offensive player of the week, Steven Jackson. New England's Matt Cassel won the award in the AFC for his last game.
``I was completely shocked'' by the honor, Cassel said. ``I really think it comes down to that the team played really well.''
er highs of three touchdown passes and a 75 percent completion rate in just his fifth NFL start, all this season, although he was sacked six times. And Randy Moss had his most productive game of the season with two touchdown catches, matching his total in his other five games.
Jackson racked up season rushing highs of 160 yards and three touchdowns in last Sunday's 34-17 upset of Dallas, but strained his right thigh muscle. His backups are Antonio Pittman, Travis Minor and Kenneth Darby.
At first, Jackson thought the injury might be serious, but he said Wednesday his recovery was going in the right direction even though he was limited in practice.
``Practice is very important to get the timing down. Each defense is different and each defense presents a different threat,'' Jackson said. The Patriots ``are pretty responsible and stay in their gap responsibilities.''
They forced five turnovers against Denver after getting just six in their first five games. The Rams' defense also was opportunistic: four takeaways against Dallas after totaling just five in their first five games.
Both teams dominated from the first quarter and went on to 34-7 leads in the fourth.
And both showed unusual emotion, although only one of the coaches was pleased.
``I wasn't real crazy about that part of it,'' Haslett said, ``but I'm glad he caught it first.''
Fun isn't the first thing that comes to mind about Patriots coach Bill Belichick. But his players were clapping, jumping and dancing between plays last Monday after he told them to enjoy themselves.
``He treats his job very seriously, like business,'' Hobbs said. ``To hear him say those things, for me it was like a green light. I enjoy celebrating and having fun.''
Coming from Belichick, that's a real shocker. Of course, he put the Patriots through unusually tough practices heading into the Denver game.
Now he anticipates a tough game against a revitalized Rams team that suddenly has a chance in the weak NFC West.
``It's been very impressive, the last two weeks especially against Washington and Dallas,'' Belichick said.
So it wouldn't be much of a surprise if the Rams beat the favored Patriots. Or would it, especially in front of a hostile crowd?
``We've done a good job the last two weeks,'' Haslett said, ``but to go up there and to play this team in those conditions will be a great challenge for us.''