Defense brings curtain down on `Show'

Unit bright light in gloom as Bulger, Rams limited to 121 yards total offense

Rams 33, Ravens 22

November 10, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

ST. LOUIS - With the seconds ticking down at the end of the third quarter, the first few chants came from the upper deck of the Edward Jones Dome and could be heard over the roar of the crowd.

Rams fans, at least a sizable number of them, wanted to see former league Most Valuable Player Kurt Warner take over at quarterback.

Who could blame them? Marc Bulger, was being made to look like a journeyman by the Ravens' defense, and the secondary, in particular, had St. Louis' offense looking in preseason form.

FOR THE RECORD - In yesterday's Sports section, two photographs from the Ravens-Rams game were incorrectly credited. The photos of Jamal Lewis fumbling, on Page 1D, and of a Ravens sack, on Page 8D, were by Elizabeth Malby.

"That's energy to feed on when you hear the boos," Ravens cornerback Gary Baxter said. "When you hear the fans at their house booing their own team or to have such a big crowd be silent, that's what we like."

Through three quarters, Bulger was held to 82 yards on 9-for-20 passing and was intercepted twice. The dynamic duo of Torry Holt, the league's leading receiver coming into the game, and Isaac Bruce combined for five catches for 51 yards and no touchdowns for the game.

That's usually a good half for Holt, who was covered tightly throughout by cornerback Chris McAlister.

"With the play-calling, the coaches put us in position to where we could take out their threats on offense," McAlister said.

The Ravens' success came despite not having cornerback Corey Fuller, who was inactive with hamstring and groin injuries.

Baxter started his third straight game at cornerback for Fuller, and Will Demps started for Baxter.

All that helped produce one of the least productive days by the league's top offense. St. Louis had 121 yards total offense.

"Our defense gave them nothing, nothing," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "And that's encouraging."

Even when the Ravens' offense and special teams gave the Rams seemingly everything they could ask for - all of the Rams' fourth-quarter possessions started in Ravens territory - the defense yielded little ground.

Of those four possessions, three ended in field goals and the final one was the end of the game.

"They didn't know what we were doing out there," Baxter said. "We shut them down. People were expecting a high-scoring game and them catching the ball all over the field. The whole defense just stepped up and played the way we were supposed to play."

The Rams had two plays of 20 yards or more, the latter of which probably kept Warner on the bench and saved the night for the Rams.

St. Louis faced a third-and-10 trailing 22-21 with just under two minutes left in the third quarter and with its four previous drives having ended in an interception and three three-and-outs.

Bulger faced slight pressure from the Ravens' defensive line but slid in the pocket and bought enough time to hit third-receiver Dane Looker for a 24-yard completion on a drive that eventually ended with a 49-yard Jeff Wilkins go-ahead field goal.

But that was the highlight of an otherwise frustrating night.

"If we stick together, nobody is going to score on us," Demps said. "We just played our game and did what we were coached."

The Rams entered the game averaging a league-high 374.5 yards a game, 288.1 of which came through the air.

But "The Greatest Show on Turf" was basically reduced to a team dependent on field position just to kick field goals.

Bulger finished 13-for-26 for 110 yards and with a 29.3 rating.

" `The Greatest Show on Turf,' I didn't see it tonight," Baxter said. "The No. 1 offense, I didn't see it tonight. Defense? I saw that."

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