Key third-down throw to Holt proved critical for RamsPosted: Monday January 28, 2002 12:04 AM
Updated: Monday January 28, 2002 12:36 AM
By John Donovan, CNNSI.com
ST. LOUIS -- The Rams were behind late in the third quarter Sunday, which is someplace the Rams almost never are.
Yet, for sure, there they were. The big, bad Rams, 12-point favorites in the NFC Championship Game, down by a point. With about 3 ½ minutes left in the quarter. Facing a third down, with eight to go, on the Eagles' 25-yard line.
It was, as it's known in these parts, "Warner Time."
The Rams powered their way into their second Super Bowl in three years Sunday for a lot of reasons. The incomparable Marshall Faulk. A defense that kept Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb from going wild. A clutch late interception from cornerback Aeneas Williams.
They might never have earned their way to New Orleans for Sunday's Super Bowl, though, without the third-down play, a pass from quarterback Kurt Warner to Torry Holt that kept that third-quarter drive kicking, paving the way for the touchdown that put the Rams ahead for good.
"We have to take our hats off to the Rams' offense," Philadelphia corner Bobby Taylor said after the game. "They came out and they played well in the second half. They got the momentum back and they just got the job done."
The Rams went into halftime down 17-13 but came into the second half a team possessed. They began the quarter with seven straight runs by Faulk, who finished with 159 yards on 31 carries and two touchdowns. The 12-play drive -- nine of the plays were for Faulk -- resulted in a 41-yard field goal that brought the Rams to within 17-16.
After the St. Louis defense stopped the Eagles cold on three plays in the next series, Warner began guiding the Rams down the field again. But on a second-and-10, Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter stuffed Faulk for a 2-yard gain, setting up the key third-down play.
Holt, second on the Rams in catches this year behind Faulk (83-81) and the team's leading receiver as far as yardage gained (1,363), lined up on the left side across from Eagles cornerback Al Harris.
At the snap, Holt used an inside move but caught a chuck from Harris, nearly knocking the receiver to the ground. Holt recovered, though, and streaked across the middle of the field, where linebacker Carlos Emmons picked him up.
Warner, sitting back in the pocket, waited for Holt to get just a sliver of an edge on Emmons and fired the pass.
"I felt the 'backer kind of overplay him, so I kind of slipped it in there," Warner said.
But not by much. Holt, going into a slide, reached back and pulled the ball in, just inches from the turf and just inches from Emmons' outstretched fingers.
"He made a great, diving play," Warner said of Holt.
The play went for 16 yards, to the Philadelphia 9-yard line, and a first down.
Three Faulk plays later, the Rams had the lead for good.
Holt finished with five catches for 58 yards. Three of them went for first downs. Warner, bothered all week by sore ribs, completed 22 of his 33 attempts (67 percent) for 212 yards and one touchdown. He was not intercepted.
In all, the Rams converted on seven of their 15 third-down opportunities (47 percent), including four of five in the third quarter.
"I think it was huge, the fact that we scored on both drives in the third quarter getting 10 points to put us back on top," said Warner. "I think that was as much a factor as anything."
That, as it's known in these parts, was Warner Time.