Rams' big-play receiver will take wins over numbers
Updated: Friday December 29, 2000 11:04 PM
Bruce loves the big play, and just completed his fourth 1,000-yard receiving season. But he didn't get many openings in last week's 26-21 victory against the Saints, catching only two passes for 43 yards.
He doesn't expect room to roam on Saturday, either, when the teams meet in New Orleans for the second consecutive week, with the Saints usually using in a two-deep zone.
"They stayed patient with the Cover 2," Bruce said. "They said we had to beat them with the run and that's basically what we did.
"But as long as we keep running the ball well, I'm very happy with it if the team is progressing."
Marshall Faulk carried the load last week, rushing for a career-best 220 yards on 32 carries for three touchdowns. That continued a late-season charge by Faulk, selected Wednesday as the NFL's MVP.
Faulk's run coincides with a concentration to stop the long pass play that Bruce said began in early December. Bruce hasn't put up big numbers the last month, catching 18 passes for 227 yards and no touchdowns.
"We did a great job running the football, but I'm not sure they would want us throwing the ball up and down the field all day," he said. "It'll be up to them to choose."
Bruce led the team with 87 receptions for 1,471 yards, a 16.9-yard average, and nine touchdowns this season en route to his second Pro Bowl berth in a row. He was second in the NFC in yards behind teammate Torry Holt, and had four 100-yard games.
But after the game, Rams coaches were complimenting his blocking. Bruce's downfield block helped spring Faulk on one of his touchdowns.
"Isaac probably did the best job of his career in terms of blocking downfield," head coach Mike Martz said.
Bruce said he was just trying to make himself useful.
"If we're not catching the football, that's kind of our job," he said. "We've got to get in front of people.
"The cornerbacks are the guys who are supposed to force the run and we've got to take them out of the game."
More than leaning on their Super Bowl experience from last year, Bruce believes the biggest thing for the Rams is that they've played so many close games. St. Louis will have to win three games on the road to make it back to the Super Bowl.
"It's hard to win on the road, but we've done it before," Bruce said. "So I believe we can do it again."