Ask Rams interim head coach Joe Vitt if his influence will be evident in the play-calling of his coaches tonight, and he'll readily dismiss that thought.
"It's not going to change," he said. "The offense is in and the defense is in. We are who we are, and we're going to work hard to hone those skills."
The big question of the evening for the Rams is how Torry Holt's injured knee will impact his speed and his ability to cut effectively. Last week, the knee was swollen and had to be treated. Vitt is hopeful that his star receiver will be close to 100 percent.
"He's an impact player and highly productive," he said. "I think his production and his playmaking ability is only overshadowed by his character and his integrity and his love for the game."
Holt and the Rams offense know they aren't facing yesteryear's Colts defense.
"We have a tremendous amount of respect for this defense and what they've done in previous games," said Holt. "So we're definitely not taking these guys lightly by any stretch of the imagination.
"The schemes that they run are very disciplined... very sound, very
confident...We know we have to be very focused and very disciplined in all facets of our game if we want to be able to move the football against
Holt empathizes with what the Colts offense is going through this year. The high-powered Rams attack of the 1999-2001 era was slowed a bit after defenses started playing them differently. And he sees opponents now doing the same to Indianapolis.
"I think it's a great respect thing for the Colts as far as
teams watching them all season and trying to come up with different
schemes to stop them once the regular season starts," he said.
Amongst all the Colts players, Holt has a clear favorite. And it should be no surprise to anyone that it is wide receiver Marvin Harrison.
"That's my man…I love his demeanor," he said. "I love the way he approaches the game week in and week out. His thing, from the outside looking in, is ‘I'm showing up to work. I'm here to practice and do what I'm supposed to do, handle my job, really try to master my craft and go out on Sundays and perfect that and go out and make plays for my ball club. And that's that.' And you have to respect that."
Preventing Manning and his aerial attack from running up the score has been a major focus for the Rams this week as many have predicted this could be a blowout in front of a national audience.
"We can't give up the big play," Vitt told reporters last week. "We have to keep the ball in front of us. We have to rally to his [Manning's] throws and make sure we tackle well."
A pair of Colts, beyond Marvin Harrison, obviously caught Vitt's eye this week, even if he couldn't recall their names during comments to the media.
"I'll tell you what, 44 [Dallas Clark] is doing a heck of a job for
them," he said. "He's one of those tight ends that they can put into the slot,
drops his weight real well, and comes out of breaks."
"87 [Reggie Wayne] is a great underneath runner; [he] catches the ball on the run
and makes people miss."
But if the Colts get rolling, the Rams are hopeful that they will be able to respond offensively based on familiarity with the Colts' style of defense.
are playing a lot of Tampa Two, the same kind of defense that we threw
up when Lovie [Smith] was here," said Vitt. "Our offense is used to facing that
every day in practice for the last three years."
Oddly enough, the player who is arguably most under the spotlight on Monday night doesn't seemed to be fazed. While readily complimenting Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney as one of the best -- if not the best in the league -- Rams offensive tackle Orlando Pace had this to say in regards to his strategy against the speedy and versatile Freeney.
"You just have to get on him quickly, get your
hands on him and shut him down," he said.
Offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild, who says the Rams didn't make any significant changes to prepare for Freeney since he's comfortable that Pace can handle the assignment, provided this assessment of the Colts offense.
"I'd say the strengths are they do rush the
passer very well," he said. "They've been able to stop drives with timely sacks."
"The other thing with that defense is that everybody is looking back in. They are all playing zone and they are all looking back in at the ball.
They very rarely get a defender one-on-one in space, when a guy gets the ball on a run or a pass, there is usually four or five guys pursuing
him with good angles."
One of the Rams who will be trying to defeat those angles is running back Steven Jackson, who knows the Rams are a huge underdog if you believe the pointspread and much of the media hype surrounding tonight's game.
"We are the only people that believe we can win this game, and right now our backs are against the
wall," he said. "We have nothing to lose,
so we're just going to come out fighting."
Torry Holt also reflected an excited expectation rather than a feeling of dread.
"We need a
win, and the stage is perfect," he said. "If we can get a win against Indianapolis...that will help this ball club as far as regaining some
confidence and regaining some swagger."
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