Game Preview: Rams at Giants

This article is a preview of the game on October 2 between the St. Louis Rams and the New York Giants.

GAME SNAPSHOT

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/02/05
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: FOX, Sam Rosen, Bill Maas, Chris Myers

SERIES: 37th meeting. Rams lead, 25-11, but the Giants have won two straight.

*2005 RANKINGS: Rams: offense 7th (18th rush, 8th pass); defense 13th (3rd rush, 27th pass). Giants: offense 19th (17th rush, 15th pass); defense 31st (24th rush, 30th pass)

PREDICTION: Giants 30-27

KEYS TO THE GAME: QB Eli Manning continues to improve with each start and the Rams are allowing just 67.7 rushing yards per game, but the Giants can't get away from their ground game. New York's defense has plummeted to second-worst in the league thanks to a shaky secondary that will be without CB Will Peterson and has yet to face a passing attack anywhere near as potent as the Rams'. If the Giants can't control the clock, Rams QB Marc Bulger could have a field day. However, the Rams have to be concerned about RT Alex Barron going up against DE Michael Strahan in his first career start. St. Louis will likely leave a tight end back to help in obvious passing situations, although coach Mike Martz is never predictable. With two of the top seven scoring teams in the league, it could come down to which offense gets the ball last.

FAST FACTS: Rams: Are 14-4 (.778) in October under Martz. ... RB Marshall Faulk needs 57 rushing yards to pass Franco Harris (12,120) for 10th-most all-time. Giants: Manning has thrown 75 consecutive passes without an interception. ... TE Jeremy Shockey needs four receptions to reach 200 in his 42nd career game. Only Kellen Winslow (39) will have done it faster if Shockey reaches the milestone Sunday.

PERSONNEL NEWS:

Rams:

--G/C Richie Incognito, the Rams' third-round draft pick this year, signed a four-year contract Thursday. Incognito underwent knee surgery in May, and has been rehabbing at a center in Arizona. After reporting to the team, he will be placed on the reserve/non-football injury list and is not expected to play this season.

--CB Terry Fair had his contract terminated Thursday to make room for G/C Richie Incognito on the roster. Fair is expected to be re-signed when Incognito is placed on the reserve/non-football injury list.

--RB Steven Jackson returned to practice Thursday, and while listed as questionable, is expected to play Sunday against the Giants.

--LG Tom Nutten, who did not practice Wednesday because of a toe injury, was back working with the first unit Thursday.

--FS Michael Hawthorne, listed as questionable because of an ankle injury, returned to practice Thursday and is expected to play Sunday against the Giants.

--FB Brandon Manumaleuna, who missed part of practice Wednesday because of a knee injury, didn't miss any work Thursday and will play Sunday.

--WR Isaac Bruce missed Thursday's practice, and remains a game-day decision for Sunday's game because of a toe injury.

Giants:

--In addition to the all-but-official switch of Nick Greisen for Reggie Torbor, it is possible that Curtis Deloatch will play at RCB for Will Peterson. Two reasons there - Peterson is nursing a sore back and he didn't play well last week anyway. Peterson is in jeopardy of missing the remainder of the season.

--TE Visanthe Shiancoe, the backup to Jeremy Shockey, has caught only one pass for 5 yards this season, but earned praise from the coaching staff for his improved blocking and special teams skills. There is a strong chance that he will start to become more involved in the offense as well, according to reports.

--RG Chris Snee has quietly become a much better blocker than he was last year as a rookie, and it appears that RB Tiki Barber, when he runs those plays that allow him to pick his hole, tends to pick Snee's.

--DE Osi Umenyiora is finally vindicating general manager Ernie Accorsi, who spent a second round draft pick on him in 2003 despite his lack of experience at an obscure school, Troy (Ala.) University. Umenyiora stars at RDE and had seven tackles and a fumble recovery against San Diego.

--LT Luke Petitgout will have his hands full against St. Louis, not only because he draws RDE Anthony Hargrove, a much improved player, but because in sure passing situations he has to find a way to deal with Brandon Green. Hargrove is in his second year, Green in his third.

INSIDE THE CAMPS:

Rams:

Wide receiver Kevin Curtis is the man on the hot seat, but it's a role he is accustomed to. With wide receiver Isaac Bruce doubtful for this week's game against the Giants because of a toe injury, Curtis will get the nod as the starter opposite Torry Holt. Even if Bruce is able to play, he probably wouldn't be on the field as much as usual.

With Bruce inactive for last season's playoff game against Atlanta, Curtis caught seven passes for 128 yards, including a 57-yard touchdown.

Asked if he will prepare any differently, knowing he will probably start, Curtis said, "It doesn't change it a whole lot. Every week, I've got to be ready like last week when Isaac did go down. ... I've just got to make sure I'm on top of it."

Of course, he acknowledges being able to contribute more by virtue of playing more.

He said, "The more playing time you get, the more comfortable you start feeling out there. Even this past week, in the second half when I was in there every play, I started feeling more comfortable. I was a little bit more into the game. It's a good experience for me."

Quarterback Marc Bulger said the team just plays its offense, regardless of who is on the field.

"We have the luxury of having four really good receivers when we are in our quad package," Bulger said. "At the same time, since Isaac is going to be down, Dane (Looker) can step in and play the fourth receiver, but Kevin, like I said after the game, could start for most teams. And there are different things that Kevin does better than Isaac, but at the same time, there are a lot of things that Isaac brings to our team that we will miss, route-running and blocking and just being that leader out there. So, we'll miss him if he can't go, but Kevin, he knows what he's doing."

Pinned down to what Curtis does better than Bruce, Bulger said mainly Curtis' pure speed.

"Not saying Isaac is slow," Bulger laughed. "But Kevin is special, and we can take advantage of it."

Asked about Bulger's comment, Curtis said, "Oh, I don't know if I want to say that. I'm not better than Isaac. I would say almost everything he does is a lot better than I do. There might be something where we might be different, but we're obviously not the same player.

"Coming into to play for Isaac, I'm not trying to be Isaac. Those are some huge shoes to fill. I know I'm not Isaac. I go out and do my job. Basically I have a job and I try to do it. I can't try to perhaps be Isaac when I'm out there and do it as he would do it, because that's Isaac Bruce. I'm just going to my best and do my job."

Curtis also credited having Bruce and Holt around for helping his development as a receiver.

"I'm still learning every day," Curtis said. "Ever since I've been here, it's just kind of opened my eyes to what a true receiver he (Bruce) is. I never realized how much he is into route-running and those sorts of things. Just the way they compete. They teach you something every game. There's a reason why they've done what they've done in their careers. They've worked their tails off."

Giants:

The enormity of the Giants' defensive collapse against San Diego last Sunday night is going to result in at least one lineup change, and maybe more.

What is almost certain, though as yet unannounced by coach Tom Coughlin, is that Carlos Emmons will move back to strongside linebacker from the weak side, Nick Greisen will move in at weakside LB and second-year man Reggie Torbor will move to the bench.

Thus the only one of the three linebackers not affected will be Antonio Pierce in the middle.

"All year we have demonstrated an ability to come back from a bad series and not to have two in a row," said Coughlin. "But Sunday night we didn't do that. We were missing tackles and assignments, they (the Chargers) were running at us from all different angles and, while I agree that (LaDanian) Tomlinson is probably the best running back in the league, it should not have been that bad."

So Torbor, with the least experience (this was his first starting job, and it lasted all of two games) will go to the bench.

"If you take a loss like that back on the field with you," said Emmons, "you can get caught up in the problem and lose again. In the NFL, every now and then, you get a game like that when no matter what you do, you can't stop it."

The Giants certainly had one of those. And now, when they face the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, they are not going to fear Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson as much as they did Tomlinson.

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