KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 ET
TV: FOX, Sam Rosen, Tim Ryan
SERIES: 79th game in a series that has covered the Rams' moves from Cleveland to Los Angeles to St. Louis, with the Rams holding a 40-37-1 lead. The Lions are 2-1 against the Rams since they moved to St. Louis in 1995 but all three of those games have been played in Detroit. The game Sunday will be the Lions' first in the Edward Jones Dome.
2006 RANKINGS: Lions: offense 21st (29th rush, 8th pass); defense 24th (6th rush, 29th pass). Rams: offense 19th (19th rush, 14th pass); defense 18th (23rd rush, 14th pass)
PREDICTION: Rams 24-21
KEYS TO THE GAME: Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz returns to St. Louis for the first time hoping his new offense can begin to gel. He needs to fight the urge to get pass-happy, which was often the case last year with the Rams. RB Kevin Jones was productive last weekend, and the Lions need to build off that against a St. Louis run defense allowing 129.7 yards per game. Detroit QB Jon Kitna has been sacked 12 times, and the best remedy is a running game defenses must respect. The Rams' offense hasn't been potent, but QB Marc Bulger is doing an excellent job of protecting the ball while getting comfortable in coach Scott Linehan's system. The Lions have struggled to pressure the passer the last two games, so Bulger might open things up more this week. But the Lions have won only five road games in the past five years, so the Rams don't want to do them any favors.
FAST FACTS: Lions: Jones' last 100-yard rushing game came in Week 15 of his rookie season in 2004. ... Rookie LB Ernie Sims has led the team in tackling in every game this season. Rams: Bulger has thrown 114 passes since his last interception on Nov. 13 last season. ... Bulger's 21-4 record at home is tied for third-best all-time for first 25 home starts in a career.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
During the team's last road game, the Detroit Lions racked up 14 penalties, victimizing themselves routinely.
In effort to help them prepare for the next two weeks on the road, including Sunday's contest at St. Louis, Lions' head coach Rod Marinelli wanted to reintroduce some of the rules to his club. So on Wednesday and Thursday this week, the Lions' own practice routines were subject to officiated scrutiny.
Marinelli brought in a handful of Big Ten collegiate football referees to help sharpen the penalty ridden team. And after a few early whistles, the result was a more sound and cohesive unit -- both offensively and defensively.
"We're just trying to emphasize, and the players all of a sudden see that everything is a little bit more detailed," explained Marinelli. "You try to put a good emphasis on - if we're trying to make an emphasis on something then I've got to find a stimulus to get it going."
Besides offensive line issues, Marinelli was concerned with his defensive secondary entering the contest against Rams' quarterback Marc Bulger. Bulger is 21 and four at home, and typically has his way with defensive backs. The officials kept a close eye on Detroit's cornerbacks, looking for secondary holding and/or pass interference penalties that could surface on Sunday.
"All you do is work on them - hard," said Marinelli.
"I wanted to emphasize those things and just some things on coverage we've hit
very hard. Sunday is test day, so we find out if we addressed them. We've hit
them and now is when the real stuff happens. We'll find out."
It's looking more and more like Rams left tackle Orlando Pace might not be able to play Sunday against the Lions. Pace remains listed as questionable on the injury report after not participating in practice Thursday.
Pace suffered a concussion and missed the second half of the Rams' Sept. 17 game against San Francisco. He was originally listed as questionable, but started feeling better as the week progressed, and ended up playing against Arizona.
What's significant about Thursday's developments is that when he was feeling good last week, Pace decided on his own to take part in Thursday's practice. He had initially come out in sweats, but then went into the locker room and put on his gear.
Coach Scott Linehan had said Monday of what happened last Thursday, "He came out to stretch and he said, 'I feel good.' He went back into the locker room and put on his gear and came back out and said, 'I'm going to get ready to play in this game.' The players saw him with his gear on and he got in some walkthrough drills and non-contact stuff. I think that had a great effect on our team and that he was letting them know that he was planning on playing."
That might not be the case this time. Pace hasn't felt right this week, and on Wednesday, Linehan said, "I'm not sure you'd say it was nausea, but he said his head's not quite right. He just doesn't feel quite right so we've got to be a little bit cautious with him, as we have been, but kind of do it day by day."
Pace was to be evaluated Thursday afternoon and each day to see if it's possible he will play. Friday's practice could be critical in terms of deciding his availability. Asked what was different this Thursday as opposed to last Thursday, Linehan said, "We being more cautious this week because of how he felt after the game."
If Pace can't play, Todd Steussie would slide from left guard to left tackle
and Adam Goldberg would be the left guard.