DE Tyoka Jackson (97), a Buc in 2000 and a Ram in 2001, hopes to be on the winning side of this rivalry twice in a row
Monday's Tampa Bay-St. Louis showdown will be the third game in the past 23 months between these two budding rivals.
In January of 2000, in the NFC Championship Game, the two teams played Buc ball, as a defensive struggle finally ended in an 11-6 Rams win. The St. Louis offense came through in the final five minutes with the winning touchdown.
Last December, in the rematch, the game was much more in the Rams' usual style, as Tampa Bay came out on top of an offensive shootout. The Buccaneers' offense came through in the final minute with the winning touchdown.
Or they got lucky. Depends on your point of view.
Former Buccaneer and new Ram defensive end Tyoka Jackson on the teams' rivalry: "From a Tampa point of view, it was very intense. We had a lot of bitter feelings after that '99 game. We felt like we should have won that game. Defensively, we felt like we played about as well as we could possibly play, and still came up short. It was really discouraging to see the Rams' offense go up and down the field on us in 2000. Our offense was able to make a couple of plays, and we got lucky and pulled it out at the end. It was really scary as a defensive player to watch that Rams' offense go up and down the field. So I'm just glad now to be on the other side.
"Now I know really what the NFL's all about, in terms of a total team, a bunch of guys who enjoy playing with each other, enjoy playing football, and I couldn't be more happy. I'm glad to be on this side of the rivalry, and I think we're going to be the winning team come Monday night."
These thoughts from Jackson and more make up the game week notes being produced on the other side as two cities gear up for a much-anticipated Monday night round three. Following are further notes and quotes excerpted from the materials provided to the St. Louis media.
DOME SWEET DOME
Since 1999, the Dome at America's Center has been a tough place for opponents to play. The Rams are 16-4 at home in the regular season over the past two years. In their last 23 games in the Dome, dating to the final home game of the 1998 season and including the 1999 playoffs, St. Louis is 19-4 at home. During these 23 games, the Rams have outscored opponents, 801-457 (average 34.8-19.9).
SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS
During both the 1999 and 2000 seasons, the Spirit of St. Louis has been in full effect as the Rams have set home attendance records each season, averaging 65,583 per game over that time. It was the third time in the last four years the Rams set a home attendance mark. In the Rams' 2000 regular season home finale against the Vikings, a regular season Dome-record crowd of 66,273 attended the game. The Rams-Panthers game on November 11 drew a crowd of 66,069.
Including two playoff games during the 1999 season, all home games since the Rams relocated to the Gateway City have been sold out, a franchise-record 54 consecutive games. The Rams are averaging 66,074 fans during their first four home games in 2001.
THE WARNER DOME?
Rams' QB Kurt Warner is 16-1 at home as a starter during the regular season (18-1 including playoffs). Warner opened his Rams' home career as a starter by winning his first 15 regular season games. Warner has registered a passer rating of at least 100.0 in 12 of 17 regular season starts at home.
MONDAY NIGHT MADNESS
This will be the second of three Monday Night Football appearances for the Rams in 2001, and the only home appearance. The Rams won their earlier Monday night game, winning at Detroit 35-0 Oct. 8. The Rams will play their final MNF game at New Orleans Dec. 17. Last season, the Rams were 1-2 on MNF, beating Denver at home 41-36 Sept. 4, losing at home to Washington 33-20 Nov. 20, and losing at Tampa Bay 38-35 Dec. 18. The Rams are 19-22 all time, 7-12 at home, 12-10 on the road.
SMITH, EX-BUCS SET TO FACE FORMER TEAM
Defensive coordinator Lovie Smith leads the new Rams defense on Monday night against Tampa Bay, where Smith coached five seasons as linebackers coach. Smith is just one several Rams with Tampa Bay ties: WR Yo Murphy, DE Chidi Ahanotu, DT Tyoka Jackson, and LB Don Davis.
Defensive Coordinator Lovie Smith On facing Tampa Bay: "First off, I look at is as an opponent. We're trying to win the division, get to the Super Bowl, and this is another team we have to play. Of course, there are special feelings. There are a lot of good friends down their that will always be good friends. You compete a lot harder growing up when you're going against your brother than you do an outsider. It's a good team coming in that we have to beat."
On relationship with Bucs head coach Tony Dungy and his influence on career: "He's just a great man. I learned an awful lot of football from him, but not just football. He has a great defensive mind. I think he is an excellent head football coach, but just him as a person too, having been around him five years, I got to see us build a program together. (Everything from) losing the first five games to turning it around, seeing him in crises when things are going bad, and how you should remain consistent, no matter what, with what you believe. Things you believe in, stay with them no matter what. November football - the playoff stretch - and how important this time of the year is."
On similarities in defensive scheme: "Some of the things, I had some of the same basic philosophy before I got to Tampa. But Tampa was really where it solidified what I believed in, and what I thought I would want to do in case I got an opportunity to lead a defense. Going into Tampa, you got to see that it really would work and see the system work. When you get out on your own, you're anxious to start it from scratch and mix in a few more things."
On Bucs' LB Derrick Brooks, whom Smith coached for five seasons: "He's family. We talk quite a bit, and will continue to talk long after the game is over and long after football is over. He's a big-brother type to my kids, and just a good guy that does it the right way. Just so happens, he's a great athlete that just comes to work everyday with a notebook, taking a notes, letting you coach him (saying) 'Help me get better.' I had a chance to see a guy as a good as there is at his position, and how he prepares and how he plays the game."
WR Yo Murphy On facing former team: "I'm excited. I still have a lot of friends on the team, a lot of guys I stay in contact with. I appreciate the opportunity they gave me. But, I'm so excited to be here with my new teammates and go out and fight to get this victory. We're on a roll, and we just want to keep making every step toward the Super Bowl.
On added incentive playing former teammates: "It's huge. I would lie if I said it wasn't. It's huge to play against these guys that I hang out with all the time in the offseason, and played with for a couple of years. I want to go and show them and everybody what I can do. It's big doing it against them, a great defense, a lot of good friends, and it's a huge game. I talk to Derrick Brooks, Shaun King, Reidel Anthony, Sheldon Quarles, Anthony McFarland. I wish them luck, they wish me luck, until November 26."
DE Chidi Ahanotu On being with Bucs from losing to winning: "Whenever you have a chance to be a part of something like that, it's something special to go from the doormats to perennial powerhouse. That will always stick with me. It was real hard, but when you start off, and then you get to see the fruits of your labor, it's something special.
On Lovie's impact, both with the Rams and Bucs: The thing about our success down at Tampa is we had great coaches. We had Lovie, we had Herman Edwards, and you've seen these guys move on to higher roles. That's a testimony to what kind of coaches they are. When you look at the success of the team, you have to look at the top all the way down. It starts at the top. Lovie's one of those that was one the big reason for our success. He's making a huge impact here (in St. Louis) because he's bringing the same philosophy he had in Tampa; hustling to the ball, everyone doing their assignments, being accountable to each other. Whenever you have that kind of system, it gives you a foundation for greatness. Lovie knows the system, it's a system he's been in, and he's made all the right moves to get all the right guys to play that system."
DT Tyoka Jackson On playing against former teammates: "I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be fun. I've got a lot of friends from that team, guys that I respect and enjoyed being around for five years. Usually when you're in a situation like that, those are the guys that are the most fun playing against because you know them well. It's' going to be a treat."
On keeping in touch with guys: "I talk to a few of them every now and then, but to be honest, I've enjoyed my new team so much, and gotten to know so many new guys on my team, I spend most of my time talking to them. I keep in touch with a couple (former teammates), but I'm a Ram now, so that's really what it's all about for me."
On extra motivation: "I'm just going out and trying to win a ball game. That's the most important thing to me, to help my team win. That's all that matters. When I walk off the field, I just want to be on the winning side. And I'll be able to smile, and talk to my former teammates. That's all I'm focused on, trying to help my team get a win. If I can play well, and help my team get a win, then I'll be happy."
LB Don Davis On how tough it will be not playing Monday night: "It will be very tough. That's the team I played with. I know a lot of those guys. I was really looking forward to playing them, having a lot of fun out there, clowning with the guys I do know. That's extremely disappointing to me, but I try to look at the positives in that I could have been lost for the season, so hopefully I'll be back next week for the Atlanta game. I would have liked to have played this week, but our guys will do fine out there."
On Rams-Bucs rivalry : "It's a very heated rivalry. I remember being on the other side of it, being a Buccaneer, we just couldn't stand the Rams. It's funny that Mike Martz always talks about how teams just gun, they bring their best when they play the Rams. I think when I was (with Tampa Bay) the last couple years, we knew we had to come and play well in order to win the game, so it's a very heated rivalry."
On Bucs you are closest with: "I think I'm closest to the linebacker group. Derrick Brooks and Jeff Gooch. Shelton Quarles, Alshermond Singleton, Jamie Duncan, Nate Webster, those are all guys I'm real close with. But I had tremendous friendships with a lot of the other guys. Karl Williams, a lot of the wide receivers and running backs, Warrick Dunn, Mike Alstott. There are a lot of friends I have on that team and I wish them the best."
On Lovie Smith's impact on the Rams' defense: "I think that Lovie Smith has made a tremendous impact on the Rams defense. When you watch the film last year, guys were out of position a lot of times on defense and that's what we don't have with a Lovie Smith-type defense. It's a discipline, a discipline to fundamentals and reading and reacting to your keys, not guessing at plays. A lot of times, guys watch film and they see a certain formation they automatically think 'Okay, this play is coming,' and that's where you get yourself in trouble. I think that's what maybe some of the guys did on this defense last year. So Lovie brings a tremendous amount of discipline to this defense."
On if he's surprised at the success Lovie's had quickly: "Not really. You could tell when a guy has success written all over him, and no matter where he is in his career, whether he's a player or a coach, I think that you can just tell. The way that Lovie Smith, when he was a linebacker's coach, went about his preparation, and the different types of things he discussed, were the same types of things a defensive coordinator or head coach would bring up. It doesn't surprise me that he's having the success. I think sometimes when you don't have decision-making ability that can hinder you somewhat, and I think with Mike Martz and Lovie Smith, they have a relationship where Mike Martz can run his offense and I think Lovie can kind of run his defense. And so he was able to bring guys like Aeneas Williams and Kim Herring and Mark Fields into this defense, and those are discipline guys, guys that are going to win for you, guys that will work hard. Grant Wistrom, Brian Young, these guys you know are gonna give you 100%, so you just love to play on a team like this. I'll take this team, this defense, any day, over a defense that has two or three big-name guys that are not going to give you 100 percent."
2001 RAMS OFFENSIVE NOTES
The Rams lead the NFL in total offense, averaging 424.4 yards per game. St. Louis is sixth in the NFL (third in the NFC) in rushing offense, averaging 128.9 yards per game. The Rams lead the NFL in passing offense, averaging 295.6 yards per game. The Rams lead the NFL in points scored (279), third down conversions (57 of 113, 50.4 percent), yards per first down attempt (6.47), and total first downs (204).
For the fourth consecutive week, the Rams gained at least 400 total yards. Against New England, the Rams gained 482 yards, their second-highest total of the season. St. Louis, which led the NFL in total offense each of the past two seasons (averaging 400.8 yards per game in 1999 and 442.2 per game in 2000), gained over 400 yards for the 25th time since 1999. The Rams are 20-5 in those games (7-2 in 1999, 8-2 in 2000, 5-1 in 2001). Over the past four games, the Rams are averaging 474.3 yards per game (448 @ N.Y. Jets, 474 vs. New Orleans, 493 vs. Carolina, 482 @ New England).
2001 RAMS DEFENSIVE NOTES
The Rams rank fourth in the NFL (lead in the NFC) in total defense, allowing 271.0 yards per game. St. Louis ranks fourth in the NFL (second in the NFC) in rushing defense, allowing 81.7 yards per game. The Rams are 10th in the NFL (fifth in the NFC) in passing defense, allowing 189.3 yards per game. The Rams lead the NFL in fewest first downs allowed (131).
The Rams' defense allowed 10 points, took the ball away three times, and limited New England to 230 total yards, the second fewest allowed by the Rams in 2001 (146 vs. Carolina 11/11). The 51 rushing yards allowed was also the second fewest allowed this year (31 vs. Carolina), and the 13 first downs allowed were the second fewest allowed by the Rams this year. (six vs. Carolina).
BRUCE, THERE HE IS
WR Isaac Bruce led the Rams with seven receptions for a team-high 130 receiving yards last week at New England. Bruce's 25-yard reception in the first quarter moved him past the 8,000 yard receiving mark in his 102nd game, the third fastest in NFL history. His 10-yard reception on the Rams' final drive of the first half helped the Rams take the lead for good on RB Marshall Faulk's nine-yard touchdown catch just before halftime. Bruce posted the 29th 100-yard receiving game of his career when his 25-yard reception in the third quarter pushed him over the century mark for the third time this year. In the fourth quarter, Bruce's 11-yard reception helped set up the Rams' final touchdown, a 11-yard TD pass from QB Kurt Warner to RB James Hodgins. In his eighth season out of Memphis, Bruce has 43 receptions for 769 yards with three touchdowns and has two rushes for 13 yards. Bruce is second on the Rams in receptions, and leads the Rams, is fourth in the NFC, and ninth in the NFL in receiving yards.