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Madison and Surtain: All-Pro corners offset Rams' All-pro receivers
The Dolphins' defense against St. Louis' All-Pro wide receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce was best displayed as the Rams drove for the tying touchdown to start the second half.
On first down from the Dolphins 19, quarterback Marc Bulger -- who said he got greedy -- tried to hit Holt on an inside seam route to the post. Dime back Will Poole and nickel back Reggie Howard had him bracketed.Bulger's throw sailed past Holt, and strong safety Sammy Knight intercepted. It was the beginning of the end for the Rams. The Dolphins scored 17 unanswered points and won 31-14.
"They like squeezing it to the inside when they are in the red zone," Knight said, "and I guess that was what [Bulger] was thinking there. He threw a bad pass, and I was in the right place."
Holt finished with one catch (4 yards). It was the third one-catch game of his career, and he has only one game with less than 4 yards.
Bruce finished with five catches (98 yards).
"I don't know if they shut us down," said Bruce, a Dillard graduate who had obtained 55 tickets to the game, "but they did a good job and played well within their scheme. [Holt] demands double coverage every week. That's pretty much what happened. He has a lot of respect in this league."
It was only the fourth time in 17 games that the Rams haven't had a 100-yard receiver. The Rams threw for 269 yards, slightly more than their 263.3 average, third best in the NFL.
"They had a bubble over Isaac," coach Mike Martz said, "making it easier to get him the ball. They bracketed Torry with inside and outside coverage."
It was the 17th straight game that the Dolphins, with All-Pro cornerbacks Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison, haven't allowed a 100-yard receiver, an NFL best. They were committed to not giving up the big play.
St. Louis' longest gain was 36 yards.
"Maybe what we did was the blueprint for covering them," Surtain said. "We were physical and forced them to dink and dunk it. They became frustrated, and it caused them to rush things."
The defense was mixture of coverage in the secondary and pressure on Bulger. He was sacked three times (26 yards), but he was rushed and hit after throwing many more times.
"Sometimes the hits after the throw are more important than the sacks," Surtain said. "After a couple of those, a quarterback starts to think about them. He starts rushing throws and choosing the wrong receivers."
The Dolphins also tried to confuse Bulger. Free safety Arturo Freeman said most of the disguises and coverage switches came on third downs. The Rams converted 2 of 13.
"We wanted them throwing the outside routes," Freeman said. "They prefer throwing inside, and it takes more time for the outside route to develop. It helped our rush."
"Our coverage helped," said defensive end Jason Taylor, who had a sack. "I think that our guys are the best in the league, and they were going up against two of the best."
Madison said the Dolphins went with their standard schemes for the most part. He and Surtain were matched against Holt and Bruce with occasional double teams and switches.
"They had two Pro Bowlers, and we had two Pro Bowlers," Madison said. "They got a few plays on us, but we got the best of it."