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ST. LOUIS 18, DENVER 10

Rams Rely on Six Field Goals

September 11, 2006|From the Associated Press

ST. LOUIS — Jeff Wilkins' nickname is "Money," as in money in the bank. Thanks to the St. Louis Rams' new-look defense, his franchise-record six field goals were just enough of a deposit.

Wilkins bailed out a shaky offense, accounting for all his team's scoring in an 18-10 opening victory over the Denver Broncos. In the process, he became the first Ram to score 1,000 points.

"We know when the game's on the line or it's really, really important, he's going to make it," quarterback Marc Bulger said. "He has for years now."

The Rams' aggressive schemes on defense forced five turnovers, including three interceptions of Jake Plummer passes. The third of those picks, by Corey Chavous with 2:26 left, all but put away the game. "They made a couple of big plays, but we didn't let it shake us up and say: 'Oh wow, here it goes,' " Rams middle linebacker Will Witherspoon said. "We dug back in and stuck our feet in the ground and went back at it."

Plummer, who completed 13 of 26 passes for 138 yards, expects Broncos fans will be clamoring for first-round pick Jay Cutler. The Broncos committed 16 turnovers all last season and only seven interceptions.

"I'm sure they will," Plummer said. "They've been calling for him since he got drafted."

Scott Linehan's NFL coaching debut was a success, but much of it was owed to Jim Haslett, the new St. Louis defensive coordinator who was Saints head coach the previous six seasons.

"I couldn't be more proud of our team," Linehan said. "I think there's no such thing as style points in winning."

Linehan had scoffed at criticism when the Rams' first-string offense scored no touchdowns in 11 exhibition possessions. In the opener, the regulars were 0 for 11 again, including the end of the game when they killed the clock at the Denver six-yard line.

Wilkins, who tied his career best of six field goals with the 49ers in 1996, made two long field goals, from 51 and 48 yards, and also connected from 26, 38, 29 and 24 yards. He missed only on a 44-yarder.

"I always try to predict for myself to try and get ready, but six wasn't anywhere near the prediction this week," Wilkins said. "But I'll take it."

The Broncos' defense kept it from becoming a blowout, holding the Rams to only six points off three consecutive takeaways in the first half.

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