Rams seeking throwback feel vs. Vikes
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- At least the St. Louis Rams will look like winners on Sunday.
Players will be wearing 1999 throwback uniforms, the season the Greatest Show on Turf was born and the franchise won its only Super Bowl.
"Yeah, I've seen them," cornerback Ron Bartell said. "They look great. Hopefully, we'll be able to bring back some of that throwback energy."
Against a different opponent, the odds of a happy ending in the royal blue and bright yellow colors once worn proudly by Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and Co., might not have been so long. The Rams (0-4) have been feeble offensively and mistake-prone under new coach Steve Spagnuolo, and their 14-game losing streak is the longest in the NFL.
That leaves an extra day of preparation, plus the fancy duds, as the lone edges over the unbeaten Vikings (4-0). Minnesota is averaging 29 points and has been punishing quarterbacks, totaling 16 sacks, half coming against the Packers on Monday night.
Brett Favre completed a clean sweep of the NFL, beating his 32nd team with three touchdown passes against Green Bay. His first snap in St. Louis will also be his first as a spry 40-year-old quarterback.
"Oh man, scary," Spagnuolo said. "I've got to be careful when I'm watching the tape. He's fun to watch."
Defensive end Jared Allen is coming off a career day with 4½ sacks and a safety. He's set to face an offensive line that has struggled, with St. Louis playing the second half minus both tackles last week.
The Vikings are stingy against the run, the Rams' lone strength. Steven Jackson has two 100-yard games, but Minnesota is allowing 90 per outing and has gone 27 games without allowing a 100-yard rusher.
Minnesota's biggest advantage is probably Adrian Peterson. The Packers' 3-4 defense held him to 55 yards, but he's second in the NFL with 412 yards rushing, a 4.9-yard average and five touchdowns. He's always a threat to score.
"That back we're playing is a once-in-a-generation back," defensive end Chris Long said. "He'll burn you if you don't stay in your gaps, so that's going to be our biggest focus."
In only 34 games, Peterson already ranks second in franchise history with 18 100-yard games, and has two of the franchise's top rushing seasons, leading the NFL with 1,761 in 2008.
Peterson's stiff-arm catches Spagnuolo's eye, along with several other attributes.
"He does not want to come down," Spagnuolo said. "He is going to find a hole somewhere."
Peterson's not bashful, either.
"I play this game to be the best," he said. "Not only the best back but the best player. If I looked at it any other way, I'd be cheating myself."
Peterson is so confident, he'd relish a head-to-head match race with Usain Bolt, the world record-holder at 100 meters, saying, "I would give him a run for his money."
And if the Rams decide to play seven and eight defenders near the line to take him out of the game, Peterson said the Vikings will beat them other ways.
"I feel like we're really getting an identity," he said. "I guess in the league you have to become believers."
As for the rebuilding Rams, Spagnuolo has been strident about separating this season's shortcomings from 2007-08, when the franchise went a combined 5-27. There's plenty on his plate just dealing with the mistakes and frequent turnovers that have plagued 2009.
Giveaways directly resulted in three touchdowns last week at San Francisco. A holding call negated a 92-yard return on the opening kickoff by Danny Amendola that would have given the Rams a nice boost.
Backup quarterback Kyle Boller, likely to start for the second straight week while Marc Bulger mends from a bruised rotator cuff, ripped himself for throwing off the wrong foot on an interception returned for a touchdown.
"I'm not discrediting San Francisco, but there's a lot of plays where we're beating ourselves," Boller said. "In this league you can't do that."
The Rams have been shut out with both quarterbacks starting, reaching the opposition 20 only six times. Their 4.08-yard average on first down plays is second worst in the NFL. The wide receiver corps is so thin Laurent Robinson is tied for the team lead with 13 receptions even after going on injured reserve last week.
The Vikings vow to ignore all the signs pointing to an easy victory. They're shooting to start 5-0 for the first time since winning their first six games in 2003, and they're trying to win their sixth in a row on the road.
"You just look at the bigger picture," Peterson said. "And knowing it is the NFL, any time you come and aren't focused or ready to play, you can get beat.
"A lack of focus won't be an issue for us this week."