The St. Louis Rams' defense had taken a back seat to its record-setting offense all season -- until Sunday.
The Rams showed they have plenty of playmakers on defense in their 11-6 triumph over Tampa Bay for the NFC championship.
The Rams finished the year ranked sixth in the NFL on defense and had allowed just 15 points a game.
Tampa's offense, ranked 28th in the league, proved no match for the Rams.
St. Louis held the Bucs to 203 total yards, recorded five sacks and forced two crucial interceptions.
"I think our entire team showed the NFL and the world something today," said Rams defensive tackle D'Marco Farr. "The Bucs thought their defense was going to come in here and walk all over us. But we held them without a touchdown and proved to everyone that we are a pretty good defensive football team."
"I feel when you talk about elite defenses, you better start with the St. Louis Rams," said linebacker London Fletcher.|
The Rams tied with Jacksonville for the most sacks in the league this year -- 57. The Rams' pass rush came up big in the second half.
Tampa Bay's second-last possession started on the Rams' 49, but NFL sack leader Kevin Carter took down Bucs quarterback Shaun King for a 6-yard loss on first down. Two plays later, pocket pressure forced King to unload an errant pass that Dre Bly picked off, setting up St. Louis' go-ahead score.
"They have been successful all year getting the ball to Warrick Dunn, and on that play I guess (King) didn't see me because I was directly behind Dunn," Bly said. "We figured that if Tampa was going to beat us, it would have to be through the air. We made plays when they passed."
St. Louis had two sacks on Tampa's final drive. The second came on a first-and-10 play from the Rams' 22. St. Louis sent five rushers, and Wistrom took King down for an 13-yard loss.
"Grant Wistrom has an unbelievable motor, and it runs all the time," Rams coach Dick Vermeil said of his right defensive end. "He played a great game."
"We knew going into the game that we needed to get pressure on the quarterback," said Carter, who had 17 sacks this season. "We were confident we could get after their front five."
"You have to take your hat off to Tampa Bay," said Rams Pro Bowl cornerback Todd Lyght. "Defensively they played strong. And offensively they moved the ball a little bit. But we were able to keep them out of the end zone. We forced a turnover at the end and that proved to be the difference."