ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Rams have a defense, too.
Maybe it doesn't measure up to the team's overpowering offense. Or even to Tampa Bay's rugged defensive unit, led by NFL Defensive Player of the Year Warren Sapp.
It does, however, deserve some credit, even if it tends to get ignored.
Tennessee at Jacksonville, 11:35 a.m. (CBS)
Tampa Bay at St. Louis, 3:15 p.m. (FOX)
''With an offense like ours, it's understandable if people forget about our defense,'' middle linebacker London Fletcher said as his team prepared for Sunday's NFC championship game with the Buccaneers. ''Hey, offense draws everyone's attention, especially one that scores the way our offense scores.
''But we've got some playmakers on our defense, and we've done our share of good things.''
--Such as score seven times on interceptions returns, led by outside linebacker Mike Jones and end Grant Wistrom with two apiece.
--Such as get a league-high 17 sacks from All-Pro end Kevin Carter. In all, the Rams had 57 sacks, most in the conference and tied with Jacksonville for the NFL lead.
--Such as rank first against the run, yielding only 74.3 yards a game. No runner got 100 yards on the ground against them.
It will be the chore of Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott to break that streak. If they can't get something going on the ground, the Bucs could be in trouble with a rookie quarterback in Shaun King and a so-so group of receivers.
Tampa Bay's offense has been good at making even mediocre defenses such as Washington's look intimidating. The 'Skins shut out the Bucs deep into the third quarter last weekend before Tampa rallied, sparked by All-Pro safety John Lynch's interception.
This is no mediocre average defense the Bucs will face, however. Like the St. Louis offense, it is aggressive and fast.
''They make plays,'' Dunn said, ''and when you make mistakes they take advantage of it.''
Added Bucs coach Tony Dungy, considered a defensive mastermind:
''The thing people do not talk that much about is they have been playing great defense and their special teams and defense are creating field position. This is a well-rounded team.''
The Bucs have three All-Pros on their defense in Sapp, Lynch and outside linebacker Derrick Brooks. Carter is the only one for the Rams, but they have several topnotch defenders.
Fletcher, the Rams' leading tackler, is extremely active and gets to the sidelines quickly. Jones is a ball hawk.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.