TORONTO - Isaac Bruce returned on Sunday to the scene of his greatest moment in sports and was remembered for what once was.
Rookie Sam Bradford, meantime, gave St. Louis fans another glimpse of what might some day be.
Bruce became the first member of the Greatest Show on Turf to have his number retired. The Rams’ game-breaking receiver was serenaded by chants of “Bruce, Bruce, Bruce” by a crowd that basked once more in the presence of many members of the 2000 team that went on a stunning Super Bowl run.
Bradford gave the fans something to cheer for now, leading the Rams to a 20-10 win over Carolina. The win was the fifth of the season. In the previous three season, St. Louis was a miserable 6-42, leaving Bruce’s heroics a distant memory.
Bruce’s trademark moment came in that Super Bowl — a 73-yard touchdown catch from Kurt Warner in the waning moments that culminated in a 23-16 win over Tennessee and turned St. Louis mad with delight.
Mike Martz, who has never since had the weapons he had that season as an offensive co-ordinator, came back for the event on a weekend off from his frustrations in Chicago.
“He is the standard of how that position is supposed to be played,” Martz said during the ceremony. “He took a level of excellence and a standard he set for himself throughout his career and worked toward that, a standard higher than anybody else’s.”
About two dozen former teammates celebrated with Bruce.
“If anybody should have their jersey retired, it should be No. 80 Isaac Bruce,” former tight end Ernie Conwell said.
Bruce holds every major receiving record in club history and was a four-time Pro Bowl selection.
Curiously, he said his most memorable moment didn’t even involve anything he did. It was a catch in the NFC championship game against Tampa. It gave the Rams a spot in the Super Bowl. It gave Bruce his chance for immortality. It was made by Ricky Proehl.
Meantime, Bradford continues to become tomorrow’s hero.
Sunday he continued the Rams’ resurgence from being the league’s designated punching bag, throwing two touchdown passes in the win.
The No. 1 draft pick was an efficient 25 for 32, hitting Danny Amendola and Daniel Fells for TDs.
While beating the Panthers is hardly equivalent to victory in a Super Bowl, it’s also good to remember that unlike Warner in 2000, Bradford doesn’t have an Isaac Bruce, either.
So, for now, in St. Louis where the Rams have already surpassed expectations coming off a one-win season, on one Sunday in October, it was all good.