NFL Playoffs 2001 NFL Playoffs 2001


Opposites attract

While Patriots wallow, Rams seek gateway to greatness

Posted: Sunday February 03, 2002 12:08 PM

Flags and Flattery
Direct Snaps
Dumbest Thing ...
The Bottom Line
By B. Duane Cross,

Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe penned one of the more interesting pieces of the week Sunday, opting to forgo piling on the gameday angle in favor of a history lesson for New England sports fans. In short, Cafardo says, "The Patriots have gone their first 42 years without a championship, the longest streak of any team in the four major professional sports -- baseball, football, hockey and basketball. "

Under the headline "Drought needs reign" (also among of the best of the week), Cafardo reminds fans of "the 84-year title drought of the Red Sox. But says at least they've won championships (five in their first 18 years). The Celtics have won 16, the last in 1986; the Bruins have won five, none since 1972. "

Meanwhile in St. Louis, Jim Thomas of the Post-Dispatch went on the offensive. (Expect anything less from a Rams writer?) Instead of adding to the week's laundry list of how the game will be won, Thomas merely says: "If the '01 Rams take care of business Sunday night in the Louisiana Superdome, they will stamp themselves as a great team. Not one of the greatest NFL teams ever, but a great team nonetheless. "

"So nothing less than a Super Bowl championship will make this a successful season for the Rams. It has been the goal -- some might say, the burden -- for a long time."

After a week of pundits and talking heads breaking down the Rams' offense vs. the Patriots' defense and the Rams' defense vs. the Patriots' offense and how important special teams will play a role in Sunday's title game, what else is there to talk about, except the foregone inevitable? However, maybe the most remarkable tidbit to come out of Hype Week was the unearthed sense of humor of Mike Martz. "I put a tie on to come over and speak with you today," he told reporters Friday. "My players didn't recognize me. It took 10 minutes before they recognized who was talking to them." Funny man, that Martz. Who knew?

Happy days
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said that when Marshall Faulk was traded out of the AFC East from Indianapolis, ''It was one of the happiest days of my life. He's the hardest player in the league to match up against.''
Let's get physical
While the ''finesse'' label has dogged the Rams all year, the Patriots never bought into it. ''They're plenty physical when they're putting up 35 points on the board. I don't care how you do it," says Patriots LB Bryan Cox.
Old timers
Eight current Patriots played on the 1996 AFC championship team -- nine if you count Troy Brown, who was on the injured list with a double hernia by the time the team reached New Orleans for Super Bowl XXXI.
Show me the money
Five teams -- the Falcons, Rams, Saints, Bears and Patriots -- have gone from worst to first in their division in that time. Seven teams have gone to the last four Super Bowls, with the Rams the only team to double-up.
Flag -- Not-ready-for-shrine time
Bill Parcells, the former head coach of the Patriots, Giants and Jets, was among six finalists in Saturday's voting for the 2002 class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Five were chosen for enshrinement.
Flattery -- Patriotism
The theme for Super Sunday is ''Heroes, Hope and Homeland,'' with tributes to those lost Sept. 11. Paul McCartney is expected to perform Freedom, written after the terrorist attacks.
Flag -- Guessing game
The Rams were the last team to beat the Patriots (Nov. 18). What if Antowain Smith hadn't fumbled late in the first half when he was trying to bull in from the St. Louis 2 with New England already leading 10-7?
Flattery -- Traveling man
Bill Moyers, host of PBS' Friday night news hour Now, travels to St. Paul, Minn., from his New York City home every year to watch the Super Bowl with his oldest son. "He's 42 now," says Moyer. "It's a tradition."
The original pregame planned to be a salute to New Orleans' Carnival culture. In fact, FOX's entire pregame show was to be conducted from a rolling Mardi Gras-style parade through the streets of the city.
Times-Picayune columnist Chris Rose notes the Maxim party was hosted by "actress/party girl Tara Reid and she was back-less, bra-less, tape-less (!) and shameless, a Mac Daddy Maxim look, to be sure. "
Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal says corporate hospitality could be down as much as 25 percent for Super Bowl XXXVI. Reebok, an NFL apparel partner, didn't even take a luxury suite for the game.
Joe Namath, who's predicting the biggest upset since Super Bowl III when he led the Jets to a stunning win against the Colts: "I'm not just picking the Pats to cover the spread, I think they're going to win the game.''
"There's still a chance. Hell may freeze over."
-- *N Sync's Chris Kilpatrick on if the Patriots can win
Of the 71,000 tickets for Super Bowl XXXVI, the NFL followed a standard formula of keeping about 25 percent of the tickets. The Rams and Patriots each received 17.5 percent of the tickets; the Saints got 5 percent as the game's host team; and the other 29 teams, including the expansion Texans, divvied up the remaining 35 percent of the tickets.

Newspaper reports were used to compile this feature.

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Saturday's Glance: Marshall's plan
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.