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Doggin' it

Titans get into their role as Super Bowl fodder for Rams

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Posted: Monday January 24, 2000 02:54 PM

By John Donovan,

Flags and Flattery
Direct Snaps
True & False
Must Sees, Mismatches
Dumbest Thing ...
The Bottom Line

The early line on the Super Bowl -- that's Las Vegas talk for the betting odds, for all you sports fans that watch the game just for the sheer enjoyment of it -- is the St. Louis Rams by a touchdown, maybe a little more, over the Tennessee Titans.

We offer this tidbit not as a way to get you to plunk down your hard-earned paycheck on one team or another, but to show what it means to be a so-called underdog.

The Titans already know.

"We'll always be underdogs," said defensive lineman Josh Evans, who keyed the big run for the Titans in Sunday's win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship. "But I'll tell you what -- this team here has a lot of heart."

The Titans will play the part of the under-appreciated, no-respect, small-market, funny-named squad from the hills of Tennessee to the hilt this week. And why not? So far, it's served them awfully well.

The Titans, after pulling out the Music City Miracle over Buffalo as slight favorites, have been the 'dogs the past two weeks, in Indianapolis and in Jacksonville. Tennessee had little trouble with either team.

And one thing about the Titans: They have no fear of the Rams, a team they beat in October by a field goal.

"We know we'll be the underdogs," said receiver Yancey Thigpen. "But I'll tell you. It doesn't matter who believes in us. As long as we believe in ourselves."

So far, that's worked out just peachy for the Titans.

On to the Day at a Glance, which asks this puzzler: How upset is Warren Sapp today?

The answer: He's probably all right. But the Tampa Bay offense -- whatever there is of it -- oughta stay clear of him, just in case.

Who are these guys?
This ain't the 49ers, or the Packers, or the Broncos -- or even the Cowboys, for that matter. Will these two teams make XXXIV a better Super Bowl? Can they make any worse of one than some of the dogs of the past 10 years?
That ice storm that hit Atlanta over the weekend won't sit well with the NFL folks. And you certainly don't want to get the NFL mad. Atlanta's about as northerly as the big game gets nowadays. Now you see why.
The Bucs
Ahhh, what could have been. With Paul Gruber out and a rookie QB in charge, though, it wasn't meant to be. Which way do you think the Bucs will be leaning in the draft this spring?
The Jags
The Titans, according to defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, built their roster to beat the Jaguars. The Jags better take a good look and think about re-working their personnel.
Flag -- Replay officials:
The Glance likes replay and thinks it can help. But after some funky calls, especially the one in St. Louis this weekend, this thing needs to be overhauled.
Flattery -- Titans fans:
Tennessee's football fans are like a good shot of whiskey. They'll stick with you for a long, long time. And make you warm all over.
Flattery -- Ricky Proehl:
Who is this guy, you ask? Well, he's the reason the Rams are still playing this week. Six catches, 100 yards, the game's only TD. Nice day's work.
Flag -- Kevin Hardy:
The Jacksonville LB made like Jose Canseco with his tackling attempts on Steve McNair on Sunday. Whiff. Whiff. Whiff. And the Jags are out.
Flattery -- The schedule:
One week between the conference championships and the Super Bowl this season. We like it. Any chance to cut down on hype is good.
Observation: No tears are being shed by media members that Tom Coughlin won't be here.
Next time, Mark Brunell, take the delay of game penalty on your own half-yard line. Sheesh.
Did the Bucs uncover something in holding Marshall Faulk to 49 total yards?
Biggest reason to root for the Rams this week: Dick Vermeil.
1. A team which plays at home in a dome never has won the Super Bowl.
2. It's easy to get around in Atlanta traffic.
3. It never snows in Atlanta.
Answers below.
Our daily look at a key matchup in the game
The QBs -- Steve McNair, Tennessee vs. Kurt Warner, St. Louis . The league's MVP, Warner, against the guy who beat the Jags by himself. Warner threw 41 TD passes this season, and clearly is big in the pocket. McNair, also clearly, is better when he's out of the pocket and creating. If Warner's receivers get open -- watch out! If someone doesn't keep an eye on McNair -- watch out!
"Hey, Marge. What are you doing? You don't have to pack the jackets!"
The Super Bowl week is full of more hype than substance, more glitter than gridiron. But Supie XXXIV, with two new teams who both seem utterly worthy, may prove to be one of the better ones in awhile. Don't know these teams? You will by week's end. Then, just sit back and enjoy.
T-F answers: 1. True; 2. Not even; 3."Have you seen the forecast lately?"

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