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Stopping Faulk

For the Titans, it's a theme to live (and possibly win) by

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Posted: Saturday January 29, 2000 10:51 AM

By John Donovan,

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

ATLANTA -- One of the great themes of this Super Bowl -- there is a school of thought, by the way, that suggests there are only seven great themes in any given Super Bowl: Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Defense, Coaches, Owners, Fans and Free Food -- is ... well, it's How to Stop Marshall Faulk.

That falls into the Running Backs theme, we'd guess.

Anyway, Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher is practically losing sleep over this How to Stop Marshall Faulk theme. The Tennessee defense, a bent-nosed but agreeable bunch, thinks about "it" every day.

Can "it" be done? Can the Titans win Sunday if they don't do "it?"

And, after all, who's going to take responsibility for at least trying to Stop Marshall Faulk?

"Hopefully, Gregg Williams will put me in that position again," says Donald Mitchell.

Now, Mitchell is a nice guy. He's a smallish, friendly, polite rookie defensive back. He wants to be, in effect, the hero of Tennessee's Super Sunday. If he Stops Marshall Faulk, or at least helps, he will be.

But, c'mon Donald. This is Marshall Faulk, the St. Louis Rams' do-it-all threat, a 211-pound plug who has moves and speed and can catch the ball. He had more yards from scrimmage this year than anyone ever has.

Mitchell, on the other side, is 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds.

Still, Mitchell has practice stopping some good backs. He was given credit for putting the vise on Indianapolis Colts rookie Edgerrin James, another running-receiving threat, in the Titans' big win two weekends ago.

Williams, the team's defensive coordinator, put Mitchell in the game to shadow James on passing downs. James had one catch for eight yards to go with his 56 rushing yards.

It is a strategy that Williams will use again Sunday, though maybe not as much.

"Donald Mitchell will be on him at times, Joe Bowden [a linebacker] will be on him at times," Williams said. "Eddie Robinson [another linebacker] will be on him at times. We might double him in some cases.

"I think what we have to do is change the looks so they don't know who's on him all the time."

It will be a huge test for Mitchell, the biggest challenge of his young career. James is good, but he isn't Faulk.

"Marshall Faulk has a little bit more of an edge, I think," Mitchell said.

The edge, of course, is Faulk's size and his experience and just the fact that he's harder to hit than Randy Johnson from 25 feet away. And Faulk, who amassed more than 2,000 yards worth of runs and catches this season, has enough confidence that he doesn't care who teams put on him.

"It can be a corner, a safety, a linebacker. I've even seen them dragging ends out there. It depends," Faulk said. "It doesn't matter to me."

Faulk ran for 90 and added another 94 receiving when these two teams met back in October, a 24-21 Tennessee win. If the Titans give up that yardage again, they don't stand a chance this time around.

On the other hand, if Mitchell can do a job on Faulk ... a hero is born.

Which, come to think of it, is the eighth theme of any given Super Bowl.

On to The Glance, which asks this question on the eve of the Big One: Is Dick Vermeil one talkative guy or what?

The answer: Hey, he used to be in TV, remember?

The calm before ...
The NFL insists that Atlanta won't be hurt in consideration for future Super Bowls because of the freezing temperatures this week. It's cold in a lot of places this time of year, it's pointed out. But how about a permanent home for the Super Bowl -- in the Virgin Islands?
Raising the roof
This needs to be pointed out. The Rams play in a dome. The Titans play in one of the louder stadiums in the NFL. Playing in a dome doesn't matter. And both teams play on artificial turf all the time, too. Doesn't matter either.
Going into seclusion
The two head coaches met Friday with most of the mass media for the last time before the game. They took their practices indoors Friday, they'll do some more studying and such Saturday and you won't hear another live cliche out of them until Sunday.
The small-market mambo
A Nashville-St. Louis Super Bowl isn't New York-L.A. But, really now, New York-L.A. isn't really an option, is it? Everyone knows there are no playoff teams in New York.
Flag -- Whiners:
OK, The Glance isn't a big fan of cold weather. But, c'mon, Atlanta is not Syracuse. It's not Green Bay, for goodness sakes. Four inches or so of snow, if it happens? We can handle.
Flattery -- Downtown Atlanta:
One of the reasons they brought the Olympics here, and a Super Bowl before this one, is that this place can be positively raucous when the plentiful hotels here are filled. Should be fun this weekend, here and in the ritzy Buckhead part of town.
Flattery -- The police blotter:
It's empty this week, void of any players. So far.
Flag -- Nice guys:
Other than a weak "guarantee" of victory from St. Louis' Az-Zahir Hakim, there has been no lipping off this week. C'mon, guys, stuff like that makes these games fun.
Flattery -- Volunteers:
Let's hear it for all the folks giving up some of their time this week -- and many of them have given up much more than that -- just to make the city look good. Folks, can you point us toward the nearest fireplace?
The freest thing floating around town this week? Super Bowl predictions. Everybody has one. Some have two.
The Titans have played man-to-man coverage almost exclusively all year. They'll do it against the Rams knowing exactly what it might mean.
For every team that was lousy last season, this Bowl's for you.
The Glance offers this play-calling tip for the Rams: Play-action.
1.) The Titans haven't lost to a team with a four-legged mascot this season.
2.) Nine times, teams who have met in the regular season have met again in the Super Bowl. The score: Regular-season winners lead 6-3 in the big one.
3.) A company in St. Louis is selling gold and blue contacts -- one for each eye -- for $100 for the pair.
Answers below.
Our daily look at a key matchup in the game
The Ks -- Al Del Greco, Tennessee vs. Jeff Wilkins, St. Louis. Del Greco is steady, as steady as they come. He made 21 of 25 kicks, 16 of 18 under 40. Wilkins is 20 of 28, 12 of 13 inside 40. But Wilkins' plant leg is bothering him. That's a concern for the Rams.
As fans start packing downtown hotels: "I'll meet you in the lobby."
All in all, this has been one tepid Super Bowl week -- other than the weather, we mean. After last year's Eugene Robinson trick (in a manner of speaking), The Glance would be stunned if anything big breaks before kickoff. But, as we say, there's still time.
T-F answers: 1.) Truly, 'tis true. The Titans have lost only to the Ravens, 49ers and Dolphins. 2.) No, winners of the regular season game are ahead 5-4. Buckle down! 3.) It is a strange, strange world in which we live.

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