Fans get the final word
Posted: Sunday January 30, 2000 03:42 PM
Because of the inclement weather hundreds of fans jammed CNN Center to grab some junk food (from the likes of Taco Bell, Arby's, McDonald's, Wendy's, etc.) and talk trash to fans wearing opposing jerseys.
The most popular replica jersey appeared to be Tennessee's No. 90, Jevon Kearse, but no less than seven other Titans players (Frank Wycheck, Steve McNair, Eddie George, Marcus Robertson, Chris Sanders, Bruce Matthews and Al Del Greco) were represented by fans. The most popular Ram was Isaac Bruce, while six other Rams replicas (Kurt Warner, Torry Holt, Marshall Faulk, Todd Lyght, Orlando Pace and Kevin Carter) were spotted.
You can call me Al's pal
Fans of kickers are hard to come by -- family notwithstanding. Yet there were two different Tennessee rooters donning jersey No. 3, belonging to kicker Al Del Greco.
"We're the same age and for years he was the Titans' offense," said Jeff Thorneycroft.
Thorneycroft said he's never received any grief from wearing the shirt. "You're like instant buddies" with anyone else wearing the Del Greco replica, he said. "It's like having the same sports car."
No more than a couple of hundred feet away was another woman wearing an autographed Del Greco shirt.
"He's a nice guy," said Venus Walters. She's also not afraid to take the heat when her hero shanks one. "They call him 'Ricochet Al,' but I prefer to call him 'Automatic Al.'"
"Hey, nice Del Greco jersey," commented a fellow Titan supporter walking by.
Point taken, but, still, isn't it odd to wear the replica jersey of a kicker?
"No," said Thorneycroft's wife, Beth, who was wearing the jersey of offensive lineman Bruce Matthews.
A chuckle sandwich:
CNN Center is also among the last resorts for fans looking for tickets. Among them were two gentlemen standing in front of the CNN/Sports Illustrated booth.
Each wore a sandwich board. One proclaimed, "My wife says don't come back without a ticket." His friend's read, "The beer's on me. How 'bout a ticket?"
So far, neither has had any luck, but they hinted that might change, as scalper prices have dropped from $1,500 a ticket earlier in the day to around $800 or $750.
Optimistically, they kidded they'd settle for face value.
Best sign seen: A Titans fan holding up a board featuring the drawing of a Tennessee logo with a fist coming out of it crunching against a Ram's face.
Written above it: "The Silence of the Rams."
St. Louis' other unit
With all the talk of the St. Louis offense, the Rams' defense has kind of been thrust aside.
But according to Thomas George of The New York Times, "The St. Louis Rams are built in the manner of recent Super Bowl champions from Denver, Green Bay, Dallas and San Francisco. Those four franchises won the last seven Super Bowls with offenses that sparkled like diamonds and with defenses that many fans tossed aside like bricks."
The defense, created by former defensive coordinator Bud Carson, lies in the scheme and the confusion and outright havoc it wreaks on the opposing offense. It's a defense designed by a "Man of Steel."
It is a complex defense; some Rams said it took at least two years to completely learn it. Though the base defensive alignment is four down linemen and three linebackers, the Rams' defense will use the 3-4, the zone blitz, any formation to pressure the quarterback, bringing as many as eight pass rushers if needed. It will rush the passer until he is at least uncomfortable in the pocket. This requires that the secondary provide solid coverage.
The fact that the Titans have already seen this defense, and got the better of it, doesn't faze Peter Giunta, St. Louis' assistant head coach and defensive coordinator.
"In our last game against Tennessee [a 24-21 loss at Nashville], we were more prepared for Neil O'Donnell to start at quarterback and not Steve McNair. We had to adjust on the fly. We're excited about the chance to play this game knowing what to expect at quarterback. Jacksonville sat back and didn't bring an extra pass rush on McNair until it was too late. We won't do that. Of course, you can be there and miss the tackle. We have always preached that the bigger the game, the better you have to tackle."
The revival of Jim Washburn
Heard enough heart-warming "rags to riches" stories? Ready to talk about blocks and tackles and blitzes and bombs?
Please, read just one more. It's the last one, we promise.
Tennessee defensive line coach Jim Washburn was a career assistant who just enjoyed the life of being a coach, says Tom Jolly of The New York Times. But his world turned upside down after a 1988 Sports Illustrated story identified him as one of several South Carolina assistants who ignored or encouraged steroid use. Washburn didn't deny his guilt, admitting he made a mistake in trying to help a player get steroids from a safe source.
He was sentenced to three months at a halfway house and three years probation. The damage to his career seemed irreparable, and no one would have blamed him for quitting. Instead, he went about rebuilding his career. He started in the Arena Football League (sound familiar?) with the Cleveland Barons, went to NFL Europe, returned to the Arena League, then went back to college, first at Arkansas, then Houston.
Washburn's big opportunity came last year, when the Titans, looking for a new defensive line coach, called. He still remembers the interview with Coach Jeff Fisher.
"He asked me if I wanted to be a head coach and I said no. He asked me if I wanted to be a defensive coordinator and I said no. He asked if I wanted to be the best defensive line coach in NFL, and I said, 'No, I want to coach the best defensive line in the NFL'"
Today, he is coaching in the biggest game of his life.
Titans to follow their gut
The key to today's Super Bowl is as simple as one play or stopping one play -- depending on which side you're on -- according to Mike Freeman of the New York Times.
The play, called Unit Right-14 Gut, is the staple play of the Tennessee offense, and its success or failure may go a long way in determining the tempo of the game and, therefore, the outcome.
"We always try to establish the running game," Tennessee offensive coordinator George Henshaw said, "and that is one of our best plays. It will be the key for us. Most of the teams we watched play the Rams, by the end of the first quarter, the Rams were playing with a two-touchdown lead. We don't want that to happen."
In order to prevent that, the Titans will need a solid rushing game. That means big doses of Eddie George.
"In order for us to win this ballgame," head coach Steve Fisher said, "Eddie must have an MVP type of game. There's no question about it."
The Rams know they must keep the pressure on George. Said Rams defensive lineman Kevin Carter: "We've seen film where he has just flat-out run guys over. He has a lot of power. We're going to make sure we wrap up on tackles and hit him hard. Because that tackling-at-the-ankles stuff won't work with him."
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