1-25-01, 4:45 p.m.
Our take on Sunday's championship games, which we see ending in the Tom Ridge Homeland Security Super Bowl between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in honor of the former Pennsylvania governor:
EAGLES 24, RAMS 21 _ No, no, this isn't the rantings of a deranged Syracuse alum who has had one too many Dome Beers. Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb is 60 minutes away from becoming the hottest thing in America this side of a Dick Cheney sighting.
Not to mention-the speed in his decision making and running that counters the Rams' PacMan defense.
You want to talk Mike-Martz-Kurt-Warner-high-tech-Rams'-offensive-numbers? Here are some Hall-of-Fame numbers:
The Eagles are comparing the numbers of McNabb as a second-year starter to those of some of the top 10 quarterbacks from the past 20 years and only Steve Young, Dan Marino, Joe Montana, Brett Favre, Jim Kelly and Boomer Esiason had a better completion percentage. Only Marino, Esiason and Randall Cunningham threw more touchdown passes and only Marino and Cunningham threw for more yards in their first two seasons as a starter.
On a day you're trying to forget the Bengals could have had Rams running back Marshall Faulk instead of Dan Wilkinson and Eagles cornerback Troy Vincent instead of David Klingler, numb yourself in some more numbers that take the edge off the Rams' edge:
The Eagles' defense has been historic as well as hyped in allowing
only one offensive touchdown in four playoff games over the last two seasons.
ESPN.com pointed out Friday that no one scored more than 21 points against the Eagles all season, only the fourth time that has happened since the 1970 merger. The Eagles have gone 34 games without allowing more than 24 points, the longest such streak in the NFL since the Vikings went 41 consecutive games from 1968 into '71.
The Baltimore Who?
But the most relevant stat for their matchup with the Rams' juggernaut is that during the regular season the Eagles were first in the NFL in preventing touchdowns in the red zone and second in allowing the fewest points, fewest passing yards and stopping third-down plays .
Of course, that all stems from Philadelphia's terrific blitz package that is in serous trouble if Vincent isn't full speed because of a groin problem.
Still, the blitzes could force the Rams to use Faulk more as a pass protector than a pass receiver and take a huge weapon away from them
Sure, the Rams are fast on their turf, but it's also going to speed up Eagles like McNabb and pass rusher Hugh Douglas
If the Packers' pass rush got to Rams quarterback Kurt Warner last week enough to hurt him, Douglas (9.5 sacks) and company could downright torture him
You hate to bring in the Rams' season-opening 20-17 overtime victory over the Eagles because in NFL time, that has all the timeliness of the McKinley Administration.
But. . . that was one of only six times in the last three seasons the Rams have been held to 20 or fewer points in a game. Warner did throw for 308 yards, the most the Eagles allowed all season. But the two Rams' touchdowns came on turnover-aided drives combining for just 42 yards while Philadelphia logged four sacks and two interceptions.
STEELERS 21, PATRIOTS 10 _ ** No one ever again wants to hear about Bengals kicker Neil Rackers' footing problems.
Not after Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri had the greatest New England sports moment on ice since Bobby Orr's overtime goal gave the Bruins the 1970 Stanley Cup on last week's 45-yard field goal in the snow that forced overtime and put the Patriots here.
But Bill Buckner and Bucky Dent and Bill Laimbeer live. New England's ride is over. The only matchup that looks to be favorable for the Pats against Pittsburgh is Vinatieri against the very shaky Kris Brown.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has been great in his Earl Morrall job in relief of Drew Bledsoe, but a young quarterback never looks good in his first look at the Steelers' 3-4 zone blitz. Even the Ravens acted as if they were trying to decipher a James Bond top secret code. And it was their third time playing against it this year and second time in a month.
New England's very average (19th-ranked) offense needs to win the battle of field position, which is virtually impossible against the NFL's top-ranked running game and top-ranked defense
The Steelers' offense might not chew up big numbers against a steady, veteran defense. But the Patriots won't get their hands on the ball very often and don't have the punch to go a point a minute.
At an average of 34:10 a game, Pittsburgh keeps the ball longer than Cal Ripken.
The big matchup? The Patriots' offensive line is lacking the experienced, athletic tackles you need to fend off the tag team of Joey Porter and Jason Gildon rushing from the outside with a combined 21 sacks.
The Pats gave up 46 sacks this season, nearly eight over the league average, while the Steelers rang up a NFL-best 55.