Billick parting carries empty ring; Vikings coordinator left 'emotionally bankrupt' by loss, but ready to move on; NFC notebook


MINNEAPOLIS -- It was a bittersweet moment for Brian Billick.

The offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings knows he'll probably realize his dream of becoming an NFL head coach in the next few days, but he had wanted to leave the Vikings with a Super Bowl ring.

Instead, he'll leave after a 30-27 overtime loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC title game in which his offense, the highest-scoring in NFL history, was held to seven points in the second half.

"Right now, emotionally I'm pretty bankrupt about any feelings. Emotionally, you can't help but be stunned," he said.

Of his likely departure, he said, "I've got seven years committed to this organization, these guys, many of them have been here the whole time. Any time you build relationships of that sort, there's a certain fondness that you have for that. There's an inclination to just want to stay put.

"But I've been a career coach all my life. The opportunity to be a head coach is something that I've worked for my entire life. If that should be presented to me, it will be time to move on.

"The emotional investment you have in something like this can be gut-wrenching, but these guys will be able to look back at some point with pride on what we did this year. It's hard to do right now," he said.

He kept his composure and showed he could cope with adversity as he tried to put the best face on the loss.

"It was a hard-fought NFC championship game that went into overtime and was by three points. That's the way a championship game ought to be," he said.

Explaining how the Falcons slowed his offense, Billick said, "They were very passive. They didn't dog or blitz much. They were going to back off and make us run the ball. They play very smart with a great deal of passion."

Moss: We got a little rattled

Minnesota rookie wide receiver Randy Moss, who caught six passes for 75 yards, but dropped two and had one batted away from him by safety Eugene Robinson in overtime, said, "Atlanta came here and played a perfect game. I think we got a little rattled in the end. We couldn't make anything happen. They put the pressure on us and I think there was a little fatigue out there," he said.

Hitchcock stop sign is run

Atlanta quarterback Chris Chandler said the 70-yard pass to Tony Martin on third-and-nine early in the fourth quarter was set up because cornerback Jimmy Hitchcock tends to stop around 14 to 15 yards to try to make a play. He said Martin made a double move and then streaked by Hitchcock.

Chandler said when he released the ball, he couldn't see Martin, but just aimed it where he thought Martin would be. He gave the offensive line credit because the play takes a long time to develop.

Elway vs. Reeves

The big matchup of the Super Bowl will be Denver quarterback John Elway vs. Atlanta coach Dan Reeves.

Elway and Reeves had their differences in Denver even though they went to three Super Bowls and Elway has indicated he might have quit if the Broncos hadn't fired Reeves after the 1992 season.

Chandler said he has a good relationship with Reeves.

"Dan's a great guy," Chandler said. "Whatever happened to him and John is over and done with."

Falcons tune out din

Chandler has a reputation of being good at drawing opposing defenses offside with a hard count. But he said he couldn't take any credit for Minnesota jumping offside four times.

He said he used a silent count the entire game and the linemen simply went at the snap of the ball. Atlanta didn't jump offside once.

The Falcons may have been helped in coping with the noise because they play in a dome. They're now the first dome team to make the Super Bowl.

"I think it's helped that we play every year in the Superdome and the TWA Dome," Chandler said. "It's always noisy in both those places. You just get used to it."

Remembering Rankin

This is Atlanta's first trip to the Super Bowl and comes one year after the death of team founder Rankin Smith.

A few hours after Smith's death on Oct. 26, 1997, the Falcons lost to Carolina to drop to 1-7. Since then, they've won 22 of 26 games, including yesterday's.

"All week long, I've been thinking about dad," said Taylor Smith, the team's president. "I wish he was here. But he was in charge of bringing Dan Reeves here. I think he's looking down on this, enjoying the work that's going on down here and maybe helping us a little bit."

Wins, not yards, matter

Jamal Anderson wasn't bothered by the fact that the Vikings, concentrating on stopping the run, held him to 67 yards rushing.

"Statistically, I had a bad game. I didn't realize I had a bad game statistically because I had touchdowns, first downs and was picking up the blitz," he said. "I felt like I was going in the normal flow of the game plan. I'd take 50 carries for 2 yards as long as we win anytime."

Z as in zebra

Referee Walt Coleman, who worked both the New England-Buffalo and San Francisco-Indianapolis games that featured several controversial calls, worked this game. That means he was supposedly one of the three top-rated officials in the league this year.

Working overtime

A list of NFL playoff overtime and the length of the overtime play:

Dec. 28, 1958: Colts 23, Giants 17 (NFL championship), 8: 15.

Dec. 23, 1962: Texans 20, Oilers 17 (AFL championship), 17: 54.

Dec. 26, 1965: Packers 13, Colts 10 (NFL Western playoff), 13: 39.

Dec. 25, 1971: Dolphins 27, Chiefs 24 (AFC divisional playoffs), 22: 40.

Dec. 24, 1977: Raiders 37, Colts 31 (AFC divisional) 15: 43.

Jan. 2, 1982: Chargers 41, Dolphins 38 (AFC divisional), 13: 52.

Jan. 3, 1987: Browns 23, Jets 20 (AFC divisional), 17: 02.

Jan. 11, 1987: Broncos 23, Browns 20 (AFC championship), 5: 38.

Jan. 3, 1988: Oilers 23, Seahawks 20 (AFC wild card), 8: 05.

Dec. 31, 1989: Steelers 26, Oilers 23 (AFC wild card), 3: 26.

Jan. 7, 1990: Rams 19, Giants 13 (NFC divisional), 1: 06.

Jan. 3, 1993: Bills 41, Oilers 38 (AFC wild card), 3: 06.

Jan. 8, 1994: Chiefs 27, Steelers 24 (AFC wild card), 11: 03.

Jan. 17, 1999: Falcons 30, Vikings 27 (NFC championship), 11: 52.

Pub Date: 1/18/99

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