Rams, Steelers fit Super Bowl profile


Create a profile of the past 10 Super Bowl champions, and here's what you would find:

Nine of the past 10 champs ranked in the NFL's top five in total offense. (Exception: the 2000 Ravens.)

Eight scored more than 400 points in the regular season. (Exceptions: the 2000 Ravens and the 1993 Dallas Cowboys.)

Seven ranked in the league's top five in rush offense.

Seven ranked in the top five in rush defense.

Five ranked in the top five in total defense.

And if you're considering quarterbacks, eight of the past 10 Super Bowl winners featured quarterbacks who ranked among the league's top five passers. (Exceptions: the Ravens' Trent Dilfer in 2000 and Denver's John Elway in 1997.)

Conclusions: (1) Hey, those 2000 Ravens had a pretty good defense, and (2) a team that's serious about the Super Bowl had better bring a potent offense.

Now for the kicker. The St. Louis Rams are a perfect 6-for-6, matching all criteria listed above. The Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers are next with four and three matches, respectively. The Ravens are the only other team with more than one, and both of their hits are for defense. Green Bay, Oakland, Miami, Chicago and the New York Jets all are 1-for-6, while Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and New England missed out completely.

All of which suggests a St. Louis-Pittsburgh Super Bowl for New Orleans, and at least one of them should make it.

Shanahan tempted

Three years after his last Super Bowl with Denver, Broncos coach Dan Reeves was fired by owner Pat Bowlen. Reeves was 25-23 over those three seasons.

Three years after his last Super Bowl with the Broncos, coach Mike Shanahan got a handshake, three-year contract extension from Bowlen. He, too, went 25-23 in that period.(Of course, Reeves lost his last Denver Super Bowl, 55-10, to the 49ers, for whom Shanahan was offensive coordinator. And Shanahan won his second straight Super Bowl, 34-19, over Reeves' Atlanta Falcons, three years ago.)

Perhaps it's not so curious, then, that Shanahan seriously considered taking the Florida job that Gators athletic director and longtime friend Jeremy Foley dangled last week. When Shanahan talked with Bowlen, he sought reassurances that Bowlen still believed in him.

"My one question to Pat was, 'Do you want me here?' " said Shanahan, who has four years left on his current contract.

Bowlen does, and when Shanahan agreed Monday to stay, the two men celebrated with cigars and wine into the early morning hours at Bowlen's Cherry Hills home.

Different strokes

In the final minutes of the New York Giants' season-ending, 34-25 loss to the Packers, coach Jim Fassel did not use any timeouts because he wanted to avoid potential injuries. Some Giants players questioned whether Fassel had given up at the end of a frustrating 7-9 season, and general manager Ernie Accorsi reportedly was incensed about it.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, Jacksonville coach Tom Coughlin called the first of his three timeouts after the Bears had quarterback Jim Miller take a knee with two minutes left in a 33-13 blowout. Chicago responded with three running plays. On the second play, defensive end Renaldo Wynn, a free agent in March, blew out his knee. When the Jaguars took over on downs, the Bears blitzed and sacked quarterback Mark Brunell on the first play.

Polley's impact

Linebacker Tommy Polley's first season was a hit with the Rams, who voted him the team's rookie of the year. Not bad considering that Polley, a second-round pick, had to beat out three first-rounders to earn the award -- defensive tackles Damione Lewis and Ryan Pickett and safety Adam Archuleta.

The former Dunbar star was second in tackles to middle linebacker London Fletcher.

The big chill

Putting the playoffs in prime time, the New England Patriots will be host to a divisional-round game Saturday in Foxboro, Mass. The average temperature for Jan. 19 in New England is 25 degrees, and that's a daytime figure. The game is scheduled to start at 8 p.m.

Those TV ratings sure are important.

They said it

"You know, one day they're going to wear Fruit of the Loom, next day they're wearing Jockey." -- Washington Redskins defensive tackle Kenard Lang on owner Dan Snyder possibly changing coaches for the fourth time in 13 months.

"It's January. It's a little late for Christmas. Everyone assumed it was going to happen. To have it happen the way it did was a little disappointing." -- Packers tackle Mark Tauscher on the gift sack of quarterback Brett Favre that allowed the Giants' Michael Strahan to set the single-season record.

"I have made that very clear that I would like to play full-time next year." -- Seattle quarterback Trent Dilfer, who has won 20 of his past 21 starts and had a one-year contract with the Seahawks.


Former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Ron Zook's new job at Florida will pay him $1.5 million annually. That's more than the Saints' Jim Haslett made this year ($900,000) as the lowest-paid head coach in the NFL. ... Under coach Mike Holmgren, Seattle's pass offense has finished 16th, 21st and 25th in the league the past three years. ... If Marty Schottenheimer returns as Redskins coach next year, pass rusher Bruce Smith will not. ... The Giants have been to three Super Bowls and failed to reach the playoffs each of the following seasons. ... Ted Tollner and Galen Hall are early candidates for the offensive coordinator job that opened when the Dallas Cowboys demoted Jack Reilly.

Last call

In the beginning, the Tennessee Titans were Super Bowl contenders. In the end, they were 7-9 also-rans who squabbled among themselves. Consider what unfolded in the first half of last week's 23-21 loss to Cincinnati.

With the Titans leading 14-0, safety Perry Phenix and cornerback DeRon Jenkins got into an argument on the sideline over a seat on one of the hot benches. Jawing led to pushing and Phenix finally took a swing at Jenkins, but missed.

Said cornerback Samari Rolle: "It's sad, isn't it? It just goes to show that's what we've come to on our team. That's just how the year went. It's something we want to forget."

Compiled from interviews, wires services and reports from other newspapers.

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