It's 49ers vs. Cowboys and Rice vs. Sanders

On the NFL

November 10, 1996|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Jerry Rice vs. Deion Sanders.

It's a matchup for the ages, the best receiver to play the game against one of the game's best cover corners.

When the San Francisco 49ers play the Dallas Cowboys today, the Rice-Sanders matchup will be the intriguing game within a game.

A year ago -- for the third straight year this game is being played the second Sunday in November during sweeps week to help the Fox TV ratings -- the 49ers were 10-point underdogs.

But they outfoxed the Cowboys by putting Rice in the slot inside John Taylor, who was opposite Sanders.

On the second play of the game, Elvin Grbac hit Rice with a quick slant, and Rice beat linebacker Darrin Smith on an 81-yard touchdown burst. The Cowboys never recovered and lost, 38-20.

There was no playoff rematch because the 49ers were upset in the playoffs by Green Bay, but the Cowboys aren't tipping their hand on whether Sanders will cover Rice all over the field. That would mean adjusting their whole defense.

"We're not going to talk about what our game plan is going to be," said coach Barry Switzer.

"Deion is Deion. I'm not going to change my approach," Rice said.

There are a few subplots, too. Rice made it obvious last year that he wasn't pleased with the suggestion that the 49ers needed Sanders to win the Super Bowl in 1994.

Even though he reached the 1,000-catch mark last week, Rice isn't exactly a happy camper these days, either. He has been complaining that the 49ers' offense hasn't been "aggressive" enough lately. That's Ricespeak for his feeling that he should be getting the ball more.

While playing three quarterbacks in recent games, the 49ers' offense hasn't been in sync. In his role as consultant, former coach Bill Walsh even had a players-only meeting last week with the offensive players to talk things out.

A big day for Rice against Sanders would end all the problems.

Meanwhile, Sanders' old teammates on defense are hoping he gets to see some action at wide receiver. He annoyed them last year by saying he doesn't wear his 49ers Super Bowl ring and insisting that the 49ers were "in denial" because they didn't believe the team was in decline.

Now they'd like to send him a message.

"He doesn't like to get hit, and he doesn't want to get hit," said defensive lineman Dana Stubblefield, suggesting the 49ers are waiting to hit him if he comes across the middle.

They've got to give Sanders one thing, though. He always get a lot of attention.

Promises, promises

Now that Detroit voters have approved a proposal to build a new downtown domed stadium to replace the suburban Silverdome as the Lions' home, that city should be getting another Super Bowl once it's completed.

At least, that's what commissioner Paul Tagliabue promised before the vote.

But Tagliabue's promises aren't always translated into action. Tampa, Fla., thought it was promised the Super Bowl for the year 2000 for passing a stadium proposal, but Atlanta arrived at the meeting a week ago with a 975-page proposal featuring a $7.5 million bid -- almost double Tampa's bid.

Atlanta easily carried the day, and Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer then went ballistic and virtually demanded a game.

Even though it wasn't on the agenda to award the game for the year 2001, league president Neil Austrian asked if there were any objections to giving Tampa that game. When only a few hands went up, Tampa was awarded the game that John Moag, the head of the Maryland Stadium Authority, wanted to bid on for Baltimore.

But there was a lesson for Moag. If he can come up with a bid worth $7.5 million similar to Atlanta's, Baltimore could have a shot at a future Super Bowl. In the NFL, money still talks.

Bashing Belichick

It may be a bit late, but Ravens owner Art Modell has finally said something the Cleveland fans could agree with.

He publicly criticized former coach Bill Belichick for the first time in an interview with an Akron, Ohio, columnist and said he disagreed with the controversial move to cut Bernie Kosar in 1993.

"I was sold a bill of goods on Belichick," he said. "But I also was sold a bill of goods on Bud Carson. I'm not blaming anyone. I hired him. I really believe that much of the disdain and abuse I received was because of the feelings the media and the public had for Bill."

Of the Kosar decision, he said: "I didn't want to cut Kosar. That was Bill's call. But I couldn't let him go out there alone. Bill was my coach. I supported him."

Belichick is now an assistant in New England, where former New York Giants coach Bill Parcells doesn't let his assistants speak to the media.

Zebras

Philadelphia Eagles coach Ray Rhodes can expect a letter -- likely including a fine -- from the league office after publicly

knocking the officials last week.

Because the Eagles beat the Cowboys, he figured he could complain about the officiating in Dallas without being accused of sour grapes.

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