Scouting report

January 30, 2000|By Ken Murray

Titans run offense vs. Rams run defense - TITANS EDGE

Eddie George is the battering ram the Titans will spring on St. Louis. He will pound away until the Titans find a soft spot. The Rams' smallish defensive line will try to out-quick Tennessee's big offensive line. St. Louis defensive tackles Ray Agnew and D'Marco Farr helped stuff Tampa Bay's running game a week ago. What makes Tennessee different is the improvisational running skills of quarterback Steve McNair.

Titans pass offense vs. Rams pass defense - RAMS EDGE

McNair is averaging 100 passing yards in three playoff games. That won't work today. He must be able to hit the intermediate and deep routes to take the heat off George. This is where the Rams' No. 20 pass defense can be exposed. Unfortunately for the Titans, their best receiver, Yancey Thigpen, is probably out with a hairline fracture of his foot. Kevin Dyson becomes the go-to guy.

Rams run offense vs. Titans run defense - RAMS EDGE

The Rams have yet to establish a running game in the playoffs. Marshall Faulk is averaging 2.3 yards a carry on 28 attempts, and as a team, the Rams are getting 2.2. During the regular season, they got 4.8. But they have thrown twice as many passes as runs in the postseason, so the emphasis hasn't been there.

Rams pass offense vs. Titans pass defense - RAMS EDGE

No one threw the ball as well as Kurt Warner in 1999. But the Rams had serious problems with their pass protection in the Week 8 loss at Tennessee, when Warner was sacked six times. One key is whether the Titans can pressure Warner with a four-man line. If so, they can play seven defensive backs on passing downs. Losing safety Marcus Robertson won't help, though.

Special teams - TITANS EDGE

Kick returner Tony Horne (three) and punt returner Az-Zahir Hakim have scored four touchdowns off returns this season. But the Titans have returned three for scores, including two huge playoff TDs. Where Tennessee has the edge is in the kicking game. Al Del Greco has hit seven of eight field-goal attempts in the postseason, compared with one of three for Jeff Wilkins.

Key matchup - RAMS EDGE

Rams RB Marshall Faulk vs. Titans' pass defense. How Tennessee chooses to cover Faulk is the issue. If it's with a linebacker, the Rams likely will turn several big plays. If it's with a defensive back -- as the Titans did in Week 8 -- Faulk may not be as damaging. The Rams love to stretch the field with their wide-outs, then come back underneath with short passes to Faulk for big gains.

Coaching - TITANS EDGE

The Rams' Dick Vermeil is rumored to be a changed man from the Philadelphia Eagles' Super Bowl fiasco of the 1980 season. We'll see. At the least, he did a terrific job getting the team back on his side after two lost seasons in St. Louis. But he's up against the hottest coach in the league right now in Jeff Fisher. The Titans' young coach has been masterful this postseason.

Intangibles - TITANS EDGE

The Rams are expecting to win because they have the most explosive offense in the league. Fisher has tweaked the Titans with the respect angle. Nobody, he tells the players, believes they're for real. So far, it's worked. The Titans weren't daunted having to enter the playoffs as a wild card, or having to go to Jacksonville for the AFC title game. They're not easily discouraged.

Prediction - RAMS EDGE

The Rams are coming off their worst game of the year. The Titans are on a seven-game roll and an all-time franchise high. But the loss of Thigpen and Robertson to injuries will blunt the Titans' momentum and prove their undoing in the Georgia Dome. The Rams complete their magic ride, 38-28.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.