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Rams Play for Title in City of Big Bears and Broad Shoulders

January 12, 1986|RICH ROBERTS | Times Staff Writer

CHICAGO — Citizens of the City of Broad Shoulders are firmly convinced that the destiny of their brawny football team is to play in Super Bowl XX at New Orleans.

If Los Angeles has smog, Chicagoans are choking on smug.

But who can blame them? Isn't it written that Walter Payton must play in at least one Super Bowl before he proceeds to the Hall of Fame?

Don't the prophecies of defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan call for Eric Dickerson to leave the Rams' own laughable Super Bowl hopes lying on the rug of Soldier Field "at least three times" in the form of fumbles during today's NFC championship game?

Aren't the Bears favored to win by 10 1/2 points?

Aren't the Bears just too tough?

Won't it be too cold for the beach boys to care whether they win or lose, just so long as they keep their quiche warm?

Maybe so. Maybe not.

First, about that weather. It was 80 degrees when the Rams left Anaheim Thursday, and they brought about half of that with them. The forecast was for a high of 43 today, an improvement of 29 degrees over last Sunday's local conditions when the Bears buried the Giants, 21-0, in a divisional playoff, and certainly an acceptable compromise for the Californians. Less predictable was the wind, a critical factor in this stadium.

On television, it will look like a Rose Parade day without the flowers. Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub, would say: "Let's play two ."

Payton could just move in alongside Banks as another superstar who never reached the big one.

Somehow, the Rams don't see themselves as fall guys for the Bears' "Super Bowl Shuffle," and they have minimal interest in Payton's place in history. They, too, won a division title, although with a less impressive record, 11-5 to 15-1, and they, too, shut out last week's playoff opponents, the Dallas Cowboys, 20-0.

This is what Bear Coach Mike Ditka has tried to make his players understand.

"It's a no-nonsense town," he said. "They (the fans) relate to the way we play. But don't forget, the fans aren't playing. The players know what's going on.

"Football is based on confidence. You have to believe you can win. But we see the film. We know who we're playing this week. We understand what the Rams have accomplished. They're a good team and a physical team.

"We like it. We like the challenge. They like a challenge. All the conversation really doesn't matter. It'll start about 11:30 Sunday (CST), and then we'll see what happens.

"We understand that last year we came this far and got stopped (by the 49ers, 23-0), and I don't think it was due to overconfidence. We got beat by a better football team. This year, we'd like to change that, but we can only do it on the field. We can't do it by talking or analyzing."

The Rams are confident, too. CBS analyst John Madden talked to Dickerson and came away impressed.

"Dickerson is the most confident guy I've ever talked to before playing the Bears," Madden said. "He is really confident."

Dickerson's confidence is partly based on his past success against the Bears, whom he has punctured for 127 and 149 yards in his brief career--with no fumbles.

Most of the pregame analysis agrees that it will be a low-scoring game, that both sides will come armed with their sledgehammer offenses.

The Rams understand that one way to avoid the Bears' devastating pass rush, led by National Football League sack leader Richard Dent, is not to pass. They completed only seven in beating the Bears at Anaheim last season, 29-13, and only six in trouncing Dallas last week.

If this were figure skating, the Rams, like the Bears, would win in the school figures, not the free skating.

The Bear supporters say they played that '84 game without quarterback Jim McMahon and defensive end Dan Hampton, who were injured. The Rams can counter that they played it without their quarterback, Dieter Brock, who was still working in Canada at the time.

The anti-Dieter Brock fan club would say that was to their advantage. That's the way Brock's rookie season in the NFL has gone. His statistics measure up to McMahon's, but his charisma got misplaced on the way down from Canada.

"If you're winning ballgames, who cares if you've got great stats?" McMahon asked this week. "I don't have great stats, either."

Brock also has been rapped for being too short.

"I might be a hair taller than Dieter," McMahon said. "I'm about 6 feet."

Told that Brock is listed at 6 feet, McMahon said: "They list me taller, too."

These teams may be a lot more alike than many people believe.

"We haven't gone downfield (with long passes) as much as some teams, but we're trying to win football games," Ditka said. "We're not trying to impress the media or the fans so they'll call us geniuses. And, of course, weather conditions dictate a lot what you do."

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