Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

NFL PLAYOFF NOTES

Warner Is Only Bruised

January 23, 2002|SAM FARMER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ST. LOUIS — Quarterback Kurt Warner is expected to practice for the St. Louis Rams today despite rib soreness that required X-rays be taken Monday. The examination revealed no breaks, only a bruise.

Warner, who will face Philadelphia in the NFC championship game Sunday, has had a rough few weeks. He has endured lower back pain, stomach flu and a bruised throat that left him speechless for much of last week. His back spasms resurfaced during the Green Bay game. Warner said he probably was dehydrated from getting sick last week.

*

Yes, the Eagles blitz. Maybe more than any team in the league. But Warner might be better prepared for it than he was in the opener, when he was sacked four times for a loss of 26 yards in a 20-17 Ram victory.

"I hear Kurt all the time saying that he just wishes the whole practice would be blitz period," tight end Ernie Conwell said. "He loves the challenge. Sometimes, I think he might get bored with the typical seven-on-seven drill, where he drops back and the receivers are running perfect routes and he throws a nice ball in.

"This team is built for the blitz, as far as we don't have checks at the line of scrimmage. Every play has blitz reads put into it. The one thing is, in this offense, you have to be willing to trust one another. The quarterback has to have faith and trust in the line to know what protection they're going to pick up, who's going to come free, and know that the receivers and backs are going to make the right decisions."

*

The Ram offense never took its foot off the gas against the Packers, and Coach Mike Martz now acknowledges he goofed. He lamented calling plays for Pro Bowl running back Marshall Faulk late in the fourth quarter. Finally, backup Trung Canidate trotted onto the field and replaced Faulk.

"Marshall was a mistake," Martz said. "My whole concept in that fourth quarter was trying to keep the defense off the field. That's everything I was thinking about."

Could it be that Martz was simply frustrated, trying to jump-start an offense that never really got rolling? The Ram defense carried the team.

"I wasn't trying to score points," Martz said. "It's a different train of thought for me. I was just trying to get first downs in little pieces and run the clock down, and I got so wrapped up in that. Then I realized he was out there and that we had to get him out. ... I wish I could tell you there was a reason, but there wasn't."

*

The Pittsburgh Steelers play the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game Sunday--the fourth time in eight years under Bill Cowher they've reached the conference finals, all at home.

But only once have the Steelers advanced to the Super Bowl with Cowher in charge--in the 1995 season, when they beat Indianapolis, 20-16, in the AFC championship game before losing to Dallas, 27-17, in the Super Bowl.

Even some Steeler fans might be surprised to learn Cowher's .610 overall winning percentage is higher than Hall of Famer Chuck Noll's .572. But Cowher is 1-3 in AFC championship games or Super Bowls while Noll was 8-3, losing only in AFC title games to Miami (1972, 1984 seasons) and Oakland (1976).

Under Noll, the Steelers won AFC championship games in the 1974 and 1975 seasons (Oakland) and 1978 and 1979 (Houston). All games were in Three Rivers Stadium except the 24-13 victory at Oakland in 1974 that served as a start for the Steelers' run of four Super Bowl titles in six years.

Until that game, the Steelers had never played in a championship game in the franchise's 41-year history, and they were not expected to win until the emerging Steel Curtain defense overwhelmed the Raiders' offense. The Steelers repeated by beating Oakland, 16-10, the following year on a frozen, wind-swept Three Rivers turf.

Cowher knows what the Steelers need to do Sunday at Heinz Field to avoid an abrupt end to this surprisingly good season--if only because he knows what they didn't do in 1994 and 1997.

"Until we finish this season doing what we intended to do when we started out, we haven't done anything," Cowher said. "We didn't finish it in 1994. You remember the 1997 season because you lost to Denver. You remember the 1995 season because you lost to Dallas.

"You always remember your last game. And that has to be recognized that you're only as good as your last game."

*

The Associated Press contributed to this report

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

NFL Playoffs

WILD-CARD GAMES

NFC

Philadelphia 31, Tampa Bay 9

Green Bay 25, San Francisco 15

AFC

Oakland 38, N.Y. Jets 24

Baltimore 20, Miami 3

*

DIVISIONAL GAMES

NFC

Philadelphia 33, Chicago 19

St. Louis 45, Green Bay 17

AFC

New England 16, Oakland 13, OT

Pittsburgh 27, Baltimore 10

*

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS

AFC

New England at Pittsburgh

9:30 p.m. Sunday, Ch. 2

NFC

Philadelphia at St. Louis

1:15 p.m. Sunday, Ch. 11

*

SUPER BOWL

at New Orleans

AFC champion vs. NFC champion

Feb. 3, 3 p.m., Ch. 11

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|