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RAMS, TITANS TRY ON CINDERELLA'S SLIPPER TONIGHT

The questions about the St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans finally get answered tonight.

Which one of these would-be Cinderellas is a true Super team?

We find out when they kick off Super Bowl XXXIV at 6:25 p.m. in the Georgia Dome.

Usually when the NFL season gets to this point, at least one team is acknowledged as having the look of greatness.

John Elway and the Denver Broncos.

Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers.

Steve Young and the San Francisco 49ers.

Each went into the big game as the real thing. Kurt Warner and the Rams? Steve McNair and the Titans?

There are nagging questions about both sides.

For the Rams, the question is, are they as good as their statistics indicate?

By now, most football fans know about the Rams' record-setting offense, their 32.5 points per game, Marshall Faulk's record-setting season for combined yards rushing and receiving, and Warner's phenomenal 41 touchdown passes.

But all those gaudy numbers are tempered by the Rams' competition.

St. Louis had the easiest schedule in the NFL this year. Rams' opponents combined to go 93-163.

The Rams did not beat a team with a winning record during the regular season. They didn't play a defense ranked among the top 10 in the NFL during the regular season, and 10 of the 16 they faced were ranked 20th or worse.

When the Rams finally met up with a top-10 defense, last week against Tampa Bay, they eked out an 11-6 win.

"There are some things we would do differently if we went back and played that game," coach Dick Vermeil said. "We have to get the ball to the people that can make plays."

The Titans, meanwhile, haven't exactly been pigskin Picassos this year.

In playoff wins over Buffalo and Indianapolis, the Titans sported a button-down, wing-tip offense only Rush Limbaugh could love.

Talk about conservative. Titans quarterback Steve McNair has passed for a combined total of 300 yards in three playoff games.

"I know there are some games of ours that are pretty boring to watch, because we are going to pound it 30 or 35 times," said Titans offensive coordinator Les Steckel. "But our objective is to keep the defense off the field and keep their offense off the field."

That's the Titans' blueprint for success today.

Eddie George, their 6-foot-3, 240-pound, 1,304-yard rusher, will try to outmuscle a Rams defense that ranked No. 1 in the NFL against the run. (Once again, how valid are statistics? The Rams played only four games against teams ranked among the top half of the league in rushing).

McNair will need to make a few big plays, like he did in the AFC Championship game against Jacksonville.

If St. Louis can get off to a fast start, it might be hard for McNair to pass the Titans back into the game.

The Rams have indicated they will attack the Titans downfield early, unlike their approach against Tampa, when they played a possession-passing game.

Will the Titans be able to slow down a pass offense that averages 272 yards a game?

"The key is tackling," said Titans defensive coordinator Greg Montgomery. "What Tampa Bay did against St. Louis as well as anyone I've seen in years is tackle extremely well. Their scheme was similar to what ours was when we played (St. Louis) earlier (in October). We talked to the Tampa Bay staff, and one of the keys we came away with was making sure to minimize the yards after the catch."

Tennessee played eight defensive backs on occasion in its 24-21 win over the Rams in October and got good pressure with just four rushers. It will be interesting to see how much they dare to blitz today.

The Titans don't want to get into a fast-break game against Warner & Co.

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