Archive for Monday, October 22, 2001

Repeat difficult for Super Bowl teams

Ravens struggling much like St. Louis did following championship season

October 22, 2001

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— Take it from Adam Timmerman, who's been on Super Bowl winners in St. Louis and Green Bay. No matter how much a team thinks it's ready to repeat, it isn't.

That might explain why Baltimore is 3-3 and has lost to Cincinnati and Cleveland. And why St. Louis is the NFL's only unbeaten team at 6-0 after a disappointing 10-6 season the year following its title.

"After you win a Super Bowl, you still feel that you're good but you don't have the energy you had when you were going for it the first time," Timmerman said after the Rams cruised by the Jets 34-14 on Sunday. "You don't have the extra push you need when you know teams are gunning for you."

Back to the Ravens.

Statistics tell a lot.

In six games this season Baltimore has allowed 102 points, including 24 in a loss in Cleveland on Sunday and 31 last week in Green Bay. Last season, the Ravens allowed just 165 in 16 games, a modern NFL record.

They're also getting the injuries they avoided a year ago. Jamal Lewis was lost for the season in training camp and Elvis Grbac, who was supposed to energize their passing game, was hurt again Sunday.

That sounds a little like the Rams of a year ago. Their defense allowed 471 points, a league high, so they finished 10-6 and New Orleans knocked them out of the playoffs in the first round.

This season, with eight new starters, they're playing with a chip on their shoulder despite a 6-0 record. That's particularly true after last week's 15-14 win over the Giants, when Kurt Warner was sacked six times and New York forced four turnovers.

"We hear it all," Warner said Sunday. "Everyone thinks we're soft, that we're a finesse team, that we can't take a pounding. We do what we do. Not everyone can play against us like the Giants did."

So the Rams took it out on the Jets on Sunday even without Marshall Faulk. Trung Canidate replaced Faulk and ran for 195 yards, sitting out the last 14 minutes, and the Rams ran for 234 against one of the NFL's poorest run defenses.

Just to rub it in, St. Louis succeeded on an onside kick holding a 31-7 lead late in the third quarter.

"We did it because we thought it would work," coach Mike Martz said. "The Jets came back from 17 points down last week. They're capable of coming back. We saw it was there, so we did it."

Perhaps.

But you can't help feeling that St. Louis is a team on a mission, 6-0 or not. The Rams are only the second NFL team to start three straight seasons with six victories. The 1929-31 Green Bay Packers had the only other such streak.

St. Louis took a lot of heat last week after being pushed around its dome by the other team from New York. The Rams also had narrow wins over the Eagles and 49ers on the road, suggesting they could easily be 3-3, like Baltimore.

The players don't buy it. Yes, they could have lost one of those three, but not all of them.

"This team is way ahead of last year's," Timmerman says. "Last year, that hunger wasn't there. This year I think we've gotten it back. I went through the same thing when I was in Green Bay. It's just hard to regenerate your hunger when everyone spends the offseason telling you how good you are."

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