Running Defense = Super Bowl?

While watching the conference championship games, you couldn't help but notice one common theme that propelled New England and Carolina to victory. Both teams ran the ball well, played great defense and didn't make mistakes. <br><br> Remember that philosophy?

It was the one the Steelers used to be successful during their run during the mid-'90s. And since the NFL is a copycat league, you can bet more teams will be relying on that philosophy in 2004.

Forget about the high-power passing game of the St. Louis Rams and Indianapolis Colts. It's a running game and defense that get you to the Super Bowl.

You can bet the Steelers will be more run-oriented in 2004.
  • Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb are going home and Tom Brady and Jake Delhomme are going to the Super Bowl. Who says you need to have a big-name, first-round quarterback to lead you to the Super Bowl.

    Certainly Brady would now be considered a franchise quarterback, but Delhomme in no way, shape or form would fit into that category.

    A winning quarterback need only to keep the chains moving by converting some third downs and take care of the football.

  • Ricky Manning Jr. is 5-foot-9 on a good day. Ty Law is 5-foot-11. Both had three interceptions in the championship game by being around the football.

    While it would be nice to have a big, physical cornerback who can cover, they don't grow on trees. Give me a little guy who's willing to mix it up and stay around the football.

  • It looks as if Dominic Rhodes is completely back from the torn ACL that cost him his second season in the league.

    The former undrafted rookie is scheduled for restricted free agency this offseason and could be a nice bargain.

    Because they have cap problems and have to re-sign Manning, the Colts aren't likely to put a high tender on Rhodes, who is just a backup despite rushing for over 1,000 yards as a rookie two years ago.

    That means whoever signs him wouldn't owe the Colts anything for signing him. The Colts will likely make Rhodes a tender to retain the right to match an offer for him, but aren't likely to bid too much to keep him.

  • McNabb is taking a lot of heat for Sunday's loss, but the official who didn't at least penalize the Panthers for a late hit on the play in the first half during which McNabb was injured should be fined by the league.

    McNabb had already been tripped up for a sack when a Carolina linebacker ran in and jumped on the prone McNabb, taking a full three steps to do so. He then rolled McNabb's legs up over his head, inflicting the damage.

    And then there is the fact the Eagles receivers stink on toast. Todd Pinkston couldn't get off a jam if his life depended on it and James Thrash is a No. 2 or 3 receiver at best.

    The Eagles should really open up the vault for Terrell Owens.

  • Duce Staley might look good in a Steelers uniform for a year or two, but wouldn't be a long-term solution to the team's running back problem. That, coupled with the fact he'll likely be the top free agent running back on most team's boards will keep the Steelers from taking a run at him.

    The signing bonus and contract needed to sign Staley would leave the Steelers in the same situation in two years in which they find themselves now: Paying big money to running backs who are washed up.

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