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Brandt: Keys to the game

(Jan. 29, 2002) -- Before the Dallas Cowboys played the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XII, we had to play them in the regular-season finale. Tom Landry addressed the team before the game and told them, "There's a good chance this is the team we'll be playing in the Super Bowl."

We still played to win -- and we did, 14-6 -- but Landry was careful not to show the Broncos anything that might give them an edge if we met again in the Super Bowl. And as it turned out, Dallas won Super Bowl XII, 27-10.

Including that Dallas-Denver game, this year marks the 11th time that Super Bowl opponents have met during the regular season. For the record, the team that won during the regular season is 5-5 in the Super Bowl. The last time this happened was in 1994. Ironically, San Francisco beat San Diego by 23 points during the regular season, 38-15, and then beat the Chargers by 23 in the Super Bowl, 49-26.

As everyone knows by now, St. Louis beat New England this season, 24-17 at Foxboro Stadium. Rams quarterback Kurt Warner threw for more than 400 yards and had a passer rating of 104 in that game. It's not often a quarterback puts up those kinds of numbers and the team scores only 24 points. Why was that the case? Because the Patriots held Marshall Faulk to 85 yards rushing.

Drew Bledsoe and his New England Patriots teammates answer all questions on Media Day.

Field position will be crucial for New England, as they will have a hard time mounting long drives against the St. Louis defense. They must convert third downs. And they must figure out how to beat the Rams' cover-two defense. The Pats have not been very good this season against the cover-two, primarily because they lack a dominant tight end. That being said, I think receivers Troy Brown and David Patten could play well.

Defensively, New England obviously must cause turnovers. They must force Warner to be indecisive.

Having one week before the Super Bowl instead of two actually favors New England. The Rams will have limited time to prepare for the Patriots' multiple-look defense. We'll see if their regular-season meeting helps St. Louis offset that.

The Pats must take away the Rams' end routes. And they must handle the screen passes and draws to Faulk. If they hold Faulk to 85 yards as they did in the first meeting, they've got a good chance to win.

Orlando Pace and his St. Louis Rams teammates answer all questions on Media Day.

Defensively, the Rams need to pressure the quarterback. They need Grant Wistrom and Leonard Little to beat the Patriots offensive tackles. Wistrom and Little are fast and aggressive, and can cause chaos.

Warner could have another big game. And in addition to the usual array of weapons at his disposal, don't be surprised to see receiver Ricky Proehl have a big day.

If the Patriots defense does not force any turnovers, our prediction for the Super Bowl is Rams 31, Patriots 17.

If New England can get some turnovers, it will be a close game, with both teams scoring in the 20s.

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