All things considered, Tom Landry would just as soon be in Anaheim.
“I’ve never really felt the home-field advantage has been a big motivator for our team,” the Cowboy coach said by phone Monday. “We would have loved to have played at home, but if you have a second choice you’d just as soon go to California where the weather’s nice.”
Not to mention that the Cowboys are 2-0 in playoff games against the Rams in California--37-7 in 1975 and 28-0 in 1978.
“We’ve won a couple out there, I guess, and the Rams have beaten us here about three times, so I guess it’s better that we go out there,” Landry said, chuckling.
“We know the Rams well and scrimmage them during training camp. The atmosphere of Los Angeles is easier for us than anywhere else.”
The Cowboys have played on grass only twice this season, winning at Washington and losing their last game at San Francisco.
“I don’t see the field as a problem, unless your rainy season has started out there,” Landry said. “We kind of like to play on it. We practice on grass every day.”
Responding to the suggestion that Cowboy running back Tony Dorsett is more effective on artificial turf, Landry said: “Oh, I don’t know, he can run probably any place.”
Landry has coached (36) and won (20) more playoff games than anybody. He always seems to come up with a new wrinkle for a big game.
“Especially when you have two weeks to think one up,” he said. “I think everybody kind of carries something like that in their offense. It’s just whether they get around to running it or not. We all have those exotic plays that we dream about. Sometimes they work.”
But Landry doesn’t expect anything too tricky from the Rams.
“I’m sure they’ve had the two weeks that we’ve had and have looked at a lot of films, probably more than they wanted to, just like we did,” he said. “You always get ideas, but they’re a conservative offensive team. It’s justified because they’ve won with it.”
Raider defensive end Howie Long said after last week’s game that the Rams “have only eight plays and ran all eight of them.”
Landry said: “If you have a (Eric) Dickerson to run, do you need more than eight plays? How many holes are you going to hit?”
Ram Coach John Robinson said he hasn’t spent the extra time thinking up gimmick plays.
“If there’s a strategic reason for it, you might use something new,” he said. “There are teams with a certain personality that like to try that. Dallas is one. They won’t change their offense or defense, but they will try plays .
“Other teams would not be inclined to do anything different. We fall into that category.”
Landry: “But the real great thing about two weeks is that your team gets a chance to heal. It’s a long football season, and to have a week off is a blessing for you.”
Robinson: “It’s great not to be in the wild-card game. It’s hard to play and then come on again, particularly if you’re the road team. It makes the (NFC West) division championship seem sweeter when you look at it.”
Both teams expect to be in good physical condition. Landry said quarterback Danny White, who missed the 49er game with a bruised left shoulder, will start.
“I don’t know if he will be 100% because it’s hard to tell when Danny is hurting,” Landry said. “But I think he will be the best he’s been for some time. He’s had a tough year physically. He’s been pretty beat up.”
The winner will play the Bears-Giants winner for the NFC title a week from Sunday--at Chicago if the Bears win, at Anaheim or Dallas if the Giants win.
The Cowboys’ 44-0 loss to the Bears on Nov. 17 was their worst defeat ever.
“I would love to play ‘em again,” Landry said. “I think we’d have a chance. But whoever plays ‘em, they’re gonna be tough.
“The Giant and Bear game is gonna be a tremendous game. They’ve got two tough defenses facing each other, and they play for keeps. I’d have to go with the Bears. They have more strength defensively, (but) I think the Giants will play their offense pretty well. It’s gonna be turnovers in that game. The Bears have a plus-23 in turnovers this season.”
As for the other playoff games, Landry said: “The Raiders will have their hands full with the Patriots because they’re a very talented club, but I believe the Raiders will prevail. I think Miami will take Cleveland. Cleveland has a good defense, but I don’t think they have enough firepower to take advantage of Miami’s defense.”
And the Rams-Cowboys?
“I back the Cowboys every week. Sometimes they disappoint me, but most of the time they play pretty well.”