Rams, Bears Is Matchup of Strong Points : NFC Title Almost Certainly Will Be Won in the Trenches

Times Staff Writer

All things considered, tight end David Hill said he's pleased that the Rams will play the Chicago Bears in Sunday's NFC Championship Game at frosty Soldier Field. Of course, Hill is reportedly the same man who liked Grenada over the United States.

"In a way, I'm glad it's the Bears," Hill said Monday. "It's always put forth that they're the team to beat. Maybe we can get a little recognition by the simple fact that we're there playing in the championship game."

Hill watched the Bears humiliate the New York Giants in Sunday's divisional playoff game, 21-0. He saw defensive end Richard Dent rearrange Giant quarterback Phil Simms' ego with three sacks and numerous near misses. He observed Bear linebackers doing more stuffing than bakers of jelly doughnuts. Perhaps Hill has forgotten that these are the guys he's supposed to help block Sunday.

"No, I think we match up pretty good," he said.

Let's see, the Rams have four linemen selected for this year's Pro Bowl: guards Dennis Harrah and Kent Hill, tackle Jackie Slater and center Doug Smith. The Bear defense counters with Dent, end Dan Hampton, linebackers Otis Wilson, Mike Singletary, and strong safety Dave Duerson. Dent's season sack total reached 17 Sunday. Wilson now has 11 1/2. Scary numbers.

Meanwhile, right tackle William Perry was named to the all-appliance team.

As for marquee value, the Bears win hands down. Free safety Gary Fencik does hair spray advertisements. And Perry can be seen hawking everything except the Cambridge diet plan. A "Super Bowl Shuffle" video featuring Bear players is available, as is various Bear wear.

The Rams are lucky to be seen on local cable talk shows.

"Maybe it's because we don't have an explosive, exciting type unit," David Hill said. "We play offense close to the belt. That doesn't exactly look good on TV. But it's the type of football that Chicago has been playing and they've been highlighted a little more.

"Maybe it's strange, the way we went about getting here," he said. "But at the beginning of the year I figured we'd be 12-4, 13-3. I didn't know we'd start out 7-0, but I figured we'd win our division this year."

The Rams are familiar with, even fond of, this underdog position. Compliments can't be paid fast enough to the Bears.

"What more can you say about a team that's 16-1?" Harrah said. "We're going to have to play a perfect ballgame to beat them. One mistake in this type of ballgame can lose a game for you. It's as simple as that."

Harrah said he remembers learning about the Bear defense several years ago. It seems a young Chicago linebacker was setting new decibel levels with his tackles. After a Ram offensive series, Harrah returned to the sidelines.

"Does anybody know who that kid is?" Harrah said to a teammate.

"Singletary," was the response.

Says Harrah now: "You're not going to find any better."

Bear quarterback Jim McMahon also is a favorite of Harrah.

"We all try to get our jersey as tight as McMahon's," he said. "He's the first quarterback I've ever seen who wanted to show off his arms. I love him. He's a 10 in my book. He's aggressive, part nuts and a hell of a ballplayer. That's what you've got to be in this league to be a 10. You like somebody who is a little bit goofy. We're not doing what you'd call a normal job."

The Rams plan to travel to Chicago after Thursday's workout. Robinson wants the Rams to become acclimated to the weather and the two-hour time difference.

"We're going in on Thursday because of the obvious weather changes," he said. "My own personal experiences, and by no means am I an expert . . . the first time you walk out you go, 'Oh my God, I'll die within about six minutes.' But after you're in it for a while you at least mentally say, 'I can survive and I will be OK.' "

Center Doug Smith is expected to play Sunday against the Bears. Smith, who has spent four weeks on the injured-reserve list because of a head injury, could be activated and start if he does well in this week's practices. "If Doug is close to or at the level that he's been before his injury then Doug will start," Robinson said. "If Doug is back, but not himself, then Tony Slaton will start."

Robinson said that Slaton has a minor knee injury, and wide receiver Michael Young is nursing a pulled hamstring. Quarterback Dieter Brock, who throws right-handed, has a torn ligament on the ring finger of his left hand. "If he gets remarried this week, he'll probably have to get a big ring," Robinson said.

As usual, Robinson served as Brock's deflector Monday. He happily accepted blame for the Rams' poor passing attack against the Cowboys in the divisional playoff game. Brock completed 6 of 22 passes for 50 yards and threw 1 interception.

Said Robinson: "I know at times he's called the worst player in the history of the game and such, but he's also 12-5, he's the Western Division champion quarterback and now he's playing in the NFC title game. I think he's a competitive person. I think he's a very tough person. I think he's the kind of man that I want to have quarterbacking my team.

After watching film of Brock, Chicago Coach Mike Ditka said: "The kid has a great arm. Part of our plan is to keep in him the pocket."

Kid? Brock is 34. Maybe Ditka saw film of Brock when he played at Jacksonville State.

St. Louis Cardinal receiver Roy Green visited running back Eric Dickerson Monday in the Ram locker room. Green said he thinks the Rams have a chance against the Bears. He didn't say what kind of chance.

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