Madden, Walsh Talk Now, Then Later on Games

If you're a pro football fan, it's pretty hard to beat today's fare. Not one but two championship games.

You're going to be hearing analysis before, during and after both games, and the main men are Bill Walsh and John Madden.

Walsh, the NBC newcomer, knows a lot about the San Francisco 49ers, but circumstances dictate that he works the AFC game between the Cleveland Browns and the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium.

CBS has Madden, a former AFC coach, on the NFC game between the Rams and the 49ers at Candlestick Park.

Both commentators were interviewed last week. First, Madden's views.

Question: Can the Rams beat the 49ers?

Answer: The Rams are going to have to come up with their best defensive game of the year. If they don't, they're in trouble. Then it becomes a shootout, and they're going to have to score a hell of a lot of points.

I mean, the Rams can score a lot of points. They're capable of doing that. But I really believe the Rams, defensively, are going to have to play above their heads.

Q: Might the 49ers, who manhandled Minnesota last weekend, be a little overconfident and maybe a little complacent?

A: If it was anyone but the Rams, they could be. If the Giants had won, they could be. But they know first hand what the Rams can do. They have too much respect for the Rams.

I've been working on my All-Madden team and have talked with some of the 49ers, and when I ask what team, besides the 49ers, is the best, every guy says the Rams.

Q: Should the Rams try to put a lot of pressure on Joe Montana?

A: They're going to have to pressure him to stay in the middle, like they did (Philadelphia's Randall) Cunningham. I don't think sacks, either way, are going to be a big thing in this game. What the Rams have to do more than anything else is tackle the receivers as soon as they catch the ball.

What they can't do is let Jerry Rice break away for a 70-yard touchdown after he catches a short pass, like he did against the Vikings. They can't let John Taylor break away like he did against them in that Monday night game. The Rams look like they're tackling better since that game.

You're not going to shut out Rice and Taylor. But when they do catch the ball, you've got to tackle them, put the clamps on 'em.

Q: You grew up with John Robinson in Daly City, Calif. He has been your lifelong friend and he once coached your running backs when you were coaching the Oakland Raiders. Last week, Robinson said, despite his reputation for being a running coach, that he has really been a passing coach all along.

A: I don't believe that. I say that respectfully. It's just that I know John as well as anybody. He is a running coach. He knows more about runners and running backs than any coach in the league, maybe more than anyone who has ever coached in this league.

But he's not dumb. He's smart enough to know that with the personnel he now has, passing is the way to go. It doesn't take a genius to figure that out, not when you have guys like Jim Everett and Flipper Anderson and Henry Ellard. They've even been working Ron Brown into the offense.

Q: Looking at it from another point of view, what must the 49ers do to win?

A: I think it's the same for the 49ers as the Rams. The team that tackles the best is going to win this game. The 49ers aren't going to get a lot of sacks.

What the 49ers have to do is help Montana get into his rhythm. If he does that, the 49ers are going to be hard to beat.

I'm not saying it can't be done. Once the Rams beat Philadelphia, all they had to do to get to the Super Bowl was beat two teams they beat during the season, the Giants and 49ers. And they've already done half of that.

And now from Walsh.

Q: The last two times Denver and Cleveland met for the AFC championship, the Broncos won both times, first on a 15-play, 98-yard drive and then when the Browns' Earnest Byner fumbled on the three-yard line. Might the Browns be a little gun-shy?

A: That's a good point. If they have to measure every step and worry about making a mistake, they'll be in trouble. In a game like this, you have to let it fly. It's up to (Coach) Bud Carson to keep the team loose, and it's up to (owner) Art Modell not to put any extra heat on them publicly.

Q: You were a passing coach. What's your opinion of the two quarterbacks in this game, Cleveland's Bernie Kosar and Denver's John Elway?

A: They're two of the best quarterbacks in football. Elway is more active. Kosar has a quicker release and is more accurate on shorter passes.

Q: And the receivers?

A: Both teams also have a lot of talent in this area. It's really a tossup. Webster Slaughter, Reggie Langhorne, Ozzie Newsome and Eric Metcalf coming out of the backfield for the Browns is a very talented group.

We talked to Elway about his receivers before the Pittsburgh game. He knows his people so well. He said Mark Jackson is the quickest and Vance Johnson is also quick, and more dependable. Michael Young has the best hands and runs the best routes. He is extremely good. When it's third down and they need the yards, Young is the guy Elway likes to go to. They don't use Ricky Nattiel that much, but he's good going downfield. And Steve Sewell, like Metcalf for the Browns, is good coming out of the backfield.

Q: The consensus seems to be the Super Bowl winner will again come from the NFC. Do you agree?

A: Well, Cincinnati came close to the 49ers last year (the Bengals lost, 20-16), so that shows anything can happen. But there is no question the NFC is the stronger, more physical conference.

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