Ray Malavasi, coach of the Los Angeles Rams, could barely restrain his confidence today that his squad will eliminate the favored Dallas Cowboys Sunday in the National Football Conference wild card playoff game in Texas Stadium (WTOP-TV-9, 1:30 p.m.).
Malavasi was asked if the Rams didn't have a psychological edge knowing how easily they thrashed the Cowboys, 38-14, on a Monday night two weeks ago.
"That may be; our players feel they can do the same thing on Sunday.This game is what it's all about; this is what we played 16 games for. It is far easier to motivate the players now than it was in August or September. I think the key is whether our offensive line gives Vince Ferragamo sufficient time to pass."
Addressing the media separately, Cowboy Coach Tom Landry was asked if his club dwelled on the licking in Los Angeles in team meetings. "No," he said. "These things happen to all teams. I thought we rebounded well against Philadelphia (a 35-27 victory for the Cowboys). We have to have an excellent performance on defense to have a chance. Turnovers by our defense have been a key to our success this year."
He remarked that Ferragamo has the strongest arm in the league, is accurate, and has fine receivers. Then why won't the Rams drub the Cowboys again?
"Maybe they will. But we'll have a different attitude -- not revenge, but based on pride. We don't have the maturity a Roger Staubach team had. I didn't expect to be in the playoffs or have a 12-4 record, but we played well. Danny White played extremely well. The players believed in him. They had to, to score more points than any other team in the league."
Landry praised quarterback White, as one of the smartest quarterbacks he's ever had: "He thinks like a coach."
Landry watched Hank Stram and John Madden try to convince George Allen on television today that emphasis on defense is a thing of the past under rules changes designed to encourage offense and was asked if he agreed.
"No," Landry said, "defense is the basic foundation for a Super Bowl team and has been since the Dutchman (quarterback Norm Van Brocklin) won it with offense for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1960 (against Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers)."
Landry said it was doubtful whether defensive end Ed (Too Tall) Jones would play because of a sprained big toe suffered on Sunday.
Malavasi plans to have the Rams run Jones' way. "Yes, you have to go to that no matter who is playing there. I don't care if it's Harvey Martin."
Similarly, Malavasi was queried if the Rams would be targeting defensive back Steve Wilson after the success Ferragamo had against the secondary in Los Angeles.
"We're sure going to test him," Malavasi acknowledged. "You can't lose a Cliff Harris (at safety) and replace him. You can't take a Danny White and replace a guy who had done the job for 11 to 12 years," he said referring to retired Roger Staubach.
Malavasi noted this was only Ferragamo's second year as the Ram field commander, but emphasized, "He has a year's experience."
How concerned was Malavasi about the Cowboy defensive backfield?
"You're always concerned about a young one."