4:15 p.m., today
Trans World Dome, St. Louis
The Games Within the Game
1979 Los Angeles Rams
The Rams make their late-season and playoff run with backup QB Vince Ferragamo after injury forces Pat Haden to the sideline in late November. The Rams go on to defeat Tampa Bay, 9-0, to win the NFC championship.
1999 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs make their late-season and playoff run with backup QB Shaun King after injury forces Trent Dilfer to the sideline in late November.
1979 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
In April, the Bucs trade draft picks for veteran DE Wally Chambers, who contributes immediately to the team's strongest unit. Tampa Bay goes on to play its first home playoff game ever, then hosts the NFC championship game a week later.
1999 St. Louis Rams
In April, the Rams trade draft picks for veteran RB Marshall Faulk, who contributes immediately to the team's strongest unit. St. Louis goes on to play its first home playoff game ever, then hosts the NFC championship game a week later.
Rams T Orlando Pace
Has blossomed into one of the NFL's top offensive linemen, which he attritbutes to improved strength and conditioning. Pace didn't allow a tackle, much less a sack, last week against Vikings DE Chris Doleman and DT Tony Williams.
Buccaneers G Frank Middleton
Has anchored an offensive line that has been plagued by injuries all season. The 334-pound Middleton told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "The key for me is high body fat. . . . You can't hurt fat. Everybody else is pulling muscles in their back, hurting their neck. . . . Not me. I'm just too fat to get hurt right now
Rams special teams returners
Tony Horne averaged 29.7 yards on kickoff returns during the regular season, third in the NFL, including two for touchdowns (he had another return for a score last week against Minnesota). Az-zahir Hakim averaged 10.5 yards per punt return during the regular season, including one for a touchdown, and has returned 19 punts to inside the opponents' 20, third-best in the league.
Buccaneers special teams coverage
Tampa Bay allowed only 17.6 yards per kickoff return and 7.3 yards per punt return during the regular season, but surrendered their first kickoff or punt return for a touchdown this season last week against Washington. Special teams coach Joe Marciano told the St. Petersburg Times: "Maybe we'll kick all onside kicks. If we don't get them, then they'll get it right where they would have returned it anyway."