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St. Louis fans celebrate by dancing in the streets

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Fans in St. Louis held their collective breath, then screamed with joy and poured out into the cold Sunday as their Rams held on -- just barely -- to beat the Tennessee Titans 23-16 to win the Super Bowl.

"We're number one!" fans at the Trainwreck Saloon chanted as the topsy-turvy game came to an end. Dozens then poured out into the narrow streets of Laclede's Landing, an area of red-bricked, redeveloped riverfront buildings housing restaurants, taverns and shops. Many stopped traffic with their renditions of the "Bob & Weave," the end-zone dance made famous by the Rams' receivers. Throughout downtown, horns blared.

It was an up-and-down ride all night for fans in a city starved for a decent football, never mind a world champion. The Rams, 200-1 Super Bowl underdogs according to Las Vegas odds in the preseason, completed an improbable ride with a scintillating win.

And the town went nuts.

"This makes a name for our city," Gary Eaton screamed as he jumped for joy as the game ended.

Fans around the area were jubilant after their team went up 16-0 midway through the third quarter. But against all odds, the Tennessee Titans scored 16 straight points to tie it.

Kurt Warner and Isaac Bruce combined on a 73-yard touchdown pass with 1:54 to go to regain the lead, then the Rams let Tennessee march deep into St. Louis territory, setting up the game's final play. Steve McNair hit Kevin Dyson at the five, but he could stretch out only as far as about the 1 as he was brought down to end the game.

"I'm 50 years old -- that's hard on your heart," said Steve Wolff. "I was never sure they were going to win."

There were no early reports of looting or vandalism, as sometimes accompanies a major-sports championship. It may have been just too cold for that sort of thing -- temperatures were in the low 20s, and four inches of snow on Saturday left many side streets slippery.

During the game, St. Louis was a ghost town on the outside. Interstates 64 and 70, the two main east-west corridors passing through the city, were nearly empty.

By halftime, downtown streets were eerily quiet. A bus passed by with one passenger. Yellow and blue bunting -- put up on lamp posts along the route of a victory parade scheduled for Monday afternoon -- flapped lazily in the breeze. A skyscraper -- yes, St. Louis has a few -- spelled out "GO RAMS" in lit offices. Busch Stadium, where the Rams played their first four games after arriving in St. Louis in 1995 before the Trans World Dome opened, lit its distinctive archways in yellow and gold.

And from Chesterfield to Florissant, Belleville, Ill., to Fenton, St. Louis-area fans partied hard on the inside.

At a St. Charles subdivision, blue and gold balloons bounced off mailboxes and porch lights. TVs glowed through front-room windows, with screaming fans on the edges of their couches and recliners.

Not all of the parties were in bars and homes. Many area churches held alcohol-free Super Bowl parties. Rams quarterback Kurt Warner, a devout Christian who spoke at Billy Graham's rally at the Trans World Dome in October, has become a hero of many local churchgoers.

The parade to honor Warner and the rest of the Rams will begin at 4:30 p.m. CST downtown. A rally will follow at Kiener Plaza. Rams players and coaches were expected to speak at the rally. After the rally, the city will set off about $15,000 worth of fireworks.

Major League Baseball's Cardinals have won 15 pennants and nine championships, though the most recent was 1982. But otherwise, championships here have been few and far between here.

The football Cardinals never got close -- in 28 seasons here, they were 0-3 in the playoffs. The Blues made the Stanley Cup finals their first three seasons (1968-70), but they never won, and they haven't been back since.

The old St. Louis Hawks, who moved to Atlanta in 1968, won one world title, in 1958. And the Saint Louis University Billikens won the NIT championship -- before the NCAA tournament, the NIT determined college basketball's champion -- in 1948.

Now, the city has its first Super Bowl champion.

"I'm thrilled for St. Louis," owner Georgia Frontiere said as she accepted the Lombardi Trophy, signifying the NFL championship. "It proves we did the right thing in going to St. Louis. This trophy belongs to our coach, our team and our fans in St. Louis."

Rams give St. Louis what Cardinals never could

 This one's for you, Don Denkinger. You too Billy Bidwill. Might as well throw in a big raspberry for the NFL, too.

 
 

 

T O P   N E W S
 

 

St. Louis' most notorious villains were exorcised Sunday night in Georgia's climate-controlled night air. The setting was odd for those of us whose native city has a reputation for its humidity. But that's during the summer when they play that other sport at Busch Stadium.

Sunday was moist but for a different reason. Tears of joy. From the upscale estates of West County to the Laclede's Landing bar district on the riverfront, St. Louisans got a new identity after their Rams beat Tennessee 23-16 in Super Bowl XXXIV.

Before this magic season, if the town had a personality it was --- what? Beer? Baseball? Maybe a decent Italian restaurant or two? It was jealous of Chicago to the east and superior to Kansas City to the west.

It was a 'tweener. That tired rep died Sunday when Steve McNair decided to throw a pass short of the end zone. It died when Titans receiver Kevin Dyson came up a yard shy of a touchdown. It seemed like the first time since rhinestone was invented that an entertainer from Nashville didn't steal the show.

St. Louis earned its new reputation Sunday when Kurt Warner heaved a 73-yard scoring pass to Isaac Bruce with 1:55 left. The Rams could have probed their way downfield and kicked a late field goal. But from the time offensive coordinator Mike Martz signed on last year, their philosophy was to attack.

Attack. Kill. Destroy. No Mercy. Hey, the Vikings were Purple People Eaters. Dallas had its Doomsday Defense. Pittsburgh maimed with its Steel Curtain. These Rams were relentless.

It was the city of excuses before this season. It never lost a game. It might have gotten screwed by a referee or official but it never lost. It accepted mediocrity. Busch Stadium continues to sell out to watch Mark McGwire hit homers and his team finish in the nether regions of the National League Central. Frankly, the whining over Denkinger's blown call in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series had gotten a bit old. So had that last baseball title -- way back in 1982 if anyone cared to remember Sunday.

Bidwill, the Cardinals owner, took the franchise to Arizona after the 1987 season, thus becoming the biggest Scrooge in two states. He left behind a football jones buried deep in the city's psyche. It wanted the NFL, it just didn't know how badly.

Eight years ago St. Louis wasn't good enough for Paul Tagliabue's closed-shop NFL consortium. An expansion team bid was fumbled just like so many footballs in the old days of the Cardinals. Now the town that football forgot will be remembered forever.

Make fun, if you will, of St. Louis coughing up $280 million for a new stadium and all that personal seat license money. Make fun of owner Georgia Frontiere, who was born in St. Louis. The conservative, mostly Catholic enclave certainly didn't teach her the values that led to seven husbands but we'll take her for now.

"We made the right move," Frontiere said Sunday night, probably unwittingly putting it in Los Angeles' face again.

But, yo L.A., it worked. The Rams, your former Rams, are champions because somebody cared. That somebody is the North County engineer working at Boeing. That somebody is the Clayton lawyer fighting ungodly traffic on Highway 40 each morning. That somebody is etched into the faces of the City's myriad neighborhoods.

Rams owner Georgia Frontiere (left) celebrates with coach Dick Vermeil and his wife, Carolyn.  
Rams owner Georgia Frontiere (left) celebrates with coach Dick Vermeil and his wife, Carolyn.(AP)  

The Hill. Soulard. Dog Town. Webster Groves. University City.

They all joined hands -- figuratively -- with one of their own late Sunday. Linebacker Mike Jones, a native Missourian, made the game-winning tackle at the Rams 1-yard line to save the game. Born in Kansas City, Jones played at the University of Missouri, where he never came close to a winning season. He didn't start an NFL game until his third season.

In a Super Bowl tale of two meandering franchises, it was fitting that it came down to a football transient. Jones' professional resume reads Los Angeles (Raiders), Sacramento (World League), Oakland (Raiders) and St. Louis.

After three franchises and four cities, Jones finally can say he came home.

And if you squinted hard through the beer, baseball and butchered calls, it was like football never left.

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New Super Bowl Records

Kurt Warner capped his rags-to-riches season with a Super Bowl-record 414 passing yards, surpassing Joe Montana's mark of 357 yards in Super Bowl XXIV. Steve McNair ran for 64 yards -- the most by a quarterback in Super Bowl history. In all, 17 records were either set or tied in Super Bowl XXXIV:
 
Records set or tied in Super Bowl XXXIV
INDIVIDUAL Records Set
Most Passing Yards -- 414, Kurt Warner, St. Louis
Most Rushing Yards, Quarterback -- 64, Steve McNair, Tennessee
Most Receptions, Rookie -- 7, Torry Holt, St. Louis.
Most Receiving Yards, Rookie -- 109, Torry Holt, St. Louis
Oldest Head Coach to Win Super Bowl -- 63, Dick Vermeil, St. Louis
Oldest Player in Super Bowl -- 40, Mike Horan, St. Louis
Records Tied
Two Teammates, 100+ Rec. Yards -- Isaac Bruce (162), Torry Holt (109)

TEAM Records Set
Most Passing Yards, One Team -- 407, St. Louis
Fewest Rushing Yards, Winning Team -- 29, St. Louis
Records Tied
Fewest Turnovers, Game, Both Teams -- 0
Most First Downs, Both Teams -- 50, Tennessee (27), St. Louis (23)
Most First Downs Passing -- 18, St. Louis
Most Yards Passing, Both Teams -- 615
Fewest Interceptions, Both Teams -- 0
Fewest Fumbles Lost, Both Teams -- 0
Fewest Rushing Attempts, Both Teams -- 49
Most Field Goals Blocked -- 1, St. Louis