ST. LOUIS, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- A classic battle Sunday between a seemingly unstoppable offense and a usually air-tight defense will determine the NFC's representative in the Super Bowl.
The St. Louis Rams (14-3) will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-5) in a matchup of surprising teams with surprising quarterbacks.
Until last season, there had never been a conference championship game -- either AFC or NFC -- played indoors. But Minnesota hosted last year's NFC title game under a roof and the Rams will do so as well Sunday with the kickoff set for 4:15 p.m. EST.
The Rams are favored by two touchdowns.
St. Louis, with NFL Player of the Year Kurt Warner having an amazing season, averaged 400.8 yards per game this season and 6.5 yards every time it snapped the ball. Tampa Bay surrendered an average of 267.5 yards.
The obvious question is whether Tampa Bay can slow down the Rams because the Buccaneers have shown little ability to put points on the board themselves. Tampa Bay has averaged just 17 points a game this season and no Super Bowl team has ever scored less than this year's version of the Buccaneers.
"I haven't seen a weakness in the Rams yet," said Tampa Bay coach Tony Dungy. "they are playing exceptionally well right now. Defensively, offensively, special teams -- they've scored in all those areas. I'm sure we're going to have to play our best game."
This will be the second meeting between these franchises in the NFC Championship game. In January of 1980, the Los Angeles Rams won at Tampa Bay, 9-0, to earn their first and thus far only trip to the Super Bowl. Frank Corral kicked three field goals to account for the scoring. It was the Bucs' only appearance in a conference title game.
The Buccaneers have the NFC's stingiest defense, but harnessing the fast-break offense of the Rams will be a tall order. Tampa Bay will attempt to combat an offense which produced 526 points, the third-highest total in NFL history, during the regular season.
Only the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills allowed fewer points than the Buccaneers, who yielded 235 points, an average of 14.7 per game. Tampa Bay's unit is anchored by four Pro Bowl starters -- defensive tackle Sapp, linebackers Derrick Brooks and Hardy Nickerson and safety John Lynch.
"I don't think anybody can stop this offense," Warner said. "I haven't seen a defense do it so far."
"They earned the right to be confident considering the way they have played," said Lynch, whose interception last week against Washington began to turn that game in Tampa Bay's favor. "They feel good about themselves and that is good for them. But we feel good about ourselves, too."
Warner and the Rams continued their magical ride with a 49-37 win over the Minnesota Vikings last Sunday in the divisional playoffs.
Warner completed 27 of 33 passes for 391 yards and five touchdowns in his first playoff game. Warner hit five different players -- Isaac Bruce, Faulk, offensive lineman Ryan Tucker and tight ends Jeff Robinson and Roland Williams -- with touchdown passes.
"They try to create mismatches," Dungy said. "They do more with crossing routes than anybody. They've really got guys who can hurt you after the catch."
The Rams are 9-0 at home and have beaten teams by an average of 37-13.
The Buccaneers rallied from a 13-point deficit and defeated the Redskins, 14-13, last Saturday.
Rookie quarterback Shaun King averted what appeared to be a sure sack and tossed a one-yard touchdown to tight end John Davis with 7:29 left to complete the comeback.
Forced to play conservatively with King at quarterback, Tampa Bay does not possess the quick-strike offense of St. Louis. After completing just four of 14 passes for 45 yards in the first half, King was 11 of 18 for 112 yards and a touchdown in the second half and became the first rookie quarterback to win a playoff game since Pat Haden in 1976 for the Los Angeles Rams against Dallas.
"This guy is calm, cool and collected," said Bucs guard Frank Middleton. "He has the heart of a champion."
Tampa Bay's Mike Alstott was held to 24 yards on 15 carries, but scored on a highlight-film two-yard run in which he broke three tackles and changed direction. Teammate Warrick Dunn had just 18 yards on 11 carries, although he caught four passes for 32 yards, drew a key interference call and turned a fumble by King into a 13-yard gain on the winning touchdown drive.
The Rams lead the series, 9-3, but the teams have not met since 1994.