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Sticky defenses in Super Bowl; wide-body rookie fits 76ers well

Checking on Super Bowl Sunday . . . One thing the San Francisco 49er and the Miami Dolphin defenses have in common is that they rarely give up the bomb, meaning the deep pass that a wide receiver will grab in full stride and carry in for the touchdown. Those are the kinds of plays that can take opponents out of their game plan and put them into the uncomfortable position of having to play catchup. That's usually the time when even good teams forget to be patient, try to force things, and wind up giving the ball away.

While San Francisco's role as the favorite is probably justified for Super Bowl XIX (the 49ers did lose only once this season), Miami is 4-0 in regular season meetings between the teams over the years. In fact, the Dolphins are the only National Football League franchise the 49ers have never beaten, losing 20-17 the last time they met in 1983 at Candlestick Park.

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Because the defensive cornerbacks on both teams move so well laterally and anticipate so well in third-down situations, fans who are looking for a high-scoring game are probably going to be disappointed.

Assuming both teams play to form and don't make any unexpected turnovers early in the game, this Super Bowl should be a close one all the way -- certainly nothing like last year's 29-point blowout of Washington by the Los Angeles Raiders. The 38-9 score in that game was the most lopsided in Super Bowl history.

Off the Backboard . . . When the Philadelphia 76ers traded low-scoring but hard-working Marc Iavaroni to the San Antonio Spurs partway through the current National Basketball Association season, nobody had to take Iavaroni aside and tell him what was happening.

Even Iavaroni knew that the 76ers wanted to give his playing time to 6 ft. 6 in., 265 lb. rookie forward Charles Barkley, who is part rebounder, part shooter, and wider than most mobile homes. In fact, Marc says that Philly's ``Round Mound of Rebound'' takes up so much room inside whenever the 76ers and Celtics play that Charles has actually begun to nullify some of the edge Kevin McHale used to give the Celtics on the boards.

``Because Philadelphia had so many team injuries last season, particularly those that seemed to stay with center Moses Malone, it is impossible to compare this year's and last year's teams,'' Iavaroni explained. ``But I can tell you this: the 76ers to a man think they are a better team this season than the Celtics, and so do I. One of my regrets is that I probably won't get to see Philadelphia play Boston in the Eastern Conference finals. I keep telling myself that maybe the Milwaukee Bucks, the way Terry Cummings is playing for them, might have a chance to pull an upset, but I don't really believe it.

In the Dugout . . . The Los Angeles Dodgers have asked Pedro Guerrero to take another crack at third base during the coming season. Last year his attention span at third was about the same as a kid getting his first geometry lesson. Guerrero, who seems to lose batting power when he doesn't feel comfortable with his defensive assignment, wants to play center field, but would probably settle for right. . . . From Owner Tom Monaghan of the world champion Detroit Tigers, ``I want our organization to be the equivalent of Baltimore's, which I regard as the best in baseball. I admire everything about the Orioles, especially their pitching, and I think we are on our way to matching them.'' If Pittsburgh free agent Lee Lacy hadn't signed with Baltimore, he reportedly would have gone to Detroit . . . Catching is such a tough position physically that the Chicago Cubs would like to ease Jody Davis's work load next season by maybe 20 games. Davis, who hit 14 home runs and had 59 RBIs before last season's July All-Star break, saw his production in those areas slip to 5 homers and 35 RBIs during the second half of the season. His defensive work, though, didn't appear to suffer.

Off the Grapevine . . .

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A lot of things are happening in Washington, D.C., these days, including the pursuit of 50 goals by 21-year-old center Bobby Carpenter of the Capitals, who is already over 30 with the season just a shade past the halfway mark. If he makes it, Carpenter would be the first American-born player ever to hit the 50 figure in the National Hockey League.

Bobby, who made his debut at 18 and is now in his fourth NHL season, has matured both mentally and physically this winter to the point where he seldom has an off night. Part of his secret is how quickly the puck comes off his stick whenever he is in a position to shoot. By the time most goalies react, the puck is already in the net.

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