ST. LOUIS (AP) -- London calling.
London Fletcher, that is, who called on opposing ball-carriers more often anyone on the St. Louis defense this season.
The middle linebacker led the Rams with 138 tackles, 22 more than anyone else. And it wasn't because the defense is specifically designed for his position to make the plays.
He simply is a playmaker -- inside, outside, wherever.
''I see where the ball is going,'' said Fletcher, who last week admitted he considered himself the best middle linebacker in the NFL. ''Then I get there and make the tackle.
''I consider myself old-school, a throwback type of player and I like to play like that ... tough football. That's what we'll see Sunday.''
That would be in the NFC championship game, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their highly regarded defense come to the Trans World Dome. The Bucs have an All-Pro linebacker in Derrick Brooks and another well-publicized one in Hardy Nickerson.
Fletcher would like to see his defense gain the same reputation, but he knows with the way the St. Louis offense is operating, most of the plaudits will go to Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and company.
''I definitely think our defense is underrated,'' Fletcher said. ''There isn't anyone you are able to focus on, but if we win the Super Bowl you can't downgrade our defense anymore.''
Actually, the defense is considered formidable enough, if not overpowering. Fletcher is the middle man on a unit that includes All-Pro end Kevin Carter, who led the league in sacks, and cornerback Todd Lyght.
''I understand we have a very good defense that is overshadowed by our potent offense,'' said the second-year man from Division III John Carroll (Don Shula also went there). ''But I think we should be considered dominant. I see our defense consists of a lot of playmaker capable of big plays. We scored more touchdowns than any other defensive unit.''
The Rams had seven interception runbacks for TDs, two each by linebacker Mike Jones and end Grant Wistrom. Jones also ran in a fumble for a score.
''I understand they (the Bucs) are very good, but we're very good as well,'' he added. ''Hey, don't overlook the St. Louis Rams' defense.''
Plenty of people overlooked Fletcher, who was the Division III linebacker of the year in 1998. He signed with the Rams as a free agent, and despite being 5-foot-10 -- the team listed him at 6-0 until he complained -- was a special teams demon and the Rams' rookie of the year.
He went to training camp determined to win the starting linebacker's job, and beat out Lorenzo Styles and Charlie Clemons.
''I'm only in the NFL two years and this has been great,'' said Fletcher, who has only five years or organized football experience; he was a basketball player before that at St. Francis (Pa.) a Division I school in hoops. He transferred and switched to football, figuring a 5-10 point guard has little chance for an NBA career. ''To be at this point in time from where we came from, and all those losing years here -- this city has not had a winning football team in so many years -- is definitely a season to remember.
''But anything less than the Super Bowl would be unsatisfactory.''
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