The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio on October 13, 1991 · Page 33
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October 13, 1991

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The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio · Page 33

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Sunday, October 13, 1991
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Sunday, October 13, 1991 Till. CINC INNATI KNQUIRER Pro f00tballC-7 S3 Pro football Fulcher still eyes Pro Bowl berth BY JACK BRENNAN y an mm 0. jjf sacks. The Falcons and Bengals both are averaging one sack per game, Atlanta with six in six games and Cincinnati with five in five. ON THE RISE: Dallas' Erik Williams, a 315-pound rookie from Central State (Ohio), filled in impressively last week when starter Nate Newton went down with a knee injury. Williams may see considerable action again today. "I'm a rookie from a little NAIA school who is trying to make a very big jump, so naturally, I was scared," Williams said of last week's game against Green Bay. "But when they tried to intimidate me, I wasn't buying it. If they can talk, I can talk." THE NFC'S BEST?: Joe Montana and Randall Cunningham are out for the season, and Jim Everett is still looking for his first touchdown pass. Could Dallas' Troy Aikman be the best quarterback in the NFC? "I'm probably playing well enough that it could be argued," Aikman says. "But that's not for me to say." MADE FOR THE JOB: Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson says he thinks his experience in big-time college football at Miami helped prepare him for the job of rebuilding the Cowboys. "I think it gave me an advantage because my coaching career had been in evaluating young talent," he said. "I just continued to do what I had been doing ever since I was a coach. I think I knew the kind of young players who would be successful and that we needed to obtain." The Cincinnati Enquirer IRVING, Texas David Fulcher has grown used to spending the last week of football season in Honolulu. Given most reviews of his play through five games, he may have to pay his own way instead of going via the Pro Bowl. But the Bengals' strong safety rates himself as back "on pace" for his usual sort of season, and he'll get the chance to make sure people notice today. Fulcher will key the Bengals' coverage effort against Jay Nova-cek, the Dallas tight end whose 30 receptions lead the National Conference. The Cowboys are the first 1991 Bengals opponent who throw often to the tight end. "He's their big man, and that's fine with me," Fulcher said. "I want to be the big man, too. When the game's on the line, give me the ball, so to speak. Let me be the man to do it." No one expects Fulcher to keep Novacek off the stat sheet. But Fulcher's assignment is to hold his man to a handful of catches and to punish him after those. "You know, this is something people said David Fulcher couldn't do," Fulcher said. "I'm supposed to be not known as a cover man. This is a chance for me to show some folks I can cover one of the top receivers in ' the league. "I've got 30 tackles," he said. "I'd want to have about 50 at mid-season, and to get there I only need 20 the next three games. I think I ought to be able to do that. I think I'm on pace for a good year." POSITIVE THOUGHTS: On- The Associated Press Bengals safety David Fulcher will have his hands full with Dallas tight end Jay Novacek, whose 30 receptions lead the National Football Conference. (knee) are said to be nearly 100 and are expected to start today. Linebacker Kevin Walker (knee) is out for the season. Defensive end Skip McClendon (knee) is on injured reserve. Running back Ic-key Woods and tackle Kirk Scraf-ford remain inactive. SO WHAT?: The NFC East has a big reputation. Its teams have won six Super Bowls. But the Bengals don't usually notice. They're 15-7 all-time against the division. SAM AND JERRY: The Bengals' Sam Wyche and Atlanta's Jerry Glanville share billing this week as the coaches whose teams are worst in the NFL in ly three teams have more giveaways than Cincinnati's 15. The Bengals have been coached this week on the problem, but coached carefully. "You address it," said coach Sam Wyche, "but you don't harp on the words fumbles and interceptions. You talk about the importance of holding the ball. You want to reinforce positive images. Otherwise, guys are trying too hard to avoid the negative." Good news for the Bengals: Dallas is in the NFL's lower third with only nine takeaways. BRUISED BENGALS: Bengals starting defensive end Alon-zo Mitz (back) and David Grant Cleveland (2-3) vs. Washington (6-0) Key Stat: Cleveland has won seven straight at RFK Stadium, including a 17-13 victory in 1988. In that game, Earnest Byner made the winning score. He's now a Redskin. Comment: Byner has rushed for 100 yards in seven of his last 11 games. Washington has outscored three home opponents by 102-0. Bernie Kosar is the only starting quarterback who has not been intercepted. That streak ends. Redskins 26, Browns 3. Indianapolis (0-6) vs. Buffalo (5-1) Key Stat: Bills running back Thurman Thomas needs 22 rushing yards to gain 4,000 in his career and match O.J. Simpson and Joe Cribbs as the only Bills to reach that plateau. Comment: Buffalo went without a touchdown for first time in 46 games when Kansas City smashed the Bills Monday night. No problem reaching the end zone against Colts. Jim Kelly in nine games against them has 17 touchdown passes. Buffalo makes it 15 straight victories, including playoffs, at Rich Stadium. Bills 40, Colts 16. New Orleans (5-0) vs. Philadelphia (3-3) Key Stat: Rushing yards will be hard to come by. Saints lead the league, allowing only 53.2 rushing yards per game, and the Eagles are third at 78 yards per game. Comment: Saints need to turn quarterback Bobby Hebert loose, especially on short passes behind the Eagles' strong rush. This is a key game for Philadelphia after a loss to lowly Tampa Bay, but the Saints aren't about to let the best start in their 25-year history go awry. Saints 20, Eagles 10. Phoenix (3-3) vs. Minnesota (2-4) Key Stat: Phoenix leads the league in fumble recoveries with 17. This is the Cardinals' first game at Minnesota since 1977. Comment: Minnesota remains the league's most enigmatic team, lacking focus and intensity. But the Vikings remain a tough team at , home and should match up well with the Cardinals. Vikings punter Harry Newsome will keep Phoenix backed up. He leads the league with a 46.9 punting average. Vikings 24, Cardinals 1 3. San Diego (1-5) vs. Rams (2-3) Key Stat: San Diego leads the league in rushing, averaging 153.3 yards. The Rams' Jim Everett is still looking for his first touchdown pass after suffering five interceptions. Comment: The week off helps the Rams as they tighten their defense and get Everett on track. The Chargers' victory at the Raiders was shocking, but now it's back to reality. Rams kicker Tony Zendejas is 7 for 7 in extra points and 8 for 8 in field goals. Rams 20, Chargers 17. Miami (3-3) vs. Kansas City (4-2) Key Stat: Dolphins head coach Don Shula is 8-3 vs. Kansas City. A rematch of last season's thrilling playoff game won by Miami, 17-16. Comment: Kansas City is running high after limiting the Buffalo offense to 21 1 total yards and two field goals. More satisfying for the Chiefs, their offense finally awoke and should thrive against a defense that is hurting without All-Pro linebacker John Offerdahl. Chiefs 28, Dolphins 20. Houston (4-1) vs. Jets (3-3) Key Stat: The Jets have allowed only nine sacks at this juncture compared with 19 last season and 21 in 1989. Comment: Oilers quarterback Warren Moon has thrown a touchdown pass in a club-record 18 straight games and the Houston defense is finally matching the offense's heroics. The Jets have won three straight and lead the AFC in possession time (34:28 per game). The game turns on Moon's passing. Oilers 22, Jets 19. Atlanta (2-3) vs. San Francisco (2-3) Key Stat: Atlanta pass defense ranks second in the league (141.8 yards allowed per game) but the 49ers blitzed it last season for 476 yards and six touchdowns, five by Jerry Rice. Comment: Atlanta must be giddy about facing the 49ers without Joe Montana, who riddled them last season. But Rice remains, averaging 20.2 yards per catch. The Falcons don't have enough rushing offense to maintain possession and keep the ball out of Rice's hands. 49ers 26, Falcons 10. Raiders (3-3) vs. Seattle (3-3) Key Stat: The last five games in the series have been decided by 7 or fewer points. Seattle tops the AFC in takeaways with 17. Comment: Seattle always plays the Raiders tough at home. Raiders quarterback Jay Schroeder has thrown eight touchdowns and been intercepted three times in five games against the Sea-hawks. Watch running back John L. Williams as a receiver. Sea-hawks 20, Raiders 16. Giants (3-3) vs. Pittsburgh (3-2) Key Stat: Giants are 8-1 against AFC teams over the past three seasons but meet Pittsburgh for only the third time since 1971. Comment: Pittsburgh can be just as physical as the Giants. Expect a hard-hitting game and the Steelers' secondary, led by cornerback Rod Woodson, to make big plays when the Giants are threatening most. Pittsburgh makes it 6-1 this season for home teams in Monday night games. Steelers 17, Giants 13. (Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Tampa Bay, Denver and New England have a bye week). NEW YORK TIMES Maryland, Dallas' No. 1 pick, missing in action circumstances right now are tough," defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt said. Specifically, the circumstances are named Tony Casillas and Jimmie Jones. Those two players start at defensive tackle. Neither, however, was in the picture when the Cowboys selected Maryland. Casillas became available during the first week of camp, when he told the Atlanta Falcons he would rather retire than play for them. BY DAN NOXON Dallas Morning News DALLAS Rookie defensive tackle Russell Maryland's contribution through the season's first six games brings one word to mind. Flop. For a player who was the first overall draft choice last April, one tackle in six games seems hardly worth the price of a 12th-round-er, much less the $2.6 million signing bonus and $700,000 the Dallas Cowboys will pay him in the first year of a five-year, $7,926 million contract. "When I was picked, naturally I had high expectations," said Maryland, only the fourth defensive tackle taken first overall. "I wanted to start and to make an impact. It doesn't always work out the way you want it to, though." His scant production is the result of circumstances rather than an indication of his ability. The Cowboys simply have been unable to find playing time for him. "He needs to be playing more, but the Bengals CONTINUED FROM PAGE C-l and one of the more analytical defensive minds on the team, says the Bengals must look first at the problems caused by Smith, Dallas' 5-9, 203-pound running star. "The other guys on their offense complement him, but he's their bread-and-butter," Zander said. "Take him away and you've got a whole different game, a whole different team. His quickness and his ability to cut back are just phenomenal." Smith has 129 of Dallas' 150 rushing attempts, and an even more startling 639 of the Cowboys' 663 rushing yards. "He's as good as anybody we'll face," said Wyche. "This is a guy whose reputation hasn't quite caught up with his play. He's in the category with the really big stars in this game right now." The Bengals will go after Smith with a rushing defense that has moved up to a tie for 10th place in the NFL in average yards allowed per carry 3.9. Take away the Bengals' horrible opening game in Denver, and the defense's average is 3.7 yards per carry the numerical goal for which coordinator Dick Le-Beau annually strives. On the other side of the ball, the Bengals' offense faces what looks like a prime opportunity to bust out of the doldrums. Dallas is rated No. 22 in yards allowed, and 25th against the pass. The Cowboys are among the NFL's worst in sacks (seven in six games), left cornerback Ike Holt' has been inconsistent, and right . corner Larry Brown is a rookie 12th-round draft choice. "There's opportunities there," said Bengals receiver Eddie Brown, who had seven catches for 117 yards, "we've seen it on the films. We can get down the field. The offense has to take control." But last week, the Dallas defense held Green Bay to 199 yards, had two interceptions, and produced back-to-back sacks in the third quarter to turn back a Green Bay comeback bid. "We made a commitment to pass defense (for Green Bay)," said Dallas defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt. "We stressed making big plays in practice. It's pleasing to see things finally happen on the field, because, otherwise, it just becomes lip service." Dallas' defense, analyzed piece-by-piece, is not impressive. No one from this unit figures to make the Pro Bowl. But the total performance has been better than the sum of the parts. The defense has allowed only two touchdowns in the last three games. "Some people say we do it with mirrors," said veteran defensive end Jim Jeffcoat. "But I think we do it with desire. Somebody just keeps stepping up." The Cincinnati rushing game, on less than certain footing, faces a Dallas defense ranked sixth in rushing yards per game and sixth in yards per carry. Harold Green was Cincinnati's featured back last week, and played well. But Green acknowledges his play has been inconsistent. James Brooks has gained only 55 yards over the last two games, but may be more free from sore ankle problems than he has been since mid-September. New Orleans partying over best start in franchise history in the past," Swilling said. "All the guys are making plays for a change. It's not only one or two guys. It's four or five guys instead of myself or Rickey. I expect people to score seven or 10 points on us, but I don't think anybody is going to score a lot. As long as we are not giving up big plays, we are hard to beat." New Orleans has given up 47 points, the fewest in the league. And each of its last three opponents has been held to under 200 yards offense: Rams, 120; Vikings, 151; Falcons, 162. The pass rush is improved with the return of Frank Warren, who missed last season sitting out a one-year drug suspension, and the Plan B pickup from San Diego of Les Miller. The only area of controversy there's not much when you're 5-0 is quarterback Bobby Hebert. He sat out last season in a contract dispute amid a failed attempt to get traded to the Raiders. Many of the fans here are not willing to forget. The booing has died down and there's been no cry for Steve Walsh, but clearly the people here are not happy with their native son. "I guess if we were 0-4, they would have hung me by now," Hebert said recently. "I probably wouldn't be able to go anyplace. Not that they would say anything to my face, but behind my back they'd be talking about my mother, my grandmother, everybody related to me." But his teammates didn't hold any grudges for what turned out to be a 573-day holdout. He was invited to players functions and attended the players' Christmas party. Mora also was glad to have him back, although the Saints gave up No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 draft choices last season to Dallas for Walsh. And the receivers were pretty happy to see Hebert, too. Walsh doesn't have a strong arm and had trouble getting the ball deep. "There was never any problem with us and Bobby," Mora said. "The guy has been a good player for us and won a lot of games as a starter. We missed him last year when he didn't play. The players respect him, the coaches respect him; he's a winner." Still, the Saints would have traded Hebert to the Raiders last year if they had offered a No. 1 pick and guard Steve Wisniewski. Instead, L.A. offered Nos. 1 and 5 draft picks. No deal. Eventually, Hebert signed the same two-year, $2.73-million contract in the spring that he could have gotten last year. Could they have been 5-0 with Walsh? Mora didn't want to answer that. Everybody in New Orleans just seems happy to have a three-game lead on the 49crs after only five games. And this city has a tremendous love affair for this football team. These people here are great fans and they like to get excited about things anyway. I know all fans do, but these fans seem a little bit different. They're going nuts." The Saints remind you a lot of the '90 Giants. They don't beat themselves with mistakes (plus-4 in takeawaygiveaway), they run the ball and play in-your-face defense. Get this: the Saints' defense has not given up a point in its last three games. The Rams scored on an interception return, the Vikings were shut out and the Falcons scored on a fumble return. All three games were blowouts and none of the three teams took a snap inside the Saints 20. "No points in three games that's incredible," Mora said. "It doesn't happen very often." Just like the Giants, the key to the Saints defense is the linebackers. There's a great debate going on down here whether the Saints' "Dome Patrol" LBs are the best in the league. The answer so far has to be yes. Pat Swilling and Rickey Jackson on the outside and Sam Mills and Vaughn Johnson on the inside have played together , for six years. The killer is Swilling, the LT of the Bayou. He reported to camp on time this year for the first time in three years and has been taking over games. "We are playing at a different level than The Saints ain't the Ain'ts no more BY GARY MYERS New York Daily News NEW ORLEANS Who Dat Say Dey Gonna Beat Dem Saints? Who Dat? Who Dat? Nobody. Nobody. At least not yet. Bourbon Street is going bananas over the Saints, who go into Sunday's game in Philly against the depleted Eagles at a perfect and improbable 5-0. The folks in New Orleans, who usually don't need an excuse to party, are having no trouble gulping down hurricanes toasting the Saints, who ain't the Ain'ts no more. The Saints actually have been one of the better teams in the NFL over the last four years, winning 39 games, but this is the first time in their history they ever started a season winning even their first two games. Winning five? The city is ready to talk Super Bowl, but coach Jim Mora is "working my tail off," preaching to the players to keep things in perspective despite the festivities surrounding them. "It's difficult in this city," Mora said. "I don't know how it is in other cities, but this city is not used to it, for one thing. -- V The Associated Press Quarterback Bobby Hebert has the Saints at 5-0 after a 573-day holdout. Coach Jim Mora says, "We are playing at a different level. All the guys are making plays. . ." 1 r

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