The Hays Daily News from Hays, Kansas on September 22, 2002 · Page 17
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The Hays Daily News from Hays, Kansas · Page 17

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Sunday, September 22, 2002
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B6 • SUNDAY • SEPTEMBER 22,2002 THE HAYS DAILY NEWS PRO FOOTBALL Bears always seem to find way to win BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Ted Washington, the Chicago Bears' massive defensive tackle, is out for at least two months, starting with today's "home" game with New Orleans in Champaign, 111. Pro Bowl offensive tackle James "Big Cat" Williams may be gone, too. No matter. Chicago always find a way to win, at least recently — 15 of its last 18 regular- season games, including the first two this season. The Saints also started with two wins, moving to the top of the new NFC South. Chicago's wins were by a total of five points, but that's nothing new: The Bears have won their last 12 games decided by seven points or less. "We figure the other team is not going to be able to make a play or we will be able to," says safety Mike Brown, who has had interceptions in three games in the past two years that have helped the Bears pull out games. Last week, it was the other team failing to make a play: Atlanta's Jay Feely missed a 45-yard field goal with just over a minute left, and the Bears hung on for a 14-13 win. In their first game, the Bears beat Minnesota on a touchdown pass to David Terrell with 28 seconds left. The Saints are averaging 30 points a game in wins over Tampa Bay and Green Week 2 Bay and already have 12 plays of 15 yards or more. Aaron Brooks leads an offense that has big play receivers in Donte' Stallworth and Joe Horn and a fast back in Deuce McAllister. The Bears have struggled to get last year's offensive rookie of the year, Anthony Thomas, on track. He's averaging just 2.9 yards per carry after averaging 4.3 a year ago. But Terrell has two receptions this year, both for touchdowns. REDSKINS (1-1) AT NINERS (1-1) This is a rematch of the American Bowl in Osaka, Japan, where coach Steve Spurrier irked several 49ers by leaving his starters in deep into the game. The Redskins had a short week to prepare for a 1 cross-country trip to Candlestick Point, where Spurrier stood on the sideline for nine years as a backup quarterback for San Francisco. Washington's high-powered offense was silenced in a Monday night loss to Philadelphia. The 49ers also have sputtered offensively. RAMS (0-2) AT BUCS (1-1) There was little history between the Rams and Bucs before the NFC championship game three seasons ago. Now, their budding rivalry is one of the most interesting in the NFL. This is the third straight year the teams have met on Monday night. Tampa Bay won the past two • matchups pitting the league's most explosive offense against one of the top defenses. The winless Rams are in desperate need of a victory, while the Bucs are still trying to establish an identity under coach Jon Gruden. JETS (1-1) AT DOLPHINS (2-0) A streak Is sure to end today. The Jets have beaten the Dolphins eight straight times, while Miami has won 16 consecutive home games In August and September. The Dolphins are counting on sweltering subtropical weather to give them an edge, but in the past three years New York has repeatedly beaten Miami with an inferior team. The Dolphins look to be the better team again, coming off an impressive win at Indianapolis. They tout the NFL's leading passer (Jay Fiedler) and rusher (Ricky Williams), while the Jets must bounce back from a 44-7 embarrassment at home against New England. PACKERS (1-1) AT LIONS (0-2) There's already a "Here we go again," mentality with the Lions following last year's 0-12 start and 214 record. They hope the excitement about the regular-season debut of Ford Field and rookie quarterback Joey Harrington's first start will lead to a win. The Lions, who have been outscored 80-28, have no sacks or takeaways, while giving up nine sacks and five turnovers. The Packers are not happy with the way they've played. Ahman Green leads the NFC in rushing (236 yards) and total yards from scrimmage (331), but he may end up watching with a leg injury. Brett Favre won't miss playing in the Silver- dome, where he won last year for just the third time in 10 regular-season tries. PANTHERS (2-0) AT VIKINGS (0-2) Carolina's last 2-0 start was 1996, when it made the NFC championship game. The defense ranks second and a revitalized Rodney Peete has led an efficient offense. The Panthers will have a much tougher time stopping Minnesota than they did Baltimore and Detroit. The Vikings are -last in pass defense (362.5 yards per game) and must recover from the wild overtime loss to Buffalo in which Doug Brien missed two extra points. That prompted coach Mike Tice to bring back the NFL's career leading scorer, Gary Anderson. CHARGERS (2-0) AT CARDINALS (1-1) The Cardinals, with a running game among the worst In the NFL recently, rushed for 249 yards against Seattle. Thomas Jones ran for 173, his career best by 103 yards. The going will be much tougher against a San Diego defense that has allowed nine points In two games. Still, those efforts were against Cincinnati and Houston. This could come down to the running of Jones and LaDainlan Tomlinson. Both first-round draft picks, San Diego comer- back Quentln Jammer and Cardinals defensive tackle Wendell Bryant, probably will see their first action after signing last week. BENGALS (0-2) AT FALCONS (0-2) The Bengals will stick with Gus Frerotte at quarterback tonight, despite scoring just 13 points in two games. Coach Dick LeBeau made it clear he's willing to make a quick change to Jon Kitna. The Falcons are trying to avoid their first 0-3 start since 1999. The losses were heartbreakers: 37-34 in overtime at Green Bay, 14-13 to Chicago when Feely missed his field goal in the final minute. Atlanta has to get first-round pick T.J. Duckett on the field more — he inexplicably failed to play in the second half against the Bears. COLTS (1-1) AT TEXANS (1-1) The Colts are trying to minimize turnovers after last week's loss to Miami in which Peyton Manning threw three Interceptions. Edgerrin James, who missed much of last season with a knee injury, has 237 yards rushing, but the overhauled defense has struggled. The Texans have created a credible defense that ranks No. 6 in yards allowed. Special teams, led by returner Jermaine Lewis, have given the offense good field position most of the time. But the offensive line has been porous, with numerous key injuries; starting left tackle Tony Boselli is still" doubtful (shoulder). David Carr has been sacked 15.;; times. COWBOYS (1-1) AT EAGLES (1-1) After an embarrassing loss to expansion Hous-. > ton In the opener, the Cowboys beat Tennessee, which defeated the Eagles a week earlier. Dallas" has lost four straight to Philadelphia and five of six.; Emmitt Smith, 414 yards from passing Walter Payton for No. 1 on the rushing list, is averaging just 63 yards per game. Now that they've split two tough road games, ~ the Eagle's begin an easier stretch that includes home games against the Cowboys and Texans.,. The offense has put up 47 points in the first half ln»" two games, with Donovan McNabb sharp, spread- 1 " • ing the ball to 10 receivers in a dominating win at ' Washington. BROWNS (1-1) AT TITANS (1-1) Cleveland might have Tim Couch at quarterback,, for the first time this season, although backup Kelly Holcomb has played well. The Titans are hurting, with Eddie George bare v > ly able to walk on a sore left foot, and Steve Me- \ Nair's neck and shoulder still hurt from slamming into an equipment trunk on the sideline last week. Even worse, Tennessee still winces at the memory ^ of blowing a 14-point lead last December to Cleve-' ,. land. SEAHAWKS (0-2) AT GIANTS (1-1) ' • Seattle has to shore up its rushing defense, *; which is yielding a league-worst 235 yards per game. The return of Pro Bowl T Walter Jones should help Shaun Alexander get going after gain- ( ing 73 yards on 30 carries in two games. '.-'I The Giants' Kerry Collins will be looking to tie an" 1 NFL record with his sixth straight 300-yard passing,, _ game, which seems odd because the Giants went . 96 games without a 300-yard game between 1993- <• 99. New York has to avoid the proverbial letdown after Its big win at St. Louis. Patriots favored over KG FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) — The New England Patriots know how dangerous an underdog can be. They used to be one. Now that the Super Bowl champs finally are favored, they're not about to underestimate the Kansas City Chiefs today or think : : Priest Holmes and Tony Gonzalez will be easy to stop. "We just play the way we do because that's who we are," Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. "No matter what role people put us in or no matter what label they tag on us, I think we're going to play the same." As underdogs, they dominated Pittsburgh 30-14 and the New York Jets 44-7 in their first two games. They've won 11 straight, including three in the playoffs, but were underdogs in the last five. A win today would set a regular-season franchise record of nine in a row. They're more than a touchdown favorite and the Chiefs understand why. "The Patriots are one complete team," Kansas City fullback Tony Richardson said. "You don't win a world championship by accident." Kansas City coach Dick Vermeil was so impressed that he wrote a congratulatory note to Patriots coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft after the Super Bowl. "I respect what other people do in my profession extremely well," Vermeil said. "It may not have meant a thing, but it meant something to me." He wrote to Belichick that the coaching job by the Patriots was the best he's seen since he joined the NFL in 1969. It's continued this year with a productive, sometimes tricky offense, and a solid defense. The Patriots' 26.5-point average victory margin is the best in the league. They're tied for first with a plus-4 turnover differential, second in points scored and fourth in fewest yards allowed. With plenty of new targets — Donald Hayes, Deion Branch, ASSOCIATED PRESS New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady tosses a pitchout in last Sunday's win over the New York Jets. The defending Super Bowl champions are the favorites for the first time this season in today's game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Christian Fauna and Cam Cleeland — Tom Brady has completed 69.2 percent of his passes for five touchdowns and one interception. He's been sacked twice. "We're favored?" Brady said with a laugh. "Whatever Las Vegas thinks, that's what Las Vegas thinks, but we have a different feeling." It's a feeling that point spreads and past success mean nothing once the game starts. The Patriots were 0-2 last year before playing Indianapolis, which had scored 87 points and was 2-0. But New England won 4413 in Brady's first pro start. Belichick stressed that game to his players after the Patriots improved to 2-0 last Sunday. "We're winning games by 30 points, the next day he (Belichick) will come in and he'll show all the highlights of Kansas City," free safety Lawyer Milloy said. "You kind of sit back and say, 'OK, this is another good team.' So he keeps us focused." Kansas City (1-1) has 56 points and leads the NFL with 6.7 yards per play. It won its opener 40-39 after Cleveland's Dwayne Rudd removed his helmet during what should have been the final play, leading to a penalty that set up the winning field goal. "The thing we try to talk about around here is playing smart football and not have silly penalties like that," Richardson said. The Chiefs have committed 14 penalties, five more than their opponents, but they have last year's NFL rushing leader, Holmes, who already has four touchdowns, and tight end Gonzalez, who has eight catches and two touchdowns. "He's really a special player," Belichick said of Gonzalez. "It's impossible to match up with him." Undoubtedly, the Patriots will find a way with some unorthodox defensive schemes. At times, they use three safeties at once: Milloy, Tebucky Jones and Victor Green. Against the Jets, Jones scored on a fumble recovery and Green on an interception. The Patriots last played the Chiefs on Dec. 4, 2000, the season after Vermeil coached St. Louis to the NFL championship. Last season, he brought to Kansas City an offense similar to the Rams' wide- open attack. "We don't play them all the time, and we don't know all the inside tricks of the trade," New England cornerback Terrell Buckley said. But that's hardly enough to make the Patriots underdogs again. "If you want to find out how far you've come, play against the best. It'll get defined quickly," Vermeil said. "Right now, they're the best team in football." Realignment realities in NFL BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS NFL Notes Realignment certainly has brought a strange look to the NFL. The AFC West is 7-1, with Denver, Oakland and San Diego at 2-0 and Kansas City at 1-1. By contrast, the AFC North is 1-7: Cleveland leads at 1-1 with Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Baltimore all winless. The AFC South and NFC East each have a four- way tie for first (and last) at 1-1. All this will even out down the line with more division games. But it still leaves the possibility that some divisions will be won at .500 or less, while teams with better records will miss out on wild-card spots — only two per conference this year. Imagine the howling that will happen then. HOLD EVERYTHING The Miami defense has ranked among the league's best the past few seasons, and Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning thinks he knows why Miami's defensive backs are not afraid to put their hands on — or grjati thejersejrs of ^an^one,. , ;il , Manning has struggled against the Doipnihs" through the years, and after throwing three inter-, ceptions Sunday he has now thrown 17 in 10 career games against the Dolphins. What gives? Apparently, not the Dolphins' secondary. "They're very aggressive in what they do," he said. "They had Sam Madison on Qadry (Ismail) most of the time and I'm sure they were holding him. I think that's kind of their philosophy, because they don't call it very often, and if it's called, it's only a 5-yard penalty." WESTBROOK'S WOES Michael Westbrook isn't making them forget about Darnay Scott in Cincinnati. The Bengals signed Westbrook as a free agent in July so they could get rid of Scott. Two games into the season, Westbrook has only four catches for 41 yards on an 0-2 team. He dropped several passes during a 20-7 loss in Cleveland. "Great players are going to make mistakes eventually," he said. "They just happened to happen to me when I played my first full game in 11 months." Westbrook, who never achieved the promise expected as a No. 1 draft pick in Washington, broke his left wrist early in training camp and had a screw inserted to help the bone heal. He missed all four preseason games and was limited in an opening 34-6 loss to San Diego. He played the entire game in Cleveland, and the announcers were quick to point out his shortcomings. "If you turn the volume down, I really didn't have that bad of a game," Westbrook said. There is one extenuating circumstance: Westbrook's been wearing a brace on. the left wrist while it heals. Westbrook indicated it prevented him from making catches in Cleveland. "There were plays that I should have made, and I didn't make them," he said. "I'm going to take the brace off." JUST BENCH ME After getting eight sacks for Tennessee in 2000, Kenny Holmes got a $20 million, four-year contract from the Giants to complement Michael Strahan at the other end. To say he was a dud is an understatement. Even as Strahan was getting double- and triple- teamed on the way to an NFL sacks record, Holmes could get only 3& In the offseason, he was placed on '; the expansion list and his contract was renegotiated,;. downward. fl Late in training camp, he was replaced by Frank Ferrara, who had floated on and off the Giants' ros-,, ter and practice squad for four years. The benching did the trick. Holmes played well in New York's first garne...-- Then last Sunday, he had a two-play sequence that might have won the game in St. Louis. He sacked , Kurt Warner, then tipped a pass into the air that was^ • • picked off by Jason Sehorn and returned for a touchdown. • ~,' a That earned him kudos from the man who v benched him. "He took his game to a new level against an outstanding tackle in Orlando Pace," coach Jim Fassel. ~, said. "Guys like Pace can just erase you from the-•"• whole equation." is ^_ . li;j ; ,-,, i ,WHEN YOU'RE HOT ;,"'. ; V, '^ ~Early in the Patriots-Jets game, Bill Belichick made what seemed to be a wasted challenge, asking for a review of the placement of the ball after a short " gain by Lament Jordan. The officials had placed the, ball at the Jets 40, giving them a first down. Be- ( ' lichick thought it should be the 38, which would'',, make it third-and-1. < "I was standing right there and I saw it. I think 1 ' the ball rolled forward a bit after the play was over. and the official spotted it forward," Belichick said.." "It was only a yard. I was wondering about whether' to waste a replay over that, particularly so early inV the game." "•<•'. But the appeal was upheld, the Patriots stopped V, the Jets and New York was forced to punt. The game was scoreless at the time. New England went on to win 44-7, so obviously the appeal had lit- ,'. tie impact. But it demonstrates how hot the Patriots are these'^ day. .*!' BOBBLEHEAD RECALL " A fast food chain recalled 100,000 bobblehead dolls- resembling running back Anthony Thomas and linebacker Brian Urlacher because the collectibles con'' t tained excessive levels of lead in the paint. « * "I'm sure once it gets straightened out, every-' thing will be fine," said Urlacher, adding that his young daughter won't be affected by the recall. "1 don't let my daughter play with things like that. She' •' had one and pulled the head off, so we don't let her . • play with them anymore," he said with a laugh. .' J EXTRA POINTS Urlacher was defensive player of the week for his-" • performance against Atlanta —13 tackles, two sacks" '' and a fumble recovery. Urlacher won the same honor'''' last year against the Falcons when he returned a : " : fumble 90 yards for a TD.... Giants QB Kerry Collins' had his fifth straight 300-yard passing game last- "• week against St. Louis. He can tie the record of six " shared by Steve Young and Kurt Warner against' Seattle today. The Giants went without a 300-yard 1 " • passing game between Nov. 28, 1993, when Phil'' Simms did it against the Cardinals, and Dec. 5,1999, when Collins did it against the Jets. ... The Eagles-" have the same number of first-quarter touchdowns in the first two games this season (four) as they did' ••' after 11 games last year. ... The Houston Texans'-"claimed former Kansas fullback Moran Norris off' ' waivers from New Orleans. Norris was a fourth- round draft pick in 2001. '•*"' Broncos' tough schedule continues with high-scoring Bills , DENVER (AP) — The Denver Broncos opened the season by shutting down the St. Louis Rams' high-scoring offense. They followed by stuffing the San Francisco 49ers. It doesn't get any easier this week. After opening the season with victories over two of the league's best offenses, the Broncos (2-0) get Drew Bledsoe and the Buffalo Bills. "This is the NFL and you're going to face quarterbacks like that every week, so you've got to be prepared," Denver safety Izell "3ese said. "So it's not, 'Play good this week and hopefully everything will be OK for a while.' It doesn't get any easier." Buffalo (1-1) leads the league after scoring 31 points in an overtime loss to the New York Jets and 45 in an OT victory over Minnesota last week. The Bills are averaging 426 1 yards, second in the league, and are first in yards passing yards per game at 339. The key has been Bledsoe's comfort level with Buffalo's offense. Bledsoe leads the league in passing with 734 yards and has thrown four touchdown passes. Last week against the Vikings, he set career and franchise highs with 463 yards passing and threw the winning touchdown pass to Peerless Price. "It will probably be a couple of years before its totally second nature, but 1 already do have a great deal of comfort with the offense," Bledsoe said, "(Offensive coordinator) Kevin Gilbride and I feel like a lot of times I don't even need to listen to the play — I know what's coming in next." Bledsoe and the Bills are on a roll, but they've yet to face a de- fense like Denver's. The Broncos lead the league in yards yards, allowed rushing at 51 per game and are giving up 15 points per game, fifth in the league. Denver opened the season by keeping Warner from striking deep — 24 of his 32 completions were for 9 yards or less — and held Marshall Faulk to 19 yards on 10 carries. Last week, the Broncos held the 49ers to 261 yards and limited Hearst to 5 yards rushing. "They're the most physical team we've played here in a while, since I've been in Buffalo," Bills coach Gregg Williams said. "They do a great job controlling the line of scrimmage." The Bills have proven they can score points, but they still haven't stopped anyone. Buffalo has allowed 76 points in. two games, most in the league, and opponents are averaging 357 yards. Part of the Biljs' defensive problems stem from their young special teams unit.. Buffalo is worst in the league in kick and punt returns, which has put pressure on the defense. Of the nine touchdowns the Bills, •< have allowed, only four have come*; on drives of 50 yards or longer. •*' The Bills also allowed two kickoff returns for touchdowns by- ' New York's Chad Martin, includ-~ ing one to start overtime, and"' Minnesota's D'Wayne Bates had a ' 61-yard punt return to set up a' r * touchdown last week, ' : "A lot of those things on the"-' points allowed, those are team' points," Williams said. "We've 1 given up a few scores special- : teamwise and offensively on a"' short field after we turned over' —^——.^__^ ' • BRONCOS / SEE PAGE B7

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