The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on November 3, 1996 · Page 39
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 39

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Sunday, November 3, 1996
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THE SALINA JOURNAL NFL SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 1996 D7 NFL MATCHUPS: WEEK 10 (6-2), noon Last time these teams met, Jerome Bettis was in the other uniform rushing for 75 second-half yards and a 29-yard touchdown in a 27-6 Rams victory That was in 1993, Bettis' rookie season. Now he's on the other side as he looks for his seventh 100-yard game in the past eight games. Rams were 2-0 against AFC teams this season until last weeks 37-31 overtime loss to the Ravens. The Steelers have struggled offensively past three games, but should find some tonic against the Rams, who rank last in the NFL in pass defense and overall defense. (7-1), noon _ Wayne Fontes has kissed and made up with his quarterback, Scott Mitchell. Well, sort of. Fontes said he was wrong the way he yanked Mitchell from last week game — on a second-down play, with the Li- .ons trailing, 17-0 — and replaced him with Don Majkowski. No wonder Mitchell erupted into that sideline tirade. Fontes was lucky Mitchell threw his helmet at the training table and not his head. Speaking of Fontes' head, they're beginning to call for it again in Detroit. This could be the game that serves as the silver platter. Silver? Isn't that the Lions' color? _ Philadelphia (6-2) at Dallas (5-3), noon _ Philadelphia already had one chance to put away the defending Super Bowl champs this season and didn't do it. That win sparked Cowboys to current four-game winning streak. Eagles are 3-1 on the road this season, but they haven't had much success against the Cowboys, losing six of the past seven. One of those was last year's playoff loss at Texas Stadium. QB Ty Detmer is 3-0 as a starter since replacing Rodney Peete. But Eagles' No. 2 NFL offense will have problems performing against Cowboys' second-ranked defense. San Diego (4-4) at Indianapolis (5-3), noon San Diego has certainly gotten a lot of passing yards from Sean Salisbury (543), who has replaced Stan Humphries (dislocated shoulder) the last two weeks. But they are also 0-2 since Humphries was injured. The latest loss was a 32-13 thumping in Seattle. Now the Chargers will try to end that streak in Indianapolis, where they dumped the Colts late last season, 27-24. Like Chargers, Colts have lost two in a row, also. And, like Chargers, key injuries have been a factor. But Colts got Marshall Faulk back last week, which should help their offense. Chargers have won past four meetings, but ... _ Houston (5-3) at Seattle (3-5), noon _ Seattle came to life last week against Chargers, and could do the same to Houston, which dropped a game behind Steelers in AFC Central with loss to San Francisco. Of course, Seahawks probably won't run on Oilers (4th in NFL in rush defense) like they did San Diego (208 yards), but QB John Friesz has been careful not to make mistakes. He • is tied for AFC lead with only two interceptions. What's more, QB Chris Chandler might not play for Oilers. Last time Oilers appeared in King- dome (1990), they were beaten by a field goal in overtime. _ Cincinnati (2-6) at Baltimore (3-5), noon _ . Used to be the Battle of Ohio. Art Mpdell made sure to take care of that, huh? Baltimore's offense has sprung to life under Ted Marchibro- da. Why, Vinny Testaverde, who threw for 429 yards last week, even leads AFC with 1 8 touchdowns. Ravens have produced 71 -points the past two games. Alas, their defense has allowed 76. That is not good news for former Steelers assistant Marvin Lewis, whose unit has allowed 232 point, second only to the Jets (233). And that could lead to another offensive smokefest with the Bengals, who certainly appeared energized under new coach, Bruce Coslet. . _ Carolina (5-3) at Atlanta (0-8), noon _ Carolina leads NFL with 28 sacks, which would appear to be bad news for Atlanta's run-and-shoot offense. But, as Steelers found out, Falcons are not always apt to play the run-and-shoot. They came out with two running backs and a tight end against Steelers, which was no less surprising than Pamela Anderson wearing a turtleneck to the beach. Funny thing was, Falcons rarely ran from that formation. If they use it again, Blitzburgh architect and Carolina coach Dom Capers won't be surprised. But he might be surprised to learn the concept of Hidden Vigorish. _ Tampa Bay (1-7) at Chicago (3-5), noon _ Chicago is beginning to get some of its injured players back, but they won't be getting QB Erik Kramer back. He's done for the season. You know what that means? Uh-huh ... Dave Krieg. Next time you get in an argument about all the good quarterbacks in the NFL, mention those two words ... Dave Krieg. Alas, he's all the Bears have. Course, that doesn't say much for the Vikings, who were beaten by the Bears Monday night. But, then, Vikes have the only quarterback who might be older than Krieg. Tampa Bay held Packers to only 13 points last week, so Bears might be hard-pressed to reach double figures. So what. Arizona (3-5) at New York Giants (3-5), noon Talk about your surprises? Don't know which one was more mystify. ing — Giants hammering Detroit, 35-7, or Arizona losing to the winless Jets, 31-21? Giants picked off five passes last week, returning two for touchdowns, so if you had some notion that those 35 points were the result of a new and improved offense, forget it. Giants have won three of past four meetings with Arizona, including sweep last season, but the last four games have all been decided by seven points or fewer. Hey, how much can the Giants be concerned when their former backup QB, Kent Graham, is the starter for the Cardinals? Now, if his first name were Otto ... Washington (7-1) at Buffalo (5-3). 3 p.m. Washington's seven-game winning streak is the team's longest since it started 11-0 in 1991 Super Bowl title season. The Skins' 7-1 record is also a byproduct of a 3-0 record against AFC teams, a streak that will be put to the test against Buffalo. However, only New Orleans (26) and Tampa Bay (1-7) have scored fewer points than the Bills (129), who continue to struggle offensively. QB Jim Kelly would like to return to the old K-Gun offense, which revolved around the no-huddle. He may get his wish, enough, at least, to surprise Redskins. Miami (4-4) at New England (5-3), 3 p.m. See that hearty handshake Jimmy Johnson offered Barry Switzer last week? It made Chuck Noll and Sam Wyche look as though they were conducting a fireside chat. Think JJ is still stewing, especially after learning his former boss wanted to run up the score. Switzer, fortunately, was the voice of reason. Dolphins have won 13 of past 15 meetings with New England, which has moved into first-place tie. in AFC East. Dolphins have problems with passing teams, and New England certainly qualifies as one of those. Pats' defense is equally sus- . pect, though, so look for a lot of points. San Francisco (6-2) at New Orleans (2-6), 7 p.m. This is one of those good news-bad news games. Here's the good news: Jim Mora is gone, Steve Young might not play, Elvis Grbac .. might not play, 49ers have won five of past six. Here's the bad news: : That might mean more mike time for Joe Theismann, the Gilbert Gottfried of play-by-play announcers. If you let him, Theismann could do three minutes on the coin flip. Denver (7-1) at Oakland (4-4). Monday night If Denver can get by this, the Broncos could have a clear shot to the AFC West title and home-field advantage in the playoffs. Their 7-1 start is the best since they began 8-1 in 1986, and they're doing it with a deadly 1-2 punch of RB Terrell Davis and QB John Elway. But Raiders, who were off last week, have never lost at home on Monday Night Football (8-0 at Oakland, 4-0 at LA). What's more, their offense is averaging 31 points the last three games. Considering Broncos have scored 79 points the past two games, don't be surprised if this Shootout goes well into Tuesday morning. Broncos have won past two, but don't bet against Raiders on MNF. — Scrlpps Howard News Service T CHIEFS-VIKINGS Chiefs not making big plays Kansas City needs certain players to step up as they did earlier By ADAM TEICHER The Kansas City Star KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs began the season with four victories for a good reason. They made more big plays than their opponents. The Chiefs lost three of their last four games for a good reason. The opponents made more big plays. The Chiefs' list of playmakers has dwindled to a precious few in recent weeks. If they are going to turn their season around, they don't need that list to include all 53 players. But it needs to includes certain individuals whom the Chiefs counted on during their off-season prepara- THOMAS tions. These are some of the players who haven't done the job since 4-0 slipped to 5-3: ' • Neil Smith and Derrick Thomas: A tandem entry because they are the bookends of a pass rush that has become virtually non-existent. Thomas had six sacks in the first four games and one since. Smith is on pace for seven sacks, his lowest total since his rookie season in 1988. "Those guys have made the sacks in the past, but that involves getting pressure up the middle," Coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "That way, the quarterback doesn't have a place to step up into. That gives your rush people a chance to get there. It also involves the coverage downfield." Pressure by Smith and Thomas frequently has a domino effect leading to turnovers and points. T DENVER BRONCOS CHIEFS GAME CAPSULE A look at today's Kansas City Chiefs NFL game KANSAS CITY (5-3) AT MINNESOTA (5-3), 3 p.m. • TELEVISION — FOX, Salina cable 4, 7. • LINE — Kansas City by 2. • RECORD VS. SPREAD — Chiefs 3-5; Vikings 4-4. • SERIES RECORD — Vikings lead 3-2. • LAST TIME MET — Vikings beat Chiefs 30-10 at Metrodome in December, 1993. • LAST GAME — Chiefs were routed in Denver by Broncos 34-7. Vikings were edged by Bears at home on Monday night 15-13. • CHIEFS OFFENSE— RUSH (No. 18), PASS (No. 24), OVERALL (No. 25) RB Marcus Allen needs one TD rushing to tie Walter Payton for first on career list. His six touchdowns rushing in first half of 1956 exceed the five he scored all last year. Offensive line has allowed only one sack in past three games. The 13 sacks given up this season rank second in conference. • VIKINGS OFFENSE — RUSH (No. 19), PASS (No. 10), OVERALL (No. 13) QB Warren Moon reinjured right ankle vs. Bears. QB Brad Johnson relieved and threw for 79 yards on 10-for-15 passing. He will get start if Moon is unavailable. RB Robert Smith injured left knee last week and RB Amp Lee will start if Smith can't. WR Jake Reed had career-best 11 catches for 153 yards in loss to Chicago. • CHIEFS DEFENSE — RUSH (No. 22), PASS (No. 20), OVERALL (No. 21) CB Mark Collins had eight solo tackles and an interception in loss to Denver. LB Derrick Thomas is tied for third in AFC with seven sacks. CB Dale Carter and Collins tie for team lead and third in conference with three interceptions each. • VIKINGS DEFENSE — RUSH (No. 17), PASS (No. 9), OVERALL (No. 11) Held Bears to only two first downs in third quarter. DT John Randle leads team with 61/2 sacks. Team is allowing only 297.8 yards per game over first half of season. • SPECIAL TEAMS — Chiefs' Tamarick Vanover has club-record three kick-return touchdowns. ... Minnesota K Scott Sisson had made nine straight fourth-quarter field goals before having potential game-winning kick vs. Chicago blocked, • STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — Kansas City is facing its first NFC opponent this season. Chiefs are 6-2 vs. NFC teams over past two seasons. ... Chiefs have scored 15 touchdowns on 23 trips inside the 20-yard line for second-best percentage in AFC. Kansas City's defense inside its red zone, with seven touchdowns allowed in 24 opportunities, leads conference. ... Vikings face four straight AFC West opponents.... Minnesota is 10-6 vs. AFC teams under coach Dennis Green since 1992. ... Vikings have lost three of last four games, after 4-0 start. ... Vikings have won two of three Minnesota meetings between clubs. For example, two Thomas sacks led directly to nine points in a 19-3 win over Oakland earlier this season. The Chiefs don't have a defensive touchdown in the last four games. "Singling those two guys out isn't fair," linebacker Anthony Davis said. "Everybody on this defense has the capability of making a big play." • Anthony Davis: That includes Davis, who pushed veteran George Jamison out of a job last season because of his play-making ability as a blitzing pass rusher and coverage linebacker. Davis had a tendency to not carry out his responsibilities last season, but he made more than enough plays to cover for that. This season, the blown plays have continued and the big plays have been infrequent. • Offensive line: The Chiefs invested several million dollars during the off-season in signing center Tim Grunhard and guards Dave Szott and Will Shields to long-term contracts. The three players were the core of a line that the Chiefs were proud to hold up to any other in the NFL. The Chiefs haven't seen the return on their investment yet. Szott is having an outstanding season, but Grunhard and Shields haven't played to the levels of last season. The Chiefs led the league in rushing last season. They are 19th this year. Each statistic is a reflection on the line. • Tamarick Vanover: His kick- off return for a touchdown Sunday in Denver could have provided a real spark. His value as a kick re- turner is undeniable, and the Chiefs probably made a mistake by not using Vanover in that role to begin the season. But since the opening game at Houston, Vanover hasn't been the same player at wide receiver. He injured his ribs in the next game and hasn't proved he is over the injury. The Chiefs need the physical play his 6-foot-2, 215-pound body can provide at receiver. Since Houston, they haven't received it. The Chiefs let go of last year's starting receivers, Webster Slaughter and Willie Davis, because they thought Vanover was ready to be a big-time receiver. The verdict on that isn't yet in. Elway producing outstanding year Broncos quarterback not getting older, but getting better as he leads Denver toward title By JEFFRI CHADIHA San Francisco Examiner ALAMEDA, Calif. — John Elway is meeting the Raiders at just the time no team wants to see him: when he's in the zone. At 36, Elway is dazzling, dancing, distributing, and simply displaying all the talents that have made his 14-year career as the Denver Broncos quarterback so memorable. Even he admits that his play lately has been as good as it gets. "I would say sp," said Elway, who will lead his Broncos against the Raiders on Monday night. "This is the best offensive team that I've been on. To be able to play the way we have the last four weeks has been a lot of fun. A quarterback's success is always tied to the way things are going around you. "The offensive line is playing well right now, not only pass blocking, but in the running game. And then (running back) Terrell Davis behind us, who's if not the best running back in the league, is right there. So we have a good combination, a lot of weapons at wide receiver, and (tight end) Shannon Sharpe is having a great year. So there's a combination of things going on offensively." Elway has led the Broncos to a 7-1 record and also stung the last four opponents he's faced. The numbers over Denver's current four-game winning streak tell the story: a 65 percent completion rate, 12 touchdowns, four interceptions. Elway also has hurt teams with his running, including a career-high 62 yards in a 34-7 win over Kansas City last weekend. It's those rushing numbers, more than anything else, that catch the Raiders' eyes. "I told somebody the other day that he looks like he's 25 years old again," said Raiders defensive tackle Chester McGlockton. "When he's playing like that, he's one of the most dangerous players in this league." As Elway mentioned, he's not playing well just because he's John Elway. Davis, the league's leading rusher, a strong offensive line, and a receiving corps led by Sharpe represent other segments of a unit, not just another supporting cast in Elway's shadow. Of course, El- T NEW YORK JETS The Associated Press Denver quarterback John Elway is completing 65 percent of his passes. way is still the man. But teams have to worry about more than just stopping him. Elway credits Broncos coach Mike Shanahan for providing such a diversified offense. Upon his arrival last season, Shanahan — who coached the Raiders from 1988-89 and was the offensive coordinator for the 49ers from 1992-94 — installed the same offensive philosophies that 49ers quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young excelled in. Raiders coach Mike White calls the offense a perfect fit for Elway, a four-time Pro Bowl selection. That proved the case last season; Elway threw a career-high 26 touchdown passes. This season, he's gained more confidence as he's learned more about the intricacies of Shanahan's schemes. "Because it's a new offense, there's a lot to it," Elway said. "It's not an offense you pick up in one, two or three years. I'm sure Joe Montana, even though he was in the offense for 14, 15,16 years, learned something new about it every year. It's multiple. I'm learning something new every week." The most amazing thing about Elway isn't that he's led his team to a great start, or that he engineers the NFL's best offense. It's that he's doing it at a time when other quarterbacks his age — guys like Buffalo's Jim Kelly, Miami's Dan Marino and the Raiders' own Jeff Hostetler — sometimes have taken more painkillers than snaps. Elway's durability is practically mythic. He has missed only nine games in his career, an extraordinary number given his penchant for scrambling, improvising and leaving himself vulnerable to big hits. Elway attributes his health to his work habits, which include a year-round full-body weightlifting program and running regimen. "Obviously, John has a good body structure to take some of the punishment, being 220 pounds," Shanahan said. "But he runs every day. He does the stepmaster after practice. He lifts. He's very strong. I wouldn't be surprised if he could beat anybody on the team when it comes to the treadmill and the stepmaster. He has great cardiovascular endurance, and he's very strong at the same time. So he's able to take some of those shots a lot of people couldn't take," White still sees the characteristics that have been Elway's trademarks: the arm, the instincts, the moxie. But what he respects most about Elway is the quarterback's ability to continually prove himself. Elway is on his third coach, with his third offense, and the consistency hasn't waned. Still, it's been a long time since he's looked this good or had this much fun — the Broncos, after all, have been just 32-32 over the last four seasons. And not surprisingly, Elway realizes it's too early to call this his most enjoyable season in recent memory. "It's not over yet," Elway said. "That's probably a question that I answer at the end of the year. We're thrilled to death that we're 7-1. But we have another half a season left and a lot of good football teams in our division. I've enjoyed it up to this point, but we still have a long way to go to do those same things as those other Super Bowl teams I was on back in the '80s." No longer winless, Jets playing for respectability By The Associated Press HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — They stared history in the face and didn't flinch. Now, can the New York Jets do the same with their formidable schedule over the next seven weeks? After losing their first eight games in all variety of manners, the Jets certainly looked capable of perfection. Wouldn't 0-16 have been historic? And hysterical? A 31-21 victory at Arizona last Sunday took care of that. But it also came against the only weak team remaining on the Jets' schedule. No matter, they claim. Neither is the fact that their next seven opponents have a combined 30-18 mark. "There have been a lot of road bumps in our way," says Wayne Chrebet, one of the few standouts during the Jets' 1-8 start. "But it's something to build on. It feels like a long time. ... It's a good thing it happened, because it was starting to get crazy in here." So crazy that talk of 0-16 came up constantly. "We were aware of it," says running back Adrian Murrell, another bright spot in the first two months. "We kept getting asked about it. But we knew it wouldn't <happen, that there was the talent here to win games." Much of whatever talent the Jets have will be back from injury following this week's bye. Quarterback Neil O'Donnell, who came from Pittsburgh as a $25 million free agent, should have recovered from a separated shoulder. Defensive end Hugh Douglas (broken ankle) and middle linebacker Marvin Jones (knee) already are practicing. Wide receiver Webster Slaughter (hamstring) could have pushed it last weekend but took advantage of the bye to heal completely. Getting those players into the lineup is critical, coach Rich Kotite says. He's stressed it time and again, obviously forgetting that the Jets didn't win when they were available, either. "We cannot sit back and say, 'Whew! Thank God!' " Kotite said of the win over the Cardinals that ended a team-record 12-game losing streak. "I think this team will take the time to work hard and pull this thing together. We know we've hurt ourselves with self-inflicted wounds. But we're getting some people back that we haven't had in a while." They've also lost linebacker Mo Lewis — consistently their best defensive player for several years but a disappointment this season — for the duration. V

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