The Baltimore Sun from Baltimore, Maryland on December 13, 2005 · Page E6
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The Baltimore Sun from Baltimore, Maryland · Page E6

Baltimore, Maryland
Issue Date:
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Page E6
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6E TUESDAY 12.13.2005 FC SPORTSTHE SUN 'Skins focus on Cowboys This time, rivalry game means even more w fir BY EDWARD LEE SUN REPORTER ashburn, VA. Before making his way to Redskins Park yesterday, Randy Thomas stopped at a nearby fast-food restaurant to enjoy some breakfast. Once inside, the massive offensive guard who dabbles in competitive eat-ins sot an earful from R several patrons. "I went into McDonald's, and people were talking about the Dallas game Sunday," Thomas said with amazement. "They weren't talking about the game we just won. . . . They told me to beat Dallas, and I'm trying to eat my breakfast meal. And you know how I am with my food." In the fickle nature of the NFL, Thomas and his fellow Washington Redskins barely relished their 17-13 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday before looking ahead to their home game against the Cowboys, which will be the most meaningful game in this storied rivalry in 13 years. Even with the win against Arizona that pushed its record to 7-6, Washington did not budge from its ninth seed in the NFC. THOMAS Aside from the four division leaders, the Carolina Panthers (9-4), Dallas (8-5), Minnesota Vikings (8-5) and Atlanta Falcons (8-5) are ahead of the Redskins. With three remaining games against NFC East foes Dallas at home, the New York Giants (9-4) at home and the Philadelphia Eagles (5-8) on the road the Redskins believe that they must win all three and hope that the teams ahead of them stumble. They almost got some help on Sunday. The Giants went to overtime with the Eagles until the Giants prevailed with a field goal, and the Cowboys scored the winning touchdown in the final minute against the Kansas City Chiefs. "Yeah, that would've been nice," quarterback Mark Brunell said. "But there are some good teams out there. Dallas and the Giants are very good football teams, and they're finding ways to win football games. That's why they're at where they're at." The Redskins nearly didn't get to this stage after Brunell ended three drives in the red zone in Arizona with interceptions in what he called his worst first half of his 13-year career. But running back Clinton Portis' sixth 100-yard rushing game of the season, Antonio Brown's 9l-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, and a defense that stopped three Arizona possessions in the fourth quarter propelled Washington to its first back-to-back road victories in consecutive weeks since 2001. m m ' , Antonio Brown (left) celebrates after his 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown helped the Redskins beat the Cardinals, 17-13. ASSOCIATED PRESS Brown downplayed his winning touchdown return. "My moment was last night," said Brown, who was released by the team after the season opener but called back three weeks ago. "We're not going to get caught up into the moment or into this or into that. So a lot of people know that it's over for me. This is a new week, and we have another challenge in front of us." That challenge is taking on a Cowboys team that ended a two-game losing streak by defeating the Chiefs, 31-28. The task becomes more difficult if cornerbacks Shawn Springs (strained back and groin), Carlos Rogers (bruised biceps muscle) and Walt Harris (strained calf) miss the game. If those three can't play, the Redskins would have just one healthy cornerback in Ade Jimoh. Coach Joe Gibbs said Dimitri Patterson could be promoted from the practice squad. "We're going to have to hope for some miracles here," Gibbs said. "But we'll just kind of play this out and see how it goes this week." Offensive tackle Chris Samuels (sprained right knee and right ankle) won't practice, but he said he will play. Director of sports medicine Bubba Tyer said linebacker LaVar Arrington (bruised thigh), wide receiver James Thrash (pulled hamstring) and defensive tackle Joe Salave'a (torn plantar fascia) should be able to practice tomorrow. No TDs, but lots of dancing Owens' birthday bash has long guest list; Reeves to advise Texans FROM WIRE REPORTS Terrell Owens doesn't need to reach the end zone to celebrate. Exiled from the Philadelphia Eagles last month for conduct detrimental to the team, the All-Pro wide receiver known for his flamboyant theatrics hosted a birthday party last night at rapper Jay-Z's 40-40 club in Atlantic City, N.J. Owens turned 32 on Wednesday. The bash drew several NFL stars, some of Owens' former teammates on the Eagles and a few celebrities. Among celebrities on the guest list were Jamie Foxx, Will Smith, Paris Hilton, Jessica Simpson and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Former Dallas Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin, ex-Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka, Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis and Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss also were invited. Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was a surprise name on the list he and Owens feuded last year when Owens spurned a trade from the San Francisco 49ers. Owens arrived last night shortly before midnight, wearing a white suit. "Everything's great. It's a party," he said. "I have everything I want. My mom's here." He posed for pictures and went inside. Neither he nor his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, answered questions from reporters. A day earlier, the reigning conference champion Eagles were eliminated from playoff contention with their sixth loss in seven games. Jevon Kearse and Lito Sheppard were among the 11 Eagles who had arrived at the party by 11:15. "I'm just showing some support," Kearse said. "He's a wonderful teammate." Donovan McNabb didn't show up in his dancing shoes, but he also was invited. The injured quarterback and Owens have feuded since the Eagles lost in the Super Bowl last February. Scantily clad women wearing different-colored No. 81 jerseys with question marks representing the team name provided some of the entertainment for the guests. The party invitations arrived last week and were shaped like a penalty flag. They read: "There's a flag on the play? After further review, No. 81 is at it again." In other Eagles news, running back Brian Westbrook became the 12th Philadelphia player placed on injured reserve. The former Pro Bowl player has a mid-foot sprain. TEXANS Grasping for answers in their 1-12 season, Houston hired Dan Reeves as a special consultant to team owner Bob McNair. McNair made it clear that Reeves, an NFL head coach for 23 seasons with the Broncos, Giants and Falcons, was not brought in to critique coach Dom Capers or general manager Charley Casserly. Both McNair and Reeves, 61, said he is not a coaching candidate for the Texans. PATRIOTS Quarterback Tom Tom Brady said the lower left leg injury that had him hobbling during Sunday's 35-7 win at Buffalo wasn't "too major." Coach Bill Belichick said his star passer was "fine. " STADIUM The cost of the stadium the Giants and Jets will jointly build in East Rutherford, N.J., likely will top $1 billion. Owners of both teams filed preliminary site plans yesterday for the 8l,00Oseat stadium, to be built between Giants Stadium and the Meadowlands Racetrack. AFC EAST New England can clinch division title with: 1) A win or Miami loss. 2) A tie and a Miami tie. AFC NORTH Cincinnati can clinch division title with: 1) A win or Pittsburgh loss. 2) A tie and a Pittsburgh tie. Cincinnati can clinch playoff berth with: 1) A tie and losses by Kansas City and San Diego. AFC SOUTH Indianapolis has clinched home-field advantage. Jacksonville can clinch playoff berth with: 1) A win and losses by Pittsburgh, Kansas City and San Diego and a Denver win or tie. AFC WEST Denver can clinch division with: 1) A win and losses or ties by Kansas City and San Diego. 2) A tie and losses by Kansas City and San Diego. Denver can clinch playoff berth with: 1) A win. 2) A tie and a Pittsburgh loss or tie and a K.C. loss. 3) A tie and a Pittsburgh loss or tie and a San Diego loss. 4) Pittsburgh, Kansas City and San Diego lose. NFC NORTH Chicago can clinch playoff berth with: 1) A win and losses by Dallas and N.Y. Giants. NFC WEST Seattle has clinched division title. Seattle can clinch first-round bye with: 1) A win. 2) A tie and N.Y. Giants, Carolina and Tampa Bay lose or tie. 3) A tie and a N.Y. Giants loss or tie and a Chicago loss. 4) A tie and a Chicago loss and Carolina and Tampa Bay lose or tie. 5) N.Y. Giants, Carolina and Tampa Bay lose. Seattle can clinch home-field advantage with: 1) A win and a Chicago loss or tie. 2) A tie, a Chicago loss and N.Y. Giants, Carolina and Tampa Bay lose or tie. ELIMINATED Ravens, Arizona, Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Green Bay, Houston, New Orleans, N.Y. Jets, Oakland, Philadelphia, St. Louis, San Francisco, Tennessee. Vick leaves Falcons' win with bruised ribs ASSOCIATED PRESS Atlanta Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons served notice that they are still dangerous and not yet out of the playoff race. Vick ran for two touchdowns and passed for one score before a late hit knocked him out of last night's game with bruised ribs, and the Falcons beat the New Orleans Saints, 36-17. If they could play all their games on Monday night, the Falcons might be a lock for more than just a postseason berth: Atlanta is 3-0 in the prime-time slot this season. Vick improved to 5-0 in his starts against the Saints (3-10), who have lost eight of their past nine games. Vick had scoring runs of 2 and 17 yards, and he threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to rookie Roddy White on a flea-flicker play. But in the fourth quarter, Vick was slow to get up after taking a late hit from linebacker Ronald McKinnon, who drew a penalty on the play. Vick stayed in for two more plays before calling a timeout with 9:21 left to play and slowly walking off the field. The injury was announced as With the Saints' Will Smith close behind, Falcons quarterback Michael Vick dives in for a 2-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA bruised ribs, and coach Jim Mora appeared confident that his quarterback would be ready for Sunday's game at Chicago. "Mike doesn't miss games," Mora said. "He'll do whatever it takes to get ready to go." Before facing the Saints, the Falcons (8-5) had lost three of four games to fall behind the top six teams in the NFC. The Falcons would lose NFC tiebreakers with two other 8-5 teams, Dallas and Minnesota. With games left against the Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers, the Falcons still face a tough climb to make the playoffs, but they regained momentum against the Saints. Vick passed for 231 yards with a touchdown and an interception and rushed for 38 yards in his fourth career game with two rushing touchdowns. Alge Crum-pler caught three passes for 94 yards. The Saints were playing in their ninth different venue since Hurricane Katrina severely damaged the Louisiana Superdome in late August. New Orleans 3 14 0 0-17 Atlanta 7 14 9 6-36 First quarter Atl-Duckettl run (Peterson kick), 10:22. NO FG Carney 47, 3:05. Second quarter NO-A.Smith 6 run (Carney kick), 11:13. Atl Vick 2 run (Peterson kick), 6:06. Atl R.White 54 pass from Vick (Peterson kick), 1:49. NO Hakim 9 pass from Brooks (Carney kick), 11. Third quarter Atl Vickl7 run (Peterson kick), 7:50. Atl Safety, Brooks sacked by Lake in end zone, :40. Fourth quarter Atl-FG Peterson 43, 8:33. Atl-FG Peterson 20, 3:01. A-70,083. NO Atl First downs 22 19 Total Net Yards 332 406 Rushes-yards 24-125 32-127 Passing 207 279 Punt Returns 3-15 4-28 Kickoff Returns 6-104 5-101 Interceptions Ret. 1-19 0-0 Comp-Att-Int 27-46-0 13-25-1 Sacked-Yards Lost 3-12 0-0 Punts 8-47.9 6-46.0 Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-0 Penalties-Yards 10-107 9-74 Time of Possession 30:42 29:18 Rushing-New Orleans, A.Smith 11-60, Stecker 7-35, Brooks 4-24, Karney 1-3, A.Thomas 1-3. Atlanta, Dunn 14-73, Vick 6-38, Duckett 10-13, Schaub 1-10, R.White Hminus 7). Passing-New Orleans, Brooks 27-46-0-219. Atlanta, Vick 12-23-1-231, Schaub 1-2-0-48. Receiving New Orleans, Horn 5-54, Stall worth 5-43, Hilton 4-41, Hakim 4-32, A.Smith 3-12, Stecker 2-12, L.Hall 2-11, Henderson 1-8, A.Thomas 1-6. Atlanta, Crumpler 3-94, Jenkins 3-33, R.White 2-65, Dunn 2-39, Griffith 2-12, Finneran 1-36. Missed field goals None. Many at home with cheating From Page IE fan acceptance that it's part of the strategy to bend the rules." With the rewards growing larger for winners and the fallout becoming more severe for losers, Callahan doesn't expect rule breaking to wane. Baseball has the richest lore of home-field chicanery. "I don't think that it's something that's ever moved front and center, but it's always been there," said baseball historian Bill James. "It's a fact of life that people look for advantages and that there are rules that can't be easily enforced." James has little doubt that such gamesmanship has turned big games. "Pennant races frequently come down to one game, so anything can be decisive," he said. Allegations of sign stealing have proliferated for more than a century. In the late 1890s, the Cincinnati Reds' Tommy Corcoran tripped rounding third and uncovered a telegraph wire being used by Philadelphia Phillies players to receive signs stolen by a player peering through binoculars from the stands. Dodging the truth A few years ago, Wall Street Journal reporter Joshua Harris Prag-er unearthed evidence that the New York Giants were stealing signs from the Brooklyn Dodgers during the famed 1951 playoff, ended by Bobby Thomson's ninth-inning home run. Third base coach Herman Franks used a telescope to spy on signals from the Giants' clubhouse. Electrician Abraham Chad-wick rigged the phones between the clubhouse and bullpen so he could buzz once for a fastball and twice for a breaking ball. Thomson hedged a bit but told Prager he didn't take a stolen sign before striking the fateful home run off Ralph Branca. "It would take a little away from me in my mind," he said, "if I felt I got help on that pitch." Even if he had, baseball had no rule banning such practices until 1961. But that hardly halted sign-stealing tactics. In the 1980s, Chicago White Sox batters looked to a flashing bulb on the scoreboard in Comiskey Park that supposedly decoded opposing pitches. In the early 1990s, Orioles manager Frank Robinson said the White Sox were surveying the opposing dugout with hidden cameras. Field manipulation also has remained a constant. The great Orioles teams of the 1890s were among the early masters, as groundskeeper Tom Murphy tailored the field to a daring collection of bunters, slap hitters and base-stealers led by John McGraw and "Wee" Willie Keeler. "In Baltimore, Murphy made the field to his liking," wrote Burt Solomon in Where They Ain't, a history of the early-era Orioles. "He built up the ground just outside the third base line so that bunts might stay fair. He packed the path to first base ever so slightly downhill to help the Orioles' speedsters. He mingled soap flakes with the soil around the pitcher's rubber to cause the unwary perspiring twirlers to lose their grip. . . . The infield dirt was mixed with clay to formulate a soil almost as hard as concrete. All summer long, the infield remained unwa-tered, as boon to the base runners and the Baltimore Chop." Reflection of Veeck Indefatigable executive Bill Veeck was among the grandest practitioners of home-field manipulation. He devoted a whole chapter to it in his autobiography, Veeck As In Wreck. In 1935, while Veeck was with the Cubs, the club handed out promotional mirrors to fans in the bleachers, who then reflected sunlight at opposing batters. In Milwaukee, Veeck installed a sliding outfield wall addition that could be rolled out when opponents came to the plate. Of his 1948 Cleveland Indians, he said, "We went on to win the pennant by resorting to gamesmanship the art of winning without really cheating as never before in the long and sometimes devious history of baseball." The club's groundskeepers manipulated the height of the mound (fireballer Bob Feller liked it tall) the thickness of infield grass at various positions (shortstop Lou Boudreau liked it dense to slow the ball down) and the slope of the baselines (toward the field to help the team's bunters). Crowed Veeck, "We had in Cleve- In 1935, Cubs executive Bill Veeck ran a promotion in which the team gave mirrors to fans, who reflected sunlight at opposing batters. 1953 FILE PHOTO land the Michelangelo of the groundskeepers, Emil Bossard." Bossard's son, Marshall, was the team's spy in the scoreboard. Veeck's heirs persisted in finding new methods to the craft. In the late 1980s, opponents suspected Minnesota of manipulating vents in the Metrodome to produce tailwinds when the Twins were batting and headwinds when opponents reached the plate. The 1987 team, coincidentally or not, maintained one of the great home-field advantages in history, winning the World Series despite having a losing record on the road and being outscored for the season. Dick Ericson, the former Metro-dome superintendent, confirmed the vent manipulation to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in 2003. Basketball and football have endured their share of shenanigans as well. In 1982, a driving New England blizzard rendered the Miami Dolphins' and Patriots' offenses useless ... until Mark Henderson, a convict on work release, used a John Deere tractor to clear a patch for the Patriots' John Smith to kick the winning field goal. "I figured, 'What's the most they could do? Put me in jail?' " Henderson quipped to reporters. In more recent years, opposing players have accused the New York Giants of opening and closing stadium doors to create unfavorable wind currents for opposing field-goal kickers. Can't stand the cheat? In the NBA, Red Auerbach holds dual reputations as history's greatest coach and its greatest creator of home-court legs up. On hot days, Auerbach's equipment manager cranked temperatures in the visitors' dressing area to hellish extremes. On cold days, he left windows propped open, turned the heat down and distributed already-wet towels to the visitors. Celtics players learned the dead spots on Boston Garden's parquet floor (the result of cracks in the cement beneath created by passing trains) so they could steer opponents into game-changing turnovers. Boston was hardly alone in the NBA of the 1950s, when fans in cities such as St. Louis, Syracuse and Philadelphia created truly hostile environments for opponents, pelting players and coaches with coins, eggs and harsh words. Crowds have grown less belligerent, but Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made headlines last season when he urged fans to distract opposing free-throw shooters by waving their white ThunderStix in unison rather than chaotically. Cuban made the suggestion on advice from Daniel Engber, a fan with a master's degree in neurosci-ence who claimed the unified action would make opponents feel that the whole arena was moving. In the college game, Duke's crowds at cramped Cameron Indoor Stadium carry the torch for creative hostility. When Maryland's Herman Veal was accused of sexual abuse in the 1980s, the Cameron Crazies showered the court with panties and held up signs reading "Hey Herm, Did You Send Her Flowers?" When North Carolina guard Steve Hale returned after a punctured lung, he was greeted by chants of "In-Hale, Ex-Hale." Of course, home-field advantage isn't limited to the major sports. Earlier this year, water-skier Jim Michaels, hosting a tournament at his home lake, rigged a system of underwater cables that changed the positions of buoys as he made his slalom runs. "My competitive zeal got the better of me and clouded my judgment," said Michaels, a Wisconsin dentist, upon admitting his crime. His reward for such ingenuity? A six-year suspension and the striking of all his records. Perhaps he'd have fared better in baseball.

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