The Daily Sentinel from Grand Junction, Colorado on November 14, 1985 · 25
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The Daily Sentinel from Grand Junction, Colorado · 25

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Grand Junction, Colorado
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Thursday, November 14, 1985
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25
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r I NS I D E Tho Daily Sontino! Thursday, November 14, 1003 REPORT- game mow called crucial ) I I I I I Imkf Football itoport King Features Three weeks ago, it ranked as lit-, tie more than another waystop on yet another frustrating season for the San Diego Chargers. Now, Sunday's invasion of Den-' ver's Mile High Stadium has an entirely new and much more meaningful dimension to it. With their 40-34 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Raiders, Don Coryells reborn team is again a factor in the AFC West title chase. With their deep freeze 17-16 win over San Francisco Monday night, Denver has opened a two-game lead over San Diego and one over the Raiders and Seahawks. j November seems to produce nothing but big games, and this one is no exception. Denver had a four-game winning streak halted 30-10 at San Diego two weeks ago in a game which the Chargers totally dominated to begin their new surge. Snowball i interfered, official says AMOOtatod Prwaa NEW YORK - The chairman of the committee that makes the National Football League rules said Tuesday that officials should have stopped play when a snowball thrown from the stands in Denver Monday night disrupted a San Francisco field-goal attempt. "We dont believe in penalizing the crowd because we have no control over the crowd," said Tex Schramm, chairman of the NFL's rule-making competition committee. But to me, the referee should have killed the play right at that instant, regardless of what happened to the kick. The incident occurred in the waning seconds of the first half with Denver leading San Francisco 14-3 and the 49ers' Ray Wersching poised to try a 19-yard field goal. Just as the ball was snapped, a snowball landed in front of holder Matt Cavanaugh, who fumbled the football, then threw an unsuccessful desperation pass into the end zone. However, referee Jim Tunney said afterward that while the officials called for more security at that end of the stadium, they were powerless to penalize the crowd for unsportsmanlike conduct. We have no recourse in terms of a foul or to call it on the home team or the fans. Theres nothing in the rule book that allows us to do that." Everson Walls of the Dallas Cowboys has the mental toughness to be cornerback, says Cowboys personnel director Gil Brandt. Chargers sneaking up on When San Diego has the ball Where to start? Will it be Dar Fouts? Or Gary Anderson? Or Lionel James? Is this the week that Tim Spencer does it, or Charlie Joiner or Wes Chandler? Youll note we havent even worked our way down to such names as Tru-maine Johnson or Kellen Winslow. The point is, trying to capSulize the San Diego offense is akin to bottling smoke. As they have proven on successive weeks, the offense is , back in all its swift-striking glory, and Fouts is the master at finding the right weapon at the key moment. They still favor the pass, -but James and Anderson and Buford McGee and Spencer give them a revived ground threat, as well. Denver even fell victim to an old-fashioned option pitchout two weeks ago. Dan Fouts is probably the best quarterback when the game is on the line," says Charger wide receiver Charlie Joiner. "I think today, he's probably the best of them all in that type of situation. Hes always in complete control. y j 9 - When Denver has the ball John Elway, after a month without one, hurled two touchdown passes Monday night and set up the winning field goal with another scrambling heave to Steve Watson. With Sammy Winder relatively healthy again, Denver is using a lot of single back formations, and Elway has a new target in Vance Johnson, the speedy Arizona rookie who has replaced Butch Johnson as a starter. Denvers formula has been to take a halflime lead, then protect it with more conservative play calling in the second half. Key matchups: The teams vs. the line The resurgent Chargers have won two straight against the line and dre 2-2-1 against the spread on the road this season. Denver is 3-2 against the line at Mile High Stadium. Pressure NFL cornerbacks must learn how to fail and survive I liwldt Foottoe Wporf King Features The better you play this position, the more likely you are to go unnoticed, says New England Patriots cornerback Raymond Clay-bom. That's the problem with playing cornerback in the National Football League, youre judged more by failure than success. About the only time a cornerback really is noticed is when a wide receiver Hashes by and races into the end zone for a touchdown. Suddenly, all eyes shift, turning away from the receiver and searching for the guilty party the lonely cornerback whos been beaten. And, in the NFL, thats inevitable. Every cornerback finds himself in that position. They can't keep up with what is being asked of them, says Bill Tobin, the personnel director for the Chicago Bears. It's tough to shut a guy out for 40 or 50 minutes. You might win 90 percent of the time, but the other 10 percent you give up 21 points." Defensive backs have very fragile egos, says Lester Hayes, the outstanding cornerback for the Los Angeles Raiders. "Its excruciating playing cornerback because you're under a microscope the entire game and getting beat on a pass pattern is inevitable. This is not an easy position to division-leader Denver Chargers running back Gary Anderson vs. Denver linebackers This is not the Bronco linebacker corps of old. It is vulnerable, especially on the strong side to the run. Anderson, as he has proven, needs only one block. Chargers wide receiver Charlie Joiner vs. Broncos right cornerback Mike Harden Joiner has enjoyed exceptional luck against Denver, even in the years the Bronco defense was at its peak. He has the discipline and experience to capitalize on Denvers integrated concept, knowing where it leaves tiny gaps he can find for Fouts passes. Broncos wide receivers Steve Watson and Vance Johnson vs. Chargers secondary ' The Denver wide receivers had little luck two weeks, ago, but they challenged the 49er secondary all night on Monday, Fouts career still missing a coveted Super Bowl ring Dolrtad PrM SAN DIEGO Quarterback Dan Fouts long passes have brought him a slew of records and the respect of every defense in the league. Theres something he doesnt have though, a Super Bowl ring. Thats what we play for. Its the measure of the best team, said Fouts, whose San Diego Chargers were tripped up one step shy of Super Sunday in 1982, 1981 and 1980. Now in his 13th National Football League campaign, Fouts is at the controls of a revamped Chargers offense that has thrust itself back into the playoff picture with consecutive victories over the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Raiders. We feel good about ourselves right now but we have to realize we're only a .500 team (5-5) at this point, with six tough games to go, Fouts said Monday, a day after the Chargers dramatic 40-34 overtime victory over the Raiders. Fouts completed 26 passes for 436 yards and four touchdowns Sunday, including a 14-yard strike to veteran wide receiver Charlie Joiner with 53 seconds remaining to force the game into overtime. The 400-yard passing game was Fouts sixth in the regular season, an NFL record. In his career Fouts has thrown for 36,005 yards and 219 touch play, Clayborn concurs in a coast-to-coast appreciation of what cornerbacks go through. They dont make defensive players into matinee idols. They want receivers creating excitement. Its like the guy who comes up with the bases loaded: Its just him and the pitcher, one-on-one, with no place to hide. Strike out, and youre the guy who could have won the game. Give up the homer, and youre the guy who lost it Thats how it is at cornerback. The guy youre guarding is going for the homer and youre the one who must stop him and its all taking place at center stage with the whole world looking on. It's a pressure position," says Richie Petibon, the assistant head coach in charge of defense for the Washington Redskims. People who get down on themselves when they get beat are very bad prospects for the comer. Everybody gets beat Guys who overcome that are guys who play 10-12 years in the NFL Guys who dont wind up selling insurance. That probably explains why there are so many insurance salesmen ringing your doorbell. It doesn't, however, explain how cornerbacks cope, the special quality every cornerback must have besides his physical attributes. Clayborn has it and Hayes has it Please check Carmerback, page tC Johnson burning them for a 50-yarder, Watson drawing a key interference call late in the game, just missing on a couple of other occasions. San Diego has given up a lot of yardage to opposing passers. Broncos running backs Sammy Winder and Gene Lang vs. Charger linebackers Billy Ray Smith and Linden King Denver's first preference is the run, figuring it makes Elways play action and roll out passes more effective. While San Diego sets up the occasional run with passing, Denver goes the other way, and Smith and King hold the key. . Broncos pass rushers Karl Meck-lenberg and Rulon Jones vs. Chargers left offensive tackle Jim Lachey Denver had little pressure on downs. Three times he has passed for more than 4,000 yards in a season. It's routine- for him, Joiner said. Very few, if any (quarterbacks) are better than he is when the game is on the line. I think today, hes probably the best of them all in that type of situation. Hes always in complete control. Fouts completed the comeback by guiding the Chargers 80 yards on the first overtime possession, capped by Lionel James' 17-yard touchdown run. Any time you play against No. 14 Dan Fouts you never feel like you have the game locked up," Raiders quarterback Marc Wilson said. As leader of Coach Don Coryell's ftituristic offense, Fouts commands a scoring unit that is averaging 399 yards a game, tops in the league. Weve got the best offense in football ... and were getting better, Fouts said. This offense is ever changing and evolving, taking advantage of two things: what the defense is willing to give us and what our personnel can give us. The task that fell to Fouts this season was to pull together the offense in a season of change for the Chargers, who went 13-19 over the past two seasons. Nearly half of the players were not on the San Diego roster at any time in 1984 and 10 starting positions are occupied by players who did not start there for The Raiders' Lester Hayes says "defensive backs have very fragile egos," It's excruciating ... because youre under a microscope the entire game and getting beat on a pass pattern is inevitable." Fouts in the first game, but can be expected to go after him this time as it did Joe Montana on Monday night. They like to have Mecklen-berg jump in next to Jones at the last second, putting their two best pass rushers next to each other to confuse blocking. Broncos placekicker Rich Karlis vs. Chargers placekicker Bob Thomas Karlis had the winner Monday, but used the occasion to tee off on the local press, which he thinks has maligned him for earlier misses. Thomas has had problems at times as replacement for Rolf Benirschke. And this is a game that could well come down to a field goal. Last-minute factors Winder left the Monday game with a leg injury, but early indications were he should be available ... Tom JacksOn made his first start of the season for the Broncos on Monday. the Chargers last year. Nevertheless, Fouts said the Chargers' potential is staggering considering the emergence of James and running back Gary Anderson, who was signed by San Diego last September after three standout seasons in the rival United States Football League. If you look at our personnel, we have the people that can run with the football and catch the football, James said. But in order to catch it or run it, they have to get it from Dan. Dan controls all that. He's at the top of our game. The importance of Fouts to the San Diego offense was demonstrated in Week 4 of the NFL season, when he went down with torn knee ligaments in a game against Cleveland. The team sagged visibly, failing to score after Fouts' first-quarter departure and lost the game. Fouts missed two games and the majority of two others during which the Chargers went 1-3. San Diego is 2-1 in the three games he hrs started since returning from the injury. Injuries have interrupted his career three times in the past three seasons, but Fouts said he has no thought of retirement Im not ready to call it a career, Fouts said. A chapter in his career with the Chargers, he said, is still missing. c ) I t v

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