Just think what everybody would be saying about the Chiefs if Nick Lowery hadn't missed a 20-yard field goal during regulation in an overtime loss in Houston on Sept. 20 and if John Elway hadn't sliced open the Kansas City defense for two touchdowns in two minutes in Denver on Oct. 4. "We're two plays from being 6-0," says K.C. nosetackle Bill Maas.
The Chiefs have coach Marty Schottenheimer to thank for their 24-17 upset of the previously unbeaten Eagles at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. Schottenheimer is a run guy, and everyone in the league knows it. Kansas City had been averaging 33 rushes and 25 passes a game.
So what did Schottenheimer do? He had quarterback Dave Krieg air it out, mostly with play-action passes. The backs ran the ball six times in the first three quarters, after which K.C. had Philadelphia in a 21-3 hole. "We came into the game thinking they were going to shove the ball down our throats." said Eagle linebacker Seth Joyner afterward. "The play-action killed us."
Over the years Schottenheimer has gained a reputation for being stubbornly conservative; he'll run and play clock ball even if situations suggest that he should open it up. That reputation helped him put one over on Philly. "You've got to respect what the Eagles can do," said Schottenheimer. "They play run defense as well as any team I've seen. You can't run the ball against Philadelphia. You adjust."
ADVICE OF THE WEEK
It's unsolicited, but it's free:
•Smell the coffee, Deion. Because Deion Sanders made what the Braves believed was a commitment to play for them during the baseball postseason, he shouldn't have left the team and commuted 1,000 miles to play for the Falcons on Sunday. Even some of his football teammates, who have supported Sanders's two-sport life-style in the past, were appalled by his jet-set weekend.
It's clear the Falcons have a double standard when it comes to Sanders, who is allowed to play on Sunday despite missing practice during the week. "Double standard?" said one Falcon after the team's 21-17 loss to the Dolphins in Miami. "He's taken it to a new degree. Deion has created the double double standard. This isn't about loyalty. This is about dollars."
•Ignore the full-court press, Ray. Giant coach Ray Handley is one of the smartest men on any NFL sideline. But, boy, is he dumb when it comes to dealing with the press. Stop reading the papers, Ray! Stop watching the local TV sportscasts! Who cares what they say? How can any of that help you win games?
"Distractions were my biggest concern," Handley said after the Giants ran over the Cardinals 31-21 to improve to 2-3. "I was worried about the players focusing." Handley's silly feuds with the media grabbed more headlines in New York last week than Lawrence Taylor's announcement that he would retire at season's end and the news that Phil Simms's career was threatened by elbow surgery.
•Have some pride, Seahawks. Is this team mailing it in or what? Seattle had eight yards of offense in the last 45 minutes of a 27-0 loss in Dallas. The defeat dropped the Seahawks to 1-5. "If we don't do something early," said Seattle defensive end Tony Woods after the game, "we have guys who just give up."
THURMAN'S HELMET II
In the third quarter of the Bills' 20-3 loss to the Raiders, Buffalo running back Thurman Thomas was sitting on his helmet on the sideline when he turned his head to speak to assistant coach Elijah Pitts. Pop! Neck spasms. Thomas missed several series. In fact, the Bills' ground game has been missing for two weeks. After averaging 4.5 yards a carry in winning its first four games, Buffalo has been limited to only 3.0 yards a rush in losses to the Dolphins and the Raiders.
"There will be some bad people now saying the Bills aren't as good as they are," said Thomas, who, you remember, couldn't find his helmet at the start of the Super Bowl in January.
STATS OF THE WEEK
•Oiler wideout Haywood Jeffires, who has caught at least six passes in every game this season, needs to average 5.6 receptions the rest of the year to have the first back-to-back 100-catch seasons in NFL history. He had nine catches in Houston's 38-24 win over Cincinnati.
•No back has rushed for 100 yards in a game against the Eagles in the 1990s.
•Including Sunday's 6-3 victory, Colt quarterback Jeff George is 4-1 lifetime against the Jets—and 4-21 as a starter against the rest of the NFL.
•The Patriots played 280 minutes this season before finally taking a lead, 12-10 over the 49ers in the third quarter on Sunday. The league's only winless (0-5) team, New England lost 24-12.
THE JOE WATCH
Joe Montana now says he's at fault for his stalled comeback from elbow surgery 12 months ago. "If I had to blame anyone, I would blame myself," he says. "I'm sure I overdid it on my own. It's obvious that I threw too soon, too hard." The latest ailment: Montana's right pinky feels numb. He hasn't thrown since Sept. 26. "The elbow might be as good as it's going to get," he says.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Bengals at Steelers, Monday. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh have one of the league's best, though little-noticed, rivalries. Nineteen of the 43 games between the two teams have been decided by a TD or less, and their average game score is Steelers 19.3, Bengals 19.1. Now the series moves into a new era: no more Art Rooney or Chuck Noll in Pittsburgh, no more Paul Brown or Sam Wyche in Cincinnati. The two coaches, Bill Cowher, 35, of the Steelers and Dave Shula, 33, of the Bengals, are the youngest in AFC Central history. "Chuck always said, 'The only constant in football is change,' " says Steeler tackle Tunch Ilkin. "We're finding out all about that now."
THE END ZONE
U.S. District Court Judge David Doty will soon hear arguments in the class-action antitrust suit brought by 280 players, including Eagle defensive end Reggie White, against the NFL. The players are asking to be declared free agents when their contracts expire on Feb. 1, 1993. The date for the hearing is Nov. 12—the 100th anniversary of the first occasion on record that someone was paid to play football. Pudge Heffelfinger was paid $500 (plus $25 for his expenses) by the Allegheny Athletic Association to play in a game on Nov. 12, 1892, in Pittsburgh.
THE WISH LIST
According to the NFL Players Association, the contracts of about 600 players (out of some 1,500 all told) will expire on Feb. 1, 1993. If the players win unrestricted free agency before then, either by negotiation with the owners or by court decree, some of the game's premier performers will be up for grabs. SI asked a total of 11 NFL scouts, general managers and personnel directors to select their top 10 potential free agents from our short list of the best 45.
The result: Eagle defensive end Reggie White and Cowboy running back Emmitt Smith would be the most coveted. "I'm very surprised, because they put such a premium on quarterbacks in this league." said Smith of his high rating. "I thought a guy like Steve Young would have a higher value than I would."
Each player received 10 points for a first-place vote, nine for a second, eight for a third, etc. Here's the tally of ballots, with each player's age on Feb. 1, 1993.
PLAYER, POSITION, TEAM
1992 BASE SALARY
1. Reggie White, DE, Eagles
Best in NFL at his position; has been injury free and has at least four terrific years left.
2. Emmitt Smith, RB, Cowboys
With 2,986 career yards, will become youngest player ever to rush for 3,000.
3. Steve Young, QB, 49ers
Stop knocking this guy; the league's top-rated signal-caller since the start of last season
4. Lomas Brown, T, Lions
Many teams desperate for durable left tackles; has started all 111 games of pro career.
5. Tim McDonald, S, Cardinals
Two-time Pro Bowl player has averaged 125 tackles a year since becoming a starter in '88.
6. Paul Gruber, T, Bucs
Talk about durable left tackles—has played all 4,186 plays of his five-year career.
7. Will Wolford, T, Bills
Most underrated Buffalo player; has Pro Bowl capability at both guard and tackle.
8. Jumbo Elliott, T, Giants
Strong as an ox, but some teams might be scared off by recent back strains and spasms.
9. Shane Conlan, LB, Bills
Has gotten over injury bug early in career; now Buffalo's best run-stopper.
10. Ernest Givins, WR, Oilers
Gritty, electrifying; probably best in the league at making tough catch over the middle.