UP WAS DOWN
This is an article from the Nov. 23, 1992 issue
What a man-bites-dog day it was in the NFL on Sunday. The best division in the league, the NFC East, went 0-5 for the first time in its 22-year history. The quarterbacks down the stretch in the Giant-Bronco game were Kent Graham and Tommy Maddox. Bubby Brister and Vinny Testaverde were heroes. Herschel Walker was a goat.
This is the week that was.
Moon over Minnesota. The Oilers endured what probably will go down as the 18 most significant hours for the team in 1992. With Houston needing to beat the Vikings to resurrect its flagging season, free-spirit Oiler wideout Haywood Jeffires, an unlikely choice, was asked by the offensive coaches to fire up his teammates. "We're not going to let the outside world—the media, the tans—convince us that we're a bunch of bums!" Jeffires said in a rambling 10-minute pep talk last Saturday night. "All of us are as important as a Warren Moon and a Ray Childress tomorrow! Go out and make plays!"
The Oilers survived four turnovers and got heroic play from Moon to win 17-13 and remain a game behind the Steelers in the AFC Central race at 6-4. Playing with a bad headache, the result of a concussion suffered two weeks earlier. Moon kept the game-winning drive alive with a gutsy third-down play on which he twice escaped being sacked and then eluded a downfield tackle as he scrambled for a first down. However, as he dived for the final, critical yards, Moon took a missile-like helmet in the shoulder from Viking safety Vencie Glenn. The blow fractured Moon's upper left arm, and he will miss at least the next three games.
Now Houston will need all the leadership it can get from Cody Carlson, who completed the winning drive against Minnesota, as well as from Jeffires, who can ramble on forever about the quirkiest things. For instance: "if I'm reincarnated. I want to come back as a homeless person. The homeless are such great survivors." Even Jeffires admits, "I might be the odd-ballest leader in sports history."
For the second time this season the Redskins have lost a starting cornerback to a broken forearm. Martin Mayhew was sidelined in Washington's 35-16 loss to the Chiefs, and Darrell Green broke his right forearm in September. "I've never seen two broken forearms in the same season, " says team doctor Charles Jackson.
The San Diego Snowmen. Charger fans can't forget how their team fell apart in the AFC Championship Game on a frigid day in Cincinnati a decade ago. What's more, in 1987—the last time San Diego played in the snow—Denver drilled the Beach Boys 24-0. And because 28 of the Chargers' 47 players played college ball in temperate climes and had no winning experience as pros with the white stuff, San Diego seemed to be easy pickings when snow started falling in Cleveland on Sunday. Not so.
"When I woke up this morning, I was like a little kid waking up for Christmas." said San Diego linebacker Junior Seau, who grew up in suburban San Diego, went to Southern Cal and had never before played in snow. "I wanted to play right then." Quarterback Stan Humphries, who was pelted in the back by an iceball hurled from the stands early in the game, threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Miller against lousy pass coverage by the Browns with 2:05 left to give the Chargers a 14-13 win.
Two keys to the Steelers' offensive success this season have been quarterback Neil O'Donnelland tight end Eric (liven. Bui in Pittsburgh's 17-14 defeat of the Lions, neither was on the field for the winning touchdown drive. O'Donnell tore a hamstring midway through the fourth quarter and was replaced by Bubby Blister, while Green received a six-week suspension for a second violation of NFL substance-abuse rules early in the week and was replaced by Tim Jorden. Naturally Blister threw a one-yard touchdown pass—only his second completion since O'Donnell beat him out for the starling job in training camp—to Jorden for the victory.
Coach of the Week. In its last two meetings with Philadelphia, Green Bay had been mauled by the Eagles' pass rush and had lost by a combined score of 51-3. In former coach Lindy Infante's system, the Packer quarterbacks dropped back five or seven steps and began to look for a receiver but most times found Philly defensive end Reggie White wrapped around them. New coach Mike Holmgren has quarterback Brett Favre throwing mostly off three-step drops, so his linemen don't have to hold their pass blocks as long.
"There's no doubt the play-calling gave the offensive linemen a chance." said Green Bay tackle Ken Ruettgers about the Packers' 27-24 upset of the Eagles on Sunday. Tackle Tootie Robbins held White sackless, and the Pack had 410 yards of offense—the first 400-yard day given up by the Eagles since Dec. l). 1990. And after Philadelphia's Hersehel Walker rumbled on his own 23 in the final minute, Chris Jacke kicked the game-winning field goal.
Seven days after the greatest linebacker of his era, Lawrence Taylor, likely ended his career with a torn Achilles tendon at (Hants Stadium, the greatest offensive tackle of his era, Anthony Munoz, probably ended his career at (Hants Stadium when he injured a knee in the Bengals' 17-14 loss to the Jets. Munoz was playing his first game since coming off injured reserve with a chronically sprained shoulder.
Sing Is a Song, Piano Man. It hadn't been a good week for Billy Joe Tolliver, who was the Falcons' quarterback in their 38-point loss to the 49ers on Monday. Nov. 9. He worried about his terminally ill mom most of the week and learned on Friday that his dad. Charles Lee (Snake) Tolliver, had been indicted in Denver for manufacturing and distributing methamphetamines. So when Atlanta coach Jerry Glanville yanked Tolliver on Sunday—alter he had thrown an interception that was returned for a game-tying touchdown by the Cardinals—Tolliver went ballistic. Cornerback Deion Sanders had to step between him and Glanville, or somebody would have gotten punched.
In the wake of his team's 20-17 victory, Glanville put on a smiley lace when he was asked about the incident. "You've got to love Billy Joel." Glanville said, using his nickname for Tolliver. "He's a competitor." But does Billy Joel have to love Jerry? Stay tuned. Tolliver, who completed 16 of 24 passes before being benched, is expected to start this Sunday against the Bills.
All in a day's work for Mike Ditka: His Bears gave new life to the career of often-benched Buccaneer quarterback Vinny Testaverde by yielding 20 points and what proved to be the winning touchdown pass before the first half ended: Chicago played 50 nannies before finally scoring a touchdown against the NFL's 16th-ranked defense: after he railed at kicker Kevin Butler late in the game, calling him "gutless, " "mentally weak" and the "worst kickoff man in the league, " Butler missed a 44-yard field goal with one second to go, and the Bears lost 20-17; and Big Mike argued with a fan while leaving the field at Tampa Stadium ("He called me a bad name, and I called him a bad name back," Ditka said).
Rambos. Entering Sunday's game at Texas Stadium, the Cowboys hadn't lost at home in 14 months, and the Rams hadn't won on the road in 14 months. So why was Dallas defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt fretting last Saturday night? "Jim Everett has completed about 70 percent of his passes in the last month, and Cleveland Gary's turned into a big-lime buck." Wannstedt said. All coachtalk, it seemed. But Gary went out the next day and outrushed Emmitt Smith, 110 yards to 80, and Everett, swing-passing the Cowboys to death, threw two touchdown passes to Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman's one, and Wannstedt's worst fears were realized: Rams 27, Cowboys 23.
The Rams were 16-point underdogs to the 49ers on Oct. 4 and lost in the last minute. They were 13½-point underdogs to Dallas. "The guy who's making those lines must be smoking dope." Everett said. "He's not watching game film."
A Denver bakery delivered a cake to Bronco owner Pat Bowlen's private box at Mile High Stadium on Sunday evening before his team faced the (Hants. "Denver 27, New York 13, "it read. The Broncos beat the Giants 27-13. But who would have predicted that rookie Tommy Maddox would come on after Denver quarterback John Elway had suffered a bruised right shoulder in the second quarter and protect a 14-3 lead by Coolly engineering three scoring drives? New York, which lost Jeff Hosteller I bruised ribs) in the midst of a fourth-quarter rally, answered with rookie Kent (iridium, an eighth-round pick out of Ohio State.
He Dreams of Genie. The Patriots, who trailed the Colts 7-0, 14-7, 21-14, 24-21, 31-21, 31-28 and 34-31, led only once—at the finish. The Pats won their first game of the year, 37-34 in overtime. Credit quarterback Scott Zolak, who was making his first start as a pro, and his lucky football. Before his senior year at Maryland in 1990, Zolak received an autographed football from fellow Monongahela. Pa., native Joe Montana ("See you in the NFL someday." wrote Joe), and Zolak has rubbed the ball for luck before all 13 games he has started since then.
The ball was shipped to him by his family before Sunday's game. Zolak completed 20 of 29 throws for 261 yards and two touchdowns,
Shazam. What a Sunday.
STATS OF THE WEEK
•With 94 yards against the Steelers, Barry Sanders of the Lions now has out-rushed Gale Sayers, 5,051 yards to 4,956.
•Since losing their first 10 overtime games in franchise history, the Patriots have won live of them in a row.
•Kickers who play for teams located west of the Mississippi have made 247 of 247 extra-point attempts this season.
Packer rookie Terrell Buckley has questionable hands but unquestionable impudence. He has fumbled four of the 21 punts he has fielded this year but says he shouldn't be benched as Green Bay's return specialist. "Would you tell Joe Montana or Dan Marino to sit out for throwing consecutive interceptions?" asks Buckley....
A touching tribute to the late Jerome Brown, whose Eagle locker has been kept as he left it: When safety William Frizzell passed out cigars to all his teammates after the birth of a daughter last month, he placed one on the bench at Brown's locker—where it has remained untouched....
The last three players suspended for substance abuse have been Steelers—guard Terry Long and running back Tim Worley last year and Eric Green last week—which is surprising because Pittsburgh seems to be one of the league's more concerned organizations when it comes to the interests of its players....
Deion Sanders of the Falcons, who hit .304 with the major league Braves last season, was beaten in one-on-one coverage for a touchdown by Cardinal wideout John Jackson, who batted .291 for the Angels' Double A Midland (Texas) affiliate.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Eagles at Giants, Sunday. Giants, heal thy-selves. Three games in 15 days against NFC Last powers will likely determine New York's chances of making the playoffs, Four days after playing Philadelphia, the 5-5 Giants take on the Cowboys in Dallas on Thanksgiving and then, on Dec. 6, the Redskins at home. But for the first time in a dozen years, the Giants have neither quarterback Phil Simms (elbow surgery) nor linebacker Lawrence Taylor (Achilles tendon surgery) to lead them against their most bitter rivals.
THE END ZONE
It has been a charmed season for the Cowboys and their followers. The night before Dallas crushed the Lions at the Silverdome two weeks ago, at about two in the morning, a bunch of Cowboy fans and media types were hanging around the lobby bar at an Auburn Hills. Mich., hotel when Frank Sinatra walked in. (He would play The Palace at Auburn Hills the next night.) Sinatra bought a round for everyone at the bar, and then said, "Boy, it's dead in here. I could use some music."
So a cameraman for Dallas TV station KTVT stood and started singing, quite off-key, "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Jack Frost nipping at your nose...."
"Sir, you can't sing!" Sinatra bellowed. "You've got on bad clothes! Go to bed!"
And with that, the party broke up.
A 20-3 Loss to the raiders on Sunday kept the Seahawks (1-9) on pace to finish the season as one of the worst offensive teams in the last half century. The lowest-scoring team in NFL history after 10 games was the Oorang Indians, who had only 31 points while starting 1-9 in 1923, but games played in the 1920s and '30s were low-scoring affairs. Here are the worst 10-game scoring figures since World War II.
Seattle, which has scored touchdowns on only five of 127 possessions, has used three quarterbacks. Here's how each of them has fared.
Finally, a few more statistics to help explain the Seahawks' offensive futility this season:
•With McGwire and Gelbaugh—who has been drafted or signed by nine teams in three leagues in three countries since leaving the University of Maryland six years ago—sharing duties, Seattle had 54 yards of offense in the first quarter of its Oct. 11 game against the Cowboys but only eight yards the rest of the game.
•Rookie left tackle Ray Roberts has allowed 11 sacks and been whistled for 12 penalties, including eight false starts.
•The Seahawks have completed only eight passes for more than 20 yards.
•Seattle has punted for 1.298 yards more than its offense has gained.
Average Per Game