They come out of nowhere. They emerge from the mist. They make
you scratch your head and wonder why no one has seen fit to make
use of their services--until now. I'm talking about the lowest
subs on the roster who suddenly get their chance and then make
all sorts of things happen. Specifically, I'm talking about
Kelly Holcomb and Fred Lane. Say who?
Kelly Holcomb, Colts quarterback. Cut four times by the
Buccaneers last year after he joined them, spent and exhausted
from a season with the Barcelona Dragons of the World League.
Number 3 on the Colts' depth chart, he became No. 2 when Jim
Harbaugh got into his jam with Jim Kelly, and then No. 1 on
Sunday when Paul Justin severely dislocated the middle finger on
his left hand less than five minutes into the game against
Holcomb's old team, Tampa Bay.
He'd never taken a snap in a regular-season NFL game, but he
completed 19 of 30 passes for 181 yards and led the winless
Colts to 18 unanswered points and, well, we'd like to say, led
them to victory, except a botched fourth-quarter handoff deep in
Bucs territory ruined that dream. But the point is, the guy
injected some life into a dying club, and, yes, I think the
Colts are sufficiently juiced to beat the Bengals and collect
their first W of the season. I'd like to believe that Holcomb
will be the pitcher of record, but that call is up to coach
Lindy Infante, who has less romance in his soul than yours truly.
The Fred Lane story is happier because there's a win attached to
it. Undrafted free agent out of Lane (Tenn.) College.
Third-string tailback for the Panthers. Inactive for three out
of the four games before Sunday's 38-14 thrashing of the
Raiders. Got the call five plays into the game when Tim
Biakabutuka bruised his ribs and Dom Capers, on a hunch, went
with him over Anthony Johnson.
Then it was strictly "Oh, my!" Did you like his numbers, 28
carries for 147 yards? Did you like his three touchdowns? And
how about the way he got that second one, 18 yards of churning
fury? "Freddy, Freddy!" yelled the crowd. Capers hugged him
after each score, and center Frank Garcia compared him, in all
seriousness, to Walter Payton. Do the Panthers love this kid, or
what? The brawl near the end of the game, which got two Oakland
linemen ejected, was started because the Carolina linemen
thought the Raiders were taking cheap shots at Freddy.
Now comes the harsh light of a new day. The next opponent is
Denver--at Mile High. Capers loves the running game, and what
better team to run against than the Broncos, who are without
starting defensive linemen Michael Dean Perry and Neil Smith? I
thought Seahawks coach Dennis Erickson might be thinking along
those same lines on Sunday, but before Steve Broussard broke the
27-yard run that set up Seattle's first touchdown, only three of
the Seahawks' 18 plays had been rushes.
Nope, Erickson wanted to turn the game into a Warren Moon-John
Elway shoot-out. Elway doesn't lose many of those, and he didn't
lose this one. The Broncos compensated for their shortage on the
line with an imaginative blitz package, which should be even
more inviting for a heavy Carolina ground game. Can the
Panthers, with the Miraculous Freddy, pull off this upset? Well,
the same handicapper who felt that the Panthers would succumb to
the Raiders has not learned from experience. Denver's the
I can't believe I'm picking Alex Van Pelt to beat Drew Bledsoe
when the Bills host the Patriots, but what I'm really picking is
Rich Stadium. The last two games there have been weather games,
and no place is as merciless on quarterbacks. I like Buffalo in
another low-scoring affair.
The Dolphins are fighting for their lives, the Jets are winning
ugly and marveling over their division lead. Miami can't run the
ball, and Dan Marino has a bad ankle. This is all the more
reason for the Dolphins to reach down for that extra something
and pull one out for the home folks.
Here's why Detroit should beat Washington: Barry Sanders against
the NFL's 29th-ranked run defense. Here's why Washington should
beat Detroit: The Lions have never won in Washington. They're
0-18. Here's another reason: The Skins are 5-1 this year when
Terry Allen's been their starting tailback, 0-3 without him.
He's back, and in a win over the Bears he ran for 125 yards.
That's two reasons to one, so the choice is Washington.
Finally there's the San Francisco-Philadelphia game on Monday
night. Thought you'd never ask. The 49ers didn't beat Dallas
until they settled down and started pounding the ball. The
Niners crowd, which loved the Bill Walsh exotics, cheered just
as lustily for hog ball. Now San Francisco will be in the
Veterans Stadium zoo, and it was precisely this kind of faulty
thinking about the crowd factor that led me to pick Green Bay to
lose in New England two weeks ago. Look for the Niners to win a
bruising game in which, once again, their defense will shine.