My Two Cents

Here's proof that Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas (below) is one
of the 20 most valuable players in the league: Missing a start
for the first time in 52 games because of a sprained right ankle,
he watched on Sunday as the feeble Bengals ran for 191 yards....

If I'm Falcons coach Dan Reeves, and I've watched the Eagles
take apart my defense for 38 points, I have to be thinking
retirement looks awfully good....

Ryan Leaf is finished in San Diego. Teammates don't think the
third-year quarterback is tough enough....

If interim coach Dick LeBeau can't turn the Bengals around, I'd
focus on one man to take over: Giants offensive coordinator Sean
Payton, who is imaginative enough to save quarterback Akili
Smith's career and, at 36, too young to be discouraged by the
situation.

The Book

An AFC scout sizes up Ravens defensive end Rob Burnett, who,
after attracting little interest on the free-agent market before
re-signing with Baltimore, leads the team with 4 1/2 sacks.

"The only player who has had more impact on Baltimore's defense
this year is [middle linebacker] Ray Lewis. Burnett is 32, which
is why [other teams] weren't interested in him in free agency,
but he's playing like he's 24. He's playing the run as well as
any end in the AFC, even against the big tackles, because he's so
good at holding his ground at the point of attack. When the
Ravens move him inside to tackle on passing downs, he has the
durability to hold up against guards and the quickness to knife
through and get to the passer. A very, very underrated player."

The Buzz

Greenbacks. Dennis Green had the last laugh on those who have
questioned his personnel moves, such as starting quarterback
Daunte Culpepper this year. Last week Vikings owner Red McCombs
gave Green a $3 million-a-year extension to continue as coach and
vice president of football operations through 2004.

Buckling Under. Tampa Bay has lost its last two games, its
defensive leader (tackle Warren Sapp) was suspended for the first
quarter of Sunday's game for missing a meeting and its Mouth of
the South wideout is getting edgy. "I won't become a Bert
Emanuel, and I won't become an Alvin Harper," says Keyshawn
Johnson, referring to two notable Tampa Bay free-agent flops.

Comeback Kid. In a 1999 preseason game against the Chargers, Rams
quarterback Trent Green tore up his left knee. On Sunday against
San Diego, he played in a real game for the first time since the
injury and threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Marshall Faulk.
Faulk has kept all of his touchdown balls--except this one. "This
belongs to you," he told Green, handing him the ball.

Match Game

The license plate of...

A. Redskins running back Stephen Davis
B. Titans kicker Al Del Greco
C. Vikings running back Harold Morrow

Answer below
Answer: Del Greco

COLOR PHOTO: HEINZ KLUETMEIER COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO

The Last Word

"You have to experience winning close games in order to win
close games."
--STEELERS LINEBACKER LEVON KIRKLAND

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)