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He Wants to Add Paige to Receiving Record Playing the Chargers

October 16, 1986|MARC APPLEMAN | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — To say Stephone Paige can't wait to play the Chargers Sunday is a mild understatement.

"I start licking my chops," said Paige, the Kansas City wide receiver who set an NFL single-game record with 309 yards when the Chiefs faced the Chargers in last season's finale.

"I'm looking at it as my encore," Paige said. "The game I had against them last time is a game I'll remember the rest of my life. . . . I think I have another one in me. They know I'm capable of getting another 300-yard game."

Forty years after Jim Benton of the Rams gained 303 yards receiving against the Detroit Lions, Paige caught eight passes for 309 yards in the Chiefs' 38-34 victory over the Chargers on Dec. 22.

Paige was knocked out of the game in the third quarter. However, with a chance to set the record, he returned minutes later.

"My ribs were hurt pretty bad," Paige said, "but there was my will and pride. I wanted to end the season on a high note. When I found out I had a shot at the record, it helped some of the pain go away."

He broke the record on a 12-yard pass from Bill Kenney with less than six minutes to play.

"That catch is what I remember most," Paige said. "That really rings in my mind."

The Chargers remember Paige splitting their zone defense. Paige on a 56-yard touchdown reception. Paige deep for 86 yards and six more points. Paige free on the right sideline. Paige open in the left corner. Paige open, period.

"I remember there was a lot of blown coverage on our part," said Charger free safety Gill Byrd. "But I don't want to take anything away from Stephone. He's an excellent receiver. He has what it takes. The long strides and slender build. He's fast and he's quick."

And he's often acrobatic.

"Stephone has made some unbelieveable catches this year," Byrd said. "You should see the touchdown catch he made against Cleveland (last week). I still can't see how he caught the ball. There was a defender on his back and a defender in front of him. He has such great concentration when he knows he'll get hit."

This season, because the Chiefs have thrown the ball less, he has caught fewer passes.

Paige, who had 43 receptions in 16 games last year, has caught 15 passes for 315 yards and 2 touchdowns in six games this year.

"Stephone is having a good season," said Chief Coach John Mackovic, "but we're not throwing as much. We're trying to balance our offense more. Our offense has not been able to get into scoring position. If our offense were playing with a little more consistency, then perhaps everything would be better."

And Paige would be a little less frustrated.

"What's the problem?," he said. "I can't answer that. We're pressing a little. We're struggling. We're doing it to ourselves."

Maybe this will be the week the Chief offense gets untracked. After all, it will be going against the Charger defense, which is once again ranked last in the league.

For Paige, the only thing better than facing the Charger defense would be to play in their offense. Despite the Chargers' recent offensive slump, Paige believes "Air Coryell" is the place to be for a receiver.

"Do you think they'd let me play in San Diego?, " Paige said. "I'd love to. Speak to (Charger Coach) Don (Coryell)."

Said Coryell, when told of Paige's eagerness to play the Chargers: "Write it in big print."

Charger Notes

Lineup changes: Tight end Eric Sievers, who has caught only one pass in the first six games, will play more and take the place of Kellen Winslow in certain situations, according to Coach Don Coryell. "Eric blocks, catches and does everything a tight end can do. He deserves to play more on normal downs," Coryell said. "Winslow is due to have better days. We're all expecting those 12 great ballgames. Sooner or later, we'll see them. He certainly is physically sound." Coryell added that wide receiver Trumaine Johnson would also play more Sunday. On the defensive end, Coryell said linebacker Woody Lowe might get his first start of the season. . . . Coryell said Dan Fouts will miss a couple of days of practice with a bruised right knee. "He'll let the arm rest a bit," Coryell said. "I welcome that. . . . But there is no doubt whatsoever he'll be ready for Sunday."

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