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PRO FOOTBALL : Courage Not Walker's Problem

October 23, 1990|BOB OATES

Otherwise, there isn't much to choose from. For example, take the Raider-Charger game Sunday. Both defenses were effective. There were blue-chip receivers on both sides. And both clubs ran the ball smartly. It can't be said that Marcus Allen and Bo Jackson outran Marion Butts and Rod Bernstine.

The difference was that Schroeder outplayed Billy Joe Tolliver by an immense margin.

As the division heads into its bye week, Schroeder is the All-AFC West quarterback, for which there may be a dual explanation: the faith that owner Al Davis had in him and the refinements by quarterback coach Mike White.

The run-and-shoot offense is still making progress in Houston, where, for the first time, it is being operated by good football players--among them quarterback Warren Moon and four above-average wide receivers.

At Detroit, the run-and-shoot Lions don't have that kind of talent. And previously, the system was mostly used by school teams.

Thus, the Oilers, with Moon in the huddle and Coach Jack Pardee on the bench, have been elected to determine whether the run and shoot is viable on the professional level. And so far they have shown that it is.

They have led the AFC in offense all year. And after surviving a rash of fumbles and dropped passes earlier, they have won their last two games to get into contention in the AFC Central.

Houston's opponents have been impressed.

"The Oilers can play football with the best of them," San Francisco quarterback Joe Montana announced after the 49ers won earlier this month, 24-21, on a fluke Houston error--an inopportune timeout that deprived the Oilers of a fumble recovery late in the fourth quarter.

Commenting on the peculiar power of the run and shoot in San Diego's loss to Houston, 17-7, Charger linebacker Leslie O'Neal said: "It was really frustrating. We'd rush the passer hard, but they'd throw a little pass and pick up yards."

Moon's arm has been doing most of the damage to Houston opponents. The Oilers' problem has been at running back, where they can't get untracked with either Lorenzo White or Allen Pinkett after dealing away both Alonzo Highsmith and Mike Rozier--neither of whom has done much since.

Remarking on the Oilers' wealth of talent in recent years, most NFL critics have mentioned their backs first--but it seems obvious that none of the club's famous top four was as special as advertised in the Heisman voting.

Most opponents have calculated for some time that there's something wrong in the Houston backfield. Four pretty good young backs shouldn't all go bad.

To make a real move in the run and shoot, Pardee will have to improve his backfield. The draw play is open half the time in that system, but to keep Moon from being overwhelmed, somebody will have to run it.

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