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Pro Football SPOTLIGHT

November 14, 1994|Pro Football Spotlight compiled by Bob Cuomo, Tim Kawakami, Houston Mitchell and Ara Najarian

WHO NEEDS AIKMAN VS. YOUNG WHEN YOU HAVE CONWAY?

Maybe it was that swirling Florida storm and those wobbly Steve Walsh flutter balls. Maybe it was the karma of all us Los Angelenos grumbling under our breaths because the Dolphin-Bear game was the one that The Powers That TV substituted when the 49er-Cowboy game was yanked off of our tubes.

Whatever, if you watched the Bears' 17-14 victory at Miami, you saw a bizarro classic.

Sure, the 49er-Cowboy game was the best matchup of this regular season, but did it feature a fake field goal gone horrendously wrong that ended up as a pretty touchdown pass thrown by a wide receiver (Curtis Conway), tipped away from an eligible offensive lineman (Jerry Fontenot) and caught by a little-used tight end (Keith Jennings)?

Miami reacted well to Chicago's split formation. Conway, lined up 15 yards to the left of the holder and kicker, took the shovel snap from center and rolled to his right, evaded Bryan Cox and adjusted when primary receiver Marv Cook was covered by hurling a spiral across the field toward Fontenot.

"I saw two of our guys out there, and two of their guys," Conway said. "Our guys were bigger, so I just decided I'd throw it up there and hope that one of our guys would go up and get it."

It was a game that had a perfect Donnell Woolford interception in the end zone nullified by a bad call and ruled incomplete, a game that had Woolford's long interception return earlier in the game made irrelevant by his fumble back to the Dolphins on the play, a game in which Dolphin kicker Pete Stoyanovich left Don Shula stewing on the sidelines by drilling a line drive that got nicked at the line in his attempt to kick a field goal and send the game into overtime.

Said Bear kicker Kevin Butler, who, upon last examination tackled no one, did kick the field goal that put Chicago ahead for good: "We fought, scratched and clawed to get in a position to win. Anytime I can get in and help them win, I'm ready."

THE GREAT BLAKE

While the NFC was displaying its muddle of struggling young quarterbacks, the other conference showcased a potential new generation of heroes Sunday.

The find of the season so far? Easily, it's the Cincinnati Bengals' Jeff Blake, an unknown until David Klinger's wobbliness and injuries drove him to the sidelines. Blake had his second consecutive brilliant game.

Blake, the 166th selection in the 1992 draft, led the Bengals to a 34-31 victory over the Oilers by throwing for 354 yards and the first four-touchdown performance by a Cincinnati quarterback since 1989.

Blake, who threw for 387 yards last week in only his second NFL start last week in a victory over the Seahawks, bounced off the X-ray table on Sunday to lead two late drives on his bruised left ankle.

And Bengal fans have caught on to the exploits.

"Videos, jerseys, everything around here this week has been No. 8," said receiver Carl Pickens, who caught two of Blake's touchdown passes. "Everything is Jeff Blake, and why not? He deserves it."

JUST LIKE THEY DREW IT UP

Lost in Blake's wake, but not in the history books, was New England's Drew Bledsoe, who kept throwing and throwing after struggling to produce points the previous five weeks.

Firing at will after trailing, 20-3, at halftime, Bledsoe completed 45 passes in 70 attempts--both NFL records--in the Patriots' 26-20 overtime victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

The old records were 68 passes by Houston's George Blanda on Nov. 1, 1964 and 42 completions by the New York Jets' Richard Todd on Sept. 21, 1980.

Bledsoe threw for 426 yards and three touchdowns.

"Even when we were ahead, we never were able to take him out of his rhythm entirely," Minnesota Coach Dennis Green said.

TONIGHT'S GAME: BUFFALO AT PITTSBURGH

6 p.m., Channel 7

Time is running out on the Bills.

Even with Miami's loss to Chicago on Sunday, Buffalo could suffer difficult-to-reverse damage to its playoff hopes if it doesn't win tonight. The Bills (5-4) have as many losses as they did all last season, and they have two losses to the team with which they are tied for the last wild-card spot: the Jets.

Still ahead are games against the Packers, Lions (on Thanksgiving), Dolphins, Vikings, Patriots and Colts.

Running back Thurman Thomas has been the key. The Bills have been great when Thomas has played well and they have played poorly when he has struggled. Otherwise, the Bills have been average in every phase of the game.

The Steelers are very fortunate to be 6-3. They were very average and needed four field goals to beat the Oilers last week. They, too, have the easiest part of their schedule behind them. They've played the Oilers twice and the Giants and Bengals, but down the line are the Dolphins, Eagles, Raiders, Browns and Chargers.

Steeler running back Barry Foster might not play because of a knee injury. Bam Morris has been an adequate replacement. Steeler quarterback Neil O'Donnell has a sprained ankle, but is expected to play.

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