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NFL SPOTLIGHT / WEEK 11

Streaking Saints Are Hit With a Real Bad Break

November 13, 2000

An NFL franchise with arguably the worst luck through the years received more bad news Sunday.

Ricky Williams, New Orleans' star running back for whom the Saints traded their entire 1999 draft, broke his left ankle in two places late in a 20-10 victory over Carolina at Charlotte, N.C.

The injury left the streaking Saints (7-3), who have won six in a row, in a state of shock. Coach Jim Haslett was near tears when he told the media of Williams' injury.

The injury occurred on a one-yard run with about six minutes left, a rush that put the former Heisman Trophy winner right at 1,000 yards for the season.

Haslett said Williams will be out at least six weeks, meaning he might be back for the playoffs. The team's best win streak since 1991 moved the Saints into position for the postseason, where the franchise has never won a game.

"It's devastating to me," said rookie running back Chad Morton, who probably will take over for Williams in the backfield. "I feel sick about it right now. I can't even enjoy this win. He's our offense."

Williams became the first Saint runner to hit the 1,000-yard mark since Dalton Hilliard did it in 1989.

"I'm still kind of shaking knowing that he's hurt," Morton said. "Maybe he'll back for the playoffs. Maybe a miracle will happen."

Williams greeted the media with a smile.

"I was talking to Coach Haslett and he said you can't control things like that," Williams said. "What's done is done and I have to keep working hard and hopefully come back for the playoffs."

Williams said his injury is not the end for the Saints.

"I look at it the other way," he said. "I helped us get the win and we've got to move on from that. Look at our defense, the way they make plays. And Jeff [Blake] is going to pick it [up]. We'll be OK."

While Williams remained upbeat about his comeback, the team's offensive line took the news particularly hard.

"Right now, we're pretty upset about it," Wally Williams said. "We take pride in protecting our guys and Ricky is one of our guys. We open holes for him and pick him off the ground when he's down.

"It hurts. I'm going to be sick the rest of the night just thinking about this, but tomorrow is a new day and Sunday is another opportunity."

MANY, MANY HAPPY RETURNS FOR MITCHELL

Brian Mitchell of Philadelphia broke the record for career kickoff return yardage by returning six kickoffs for 134 yards Sunday against the Steelers at Pittsburgh.

Mitchell has 10,371 yards on kickoff returns, breaking Mel Gray's record of 10,250 yards.

Mitchell has scored touchdowns four ways this season--a 13-yard pass reception Sunday, plus an 85-yard run from scrimmage, a 72-yard punt return and an 89-yard kickoff return earlier this season.

Mitchell also scored four different ways for Washington in 1997. Since 1960, he and Hall of Famer Gale Sayers of the Chicago Bears are the only NFL players to twice score touchdowns four different ways in a season.

MORE PENALTIES THAN TIGER WILLIAMS

So ineffective were the offenses until the frantic finish of the Eagle-Steeler game that the penalties were the major offensive weapon for both teams.

The Steelers were penalized 13 times for 141 yards, the Eagles nine times for 61 yards.

"It was the first time that I got up after every play looking for a flag," Steeler safety Lee Flowers said.

MR. BUTTERFINGERS

Indianapolis running back Jim Finn, designated as the Mr. Irrelevant in the 1999 NFL draft because he was the last player chosen, made himself relevant with the first carry of his career.

Finn, the final choice in the 1999 draft by the Chicago Bears, got his first opportunity to carry the ball as an NFL player, but fumbled near the goal line, costing the Colts a scoring opportunity when they already led, 14-0.

SCORE ONE FOR BROWNS, FINALLY

In their 19-11 victory over New England, Cleveland scored its first touchdown in nearly 15 quarters and scored more points than in its last four games combined.

"My eyes lit up when I saw the end zone," said tight end Aaron Shea, who scored on a nine-yard pass from Doug Pederson with 4:09 left in the first half. "I was just so happy to break that drought."

The Browns, held to six points in their last three games, went 231 minutes 45 seconds between touchdowns since scoring in their Oct. 15 game at Denver.

"I felt more pressure getting the ball in the end zone than getting the win," Pederson said.

ANOTHER STEP CLOSER

Robert Edwards hasn't carried a football in almost two years. He's almost ready to carry one again.

Edwards, who came within a few minutes of losing his left leg, is strong and confident, anxious to put on the pads and take a handoff.

"There were times when I said, 'It's not worth it, all this hard work,' " he recalled. "Sometimes, I felt like I wasn't getting anywhere. I just wanted to quit."

But he didn't. Now, some 21 months removed from a freak injury that almost cost him a leg, Edwards is ready to embark on the last stage of a remarkable comeback.

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