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SIDELINES

Once Again, Giants Have No Backup Plan

October 14, 2002|--Houston Mitchell

New York Giant Coach Jim Fassel knew his team was in trouble the moment it was learned Michael Vick would not start at quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons.

Fassel set the tone in his address to the team Wednesday. "We've been beaten by backup quarterbacks before," he said.

It happened again Sunday.

Doug Johnson, a nondescript third-year man, completed 19 of 25 passes for 257 yards, ran for one touchdown and threw for another as the Falcons beat the Giants, 17-10.

On Sept. 7, 1997, the Giants were 1-0 under first-year coach Fassel when they went to Jacksonville. The Jaguars' top two quarterbacks, Mark Brunell and Rob Johnson, were injured, so Steve Matthews -- claimed on waivers from the Chiefs 18 days earlier -- got the nod.

The Jaguars won, 40-13. Matthews was 23 of 35 for 252 yards. Other than that start, Matthews threw eight passes in his career.

Fassel said, "I believe that when a backup comes in, everybody else steps it up."

Backups had beaten the Giants before Matthews -- Jay Schroeder with the Washington Redskins in 1985 and Tommy Maddox with the Denver Broncos in 1992 -- but even considering only Fassel's era, there have been some whoppers.

On Sept. 21, 1998, the Dallas Cowboys started Jason Garrett in place of the injured Troy Aikman for a Monday night game against the Giants. Garrett, who hadn't started since 1994, passed for 224 yards and Dallas won, 31-7. Garrett is now a backup for the Giants.

"These guys are champing at the bit to get a chance to get on the field," Garrett said this week. "They're going to be ready to play, and they are going to be dangerous because you don't know as much about them as the guys you see on film all the time."

On Nov. 12, 2000, the Giants thought they had caught a break when the Rams' Kurt Warner sat out with broken finger. Backup Trent Green threw for four touchdowns and ran for another in a 38-24 victory.

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Emmitt Smith ran for 59 yards in 13 carries as the Cowboys edged the Panthers, 14-13. That gives him 365 yards on the season, 175 short of Walter Payton's career record of 16,726 yards rushing.

Smith has been remarkably consistent this season. He has had between 52 and 70 yards in every game.

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Sunday's key injuries:

* Rams' left tackle Grant Williams broke his right leg and will have surgery today.

* Jaguar right tackle Maurice Williams broke his right leg.

* The Giants lost defensive tackle Keith Hamilton, who tore his right Achilles' tendon.

* Two quarterbacks -- Jacksonville's Mark Brunell and Carolina's Rodney Peete -- were knocked out of games with concussions.

Among other injuries, Chiefs' defensive tackle Ryan Sims dislocated an elbow; Lion tight end Mike Ricks injured his groin and the Saints had two players hurt -- linebacker Charlie Clemons (groin) and cornerback Michael Hawthorne (lower leg).

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