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WEEK 7 IN THE NFL SAM FARMER

Their Name Has Become Mud

October 21, 2002|SAM FARMER

San Diego's Drew Brees and LaDainian Tomlinson beat the Raiders with a devastating combination punch; St. Louis running back Marshall Faulk scored four touchdowns; and the football world got a reminder Sunday of why no one in the NFL wants to be like Mike (see: Holmgren, Tice).

The 2-5 Rams of former genius Mike Martz beat the 1-5 Seahawks of former genius Mike Holmgren -- hey, somebody had to win -- and Mike Tice's 1-5 Vikings were shut out for more than three quarters by the New York Jets, who began the weekend having allowed 32 points a game. The Vikings lost, 20-7.

Another Mike, Bronco Coach Mike Shanahan was riding so high after a 37-34 victory in overtime at Kansas City he could have floated home to Denver. Hours later, the Chargers needed overtime to beat the Raiders with a Tomlinson touchdown run, lending credence to the notion the AFC West is the league's toughest division.

The Denver-Kansas City game was a classic. The Chiefs built a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter on the running of Priest Holmes, who gained 113 yards and scored three touchdowns against the NFL's top-ranked rushing defense. This was a defense that affixed a Denver boot to some of the league's best running backs, among them Garrison Hearst, Ricky Williams, Faulk and Tomlinson.

Holmes has 14 touchdowns in seven games, the best start in NFL history. Regardless, Priest couldn't deliver last rites to the Broncos, mostly because he was backed up by the might and muscle of Kansas City's gauze-curtain defense. Yes, the Chiefs have scored a league-leading 102 points in the fourth quarter, but that's only three points more than their defense has allowed in the same period.

"I told the squad, 'When you boil it down, one play makes the difference. You don't make the play, you lose,' " Kansas City Coach Dick Vermeil said. "We had opportunities to put them away and we couldn't do it."

The toe-to-toe scoring flurry was settled by the toe of Jason Elam, who made a 25-yard field goal in overtime.

Denver's Shannon Sharpe scored two touchdowns, including the longest of his career, a catch and run that covered 82 yards early in the second quarter. He couldn't resist ribbing the Kansas City fans after he crossed the goal line. He bent down in the end zone, peeled some tape off his shoe and revealed what was written underneath: "Big Play Shay."

"I just wanted to let everyone know I was still back," said Sharpe, the all-time touchdown leader among NFL tight ends.

Not yet back is Denver safety Kenoy Kennedy, who the NFL suspended for a game because of his helmet-to-helmet hit on Miami receiver Chris Chambers a week earlier. The Broncos disputed the decision, saying Chambers' head was shoved down just before he was hit, and some Denver players even passed the hat to reimburse Kennedy the $25,294 game check he missed. The NFL stepped in and declared that a no-no.

Say this for Kennedy: He doesn't shy from contact. The same cannot be said of an unnamed Detroit player lambasted on the radio last week by Lion General Manager Matt Millen, a former Pro Bowl linebacker. He was a guest Thursday on a Chicago sports talk show hosted by Mike Ditka and spoke of a "devout coward" on the team.

Millen's team went on to post a 23-20 overtime victory over Chicago on Sunday and prove not every Detroit player is a cowardly Lion. Kicker Jason Hanson forced overtime with a field goal, then made a 48-yarder in overtime that allowed the 2-4 Lions to match last season's victory total.

Now, Joey Harrington has his first fourth-quarter comeback as a pro, something he did 10 times at the University of Oregon. He didn't throw a touchdown pass, but he didn't have a pass intercepted, either.

"We've been very close a couple times and haven't pulled it out, so it's a frustrating feeling being 2-4," he said. "But it's a good feeling because we've been so close and we've been improving. We're really optimistic."

Not nearly as upbeat as the New Orleans Saints, though, who pulled off a 35-27 victory over longtime nemesis San Francisco. This time, it was the 49ers victimized by a pen-wielding joker. During the fourth quarter, a fan ran onto the field and briefly joined the team's huddle.

"He had a ball-point pen and was trying to sign my shirt," 49er center Jeremy Newberry said. "He could have stabbed me or something. How did he get out there untouched?"

Terrell Owens wasn't afforded the same treatment. He was roughed up by Saint defenders and limited to four catches for 61 yards. He did score a touchdown, but there were no elaborate celebrations in the wake of his end zone autograph session six days earlier. He merely tossed the ball to a fan in a 49er jersey, who proved to be no sharpie, fumbling it back onto the field.

Ah, the common man. Makes you appreciate the sure hands of players such as Sharpe, who had 214 yards receiving, and the amazing feet of Faulk (183) and Tomlinson (153).

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