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NFC ROUNDUP

Stecker Steps Up for Saints

September 27, 2004|From Associated Press

Even without Deuce McAllister, the New Orleans Saints' running game is in good hands.

Perturbed after being described as a journeyman, fill-in Aaron Stecker responded with his first 100-yard game in the Saints' 28-25 overtime victory over the Rams on Sunday at St. Louis.

Stecker's performance added balance for the Saints, who also got big games from quarterback Aaron Brooks, kicker John Carney and defensive end Charles Grant, who had three of his team's five sacks.

Stecker, who began the game with 443 yards in four-plus seasons, was supposed to split time with Ki-Jana Carter, and the Saints figured to struggle on the ground with McAllister sidelined by a high ankle sprain. Stecker ended up with 106 yards in 18 carries, including a 42-yard touchdown run.

"Hey, I'm a running back," Stecker said. "It's not like they pulled me out of the front office and said 'Deuce is out, do you know how to play some running back?' "

Brooks calmly directed the winning drive, Carney kicked five field goals and Grant led a strong defensive effort that combined to end the Rams' 15-game regular-season home winning streak. The Saints have never been intimidated by the Rams' home, winning in St. Louis in 2000 and '01, when both teams were in the NFC West.

New Orleans forced overtime after the Rams took the lead on Marc Bulger's 19-yard scramble with 28 seconds to go. The Rams tried to avoid return man Michael Lewis, and Jeff Wilkins' line-drive squib kick gave New Orleans possession at its 42, a big break.

Four plays later, Carney connected from 38 yards to tie the score with two seconds to go.

Then they shut down the Rams' once high-powered offense in overtime and drove to set up Carney's clinching 31-yarder with 7:59 left in overtime.

*

Philadelphia 30, Detroit 13 -- Donovan McNabb threw for 356 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for a score to lead the Eagles at Detroit. Terrell Owens caught six passes for 107 yards and a touchdown for the Eagles, 3-0 for the first time since 1993.

Rookie receiver Roy Williams had nine receptions for 135 yards and two touchdowns -- for the second week in a row -- for the Lions, who had a chance to go 3-0 for the first time since 1980.

In the first quarter, McNabb slipped a sack and shuffled around the pocket long enough to find a wide-open L.J. Smith to convert a third down. McNabb's jaw-dropping play kept an 88-yard drive going. It ended with his one-yard sneak, giving Philadelphia a 7-0 lead. His 29-yard pass to Owens and one-yard pass to Mike Bartrum put the Eagles ahead, 21-0, midway through the second quarter.

*

Minnesota 27, Chicago 22 -- Daunte Culpepper threw two touchdown passes to Randy Moss and ran for another, helping the Vikings hold off the Bears at Minneapolis.

Onterrio Smith had 94 yards rushing and 104 yards receiving for Minnesota. Chicago came within five points when quarterback Rex Grossman scored on a six-yard scramble at the two-minute warning, but he hurt his right leg and had to leave on a cart.

Chicago got the ball back, and backup quarterback Jonathan Quinn was sacked by Kevin Williams on fourth down.

Culpepper completed 19 of 30 passes for 360 yards, 119 of them to Moss.

*

Seattle 34, San Francisco 0 -- Once again, the Seahawks won with their dominant defense. This time, they ended an NFL record streak.

Matt Hasselbeck threw for 254 yards with two touchdowns, Shaun Alexander scored three touchdowns and Seattle's defense was magnificent at Seattle.

It was the first time San Francisco failed to score since a 7-0 loss to Atlanta at Candlestick Park on Oct. 9, 1977, breaking its league record spanning 420 regular season and 36 playoff games.

Seattle has given up only 13 points in its first three games. 49er second-year quarterback Ken Dorsey completed 19 of 32 passes for 153 yards with two interceptions, and San Francisco had only 48 yards rushing.

*

Atlanta 6, Arizona 3 -- Michael Vick wasn't much help, so the Falcons had to rely on their defense and Arizona's inept offense to get to 3-0 for the first time since 1986.

The Falcons forced quarterback Josh McCown into three fumbles and managed to win at Atlanta with a pair of field goals by Jay Feely.

There were nine fumbles (seven resulting in turnovers), five calls that had to be reviewed by the referee (two were overturned) and not one touchdown despite countless opportunities by both teams. The Cardinals lost three fumbles inside the Falcon 20.

One week after accounting for 288 yards rushing and passing in a victory over St. Louis, Vick was sacked five times, turned the ball over three times and was only 10 of 20 for 115 yards.

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