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SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL

Bills and Rams flip the switch

October 20, 2008|Sam Farmer

There were simultaneous power outages Sunday in two NFL cities.

What are the odds?

In Buffalo, an electrical problem outside Ralph Wilson Stadium caused the Bills and San Diego Chargers to play a quarter of Stone Age football: no scoreboard, no play clock, no in-helmet radios, no TV coverage.

In St. Louis, things were even more drastic. The Dallas Cowboys were the fork, and the Rams were the wall socket -- zzzap! When the foul-smelling smoke cleared, the Rams were 34-14 winners.

The Cowboys, charred and smoldering, have lost three of four after looking so impressive in the first three weeks of the season. Brad Johnson, filling in for the injured Tony Romo, saw three of his passes intercepted.

Oh, well, not every replacement can do as well as Jim Haslett. The Rams' interim coach is 2-0 since stepping in for the fired Scott Linehan, having knocked off Washington and Dallas in successive weeks.

It helps to have a running back such as Steven Jackson, who left cleat marks on the Cowboys with 160 yards rushing and three touchdowns.

(Speaking of stray footprints, do the Rams play on artificial turf or shag carpet? That field looks as if it has vacuum tracks.)

A few more games like that, and Haslett can drop the "interim" from his title. A few more games like that, and Dallas' Wade Phillips can drop the "coach" from his.

In the Rams-Cowboys broadcast, Fox repeatedly showed shots of the combustible Terrell Owens screaming in frustration, shaking his head, rolling his eyes. That's not good news for Dallas, where placating T.O. is a priority.

If Phillips does wind up on the unemployment line, he could see some familiar faces. The heat is rising on San Francisco's Mike Nolan, Minnesota's Brad Childress, Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis, Detroit's Rod Marinelli, Kansas City's Herm Edwards and others.

Fans in those cities might say it would be no great loss to see those coaches go. The same is not being said in New Orleans of Reggie Bush. The former USC star, having the best season of his career, reportedly could be out for up to a month because of a knee injury suffered on a punt return at Carolina. He won't make the trip to London for Sunday's game against the Chargers.

Bush wasn't the only familiar name injured in Week 7. Fellow USC alumnus Keith Rivers, a Cincinnati linebacker, was clocked on a blindside block by Pittsburgh's Hines Ward, maybe the hardest-hitting receiver in football. Rivers suffered a broken jaw and is done for the season.

While conceding that it was a "good block" and saying he would have done the same thing were he in Ward's shoes, Bengals linebacker Brandon Johnson said there's a double standard about those hits.

"No flag came out because it wasn't a quarterback," Johnson said. "If he was a quarterback, then they definitely would have thrown the flag. If it was a receiver, they definitely would have thrown the flag. It's just something that comes with playing defense. If you play defense, then you're pretty much expendable, I guess."

Cowboys safety Roy Williams suffered a broken right forearm for the second time, so his season is over.

Also finished for the season is Kansas City quarterback Brodie Croyle, whose knee was torqued when he was sandwiched on a tackle by a pair of Tennessee defenders.

It was another bad day all around for the Chiefs, who were outgained on the ground, 332 yards to 58, a gap made wider by the absence of Kansas City running back Larry Johnson, who was deactivated for being late to a team function.

Late to a team function? What about the Indianapolis Colts? They hardly showed up for a team function, better known as their game at Green Bay. A week after they finally looked like their high-flying selves again with a 28-point victory over Baltimore, the Colts moonwalked back to mediocrity with a 34-14 loss at Green Bay.

No player covered more ground in reverse Sunday than Cleveland quarterback Derek Anderson, who six days earlier led the Browns to a shocking upset of the New York Giants. Anderson took a big step backward with a 14-for-37 performance in a three-point loss at Washington, which was bad even if you factored in the five or so passes dropped by his receivers.

Back in Buffalo, the Chargers continued their trend of taking one step forward and one back. Their last four games have gone win, loss, win, loss.

The electricity went on the fritz after helium balloons with metallic tails were released near the stadium and became entangled in the power lines that serve the stadium. Fans not in the stadium had to go old-school, by tuning in and listening to the play-by-play.

And while the Chargers were active on the radio, their quarterback was treating the ball as if it were radioactive. Philip Rivers had his first two lost fumbles of the season, mistakes that proved to be pivotal in the 23-14 defeat.

But the AFC West's black Sunday came with a silver lining (insert Raiders trademark here) as Oakland picked up its first victory of the Tom Cable era by beating the New York Jets in overtime, 16-13.

Actually, the Raiders had to win twice. They appeared to have won the game at the end of regulation when Jay Feely's would-be tying kick from 52 yards clanked off an upright with three seconds to play. He got another chance, though, because Cable had called timeout just before the attempt. Feely made the re-do and forced overtime.

The game ended when Oakland's Sebastian Janikowksi boomed a 57-yarder in the extra period, the longest field goal in Raiders history.

Now that's a power surge.

--

sam.farmer@latimes.com

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