Archer's aim is true Texans' best thing: QB Dave Archer has led San Antonio on a 9-1 run by throwing for more than 3,000 yards and only four interceptions.

November 11, 1995|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Dave Archer got a prolonged taste of the NFL, but never caught a whiff of a championship atmosphere during his seven seasons there. He finally won his first pro title three years ago with the Sacramento Surge of the World League.

None of that compares with the satisfaction Archer feels these days as the quarterback of the Canadian Football League's San Antonio Texans.

San Antonio comes to Memorial Stadium tomorrow to face the Stallions in the Southern Division championship game. The winner advances to the Nov. 19 Grey Cup game in Regina, Saskatchewan.

The Texans will hang much of their fortunes on Archer's toughness and sharp decision-making, not to mention the right arm that has carried him through the most enjoyable of his three CFL seasons.

"These kinds of games don't come along very often, and I don't know how many more of them I have left," said Archer, 33. "This is maybe the tightest group of guys I've ever played with in 11 years of pro football."

Archer launched his CFL career in 1993, a season that was both memorable and forgettable. He signed with the Sacramento Gold Miners, the CFL's first U.S. expansion team, then became the first quarterback in league history to throw for more than 6,000 yards in his first year.

Then again, the Gold Miners won only six games, and Archer, victimized by a porous offensive line, spent as much time on his back as he did admiring some of his 35 touchdown passes.

That trend continued last year, when the Gold Miners allowed 75 sacks in 18 games. Archer, who suffered two dislocated fingers on his throwing hand, was only around for 11 of them.

But Archer, 6 feet 2, 208 pounds, is standing tall again. And the Texans (13-6), after relocating from Sacramento last spring, have ridden his hand into the first postseason in franchise history.

It has been a season of adjustments on offense for the Texans. They began the year with three new faces in their receiving corps, which hurt the offense's consistency during the season's first two months.

A hamstring injury that sidelined Archer for four games didn't help.

San Antonio stumbled to a 4-5 record in the season's first half.

But since he returned to direct San Antonio's attack in August, Archer has remained hotter than any other CFL passer -- riddling man-to-man coverages with precise deep throws, peppering zone defenses by dumping passes underneath, all the time holding the ball in the pocket as long as required.

"He is smart, and he is a warrior," said Baltimore running back Mike Pringle, who played with Archer at Sacramento in 1993. "He can take a hit. When you have someone like Archer at the helm, you're always capable of pulling off victories."

Archer wound up the regular season as the league's top-rated passer.

Including last week's 52-9 dismantling of Birmingham in the first round of the playoffs, he has led the Texans to a 9-1 record in their past 10 games by throwing for 3,132 yards and 24 touchdowns. He has been intercepted only four times over the stretch, in which San Antonio has averaged 41.5 points.

"I'm only playing as well as the people around me, and a lot of people are playing well at the right time," Archer said. "Our receivers do a tremendous amount of reading and adjusting to coverages, and it took us awhile to get comfortable with each other. Our offensive line has come together. So much of it is timing."

Wide receiver Mark Stock, one of the new faces in San Antonio this year, has been in tune with Archer for some time. Stock, who led the Texans with 60 receptions for a 15.8-yard average, cites Archer's patience and cool as major

reasons for the Texans' turnaround.

"He's got a great understanding of what receivers are thinking, and he throws the ball with finesse. Some quarterbacks can't do that," Stock said. "I've enjoyed playing with him more than any other quarterback I've ever played with."

"Competitiveness, work ethic and understanding of the offense are the things that separate the great ones from the good ones," San Antonio coach Kay Stephenson said.

"Dave has all of the intangibles that weigh so heavily in a quarterback's performance."

Archer has had plenty of time to develop them.

In seven mostly uneventful seasons with four NFL teams, his high point came in 1986 when he threw for 2,007 yards and 10 touchdowns with the Atlanta Falcons. He stands one victory away from playing for his second pro title.

"To come from where we came from three years ago, this is a great opportunity for me," Archer said. "It's got to be one of the top situations I've ever been in."

NOTE: As of yesterday, 23,300 tickets had been sold for tomorrow's game.

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