Not-so-magnificent 7 stumble at start

Week 1 In Review

September 02, 1997|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Is this any way to start a football season? By the numbers, on opening day in the NFL:

Four more quarterbacks went down with injury, along with the league's all-time leading receiver.

Nine games were decided by an average of 21.3 points.

Six defensive players scored touchdowns.

And seven teams couldn't make it through August before calamity struck.

Forget the Seattle Seahawks' humiliating loss to the New York Jets and the Philadelphia Eagles' futile performance against the New York Giants. The team that took the biggest hit in Week 1 was the San Francisco 49ers, whose 13-6 defeat to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was overshadowed by the loss of All-Pro receiver Jerry Rice.

Health-wise, the 49ers already are on red alert. Rice tore two ligaments in his left knee when he tried to run a reverse against the Bucs, and his season is over. More threatening, quarterback Steve Young suffered his third concussion within a year's time, a trend that does not give 49ers fans much comfort.

That wasn't all, though. San Francisco's newest pass rusher, Kevin Greene, broke his left big toe and is questionable for this week's game at St. Louis. And Young's backup, Jeff Brohm, is questionable with a bruised hip.

Were it not for the 49ers' JV schedule the first half of the season -- they get New Orleans, Atlanta and St. Louis twice each -- they could be in playoff jeopardy by November.

The other six teams for whom the bell tolled:

Seattle: New owner Paul Allen didn't spend all that cash to get hammered by the NFL's worst team in 1996 by 38 points, did he? Or to have 40-year-old Warren Moon quarterback his offense? John Friesz will miss eight weeks with a fractured right thumb that requires surgery. Jon Kitna, come on down.

San Diego: It was going to be tough enough for the Chargers with quarterback Stan Humphries. But when he dislocated his left shoulder diving for his own fumble in a 41-7 thrashing by the New England Patriots, they were looking at some time with Jim Everett, who was run off in New Orleans this off-season. Humphries is day-to-day.

New Orleans: Speaking of the Saints, Mike Ditka put Heath Shuler on the bench after his 8-for-21, two-interception day against the Rams. Shuler should get used to it. And what about the Saints' defense? It gave up 38 points to the Rams, and didn't have to face injured Pro Bowl receiver Isaac Bruce.

Atlanta: This is how bad the Falcons were in a 28-17 loss to Detroit: They punted on five consecutive plays, only to have the first four wiped out by penalty. That was three illegal procedures against the Falcons and running into the kicker against Detroit.

Philadelphia: In a 31-17 loss to the Giants, Ty Detmer (9-for-25, 103 yards) picked up where he left off in the wild-card playoff loss against the 49ers last January. Although coach Ray Rhodes won't say, there's a good chance Rodney Peete has reclaimed the job. With Green Bay and Dallas up next, the question is, will he take it?

Ravens: Deja vu again? The Ravens made a hero of Jaguars quarterback Rob Johnson, who came back twice from a sprained foot to beat them, 28-27.

Blowout city

How ugly was opening day? There were eight blowouts, and another game was decided by 11 points. The average margin of victory for all 14 games Sunday was a whopping 14.4.

Not pass-worthy

It is one thing for Detmer to throw for 103 yards or the Colts' Jim Harbaugh to be held to 109. But when Miami's Dan Marino throws for only 105 yards, it is shocking.

That's all Marino had in a 16-10 win over the Colts, completing 10 of 26 passes with one interception. Excluding the game in Indianapolis last year where Marino broke his foot, he hadn't had that low a yardage total since Oct. 1, 1989, when he threw for 103 yards in a 39-7 loss to the Oilers.

And for what it's worth, Marino hasn't had a 300-yard passing game since Jimmy Johnson arrived in Miami. His last was a 1995 playoff game against Buffalo, when he threw for 422.

Johnson said yesterday that he considered pulling Marino during the opener and may bench him if the quarterback continues to struggle or is not healthy.

Covering costs

Memphis barely broke even on Sunday's debut of the Tennessee Oilers at the Liberty Bowl. The city needs a crowd of 30,000 to cover expenses -- it rents the stadium at $1 per seat sold -- and some 30,171 showed up for a 24-21, overtime win against Oakland.

Oilers coach Jeff Fisher presented a game ball to Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist. "This is from the Hou er, Tennessee Oilers organization," Fisher said.

The Oilers' new stadium in Nashville doesn't open until 1999.

Defensive honor roll

If you played defense Sunday, you stood a good chance of getting into the end zone. Here's who made it: Giants safety Sam Garnes (95-yard interception return), Patriots safety Willie Clay (53-yard interception), Colts linebacker Elijah Alexander (43-yard interception), Lions linebacker Stephen Boyd (42-yard fumble return), Lions linebacker Reggie Brown (38-yard interception) and Vikings linebacker Jeff Brady (30-yard fumble return).

Pub Date: 9/02/97

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