Little Dunn pokes big hole in arguments

Week 2 In Review

September 09, 1997|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took Florida State running back Warrick Dunn with the 12th pick in the draft last April, critics scoffed that Dunn was too small to navigate through heavy traffic and not durable enough to carry 20 times a game.

It took Dunn just two weeks to dispel those antiquated notions.

There he was on Sunday, all 5 feet 8, 178 pounds of him, outrunning Barry Sanders -- the NFL's defending rushing champion -- and the Detroit Lions in a 24-17 Bucs victory. Dunn rushed 24 times for 130 yards and a touchdown to soar to the front of the rookie class of 1997.

The Bucs kept Dunn under wraps in the season opener against San Francisco, when he had eight carries for 37 yards. But they turned him loose on the artificial surface of the Silverdome, and Dunn reinforced their faith in his draft position.

Showing nifty cutback moves, he rolled up 116 yards on 15 carries in the first half, including a 49-yard sprint to the Detroit 9 in the opening quarter.

Afterward, players compared him to -- who else? -- the 5-8 Sanders, who is still working the kinks out of new coach Bobby Ross' offense. Sanders was held to a meager 20 yards rushing on 10 carries. Coupled with his 33-yard effort in Week 1, that represents the worst back-to-back rushing totals of his career.

Dunn will get a chance to convert more non-believers Sunday in Minnesota (another dome and artificial surface), where the surprising 2-0 Bucs will battle the 2-0 Vikings for first in the NFC Central.

Rookie roll call

Here is how some of the other first-round picks did on Sunday: Seattle cornerback Shawn Springs was at the other end of the spectrum from Dunn. The third player taken in the draft, Springs gave up two touchdowns and three pass-interference penalties in trying to cover Denver's Ed McCaffrey in the Seahawks' 35-14 defeat. Springs went for a John Elway pump fake in the third quarter and was beaten on a 21-yard touchdown pass to McCaffrey that put the Broncos in front to stay. McCaffrey had a career day, making eight catches for 93 yards.

San Francisco quarterback Jim Druckenmiller threw three interceptions in his first NFL game, and completed just 10 of 28 passes. But he threw a touchdown pass and lived to savor the moment as the 49ers beat their favorite patsy, the St. Louis Rams, 15-12. Playing because Steve Young (concussion) and Jeff Brohm (broken finger) were hurt, Druckenmiller, the 26th pick from Virginia Tech, held up a vaunted 49ers tradition. Since 1981, the 49ers are 25-10-1 in games started by backup quarterbacks.

New York Giants wide receiver Ike Hilliard suffered a serious neck injury on his only reception in a 40-13 loss at Jacksonville. Hilliard made a sliding, 23-yard catch in the first quarter but was hit by Jaguars safety Chris Hudson. He injured a ligament between the sixth and seventh cervical vertebrae, and will miss six to seven weeks, including Sunday's game at the Meadowlands against the Ravens. The Giants' passing game may go with him.

M*A*S*H* reruns

Hilliard wasn't the only Week 2 casualty.

Atlanta's Chris Chandler was the seventh quarterback knocked out of a game in two weeks with an injury. He incurred a second-quarterback concussion when he was spun around by Carolina defensive end Mike Fox and slammed into the artificial turf.

Other quarterbacks who have had to leave games with injuries: Seattle's John Friesz, San Diego's Stan Humphries, Young and Brohm of the 49ers, New Orleans' Heath Shuler and Jacksonville's Rob Johnson. That doesn't include Mark Brunell of the Jaguars or Kerry Collins of the Panthers, who were injured in preseason games.

Nor does it include Indianapolis' Jim Harbaugh, who drew criticism after he pulled himself in Week 1 because of exhaustion. In Sunday's 31-6 loss to New England, Harbaugh stayed in and took his pounding behind the Colts' overmatched line: five sacks and a dozen knockdowns.

Then there was Chicago's Chris Villarrial, who was moved from center to left guard this week to replace the injured Todd Perry. Villarrial lasted just one game -- he's out for the season with a broken left fibula.

Crunching the numbers

The 0-2 Saints have committed 11 turnovers in the first two games. When Philadelphia quarterback Ty Detmer found Freddie Solomon in the back of the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown pass to beat Green Bay, it ended a personal streak of nine quarters without a touchdown. Miami quarterback Dan Marino threw nine of his 24 completions to running backs on checkoff plays, good enough for 117 yards in a 16-13 win over Tennessee. New England quarterback Drew Bledsoe had thrown eight touchdown passes in two weeks -- to eight different receivers. On Sunday, the Patriots had seven plays of 20 yards or more. In the 49ers' 14-game winning streak over the Rams, they have outscored them 442-183.

Pub Date: 9/09/97

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