Kanell gives Giants a fresh start

NFL Week 7 in Review

October 14, 1997|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

The New York Giants have seen the future, and it looks a lot like second-year quarterback Danny Kanell.

Kanell was no world-beater in his first NFL start this week, a 27-13 win over the Arizona Cardinals, but he was good enough to put Dave Brown's job in jeopardy.

Kanell made his debut as a starter in Tempe, Ariz., after Brown suffered a Week 6 chest injury against Dallas. Brown, who made 44 consecutive starts for the Giants, could miss four to six weeks to injury -- and a lot more time after that.

Because the Giants only have modest expectations of their quarterback, anyway, Kanell, a fourth-round pick in 1996, seems to fit the bill. He was 13-for-28 for 198 yards, one touchdown and one interception against the Cardinals. Arizona's offense may be awful, but its defense was ranked eighth in the NFL going in.

The longer Kanell played, the better he got. He threw a bad interception in the first half (Aeneas Williams returned it 30 yards for an Arizona touchdown), then hit Chris Calloway with a 47-yard bomb and David Patten for a 9-yard touchdown in the second half.

Of course, it didn't hurt that Tyrone Wheatley produced the Giants' first 100-yard rushing game (22 carries, 103 yards) in two years, or that the Giants' rediscovered ground game netted 239 yards. Sometimes a quarterback change affects an offense in ways that can't be measured.

The consensus in New York now is that new coach Jim Fassel has seen enough of Brown to know there's no future there. With Kanell, at least, there is a chance to improve. And at 4-3, that's all the surprising Giants are asking.

The Giants weren't the only team in Week 7 to change quarterbacking direction. At halftime of a 23-17 loss to Atlanta, New Orleans coach Mike Ditka benched Heath Shuler for Danny Wuerffel and finally got some results.

Trailing 16-3 when he entered, Wuerffel produced two second-half touchdowns to get the Saints within six points. His 9-for-13, 120-yard performance secured the starting job for next week's game against the Carolina Panthers.

"The time has come," Ditka said at his weekly news conference yesterday. "This is a decision I made, and we're going to stick with him for the time being and see what happens."

Wuerffel, a fourth-round pick this year after quarterbacking Florida to the national title last season, will have his work cut out. The 2-5 Saints have given up 23 sacks in seven games -- including 10 on Sunday -- and are guilty of 28 turnovers.

Shuler was a bust in Washington, where he was the third pick in the 1994 draft. In seven starts in New Orleans, he threw two touchdowns and 11 interceptions. It was enough time to make a call. Like Dave Brown in New York, Shuler may be sitting awhile.

Check in later

The San Francisco 49ers (5-1) are a team to watch in the second half of the season. They've built a five-game winning streak in the weakest division in the NFL, the NFC West. Theirs is the only defense that hasn't allowed a 300-yard passing game, a 100-yard rushing game or a 100-yard receiving game. And in beating up on the likes of the St. Louis Rams, Saints, Falcons and Panthers, the 49ers have scored 30 or more points four straight games.

Their schedule will get tougher (finally) in November. The teams they've beaten have a combined 7-18 record.

Audibles

Through three games at Memphis, the Tennessee Oilers are averaging 21,659 in attendance. They averaged 31,825 a year ago in Houston. Take that: Atlanta's Morten Andersen has made eight straight field goals in the New Orleans Superdome since the Saints released him for salary cap reasons in 1995. The Cincinnati Bengals were notoriously slow starters under Dave Shula. If it was Shula's fault, how come they are 1-5 under Bruce Coslet? Linebacker Wayne Simmons is the third No. 1 pick of the Ron Wolf-Mike Holmgren era in Green Bay to be traded, joining cornerback Terrell Buckley and safety George Teague. Simmons was dealt to Kansas City last week to open a spot for Seth Joyner. This is running the ball? Arizona rushed 14 times for 27 yards against the Giants. And that's with its second-string quarterback in most of the game.

Best and worst

Best improvisation: Vikings QB Brad Johnson's 3-yard touchdown pass to himself -- after a deflection by Panthers nose tackle Greg Kragen -- will make highlight tapes for years.

Worst gamble: Down by a point, Bears coach Dave Wannstedt went for a two-point conversion with 1: 54 left in a bid to beat the Packers at home. Though his courage is admirable, he must have forgotten the Packers were playing without WR Robert Brooks, RB Dorsey Levens and OG Aaron Taylor (all injured), and that the Bears defense is the best part of their admittedly lame game.

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