A backup lesson: Do your homework

Week 8 in Review

October 21, 1997|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Second-string quarterbacks have been forewarned. When the Buffalo Bills cut Billy Joe Hobert last week for failing to prepare properly for a game, they put the rest of the NFL's backups on alert.

Hobert was the Bills' backup quarterback who played miserably in a 33-6 loss to the New England Patriots in Week 7 after starter Todd Collins was injured. Later, Hobert admitted he really hadn't studied the game plan the way he should have.

His unprofessionalism was grounds for dismissal, and the Bills dismissed post haste.

In Week 8, the Patriots found themselves on the flip side of that backup quarterback saga. Glenn Foley, a four-year reserve with the New York Jets, inspired a 24-19 upset of the Patriots on Sunday, filling in for benched starter Neil O'Donnell.

Afterward, Foley made a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment of Hobert's ill fortune.

"I studied real hard this week," he said. "I studied every day."

It looked like it, too. Foley, 27, completed 14 passes in a row in one stretch and directed three touchdown drives. His numbers (17 for 23, 200 yards, one TD) would have been even better had receiver Jeff Graham not dropped what would've been a 59-yard touchdown strike.

One further irony: it was Patriots coach Pete Carroll who had drafted Foley in 1994 -- when he coached the Jets.

Curiously, a week after Hobert committed his faux pas, a lot of backup quarterbacks were pressed into action in Week 8.

Four backup quarterbacks started Sunday -- Philadelphia's Rodney Peete, the New York Giants' Danny Kanell, Arizona's Stoney Case and New Orleans' Danny Wuerffel. Peete and Wuerffel played for reasons of effectiveness; Kanell, making his second straight start, and Case played because of injuries.

That wasn't all. Four more backups were inserted into games -- Arizona's Jake Plummer, Atlanta's Billy Joe Tolliver, Foley and, on Thursday night, San Diego's Jim Everett.

Of those eight backups, only three (Peete, Kanell and Foley) produced wins. None of the rest pulled a Hobert, though, and said he hadn't studied.

Power shift

The balance of power in the AFC East may have shifted decisively this week with the Jets' victory over the Patriots and Miami's win over the Ravens. Although the defending division-champion Patriots share the lead with the Dolphins at 5-2, it's clear their path to the playoffs will be much tougher.

Of the Patriots' remaining nine games, five are on the road, including three in a row after next Monday night's Super Bowl rematch against Green Bay. Seven of the teams they'll face have winning records approaching the halfway point of the season.

Compare that to the Jets (5-3) and Dolphins. The Jets, playing a last-place schedule, have four of their last eight at home, and only three games against teams with winning records. The Dolphins play five of their last nine at home, and only three against teams with winning records.

Sunday's loss to Foley and the Jets could come back to haunt the Patriots.

They're hot

After gaining a mere 53 yards in his first two games under new Detroit coach Bobby Ross, Barry Sanders has had six consecutive 100-yard rushing games. In that span, he has gained 840 yards, averaging 6.1 a carry and 140 a game. `D Pittsburgh's Jerome Bettis has the next-longest streak: three 100-yard games, in which he's averaging 4.7 a carry and 145.3 a game.

He's not

In his five games since rushing for 125 yards and three touchdowns in Week 1, St. Louis running back Lawrence Phillips has gained 276 yards and averaged 3.3 yards a carry.

Audibles

In his three-plus seasons as coach, Norv Turner's Redskins are 0-7 the week before they play the Cowboys, and 0-6 the week after. Turner, a former Dallas assistant, is 4-3 against the Cowboys. The Bengals are 4-27 in October in the 1990s. Redskins quarterback Gus Frerotte is 1-3 on the road this season, completing just 46.9 percent of his passes with four TDs and seven interceptions. Odd stat of the week: The Oakland Raiders are 0-3 when Pro Bowler Tim Brown has 100 receiving yards or more, and 3-1 when he's held under 100 yards. At 4-4, the Lions have neither won two in a row this season nor lost two in a row. If the trend holds, they are due to beat the Packers in Week 10 after a Week 9 bye.

Best and worst

Best quarterback move: Jets coach Bill Parcells went to Glenn Foley after Neil O'Donnell produced three points in the first half against the Patriots. Foley produced three touchdowns, 14 straight completions and a 24-19 win.

Worst quarterback move: Saints coach Mike Ditka benched Heath Shuler for rookie Danny Wuerffel against the Panthers. Wuerffel was 13-for-32 with seven sacks and two interceptions in a 13-0 setback, the Saints' first shutout loss in 14 years. At least Shuler got the Saints in the end zone once in a while.

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