'Gravedigger' Brown takes results over tackles for Pack

Week 13 In Review

November 25, 1997|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

How much does massive nose tackle Gilbert Brown mean to the Green Bay Packers' defense?

If the last two weeks are any indication, just about everything.

When Brown sprained an ankle on the seventh play in Indianapolis two weeks ago and had to leave the game, the Packers were trampled for 467 yards and 41 points.

When he returned in Week 13 -- albeit on a gimpy right leg -- the Packers defense was nasty once more in a 45-17 victory over the hated Dallas Cowboys.

In what may have been the greatest performance by a defensive player who didn't make a tackle, Brown made a huge and obvious difference as early as the first quarter.

When defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmur subbed former Navy tackle Bob Kuberski for the limping Brown, the Cowboys went right to the running game. Herschel Walker gained 11 yards up the middle. Two plays later, Emmitt Smith went off his right guard for 8 yards, then up the middle for 15. That's 34 yards on three rushing plays up the gut.

With that, Brown, who is listed at 345 pounds but is closer to 400, lumbered back onto the field. Bingo, no more Cowboys running game.

"Even at 50 percent, it's a big plus for us to have him on the field," Packers linebacker Seth Joyner said of Brown. "It might be psychological. Gil Brown is the best run-stopper in the league. When he's not in there, we're at a great disadvantage. He commands a double team every time."

Incredibly, the man the Packers call the "Gravedigger" was never credited with a tackle or an assist in the Dallas game. But he was instrumental in the win, playing through the pain of his injured ankle.

"He was hurting bad," Shurmur said. "The average guy at 220 wouldn't play. But he played."

Not coincidentally, the Green Bay defense has struggled this year when Brown has been unable to play. A knee injury kept him inactive for two games and limited his playing time in three others.

It seems clear that whatever defensive success the Packers have down the stretch and into the postseason will be predicated on the disposition of the Gravedigger.

Defenses cashing in

About the only thing Brown hasn't done for the Packers this season is score a defensive touchdown. But there have been plenty of those to go around.

Going into last night's game, Week 13 produced seven defensive touchdowns -- matching the season high from Week 1. That included a high-stepping, 50-yard interception return by the Cowboys' Deion Sanders and a 34-yard fumble return by Packers rookie Darren Sharper.

In a season punctuated by attack-style, blitzing defenses, there have been 56 defensive touchdowns so far, up from 48 a year ago after 13 weeks. Six players this season have gotten more than one. The defensive doubles have been achieved by Sharper, Green Bay teammate Gabe Wilkins, Arizona's Aeneas Williams, San Diego's Rodney Harrison and Paul Bradford, and Detroit's Reggie Brown.

No mas for Cox

Even in a 13-7 upset of Tampa Bay, outspoken Chicago Bears linebacker Bryan Cox was the center of controversy. Cox drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the third quarter for arguing with officials about two calls they made during a Buccaneers' scoring drive.

After the penalty, several of his teammates appeared upset with Cox, and coach Dave Wannstedt even benched him for a short period.

Later, Cox said he was renouncing his captaincy of the defense. What made this interesting is that he really isn't the defensive captain to start with. It's a duty shared by several players.


The Carolina Panthers are nothing if not consistent. They are 0-6 against teams with a winning record, and 6-0 against teams with a losing record. They've also committed 23 turnovers in those six losses, and only seven in the six wins Mike Ditka is right. His impact with the New Orleans Saints is negligible. They have lost 15 consecutive NFC West division games dating to 1995, and have yet to score a touchdown in the first quarter In his first six games this season, Ravens quarterback Vinny Testaverde threw 13 touchdown passes and nine interceptions, and the team went 3-3. In the last six, he has four touchdown passes and six interceptions, and the Ravens are 1-4-1.

Best and worst

Best cold-weather quarterback: After a 45-17 dismantling of the Cowboys in subfreezing temperatures, the Packers' Brett Favre is 20-0 at Lambeau Field when the thermometer hits 35 degrees or colder. His only loss in those wintry conditions came at Kansas City last season.

Worst cold-weather team: By losing to the woeful Bears in Chicago, the Bucs fell to 0-17 when the temperature gets down to 42 or colder. Obviously, they're playing in the wrong division.

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