Hitting 48 a reach for Young, Favre

Week 4 In Review

September 29, 1998|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

In a year in which Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa shattered baseball's home run record, might quarterbacks Steve Young and Brett Favre stage the football equivalent and chase Dan Marino's single-season NFL mark of 48 touchdown passes?

It isn't likely to happen for a number of reasons, but the first four weeks of the season nevertheless have served as a tantalizing tease for such a run.

Young has thrown three touchdown passes in each of the San Francisco 49ers' first three games. Over the 16-game regular season, that projects to a Marino-tying 48 touchdowns.

Favre, meanwhile, has thrown for 10 touchdowns in the Green Bay Packers' first four games. That's an off-the-record pace of 40. But as we saw in Week 4, when Favre gunned down Carolina with five touchdown throws, he is capable of prolific bursts.

Marino set the record in his second season with the Miami Dolphins in 1984. He threw for more than 40 only once more in a still-counting, 16-year career (44 in 1986).

Could Young or Favre make a realistic run at Marino?

Here's why it isn't likely:

The injury factor. Quarterbacks are getting mowed down left and right in today's blitz-infatuated era. Young, almost 37, hasn't played a full, 16-game schedule since 1994, when he threw 35 touchdown passes. Favre, nearly 29, has made 97 straight regular-season starts, but becomes a more inviting target each game. It's not just quarterbacks who get hurt, either. It's receivers, too.

The weather factor. Lambeau Field in December can be an almost impossible place to pass. When it rains in San Francisco, it isn't much better.

Why it could happen:

These are the two best teams in the watered-down NFC. While the Packers play in the rugged Central Division, the 49ers get eight gimmes against their toothless West opponents. On that note alone, the 49ers have the second-easiest schedule in the league.

Favre has to pull the weight of Green Bay's offense without the injured Dorsey Levens or a viable running game. The Packers must pass to move the ball.

Young's first three receivers -- Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens and J. J. Stokes -- might be the best threesome in the game. The 49ers' offense has never operated at a higher level, with three consecutive 500-yard-plus games in total offense.

Favre has averaged 37.3 touchdown passes a year over the last three seasons. A career year could put him in Marino's ballpark.

If Young and Favre somehow make a run at Marino, there's one other tidbit to remember. They were born one day short of eight years apart, Young on Oct. 11, 1961, and Favre on Oct. 10, 1969.

Little big man

You could make a pretty convincing argument that the Ravens' 5-foot-7 Jermaine Lewis is the most dangerous big-play threat in the NFL this season. In four games, he has scored five touchdowns of 50 yards or longer. No one else in the league has more than two, and only three players have done that -- Deion Sanders of Dallas, Terrell Davis of Denver and Glyn Milburn of Chicago.

Lewis has scored at least one long touchdown each week. In Sunday night's 31-24 win over Cincinnati, he had two -- a 73-yard reception from Eric Zeier and an 87-yard punt return. He also has touchdown catches of 64 and 56 yards this season, and another punt return of 69 yards.

That's a grand total of 349 yards on five touchdowns.

Like the commercial says

There is no doubt about the greatness of Jerry Rice. And neither is there any question about the 49ers' willingness to feed his massive ego.

One game after Rice had harsh words for his coach, Steve Mariucci, in the second half of a win over the Washington Redskins, he got the ball early and often. Six of the first 11 passes went to Rice, including a 66-yard touchdown strike.

"Was it that obvious?" Young asked.

Rice had four catches for 82 yards against the Redskins, when he wanted the ball more in the second half of a rout. Against Atlanta, a team he owns, he had eight receptions for 162 yards and two touchdowns.


The Broncos are 24-3 when Davis runs for 100 yards.

The deeper, more balanced AFC leads the NFC in the interconference series, 11-5.

The Chicago Bears have led at halftime in each of their four losses, and have been outscored 44-0 in the third quarter.

Jimmy Johnson proteges Dave Wannstedt of the Bears and Norv Turner of the Redskins are a combined 0-8 this year.

Favre is 7-18 when he throws 40 or more passes for the Packers. He won Sunday, throwing 45.

Quick count

The 49ers are averaging 37.3 points and 533 yards per game on offense. The NFC East finally won outside its division in Week 4 when the New York Giants beat San Diego and Arizona beat St. Louis. The East is now 2-10 against outside foes, having been outscored 327-193. How can Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher take a lead into the fourth quarter and only give Eddie George the ball 14 times? George finished with 25 yards, his second game under 30 yards this year. Percy Ellsworth had two interceptions, one for a touchdown, in his first start at free safety for the Giants after replacing Tito Wooten (hamstring).

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