On spot, Broncos' Kubiak earns 'A' in coaching test

Week 6 In Review

October 13, 1998|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

In the third quarter of a Week 6 game in Seattle, Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan turned to offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and told him to assume play-calling duties.

What followed was certain to grab the attention of several needy teams around the NFL.

With Denver's Super Bowl victory over Green Bay, Shanahan has surpassed the Packers' Mike Holmgren as the league's reigning offensive mastermind.

The fact Shanahan calls all the plays in Denver was one reason Kubiak didn't get the vacant head-coaching job in Dallas last winter. Nobody really knew how Kubiak -- like offensive coordinator Sherm Lewis in Green Bay -- would do calling plays.

Now they know. The Broncos were leading 14-10 when Shanahan effectively passed the headset to his protege, whom he had brought with him to Denver from San Francisco in 1995.

Shanahan said later he made the change because he hadn't called a good game himself. "I said, 'Gary, take it from here. Pull me out of it,' " Shanahan said. "He did very well."

In a hostile environment against an AFC West rival, Kubiak called an efficient, seven-play, 55-yard touchdown drive for a 21-10 Denver lead three plays into the fourth quarter. The undefeated Broncos held on for a 21-16 win, sitting on the ball at the Seahawks' 5 at game's end.

Because Denver is averaging 33.8 points and 392.2 yards as defending champion, it's reasonable to expect Kubiak, 37, to get another look when jobs open at the end of the season. And now, Shanahan has done what he could to alleviate last year's concerns.

Truly offensive

Although five teams scored 30 or more points on Sunday, it was not a pretty day for offense around the league. The Kansas City Chiefs generated a meager 134 yards in total offense in a 40-10 loss to New England. The Oakland Raiders had just 159 total yards in a 7-6 win over San Diego. And the New Orleans Saints totaled 167 in a 31-0 pounding by San Francisco.

The Philadelphia Eagles have early dibs on most anemic team in the league. They had less than 200 total yards for the third time this season in a 17-12 win over Washington.

Altogether, six teams had less than 200 yards in total offense on Sunday, the worst week so far. The punchless trend wasn't necessarily the result of mismatches, either. Only two (Chiefs and Saints) of those six teams faced playoff teams.

Footloose and fancy

It helps to have a quarterback who can run when the offense bogs down. Tennessee's Steve McNair beat the Ravens with a 40-yard improvisational touchdown run after missing a handoff. Rodney Peete scored the Eagles' first touchdown on a 19-yard scramble when the pocket broke down. And Pittsburgh's Kordell Stewart rushed for 103 yards, on only seven carries, in a 25-20 loss to Cincinnati.

Tony Banks (28 yards on five carries) of St. Louis and Doug Flutie (23 on three) of Buffalo were two other quarterbacks who helped themselves running. Both won.

Chiefs in chaos

How far did the Chiefs fall in their lopsided loss at New England? We'll find out when they play host to the Steelers in a Monday night matchup in Week 8, after a Week 7 bye. But early signs indicate the loss was devastating.

The Chiefs reinstated quarterback Elvis Grbac (shoulder injury) as starter, and he converted just one of 10 third-down plays. The Chiefs' No. 1-ranked defense was shredded by both quarterback Drew Bledsoe (three touchdowns, 226 yards) and rookie running back Robert Edwards (104 yards rushing). Patriots linebacker Chris Slade accused the Chiefs of quitting.

Then there was this from Kansas City coach Marty Schottenheimer, who said he would accept blame for the debacle: "A lot went wrong, and we have to be held accountable for it. I mean, we can't blame it on the stars."

Young marches on

The 49ers' Steve Young joined predecessor Joe Montana as the only quarterbacks to throw for 300 yards in five consecutive games. With three touchdown passes in each of those five, he's still on pace to match Dan Marino's record 48-touchdown binge of 1984.


At 4-1, Atlanta is in prime position to snag one of the NFC playoff spots vacated either by Tampa Bay or Detroit.

With the implosion of quarterback Glenn Foley, the New York Jets are in real trouble now. Trouble with a capital T. Spell that Testaverde, as in Vinny.

Kerry Collins is a convenient target, but Carolina has a lot more jTC wrong than just the quarterback position. The Panthers have reverted to being an inept expansion team with a lot of injuries.

If Edwards is for real, the Patriots can finally give the Broncos a battle in the AFC.

Is there anyone left in coach Norv Turner's corner in Washington? Thought not.

The Ravens were right. This is the year the Steelers pay the piper for all those free-agent defections.

Best and worst

Best silencer: Bengals quarterback Neil O'Donnell. After reliving his two critical interceptions in Super Bowl XXX all week, the former Steeler was finally able to change the subject when he beat Pittsburgh with a fake-spike touchdown pass.

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