Beating 49ers next mission for Falcons

Week 10 In Review

November 10, 1998|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

The Atlanta Falcons finally have a quality win, a win that says they don't have to apologize anymore for the motley bunch of teams they've beaten over the last 17 games.

By pounding the New England Patriots, 41-10, in Foxboro, Mass., this week, the Falcons proved they can beat a good team on the road.

But before anyone considers them a serious threat in the NFC, they have to stay with -- and ultimately beat -- the San Francisco 49ers, who have won the NFC West 12 of the past 15 years.

In Week 11, Atlanta gets the chance to do just that. The Falcons (7-2) face the 49ers (7-2) at the Georgia Dome with first place in the division on the line.

It's coach Dan Reeves' best chance yet to muzzle the skeptics who point to the combined record (14-40) of the six teams the Falcons had beaten before Sunday.

"People keep talking about the number of games our opponents have won," Reeves told reporters after the game, "but they'd have won seven more if we hadn't beaten them."

The Falcons might be catching the 49ers at the right time. San Francisco lost its major test of the season on Nov. 1 in Green Bay, then had to rally from 16 points down to beat Carolina Sunday. Quarterback Steve Young sat out the Carolina game with an abdominal strain after absorbing nine sacks in the loss to the Packers.

While the Falcons have won 13 of their last 17 games going back to last season, they did not record a win over a quality quarterback until this week's victory over Drew Bledsoe. Even then, the Patriots were operating without injured receivers Terry Glenn, Vincent Brisby and Troy Brown and fullback Tony Carter.

The Falcons took away New England's running game (14 carries, 18 yards), then went after Bledsoe (five sacks, two fumbles, one interception).

What's more, quarterback Chris Chandler is healthy. When he has been able to start and finish a game the last two seasons, the Falcons are 13-4.

One cautionary note: Chandler was healthy for a Week 4 game at San Francisco. Didn't help. The 49ers opened a 31-7 halftime lead and won easily, 31-20.

Checking the run

The San Diego Chargers are the only team in the NFL that has not surrendered a 100-yard rushing game to a running back this season, a streak that covers 13 games and endured the Terrell Davis test Sunday.

Davis rushed for only 69 yards in the Denver Broncos' 27-10 victory, the second-best total against San Diego this year.

Six teams -- all playoff contenders -- have allowed just one running back to gain 100 yards this season. They are Atlanta, Denver, Miami, Jacksonville, Buffalo and Green Bay.

Not surprisingly, the teams that have given up the most 100-yard games are all non-contenders. Washington and Cincinnati have been torched for seven 100-yard rushers, and Philadelphia and Indianapolis have given up six apiece.

The NFC East has allowed the most 100-yard games (23) of any division, and the AFC West (11) the fewest.

Oilers are gushing

Since a fitful 12-8 victory over the Ravens in Week 6, the Tennessee Oilers' offense has been scorching opponents the past month. In their last four games, the Oilers have averaged 34 points and 386.3 yards a game to climb into the AFC playoff picture at 5-4.

Tailback Eddie George has five straight 100-yard rushing games to key the offensive surge.

The Oilers will need that kind of production, though, if they're going to finally make the playoffs under Jeff Fisher. Their remaining seven opponents have a combined record of 41-22, and only the Ravens (Week 14) have a losing record.

Black-and-blue brigade

The second half of the season started the same way the first half began -- with a barrage of quarterback injuries. In Week 1, eight quarterbacks were knocked out of their respective games because of injuries.

In Week 10, four more went out (Oakland's Jeff George, Jacksonville's Mark Brunell, Denver's John Elway and Minnesota's Randall Cunningham). And that doesn't count two who played with limiting injuries -- Minnesota's Brad Johnson (broken right thumb) and Dallas' Troy Aikman (lacerated right index finger).

Thanks, but no thanks

When the New York Giants (3-6) lost to the Cowboys on Sunday, it assured coach Jim Fassel of one dubious distinction. He becomes the 21st Associated Press Coach of the Year in 22 years to finish with a worse record after winning the award.

The Giants won the NFC East with a 10-5-1 record a year ago.

Audibles

At 5-4, Arizona has the inside track to a wild-card berth in the NFC. The Cardinals' remaining opponents are just 23-40.

How's this for consistency: the New Orleans Saints have given up exactly 31 points in four of their last five games (the exception was a 9-3 win over Tampa Bay). And they've given up at least 30 points in five of their last six.

The Cowboys are three games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 1996 season.

The 49ers have won 12 straight against NFC West opponents.

Best and worst

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