NFC notebook

November 14, 1999|By Vito Stellino

East

No Troy. No Emmitt. No Michael. No Offense. That's the situation for the Cowboys as they play host to the Packers without any of the "Triplets" -- Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin -- for the first time in this decade. Aikman's out for at least a week because of a concussion. Smith will miss several weeks with a broken hand, and Irvin suffered a spinal cord injury on Oct. 10 and may decide to retire. Dallas coach Chan Gailey is trying to put his best face on the situation, saying, "You've got to get ready to fight the fight." Waving the white flag isn't considered appropriate. Arizona Cardinals coach Vince Tobin benched Adrian Murrell in favor of Michael Pittman, a second-year running back from Fresno State in an attempt to jump-start a rushing attack averaging 67.9 yards a game. The Giants play the Colts today for only the 11th time in the regular season. Forty-one years ago, the two franchises met in the celebrated 1958 overtime game. The Colts beat them in the title game again the following year, the only time the NFL title game was played at Memorial Stadium. The Eagles have scored only 10 points in the third quarter this season. The Redskins scored 143 points in the first four games and 94 in the second four.

Central

Going home is often not a pleasant experience for Tampa Bay quarterback Trent Dilfer, who'll probably have to endure the booing of the home fans today when the Bucs play host to the Kansas City Chiefs. It may not be a coincidence that eight of his nine touchdown passes have come on the road this year. "I'm sure, somewhere subconsciously, the boos have had some type of effect," Dilfer said. "I don't lose sleep over them, but they've got to have an effect. That's natural. I look forward to playing at home. I really do." Green Bay safety Darren Sharper, the brother of the Ravens' Jamie Sharper, has been a major disappointment at the position, and the Packers may try him at cornerback next season. He lacks good instincts at safety. Jim Miller will make his second NFL start and his first for the Bears against the Vikings today. Miller's only other start came in Pittsburgh's 1996 opener in Jacksonville and he was benched in the second half. "What happened in Pittsburgh was a long time ago. It shouldn't even be brought up. It's been a long road back," he said. He's playing because both Shane Matthews and Cade McNown are injured. Jeff George has thrown eight TD passes and two interceptions in leading the Vikings to three straight wins, but he hasn't won over the skeptics who think he'll eventually revert to his inconsistent play of the past.

West

Despite two straight losses, St. Louis quarterback Kurt Warner has 24 TD passes in the first half of the season. If he duplicates that in the second half of the season, he'll tie Dan Marino's record of 48 TD passes set in 1994. He's also only seven short of Jim Everett's club record of 31 set in 1988. Since the 49ers' offense has produced only two touchdowns the past four games, they're going to switch from Jeff Garcia to Steve Stenstrom. Changing quarterbacks is unusual in San Francisco. Since Joe Montana took over in 1980, he and Steve Young have been the starters when they're healthy, although Montana was pulled for Young in a 1987 playoff game, and Young got some starts in 1988 when coach Bill Walsh said Montana was "fatigued." Walsh toyed with the idea of going to Young that year, but stuck with Montana and won two more Super Bowls. Former Raven Wally Williams appears headed for the injured reserve list in New Orleans with a bulging disc in his neck. George Seifert, who brings Carolina to St. Louis today, had a 14-2 record against the Rams as the San Francisco coach. Saints coach Mike Ditka isn't ready to pack it in despite this year's disaster. "I would love to finish it, love to do it," he said. Atlanta has a bye this week, but coach Dan Reeves isn't ready to play young players even though the 2-7 team has nine veteran starters whose contracts are up at the end of the season. "We're going to try to win games. I'm not going to play young guys just to look at them," he said. Each win the Falcons get will hurt the Ravens because they own Atlanta's first-round pick in the next draft.

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