Injury toll on QBs is turning serious

Manning, R. Johnson league's latest victims

ground games prevail

NFL Week 9 in review

Pro Football

November 13, 2001|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

It took half the season, but the casualty count of injured quarterbacks finally turned critical in Week 9.

Peyton Manning's broken jaw and Rob Johnson's broken collarbone signaled the resumption of a crisis that afflicts the NFL every season: the battered quarterback syndrome.

After what had been a relatively quiet start to the year, the past two weeks have been especially punishing. In Week 8, four quarterbacks were knocked out of games with an assortment of injuries, and only one - the San Diego Chargers' Doug Flutie, who had a concussion - returned to play in Week 9. He did not play particularly well, either.

On Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts amazingly lost Manning for only one play after he absorbed a hard blow to his chin by Miami Dolphins pass rusher Lorenzo Bromell. It was a rather large play, however. With Mark Rypien at quarterback, a fumble by running back Dominic Rhodes set up the winning touchdown drive in Miami's 27-24 victory.

X-rays revealed a hairline fracture of the jaw, and Manning underwent oral surgery yesterday. Nevertheless, he is expected to play in Sunday's game at New Orleans against one of the league's best pass rushes. Bromell is certain to be fined because of his helmet-to-helmet hit.

Johnson, of the Buffalo Bills, was not as fortunate when he was sacked by the New England Patriots' Terrell Buckley. He landed on his right shoulder, breaking his collarbone. He'll be out three to five weeks, and the Bills (1-7) will send Alex Van Pelt against Seattle.

Through nine weeks, 10 starting quarterbacks have been forced to miss games with injury. The most severe was Drew Bledsoe's Week 2 mishap, when a legal hit by the New York Jets' Mo Lewis caused bleeding in his chest. Bledsoe may be cleared to return to practice this week for the Patriots, but coach Bill Belichick said yesterday he expects Tom Brady to start against the St. Louis Rams. Brady has gone 5-2 in Bledsoe's absence, with 11 touchdown passes and five interceptions.

Brady has had the most impact of any backup quarterback in the league this season, although there have been several who've distinguished themselves. The Washington Redskins' Tony Banks has gone 3-3 since replacing the departed Jeff George, and both Trent Dilfer of the Seattle Seahawks and Randall Cunningham of the Ravens have gone 2-0 in injury starts. In Chicago, Shane Matthews is 2-1 filling in for Jim Miller.

Altogether, backup quarterbacks own a combined record of 16-15 this season.

Throwback Sunday

The running game became a stampede in Week 9. Out of 14 Sunday games, 10 teams ran more than they passed, and nine of those teams won. The Dallas Cowboys rushed for 207 yards, the fifth-highest total of the day, but lost to the Atlanta Falcons.

St. Louis had the most rushing yardage (337) with a pair of 100-yard runners in Marshall Faulk and Trung Canidate, crushing the Carolina Panthers, 48-14. The Seahawks were next with 319 behind Shaun Alexander's powerful 266-yard performance in a 34-27 upset of the Oakland Raiders.

Teams that ran the ball 35 times or more went 7-0. Five teams rushed more than 40 times.

Observation time

The biggest thing holding back Pittsburgh's passing game appears to be the Steelers' iron-handed receivers, not quarterback Kordell Stewart. In a 15-12 overtime victory at Cleveland, wide-out Plaxico Burress dropped a perfect pass from Stewart in the corner of the end zone, and Troy Edwards mishandled another catchable ball inside the 20 later in the game.

The Chicago Bears' defensive strategy against Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre was to rush three and drop eight players into coverage on third down, sometimes employing a spy on Favre. While the strategy kept the Bears in the game, it never put them in position to win. With a limited pass rush and his floating pocket, Favre threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns. You can't beat the best passer in the league that way.

Two-minute drill

After quarterback Kurt Warner threw seven interceptions against two TDs in his past two games, the Rams acknowledge they're concerned about his right thumb, which he sprained in the season opener at Philadelphia. ... Minnesota has been outscored 89-31 in its past two games. ... Tampa Bay has gotten at least one sack in 36 consecutive games, the longest streak in the league. ... The Colts were held under 300 total yards (289) for the first time this season. ... The Rams, meanwhile, went over 400 - with 493 - for the third straight game and fifth time this season. ... Indianapolis wide receiver Marvin Harrison's 24th 100-yard receiving game ties him with Hall of Famer Raymond Berry for the team record. ... The Bears have gone 17 games without allowing a 100-yard rusher, although Green Bay's Ahman Green got close with 93.

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