Warner turns back time vs. Rams

ON THE NFL

Ravens Gameday

October 08, 2007|By KEN MURRAY

If Week 5 was notable for anything yesterday, it was the triumphant return of Kurt Warner to St. Louis.

If there were any messages delivered, one surely was authored by the Pittsburgh Steelers, who smacked the Seattle Seahawks silly despite a horde of marquee players in street clothes.

On an ugly Sunday all around, quarterbacks took lickings and reunions were better for some than others.

We'll start in St. Louis, where Warner, a one-time NFL Most Valuable Player with the Rams, went home to cheers, not jeers.

Two stops after a Super Bowl victory, Warner has been exiled to the Arizona desert, where he works as mentor to Cardinals franchise quarterback Matt Leinart and as operator of the team's no-huddle offense.

But when Leinart fractured his left collarbone in the second quarter on a blitz by Will Witherspoon, the afternoon belonged to the former grocery worker turned Super Bowl hero. Warner threw for 190 yards and one touchdown, as the rejuvenated Cardinals dealt the winless Rams their fifth straight loss, 34-31.

Leinart will be out six to eight weeks. It's enough time to find out if Warner, 36, has enough juice left to effect a playoff rise for the Cardinals in the oh-so-mediocre NFC West. Sooner or later, though, the offense goes back to Leinart. It's a cold world in the NFL.

Our second stop is Pittsburgh, where the Steelers played without wide receiver Hines Ward, safety Troy Polamalu and nose guard Casey Hampton, and then lost receiver Santonio Holmes in pre-game warmups to a hamstring injury.

No problem. The Steelers pounded the Seahawks, 21-0, in what was billed as a rematch of their Super Bowl two seasons ago. Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck passed for only 116 yards and Shaun Alexander rushed for just 25. That wasn't a rematch; it was a nightmare for Seattle.

The Steelers get a bye next week. After road trips to Denver and Cincinnati, they'll face the Ravens in a Monday night showdown Nov. 5. The Ravens have a lot of ground to close on the Steelers if they want to be in the AFC North title hunt Nov. 6.

Around the league

It's starting to get pretty scary for Miami Dolphins quarterback Trent Green, who missed half the 2006 season with a concussion and suffered another one yesterday when he was tagged by Travis Johnson of the Houston Texans. Green attempted to block Johnson after Ted Ginn Jr. fumbled a pitch. He took a knee to the helmet and was carried off.

The bottom just dropped out on the Denver Broncos. A week after they were drilled by the Indianapolis Colts, 38-20, they were drubbed by the San Diego Chargers, 41-3. The look on coach Mike Shanahan's face in the post-game interview told it all: Denver is in serious free fall and Shanahan will be hard-pressed to stop it.

In addition to the Broncos, other teams that already have shown themselves not to be playoff-worthy include the New Orleans Saints, New York Jets and Detroit Lions. The Saints (0-4) dropped a 16-13 decision at home to the vulnerable Carolina Panthers. When Drew Brees didn't miss his receivers, they dropped his good passes. And Reggie Bush doesn't look like a between-the-tackles runner who can replace injured Deuce McAllister. It was nice while it lasted for the Saints, anyway.

Has a kicker done more than Houston's Kris Brown? OK, in Baltimore, we're partial to Matt Stover, who pulled out another win yesterday. But Brown became just the third kicker to make three field goals 50 yards or longer in a 22-19 win over Miami. Morten Andersen and Neil Rackers also have done it. Brown went 5-for-5 on the day, hitting from distances of 54, 43, 54, 20 and, for the game-winner, 57 yards. This saved the Texans on a day when they dressed only three wide receivers because of injuries for the second straight week.

While we're on the subject of injuries, the Washington Redskins were reduced to using James Thrash, Keenan McCardell and Reche Caldwell as their top three wide receivers against Detroit. Still, Jason Campbell threw for 248 yards and two touchdowns. Campbell looked legitimate, completing 23 of 29 passes.

Going into Week 5, 10 teams were forced to start a second quarterback either because of injury (eight) or performance (two). The Cardinals will become the 11th and the Dolphins possibly the 12th. Because the Kansas City Chiefs benched Damon Huard for Brodie Croyle and the Atlanta Falcons sat Joey Harrington for Byron Leftwich yesterday, the count could go even higher.

The Panthers were down to their third quarterback, Matt Moore, for a quarter against the Saints. David Carr left with a back injury but returned. Carolina won when John Kasay nailed a 52-yard field goal in the final seconds.

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