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Week 9 Top Performers
Posted: Tuesday November 03, 1998 12:45 AM
No big preamble this week. As the NFL season reaches its midpoint, we're sticking with fundamentals -- hand out the awards, reel off the stats, leave the broad, league-wide comments for the weekly capsules. No backhanded comments, no wild generalizations, none of that fluff. Onto this week's honors ...
Top Ground Gainer
The guy needs some publicity. He's got two straight 1,000-yard seasons, he's third in the league in rushing, and nobody's heard of him. Atlanta's Jamal Anderson has 862 rushing yards, putting him on pace to break Gerald Riggs' team record of 1,719 yards.
On Sunday, he set a career high with 172 yards on 22 carries, rushing for two touchdowns and catching a third in the Falcons' 37-15 romp over the Rams. To show how far he's come, consider that Anderson had more rushing yards on Sunday than he did in his first two NFL seasons.
Anderson has rushed for 100 yards five times in the last six games, but Sunday was only the third game this season in which he's averaged better than 4 yards per carry. By next week, he may be only the third Falcons running back to rush for 1,000 yards in three straight seasons, joining William Andrews (1979-81) and Riggs (1984-86).
Offensive Outburst Award
Heading this year's ready-for-the-big-bucks free-agents-in-waiting is Packers receiver Antonio Freeman, who caught two long touchdown passes from Brett Favre in the Packers' 36-22 win over San Francisco. Freeman had seven catches for 193 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown catch on the first play of the game and a key 62-yard bomb that gave the Packers the go-ahead touchdown late.
Freeman is up for free agency after the season, and now has the NFL lead in both touchdowns (8) and receiving yards (820) and is on pace to break the team record of 1,497 yards (Robert Brooks, 1995). Sterling Sharpe's record of 18 touchdown grabs is certainly within reach.
With every touchdown, Freeman's off-season price tag goes up a little bit, which isn't good news for Packers fans.
Losing Effort Award
Ah, Neil O'Donnell. This award is all his. You look at his numbers this season -- 12 touchdown passes, one interception -- and you hear that his team has the NFL's fewest turnovers and penalties, and you think, "How can the Bengals be 2-6?"
Sunday was typical 1998 O'Donnell: three touchdowns, no interceptions, 257 yards and one 33-26 loss to the Broncos. His mistake came in tying the game (and tossing a crucial two-point conversion) with a full three minutes remaining -- plenty of time for John Elway to meander down the field and pull off another fourth-quarter comeback. O'Donnell has now gone 209 pass attempts without an interception -- the NFL record is Bernie Kosar's 308.
The road doesn't get any easier for O'Donnell -- his next two games are at Jacksonville and at Minnesota. If you're wondering how many interceptions he'll finish 1998 with, go ahead and pencil in seven -- he's had exactly that many in five of the last seven seasons.
Top Rushing Performers
Jamal Anderson, Falcons, 22 carries, 172 yards
Top Passing Performances
Billy Joe Tolliver, Saints, 24-48, 2 INT, 2 TD, 325 yards
Top Receiving Performances
Antonio Freeman, Packers, 7 receptions, 193 yards
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