Moon claims he hasn't taken too bad a beating, but he does admit that he's tired. He badly sprained his right wrist against Green Bay on Oct. 20, and the injury has affected his throwing. "Because I get a lot of zip out of my wrist, I've had to change my throwing motion, and that has caused tendinitis in my elbow," Moon says. "I can't get a good follow-through. The ball hangs on me, and it floats high."
Maybe so, but his last floater against the Bears has buoyed the Vikes' playoff hopes.
Beware of This Bear
After the Bears suffered a humiliating 42-14 loss to the Vikings on Sept. 18, coach Dave Wannstedt went on a rampage, threatening to bring in replacements in a heartbeat if the Bears didn't improve. At the time, third-year defensive end Alonzo Spellman was on the hottest of hot seats. He had replaced All-Pro Richard Dent, and he was not only sackless after three games but had also not shown much progress as a pass rusher in his pro career.
The threat of losing his job seems to have been the wake-up call Spellman needed. The day after the Minnesota debacle, he began studying tapes of the NFL's best pass rushers—Reggie White, Bruce Smith, Neil Smith and Derrick Thomas. He analyzed how they gained leverage and power and how they set up opponents with a series of moves and countermoves. Week after week Spellman has also confided in his own pass-rushing guru. "He's someone very close to me who has taught a lot of great pass rushers," says Spellman, who won't reveal his guru's identity, apparently because it is someone with another NFL team who might catch heat for helping an opposing player.
All the extra work has paid off. Spellman has grown more adept at using his arms and hands to shed pass blockers and is now second on the team in sacks, with 4�. But why did it take him so long to apply himself fully to his job?
"All my life I was always so much bigger, faster and stronger than everybody else," says the 6'4", 285-pound Spellman, a first-round pick out of Ohio State in 1992. "I didn't need any technique. In high school and college I was flying around the field making plays, and the other guys were overwhelmed by my relentlessness. At this level that won't get it done.
"At the beginning of this season I'd use my club move [a chopping maneuver to knock away the hands of an opposing blocker] in practice every day, but like a lot of young defensive linemen, I was afraid to use it in games. I was afraid of making mistakes. Well, two or three big plays outweigh the mistakes. I now know that in order to gain confidence in a move, you have to try it in a game. That's the only way you'll see what benefits it reaps."
The Pack Is Slack
With Sunday's 34-31 loss to the Lions, the Packers (6-7) fell dangerously close to dropping out of the playoff picture. And the collapse of the once impregnable Green Bay defense has become the talk of the NFC.