Ever since 1978, when new rules put wings on the ball and made passing easier, poor old reactionaries such as me have been wringing our hands and longing for the return of old-fashioned values. Running the ball. Taking the game to the big guys.
It's too early to hope that a trend is emerging, but look at some of the things that happened on Sunday. The Giants got 222 yards on the ground from rookie Ron Dayne and Tiki Barber, whom headline writers have begun calling Thunder and Lightning. (Note to New York nickname designers: Be original, please. The real Thunder and Lightning were the Saints' Chuck Muncie and Tony Galbreath in the late '70s. For the people who have been referring to Dayne and Barber as Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside, sorry, Army's Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis beat you to it by 5� decades.)
In the old days great twosomes were in the backfield together, but the modern era dictates that the backs play one at a time. That's O.K. We'll take it any way we can get it. So will the Eagles, who meet the Giants this Sunday in a game that stirred little excitement a week ago, but now quickens the pulse after Philadelphia manhandled Dallas 41-14. The Eagles rushed for an unheard of 306 yards, the most ever by a Cowboys opponent, 201 of them going to Duce Staley, who fell four yards short of the club record held by the great Steve Van Buren.
So Philly-New York looks like real trench warfare, especially when you figure that the scariest thing about the Eagles was the way they swarmed the Dallas offensive line, knocking out Troy Aikman with a concussion early in the second quarter. The Giants, of course, want to protect Kerry Collins from such an onslaught. What better way than the one-two punch of Barber, who was dazzling in the 21-16 win over Arizona, and Dayne, who likes to mush it late in the game, when the defense tires?
Don't be too sure that both teams will play it the way they did in Week 1. Coaches are notorious for getting away from tendencies the following week, for doing the unexpected, for crossing up opponents. So I expect Collins to roll out and look for stuff deep, and Philly's Donovan McNabb to test the New York secondary early, then come back with Staley. The Eagles win in a high-scoring affair.
Meanwhile the poor Cowboys, possibly minus Aikman and definitely minus wideout Joey Galloway (torn ACL in his left knee) and their self-respect, travel to Arizona. The Cardinals still have to convince me that they have an offensive line. And a defensive line. Dallas is the pick.
The upset light is flashing, and it means that the Dolphins will hang one on the Vikings in the Metrodome. I don't like Daunte Culpepper throwing into that blue-ribbon Miami secondary. Baltimore's offense had trouble in the red zone against Pittsburgh, but I think the Ravens have enough defense to squeeze out a win over Jacksonville, a team Baltimore has never beaten. If Indianapolis were traveling to Oakland, I might lean toward the Raiders, but in Indianapolis, I like the Colts and their flashy offense to overcome Oakland's stout defense.
The Jets, who beat an ailing Brett Favre, will get a rush on Drew Bledsoe and handle the Patriots in the Monday nighter. The Packers' woes will continue against the Bills in Buffalo, a tough place for any quarterback to play. Finally, St. Louis visits Seattle, whose quarterback, Jon Kitna, seems to have regressed and whose rushing defense is as weak as it was last year. The Rams will come away with the win.