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The NFL
Peter King
September 29, 2003
Bulletproof' BackerAll-Pro linebacker Joey Porter gave the Steelers a big lift just three weeks after suffering a gunshot wound
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September 29, 2003

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The Steelers felt it was no accident that they went from giving up 41 points to the Chiefs on one Sunday to holding Cincinnati to 10 points (though these were, after all, the Bengals). Porter, a fifth-year veteran out of Colorado State, is as versatile a linebacker as there is in the NFL; last season he was the first player in NFL history to have at least eight sacks and four interceptions (he had nine and four), a tribute to his pass-rushing and coverage skills. "He had a sack and made his presence felt today," said safety Mike Logan. "Imagine what he'll be like when he's back in football shape in two weeks."

Last week, Porter told SI that he has gained a new love of life and football. When doctors told him how lucky he was that the bullet didn't sever a major artery or pierce an organ as it traveled through his pelvic region, he concluded that it simply must have been God's plan that he survive.

Porter, 26 and coming off his first All-Pro season, was in Denver on Labor Day weekend to watch Colorado State play Colorado. Afterward, he said, friends invited him to a Colorado State gathering at the sports bar. Porter and his buddies were walking toward their van to return to their hotel when the gunfire began. The shooting was most likely gang-related, police said, and Porter was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. One man died, and five people were injured.

"I know this," Porter said. "God has given me another chance. And I will play with a whole new purpose now."

Cleveland's About-face
Browns Show Some Bite

No one could have predicted what happened in San Francisco on Sunday: The Browns, who had allowed the Ravens' Jamal Lewis to run for an NFL-record 295 yards the previous week, played arguably their best defensive game in the three-year tenure of coach Butch Davis and got two fourth-quarter touchdowns to stun the 49ers, 13-12. Cleveland made a pair of goal line stands in the first quarter and held San Francisco to 265 total yards, including 32 rushing yards by running backs Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow. "Our defense earned a huge amount of respect in this game," said Davis. Credit Davis and defensive coordinator Dave Campo for persuading their defenders that four missed tackles near the line of scrimmage accounted for 216 of Lewis's yards against them.

But the real hero of the Browns' win was Kelly Holcomb, the embattled quarterback who, after leading Cleveland to one touchdown in its first U quarters, was probably on the verge of losing his job to Tim Couch. Holcomb directed touchdown drives of 75 and 91 yards, ending both with touchdown strikes to wide-out Andre' Davis. Playing on two sprained ankles, Holcomb was 17 of 22 in the fourth quarter. Shortly after hobbling into the locker room, he said, "You have to suck it up and keep going."

Dispatches
Williams Going At Record Pace

Following his club-record 42-carry performance in a 17-7 win over the Bills on Sunday, the Dolphins' Ricky Williams is on pace for a ridiculous 496-carry season. (The NFL record is 410.) Look for coach Dave Wannstedt to get backup Travis Minor more involved....

The most distressing sign for the Packers coming out of their shocking 20-13 road loss to the Cardinals? Clinging to a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter, Arizona played without seven starters from its training-camp depth chart, but Green Bay, with all 22 opening-day starters in action, couldn't pull even....

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