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THE BUM'S RUSH
Paging Lawrence Taylor. Wake up, Tim Harris. Hey, Kevin Greene, snap out of it. Anybody seen Chris Doleman? Usually around this time of year, these guys are polishing off quarterbacks and polishing up their golf clubs, getting ready for the Pro Bowl in Honolulu. But here it is, almost Thanksgiving, and they have combined for only 22� sacks.
After being shut out on Sunday against the Rams, Taylor had 4� sacks on the year for the Giants and had gone 25 quarters without one. Last year after nine games, Green Bay's Harris had 9� sacks; at the same point this season, he has six. Following back-to-back 16�-sack seasons, Greene missed all of training camp in a contract dispute with the Rams and struggled when L.A. installed a new defense for the first five games. He has six sacks this season. Doleman, who had 21 sacks in 1989, did not get his first sack until the Vikings' fifth game this season and now has six.
What seems to be happening is that dominant pass rushers are being put to the test by offenses that are trying more than ever to keep that one player from beating them. "Teams are getting more schooled in not letting that one guy get at the quarterback," says Dolphin defensive coordinator Tom Olivadotti. "They're just not going to let any one of those guys match up one-on-one on pass-rushing downs anymore."
Says Eagle defensive end Reggie White, "In the past I was occasionally triple-teamed. But this year, I've noticed more triple-teaming. I might come in over the center, and the guard will help out, and then there might be a back waiting for me. Against Washington [on Oct. 21], it happened quite a bit."
With eight sacks in eight games entering Monday night's rematch with the Redskins, White, perhaps because opponents also have to worry about White's linemates, Clyde Simmons and Jerome Brown, is one of the few sack artists living up to his reputation. The guys on the decline have pretty much been left to attack the quarterback alone. Linebackers Harris and Greene have always been lone wolves for their respective defenses. Doleman doesn't have linemate Keith Millard, who's out for the season after having surgery to repair a knee injury suffered in Week 4, to distract the pass protection, and Taylor is playing without bookend outside linebacker Carl Banks, who is sidelined with a wrist injury. At 31, LT also is performing with less abandon than he once had. He doesn't try to sprint around double-team blocking the way he did when he was 26. Instead, he either buries his head in the blockers' chests or drops back in coverage.
Pass rushers face one additional obstacle. "Thank God they let us hold," says one NFL offensive line coach. "Otherwise, it still wouldn't be a very fair fight."
NOLL ON A ROLL
The longer Chuck Noll coaches, the more amazing he becomes. At the start of the 1989 season, the Steelers were the worst team in the league—they were outscored 92-10 in their first two games—but they rebounded to make the playoffs. This year they got off to a 1-3 start mainly because their offense failed to score a touchdown in those four games. Now Pittsburgh is 5-4 and preparing to play for sole possession of first place in the AFC Central on Sunday night in Cincinnati.
Noll is the NFL coach least affected by the tempests of the moment and the roar of the crowd. He knows that, sooner or later, his team will get the job done. He's also secure enough in his job, which he's had since '69, to know a 1-3 start won't get him fired.