- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
The NFL Today
I'm sorry, but I like the P word. There's nothing wrong with parity in the NFL, and if you were at old Cleveland Stadium on Sunday, you understand why. With fog rolling in off Lake Erie, the 3-4 Steelers and the 3-4 Browns went at each other in the muck like two aging heavyweights in some crummy gym, cigar smoke hovering over the ring. "A classic game," said Steeler tackle Tunch Ilkin.
Cleveland had 19 first downs, Pittsburgh 18. Both teams averaged 4.7 yards a play. The Browns' Bernie Kosar threw a touchdown pass that deflected off one Steeler, went through the arms of two others and landed on the belly of running back Leroy Hoard, who was lying on his back in the end zone. In wicked conditions, Pittsburgh kicker Gary Anderson clanged a 52-yard field-goal try off the right upright that would have tied the score at 17-17 in the fourth quarter. Instead, Cleveland held on and won 17-14, and a good chunk of the 78,285 fans barked and howled themselves silly.
So now, what in the world is the loser of this game, 3-5 Pittsburgh, still doing with a chance to get into the playoffs? The answer: Such is life in the NFL. Since the league went to the 16-game schedule in 1978, at least 18 teams have been 3-5 or better at the midpoint of every season. By that measure, 23 teams are still in this year's playoff race. Heck, even the Patriots are only 1½ games out of the final wild-card spot in the AFC.
"I've put my thumb and forefinger close together, and I've told my team that's the difference between winning and losing in this league," says Chuck Knox, coach of the 5-4 Seahawks. "The majority of teams are even. The winning teams are able to make winning plays."
Sure, two or three dominant teams aren't consistently fighting over the league championship every year the way the Packers, Bears and Browns used to 30 years ago. Who cares? With rare exceptions, the best teams are still playing in January. It's good for the game that the Clevelands and Pittsburghs have something to play for with half the season to go. "Steeler teams tend to play well late in the year," says Ilkin. "We've got eight games left. Who knows? We could go 6-2."
Follow the Yellow Brick Road
The Eagles are a mess. "Some guys on this team need to see the Wizard—to get a heart," said Philadelphia defensive tackle Jerome Brown after a 23-7 loss to the 49ers. Philly has a leaky offensive line and the worst quarterback situation in football. Injuries have forced the Eagles to hopscotch from Randall Cunningham to Jim McMahon to Pat Ryan to Brad Goebel to Ryan to Goebel to McMahon to Jeff Kemp to McMahon to Goebel.
Further, Philadelphia has used two players at right tackle, three at left tackle, two at right guard and four at left guard. In the Eagles' last 53 possessions, they have scored one touchdown. Against the 49ers, they rushed for a total of 29 yards. Philly (3-5) is paying for the sins of Buddy Ryan, who as coach from 1986 through '90, did not strengthen the offensive line through the draft.
The Players Speak