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Original Issue

Inside The NFL

In a vintage performance Brett Favre led the Packers over the

With 11 minutes to play and his team clinging to a 30-23 lead
over the Panthers at Ericsson Stadium on Sunday, 28-year-old
Packers quarterback Brett Favre stepped under center, feeling as
if he were 58. It was third-and-one at the Carolina 33. It was
his 73rd snap on a day when the field thermometer hit
104[degrees]. What hurt most? "My feet," Favre said later. "Felt
like they were burning off." Both shoulders ached, and his ribs
were feeling the cumulative effect of a trio of hits the
Panthers had laid on him.

The play called for Favre to roll right and throw to one of the
three receivers who had flooded that side of the field. At
practice earlier in the week, Green Bay coach Mike Holmgren had
reminded Favre not to pull up, because when he had stopped while
running the same play two weeks earlier, he had been leveled by
the Bucs defense.

What did Favre do this time? He stopped, of course. None of his
three options were open, but out of the corner of his eye he saw
wideout Derrick Mayes, whose responsibility was to occupy a
cover guy on the left side of the field. Mayes was creeping
toward the middle. "Brett knows he's not supposed to throw back
across the field," center Frank Winters says, "but he's looking
over, and I think, Oh, s---, here we go again. All of a sudden
the ball's whizzing by my face."

The ball went right to Mayes, who juked linebacker Mike Barrow
and was gone, 33 yards for what proved to be the winning
touchdown in Green Bay's 37-30 victory. "If you're a receiver
for Brett Favre," Mayes said afterward, "you better be ready on
every play."

The Carolina game, Favre's 101st as a pro, was a signature game.
Though he had thrown as many touchdown passes on two other
occasions and only twice had thrown for more yards in a game,
the numbers--27 completions in 45 attempts, 388 yards, five
touchdowns, three interceptions, two sacks, eight
knockdowns--tell only part of the story. Twice he acted
impetuously and threw interceptions that resulted in touchdowns
for the Panthers, but both times he wasted little time in
driving his team for a go-ahead score.

"Just another day at the office," Favre said in a near whisper,
taking a long time to put on his socks and tennis shoes 30
minutes after the game. "God, I'm still sweating bullets."

Slowly, he sipped from a bottle of Gatorade and sampled a slice
of pepperoni pizza. "I'll never forget this day," he said. "How
fun was this? I loved it. I mean, where else would you rather be
than playing this game on a day like today, with great players
like [Carolina linebacker] Kevin Greene chasing you and fighting
back like that? Just awesome."

Favre couldn't stop talking about one play. Trailing 10-6 early
in the second quarter, partly because of an interception Favre
threw on his first play from scrimmage, the Packers faced a
third-and-five from the Carolina 21. In the huddle Favre told
his teammates, "Don't jump. I'm going to try to draw them
offside. And wideouts, finish your routes." Sure enough, Barrow
took the bait, Winters snapped the ball, flags flew, free play.
Favre dropped five steps, avoided a Greene rush from the outside
and threw awkwardly off his back foot. The ball spiraled 32
yards, just beyond the fingertips of cornerback Eric Davis and
into Mayes's hands in the back right corner of the end zone.

"Three or four years ago, I make a dumb play and maybe I go in
the tank," Favre said. "Or I come out and go for the gusto right
away to make up for it. Now I think I'm playing much better at
the start of a year than I ever have. Like today, I threw an
interception, then came back and made a nice throw to [fullback]
William Henderson. I hear [quarterback coach] Andy Reid say to
me into my helmet, 'I guess that's why they pay you the big

John Randle

When the 4-0 Vikings travel to Green Bay to play the 4-0 Packers
this Monday night in what shapes up as the best game to date this
season, keep an eye on Minnesota defensive lineman John
Randle--that is, if you can keep track of him.

Randle's usual position is what the Vikings call "under tackle."
He lines up across from a guard but cocked a bit sideways toward
the center, which is what he did about 85% of the time last
season. But this year he has filled that spot only about 40% of
the time and instead has been at right defensive end for about
40% of the plays and has split the rest of the downs between
left end and nosetackle. "I feel like it's really opened things
up," Randle said last week. "Teams can't isolate on me so much."
Randle, who had 15 1/2 sacks in '97, has 2 1/2 this season.

"We just wanted to see if we could get Johnny to have an even
bigger effect on the game," says Vikings coach Dennis Green. "In
basketball you never want to let a guy dunk on you because it
gets the crowd riled up. Same thing here. Johnny gets a sack, and
our defense just explodes."

The good news for the Packers is that Randle, with 6 1/2 sacks
in eight career games against Green Bay on the Metrodome's fast
artificial turf, has just three sacks in eight games on the
grass at Lambeau Field. The bad news? "We're 7-5 against the
Packers since Mike Holmgren and I came into the division," says
Green. "We know how to play them, and we like big games."

Deion Sanders

It is not folly to think that Cowboys
cornerback-returnman-wideout Deion Sanders secured his place in
the Pro Football Hall of Fame with his performance in Dallas's
31-7 Monday night win over the Giants on Sept. 21. Despite being
on the field for only 26% of the plays (42 of 159), Sanders made
four of the most spectacular ones in the game. He returned a
punt 59 yards for a touchdown, caught a 55-yard pass that set up
a touchdown, returned another punt 39 yards and returned an
interception 71 yards for a score.

When all was said and done, Sanders had added to his NFL record
for career touchdown returns. He has run back an interception, a
fumble, a punt or a kickoff for a score 16 times in 10 years.
Defensive back Lemar Parrish had 13 such returns during his
13-year career with the Bengals, the Redskins and the Bills.

Oh, yeah, Sanders is also arguably the best cover corner ever.

Mike Shanahan

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, who, with the Jets' Bill Parcells,
is the league's highest-paid coach ($2.4 million annually), has a
compelling clause in the contract that he signed in August. It
states that if Denver owner Pat Bowlen sells the team, Shanahan
can become a coaching free agent. Why is this news now? If Denver
voters don't approve a Nov. 3 referendum to subsidize a new
football-only stadium, The Denver Post reported, Bowlen would
consider selling the team. Bowlen would then attempt to become
the owner of a prospective expansion franchise in Los Angeles.


Who would have thought the loss of a free agent from Hofstra
would expose a soft spot in the 49ers' offense? In three games
third-year left tackle Dave Fiore had protected Steve Young
flawlessly. Then someone fell on Fiore's right knee during the
49ers' 31-20 win over the Falcons on Sunday. Fiore dislocated
his right kneecap and tore the medial collateral ligament and is
expected to miss at least eight weeks. Rookie third-round draft
pick Chris Ruhman will get a look as Fiore's replacement. Next
up for San Francisco? Bruce Smith and the Bills.... Before last
Thursday's practice, Oilers quarterback Steve McNair arranged
several practice pads into a miniature tepee, sat inside, legs
crossed, and started chanting. "I just had to get my mental
process together, alone," McNair said. Didn't help. McNair threw
two interceptions in a 27-22 loss to the Jaguars.... The Rams
have dropped eight straight at home, the most recent a 20-17
loss to the Cardinals on Sunday, but have won their last four on
the road.

The End Zone

Running back Duce Staley and kicker Chris Boniol are the only
players who have scored this season for the 0-4 Eagles. Even
after putting up 21 points in a three-point loss to the Chiefs on
Sunday, the Eagles are averaging only nine points a game. Read
one banner at Veterans Stadium: CLINTON SCORES MORE THAN US.

Send your pro football questions for Peter King's Mailbag and
read more from Paul Zimmerman at

COLOR PHOTO: JIM GUND A-Mayes-ing Green Bay took the lead when Mayes beat Davis for one of his three TD catches. [Derrick Mayes making catch behind Eric Davis in end zone]

COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER [Jason Sehorn being tackled by New York Jets player]


As players continue to get bigger, stronger and faster, the
collisions between them cause more--and more serious--injuries.
Just look at this lineup of prominent players who are or have
been on the shelf after just four weeks of the season. Aptly
named passers Johnson & Johnson (the Vikings' Brad, who has a
broken right fibula, and the Bills' Rob, who had two concussions
in the first three weeks) didn't even make the list. Giants
cornerback Jason Sehorn, shown injuring his right knee during a
preseason game, is among the unfortunate players who did.


Pos. Player, Team Injury Date Sidelined

QB Troy Aikman, Broken left clavicle Sept. 13 3-6 weeks

RB Dorsey Levens, Broken right ankle Sept. 13 4-6 weeks

RB James Stewart, Torn ACL, left knee Sept. 20 Out for
Jaguars season

WR Bert Emanuel, Severe left ankle Sept. 6 4-6 weeks
Bucs sprain

WR Andre Reed, Separated right Sept. 19 2-4 weeks
Bills shoulder

TE Jason Dunn, Sprained MCL, torn Aug. 6 6-8 weeks
Eagles PCL, left knee

LT Dave Fiore, Dislocated right Sept. 27 8-10 weeks
49ers kneecap, torn MCL

LG Dave Szott, Torn tendon, left arm Sept. 6 8 weeks

C Mark Stepnoski, Sprained right knee Sept. 2 Returned
Oilers on

RG David Diaz-Infante, Partially torn ACL, Aug. 20 6 weeks
Broncos right knee

RT John Michels, Torn ACL, right knee Aug. 18 Out for
Packers season


Pos. Player, Team Injury Date Sidelined

DE Jeff Lageman, Torn right biceps Sept. 6 Out for
Jaguars season

DT Rhett Hall, Stress fracture, Sept. 20 Out for
Eagles left knee season

DT Reuben Davis, Torn left Achilles July 25 Out for
Chargers season

DE Chester McGlockton, Disk injury Aug. 23 9 weeks

LB Lamar Lathon, Aggravated knee injury Sept. 20 2-4 weeks
LB Marvin Jones, Torn ACL and MCL, July 31 Out for
Jets left knee season

CB Jason Sehorn, Torn ACL and MCL, Aug. 20 Out for
Giants right knee season

SS Shawn Wooden, Torn ACL and MCL, Sept. 13 Out for
Dolphins left knee season

FS Mike Dumas, Torn ACL, left knee Sept. 25 Out for
Chargers season

CB Bobby Taylor, Broken scapula, right Aug. 24 6-8 weeks
Eagles shoulder


1. Ditka for President. The Saints, who looked like the NFL's
worst team before the season started, are one of the league's
seven unbeatens. Locker room frenzy ensued after their 19-13
overtime win over the Colts on Sunday. "You would have thought
we'd won the Super Bowl," rookie tight end Cameron Cleeland
said. In its last 10 regular-season games New Orleans is 7-3,
the same record as the Super Bowl champion Broncos.

2. 49ers Muscle. How good is the Niners' offense? In its first
three games San Francisco has scored 36, 45 and 31 points while
amassing 557, 504 and 538 yards of total offense. We'll find out
about this team in another month or so. The 49ers should be 7-0
when they travel to Green Bay for a Nov. 1 showdown with the

3. A Blessing. In his office Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda has a
cherished photo of himself shaking hands with Pope John Paul II,
taken during his pilgrimage to Vatican City last year. On
Sunday, Marchibroda called on a Priest to lead Baltimore to a
31-24 win over Cincinnati. Third-string running back Priest
Holmes, signed as a rookie free agent in 1997, had the best
rushing day in the NFL last week, carrying 27 times for 173
yards and two touchdowns. Afterward Marchibroda anointed Holmes
as his starter.