This is Brady's first full season as an NFL quarterback after a college career on a running team. He's still learning every day—on virtually every play. No spectator can possibly appreciate the magnitude of what NFL quarterbacks have to learn. Thus none of us can possibly appreciate the difference between Brady, a 25-year-old child as the pros measure time, and Green Bay's Brett Favre, say, who at 33 has been in the league 12 years and an NFL starter for 10.

On Monday morning, Favre and Brady would both have got up losers if, in a game that Green Bay won from Carolina, 17-14, Carolina kicker Shayne Graham hadn't broken Panther passer Rodney Peete's heart, blowing a chip-shot field goal (24 yards) in the last 13 seconds. We'll never know if Peete could have beaten Favre in overtime, but during the first four quarters at Green Bay he drove the Panthers repeatedly. He's been doing that all season.


Martin Played Like Warner

A RAM-49ER GAME is after all these years one of the best shows in the West. And conceivably, the tradition will last through Sunday's renewal at San Francisco, where the Rams will introduce their new starter at quarterback. He is one Jamie Martin, who replaced injured Kurt Warner as the Rams lost again Sunday, blowing the Dallas game, 13-10.

The pertinent question now: If the Rams can't beat the Cowboys, who can they beat? That's suddenly up to Martin, and the pertinent comment is: You can't say the Rams lost this one because they lost Warner.

Against Dallas, Martin played at least as well as Warner has been playing. The Rams' missing link this season has been the old Ram magic—as personified by Warner when he was throwing all those spectacular passes last year and the year before and the year before that. And against Dallas in the final 2:00 of the half, Martin, ending his seven-play, 63-yard drive, brought back the magic. He struck the Dallas defense with a 31-yard bolt—a hard pass to wide receiver Isaac Bruce on a touchdown play that was as well executed as any in the Rams' Super Bowl years.

Ram leader Mike Martz has kept Martin around for as long as he's been coaching in St. Louis while using the eight-year NFL veteran hardly at all. That's because, at first, Trent Green seemed slightly better than either Warner or Martin, and because, after Green was hurt, Warner seemed slightly better than Martin. But now it's clearer than ever that the Martz system is what manufactures the Ram magic.


Martz Critics Let Rams Down

THE MARTZ PROBLEM now is that his hometown critics are bashing him every day, every hour around the clock, for mostly the wrong reasons. Their basic faulty analysis—their No. 1 complaint—is that Martz doesn't call enough runs for running back Marshall Faulk. This complaint, which has been made a million times, more or less, in St. Louis and in the national TV studios, ignores some plain evidence, which bashers everywhere customarily do.

That evidence shows that Faulk is only a picture running back when Ram opponents line up in pass defenses. When they're in an eight-man front in ground defenses, Faulk is usually as helpless as any other running back. He can hardly move on power plays, as the Rams evidenced against Dallas when they tried to run him on first down or in short yardage. A week or so earlier, Faulk nearly broke his neck on an ill-advised power run.

Martz, though, with the complaints of his many bashers ringing in his ears, has found it prudent to call on Faulk anyway in hopeless running situations. Most seriously, in the Dallas game's final 2:00 after Martin had moved the Rams into scoring position with typical Martz lightning bolts—passes and one surprise end-around run by Bruce—the coach sent in a power-running play for Faulk on first down. Nothing there. Next, hoping another running play, another end-around, would somehow work in the red zone and tone down the bashers, Martz lived to see that it didn't. Only on third down did he elect to throw, and then, characteristically, as an NFL front eight played the passer to pass, they sacked him.

Martin showed enough to suggest that if Martz had called for three red-zone passes in a row—and the Rams have several good ones for use down there—they would have had a better chance to score. The Rams will win again only when Martz resumes doing it his way. Requirement No. 1 for football's greatest active coach is to ignore nearly everything he hears from any source in St. Louis.


Top Deals: Harrington, Hakim

JOEY HARRINGTON, the Detroit Lions' rookie quarterback, pulled them out of their slump in Week 4 with a respectable performance highlighted by his 38-yard, second-quarter touchdown pass to wide receiver Bill Schroeder, a play that surprisingly put Detroit so far ahead, 20-0, that New Orleans couldn't catch up in a 26-21 upset.

Harrington's big pass, one of his 20 completions in 35 tries, was delivered on first down, a throwing situation for all passers, as they keep saying, although it hasn't been in Detroit's tradition.

The play was typical of Harrington, smoothly done with his classic throwing motion, and with a classic approach to his job. That is, with Schroeder as the primary receiver, Harrington first looked to his right, throwing off the defensive Saints, and then looked left, where Schroeder was tearing into the end zone.

The most important thing about Detroit's scoring sequence that time was that, on the preceding play, Harrington had gained 40 yards with a long strike to former Ram wide receiver Az-Zahir Hakim—the fastest Lion as he was the fastest Ram. Thus, Harrington, to score, was passing twice on successive plays. In other years after a big pass, the Lions have typically reasoned that, having proved they could throw, they would now prove they can run. And as a rule, that didn't happen.

New Detroit CEO Matt Millen, however, made the league's two best offseason deals—signing Hakim as a free agent and drafting Harrington on the first round—giving the Lion offense much-needed big-play ability.

The only remaining Detroit questions, it could be, are whether the other Lion talent will suffice and whether Millen's first coaching staff has what's needed to make Detroit a contender at long last. All that's to be answered only down the road.