For two reasons, it was like a July day in training camp when Warner always stars in practices against a line of tackling dummies:
1. No rush.
2. More significantly, their coaches had the Rams throwing on first down, when, in every NFL game, every defensive lineman must first be concerned about running plays.
Elway Would Be 1-4 With Griese's Team
After watching rookie quarterback Brian Griese pull one out for Denver over Oakland Sunday, 16-13, I'm tempted to conclude that even John Elway would be 1-4 with this team.
Or at best 2-3.
It isn't Elway's retirement that sent the Broncos into a tailspin, it's a combination of that and many other things.
Similarly, it's a combination of forces that has also slowed down other 1999 teams that often played well last year--Minnesota notably but also Dallas, Atlanta, San Francisco, Green Bay, Oakland, Miami, the New York Jets and others.
To name one force, defensive play against the pass seems to be improving somewhat almost everywhere in the league.
Thus, every pro club is struggling now except the Rams, who, in the football cliche, have been sneaking up on people against a schedule full of opponents who are obviously less talented than most of those on the Denver schedule.
Griese seems plainly good enough to win with the Broncos if they were like Elway's team last year--that is, injury-free and, before the NFL's defensive adjustments of 1999, well ahead of the class in pass-offense design.
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Critics Have the Answer in Denver
When a football team wins big for awhile and then loses for awhile, the second-guessers invariably jump up with the explanation.
And anything they come out with could be the 100-proof answer because, after a defeat or two, who can prove otherwise? After a defeat or two, who can argue them down?
In Denver this month, one of the most popular second guesses is that benching quarterback Bubby Brister and promoting Griese divided the locker room into factions for and against the coach, Mike Shanahan.
That's the sort of nonsensical second guess, based on anonymous quotations, that can always be made in football, where, on a 53-player team, there are always some unhappy, disappointed players--the angry few willing to strike out at someone, anyone, because they think they should be getting more game time than the coaches will allow.
During 32 years as an NFL beat writer, I heard from such sources every time the ballclub lost a game.
Any observer who likes to play the dissension card can find dissension on every losing football team.