So that's one thing. Another provocative thing is that Chandler was injured. The Denver coaching staff had prepared for Chandler, who can't run, and in the second half got Stewart, who can. That doesn't seem important either, but in a 60-minute game it sometimes is.
THE GREEN BAY PACKERS' offensive coaches, as supervised by Coach/General Manager Mike Sherman, can be credited with the best work in the NFL during the present interlude when Brett Favre keeps banging his broken thumb — an injury that has basically reduced Green Bay to one-dimension football.
Chancing only 15 passes this week, the Packers called 48 running plays and produced 379 total yards against the 49ers, a result that would have pleased most people in Green Bay had Favre been providing a second dimension.
Moreover, the Packers alternated three running backs, Ahman Green, Najeh Davenport and Tony Fisher, suggesting that, as good as Green is, he has been the beneficiary of some remarkable blocking this year. It takes good coaches to develop good blocking — which is why Denver has had so many effective running backs in the Mike Shanahan era — but, obviously, Green Bay is succeeding beyond the dreams of most blocking teachers.
The enthusiasm with which the Packers block means, of course, that they'd rather perform for running backs than for any passer, even Favre, but more than that it means that Sherman and his assistants are installing the line-play discipline and morale you've got to have when you really don't have Favre.
One more thing: At game time, Sherman and his play-calling aides have cannily misrepresented Favre's injury to bemused NFL defenses. They have planned and waited for opportunities to pretend that Favre can still pass.
Thus in the 49er game, determining to show off Favre early on, before the 49ers could really be sure he was hurt, and before Favre could get hurt again, they called a bomb on the third play of the game. So his thumb, well-rested at that point, still wasn't too painful when Favre unloaded a perfect long pass to wide receiver Javon Walker, a second-year receiver from Florida State, for a 66-yard touchdown. That kept the 49er defense unduly anxious about more big passes the rest of the afternoon.
Sherman's we've-got-to-show-them-Favre-occasionally strategy hurt Green Bay several times in the 49er game. He can't really pass these days so his three interceptions looked pretty awful. But they hurt San Francisco worse than they hurt Green Bay. While the three Packer running backs kept blowing through the San Francisco defense, the 49ers couldn't keep from worrying about Favre. Deception is the better part of football, as Knute Rockne first said. The 49ers went home and down in the standings, deceived.
Bob Oates' book, Sixty Years of Winners, is available at latimes.com/bookstore or by calling (800) 246-4042 ($16.95).