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Long Layoff Saps the Mind
By the second half in Carolina, Warner, the NFL's great quarterback of the last two seasons, seemed dazed.
He was clearly not in control of his psychology, and, due to the lingering effects of his little-finger fracture, not really in control of the football.
It's an odd-shaped ball that when thrown accurately is primarily thrown with three digits, thumb, middle finger and pinky.
Damage one of the three and you're in trouble, as Warner was Sunday, obviously.
More than that, during his long layoff, his mind had slowed down.
In October when Warner's finger broke after he had won six games in a row, he was the fastest thinker on every field.
During his six-week convalescence, however, the NFL's many talented defensive players caught up mentally and then surpassed him to reach a season peak Sunday, when Warner played like a man just out of training camp.
That day as the Rams' MVP quarterback stepped back to look for Faulk, Holt, Hakim or Isaac Bruce in the maze of fast-moving Carolina defensive players, it must have seemed to him that everyone was playing at warp speed--everyone but Warner.
He might have struggled on to win if Holt and Hakim had held those two first-quarter passes; but subsequently, he couldn't lift a demoralized team because he was out of it himself.
Eventually this season, Warner will be the old Warner again, which, for the Rams, will be enough only if, meantime, their defense holds up.
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Fiedler Knows He Has a Defense
Of the league's numerous surprise teams this season, none has been more surprising to American Conference opponents than the Miami Dolphins, who are 10-3 and a likely champion of the Eastern Division now after losing a Super Bowl coach, Jimmy Johnson, plus an all-time passer, Dan Marino, and after taking on a losing coach, Dave Wannstedt--who was 41-57 in six seasons at Chicago--plus an Ivy League passer, Jay Fiedler, who has survived both a Dartmouth education and a Jacksonville Jaguar past.
More impressively, Fiedler survived an injury layoff to throw three touchdown passes Sunday in Buffalo of all places in December no less as the Dolphins astonishingly routed the defensively strong Buffalo Bills, 33-6.
On the day that Fiedler and Warner both came back to football, how could the Miami quarterback do that when the St. Louis quarterback couldn't?
First, Fiedler had suffered a shoulder injury, which, unlike a passer's hand fracture, courage can render moot.
Second, Miami is a running team for which Fiedler threw only 21 times in Buffalo, completing 13 at carefully selected intervals.