In this era, nonetheless, the Miami formula can't succeed in the playoffs.
* * * *
Victimized in NFL Crapshoot
The crapshoot that place kicking has become this year in pro football calls for changes that the NFL should but might not consider.
In large numbers, great football players keep losing because of the inconsistencies of the soccer players their teams hire.
The most conspicuous example of a frustrated talent, Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon, played well enough to win again Sunday, when the new Raider kicker, Sebastian Janikowski, failed again. Janikowski missed a 44-yarder with about four minutes left as Pittsburgh held on, 21-20.
Gannon will surely now win the rest, starting with the New York Jets at Oakland Sunday night and following at Seattle Dec. 16, a Saturday, and against Carolina on Christmas Eve, but Janikowski has put the Raiders (10-3) in a must-win bind just ahead of the Denver Broncos (9-4), who hold the tiebreaker edge.
As Denver's Mike Shanahan continued as coach of the year, the uniquely wounded Broncos cooled down the streaking Saints in New Orleans Sunday, 38-23, and can win their last three against Seattle, Kansas City and San Francisco.
Even sorrier victims than Oakland of the NFL's kicking-crapshoot season are Tennessee and Philadelphia, whose game Sunday was going to end with an Eagle victory, 13-12, until Titan kicker Al Del Greco suddenly hit one from 50 yards out on the final play, 15-13.
Picture the plight of Eagle quarterback Donovan McNabb, winning on a brilliant scramble, then losing to a 50-yard field goal by, of all people, Del Greco, whose failures had cost the Titans two of their last three.
Picture the plight of the Titans, who would be 12-1 and sailing to the Super Bowl if Del Greco could kick straight.
Why does the NFL want this kind of league?
* * * *
Moeller Puts Lions Up There
The Detroit Lions (8-5) are developing into one of the NFL's elite teams under their new coach, Gary Moeller, whom many will view as the league's best midseason appointee ever if the Lions win their last three at Green Bay Sunday, then at the New York Jets and against Chicago,
Bobby Ross, who voluntarily left Detroit so abruptly last month, realized he had something good there but thought he couldn't bring it to the surface himself.
Give Ross that.
Moeller brought it out, proving it most conclusively in the only game he has lost, the Minnesota game last week, when the Lions kept an explosive opponent from running away after the Vikings had opened an early 14-0 lead.
In time, the Lions lost, but only by a touchdown, 24-17, amd only because of Minnesota's superior speed, most noticeably on offense.