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Experience May Call the AFC Shots : It’s Key Issue Separating Quarterbacks Esiason and Krieg

Associated Press

Experience may be the big difference between the starting quarterbacks in Saturday’s AFC playoff game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Cincinnati Bengals.

Boomer Esiason and Dave Krieg were No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the NFL’s quarterback rankings when the regular season ended. Esiason led the Bengals to the AFC Central crown with a 12-4 record, and Krieg overcame a shoulder injury to help the Seattle Seahawks win the AFC West for the first time with a 9-7 mark.

Although Esiason has bulkier passing statistics and an NFL Most Valuable Player award, Krieg has a big advantage in experience as they prepare for their AFC divisional playoff game at cold Riverfront Stadium.

Veteran of Six Playoff

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Krieg, in his ninth NFL season, has four more years in the league and six playoff games under his belt. Esiason, a fifth-year pro, is in the playoffs for the first time, like many of his teammates.

Although Krieg doesn’t have Esiason’s arm strength or mobility, his longevity has become a strength.

“I’m in my ninth year. The one thing that is good about that is I do have the experience factor,” he said. “I’ve seen pretty much all the defenses and all the things they can throw at you, and I’m able to adjust to that and react to different things during the course of a game.”

He had a different type of experience this season, after separating his shoulder. For seven games he watched from the sideline, seeing things from a different perspective and picking up details he hadn’t noticed before.

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“You’re able to stand back and look at it from a nonemotional standpoint,” he said. “You get more or less a coach’s standpoint of how the game goes back and forth. So when I did come back, I was able to step back a little bit in the huddle during a game and just realize, ‘Hey, if they score, we’ve just got to come back down and score again.”’

Brilliant on Return

Krieg was brilliant when he returned for the final six regular-season games. He completed 97 of 158 passes for 1,325 yards and 15 touchdowns with just five interceptions. Seattle, which had struggled offensively in Krieg’s absence, scored an average of just under 30 points a game after he returned.

The Seahawks’ 43-37 victory over the Los Angeles Raiders clinched their first-ever division title and put them in the playoffs for the fourth time in six seasons. Krieg thinks that postseason experience will help them at Riverfront Stadium, where the Bengals were 8-0 this season.

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Esiason is trying to take his first-ever postseason experience in stride by looking at it the same way as a regular season game.

“I haven’t seen anything different,” he said. “Maybe on the field it will be. I’m not doing anything differently.”

Esiason suffered a sprained left ankle and sprained index finger on his passing hand in the regular-season finale against Washington, and didn’t have a hard workout until Tuesday. But he threw the ball well in practice this week, putting the Bengals at ease.

Krieg, who knows Esiason, said the left-handed quarterback is finally getting deserved recognition this season.

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“He’s put up some real impressive numbers throughout his whole career, and now he’s finally getting his just rewards,” Krieg said. “When you win, you get more recognition. I know before he was doing real well, but the (team) record wasn’t indicative of his performance.”


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