Dilweg Makes the Most of His Turn in Sun : Packers: Majkowski watches while his backup outplays Everett and Rams in Green Bay's victory.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Forget the Gentleman's Quarterly cover boy. And tell the Pro Bowl player with the $1.5-million contract to move over. Anthony Dilweg took over center stage Sunday at Lambeau Field.

Ram quarterback Jim Everett, the magazine model, stumbled to an uneven performance and Green Bay's Don Majkowski was pushed aside by the throng of reporters surrounding Dilweg after the Packers' $195,000-a-year backup led Green Bay to a 36-24 season-opening victory over the Rams.

Dilweg, who completed 20 of 32 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns, was saying that he thought his patience in the pocket was the key to his success when Majkowski yelled, "Well, I'm not very patient, Dilweg, and I want to get to my locker."

Dilweg smiled and countered with, "I went through that a lot last year, Don. Now it's my turn."

He spent a lot of time squeezing by a mass of media to change his clothes in 1989 after Majkowski's repeated last-minute heroics hurled him to legendary status in this part of the country and earned him the title "Majic Man." But Majkowski's absence during training camp--he held out for 45 days in a contract dispute--gave Dilweg a chance to pull the starting job out of a hat.

And Sunday, he made the most of that opportunity.

As expected, Majkowski was activated Saturday and in uniform Sunday, standing on the sidelines if Dilweg faltered. Most thought it would only be a question of when, but Dilweg stood and delivered, and the Packers picked up their first opening-day victory in five years.

"Dilweg played very well, very much within himself," Packer Coach Lindy Infante said. "He was very solid. There were no interceptions, and I don't even remember a ball that was thrown that I would question."

Infante said earlier in the week that he wasn't the type to try and fix something that wasn't broken, maintaining that Dilweg could keep his starting job if "Anthony goes out there and plays really well, we win the game and we can attribute some of the success to what Anthony does."

Sunday afternoon, however, the Packer coach skirted the issue of who would start next week. Direct questions elicited only indirect replies.

"If you thought I was out there for three hours trying to think what I was going to do with the quarterback next week, well, I'm sure you're brighter than that," he said.

Dilweg, who tied for the highest IQ of draft eligible quarterbacks in 1989 after ranking second in the nation in total offense during his senior year at Duke, is smart enough not to make any demands.

"That's the coach's decision," he said. "My job was to make that decision as hard as possible."

Dilweg certainly accomplished that much. He made the routine plays as well as the big plays and kept several drives alive with a combination of quick feet, a quick delivery and quick thinking.

He completed his first two passes and then sprinted 16 yards on a quarterback draw on a third-and-five play near midfield. Dilweg rushed five times for 24 yards overall.

After safety Mark Murphy intercepted Everett's pass and returned it to the Ram four-yard line, Dilweg found tight end Ed West in the end zone for a touchdown on the next play.

He completed four of six passes on the Packers' next possession--including a 50-yarder to West--as Green Bay drove 57 yards to take a 10-7 lead on Chris Jacke's 26-yard field goal. And he accounted for all of the yardage in a two-play, 62-yard drive that ended with a 47-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jeff Query that lifted the Packers to a 17-14 halftime lead.

Just like that, Dilweg had completed 13 of 18 first-half passes and eliminated any temptation by the coaches--or even the fans--to call for Majkowski.

He wasn't quite as effective in the second half, but Dilweg continued to make almost all the right moves as the Packers took advantage of the Rams' inability to hang onto the football. In the fourth quarter, he orchestrated an 80-yard scoring drive and hooked up with West again on a seven-yard touchdown pass that put the Rams down, 27-17, with 11:49 to play.

Even Majkowski seemed genuinely impressed. "I'm happy for him," he said. "This means a lot for the team, right now because this was a big game and down the road."

Only a week ago, after their final exhibition game, the road ahead of the Packers appeared to be littered with potholes. Trouble loomed as Dilweg threw four interceptions and fumbled four times during a 27-14 loss to Kansas City.

"I just tried to learn what I could from that experience and then put it behind me," he said. "Today, I wanted to concentrate on staying focused, not making bad decisions or throwing bad passes. I just wanted to stay consistent with my reads and assignments."

Thanks to Dilweg, who got into only two plays as a rookie last year, a jolly good time was had by all in green and gold on this Sunday.

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