SPOTLIGHT / A GLANCE AT THIS WEEK IN THE NFL

Times staff writer Steve Horn compiled the information on this page.

MARCHING ON

How impressive has the New Orleans defense been this season? Their own players couldn't recall the last time someone scored a touchdown against them.

"I can't remember," linebacker Sam Mills said. "I think it was somebody from Kansas City."

He was right. It was Week 2, Sept. 8, against the Kansas City Chiefs when tight end Jonathan Hayes caught a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. That streak ended Sunday when Tampa Bay quarterback Chris Chandler passed to fullback Robert Wilson for a five-yard score.

One streak that didn't end was the Saints' winning streak. New Orleans equaled the 7-0 mark of the idle Washington Redskins with a 23-7 victory over the Buccaneers in the Superdome.

Until Wilson's touchdown, the Saints hadn't given up a touchdown in their last four games, which translates into 62 opponent possessions, and on 51 of those the Saints had allowed no points.

New Orleans has given up a league-low 60 points, or 8.6 points a game. At that pace, the Saints would give up only 140 points and surpass the league record for least points allowed in a 16-game season. The 1986 Chicago Bears gave up 187.

"For the last five or six years our defense has been really good," safety Gene Atkins said. "But people always ask, 'Can they keep it up?' Now we're showing that our defense is for real. We're not a one-night stand. If you want to see defense, come down to New Orleans."

Tampa Bay's Chandler may have led a scoring drive, but he was just about knocked numb by the Saint defense.

"They can only hit you so hard, and then you don't feel it anymore," Chandler said.

Expect to see a lot of the Saints this season and into the playoffs. They have a collision with Chicago next week, but only two other teams left on their schedule--Dallas and the Raiders--have winning records.

CAN'T QUITE RECOVER

It's tough enough to recover one onside kick at a crucial moment. The Minnesota Vikings recovered two in a row and still lost to New England.

After the Vikings had cut the Patriots' lead to 23-20 with 1:37 left, Minnesota's Brent Novoselsky recovered the kick. But after further review, the replay official ruled he touched the ball after it went only nine yards.

No problem. Kick again.

The next onside kick went the legal limit and was recovered by Solomon Wilcots at the New England 43.

Fuad Reveiz's 23-yard field goal sent the game into overtime, but there were no onside kicks left for the Vikings, who lost on Jason Staurovsky's 42-yard field goal at the end of 15 minutes of overtime.

TOTAL CONTROL

The final score--San Francisco 35, Detroit 3--didn't come close to telling how completely the 49ers dominated the Lions.

The 49ers had 54 rushing attempts for 233 yards. The Lions rushed eight times for 24 yards. The 49ers had more first downs, 29-10, and had the ball for 45:04 to 14:56 for the Lions.

Barry Sanders had 26 yards in seven carries. San Francisco's Keith Henderson was the top rusher on the day in the league with 104 yards.

This was supposed to be a coming-out party for the Lions, who had won five in a row after a 45-0 loss to Washington in the opener, but the 49ers proved to be too proud to be invited.

The Lions say they will return.

"We're not going to throw in the towel," Sanders said. "We're a much better team than before."

NAMES AND NUMBERS

Always classy: Phoenix kicker Greg Davis, who scored 106 points last season while kicking with Atlanta, had field goals of 29, 51 and 49 yards against the Falcons Sunday. Before the game, Falcon Coach Jerry Glanville put both hands to his throat in a choking gesture while Davis was practicing.

It had to be one of the biggest touchdowns of the season. Fred Childress, a 333-pound backup offensive lineman for New England, recovered a fumble by Leonard Russell in the end zone.

Seattle's 27-7 victory over the Steelers was an emotional one for Seahawk Coach Chuck Knox, a native of Sewickley in suburban Pittsburgh and a graduate of Juniata College. Seattle was 0-3 in Three Rivers Stadium until winning Sunday. . . . The Steelers were one for eight on third downs. Their 25.7% third-down conversion rate is the lowest in the NFL. Their opponents have converted 44.8%.

Miami's Dan Marino started his 116th consecutive non-strike game, tying Ron Jaworski for most consecutive starts by an NFL quarterback since the 1970 merger. Marino is the only quarterback to start every game since the 1987 strike. . . . Warren Moon extended to 20 his team record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass when he connected with Curtis Duncan from a yard out in the fourth quarter. Moon passed for 171 yards, 133 yards below his season average. . . . Dolphin punter Reggie Roby, who came into the game with the best average in the AFC, 45.5 yards, punted four times for an average of 53.8 yards.

Eric Dickerson, who missed only one game due to injury in his previous eight seasons, missed his second game in a row with a hamstring injury. The Colts still rushed for 91 yards, a season high. They had been averaging an NFL-worst 51.7 yards a game.

Minnesota's Rich Gannon completed 35 of 63 passes for 317 yards. He broke the Vikings' record of 62 passes by Steve Dils but fell three short of Tommy Kramer's team mark for completions.

HE'S THE EXPERT

Is this what NBC executives were thinking about when they made Bill Walsh the network's No. 1 analyst? Remember all those glowing reports?

During Sunday's Houston-Miami game, Walsh was inspecting the matchup between Oiler defensive end Sean Jones and Dolphin tackle Richmond Webb.

"Look at that," Walsh said, checking out their statistics. "They both have 39-inch sleeve sizes. You won't see another matchup of 39-inch sleeve sizes this season."

Sleeve sizes? We don't seem to recall any mention of sleeve sizes when discussing NFL talent.

That must be why Walsh makes the big bucks.

BOUNCING BACK

Sometimes it seems as if the NFL schedule-makers are actually practical jokers.

Last Sunday night, the Seattle Seahawks took a 17-0 lead over the Raiders, then went into overtime and lost, 23-20, on a field goal by Jeff Jaeger. Quarterback Jeff Kemp was released by Seattle during the week.

Last Monday night, the Pittsburgh Steelers rallied from a 20-0 deficit to tie the New York Giants before losing, 23-20, on a field goal by Matt Bahr. Quarterback Bubby Brister was replaced by Neil O'Donnell.

So guess who met Sunday? Seattle won the battle of hard-luck losers as Dave Krieg came back to lead the Seahawks to a 27-7 victory.

IN QUOTES

Houston quarterback Warren Moon on the Oilers' 17-13 victory over Miami, a game with nine turnovers: "When it gets ugly, this team is known for losing. But today we found a way to win. That's the mark of a good team."

Pittsburgh tackle Tunch Ilkin on 27-7 loss to Seattle: "I hope we learn from this and get mad and upset and angry. We just can't sit here and say, 'Oh, woe is us.' We've had some bad games in the 12 years I've been here ... and this is one of the worst."

New York Jet Coach Bruce Coslet on his team's progress: "A 4-4 record is better than 0-8. I can't say I'm not pleased, but I'm just not satisfied."

And Miami Coach Don Shula on the same subject: "I thought this game was crucial. I thought we had to come out 4-4. We didn't, and now we just have to put it together ... until somebody says we're mathematically eliminated."

Detroit quarterback Rodney Peete: "We're not going to get any real respect until we can beat the San Franciscos and Washingtons."

Denver quarterback John Elway on his 71-yard pass play to Mark Jackson, when he threw the ball about 60 yards: "I can't remember when I've thrown it that hard."

TONIGHT'S GAME

CINCINNATI BENGALS (0-6)

at BUFFALO BILLS (6-1)

Time: 6 p.m.

TV: Channel 7

"We might just be a Cinderella team, but we've got to turn it around almost immediately in order for us to have some kind of Cinderella story," Bengal Coach Sam Wyche said.

Unfortunately for Wyche, his team has played more like pumpkins this season.

However, a victory in a stadium where the Bills have won 14 in a row would keep the Bengals' fairy-tale hopes alive and also provide them with a morale booster.

"If we were playing a team with a losing record, if this was a battle of Cincinnati and Indianapolis, I don't think the win would be as significant for either team," Boomer Esiason said.

"But if you can go into Buffalo and can win up there in a place where not very many teams have won the past couple of years, then all of a sudden you start getting a little bit of the confidence back in yourself and your team," he said. "The city kind of says, 'Heh, they're not a bad club.' "

Let's give the city some credit. The Bengals have the NFL's worst-ranked defense. They have given up 171 points, only five fewer than the Colts, who have played one more game.

The Bills, however, are not without their troubles on defense, exposed by Kansas City on Monday night two weeks ago. Buffalo, which has an NFL-low average possession time of 24:05, has given up a league-high 2,334 yards.

With All-Pro defensive end Bruce Smith and nose tackle Jeff Wright out with knee injuries, teams with power running games have controlled the line of scrimmage against Buffalo.

"Both defenses have had their moments in terms of giving up big plays and giving up lots of yards," Esiason said. "The difference I see is obviously Jim Kelly and the offense of Buffalo have been just unstoppable."

Did Coach Marv Levy say anything to his team about the 33-6 loss to the Chiefs two weeks ago?

"I talked to our players about a lot of things," Levy said. "That may have been one of them."

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