The strategy for the coin toss was clear: Make up your mind and speak clearly.
There wasn't a single flap over a flip on Sunday, the way there was at the start of overtime Thursday in the Pittsburgh-Detroit game.
The most creative moment was in St. Louis, where Atlanta's Jessie Tuggle showed up for the opening ceremony with a placard that said "heads," so referee Ron Winter would have no confusion. The Falcons won the toss, elected to receive and drove to an opening field goal against the St. Louis Rams.
Tuggle said Coach Dan Reeves, generally considered a no-nonsense sort, came up with the idea.
"It may be a little out of character for Dan Reeves to come up with something like that, but we all had a lot of fun with it," Tuggle said.
Reeves said he was just poking fun.
"If an official doesn't have a sense of humor, I mean, what the heck," Reeves said. "I hope that they laughed."
In Oakland, referee Ron Blum asked Darrell Green of Washington to call the toss. Green called "heads" and after he did, Blum turned to him and asked: "Are you sure?"
Green nodded his head, Blum flipped, it came out heads and the Redskins elected to receive.
And in Chicago, after someone called "tails," the Bears' Marty Carter jokingly said "I heard heads."
HE COULDN'T HEAR THE QUESTIONS OVER THE BOOS
By losing to Jacksonville, 34-17, Cincinnati lost its seventh consecutive game and fell to 2-10 for the first time since 1994. The Bengals changed quarterbacks--Paul Justin gave way to Neil O'Donnell after a first-half interception--but wound up derided by the crowd of 55,432, which booed repeatedly and waved anti-Bengals banners.
A profane chant against General Manager Mike Brown filled Cinergy Field after a security official confiscated a banner that read, "Mike Brown Step Down."
The mood got uglier as the game wound down. The few thousand remaining fans jeered as the Bengals left the field.
"That's probably to be expected," Coach Bruce Coslet said. "I don't feel good about it myself. How do you think I feel? How do you think the players feel? Maybe it's not worth it to us, either."
With that, Coslet cut off his postgame interview.
BROWNS' NEW EMPLOYEE IS QUITE A CATCH
Dwight Clark is about to join a new team.
After 19 years with San Francisco, including the last 10 in the front office, Clark was expected to take a job with the expansion Cleveland Browns, where he'll be reunited with former 49ers president Carmen Policy.
Clark, who made "The Catch" that propelled San Francisco to the first of five Super Bowls, was expected to be formally introduced today as the head of football operations for the new Browns.
Clark held a similar position for the 49ers the last four years but he's best known for the leaping touchdown catch that beat Dallas in the NFC championship game following the 1981 season.
A friend of exiled 49er owner Eddie DeBartolo, but also closely aligned with Policy, Clark's departure had been rumored for weeks.
It was held up by the league last month after 49er interim President Larry Thrailkill, in a meeting with NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, raised concerns that the Browns violated anti-tampering rules by talking to Clark during the season about a job.
Clark and Policy denied the tampering allegations but Tagliabue ruled Clark was obligated to finish out the season with the 49ers even though he was working without a contract.
Thrailkill offered Clark a contract two weeks ago but it didn't include the promotion he wanted--the 49er team presidency--and he rejected it. Over the weekend, the Browns and 49ers came to an agreement allowing Clark to leave, a deal that was also approved by the NFL.
Under the plan, the Browns have agreed they won't hire any more current employees of the 49ers--excluding players--through the 1999 season.
"I'm kind of confused and sad that I'm leaving," Clark said. "But I'm tremendously excited about the opportunity that's out there with the Cleveland Browns."
MARINO CONTINUES TO REACH MILESTONES
Miami's Dan Marino became the first NFL player to throw 400 touchdown passes when he connected with O.J. McDuffie on a seven-yard play in a 30-10 win over New Orleans.
Marino, the NFL's career leader in every significant passing category, connected with McDuffie on three scoring passes on the day, giving him 401 for his career.
He tossed a 22-yard touchdown pass to McDuffie with 1:53 left in the second quarter, then reached the milestone when he found McDuffie on a sideline pattern on the first play of the fourth quarter. They hooked up again on a nine-yard scoring toss with 7:34 left.
Fran Tarkenton is second on the career list with 342 touchdown passes in 18 seasons. Marino, now in his 16th season, passed Tarkenton's mark on Nov. 26, 1995, at Indianapolis.
Marino's 400 touchdown passes have gone to 50 receivers. Mark Clayton, who came into the league with Marino in 1983 and retired in 1992, leads the list with 79.
Mark Duper caught 55 touchdowns from Marino and Nat Moore had 24. McDuffie is the top active player with 21 touchdowns catches, fourth on the overall list.
DEAR SANTA: PLEASE ARREST THAT MAN
The Christmas shopping season has begun, and some sports figures have some ideas about what they would give others in sports.
The gift-giving fantasy list appears in the current issue of "Sports Illustrated for Kids."
--Compiled by Houston Mitchell
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Player, Team Att Cmp Yds TD PEYTON MANNING, Colts 42 27 357 3 DOUG FLUTIE, Bills 39 21 339 2 BRETT FAVRE, Packers 33 21 321 2 CRAIG WHELIHAN, Chargers 53 30 304 1 JON KITNA, Seahawks 39 24 298 2 DAN MARINO, Dolphins 40 22 255 3 V. TESTAVERDE, Jets 21 16 255 2 JAKE PLUMMER, Cardinals 37 20 250 1 DREW BLEDSOE, Patriots 43 28 246 3 MARK BRUNELL, Jaguars 35 19 244 4 JOHN ELWAY, Broncos 34 19 239 4 RICH GANNON, Chiefs 28 21 231 3
Player, Team No Yds TD MARSHALL FAULK, Colts 17 192 1 JAMAL ANDERSON, Falcons 31 188 1 DARICK HOLMES, Packers 26 163 0 NAPOLEON KAUFMAN, Raiders 17 152 1
Player, Team No Yds TD ERIC MOULDS, Bills 8 177 1 TORRANCE SMALL, Colts 9 153 1 DERRICK ALEXANDER, Chiefs 6 116 2 WAYNE CHREBET, Jets 7 107 2 O.J. McDUFFIE, Dolphins 9 102 3