The only other time the Atlanta Falcons were 5-1, they lost quarterback David Archer with an injury, and went on to finish 7-8-1 and out of the playoffs. Now they're 5-1 again and quarterback Chris Chandler is hurt. Chandler had started 13 consecutive games, a Cal Ripken-like streak for the oft-injured Chandler, who now has a sore shoulder and ribs. Atlanta is 11-4 in games started and finished by Chandler; 1-6 when he has not been around to save the day.
If Steve DeBerg starts in place of Chandler, it will be his first start since 1993, and he will be handing off to Jamal Anderson, who has four consecutive 100-yard games.
Remember when Kevin Greene played for the Rams and didn't quite fit into their defensive scheme? Greene's still around, and has had 15 1/2 sacks in the past nine games--11 this season to lead the league. Greene's on pace for 29 sacks this season, which would shatter Mark Gastineau's NFL record of 22 in 1984.
Tampa Bay's Hardy Nickerson was fined $7,500 for spitting on Carolina's William Floyd. Was that any different than Floyd spitting in the direction of the Panthers' bench while he was playing for the 49ers in 1996, and saying, "That's what I think of y'all." Said Floyd, who was outraged by Nickerson's action: "The difference is I was 50 yards across the field and not two feet away. That's the big difference."
CENTRAL / Enis Listens to Coach, Becomes a Cut Above
Coach Dave Wannstedt threatened to bench Bear running back Curtis Enis because Enis dodged contact and chose to cut his runs outside. Enis listened, went helmet-to-helmet up the gut with the Cowboys' defense and later needed both arms bandaged. "You walk by him and he's got cuts on his arms," safety Marty Carter said. "It looks like somebody cut him with a razor. I'm like: 'What happened to you?' He said: 'Some guy was clawing me in the pile.' "
While Enis appears to have reestablished himself, wide receiver Bobby Engram is developing into a big-time NFL contributor. Last season Engram had one reception for more than 20 yards--a 23-yarder; this year he already has nine plays beyond 20 yards.
He's no Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf, and while that prompted NFL teams to overlook him on draft day, that's a good thing now. Charlie Batch has raced past Manning and Leaf, going three consecutive games without turning the ball over and putting the Lions back into the playoff race. Batch has an 83.2 passer rating, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Manning has a rating of 63.5 with nine touchdowns and 14 interceptions, and Leaf a 33.3 rating with one touchdown pass and a dozen interceptions.
So much for Scott Mitchell.
EAST / Plummer Developing Pretty Good Hindsight
Maybe you have children who would like to grow up to be sportswriters and interview all these football players. It's not too late to set them straight. This is what they are in for:
After the Cardinals' 34-7 loss to the Giants, Arizona defensive lineman Simeon Rice said, "You don't let every human emotion ride on this one situation, when you're just passing through. When you determine the outcome, that's when you look at hindsight, and we're far from it now."
Who leads the NFC in interceptions? The next Joe Montana--Arizona's Jake Plummer with 11, seven in the last three weeks. "My confidence has not gone down the tank," Plummer said. "If I do that, smack me and straighten me up." However, his teammates say that Plummer has appeared shellshocked at times. Offensive tackle Lomas Brown said a rattled Plummer at times has ducked air, thinking he was going to get sacked when no one was there. "I noticed that," Brown said. "That's why I want to talk to him, to see if he's still there with us."
Former Cardinal offensive coordinator Jim Fassel is now 3-0 as Giant head coach against his former employer, outscoring Arizona, 80-30.