In case you didn’t notice . . .
Somehow, Rich Brooks vs. Rick Venturi just never drew this kind of attention.
The press box at the Trans World Dome was standing room only for the St. Louis Rams’ season opener against New Orleans on Sunday. That’s a lot of hoopla for teams that combined for nine wins and 23 losses in 1996.
The focus was on the sidelines, not the field, where Rams coach Dick Vermeil was returning after a 14-year absence, and Mike Ditka of the Saints was back from a four-year layoff.
Round 1 went to Vermeil, 38-24.
QB Controversy I
It took less than three quarters for a quarterback controversy to hit the Eagles.
Rodney Peete replaced an ineffective Ty Detmer in the third quarter of a 31-17 loss to the Giants and rallied the Eagles to two touchdowns in his first two series. Peete’s next series resulted in a game-clinching, 95-yard interception return for a touchdown by Sam Garnes, but the controversy was underway.
“I’ll let Ray decide,” Peete said, deferring to head coach Ray Rhodes. “It’s up to the coaches to decide what’s best for the team,” Detmer said. “It hasn’t been decided yet,” Rhodes said. “We’re not going to talk about the quarterback situation right now.”
Kick it Dan, kick it again
Detroit and Atlanta took part in a bizarre exchange of penalties late in the first quarter.
With Atlanta trying to punt, it was called for back-to-back illegal procedure penalties. On the third punt, Detroit was called for running into the kicker, and on the fourth attempt, another Atlanta illegal procedure nullified the Lions being called for an illegal block.
Finally, on the fifth try, Dan Stryzinski shanked a 35-yarder out of bounds.
Sign here, Bruce
Buffalo Bills defensive end Bruce Smith, the 1996 Defensive Player of the Year, signed a six-year contract worth $28.2 million 30 minutes before kickoff, making him the highest-paid player in team history.
By the numbers
Dave Meggett set a league record with 305 career punt returns after getting six as New England defeated San Diego… . Buffalo’s Thurman Thomas caught six passes and became the third running back in history to catch 400 passes and rush for 10,000 yards… . Dan Marino became the first player in Miami franchise history to play in 200 regular-season games… . Giants placekicker Brad Daluiso had a streak of 23 straight successful field-goal attempts snapped when he missed a 44-yarder with 12:03 left in the second quarter.
Washington’s Michael Westbrook saw his first action since being fined and benched for punching teammate Stephen Davis, but did not have any receptions… . Marty Schottenheimer of the Chiefs became the 15th NFL head coach to coach 200 regular-season games… . Jim Fassel, 48, of the Giants became the first to win his coaching debut on his birthday.
A final thought
“We can now safely dismiss the theory that Jeff George’s mere presence will result in victories. All we really know after the Oilers’ 24-21 overtime win is that Raiders losses will be much more exciting this year.”
- Neil Hayes, Contra Costa Times