Bledsoe Steals Spotlight Two Weeks Into Season

TUESDAY, SEPT. 9, 1997

Forget John Elway.

Forget Troy Aikman.

And forget Brett Favre, too.

Through two weeks, the New England Patriots’ Drew Bledsoe has fully realized his vast potential and has emerged as the No. 1 quarterback on the planet.

Surely, his statistics are otherworldly. Two games. Sixty-four passes. Forty-one completions for 607 yards. No interceptions. Eight touchdown passes.

Next week, Bledsoe faces the New York Jets, who on Sunday allowed three TD passes to immortal Buffalo Bills QB Todd Collins. Bledsoe undoubtedly will be eager to riddle the Jets, coached by former Patriots strongman Bill Parcells. The chilly relationship between Bledsoe and Parcells has been thoroughly chronicled.

In the NFL - circa 1997 - people named Heath Shuler and Jim Druckenmiller are starting QBs. This is not the Golden Age. Thus, Bledsoe’s prowess is all the more impressive. He is on pace for 64 TD passes, which would shatter Maimi Dolphins QB Dan Marino’s 13-year-old record by 48.

“There’s no better statement about the offense, and the weapons that we have, than the fact that eight touchdowns have gone to eight different guys in two weeks,” Bledsoe said. “That’s just mind-boggling. It just shows the kind of weapons that I’m working with.”

He’s the biggest weapon of all.

Of ex-Saints and aint’s

It was hardly what you would call a dominant performance.

But for Jim Everett, it was just fine.

The San Diego Chargers’ interim starting QB led his team past his former team, the New Orleans Saints. And it gave him a victory over the coach, Mike Ditka, who released him.

“Someone told me: ‘Write the script for this game,”’ said Everett, who completed 17 of 29 passes for 195 yards and a late TD in place of the injured Stan Humphries. “Well, it was written, and with an exclamation point on the last touchdown. It couldn’t have happened any better.”

Meanwhile, Ditka’s era with the Saints is off to a rocky start. His chosen QB, Heath Shuler, was intercepted three times and was booed by the Superdome crowd of 65,760. And Ditka sounded as if he was trying to convince himself that his monumental task isn’t hopeless.

“I believe in this team. I’m not going to quit believing in this team,” Ditka said. “This is a football team. We are the New Orleans Saints.”

Actually, Mike, being a football team and being the New Orleans Saints historically have been mutually exclusive. It doesn’t appear things have changed. But keep trying.

Help for wayward offense

Welcome to this week’s meeting of “Teams Without Offensive Touchdowns.”

The indianapolis Colts are proud to be leaders of this support group, for which the need seems to be increasing rapidly.

Two games into our season, we are still looking for our first touchdown. But are we embarrassed? Why should we be?

The defending Super Bowl-champion Green Bay Packers didn’t score a TD Sunday. Neither did the Carolina Panthers, St. Louis Rams, Atlanta Falcons and Saints.

In fact, our group has a special section just for the NFC West, which Sunday had two touchdowns (both by the San Francisco 49ers) and 18 turnovers. The 49ers attended our meeting last week. We are hoping they have conquered their problems and won’t be back.

Here are some more statistics that explain the need for our group: There were (46) field goals in Sunday’s 14 games. And there were (46) TDs. And of the TDs, four were scored by defenses and two came on kickoff returns.

We do not have a 12-step program for teams trying to own up to their offensive dysfunctions. Instead, we have a two-step program: Take the football. And put it into the end zone. Please.

Not real tonge-twisters

You have to wonder about the people who announce NFL games for Fox.

One game a week, lots of time to prepare, and yet mispronunciations of important names seem the rule, not the exception.

Announcing the 49ers-Rams game were Bill Maas and the usually excellent Sam Rosen. A big story in the game was that rookie QB Jim Druckenmiller started for the 49ers because of injuries to Steve Young and Jeff Brohm. But according to Maas and Rosen, the name is pronounced “Drunkenmiller.” Presumably, Jim Beam or Johnny Walker Red will be playing for the Niners next week.

Meanwhile at the Pontiac Silverdome, Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie RB Warrick Dunn was rushing for 130 yards. But announcer Eric Clemons insisted on calling him “Warwick.”

Fortunately, we heard no such mistakes from Fox’s top team. Don Badden and Matt Summerwall were excellent.

Snap judgments

Young and resting: The 49ers won’t know until later in the week whether or not QB Steve Young will be able to play Sunday against the Saints. The 49ers are 23-10-1 in games started by backup quarterbacks since 1985.

Butterfingers: Rams QB Tony Banks set a record by fumbling 21 times last season. He fumbled three more times Sunday.

Optimists club: A banner at the Jets’ home opener said, “Just Expect The Super Bowl.”

No punches exchanged: Michael Westbrook, fined $50,000 for repeatedly punching Washington Redskins teammate Stephen Davis in practice last month, took a handoff from Davis on an end-around. The play lost 1 yard.

Old reliable: Ravens K Matt Stover made all three of his field-goal attempts and became the NFL’s career field-goal percentage leader at .8048 (minimum 100 field goals). Stover surpassed the Cincinnati Bengals’ Doug Pelfrey (.7969), who was 1 for 4.

Bring back Wayne Fontes: Detroit Lions RB Barry Sanders has only 53 rushing yards the first two weeks.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Roger Phillips Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram

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