American Football: Ditka ready to back off from Bears

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The Independent Online
FIVE teams secured play-off berths, four of them after close encounters of the weird kind, but the news from the NFL was dominated by a franchise that is at least a year away from post-season activity. Mike Ditka may be about to leave the Chicago Bears.

Speaking after his side's 16-3 loss in Detroit the 53-year-old Ditka cast doubt on his fulfilling the final year of his contract with the club, which is believed to be worth dollars 900,000 ( pounds 580,000). Ditka told listeners to his post-game radio show: 'I'm going to make an evaluation. The only way I'll do it is if I control it.

'Unless I have the control of what I'm doing, I don't want to do it any more. I feel like there are some things that are a little out of whack. I think everybody has to get on the same page in the organisation. Where we want to go, what kind of players we want to go there with, and how we are going to get there.'

Ditka said his final year is not guaranteed, which would allow Michael McCaskey, the Bears president, to sack him without compensation. Last month McCaskey said that Ditka will return in 1993 only if he is 'enthusiastic' enough.

Ditka, who joined the Bears in January 1982, is an NFL institution, the gridiron Brian Clough. A head coach from the old school, irascible, unpredictable and explosive he fully earned his soubriquet Mount Ditka. He was also a very good coach, transforming the Bears into a brutally intimidating team who won the Super Bowl in 1985 on the back of one of the best defenses in recent memory. That team appeared destined to dominate for a number of seasons, but never quite did so. In recent seasons Chicago have struggled, and this season have been a pale shadow of their forebears. Defeat in Detroit was the seventh in eight games.

As the Bears stumbled, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Miami and Houston all guaranteed work for themselves once the regular season ends. None of them did it the easy way, all leaving it to the last minute - in some cases the last second.

Minnesota have been beached atop the NFC Central for a couple of weeks now, needing and not getting the victory necessary to take the division title. They struggled for most of their game at Pittsburgh, too, the only consolation being that the incompetence of their offense was matched by that of their hosts.

Pittsburgh limped into a 3-0 lead which they held until the fourth quarter. Fuad Reveiz's field goal tied the game up and, as time ran out, Reveiz popped over another to win the game. Dennis Green, the Minnesota head coach, reflected on the positive side of a 6-3 victory: 'It was a rocky road, but when you play great defense, you've always got a shot. We've got a whole new season to look forward to now.'

Miami also made it into the post- season with a late field goal, but at least they did not have to wait until the last second. There were 12 to spare when Pete Stoyanovich's 37- yarder secured a 19-17 win over the New York Jets. Like Minnesota (and Pittsburgh), Miami have made it despite a faltering offense, Marino and his men struggling again, though he did throw a couple of touchdown passes.

Continuing the trend, Houston's offense misfired for much of the game at Cleveland, and went into the final three minutes trailing 14-3. Another disappointing defeat beckoned before Cody Carlson, deputising again for the injured Warren Moon, orchestrated a pair of touchdown drives which saw the Oilers prevail 17-14.

Philadelphia's game against Washington produced everything expected of this intense divisional rivalry, including a tight finish. The Eagles won 17-13, the game ending with their opponents five yards from their goalline and cornerback Eric Allan batting away a Mark Rypien pass to Gary Clark in the end zone.

San Diego claimed their play- off place far more easily, outclassing the Los Angeles Raiders 36-14. The Chargers thus became the first team to make it to the play- offs after losing their first four games. The contest could well be Marcus Allen's last for the Raiders at the Coliseum. Allen, whose rushing has illuminated the Silver and Black attack for more than a decade, claims Al Davis, the team's owner, has a vendetta against him, and appears destined for pastures new. Along with Mike Ditka, perhaps.

NFL: Buffalo 20 New Orleans 16, Houston 17 Cleveland 14, Green Bay 28 LA Rams 13, Minnesota 6 Pittsburgh 3, Cincinnati 20 New England 10, Indianapolis 16 Phoenix 13, Philadelphia 17 Washington 13, Detroit 16 Chicago 3, San Diego 36 LA Raiders 14, Denver 10 Seattle 6, Miami 19 NY Jets 17.

----------------------------------------------------------------- NFL STANDINGS ----------------------------------------------------------------- AMERICAN CONFERENCE ----------------------------------------------------------------- Eastern Division W L T Pct F A ] Buffalo 11 4 0 .733 378 256 ] Miami 10 5 0 .667 324 268 Indianapolis 8 7 0 .533 195 285 NY Jets 4 11 0 .267 220 295 New England 2 13 0 .133 192 347 Central Division * Pittsburgh 10 5 0 .667 276 212 ] Houston 9 6 0 .600 325 255 Cleveland 7 8 0 .467 259 252 Cincinnati 5 10 0 .333 257 343 Western Division ] San Diego 10 5 0 .667 304 227 Kansas City 9 6 0 .600 306 262 Denver 8 7 0 .533 242 287 LA Raiders 6 9 0 .400 228 261 Seattle 2 13 0 .133 126 281 ----------------------------------------------------------------- NATIONAL CONFERENCE ----------------------------------------------------------------- Eastern Division W L T Pct F A ] Dallas 11 3 0 .786 341 212 ] Philadelphia 10 5 0 .667 334 235 Washington 9 6 0 .600 280 234 NY Giants 6 9 0 .400 296 347 Phoenix 4 11 0 .267 240 325 Central Division * Minnesota 10 5 0 .667 347 242 Green Bay 9 6 0 .600 269 269 Chicago 5 10 0 .333 281 334 Detroit 5 10 0 .333 267 308 Tampa Bay 4 11 0 .267 260 362 Western Division * San Francisco 13 2 0 .867 407 230 ] New Orleans 11 4 0 .733 310 202 Atlanta 6 8 0 .429 283 335 LA Rams 5 10 0 .333 275 356 ----------------------------------------------------------------- * clinched division title ] clinched play-off berth -----------------------------------------------------------------

(Photograph omitted)

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