American Football: Humphries charges San Diego

Click to follow
The Independent Online
WHEN the San Diego Chargers lost their first four games of the season, their head coach, Bobby Ross, could be forgiven a furtive glance at the situations vacant column. Ross was among a rash of new head coaches taking over the reins in 1992 but given the famed impatience of his boss, the Chargers owner Alex Spanos, probably had less time to prove himself than any of his colleagues. After that start Ross may have been reaching for his cv.

Two months later the Chargers have won nine out of their last 10, jointly lead the AFC West, and the play-offs beckon. Sunday's success, 27-10 at Cincinnati's expense, again demonstrated the resilience on which their season has been based. Stan Humphries, the Chargers quarterback, was intercepted twice in the first half, allowing the Bengals to establish a seven-point lead, but he then rallied his troops by throwing for one touchdown and running for another, as the Chargers cruised home with 24 unanswered points.

Humphries, who was the third- stringer at the Washington Redskins last season, came to San Diego at the beginning of the season when the highly rated John Friesz was seriously injured in an exhibition game. Until now regarded as a journeyman at best, he is building an army of admirers in southern California. 'Stan Humphries has been picking defenses apart. He's a leader. He was a great acquisition,' the running back, Rod Bernstine, said.

With Denver losing their fourth consecutive game, to Buffalo on Saturday, San Diego's biggest challenge in their division appears to be from Kansas City, who made heavy weather of it at home to New England, but eventually prevailed 27-20.

Pittsburgh clinched the AFC Central title despite being beaten and thoroughly outplayed in Chicago. The Bears had lost six in a row but used Mike Singletary's last game at Soldier Field to generate the winning spirit. Singletary, a brilliant middle linebacker who was perhaps the key member of Mike Ditka's daunting Bears team of the mid-Eighties, is retiring after 12 years of bashing helmets. Before the game Ditka showed the team a film of Singletary's greatest hits.

'They saw the way he played,' Ditka said. 'They went out and tried to do it. It shows you what emotion can do. I have been around for a while and I don't know if I have ever seen a defense play more aggressively.' By doing so it forced three turnovers and held Barry Foster, the league's leading rusher, to 25 yards - his lowest return of the season.

Dallas, like Pittsburgh certain to be active in the New Year, lost a game they should have won in Washington, where the match- winning score came from a double fumble in their own end zone, late in the fourth quarter. Washington, who have ridden their luck and a small casualty ward's worth of injuries, travel to Philadelphia - unconvincing winners over Seattle - on Sunday in a game that should decide who comes second in the NFC East.

As the Cowboys show vulnerability, San Francisco and New Orleans march on in the West. The 49ers' victory in Minnesota again denied their hosts the NFC Central title, but the losing coach, Denny Green, drew succour from the opposition. 'I don't think you need to beat San Francisco to be considered a good team,' he said. 'They are the best in the National Football League.'

NFL: Atlanta 35 Tampa Bay 7; Detroit 24 Cleveland 14; Indianapolis 10 NY Jets 6; Kansas City 27 New England 20; Chicago 30 Pittsburgh 6; San Francisco 20 Minnesota 17; San Diego 27 Cincinnati 10; New Orleans 37 LA Rams 14; Philadelphia 20 Seattle 17 (OT); Washington 20 Dallas 17; Green Bay 16 Houston 14.

----------------------------------------------------------------- NFL STANDINGS ----------------------------------------------------------------- AMERICAN CONFERENCE ----------------------------------------------------------------- Eastern Division ----------------------------------------------------------------- W L T Pct F A Buffalo 10 4 0 .714 358 240 Miami 8 5 0 .615 285 244 Indianapolis 7 7 0 .500 179 272 New York Jets 4 10 0 .286 203 276 New England 2 12 0 .143 182 327 ----------------------------------------------------------------- Central Division ----------------------------------------------------------------- *Pittsburgh 10 4 0 .714 273 206 Houston 8 6 0 .571 308 241 Cleveland 7 7 0 .500 245 235 Cincinnati 4 10 0 .286 237 333 ----------------------------------------------------------------- Western Division ----------------------------------------------------------------- Kansas City 9 5 0 .643 285 227 San Diego 9 5 0 .643 268 213 Denver 7 7 0 .500 232 281 LA Raiders 6 7 0 .462 207 205 Seattle 2 12 0 .143 120 271 ----------------------------------------------------------------- NATIONAL CONFERENCE ----------------------------------------------------------------- Eastern Division ----------------------------------------------------------------- W L T Pct F A Dallas 11 3 0 .786 341 212 Washington 9 5 0 .643 267 217 Philadelphia 9 5 0 .643 317 222 New York Giants 5 9 0 .357 261 326 Phoenix 4 10 0 .286 227 309 ----------------------------------------------------------------- Central Division ----------------------------------------------------------------- Minnesota 9 5 0 .643 341 239 Green Bay 8 6 0 .571 241 256 Chicago 5 9 0 .357 278 318 Tampa Bay 4 10 0 .286 246 341 Detroit 4 10 0 .286 251 305 ----------------------------------------------------------------- Western Division ----------------------------------------------------------------- San Francisco 12 2 0 .857 386 216 New Orleans 11 3 0 .786 294 182 Atlanta 6 8 0 .429 283 335 LA Rams 5 9 0 .357 262 328 * won division title. secured play-off place. -----------------------------------------------------------------

Comments