American Football: Moon walks tall in Astrodome: Falcons falter

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The Independent Online
WITH Jerry Glanville returning to the Astrodome for the first time since being sacked by the Houston Oilers, and two of the league's form teams confronting one another, Sunday's game between the Oilers and the Atlanta Falcons was always likely to be intense. Then the players got in on the act.

'They've got four good receivers and we've got four great receivers,' Ernest Givins, an Oiler receiver, said before the game. 'If Warren Moon (the Oiler quarterback) had us, Houston would go to the Super Bowl, flat out. They run the worst routes I've ever seen in my life. They drop more balls than I've ever seen,' countered Andre Rison, the Falcon receiver.

Glanville, who left the Oilers amid some unpleasantness in 1989 and now coaches the Falcons, was provided with security guards at the game, but his team's safety procedures came straight from Group Four: Bobby Hebert, the Falcon quarterback, threw six interceptions as the Oilers prevailed 33-17. Moon threw for 342 yards, including a touchdown, and Webster Slaughter ran the best routes, catching eight passes for 108 yards.

Big plays from outstanding defenses was the theme of the day in the NFL, nowhere more so than in Miami, where the Dolphins entertained the New York Giants.

The teams boasted two of the best records in the NFL - and two of its oldest quarterbacks. By the end it was 39-year-old Steve DeBerg of Miami who felt most like the retirement home. He needed seven stitches in his chin after being sacked by Corey Miller and Keith Hamilton in the third quarter, then conceded a safety when tagged again by Hamilton in the fourth. Miami were held to just 51 rushing yards. Phil Simms, a spritely 22 months younger than DeBerg, led the New York Giants to a 19-14 victory.

The Minnesota Vikings sacked Detroit's Rodney Peete seven times and intercepted him four times as the Vikings won 13-0, a result which, combined with Chicago's defeat of Green Bay, opened up a three-way tie at the top of the NFC Central. Dante Jones, the Bear linebacker, intercepted a pass and lateraled it for one touchdown, then recovered a fumble and returned it for another for the in-form Bears, who have been transformed by their first-year head coach, Dave Wannstedt.

Defense was also crucial in the Pittsburgh Steelers' defeat of the New England Patriots. With the Steelers up 17-14, the Patriots got to the Pittsburgh one-yard line with a second left. Bill Parcells, the normally conservative Patriot head coach, eschewed an equalising field goal and went for the game-winning TD. It was not to be. Drew Bledsoe attempted a quarterback sneak and was hit at the line of scrimmage. 'It looked like he scored to me,' a wistful Parcells said afterwards.

The Kansas City defense made some big plays in the defeat of the Seattle Seahawks but their fans are more likely to be talking about an offense for whom Joe Montana completed 20 out of 30 passes for 239 yards, and Marcus Allen bagged a hat-trick of touchdowns to take his season's tally to an AFC-leading 13.

NFL: Houston 33 Atlanta 17; Chicago 30 Green Bay 17; Indianapolis 9 NY Jets 6; LA Raiders 25 Buffalo 24; Minnesota 13 Detroit 0; Pittsburgh 17 New England 14; Cleveland 17 New Orleans 13; Washington 23 Tampa Bay 17; Phoenix 38 LA Rams 10; San Diego 13 Denver 10; New York Giants 19 Miami 14; Kansas City 31 Seattle 16; San Francisco 21 Cincinnati 8.

Tables, Sporting Digest