American Football: Morton's late touchdown shows Detroit's self- belief is catching
Tuesday 09 November 1999
The 1999 campaign was expected to be one of futility. Instead, it is turning into one of genuine excitement. The Lions' thrilling 31-27 victory over the St Louis Rams was their sixth triumph from eight games, and it was achieved without their leading wide receiver, the injured Herman Moore, and their starting quarterback, Charlie Batch, who was forced out with a hand injury.
His replacement, Gus Frerotte, threw a touchdown pass to Cory Schlesinger, but Detroit's cause seemed lost when the St Louis quarterback, Kurt Warner, connected with Ryan Tucker to give the visitors a three-point lead with less than three minutes remaining.
Deep in their own half of the field, facing a massive fourth down and 26 and with less than a minute left, Detroit needed a miracle. Frerotte hurled the ball in the direction of Germane Crowell, who raced past Dexter McCleon for a 56-yard completion. The Lions then finished the job when Frerotte found Johnnie Morton with a 12-yard score with 28 seconds on the clock.
The Lions, who appear to thrive in adversity, are clearly gaining in self-belief. "This game shows we're for real now," said the safety Ron Rice, who intercepted Warner's desperation pass on the last play of the game to seal the win. "We've always believed in ourselves, but I think now other people have to respect us too."
Self-belief is clearly evident in Miami as well, where the Dolphins continue to prevail despite the absence of their talisman, the quarterback Dan Marino. Miami's strength this season is a smothering defence, which choked the life out of the Tennessee Titans in a 17-0 Dolphin win.
Miami's Sam Madison played through a stomach upset but still managed three interceptions, while Marino's replacement, Damon Huard, played within his limitations to throw a pair of touchdown passes. Defense is the story for the Dolphins, however: they have not allowed a touchdown in 14 quarters of play, and have given up 15 points in the last three games.
The memory of Walter Payton, the great former Chicago Bears running back who died last week at just 45, was honoured at grounds around the NFL, but had a particular poignancy in Wisconsin, where the Bears visited the Green Bay Packers. During his 13 years in Chicago colours, Payton had tormented the Packers on several occasions, and it seemed fitting that the 1999 vintage prevailed over their bitter rivals by a narrow 14-13 margin.
Green Bay should have won. Ryan Longwell attempted what would have been a game-winning 28-yard field goal inside the final 10 seconds, but the kick was blocked by Chicago's Bryan Robinson, who later claimed assistance from the other side. "I think Walter Payton actually picked me up," he said. "I can't jump that high."
The Seattle Seahawks are aiming high too. Their 37-20 trouncing of feeble Cincinnati was their sixth win in seven games, the quarterback Jon Kitna throwing three touchdown passes. The Seahawks have not reached the play- offs since 1988, the longest drought in the NFL, but look equipped to end that barren spell.
Similarly the Indianapolis Colts continue to impress, their 25-17 win over the gritty Kansas City Chiefs inspired by their young quarterback, Peyton Manning.
Latest in Sport
What time does Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao begin and what channel is it on?
Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao live: Mayweather puts on defensive masterclass to win by unanimous decision
What time does Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao begin on Sky Sports Box Office?
Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao: What time does the fight start and what channel is it on?
Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao: Only 132 pubs in the United Kingdom will show the fight - so where can you watch it?
- 1 Which country would be hardest to invade?
- 3 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 4 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 5 Royal baby girl born: Duchess of Cambridge's second child will be a princess thanks to Queen
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
Indonesia executions live: 'Hysterical' families heard prisoners being shot dead by firing squad
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds
£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...
£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...
£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...
£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...