American Football: Young burned by the Bills

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The Independent Online
SPARE a thought for Steve Young. The quarterback trying to replace the irreplaceable Joe Montana at San Francisco threw for 449 yards and three touchdowns as his side notched up 31 points against Buffalo. He lost.

The Bills responded with 34 of their own, leaving Young in the familiar position of having to scour the statistics for reasons to be cheerful. Last year he was the league's top-rated quarterback but booed by his own fans because he presided over as many defeats as wins. After this week's performance Young is in danger of being remembered as the game's most-accomplished loser.

A match pitching the two most successful sides since 1988 turned into an offensive extravaganza. Four receivers caught passes for more than 100 yards, and for the first time in NFL history neither was required to punt. 'At times, I thought both teams were a little delirious,' Darryl Talley, the Bills linebacker, said.

Like Young, the Bills quarterback Jim Kelly threw for more than 400 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. After 59 minutes' frenzied activity the 49ers had a chance to tie the game, but Mike Cofer missed a 47-yard field goal.

At the other end of the evolutionary scale New Orleans beat Chicago 28-6 in a game dominated by bruising defenses. Saints wide receiver Floyd Turner broke his left leg in a collision with Maurice Douglass and will probably be out for the season. The Bears were 6-0 up at half-time but succumbed to a pair of TD bombs from Bobby Hebert and two scores from the Saints defense.

The New York Giants came close to a more astonishing fightback as they played hosts to their NFC rivals, the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys, who began the season with a confident victory over Washington last week, were brilliant in the first half, establishing a 28-0 interval lead, which became 34-0 early in the third quarter.

At that point the Giants offense, which had been not so much sleeping as comatose, was woken up by the veteran quarterback Phil Simms. Seventeen minutes and four drives later the lead had been cut to six and had the Giants gone on to win it would have been the biggest comeback in league history. As it was the Cowboys held on to confirm their status as genuine Super Bowl contenders, while the winless Giants face a long season.

The Philadelphia Eagles, another contender from the NFC East, enjoyed a comfortable win over Phoenix (the division's punchbag) with Herschel Walker rushing for another 100 yards, while Washington, the fourth feared team from that division, returned to winning ways with a victory over Atlanta that should have been more comfortable than 24-17. The highlight of the game was back-to-back kick returns for touchdowns from Washington's Desmond Howard (55 yards from a punt) and Atlanta's Neon Deion Sanders (99 yards from the ensuing kick-off).

Three of the league's new head coaches remain unbeaten. Bill Cowher's Steelers beat the Jets (whose much trumpeted renaissance still refuses to materialise), Sam Wyche's Buccaneers beat Green Bay, while David Shula's Bengals overcame the LA Raiders in overtime.

The Steelers running back Barry Foster repaid Cowher's faith by plundering 190 yards despite three fumbles - the most yards from a Steeler for 22 years. The Buccaneers were inspired by a near flawless display from their quarterback Vinny Testaverde, who completed 22 out of 25 passes, a victory which makes them unlikely leaders of the NFC Central. The Bengals eschewed Boomer Esiason's arm and ran at an average of 4.5 yards a carry against the traditionally stingy Raiders.

Finally, no victory was more welcome than that at Anaheim, where the Los Angeles Rams beat New England 14-0. It was their first success in 11 starts.

NFL: Washington 24 Atlanta 17, Dallas 34 NY Giants 28, Kansas City 26 Seattle 7, Cincinnati 24 LA Raiders 21 (OT), Denver 21 San Diego 13, LA Rams 14 New England 0, Houston 20 Indianapolis 10, Pittsburgh 27 NY Jets 10, Buffalo 34 San Francisco 31, New Orleans 28 Chicago 6, Tampa Bay 31 Green Bay 3, Detroit 31 Minnesota 17, Philadelphia 31 Phoenix 14.