American Football: Seifert on edge of abyss as Carolina collapse

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The Independent Online

George Seifert led the San Francisco 49ers to three Super Bowl titles during the 1990s, but there is no room for sentiment in the National Football League. These days, Seifert is in charge of the ailing Carolina Panthers, losers of eight games in a row and desperately in need of a morale boost when Seifert returned to the site of former glories on Sunday.

A welcome victory seemed on the cards as Carolina enjoyed an eight-point advantage in the dying minutes. The 49ers, however, have become masters of brinkmanship this season, and they were to thwart their former mentor with a late revival.

The quarterback, Jeff Garcia, threw a seven-yard touchdown to Terrell Owens with one second remaining, then tossed the two-point conversion to Eric Johnson, sending the game to overtime. From there, a San Francisco win was inevitable, the kicker, Jose Cortez, converting a 26-yard field goal to give the home side their third overtime triumph of the season.

Seifert's reputation hangs by a slender thread after three disappointing years in Charlotte. Unless the Panthers are able to mount a strong finish to the campaign, it seems inevitable that his career will end in ignominy.

Brett Favre enjoys a reputation as one of the finest quarterbacks ever to play the game, but the Green Bay Packers' pass master also suffers lapses in judgement, and another one helped the Atlanta Falcons to an unexpected 23-20 verdict.

With his side down by three points in the final minute, Favre elected not to take his team into field goal range, attempting instead to win with a touchdown. The Falcons saw it coming, Ashley Ambrose intercepting to confirm the upset. In all, Favre gave up three interceptions and two fumbles, but is unlikely to tame his swashbuckling manner.

"I feel I'm the best in the business, I still do," he said. "Even though we were behind, you've got to feel that the defense is sweating and I'm sure they were today. They may say different, but I guarantee you they were worried."

Interceptions were also abundant in Miami, where Dan Marino's successor, Jay Feidler, committed three against the New York Jets, two of which were returned for touchdowns. The Jets have now beaten Miami eight consecutive times, and the 24-0 rout was Miami's first home shut-out in 31 years.

Ryan Leaf endured a similarly wretched day on his home debut as the Dallas Cowboys crumbled 36-3 against Philadelphia. The former San Diego man allowed two interceptions to be returned for touchdowns, while also losing a fumble. The day's top individual interceptor, however, was the Cleveland rookie, Travis Henry, who enjoyed a hat-trick as his side beat the Baltimore Ravens 27-17.

Some quarterbacks were able to enjoy a measure of success. Kurt Warner threw for a season-high 401 yards and three touchdowns as St Louis edged out New England, while Rich Gannon fired four touchdowns for Oakland, three of them claimed by the evergreen Jerry Rice, against San Diego.

Jake Plumber's four scoring passes saw Arizona confound winless Detroit 45-38, while Kordell Stewart enjoyed his most productive outing in years for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who impressed in their 20-7 triumph over fading Jacksonville.

Perhaps the most impressive individual effort of the weekend belonged to Washington's second-string quarterback, Kent Graham. With his side struggling in Denver, Graham grabbed the moment when Tony Banks was injured late in the third quarter. A pair of touchdown passes ensured an unexpected 17-10 Washington win.

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