Young made to suffer by Colts

American football
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The Indianapolis Colts' status as the great tarnishers of NFL reputations grows by the weekend. Having put an end to the unbeaten records of the St Louis Rams and Miami Dolphins, it was the San Francisco 49ers' turn on Sunday to have their noses bloodied.

True, the 49ers came into the game having already suffered a loss, but their standing, with the Dallas Cowboys, as one of the league's two outstanding teams, remained undiminished. A second defeat before the season's half- way point suggests that analysis needs some rethinking.

The 49ers took a 17-15 lead midway through the fourth quarter thanks to Doug Brien's 51-yard field goal, but the Colts responded with a scoring kick of their own, Cary Blanchford converting from 41 yards with two and a half minutes left. That still gave the 49ers a chance, but Brien missed from 46 yards to leave the Colts 18-17 winners. "Hollywood couldn't have picked a better script for me. This was my last chance at kicking in the NFL," said Blanchford, who was cut by the 49ers earlier in the season.

As with Dan Marino last week, it was not just reputations that the Colts battered. They sacked Steve Young, the 49ers quarterback, six times and while taking the beating he sustained a badly bruised back and shoulder and will be out for at least four weeks, making his participation in the 49ers' most important regular season game, at Dallas, extremely unlikely. The worst damage was done when Young was knocked down by Ellis Johnson with a minute to go. He missed one play, but returned despite the pain. "I felt like I could play and felt like I should play until that last hit," he said.

Marino, injured in the defeat by the Colts, was missing from the Dolphins team that travelled to New Orleans, but his absence hardly excuses a 33- 30 defeat to the previously winless Saints. Bernie Kosar, replacing Marino, passed for 368 yards and a trio of touchdowns to no avail. The Dolphins are now a game behind the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East, and will need to regroup rapidly if another season of high expectation is not to evaporate prematurely.

The Bills' defeat of the Seattle Seahawks was their fifth in a row, and, typically, their 70-year-old head coach, Marv Levy, waited until victory was secured before disclosing he had prostate cancer and will have surgery today. "If it's confined to the prostate, it's totally curable. Surgery is the surest way to know, I'm told," Levy said. "I've been coaching 45 years, and I never missed a practice and never missed a game. It looks as though I'm going to have to."

The defeats of the 49ers and Dolphins strengthens the Cowboys' claim to be the class of '95. They were comfortable winners at San Diego.

The Carolina Panthers, newcomers to the league this season, recorded their first victory, 26-15 over the New York Jets, who just play like newcomers. The Jets, without a rushing score all season, were limited to 25 yards on the ground.

NFL (home teams first): Buffalo 27 Seattle 21, Kansas City 31 New England 26, New York Giants 14 Philadelphia 17, Green Bay 30 Detroit 21, Tampa Bay 20 Minnesota 17 (ot), Indianapolis 18 San Francisco 17, Jacksonville 27 Chicago 30, New Orleans 33 Miami 30, Carolina 26 New York Jets 15, Arizona 24 Washington 20, San Diego 9 Dallas 23. Did not play: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Houston, Pittsburgh.

Standings, Sporting Digest, page 27