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NFL knows how to keep it interesting

October 15, 2002|by AL DITZEL

In this age of parity in the NFL, it seems every Sunday every team has a chance of winning - except the Cincinnati Bengals, of course.

I'm kidding! The Bengals will win sometime this year, probably more than once and probably will hurt some team's playoff chances.

Anyways, the point is how each game within an already topsy-turvy football season is like a rollercoaster ride. A great example was Sunday's game between two of the NFL's also-rans - the Carolina Panthers at the Dallas Cowboys. For better than 55 minutes, Carolina completely neutralized Dallas. (I didn't want to say "dominate.") The Cowboys looked ugly, unprepared and unable to break through what was the NFL's top-rated defense (that's another subject for another time).

After the bobblehead who kicks for the Panthers made his second field goal of the game - he made a 50-yarder and was short on a 44-yard attempt, as well in the game - Carolina held a commanding, but not unconquerable 13-0 lead.

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One, it amazes me that this kicker made anything. Do you all rememeber that Green Bay game a couple of weeks ago? I remember an ESPN highlight showing his pre-game kick that went way left and short from about 25 yards. In fact, he reminded me of the first time I ever tried to kick a football field goal style. It went about 10 feet in the air before landing a very short distance away.

OK, back to the game. Quincy Carter, who is not Roger Staubach no matter how many times the TV cameras pan to the Cowboys Ring of Honor, looked horrible. He had thrown for 77 yards with less than five minutes left in the game. Seventy-seven yards. What the heck is that?

So, on a scramble, Carter unleashes a line-drive pass (kind of like the one he missed Antonio Bryant with on the Cowboys' final possession against the Giants last week) well downfield. Somehow, the leaping defensive back lets the ball go through his hands and Joey Galloway catches the football for an 80-yard score.

With three minutes, 55 seconds left in the game, somehow Dallas has a chance to win. Who would've thunk that?

The Cowboys' defense stops Carolina and Dallas takes over on its own 30 after Reggie (Who the heck are you to talk to Emmitt Smith that way) Swinton nearly fumbles away the game.

The Cowboys' offense, which had done very litle in the game, somehow puts together a scoring drive and twice on fourth down, Carter connects for the needed yardage, the first a pass to Bengals castoff Darnay Scott and then, the game-winner, a 24-yard strike to Bryant, who tips the perfect throw, high like it should've been, into his own hands for the touchdown.

Of course, that doesn't mean the game is over. Oh no. Carolina goes on a possible field goal, game-winning drive on its own. Eventually, with 11 seconds left, a completed pass does not allow a Panther receiver to get out of bounds and the game ends. Oh yes, Carolina was in field goal position.

As I was saying to a friend, these games these days torture football fans. You think your team is dead. No chance. game over. Then, a fluke play allows your team to get back into it and one touchdown drive - exactly one in this game - is enough to win.

Fine. Now I can't wait until this week's game.

Al Ditzel is a sports writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131 ext. 7520 or by e-mail at alfredd@herald-mail.com

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