Quarterbacking Is an Imperfect Art

Monday, October 9th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Peyton Manning threw three interceptions, the most he's had in a game since his rookie year.

Brett Favre threw three interceptions and fumbled twice.

And Mark Brunell fumbled four snaps, losing two, and threw interceptions on consecutive possessions before being pulled.

Yes, even the best of NFL quarterbacks can have off days. And when they do, their teams lose, as the Colts, Packers and Jaguars did Sunday.

``There was no bright side,'' Brunell said after the Jaguars (2-4) fell three games and a tiebreaker behind Baltimore in the AFC Central.

Jacksonville has a road game next Monday night in Tennessee, which handed the Jaguars their only three losses last season.

With Kurt Warner and the Rams in a bye week, there were some good QB performances Sunday by Jeff Garcia, Steve Beuerlein, Rich Gannon, Brian Griese and Jeff Blake.

But the top guys were brutal, in part because their teams were, too.

Brunell might be the best example.

With center John Wade out for the season and the rest of the offensive line shuffled, he was under pressure all night. Tony Boselli, still recovering from knee surgery, had a hard time with Baltimore's Michael McCrary after being manhandled a couple of weeks ago by the Colts' Chad Bratzke.

Meanwhile Jeff Smith, Wade's replacement at center, was replaced by Quentin Neujahr after the bungled snaps. Neujahr and Brunell botched a snap, too, and got their feet tangled up on another play.

finally, Brunell was lifted for Jamie Martin, who drove the Jags to one TD but threw yet another interception on the final drive of the 15-10 loss.

``I was surprised,'' Brunell said about being pulled. ``I would like to have had an opportunity to win that game. This is new territory for me.''

It wasn't new territory for Favre, who is now 2-7 in regular-season games in Detroit, with 20 interceptions. The biggest problem for Favre is an offensive line that allows pressure on him almost every game — he's been sacked 17 times, and only his mobility has kept it to that number.

Sometimes, he might be better off with the sack, as on the interception by Kurt Schulz that ended Green Bay's final drive in a 31-24 loss.

``The line put pressure on him,'' said Schulz, who leads the league with six interceptions in six games. ``He made a bad decision. He kind of floated it up there.''

Manning wasn't floating the ball.

But because New England shut down Edgerrin James and the Colts' running game — it gained only 84 yards — Manning was forced to throw 54 times. When a Bill Belichick-coached defense knows the other team will pass, interceptions happen.

What also happened was a questionable decision at the end of the first half, after Mike Vanderjagt's field goal gave Indianapolis a 10-3 lead.

The Colts then tried a squib kick, which Tony Simmons returned 39 yards to the Indianapolis 44. Then Michael Bishop threw his first NFL pass, a Hail Mary that Simmons caught in the end zone, tying the game at 10-10 and giving the Patriots the momentum toward a 24-16 victory.

YOUNG GUNS FIRE BLANKS, TOO: The quarterback class of '99 wasn't too hot either on Sunday.

Most notable was Donovan McNabb, who a week ago threw for a career-high 311 yards as the Eagles routed the Falcons.

This week, with Philadelphia and Washington tied at 14 with just over 30 seconds left, McNabb lofted the ball blindly downfield and into the arms of Darrell Green, who returned it 33 yards to set up Michael Husted's game-winning field goal.

``I thought they were playing deep and I tried to get the ball out of bounds,'' a distraught McNabb said afterward.

The frustration of Chicago's Cade McNown continued, too.

McNown was sacked five times and threw three interceptions against New Orleans and was continually booed by the Soldier Field fans. But he was without his two top receivers — Bobby Engram, lost for the season with a knee injury, and Marcus Robertson, who missed Sunday's game with an ankle sprain.

After one interception, McNown appeared to come close to slapping the Saints' Joe Johnson in the helmet.

``I knew he was frustrated,'' Johnson said. ``Anybody in that situation would be when you get pressure on you all day, when you get hit on almost every play and you can't mount a steady drive.''

McNown has two experienced backups, Jim Miller and Shane Matthews.

But Bears coach Dick Jauron seems ready to sacrifice wins to give McNown experience.

``If I looked out there and thought obviously the quarterback spot was the issue, we would do something, just like any other position,'' Jauron said.