SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL

When Long brothers go head to head, Mom and Dad will be watching

Two sons of Hall of Fame defensive lineman Howie Long — Chris Long of the Rams and Kyle Long of the Bears — face off Sunday.

Diane Long will sit in an Edward Jones Dome luxury box Sunday, binoculars lifted to her eyes, her focus trained on the line of scrimmage. She won't be following the football much when the St. Louis Rams play host to the Chicago Bears. For four quarters, the trenches will be the center of her universe.

On one side of the line of scrimmage will be Long's eldest son, Chris, standout defensive end for the Rams. On the other, her middle son, Kyle, rookie guard for the Bears. In the suite, a couple of nervous parents — Diane and her husband, Hall of Fame defensive lineman Howie Long.

"I watch through binoculars every down to see their faces and facial expressions," said Diane, whose youngest son, Howie Jr., works in the scouting department for the Oakland Raiders. "You know your kid so well, so I can tell when Kyle goes to the bench after a series and sits down, I can tell if he feels good about a series or not just by his demeanor and body language."

The Manning brothers match arms, the Harbaugh brothers match wits, but the Longs will truly play against each other, at least some of the time.

"It's a stressful deal just watching them individually," said Howie, who will get the weekend off from his job as a Fox analyst to watch his sons. "I've seen a lot over my 33 years in the league, but I haven't seen this. So I'm not quite sure how we're going to deal with this. We've got 30, 40 people coming in from out of town. But when I'm watching games, I'm stoic and I don't talk. So the vibe that I'm sending off is, 'Unless you know everything about football that I know, don't bring your [butt] over here and start doing commentary.'

"You've got a laser, pre-snap, on your kid, and then when the play is over it's, 'Get up! Get up! Get up!' It's exhilarating, it's thrilling, it's prideful, it's scary, and it's calming at times."

By Howie's estimate, his sons will be across from each other about 10% of the time because Chris seldom lines up over the right guard.

"Not a whole lot, I'm hoping," Howie said.

Kyle, for one, will be ready.

"He'll definitely be in my peripheral," he said of his older brother. "I'll see him, and I wouldn't be surprised if they tried to throw a couple wrinkles in where he's lined up over the top of me to try to get me out of my element. But it's still football. There's still assignments that need to be executed."

Both Long boys were first-round picks. Chris was taken No. 2 overall out of Virginia in 2008 and has had 31 sacks over the last 21/2 seasons. Kyle was a surprise first-rounder, chosen 20th by the Bears in April.

Kyle's path to the NFL was bumpy and circuitous, including a brief career as a baseball player — he was a 6-foot-6 pitcher with a 96-mph fastball — and a battle with what he called "chemical dependency" that included run-ins with the law. He went from a few months at Florida State, to working in an Orange County surf shop, to playing one season each on the defensive and offensive lines at Saddleback College, to starting five games on the offensive line at Oregon.

In speaking about how proud she is of Kyle taking control of his life off the field, Diane said: "I don't even think there are words for it. I don't think Disney could conceive of the movie, but it's reality. Kyle is completely transparent and he can talk about everything. He has such a wisdom about him."

Whereas Kyle said he has idolized his big brother since childhood, Chris said his respect for Kyle has grown considerably in recent years.

"I've told him this: I'm very proud of him," Chris said. "I actually admire him for a lot of the things he's been able to overcome and accomplish. It's not easy, no matter what anybody tries to tell you, being the son of a Hall of Famer. And then when you add him being my little brother, for whatever that's worth, then that can be difficult too. So whatever pressure I think I've been under, he's been under double that — or maybe 1.5 that."

Come Sunday afternoon, though, the pressure will give way to game mode, and the brothers will slide into their familiar roles of squaring off against another opponent. They won't go easy on each other. They will play to win. Just one topic will be off-limits.

"They're not going to be talking smack about their mother," Diane said. "They'd better not. I think it's safe to say we can take that out of the equation."

Canton awaits

New England plays host to Denver on Sunday, and it will be the first game in NFL history in which both starting quarterbacks are at least 90 games over .500 for their careers. The Patriots are 143-42 with Tom Brady at quarterback (plus-101), and Indianapolis and Denver are a combined 163-71 with Peyton Manning (plus-92).

Ballot boxing

As of Friday, Manning led all players in fan 2014 Pro Bowl balloting with 654,309 votes. The next four in line are New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles, Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson and Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch.

Watt's up?

The Houston Texans are struggling, and defensive tackle J.J. Watt is off his torrid pace of last season, when he collected 201/2 sacks and 15 swatted passes. Watt has 81/2 sacks and three swats this season. However, according to STATS, Watt leads the NFL with 27 quarterback knockdowns, two more than St. Louis defensive end Robert Quinn.

Number crunching

More observations from STATS:

•Giving up yards doesn't always translate into giving up points. Since Week 5, Philadelphia has allowed an average of 401.4 yards per game, the third most in the league. During that same span, however, the Eagles rank fourth in scoring defense, allowing 17.4 points while going 5-2.

•Tennessee (and former UCLA) cornerback Alterraun Verner has five interceptions and two fumble recoveries, leading all players with seven takeaways. That's as many as the New York Jets and San Diego Chargers have had as teams.

•In the five wins by Dallas this season, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has thrown nine touchdown passes with five passes intercepted. But in his team's five losses, Romo has had 12 touchdown passes and just one interception. Go figure.

sam.farmer@latimes.com

 

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