QB subs stand out in 6 wins; Pro Football


In a season that already defies logic, the NFL produced another round of can-you-believe-this in Week 9.

No less than six teams won Sunday -- out of 13 games -- with quarterbacks who were backups or third-teamers at the start of the year. Consider these unlikely matchups:

The Chicago Bears' Jim Miller, playing with his fourth team in six years, beat the Green Bay Packers' Brett Favre.

The Denver Broncos' Chris Miller, playing his first game in four seasons, beat the San Diego Chargers' Jim Harbaugh.

The Miami Dolphins' Damon Huard, a relative unknown until Dan Marino developed a pain in his neck, beat the Tennessee Titans' Steve McNair.

The Detroit Lions' Gus Frerotte, playing in relief of injured Charlie Batch, beat the St. Louis Rams' Kurt Warner.

All of the above -- plus Sunday winners Tony Banks of the Ravens and Rick Mirer of the New York Jets -- began the season on the bench. Banks and both Millers actually started as third-string quarterbacks.

But injuries and subpar performances have elevated all of them into prominent roles at the halfway point of the season.

Even though he remains the backup to Batch in Detroit, Frerotte has turned out to be one of the best off-season acquisitions.

In Week 6, he bailed out the Lions for a 25-23 win over the Minnesota Vikings. On Sunday, he threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns to rally Detroit over the Rams, 31-27.

His 12-yard touchdown pass to Johnnie Morton with 33 seconds left pushed the Lions to 6-2, the best record in the NFC by virtue of the tie-breaking win over St. Louis, also 6-2.

Frerotte, cut by the Washington Redskins after last season, entered the game in the third quarter when Batch hit his right thumb on a helmet.

Frerotte's biggest play of the day bordered on the surreal. On fourth-and-26 from the Detroit 21, throwing against a three-deep prevent defense, he found Germane Crowell for a 57-yard gain.

Jim Miller was the other relief quarterback to win. He replaced rookie starter Cade McNown (sprained right knee) in the first quarter. McNown was filling in for starter Shane Matthews (hamstring).

After throwing for 142 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions, Miller finished the game with his bruised right hand on ice.

So when the Bears play Minnesota next week, they might need a fourth quarterback. This year, that doesn't necessarily count them out, though.

Playing it safe

This is how strange things are getting in Green Bay. Favre wore a wristband with plays written on it Sunday because the Packers decided to simplify their offense. The reason? Favre's nine interceptions this season.

Even after Favre completed six straight passes to advance to the Bears' 16-yard line, Green Bay coach Ray Rhodes opted to play for the winning field goal rather than let Favre take a shot at the end zone.

The Packers ran the ball three straight times, then watched Chicago's Bryan Robinson block a 28-yard field-goal try by Ryan Longwell.

As it turned out, the Packers couldn't have played for a field goal if the Bears' Chris Boniol had not missed a 34-yard field-goal attempt with six minutes left. That would have given Chicago a 17-13 lead.

Favre has already won three times this year with last-second touchdowns.

Jags in driver's seat

The 7-1 Jacksonville Jaguars have a clear advantage over the 7-1 Miami Dolphins in the race for home-field advantage in the AFC.

The Jaguars have just two teams with a winning record left on their cozy schedule -- Pittsburgh and Tennessee. And their remaining opponents have a combined record of 25-51. The list includes New Orleans, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Atlanta and the Ravens twice in the next three weeks. The Ravens have never beaten Jacksonville.

The Dolphins, on the other hand, play five teams with winning records in the second half of the season, including the next four. Their remaining opponents have a combined record of 35-29.

Sweeping domination

With a sweep of four games this weekend, the AFC improved its interconference lead over the NFC to 23-12 this season. The AFC has won 22 of the last 30 games played in the series.

By the numbers

The Packers have lost two straight games at Lambeau Field for the first time since the final days of the Lindy Infante era in 1991. The Packers, who play at Dallas next week, are 1-5 since 1992 in the week before playing the Cowboys. The Rams have allowed 10 sacks in their last two games, both losses, after allowing 10 in their first six games. The San Francisco 49ers' four-game losing streak is their longest since they lost eight in a row in 1980. The Jaguars have 35 sacks in eight games this season. Last year, they had 30 in 16 games. The Seattle Seahawks scored their first rushing touchdown of the season when Ricky Watters broke a 19-yard scoring run against Cincinnati.

Two-minute drill


Are the Browns the most hapless team in the NFL since the 1981 Colts set league records for defensive futility?

Would the Broncos' season have been different had they gone to veteran QB Chris Miller sooner instead of later?

With a 2-2 record outside their tepid division, are the Titans paper tigers?


The championship days are over in Green Bay, were the Packers are 4-4 for the first time since 1994. Whether the Packers remain a playoff contender depends on the suddenly erratic arm of QB Brett Favre.

The Dolphins no longer need QB Dan Marino to win. Damon Huard notched the most impressive of his three starts -- all wins -- with 210 yards and two TDs against a Tennessee defense that dared him to throw.

The Rams look like a playoff upset waiting to happen. They are just 4-15 in games decided by eight points or less under coach Dick Vermeil, including 0-2 this year. Issues The AFC East is unquestionably the best division in the NFL with a 19-6 record (.760) against outside opponents. The next-best record outside its division belongs to the NFC Central, which was 13-10 (.565) going into the Vikings-Cowboys game last night.

The AFC West follows at 15-12 (.556), and the AFC Central is 10-14 (.417). Bringing up the rear are the NFC East (7-11, .389) and the NFC West (7-18, .280). Miami (5-0), Jacksonville (4-0) and Indianapolis (4-0) are the only teams unbeaten outside their division.

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