Saturday September 29 10:25 AM ET
"Undefeated Teams Clash, Games Return to New York Area"
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Undefeated Teams Clash, Games Return to New York Area
By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two battles of the unbeatens, a
high-powered playoff rematch and the return of football to the
a scarred New York area mark this weekend's action in the
National Football League.
The St. Louis Rams host the Miami Dolphins in one key
encounter between 2-0 teams, while the other marquee match-up
is a total surprise with the once-lowly Cincinnati Bengals
visiting the San Diego Chargers with both aiming to go to 3-0.
Cincinnati and San Diego combined to win five games all
Miami have victories over a pair of division winners in
Tennessee and Oakland, but the Dolphins' sturdy defense will
have their hands full in slowing down the explosive Rams in an
The Rams have averaged about 35 points a game on the
artificial turf at home over the last two seasons.
Miami cornerbacks Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain are
considered one of the best tandems in the league. Rams wide
receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt are the favored targets of
St. Louis quarterback Kurt Warner.
"We look forward to this kind of game," Holt said. "They
look forward to this type of game.
"They're considered the best corners in the league. We
consider ourselves the best receivers in the league. So I think
it's going to be a great matchup."
The opportunistic Bengals improved to 2-0 last week by
beating the Super Bowl champions Baltimore Ravens 21-10.
Cincinnati has three interceptions and three fumble recoveries
in their first two games.
Bengals linebacker Takeo Spikes was named AFC Defensive
player of the week after making 11 tackles and returning an
interception 66 yards for a touchdown against the Ravens.
"It lets you know your hard work is paying off," said
Spikes. "You're kind of going through this for years, and we
finally got the right pieces to the puzzle. Everything's coming
together real well."
Spikes was gratified by the honor but has other things on
his mind as he spent most of the week with his father, who is
suffering from a brain tumor.
The Chargers have been sparked by quarterback Doug Flutie,
an offseason acquisition, and a stingy defense.
The scrambling Flutie threw for 353 yards last week in a
32-21 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, while the San Diego
defense ranks second in the AFC, yielding 225 yards a game.
Super Bowl champion Ravens (1-1) have a tough assignment as
they try to rebound from the stunning upset by the Bengals as
Baltimore travels to Denver to play the 2-0 Broncos.
The Ravens defense, which set records in last year's run to
the championship, has had mixed results so far this season.
"The Broncos didn't have success against us last year, so
hopefully they won't have success against us this year," said
linebacker Ray Lewis, referring to last year's 21-3 playoff
victory over Denver.
"We're not at that level to where everything is clicking,"
admitted Lewis. "I hope we're not at that level yet because
you'd die out early."
Broncos' quarterback Brian Griese, who directs an offense
that is averaging 427 yards a game, leads the NFL in its
quarterback rating system.
One team striving to put their first entry into the victory
column are the Minnesota Vikings, who host Tampa Bay (1-0).
Minnesota, a playoff team last year, were set back by the
sudden death of tackle Korey Stringer during training camp and
thus far this season have seen their vaunted offense struggle
in losses to Chicago and Carolina.
Last week against the Bears, veteran receiver Cris Carter
let his frustration show with embarrassing sideline behavior as
he repeatedly berated quarterback Daunte Culpepper, several
offensive assistants and even head coach Dennis Green.
Carter, a 15-year veteran, made a public apology. "I was
really disappointed in myself. It was a tremendous mistake on
my part," he said.
"Cris is the most veteran player on our football team. We
value his leadership more than anybody," said Green. "That
leadership right now calls for us to be able to focus on one
thing ... and that one agenda is Tampa Bay."
The third week of the season also marks the first NFL games
in the New York area since the September 11 attacks that
destroyed the World Trade Center towers that used to be visible
from the practice fields of Giants Stadium across the Hudson
River in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
The Giants (1-1) play their home opener Sunday against the
New Orleans Saints (1-0), while the Jets (1-1) host the San
Francisco 49ers (1-1) Monday night.
"There will be a whole new set of emotions involved with
playing here for the first time since the attacks," said Giants
quarterback Kerry Collins.
"There were a lot of Giants fans that died in those attacks
and we will play in their memory not only this weekend but for
a long time to come."
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