Sunday, November 11, 2001

San Francisco’s Terrell Owens and New Orleans’ equally volatile Kyle Turley will be closely watched when the 4-3 Saints visit the 5-2 49ers today.
Offensive tackle Turley was fined $25,000 by the NFL last week for ripping the helmet off New York Jets safety Damien Robinson, throwing it across the field and gesturing obscenely in response to Robinson’s grabbing Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks by the helmet and trying to turn his head as if it was a twist-off cap. Robinson was fined $20,000.
“I cannot apologize for defending my quarterback and trying to save his life,” Turley said. “[When] I see my quarterback getting his head turned around like ‘The Exorcist’ … [Robinson] was seriously trying to break [Brooks] neck.”
Owens’ problems are with his coach, Steve Mariucci. The receiver accused Mariucci of letting up with a 28-9 lead Oct. 28 at Chicago because of his friendship with Bears coach Dick Jauron, a former colleague in Green Bay. The Bears rallied to win 37-31 in overtime.
“[Mariuccis] buddy system with all the coaches around the league I think he tries to spare them sometimes, just like he doesn’t want to embarrass a team,” Owens said.
Retorted Mariucci: “That may be the most utterly ridiculous statement I’ve read.”
Owens caught two touchdown passes to lead San Francisco’s 21-13 comeback victory over Detroit last Sunday, but that didn’t heal the breach.
“If wanting to win is wrong, I don’t want to be right,” Owens said. “Everybody is trying to diagnose what’s wrong with me. I’m fine. I’ve gotten this far with a lot of criticism. And I’m going to keep being successful, regardless of what bump I come across.”
This week’s bump is the Saints, who have won the past three meetings with the 49ers after losing 14 of the previous 16 and who are 10-2 on the road under coach Jim Haslett. New Orleans’ eighth-ranked defense and its formidable front four will have its hands full with San Francisco’s third-rated offense, which features the NFC’s top ground game as well as the aerial tandem of Owens (48 catches, NFL-high eight touchdowns) and quarterback Jeff Garcia.
Dolphins-Colts Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning has accomplished plenty in his four seasons, but he’s 0-3 against AFC East rival Miami at home. Manning gets another shot today as the first-place Dolphins (5-2) visit the Colts (4-3) in one of three games with a division lead at stake. Manning has 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions in seven games against Miami compared to 89 touchdowns and just 58 interceptions against the rest of the league. The last five Colts-Dolphins matchups have been decided by seven or fewer points, with four of the winning scores coming in the final two minutes.
The Dolphins’ defense ranks fourth overall and fifth against the pass, but the Colts lead the AFC in scoring (28.6 points per game) and offense (395.3 yards). They pounded Buffalo 30-14 last week minus Pro Bowl halfback Edgerrin James (knee). Undrafted rookie Dominic Rhodes ran for 100 yards in James’ absence and will fill in again today. While the Indianapolis ground game didn’t grind to a halt minus James, Miami managed just 2.7 yards per carry the past three games. So the Dolphins have gone deep. Receiver Oronde Gadsden, who caught the game-winning touchdown in each of Miami’s last three visits to RCA Dome, has eight catches over 25 yards, one more than rookie Chris Chambers. And the Dolphins have protected quarterback Jay Fiedler well, allowing an NFL-low six sacks.
Packers-Bears It’s the opposite story in Chicago. The hosts have the NFC’s stingiest defense (13.6 points per game) and the visitors have the wondrous quarterback. Green Bay’s Brett Favre leads the league with 15 touchdown passes although top target, Bill Schroeder who might return today has missed the past two games with a sprained ankle.
The Packers (5-2) have won seven straight at Soldier Field, the longest active streak in an opponent’s stadium. Five of the last seven Bears-Packers NFC Central battles were decided by fewer than seven points, but the only two that weren’t were the past two in Chicago. The surprising Bears (6-1) have reeled off six straight victories, the past two in overtime after they trailed by double-digit margins late in the fourth quarter.
“We can’t keep doing this,” Bears receiver Marty Booker said. “We’re giving people heart attacks.”
Steelers-Browns Befitting the cities involved, this AFC Central matchup doesn’t figure to be pretty. Pittsburgh (5-2) leads the NFL in scoring defense and rushing offense. The Browns (4-3) have allowed the AFC’s third-fewest points. Each team is coming off a tough loss. The Steelers would have beaten Baltimore if kicker Kris Brown was remotely on target, and the Browns blew a 21-7 lead over the Bears in the final 35 seconds.

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