- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 14, 2003

Today’s San Francisco-St. Louis, Tennessee-Indianapolis and Miami-New York Jets games could be pivotal in division races, but the NFL’s matchup of the week features a 62-year-old coach of a last-place team coming home to face his first team and its new loudmouth star.

That will take place tomorrow night when Bill Parcells brings the Dallas Cowboys to the Meadowlands, where New York Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey is the talk of the town.

Shockey reacted to what he felt was undue criticism from then-ESPN analyst Parcells last season by referring to the coach as “a homo” in a New York magazine article last month.

“I was misquoted,” Shockey said Thursday. “It got turned around. [Parcells] coached here. He understands how the media is. I’m sure he didn’t make much of it.”

Parcells didn’t, at least publicly, but he’s always happy to be back in Jersey. “I grew up there and started my head coaching career there,” said Parcells, who won two Super Bowls during eight years with the Giants. “I have nothing but good memories.”

Parcells has been the opposing coach at Giants Stadium twice, winning 23-22 with New England in 1996 and losing 41-28 with the New York Jets in 1999. He’ll be back again in two weeks against the Jets after next Sunday’s open date.

Parcells lost his Dallas debut 27-13 to visiting Atlanta last Sunday despite 403 yards of offense. Meanwhile, the Giants were impressive in thrashing the Rams 23-13. Still, New York is 1-6 against Dallas on Mondays and 1-6 in the ABC spotlight under coach Jim Fassel, whose first NFL job was as a Giants assistant four months before Parcells’ first retirement.

49ers-Rams — Marc Bulger to the rescue. That’s the rallying cry in St. Louis after the Giants sacked Kurt Warner six times, forced him to fumble six times and gave him a concussion that will make him the backup today. So it’s up to Bulger, who sparkled while Warner was out for nine games last season with finger and hand injuries, to revive the Rams.

Warner said he feels fine. However, coach Mike Martz isn’t going to rush him back after mistakenly leaving his star in following last Sunday’s first-quarter concussion.

“Kurt made some errors in terms of where the ball was going and some of the ‘hot’ protections, which he never does,” Martz said. “And then there were a couple where he just held [the football]. In my mind, [the concussion] seems like the culprit.”

Sitting Warner also is wise considering that the NFC West rival 49ers’ newly aggressive defense blitzed constantly in coach Dennis Erickson’s debut last week, intercepting three passes and recording five sacks in a 49-7 laugher over Chicago.

“We’ve got something going, but by no means do we feel we’ve arrived,” said cornerback Ahmed Plummer, whose team has lost four in a row and seven of eight to the Rams.

Titans-Colts — First, the Colts’ vaunted offense couldn’t reach the end zone last week in Cleveland. And now their fans couldn’t sell out the league’s smallest stadium in time to avoid today’s huge AFC South game from being blacked out locally.

Quarterback Peyton Manning, who termed a preseason RCA Dome crowd of 26,000-plus “embarrassing,” said this week that he has enough to worry about — like his 0-3 record against Tennessee and keeping halfback Edgerrin James happy. The two-time NFL rushing champion averaged 4.5 yards in the opening 9-6 victory but had just 15 carries.

“You can’t run in spurts,” James said. “I like to run and get into a groove.”

The Colts are 17-5 when James carries at least 25 times, 2-4 when he does so 15 or fewer times. Today James will face a Tennessee run defense that was No.2 in 2002 and allowed just 34 yards in last week’s 25-20 victory over Oakland that avenged the AFC Championship game loss.

Dolphins-Jets — Before last Sunday’s game against heavy underdog Houston, backup Miami defensive end Jay Williams told his three ex-Rams teammates on the Texans that he would “see them after practice.” Williams claimed it was a slip of the tongue, but the lowly Texans used the comment as motivation in a stunning 21-20 victory.

Adewale Ogunleye apparently didn’t learn from Williams’ gaffe. The Dolphins’ reserve end guaranteed victory today over the AFC East rival Jets, who were edged 16-13 in their opener in Washington. The Dolphins have beaten the Jets once in 10 tries since 1997.

“I know after this game we will be 1-1,” Ogunleye said.

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