- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 9, 2003

You’ve gotta love an opening NFL weekend that resurrects the name of Hugh “Bones” Taylor. Taylor, Sammy Baugh’s go-to-guy in the ‘40s and ‘50s, got bumped from the record books Sunday by Cardinals rookie Anquan Boldin, who had 217 yards receiving against the Lions. That’s the most in league history by a player in his first game — five more than Bones had in his ‘47 debut versus the Eagles.

They called him Bones because, well, he was a skeletal 6-4, 194 pounds. But what a receiver! Forget his 272 career catches, which seem insignificant today; the man could put the ball in the end zone. He had five seasons with at least eight touchdowns, more than any wideout in Redskins history — more than Art Monk (2), more than Charley Taylor (4), more than Bobby Mitchell (3), more than Gary Clark (also 3). Bones scored 58 times in 94 games. Monk, by contrast, scored 65 times in 205 games.

I just dug out my copy of the Redskins’ 1948 media guide to see if I could find out more about him. His entry at the top of page 31 says he was “plagued by a mysterious fever” as a rookie — which explains why he caught only 18 passes for 299 yards after his big game against Philly. It also says he was “signed as a free agent when Redskin Coach Turk Edwards read about him in a magazine.” Wonder if it was Street & Smith’s.

Anyway, you know it’s been a great first week in the NFL when Bones Taylor gets brought out of mothballs. And it was — in just about every way. The gloom that followed preseason injuries to Michael Vick and Chad Pennington began to lift almost as soon as the first kickoff was in the air. Some of the more noteworthy games:

Bills 31, Patriots 0 — A lot of people, including me, thought Buffalo would be one of the most improved teams in the league, but who expected this? The Pats, after all, owned the Bills last year, outscoring them 65-24 in two one-sided victories. But Bill Belichick might have outsmarted himself by gambling that he could coerce Lawyer Milloy into taking a pay cut — and then losing him to division rival Buffalo when the strong safety refused to capitulate. Milloy might be the final Powerball number for the Bills’ defense. The club had already upgraded its D-line (Sam Adams) and linebackers (Takeo Spikes), and now it has added a Pro Bowler to the secondary. The post-game comment by Spikes, the former Bengal, was a classic: “At least I don’t have to go home and hear Chris Berman say how much we [stink].”

Vikings 30, Packers 25 — The Vikes gave us a preview of coming attractions late last season. In the final five weeks they lost in overtime to Atlanta, should have beaten the Pack in Green Bay (in the bitter cold) and then, when a lot of teams would have packed it in, reeled off wins over New Orleans, Miami and Detroit to finish 6-10. Under Denny Green, the Vikings were always accused of being soft, but successor Mike Tice, the erstwhile Terp and Redskin, has changed all that. Indeed, he called Sunday’s victory at Lambeau Field a victory of “the aggressive team” over “the finesse team.” How’s that for a putdown?

Texans 21, Dolphins 20 — Houston’s David Carr was sacked 76 times a year ago as a rookie, a record, but his offensive line didn’t let Jason Taylor and Co. lay a glove on him in Week 1. As a result, the Texans’ last seven possessions went like this: field goal, missed field goal, punt, touchdown, field goal, field goal, field goal. It would have taken them a month to score that many points last season. Here’s what I don’t get, though: Why did Dave Wannstedt go for the 2-point conversion after the last Miami touchdown? Yeah, I know it would have given the Dolphins a 22-15 lead and forced the Texans to score a touchdown to tie. But when Jay Fiedler’s pass went awry, the Texans — who don’t cross the goal line very often — were able to win the game with a pair of Kris Brown 3-pointers. A major miscalculation, in my humble opinion.

Chiefs 27, Chargers 14 — The absolute best news of the weekend was that Priest Holmes is back — to the tune of 183 yards from scrimmage and two TDs. The Chargers, meanwhile, are still in disarray after their second-half collapse last year. The following quote from Marty Schottenheimer sounds awfully familiar: “I told the guys after the game that we’re on a journey. This is just one game. Kansas City is just one game. Kansas City is not the destination.” (You know, there are times when I think Marty, and not Jack Handey, supplied the “Deep Thoughts” for “Saturday Night Live.”)

Titans 25, Raiders 20 — There might not be a bigger bruisefest all season. Were those two ballclubs hittin’ each other or what? As for the stupendous Steve McNair, I’m beginning to believe he does a better impression of Brett Favre than Brett Favre.

Giants 23, Rams 13 — Let’s see, Kurt Warner fumbled six times and “looked confused when you gave him a play,” according to Mike Martz, but Martz didn’t suspect his quarterback might be have suffered a concussion until he started vomiting after the game? The NFL should require the Rams coach to take an EMT course — or watch a season’s worth of “ER.”

Falcons 27, Cowboys 13 — More Redskins luck: Atlanta flanker Brian Finneran will be out at least a month with a broken hand. His replacement is Quentin McCord — not to be confused with Quentin McHale, the skipper of the PT-73.

Too bad Bones Taylor isn’t available.

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