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Justice to bench this Chief?

Huard not starting to get concerned

Damon Huard isn't surprised. Everyone else may be, but the Chiefs' upfront backup quarterback isn't.

When you have not completed a pass in six years and have gone 2,121 days without starting a game, doubts would be expected, and certainly there were plenty in Kansas City when Huard trotted onto the field at Arrowhead Stadium Sept. 10, as Trent Green lay on the ground with the sound of wind chimes tingling in his head.

Green, who had made 81 straight starts for the Chiefs, had just had his mind put on ice by Bengals pass rusher Robert Geathers. His body was still in the bright fall sun but his mind was in the dark. So were people trying to remember Huard.

Huard had last thrown a regular-season pass while still in the employ of the Patriots, three years earlier. No one caught it. It had been six years since he'd completed such a throw and seven since he'd started five games in relief of Dan Marino in 1999, and went 4-1. If anyone had paid attention back then, maybe they wouldn't have been so surprised by what was about to happen, but who pays attention to a guy who hasn't played in six years?

"Nobody who isn't related to you," the affable Huard said last week from Kansas City. "Directly [related]."

Second cousins would not be included, although Huard probably has heard from a lot more of them than he knew existed after a seven-week stretch in which he's gone 5-2 as the Chiefs' starter, completing 64.5 percent of his throws for 1,623 yards, 11 touchdowns, and only 1 interception. Those numbers have left him with a quarterback rating of 105.2, his team with a viable chance at the playoffs, and his future in limbo. Such is the fate of a career backup.

Though Huard has played like the man he once backed up, Tom Brady, he's expected to return to the sideline soon because Green is back practicing and will likely be ready to play next Sunday against Oakland. If the Chiefs win today, Huard would be 6-2 as the starter, but if that is not enough to keep him on the field he will return to the bench without bitterness.

"I'm not going to spend too much time thinking about it," Huard said. "I knew I could still play if I got an opportunity. I don't know that you ever really accept being a backup, but what I learned in New England is whatever your role is, accept it.

"I've talked with Tom, but our situations are not that similar. I'm kind of an older guy where he was young and a draft pick [when Drew Bledsoe went down to injury early in the 2001 season]. All I know is this week I'm the starting quarterback against the Miami Dolphins. I have no idea what happens after that. If [coach] Herm [Edwards] says I'm the backup, I'm the backup. If he calls my number, I'll play.

"I understand. This offseason I was a free agent and the only team that wanted me was Kansas City. I hadn't played in six years. That's why the Patriots didn't want me back. You're older. You're more expensive. They wonder, 'Can he still do it?' I understood, but I knew I hadn't played because I was behind good players. Wherever I've been the quarterback has been an iron man."

Regardless of all that pine time, when he was called upon, Huard answered. Loudly. For seven weeks he has played as well as any of his peers, and better than most. But most important, he hasn't let questions about when it may end steal his moment.

"It won't do me any good worrying about it or complaining or lobbying for the job," Huard said. "Everyone keeps asking about next week. That's the way a lot of people think, but I've been blessed just to have gotten this opportunity. I want to make the most of it."

That's one thing no one can question. No matter when it ends, Damon Huard has made the most of his time.

Packed with words on pressure

Charlie Weis now trails his former boss, Bill Belichick, by only one book, having just authored and released "No Excuses" with NFL.com's Vic Carucci. In it, Weis has interesting observations on the pressures of football and how one should react to them.

Included are the reasons Weis believes he will not follow in the footsteps of some of his predecessors at Notre Dame, such as Ara Parseghian and Lou Holtz, who ultimately resigned because the pressure of leading America's most storied college football program became too much to handle.

According to Weis, this won't be a problem for him because "I never panic. I never feel pressure during a game. Ever. It doesn't make any difference what the magnitude of the game is. It doesn't make any difference whether we're winning or losing. If you know what you're doing, you don't feel pressure."

Weis also wrote of a moment that says a lot about him. After Southern Cal beat the Irish last season on the final play in South Bend, Ind., Weis took his teenage son, Charlie, to the Trojans' locker room. He was unable to find coach Pete Carroll but ran into Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush, and asked for permission to speak to their team. They agreed, and Weis then told the USC players, "I just want to congratulate you. That was a hell of a game, a hard-fought battle. I hope you win out."

According to Weis, "It was hard but it was something I had to do. I turned around and walked out. I didn't wait around for claps or anything like that. I returned to my office and sat down with Charlie."

Weis said his son asked him why he'd done it, and he told him, "I wanted to teach you a lesson. It's easy to be a good winner. You should show as much class when you lose as when you win. It's much more difficult to do, but you have to do it."

Weis initially declined to do the book but was urged to do it to honor his 11-year-old daughter, Hannah, a special needs child with pervasive development disorder, a form of autism.

"The biggest fear of any parent with a kid with special needs is what happens if we're gone," Weis wrote. "We think that we can help a lot more of those special needs kids who become special needs adults."

To a fault, Eagles have taken a fancy to passing

The Philadelphia Eagles' pass-heavy offense put up impressive numbers in its first eight games, if you exclude the team's 4-4 record, which is a big exclusion.

Although coach Andy Reid has promised a more balanced attack today after a bye week, his team is first in the league in total offense, first in 20-plus-yard pass plays, second in passing yards, fifth in points, and quarterback Donovan McNabb is on pace for career highs in touchdown passes, passing yards, and yards per attempt. Having said that, McNabb also had a first-half quarterback rating of 41.3 in the last three games, all losses.

Reid claimed many times before the season that the Eagles would run the ball more than a year ago, when his running backs averaged only 18.8 attempts per game in an offense as unbalanced as any in football. So, what's happened thus far?

Halfway through the season, Philadelphia's offense is 29th in percent of pass attempts (59.6). The only three teams with more lopsided offenses are the 2-6 Dolphins (62.2), the 2-6 Buccaneers (62.8), and the 2-6 Lions (64.6). Only the Bucs and Lions have fewer rushing attempts than the Eagles' 189.

Reid's apparent refusal to balance his offense has left the Eagles with a dramatic imbalance in another area -- time of possession. Philadelphia is last in the league in time of possession average at 26:42. That is part of the reason Jim Johnson's defense has struggled mightily. It is simply on the field too long. From 2000-04, the Eagles' defense never finished lower than seventh in points allowed, and in four of those five seasons it gave up more than 17 points in a game just five times. This year, it has already happened five times.

There are an assortment of reasons, but consider Philadelphia's 13-6 loss to the Jaguars Oct. 29 as one example of what the emphasis on the pass has wrought. In that game, the Eagles had 43 pass plays and just 15 runs, even though the game was played in wind that gusted up to 40 miles per hour.

Etc.

Chemistry project
In his new book, "No Excuses," Charlie Weis had an interesting take on what he felt was the mind-set of the Patriots after Drew Bledsoe was injured and the Tom Brady era began. "When Drew was eventually healthy, he wanted to go back to being the starter," Weis wrote. "You never want to lose your starting job as the result of an injury, but in this case it wasn't as simple as just restoring his previous status. The chemistry and makeup of the team had changed. When Drew was in there, everyone else was waiting for him to make the play. He was the security blanket. He was always going to be able to bail the team out. As a result, Drew always had a lot of added pressure on him. When Tommy was in there, the other players knew they had to step up and give him help rather than wait for him to do something. We asked the other players on offense to accept a lot more responsibility, which they did. Our game plans, at least initially, were set up to not make Tommy have to be the guy."

Thinking man's game
A year ago, one Super Bowl-winning quarterback shared his opinion on Peyton Manning's ability to check off at the line of scrimmage, and his words ring true today after watching Manning outthink the Patriots' secondary last Sunday night. "He's one of a kind," said Trent Dilfer, who won a Super Bowl with Baltimore and now backs up Alex Smith in San Francisco. "His ability to digest as much information as he does in a short amount of time is unparalleled. You have to go back to Jim Kelly, but that was a different era of football with far less looks. What Peyton does is mind-boggling. A lot of guys can probably do it cerebrally, but physically it would slow them down. Any time you think too much, you're not as good athletically. He's one of the few guys that can do all that thinking, and athletically still be as superior as well. I think around the league we all admire what he does, but none of us want it on our shoulders."

Dry spell away from desert
The Cardinals' record for road consistency is remarkable. They have lost 30 of their last 33 road games and are 3-17 on the road under Dennis Green. Interesting note dug up by SI.com's Don Banks: Since his Vikings were manhandled by the Giants, 41-0, in the 2000 NFC Championship game, Green's record is a dismal 17-38. Talk about a hangover.

Numbers lie
If, as Bill Belichick and his mentor, Bill Parcells, so often say, "It is what it is," what the Patriots may be is not quite what they appear to be. Since defeating the Panthers in the Super Bowl two years ago, Belichick's team has gone 17-9, but has done it by going 13-0 against losing teams and 4-9 against teams with winning records.

No-hands team
It's not easy to have a drought in soggy Seattle, but Seahawks cornerbacks Marcus Trufant and Kelly Herndon have found a way. Trufant and Herndon have not intercepted a pass in a regular-season game since both got one against the Cardinals Nov. 6, 2005.

No openings in schedule
As if things aren't already difficult enough for the Buccaneers, when they play tomorrow night against Carolina it will be the start of a stretch of three games in 11 days. They face Washington at home Nov. 19, and are at Dallas Thanksgiving Day. This is only the fourth time since 1978 that a team will play three games in 11 days with two on the road. The previous three teams went a combined 2-7. Buffalo in 1994 and Washington in 1990 each were 1-2; Seattle in 1980 was 0-3. "We thank the NFL for our schedule," Bucs coach Jon Gruden said sarcastically. "They did quite a good job."

Men of reel
This has been a horrendous season for the Super Bowl champion Steelers, but it could become a record-breaking one. At 2-6, they are on pace to have the worst record for a defending champion in the Super Bowl's 40-year history, and are also on pace to produce their worst record since the 1970 NFL merger; the 1988 team went 5-11 after a 2-10 start.

Change of plans?
Ricky Williams recently said he wasn't fully committed to applying for reinstatement to the NFL next year, but his agent, Leigh Steinberg, says Williams intends to play for Miami in 2007. Steinberg points out that Williams promised the Dolphins he'd be back next season if they did not oppose him going to Canada this year. But Williams recently told USA Today he might consider returning to the Toronto Argonauts because "this season probably has been the most fun I've had playing since I've been in pro football." At the moment, Dolphins coach Nick Saban has a lot more pressing problems than Williams's status for next season. Williams's Argonauts will reach the Grey Cup if they beat Montreal today.

Airing it out into thin air
The Broncos have allowed the fewest points in the league (98) in eight games (2 fewer than the Bears), yet have the league's 29th-ranked pass defense (229.8). Manning gashed them for 345 yards and three touchdowns and Ben Roethlisberger put up 433 yards on them.

Two-way player
Last Sunday, Bears receiver Muhsin Muhammad had as many tackles (two) as receptions. He made stops on two of Rex Grossman's three interceptions.

Ron Borges can be reached at borges@globe.com; material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

(Correction: Because of a reporting error, the Patriots' opponent in the Super Bowl two seasons ago was incorrect in the Pro Football Notes in Sunday's Sports section. The Patriots played the Philadelphia Eagles.)

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