In the midst of this pass-first era of pro football, some strange noises are being heard around the National Football League. Coaches and players are talking about, of all things, ball control and time of possession. And not just at Redskin Park.
Both Atlanta and New England also have discovered the wonders of running more and throwing less. That's the major reason that both are either in the playoffs (Atlanta) or, surprisingly, fighting for a berth (New England).
Where once the Falcons bragged about Steve Bartkowski's passing ability, they now are proud of a balanced offense that has gained more rushing than passing yardage the last two weeks. During that same span, Atlanta has held the ball almost 41 minutes longer than its opponents.
New England is relying on defense and a talented corps of backs to carry its playoff bid. Quarterback Steve Grogan, once one of the league's most consistent deep throwers, is content now to either hand off the ball or throw short, controlled passes. Against Seattle last week, the Patriots rushed for 249 yards, holding the ball for 42 of the 60 minutes.
Coaches are especially convinced that teams from cold-weather areas must have an effective ground game to be successful in the playoffs, if they play at home. That's one reason San Diego, which passes often, could have trouble again if it must journey to the midwest next month.
Redskins return man Mike Nelms is becoming increasingly more frustrated as teams continue to kick away from him, especially on punts . . . The Redskins Hogs won't be happy about this one. The Dallas Cowboys offensive line has been nicknamed "The Sweathogs" by a Dallas radio broadcaster. Appropriate T-shirts are being made . . . One national football newspaper all but named Mark Moseley as the league's most valuable player in an editorial this week. If Moseley continues his kicking heroics, he certainly will receive serious consideration for the award, which would be similar to giving baseball's MVP to a relief pitcher. Moseley, by the way, likes to remind listeners that he's really kicked 24 straight field goals the last two years--if you count the three he had in the first players' union all-star game.
Football fans will recall the background of Mike Mosley, who is having a Pro Bowl season returning kicks for Buffalo. Mosley once was billed as a potential all-America quarterback at Texas A&M but wound up being drafted as a wide receiver. Now, at yet a third spot, he finally is having success . . . The rebuilt Steeler roster still contains no player who has been with another NFL team . . . Who would have thought a few years ago that both Earl Campbell and Walter Payton would be unhappy because they aren't getting enough carries? Once, both complained about being overworked . . . A U.S. Football League note: George Allen's Chicago Blitz has signed 235 players.