Mark Malone passed for four touchdowns and ran for one today, enabling the Pittsburgh Steelers to rout the San Diego Chargers, 52-24.
In his 16 years as the Steelers' coach, Chuck Noll had never seen them score that many points, not even when Terry Bradshaw was their quarterback. The best previous performance under Noll was a 51-35 victory over the Browns in 1979.
"Mark had time to throw and the receivers made the big plays," Noll said. "When we have time to throw, we are able to do a lot of things."
Malone, who completed 11 straight passes at one point, finished 18 of 22, or 82 percent. No Steeler, not even Bradshaw, had had a percentage that high.
After San Diego's quarterback, Dan Fouts, left the game late in the second period with a hurt groin muscle, replacement Ed Luther helped wide receiver Charlie Joiner become the NFL's all-time leading receiver.
Joiner caught no passes until late in the third period but ended the day with six catches for 70 yards. He has caught a record 651, two more than Charley Taylor, who played for the Washington Redskins in 1964-77.
"I would trade the catches for a victory," Joiner said. "It's nice to have the record, but we weren't in it today and I started everything out by dropping a pass when I was wide open in the first quarter."
"I have mixed feelings about this," Luther said. "I'm proud that I threw the ball. But Dan brought him to where he is and I'm sick he couldn't have been the one."
("I have mixed feelings about it," Taylor said in Washington, D.C. "It's great for him. Charlie has proven he's the best for many years and if the record had to be broken, I was glad it was by Charlie. But those records are great to have and I hate to see them go as time goes by."
(Does Taylor, who started his career as a running back, wish he'd had more chances to catch passes? "I'm glad to have what I have," he said.)
With three touchdown catches today, the Steelers' John Stallworth has 11 this season, best of his career. He was injured most of last season.
"One of my reasons for coming back this year was because people were saying my career was over. That made me mad," he said.