NFL notebook

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Associated Press

The NFL notebook …

Even with the emphasis on the playoff race, Falcons quarterback Michael Vick doesn’t deny he also is thinking about his pursuit of NFL history.

The surprising note is Vick could become the first NFL quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards Sunday at Tampa Bay, and he still might not claim the day’s biggest milestone on the Atlanta team. That honor might belong to 46-year-old kicker Morten Andersen.

It could be a huge week for the Falcons and NFL records:

* Andersen is seven points away from becoming the NFL’s all-time leading scorer. Andersen was signed by the Falcons on Sept. 19 for his second stint with the team, two days after punter and kickoff specialist Michael Koenen was 0-for-4 on field-goal attempts against Tampa Bay.

Andersen began the season 77 points behind Gary Anderson’s record 2,434 points.

* Vick is 40 yards from posting the most yards rushing by a quarterback in a season. He is 71 yards away from becoming the first quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.

* Warrick Dunn needs 48 yards on the ground for his third straight 1,000-yard season and the fifth of his career.

* Dunn and Vick are trying to become only the fourth set of teammates to each rush for 1,000 yards in a season. The last NFL duo to reach the mark was Cleveland’s Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner in 1985. The only other NFL teammates to each rush for 1,000 yards in the same season were Pittsburgh’s Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier in 1976, and Miami’s Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris in 1972.

The Falcons (6-6) have four games left.

GIANTS

Tom Coughlin walked into the room with a smile on his face and almost immediately started his rah-rah speech.

“You have to get excited, it’s a new week here. You’re all sitting here like this with your heads down, and I know you want to win just as bad as I want to win. You have to get it going … you have to get yourself fired up a little bit for a new week and a new opportunity,” the New York Giants coach said with a twinkle in his eye.

It was the type of speech the Giants (6-6) probably needed to hear on the heels of a four-game losing streak that has turned their bid for a second straight NFC East title into a fight for playoff survival.

Coughlin said the rest of his talk with the team concerned the opportunity still ahead during the four-game stretch run to the playoffs. Everything is there for New York (6-6), which has beaten two other teams with the same record, Atlanta (6-6) and Philadelphia (6-6), and plays the Panthers, also 6-6, on Sunday.

All they have to do is to start making a few plays in crunch time.

“Just one or two of them. That’s all,” Coughlin said. “Then we end up being the winner. Then we’ve got something to be happy about. That’s where it is. That’s what we have to do. We have to make that happen.”

TITANS

Offensive coordinator Norm Chow once groomed Phillip Rivers at North Carolina State, knows the current athletic director at Arizona State and was a finalist the last time Stanford hired a coach.

Each school needs a new coach, and Chow is a popular candidate. But it’s not a topic he wants to talk about with four games left in his current job.

“This is not the time,” Chow said Wednesday after practice. “We’re on a bit of a roll, see if we can get a couple wins and we’ll see what happens.”

Chow, 60, has been busy tutoring rookie Vince Young, and the Titans have won five of their last seven. He said the job is so consuming he couldn’t even tell if the sun shined on Tuesday.

“It’s flattering to hear your name. It’s always flattering … but (I’ll) focus on the task at hand. I know that’s coachspeak, but it’s the truth,” he said.

Chow’s popularity dates to his 32 years of coaching in college and helping three Heisman Trophy winners and winning three national titles, with the last two at Southern California in 2003 and 2004. He is a big reason Young is 5-4 as a starter.

But he will have to decide if it’s more important to chase his first head coaching job or stick in the NFL, where he can concentrate on coaching and not recruiting.

TIME CHANGE

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The NFL’s new “Flex” schedule has been “Un-Flexed.”

The league announced late Wednesday evening that kickoff for the Miami Dolphins’ game at the Buffalo Bills on Dec. 17 has been changed again — this time switched back to its original 1 p.m. EST start.

The change came a day after the NFL moved the game to 4:05 p.m. as part of its newly introduced flexible schedule. It’s a feature included in the new television contract that’s meant to ensure contending teams play in prime time late in the season.

The 4:05 p.m. slot became open on CBS after NBC, on Monday, moved the Dec. 17 game between San Diego and Kansas City to its nighttime slot.

BEARS

Pro Bowl defensive tackle Tommie Harris will miss Monday’s game at St. Louis with a sprained left knee and strained hamstring. Harris was injured in the third quarter of Sunday’s 23-13 win over Minnesota and underwent an MRI on Monday.

BRONCOS

Three days after being carted off the field with a neck injury, linebacker Al Wilson returned to practice Wednesday.

BILLS

Running back Willis McGahee and cornerback Terrence McGee missed practice Wednesday, and both were listed as questionable for Buffalo’s game at the Jets this weekend.

Coach Dick Jauron was upbeat in saying there’s a “good chance” the two starters could play after both hurt their left ankles in a 24-21 loss to San Diego last weekend.

CHIEFS

Linebacker Derrick Johnson returned to practice Wednesday, but right tackle Kyle Turley went out with a shoulder injury.

Coach Herm Edwards said Turley was injured during practice and would undergo an MRI.

VIKINGS

Running back Chester Taylor and backup quarterback Brooks Bollinger are doubtful for Sunday’s game at Detroit.

Taylor, the fifth-leading rusher in the NFL, bruised his ribs in last week’s loss to Chicago. Taylor has rushed for 1,098 yards and also has 38 receptions for 266 yards as Minnesota’s primary offensive threat.

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