9-6-02, 3:05 a.m.
9-6-02, 1:10 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
You've got to believe there is no way the Chargers are going to play a zone against Bengals quarterback Gus Frerotte in Sunday's regular-season opener.
With all their receivers now finally healthy, all the more reason for the Bengals to run through their Six-Pack rotation in an effort to wear out what could be a bump-and-run defense designed to take the zones away from Frerotte.
On Friday, Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau said T.J. Houshmandzadeh gets the start at split end and Peter Warrick gets the nod at flanker. But all six are expected to play in a variety of packages.
San Diego still remembers.when Frerotte lit them for a Denver-record 462 passing yards in passing for three fourth-quarter touchdowns in the Broncos' stunning 38-37 come-from-behind victory on Nov. 19, 2000.
"They went in their two-minute mode for the entire fourth quarter and we moved the ball down field and got in the end zone instead of (getting) field goals," Frerotte recalled.Thursday. "We made some mistakes early with
interceptions and stuff and they thought they had us. The coach made them go in the prevent and our coaches played it right by going down field in chunks and not just dinking and dunking."
Frerotte hit eight of nine passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns in the final two scoring drives and if memory serves, he thinks Chargers Pro Bowl safety Rodney Harrison missed the second half because he was hurt. But Harrison remembers it all and has been quite complimentary to Frerotte this week.
"It still lingers," Harrison told the "San Diego Union-Tribune." "That just shows his ability. That's a lot of yards. That's not a lucky day. That's just a guy going out there and concentrating on what he's doing and putting it all together.
"I'm very surprised (Frerotte) hasn't found a consistent home in the NFL," Harrison said. "To me, he's a very good quarterback. He's calm. He's smart. He's poised in the pocket. It doesn't surprise me that he's the starter. I don't care who else is there."
Until the fourth quarter that day, it had been one of Frerotte's worst days. He lost a fumble and threw three of his four interceptions inside the San Diego 30 before bringing Denver back from 17 down.and finishing with five touchdown passes.
"They asked me if I was in a dream-like state or something," Frerotte said. "No, I was kind of pissed off at myself, really. You got four picks and you're saying, 'I have to play better than that,' and you come out and make up for it, that doesn't happen too often."
Frerotte tries to make it happen again in his first Bengals' game, which is also his first game with the club's full complement of six wideouts. All indications are all the receivers will play roughly the same amount, around 25 to 40 snaps, and the coaches insist it doesn't matter who starts because all six start in a variety of multi-receiver sets.
Michael Westbrook, Frerotte's old friend from their days in Washington who has yet to appear in a game since breaking his left wrist the third day of training camp, has been told only to get ready to see plenty of snaps.
"They told me I'm going to play a lot, but I don't know when," Westbrook said. "That's fine. Whatever they want to do is OK with me. I'm only concerned about getting a lot of yards down field and not how many catches I get."
If it's one guy Frerotte doesn't need to get timed up with, it's probably Westbrook, his go-to-guy when they started out in Washington in the mid-1990s. Both have said the other has matured since those days, but they would no doubt like to repeat one Opening Day.
That would be in 1997, when Frerotte's 40-yard touchdown pass to Westbrook secured the Redskins' victory in the opener of Jack Kent Cooke Stadium.
"I wish we had more time together in the preseason," Frerotte said. "But he's a talented guy. He's a big, moving target and he likes to get the ball up the field."
Except for left outside linebacker Steve Foley's season-ending shoulder dislocation, Westbrook's injury is the only injury that may impact the starting lineup. Right outside linebacker Takeo Spikes, who hasn't played since the first 12 snaps of the preseason opener, says his torn pectoral muscle is nearly 100 percent. Backup defensive tackle Glen Steele has a hyperextended elbow, but is to play.