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Published: Tuesday, 1/6/2004

MVP voters wisely look beyond stats

A warm sports stew for a cold Tuesday morning:

Here is how the National Football League s co-MVPs spent their weekends.

Peyton Manning completed 22 of 26 passes for 377 yards and five touchdowns, earning a perfect 158.3 passer rating, as Indianapolis blasted Denver 41-10 in an AFC wild-card game.

Steve McNair completed 14 of 23 passes for 159 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions as his Tennessee Titans survived Baltimore 20-17 in a playoff opener on the road. You d have to board a submarine to bump into his passer rating.

You look at those numbers and wonder if the voters got it right. Don t worry, they did.

Look inside the numbers and you see McNair, grimacing on every stride and limping on almost every trip back to the huddle, playing with a strained right calf and a sprained left ankle with a cracked bone spur.

I have always lumped McNair with Green Bay s Brett Favre and Donovan McNabb of Philadelphia as guys who play with spirit and gumption regardless of injuries and pain. It isn t always pretty, but you always get their best shots.

It is fitting that all three of them, plus Manning, who produced far more yards despite finishing second to McNair in regular-season passer rating (100.4 to 99.0), have their teams alive for next weekend s divisional playoff round.

•  That in mind, here are quick hits on the four quarterfinal games:

•  Indianapolis at Kansas City: Well past mid-season everybody had the high-flying Chiefs penciled into the Super Bowl. But Manning is at the top of his game, and don t forget that the Chiefs have lost four straight at home, and six in a row overall, to the Colts.

•  Tennessee at New England: McNair and rejuvenated running back Eddie George are both banged up and playing on guts, but guts probably won t be enough against a Patriot defense that has helped forge a 12-game winning streak.

•  Green Bay at Philadelphia: Two never-say-die quarterbacks. But this could be decided on the ground, where the Eagles defense has been suspect and will have its hands full with Ahman Green.

•  Carolina at St. Louis: The Panthers had no penalties, which is virtually unheard of, and no turnovers in their wild-card win over Dallas. A near repeat, plus a normal defensive effort, could produce a mild upset over the Rams, who have quarterback issues.

•  St. John s Jesuit will pay tribute to the late Charles (Bud) Felhaber before tonight s home basketball game against Rogers.

Felhaber passed away last April, shortly after the conclusion of his 14th season as an assistant to Ed Heintschel. Before that Bud won more than 300 total games as a head coach at Bettsville and Clay high schools.

“He worked extensively with our post players,” Heintschel said. “Bud was a great teacher, a master of breaking things down and emphasizing fundamentals. He was a great help to me in practices and on the bench.”

Felhaber also was a true gentleman and one of high school basketball s great ambassadors in these parts. He is missed by many.

•  Pete Rose deserves being in baseball s Hall of Fame for what he did between the lines, not what he did on the phone lines with his bookie. Now that he has ended 14 years of arrogant, blatant lying and has confessed and expressed regret for what was surely an addiction, he should be put on the ballot. That should not be confused, however, with a reinstatement to the game. Neither Bud Selig nor any subsequent commissioner should acquiesce to that.



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