Even if you're not a rainy-day fan of the Seattle Seahawks, you have to like the way wide receiver Steve Largent can hang a defensive back out to dry. Largent extended his National Football League record receiving streak to 133 games on Sunday, catching four passes including a 38-yard touchdown toss in Seattle's 27-7 loss to Kansas City. All this, mind you, from a sub-six-footer with speed you can time with a calendar and a history that includes being traded by the Houston Oilers in 1976 for an eighth-round draft pick. If you saw this guy in street clothes coming out of a restaurant, you wouldn't look once.
The Chiefs defended Largent about the same way most NFL opponents have all season: as though they were reaching for pieces of broken shingles that had come loose in a high wind. By the time the defensive back gets close enough to touch Steve, he has usually made the catch and moved on to another location. Most of Largent's pass patterns look as though he borrowed them from a squirrel crossing the street against oncoming traffic.
NFL scouts who were around when slower-than-slow Raymond Berry was the favorite receiver of Johnny Unitas on those old Baltimore Colt powerhouses say Largent has the same kind of underrated tools. The great hands, the ghostlike moves, the instincts to get free are all there, only nobody in the stands seems to know it's happening until it's over.
Largent has caught 664 passes so far in his 11-year NFL career, putting him second on the all-time list to San Diego's Charlie Joiner, who began the current season with 716. Joiner, an amazing veteran playing his 18th pro season, is still good, but not nearly the threat he was two or three years ago. If Largent continues at his present pace, therefore, he figures to pass Charlie at some point and then continue to add to his total.
Asked to explain his success, Largent said, ``There's a difference between being fast and being quick, and in pro football quickness is better because it can create openings for you. After that, it's hands and concentration, getting a feel for the ball, and then not letting anything the opposition does distract you.''
The man who probably did more to save Largent's career when the Oilers gave up on him in 1976 as too slow was Jerry Rhome, who was Seattle's quarterback coach at the time. Rhome, who had previously been an assistant coach at the University of Tulsa when Steve was setting records there, persuaded the Seahawks to trade for him.
Largent has to be one of pro football's all-time bargains, particularly when you consider that Seattle gave up only a throwaway draft pick to get him. This is a man who already has one foot and both hands in pro football's Hall of Fame! Ditka not pleased with Bears
Coach Mike Ditka of the Chicago Bears makes it clear he doesn't think all of his defending Super Bowl champions are giving their best: ``The opportunity to repeat as champions comes only once or twice in a lifetime. Not to have all of your players excited about this - well, as a coach it makes you wonder. As a team, we've been struggling, getting by mostly on our defense. But there is still time for us to make it offensively, too.''
The Bears haven't exactly gone into hibernation, as their division-leading 8-2 record attests, but they haven't borne too much resemblance to the super team of 1985, either. One of the problems has been at quarterback, where they haven't been able to compensate fully for the loss of Jim McMahon, who has already missed four games because of injuries. But backup Mike Tomczak played well in Sunday's 23-3 victory over Tampa, and former Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie is now also waiting in the wings after getting his first taste of NFL action in the waning minutes of that game. Raiders have QB problems
The Los Angeles Raiders have a problem at quarterback, where Marc Wilson keeps finding it harder and harder not to throw key interceptions. At this point Wilson seems like a pitcher who has suddenly lost his rhythm, as in Sunday's game at Dallas, where he completed only 4 of 14 attempts and had three passes intercepted in the first half.
Sixteen-year veteran Jim Plunkett can still do the job at times, as he demonstrated by coming off the bench at halftime and hitting 7 of 12 attempts, including the 40-yard touchdown pass that brought the Raiders from behind for a 17-13 victory. But at this stage of his career it is probably unrealistic to expect Jim to be a full-time No. 1 quarterback again for any significant length of time.
Even if the Raiders make the playoffs as a wild-card team, therefore, it isn't likely that managing general partner Al Davis will continue to sit and do nothing in regard to his quarterback situation. If Davis can't trade for the experienced QB he wants, look for him to try to upgrade the Raiders' position in the 1987 NFL player draft.
Al would love to get a shot at Miami's Vinnie Testaverde, of course, but that would probably mean acquiring the No. 1 pick - which might or might not be possible, depending upon the needs of the team that winds up with it, and which would certainly be expensive in any case.