It will have to be Moon over Montana if the Houston Oilers are going to stop San Francisco's NFL-record 12-game road winning streak Sunday.
Warren Moon, recovering from an early penchant for turnovers, has had three 300-yard passing games for the Oilers (2-2), who lead the NFL in passing offense and rank third in total defense.San Francisco, 3-0 after an off week, has won 12 consecutive road games, an NFL record. The 49ers' 55-20-1 road record for the 1980s was better than the home records of 26 NFL teams.
Sunday's game at the Astrodome matches two offenses with nearly identical styles.
San Francisco is 23rd in the NFL in rushing, second in passing and first in total offense, while the Oilers are 27th, first and second in the same categories. Both Moon and Joe Montana are ranked No. 4 in their respective conferences in passing efficiency.
"The thing that impresses me is the composure of Moon," 49ers coach George Seifert said. "He certainly has command of the field and knows where his receivers are."
Houston's four starting receivers rank among the top 10 in the AFC and Drew Hill leads the AFC and ranks second in the NFL with 24 catches.
"The thing that concerns you is their ability to run through your secondary and catch the big pass," Seifert said. "At the same time, you're concerned if they catch the ball in a short area against a man coverage or between the zone and break the short pattern into a long gain."
"We're playing the world champions, what most people think is an unbeatable football team," Moon said. "I think most people are coming to the Astrodome to see the 49ers play instead of us."
Montana has spread the passing attack among wide receiver Jerry Rice (16 receptions), running back Tom Rathman and running back Roger Craig and tight end Brent Jones (13 each).
But it's Montana's experience and composure that have the Oilers worried.
"If you get to Montana in the first quarter, you better get to him in the fourth quarter, too," defensive end William Fuller said. "He's so poised. He's so programmed. He's like a damned machine."
"Rattle him?" linebacker Johnny Meads asked. "That doesn't seem possible. Maybe it was a few years ago. But now he's gotten so good at it and everybody has told him he's so good at it ... I think he believes it."
Elsewhere in the NFL on Sunday, it's Detroit at Minnesota, Kansas City at Indianapolis, New Orleans at Atlanta, the New York Jets at Miami, San Diego at Pittsburgh, San Francisco at Houston, Seattle at New England, Tampa Bay at Dallas, Cincinnati at the Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay at Chicago and the Los Angeles Raiders at Buffalo. The New York Giants, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Washington have open dates.
The Monday night game has Cleveland at Denver.
Vinny Testaverde, who set an NFC record with 35 interceptions two years ago, now is ranked No. 1 in the NFL and has led Tampa Bay to comeback victories two weeks in a row.
"`He's doing some things now that we expected him to do all along," coach Ray Perkins said. "He's had his learning experience. He has matured each year into a fine quarterback."
The game is a reunion of sorts for Testaverde, who played for Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson when both were at the University of Miami.
"Vinny has really blossomed this year," Johnson said. "He's got a better supporting cast and you can tell it. Tampa Bay has a good team."
"It will be a little strange going against coach Johnson," Testaverde said. "We had a lot of success together. He knows me. I know him."
Meanwhile, Emmitt Smith, formerly of the University of Florida, is starting at running back for Dallas, the first rookie to start at halfback for the Cowboys since Ron Springs in 1979.
Smith has gained 104 yards on 37 carries, caught eight passes for 62 yards and scored two touchdowns in four games.
"I think my progress has come along pretty well," said Smith, who has picked up a first down six of the seven times the Cowboys gave him the ball on third down. "The difference (between college and pro) is the guys are bigger, faster and hit a lot harder."
The Rams, like San Francisco, are coming off a bye in their game against Cincinnati, which lost at Seattle on Monday.
Among those who needed the extra week to heal injuries are defensive back Jerry Gray and running back Cleveland Gary.
"We're looking forward to this," Rams coach John Robinson said. "It's Jerry Gray's first game; it's basically Cleveland Gary's first game.
"This is us. I hope it's good."
Although this is the first time in many years there have been byes in the NFL, Robinson has experience in how to approach the week off. But when he was coach at Southern Cal in 1977, he said, he mishandled an off week and it led to a loss to Alabama.
"We had byes in college, so we knew what to expect," Robinson said. "I made a big mistakes on one of them and it cost us. I worked them too hard and took a dead football team into the game."