October 2, 2014

2005: Eagles Rally to Beat Chiefs


The Philadelphia Eagles, defending NFC Champions, were 2-1 as they faced the Kansas City Chiefs on October 2, 2005. Under Head Coach Andy Reid, the pass-heavy Eagles featured QB Donovan McNabb (pictured at right), who had put together back-to-back 300-yard passing games the previous two weeks, and had other formidable offensive weapons in WR Terrell Owens and RB Brian Westbrook. However, McNabb was suffering from a sports hernia, among other ailments, and the Eagles were also without dependable PK David Akers due to a groin pull and would be going with untested Todd France in his place.

Kansas City was coached by Dick Vermeil, a former NFC-winning coach with Philadelphia, and was also coming into the game at 2-1. 35-year-old QB Trent Green directed the attack and WR Eddie Kennison was the best of the wide receivers while TE Tony Gonzalez was a premier tight end. RB Priest Holmes still led the ground game, although Larry Johnson, in his third year, was waiting in the wings. The defense was vulnerable against the pass.

The Chiefs took the opening kickoff and drove 63 yards in nine plays. Trent Green completed three passes, two of them to Eddie Kennison for 15 and seven yards, and Priest Holmes rushed six times for 31 yards, the last three for a touchdown. Lawrence Tynes added the extra point.

The Eagles drove just past midfield before having to punt and Kansas City again put points on the board thanks to a series highlighted by Green throwing to Kennison (pictured below) for a 49-yard gain. Tynes kicked a 38-yard field goal and the Chiefs were ahead by 10-0.



Kansas City got the ball right back on the ensuing kickoff when CB Roderick Hood fumbled and LB Kris Griffin recovered for the Chiefs at the Philadelphia 27. Three plays into the second quarter, Green once again connected with Kennison, this time for an eight yard TD. Tynes converted to stretch the home team’s margin to 17-0.

The teams traded punts before the Eagles, starting at their 24, put together an effective drive. Donovan McNabb completed four straight passes, two of them to Terrell Owens, to reach the KC 23 before the advance stalled and the 40-yard field goal attempt by Todd France, his first in the NFL, was blocked by DE Eric Hicks. On the ensuing series, the Eagles got a break on defense when CB Sheldon Brown intercepted a pass by Green that was intended for Kennison and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown. The try for a two-point conversion failed, and the Chiefs quickly turned the tables when WR Dante Hall returned the kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown. Tynes added the extra point and the Kansas City lead was 24-6.

The Eagles punted following their next series but took advantage of another KC turnover when RB Larry Johnson fumbled and DT Sam Rayburn recovered at midfield. The visitors went 50 yards in five plays, the last two of which were McNabb completions to Owens for 28 yards and then a seven-yard touchdown. France added the extra point to narrow Kansas City’s lead to 24-13, and that was the score at the half.

Philadelphia had first possession in the third quarter and drove into Kansas City territory, with McNabb completing three passes, but the series stalled at the 26 and France kicked a 44-yard field goal. Neither team threatened again until, with fewer than four minutes remaining in the period, McNabb connected with Owens for a 30-yard gain to the KC 30 and, two plays later after a sack, followed up with another pass to Owens for 28 yards to the three. From there, TE Mike Bartrum had a catch for a three-yard touchdown and the Eagles added a two-point conversion when McNabb completed a throw to Westbrook, tying the score at 24-24.

The Chiefs had a short series and punted, and as the game headed into the fourth quarter, Philadelphia drove to another score. McNabb had four completions, including one for an 18-yard gain to RB Lamar Gordon and another to WR Greg Lewis for 34 yards to the Kansas City 25. The Eagles again had to go for a field goal, and France was successful from 37 yards to put the visitors in front by 27-24.

It quickly got worse for the Chiefs when Hall fumbled the kickoff return and RB Reno Mahe recovered for Philadelphia at the KC 25. McNabb threw to Owens for 14 yards and to TE L.J. Smith, who made an outstanding catch for seven, and two plays later he hit Smith again for a one-yard TD. France added the extra point that put the Eagles ahead by ten.

The next possession by the Chiefs ended with Green being picked off by Brown once again, who returned it 20 yards to the KC 41. McNabb picked away at the Chiefs once more, completing four consecutive passes, and while the drive stalled at the eight, the Eagles again came away with points on a 26-yard field goal by France with 3:31 to play.

In the waning minutes, Green passed the Chiefs down the field and they came away with a 15-yard completion to Hall for a touchdown. Tynes added the extra point to make it a six-point game, but the onside kick was recovered by Mahe to seal the 37-31 win for the Eagles.

Philadelphia had the edge in total yards (396 to 353) and first downs (25 to 19). The Eagles managed only 28 rushing yards but gained 368 net passing yards. McNabb was sacked once while Philadelphia recorded three sacks. The Chiefs also turned the ball over four times, to two suffered by the Eagles.

Donovan McNabb completed 33 of 48 passes for 369 yards and three touchdowns, giving up one interception. Terrell Owens (pictured below) had 11 catches for 171 yards and a TD and L.J. Smith contributed 9 receptions for 67 yards and a score. Brian Westbrook ran for only 15 yards on 9 attempts but had 6 catches for 33 yards. On defense, Sheldon Brown accounted for two interceptions that he returned for 60 yards and a touchdown. The fill-in placekicker Todd France was successful on three of four field goal attempts and both of his extra points.


For the Chiefs, Trent Green was successful on 19 of 30 throws for 221 yards and two TDs, but with two interceptions. Eddie Kennison caught 7 of those passes for 109 yards and a touchdown and also had a 23-yard run. Priest Holmes ran for 84 yards on 18 carries that included a score and had five receptions for 24 yards. Dante Hall contributed four catches for 45 yards and a TD (which tied the then-NFL career record of six) and averaged 29.3 yards on eight kickoff returns that included a touchdown.

“He’s unbelieveable, man,” said Kansas City CB Patrick Surtain of McNabb. “The second half, they got on a roll and it was like they were doing anything they wanted.”

Things did not go so well for McNabb and the Eagles the rest of the way. Feuding broke out between the quarterback and Terrell Owens, who was ultimately suspended from the team. McNabb finally succumbed to the sports hernia, which required surgery, and missed the last five games. Philadelphia plummeted to a 6-10 record and last-place finish in the NFC East after having won the division four straight times. The Chiefs rebounded to win their next two games on the way to a 10-6 record and second place ranking in the AFC West, although they failed to qualify for the playoffs in Dick Vermeil’s last season.

Donovan McNabb, who became the first quarterback in franchise history to pass for over 300 yards in three successive games with his performance in Kansas City, ended up throwing for 2507 yards and 16 touchdowns in his injury-shortened season. Terrell Owens caught 47 passes for 763 yards (16.2 avg.) and six TDs before he was banished. L.J. Smith had a career-high 61 catches for 682 yards (11.2 avg.) and three scores.

Todd France lasted three games with the Eagles and was successful on six of seven field goals as well as all five of his extra point attempts. He later played for Tampa Bay in what was his only NFL season. Already having seen action with NFL Europe, he went on to kick in the Arena Football League.

October 1, 2014

1978: Campbell-less Oilers Rally Past Browns


Both teams meeting in Cleveland on October 1, 1978 were missing key personnel and coming off losses the previous week. The visiting Houston Oilers were without star rookie RB Earl Campbell, who was sidelined by a pulled hamstring, and WR Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, the outstanding kick returner who had gone down with a knee injury. Head Coach Bum Phillips’ team was 2-2 after a low-scoring loss to the Rams and still had a potent defense while QB Dan Pastorini continued to direct the ball-control offense.

The host Cleveland Browns had won their first three games under first-year Head Coach Sam Rutigliano, but lost a close contest to the Steelers the previous week thanks to a flea-flicker pass in overtime after an apparent Pittsburgh fumble had been blown dead. They were without HB Greg Pruitt, who had a calf injury, although FB Mike Pruitt (no relation) was healthy. QB Brian Sipe was showing improvement and had capable receivers in WRs Reggie Rucker and Dave Logan plus rookie TE Ozzie Newsome. There was talent in the defensive backfield, but the pass rush was lacking.

It was an overcast day at Municipal Stadium with 72,776 fans in attendance. The Oilers took the opening kickoff and drove into Cleveland territory. HB Ronnie Coleman (pictured above), starting in place of Campbell, carried four times for 15 yards and caught a pass for another seven, but when the drive was held up at the Cleveland 33, an attempt to convert a fourth-and-one situation failed when Dan Pastorini was stopped for no gain.

The Browns advanced 43 yards in nine plays, helped by a pass interference penalty in a third-and-10 situation. Brian Sipe converted another third-and-10 play with a pass to Reggie Rucker for 18 yards to the Houston 26, but the drive finally stalled and Don Cockroft kicked a 41-yard field goal.

The Oilers put together a long series. Pastorini completed three passes and Coleman and FB Tim Wilson ran effectively, but after getting a first-and-goal at the seven, the drive came to a halt at the one. On the first play of the second quarter, Pastorini once again tried to convert a fourth down, and once again was stopped short when tackled by LB Charlie Hall before he could reach the goal line.

Cleveland managed to get out to the 14 before punting and Coleman’s 17-yard return gave Houston good field position at the Browns’ 41. With Coleman and Wilson carrying the load and Pastorini throwing to WR Mike Renfro for eight yards to convert a third-and-four play, the Oilers again moved into scoring territory, but Coleman fumbled at the 15 and DE Mack Mitchell recovered for the Browns.

The teams traded punts until, with 1:40 remaining in the half, CB Clarence Scott intercepted a Pastorini pass to give the Browns the ball at the Houston 42. They scored in seven plays, four of them Sipe pass completions. The last two were to Dave Logan, for a 21-yard gain followed by a seven-yard touchdown. Cockroft added the extra point and the home team took a 10-0 lead into halftime.

The Browns went three-and-out to start the third quarter but got the ball back when Coleman fumbled again and CB Ron Bolton recovered. However, four plays later the Oilers benefited from a turnover when CB Willie Alexander intercepted a Sipe pass at midfield. Pastorini converted a third down with an 18-yard completion to Renfro and, two plays later, connected with WR Rich Caster for a 41-yard TD. Toni Fritsch’s extra point attempt was blocked, but the Oilers were on the board and behind now by 10-6.

The teams again traded punts, with Houston winning the battle for field position. A kick that pinned the Browns back at their two led to a punt that gave the Oilers the ball at the Cleveland 43, and in a series that extended into the fourth quarter, they went 43 yards in eight plays. FB Rob Carpenter ran for the last seven and a touchdown, and this time Fritsch successfully converted to give the visitors a three-point lead.

Neither team was able to move the ball and punted following a possession apiece. They then traded turnovers, with FS Mike Reinfeldt intercepting a Sipe pass and Hall recovering a Coleman fumble at the Houston 24, and that led to Cockroft booting a 40-yard field goal that tied the score at 13-13.

There were just over six minutes remaining as the Oilers started their next series, and they were forced to punt. Cleveland took over at its 30 but, four plays later and with 1:24 left on the clock, Mike Pruitt fumbled and LB Art Stringer recovered for Houston at the Browns’ 48. Pastorini immediately went long to WR Ken Burrough, who out-wrestled Bolton for a 44-yard gain. To the Browns and their fans, it appeared that Bolton had been the winner in the battle for the ball and that it should have been ruled an interception. Cans and bottles came flying out of the east stands, delaying play and finally causing the officials to shift to the other end of the field. Three running plays were followed by a Fritsch field goal from 19 yards. A last-gasp pass by Sipe was intercepted and the Oilers won by a final score of 16-13.

The yardage totals were low, reflecting the defensive nature of the game, with Houston gaining the most (215 to 104) and also accumulating the most first downs (20 to 11). Even without Earl Campbell, the Oilers rushed for 164 yards, to just 78 for Cleveland. Each team turned the ball over four times.



Dan Pastorini completed 14 of 29 passes for 215 yards and a touchdown as well as an interception. Tim Wilson led the ground game with 72 yards on 16 carries and Ronnie Coleman contributed 63 yards on 19 attempts to go along with his team-high four catches, good for another 63 yards. With the controversial late-game catch, Ken Burrough (pictured at left) had 68 yards on three pass receptions.

For the Browns, Brian Sipe was successful on just 12 of 32 throws for 106 yards and a TD, giving up three interceptions. Reggie Rucker topped the club with three catches for 48 yards. Mike Pruitt ran for 41 yards on 11 attempts. 

“I think it was a helluva call,” said Coach Phillips of the Oilers regarding the controversial catch awarded to Ken Burrough. “When you go down in a tie, it goes to the offense…I know the fans didn’t like it.”

“I reached over and pulled the ball in and he came with it,” added Burrough. “I caught the ball and Bolton held on.”

Not surprisingly, Ron Bolton’s perspective was different (Bolton pictured below). “I had the ball,” he said. “He came across my back, which is a foul, reached over my shoulder and got his hand on the ball.” 



The Oilers, with Earl Campbell back in action, lost at Oakland the following week but then won seven of their last ten games to finish at 10-6 and second in the AFC Central. Qualifying for a Wild Card playoff spot, they advanced to the AFC Championship game before succumbing to the Steelers. Cleveland won the next game but was successful only sporadically thereafter, ending up third in the division at 8-8.

For Ronnie Coleman, once a starting halfback for the Oilers but now relegated to backup duty when Campbell was playing, the rushing total against the Browns was his highest output of the season as he gained 188 yards on 61 carries (3.1 avg.) and caught 19 passes for 246 yards.  

September 30, 2014

1962: Tittle’s 4 TD Passes Propel Giants Past Steelers


The New York Giants, defending champions of the NFL Eastern Conference, were 1-1 as they met the Pittsburgh Steelers, who had the same record, on September 30, 1962. In their second year under Head Coach Allie Sherman, the Giants were an outstanding passing team, with a rejuvenated QB Y.A. Tittle (pictured at right), in his 15th pro season but second in New York, throwing to split end Del Shofner and Frank Gifford, once a star halfback but, following a year missed due to injury, back as a flanker. The ground game was led by 31-year-old FB Alex Webster, operating behind a good veteran line. The defense was also experienced and a tough and cohesive unit.

Pittsburgh, coached by Buddy Parker for a sixth season, still had QB Bobby Layne, who was a worn but savvy veteran. The offense also featured FB John Henry Johnson and split end Buddy Dial while the defensive line was anchored by DT Ernie Stautner. However, Pittsburgh’s normally good corps of linebackers was depleted by injury and Parker started only two against the Giants, George Tarasovic and Tom Bettis, until Ken Kirk joined them midway through the second quarter while Gene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb, normally a defensive tackle, lined up at middle guard.

There were 40,916 fans in attendance on a sunny afternoon at Pitt Stadium. Pittsburgh had first possession and drove 84 yards in 12 plays, the highlight of which was a 36-yard carry by John Henry Johnson. HB Joe Womack ran for the last seven yards and a touchdown. Lou Michaels added the extra point and the Steelers held the early 7-0 advantage.



The Giants responded with a good drive of their own, but it stalled in Pittsburgh territory and Don Chandler kicked a 23-yard field goal. CB Brady Keys returned the ensuing kickoff 55 yards with a sensational run to give the Steelers good field position at the New York 40. A two-yard loss on an end-around was followed by a 15-yard penalty against the Giants for defensive holding. Bobby Layne (pictured at left) finished the series off with a throw to flanker Red Mack in the corner of the end zone for a 28-yard TD. Michaels again converted and the home team was up by a 14-3 lead at the end of a quarter of play.

Early in the second quarter, safety Jim Patton intercepted a Layne pass and returned it ten yards to the Pittsburgh 38. The Giants advanced to the two, but after being backed up five yards by a penalty, Y.A. Tittle threw to HB Paul Dudley for an 11-yard touchdown. Chandler added the PAT and Pittsburgh’s lead was narrowed to 14-10.

Once again Keys made an outstanding kickoff return for the Steelers, running it back 57 yards this time to the New York 39. They moved inside the ten but they lost sizable yardage to a holding penalty and sack, and settled for a 41-yard Michaels field goal.



In the final two minutes of the half, the Giants came up with a big play when Tittle connected with Alex Webster (pictured at right) on a screen pass, and he went the distance for a 58-yard touchdown. Chandler’s extra point tied the score at 17-17.

The Steelers fought back in what proved to be a wild close to the first half. End Harlon Hill dropped a pass at the New York two and Michaels attempted a 53-yard field goal that was blocked, but HB Dick Hoak recovered for Pittsburgh and ran to the New York 17. With the clock down to seven seconds, the Steelers again lined up for an apparent kick, but instead tried a fake. The resulting pass by holder and backup QB Ed Brown was intercepted in the end zone by safety Allan Webb and the score remained tied at halftime.

Early in the third quarter, Keys intercepted a Tittle pass at his own 43 and the Steelers took advantage as Michaels capped the ensuing series with a 33-yard field goal. The home team was back in front by 20-17. 

New York responded with a scoring drive of its own. Tittle passed the Giants down the field and threw to a well-covered Frank Gifford, who pulled the pass away from safety Clendon Thomas for a 27-yard TD. Chandler’s conversion put the visitors in front for the first time by a score of 21-20. The Steelers threatened again late in the period, but a Michaels field goal try from 42 yards was short.

In the early seconds of the fourth quarter, Tittle threw to split end Del Shofner for a 16-yard touchdown. The Steelers fought back, helped by penalties on New York for roughing the passer and pass interference, and Johnson leaped the last yard for a TD. Michaels was good on the extra point to put Pittsburgh four points behind.

As the time wound down in the game, and with the home crowd cheering wildly, the Steelers again drove into scoring position. But after reaching the New York 16, a Layne pass into the end zone that was intended for Buddy Dial was instead intercepted by CB Erich Barnes to seal the 31-27 win for the Giants.

New York accumulated the most total yards (427 to 317) although the Steelers held the edge in first downs (23 to 19). Pittsburgh did a good job defensively against New York’s running game, at least until the fourth quarter, holding the Giants to 95 yards on 27 attempts while gaining 175 yards themselves. However, the Steelers also turned the ball over three times, including the climactic interception in the fourth quarter, to one suffered by New York. The Giants also recorded three sacks while Pittsburgh had none.

Y.A. Tittle completed 17 of 29 passes for 332 yards and four touchdowns while giving up one interception. Alex Webster led the Giants with 77 rushing yards on nine carries and also in pass receiving with 5 catches for 101 yards and a TD. Frank Gifford gained 99 yards on four receptions that included a score. 
  
For the Steelers, Bobby Layne was successful on 12 of 23 throws for 166 yards and a TD as well as two interceptions. John Henry Johnson rushed for 113 yards on 20 attempts that included a touchdown. TE Preston Carpenter had 5 receptions for 44 yards while Buddy Dial accumulated 70 yards on his four catches. Brady Keys (pictured below) averaged 36.8 yards on five kickoff returns that included two of 55 and 57 yards.



Two weeks later, the teams met again at Yankee Stadium and Pittsburgh prevailed, but it was the only loss for the Giants the rest of the way. New York posted a 12-2 record to again top the Eastern Conference, although the Giants still came up short against Green Bay in the NFL title game. The Steelers were a mediocre 3-4 at the season’s halfway point before catching fire and winning six of their last seven games to place second in the conference at 9-5. They appeared in the Playoff Bowl, the postseason exhibition game for second place teams during that era, and lost to Detroit.

Y.A. Tittle received MVP honors from United Press International as well as consensus first-team All-NFL and Pro Bowl recognition as he passed for 3224 yards and a league-record 33 touchdown passes (Houston’s George Blanda passed for 36 in the AFL in 1961, a mark that Tittle would match in ’63). Alex Webster rushed for 743 yards on 207 carries (3.6 avg.) and caught 47 passes for another 477 yards (10.1 avg.), for 1220 yards from scrimmage and a total of nine TDs.

In his last season, Bobby Layne threw for 1686 yards and nine touchdowns and left the NFL as the career leader in several major passing categories. John Henry Johnson enjoyed a big year in his ninth season, rushing for 1141 yards and gaining selection to the Pro Bowl.

September 29, 2014

Highlighted Year: Herb Adderley, 1962

Cornerback, Green Bay Packers



Age: 23
2nd season in pro football & with Packers
College: Michigan State
Height: 6’1”   Weight: 205

Prelude:
Adderley was an All-Big 10 back in college and was chosen by the Packers in the first round of the 1961 NFL draft (12th overall; he was picked by the New York Titans in the second round of the corresponding AFL draft). Projected to be a halfback on offense, his career started slowly as he suffered an injury during the preseason and was used only for kickoff returns, although he performed well in that role and averaged 26.6 yards on 18 returns. A late-season injury to CB Hank Gremminger provided a shot for Adderley on defense, and he made the most of it. Heading into 1962, he was the regular left cornerback.

1962 Season Summary
Appeared in all 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Interceptions – 7 [3, tied with five others]
Most interceptions, game – 2 vs. Minnesota 9/16
Int. return yards – 132 [5, tied with Willie Wood]
Most int. return yards, game – 50 (on 1 int.) vs. Chicago 9/30
Int. TDs – 1 [1, tied with eleven others]
Fumble recoveries – 4

Kickoff Returns
Returns – 15 [19]
Yards – 418 [17]
Most yards, game – 103 (on 1 ret.) vs. Baltimore 11/18
Average per return – 27.9 [3]
TDs – 1 [1, tied with four others]
Longest return – 103 yards

Scoring
TDs – 2
Points – 12

Postseason: 1 G (NFL Championship at NY Giants)
Interceptions – 0
Kickoff returns – 0

Awards & Honors:
1st team All-NFL: AP, UPI
2nd team All-NFL: NEA

Packers went 13-1 to finish first in the NFL Western Conference while leading the league in interceptions (31), fewest passing yards allowed (1746), and fewest points allowed (148). Won NFL Championship over New York Giants (16-7).

Aftermath:
Adderley had another outstanding season in 1963, again gaining consensus All-NFL honors as well as being selected to the Pro Bowl for the first of five straight years. Fast enough to play loose in coverage, he was also an instinctive ball hawk who could tackle. In all, he appeared in five NFL Championship games with the Packers and the first two Super Bowls. His 60-yard interception return for a TD in Super Bowl II helped nail down Green Bay’s win over the Raiders.  Adderley moved on to the Dallas Cowboys in 1970 and, in three years with the team, it reached the Super Bowl twice and won once, making him part of six championship teams over the course of his 12-year career. Overall, Adderley intercepted 48 passes (39 with the Packers), seven of which he returned for touchdowns. He also averaged 25.7 yards on 120 kickoff returns, two of which were TDs. Adderley was a consensus first-team All-NFL selection four times, received at least second-team honors after three other seasons, and was chosen to the Pro Bowl five times. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1980.

--

Highlighted Years features players who were consensus first-team All-League* selections or league* or conference** leaders in the following statistical categories:

Rushing: Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Passing: Yards, Completion Pct., Yards per Attempt, TDs, Rating
Receiving: Catches, Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Scoring: TDs, Points, Field Goals (min. 5)
All-Purpose: Total Yards
Defense: Interceptions, Sacks
Kickoff Returns: Average
Punt Returns: Average
Punting: Average

*Leagues include NFL (1920 to date), AFL (1926), AFL (1936-37), AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974-75), USFL (1983-85)

**NFC/AFC since 1970

September 28, 2014

1958: Brodie Rallies 49ers Past Steelers


On September 28, 1958 the San Francisco 49ers hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first week of the NFL season. The 49ers, coached by former star quarterback Frankie Albert, had come close to winning the Western Conference in ’57, going 8-4 and losing a tiebreaking playoff to Detroit in a dramatic second half comeback. QB Y.A. Tittle had received some MVP recognition, but was competing with second-year QB John Brodie (pictured above), who had a good preseason and was the opening-game starter. FB Joe Perry, who entered the opening game 60 yards behind Steve Van Buren’s NFL career rushing record, and HB Hugh McElhenny, a top open-field runner, were stalwarts in the backfield and the receiving corps was a good one.

The Steelers were coming off of a 6-6 finish in their first season under Head Coach Buddy Parker, who had led the Lions to two championships but abruptly resigned and joined up with Pittsburgh during the ’57 preseason. Third-year QB Earl Morrall, originally drafted by the 49ers, started at quarterback for Pittsburgh. The Steelers had newcomers in end Jimmy Orr and HB Dick Christy, and the offense was thus still coming together as the season began.

There were 32,150 fans in attendance at Kezar Stadium. The Steelers had first possession and punted, and the 49ers drove 59 yards in just four plays. John Brodie passed down the middle to Hugh McElhenny for 45 yards. A pass to end Gordie Soltau was good for seven more. McElhenny ran to the one and then, attempting to run to the right, he reversed field and barely reached the corner of the end zone, diving for a touchdown. Soltau kicked the extra point.

The teams traded punts before San Francisco appeared to be driving to another score later in the period, reaching the Pittsburgh 17, but DHB Dick Alban intercepted a Brodie pass. FB Tank Younger promptly broke away for a 29-yard gain, but as the series extended into the second quarter, the Steelers were ultimately forced to punt after Morrall was sacked by DT Leo Nomellini for a 15-yard loss.

Following another punt by the Niners, the Steelers threatened to score as they advanced to the San Francisco 20, the biggest play being a Morrall completion to Christy for 26 yards. However, he was then picked off by safety Bill Stits.

The 49ers went three-and-out and, following the punt, Pittsburgh came back on the next series to travel 49 yards in seven plays and this time didn’t come up empty. Morrall completed three passes and, under pressure, fired a desperation throw to end Ray Matthews in the right corner of the end zone for a TD. Tom Miner successfully converted to tie the score at 7-7.

As time ran down in the first half, the 49ers reached the Pittsburgh 41 before Brodie was sacked by LB Bob Dougherty for a loss of 16 yards and, after two passes were incomplete, they had to punt. Younger, heading toward left end and about to be tackled, lateraled back to Morrall and the quarterback ran 40 yards on the last play of the half.

The veteran Y.A. Tittle came in at quarterback for San Francisco in the third quarter, but the 49ers had to punt following their first possession of the second half. The Steelers moved quickly down the field as a Morrall pass to end Jack McClairen picked up 33 yards and set up a Miner field goal of 22 yards to give the visitors a 10-7 lead.

DHB Jack Butler then intercepted a Tittle pass on the next series, and with the help of a lateral to safety Gary Glick on the return, the Steelers were at the San Francisco 10. Four plays later, Younger plowed over for a one-yard touchdown and, with the successful PAT, the Steelers were up by 17-7. A poorly-thrown pass by Tittle again was intercepted by Butler, who returned it 19 yards. The result of the turnover was another Miner field goal, this time from 33 yards.



Down by 13, Coach Albert sent Brodie back into the game. The 49ers responded by driving 73 yards in eight plays, two of them outstanding catches by flanker R.C. Owens (pictured at left) for 17 and 11 yards. Brodie connected with end Clyde Conner for 21 yards and HB Jim Pace then ran for an 11-yard touchdown. Alban blocked Soltau’s extra point attempt, but the home team had narrowed the Pittsburgh lead to 20-13.

As the game headed into the fourth quarter, the teams exchanged punts. An interception of a Morrall pass by Stits, his second of the game, led to an eight-play scoring drive by the 49ers. Brodie had two more completions to Owens and end Fred Dugan caught a pass for 22 yards to the Pittsburgh three. Brodie capped the drive by sneaking over for a TD from a yard out. Soltau converted this time to tie the score.

On the first play following the kickoff, Morrall went long from his 20 and the pass was again intercepted by Stits, this time at the Pittsburgh 48. Brodie threw three passes to Owens for 12, 8, and 14 yards. The drive stalled at the 15, and with 2:31 left in the contest, Soltau kicked a 22-yard field goal to put the 49ers on top. The Steelers mounted a furious drive in the last two minutes, but time ran out on the visitors at the San Francisco 17 and the 49ers prevailed by a final score of 23-20.

San Francisco had the clear lead in total yards (322 to 217) and first downs (18 to 10). The Steelers turned the ball over four times, with decisive effects in the second half, to three suffered by the 49ers.

John Brodie completed 19 of 28 passes for 244 yards, 11 of 16 coming after he returned in the second half, and had no touchdowns but one interception. Y.A. Tittle was one-of-five for six yards and had two picked off. R.C. Owens had a big game with 9 catches for 103 yards. However, Joe Perry came up short in his quest to pass Steve Van Buren, rushing for 42 yards on 15 carries (he moved past Van Buren the following week). Hugh McElhenny contributed 35 yards on eight attempts. On defense, Bill Stits intercepted three passes – his only interceptions of the season.



For the Steelers, Earl Morrall was successful on 9 of 24 throws for 117 yards and a TD but gave up three interceptions. He also ran the ball twice for 43 yards. Tank Younger (pictured at right) gained 60 yards on 11 carries while Dick Christy led the Steelers with four catches for 53 yards.

The come-from-behind win for the 49ers was followed by two losses in which they scored a total of nine points, and they went on to a disappointing 6-6 record that placed them fourth in the Western Conference. Pittsburgh was beaten by the Browns in the second week but, at that point, Coach Parker swung a trade that included Earl Morrall going to Detroit for star QB Bobby Layne. The Steelers surged through the second half of the season and ended up third in the Eastern Conference at 7-4-1, which was the franchise’s best record since 1947.

John Brodie continued to split the quarterback duties with Y.A. Tittle, although Tittle ultimately regained the starting job. Brodie still threw 172 passes and led the league with a 59.9 completion percentage, accumulating 1224 yards and six touchdowns, but also 13 interceptions. His best years were still well ahead of him. R. C. Owens caught 40 passes for 620 yards (15.5 avg.) and a TD.

Tank Younger, who starred with the Rams for nine years before coming to the Steelers, ended up rushing for 344 yards in what was his last NFL season. Dick Christy, who was supplanted at halfback by ex-Detroit Lion Tom Tracy, primarily returned kicks during the rest of the season and would have his most productive years with the New York Titans in the AFL.

September 27, 2014

1998: Cards Defeat Rams in Return to St. Louis


The Cardinals moved from St. Louis to Phoenix following the 1987 season after 28 years and, now called the Arizona Cardinals, they returned on September 27, 1998 to play the Rams, who had relocated from Los Angeles to St. Louis in 1995.

The Cards had yet to post a winning record in Arizona and, thus far in 1998, were 1-2 after winning for the first time the previous week. Head Coach Vince Tobin was in his third season at the helm and had a promising second-year quarterback in Jake Plummer (pictured above). There were good wide receivers in Frank Sanders and Rob Moore and RB Adrian Murrell was dependable. CB Aeneas Williams was the top player in a fair defense.

St. Louis was in its second season under Head Coach Dick Vermeil and had not been a winning team since 1989, well before the move from LA. The Rams were also 1-2 and were coming off of a win the week before. QB Tony Banks had all the physical tools but had not produced consistently, and star WR Isaac Bruce was hampered by an injury. Much was expected from rookie RB Robert Holcombe, the team’s second round draft pick out of Illinois.

There were 55,832 fans in attendance at the Trans World Dome and many of them booed the visiting Cardinals, who were playing their first regular season game in St. Louis since moving. The Rams went three-and-out in their first series and, starting at their 44 yard line following the punt, Jake Plummer threw to TE Johnny McWilliams for 17 yards. Two carries by Adrian Murrell and another short pass advanced the ball to the St. Louis 31, but Joe Nedney’s 48-yard field goal attempt was unsuccessful.

The teams traded punts before St.Louis put together a scoring drive. With Robert Holcombe carrying six times for 30 yards and Tony Banks running for 19 and completing two passes, the Rams went 68 yards in nine plays capped by Holcombe running five yards for a touchdown. Jeff Wilkins added the extra point to make it 7-0.



The Cardinals responded with a series that extended into the second quarter. Plummer connected on four passes, two of them to Frank Sanders (pictured at left) for 11 and 19 yards and the longest to Rob Moore for 25 yards to the St. Louis 11. The 72-yard drive ended with Nedney booting a 22-yard field goal.

The Rams again moved well on their next possession, with Holcombe running effectively and Banks successful on three passes, including one to WR Ricky Proehl that picked up 16 yards to the Arizona 41. However, the drive stalled at the 27 and Wilkins missed a 45-yard try for a field goal.

Arizona responded by going 65 yards in 11 plays. Plummer completed four passes, converting a third-and-eight situation with a toss to Moore for 12 yards and scoring a touchdown with a throw to Sanders from 13 yards out. Nedney converted and the visitors were ahead for the first time by 10-7.

On their next series, the Cards got a big gain right away when Plummer threw to WR Eric Metcalf for 29 yards. Two penalties on the Rams helped the drive along and Murrell ran for a four-yard TD, with Nedney adding the extra point to give Arizona a ten-point lead.

St. Louis got the ball back with a minute remaining in the period and moved down the field, the biggest plays being Banks passes to RB Amp Lee for 23 yards and to Proehl for 13. On the final play of the first half, Wilkins kicked a 57-yard field goal and the score stood at 17-10 in favor of the Cardinals at the intermission.

The teams exchanged punts through a scoreless third quarter. The Cardinals reached the St. Louis 33 early in the final period but FS Keith Lyle intercepted a Plummer pass to end the threat. While the Rams weren’t able to move the ball and punted, they got a break on the Cards’ ensuing punt when they were penalized for interfering with the fair catch and St. Louis started in Arizona territory at the 46. The Rams struck quickly as Banks threw to WR J.T. Thomas for 42 yards and Holcombe ran around right end for a four-yard touchdown. Wilkins converted to tie the score at 17-17 with 9:52 to play in regulation.

The Cardinals, starting the next series at their 14, drove to their 37 before facing a third-and-14 situation, but a pass interference penalty on CB Dexter McCleon picked up 43 yards to the St. Louis 20 and, four plays later, Nedney kicked a 29-yard field goal to put the visitors back in front by three. The Rams had one last chance but went three-and-out, punted, and the Cardinals were able to control the ball and run out the clock. They came away winners by a final score of 20-17.  

Arizona had the edge in total yards (281 to 264) and first downs (22 to 17). The Cardinals also recorded four sacks (two by DE Andre Wadsworth) to one by St. Louis, but also suffered the only turnover of the game. The Rams hurt themselves with 10 penalties at a cost of 138 yards, with the big pass interference calls the most damaging of all, while five flags were thrown on the Cards.

Jake Plummer completed 21 of 31 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown while giving up one interception. Frank Sanders had 9 catches for 86 yards and a TD and Adrian Murrell rushed for 68 yards on 29 carries, one of which was for a score.



For the Rams, Robert Holcombe (pictured at right) was the star on offense as he gained 84 yards on 21 rushing attempts that included two touchdowns. Tony Banks was successful on 15 of 26 throws for 171 yards with no TDs or interceptions. Amp Lee topped the receivers with 5 catches for 53 yards.

“It’s great to be 2-2 after an 0-2 start,” said Coach Tobin of the Cardinals, who gave owner Bill Bidwill the game ball. “We haven’t been 2-2 since I’ve been here.”

Arizona lost to the Raiders the next week and hung around .500 until winning the last three games of the season, placing second in the NFC East and qualifying for a Wild Card playoff spot. The Cardinals defeated the Cowboys in the first round, the franchise’s first postseason win since they were the Chicago Cardinals in 1947, but lost to the Vikings in the Divisional game.

For the Rams, the loss to the Cardinals was the eighth consecutive at home on the way to a 4-12 last place finish in the NFC West, although a stunning turnaround was in the offing for 1999.

Jake Plummer was a big part of the late-season surge for the Cardinals as he passed for 3737 yards and 17 touchdowns. Frank Sanders caught 89 passes for 1145 yards (12.9 avg.) and three TDs.

Robert Holcombe’s early promise did not pan out as he ran for just 230 yards on 98 carries (2.3 avg.). The two touchdowns against the Cards were his total output for the year. With the arrival of Marshall Faulk, he was shifted to fullback in 1999 and lasted a total of four years in St. Louis before moving on to Tennessee, never gaining more than 294 rushing yards in a season.

September 26, 2014

Rookie of the Year: Paul McFadden, 1984

Placekicker, Philadelphia Eagles



Age:  23 (Sept. 24)
College: Youngstown State
Height: 5’11” Weight: 160

Prelude:
McFadden kicked a school-record 54-yard field goal and added another of 52 yards in his first college game. Kicking barefoot, he ended up with 52 field goals out of 90 attempts, with a high of 17 in 1982, and with 78 PATs accumulated a total of 240 points. McFadden was drafted ninth by the USFL’s Chicago Blitz but signed with the Eagles, who chose him in the 12th round of the ’84 NFL draft.

1984 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Kicking
Field goals – 30 [1]
Most field goals, game - 4 vs. Minnesota 9/9
Field goal attempts – 37 [1]
Most field goal attempts, game – 4 vs. Minnesota 9/9, vs. Washington 11/18, at St. Louis 11/25
Field goal percentage – 81.1 [3]
PATs – 26
PAT attempts – 27
Longest field goal – 52 yards at Detroit 11/4

Scoring
Field Goals – 30
PATs – 26
Points – 116 [5]

Awards & Honors:
NFC Rookie of the Year: UPI
2nd team All-NFC: UPI

Eagles went 6-9-1 to finish fifth in the NFC East.

Aftermath:
Having set a team season scoring record as a rookie, McFadden followed up in 1985 with another solid year, connecting on 83.3 percent of his field goal attempts (25 of 30), but he dropped off to 20 in 31 attempts (64.5 %) in ’86 and 16 of 26 (61.5 %) in 1987, when he was nearly released during the season. His four-year total of 91 field goals with Philadelphia was the franchise record at the time. Waived during the 1988 preseason, McFadden was picked up by the New York Giants when Raul Allegre was out with a groin injury and kicked 14 field goals in 10 games before moving on to the Atlanta Falcons in ’89, which was his last season. Overall, McFadden kicked 120 field goals in 163 attempts (73.6 %), with his longest measuring 54 yards, and 160 extra points for a total of 520 points. His outstanding rookie year remained his best.

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Rookie of the Year Profiles feature players who were named Rookie of the Year in the NFL (including NFC/AFC), AFL (1960-69), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press – Offense or Defense, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, or the league itself – Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year).