November 29, 2015

1976: Jackson & Williams Lead 49ers to Upset of Vikings

The San Francisco 49ers were trying to remain in contention in the NFC West as they faced the Minnesota Vikings on November 29, 1976. Under the guidance of Head Coach Monte Clark, the 49ers had gotten off to a 6-1 start before dropping four straight games, and were now 6-5. To make matters worse, starting QB Jim Plunkett, an offseason acquisition from the Patriots, was injured and untested rookie QB Scott Bull, a sixth-round draft choice out of Arkansas, would have to start in his place. They did have a reliable ground game with HB Delvin Williams (pictured above) and FB Wilbur Jackson, and would be even more dependent upon them.

Minnesota was coached by Bud Grant for the tenth year and was used to contending, having topped the NFC Central in each of the last three seasons. The Vikings were 9-1-1 as they came to San Francisco. 36-year-old QB Fran Tarkenton was still one of the league’s best and the receiving corps was bolstered by the addition of wide receivers Ahmad Rashad, formerly with Buffalo, and rookie Sammy White. HB Chuck Foreman was outstanding both running the ball and catching it out of the backfield. The defense had been the team’s bedrock over the years and, while age was becoming a factor, it was still a tough unit.

There were 56,775 fans in attendance at Candlestick Park on a cool, clear Monday evening. The Vikings had the game’s first possession and punted. With Wilbur Jackson and Delvin Williams running effectively, the 49ers advanced 51 yards in eight plays. Jackson finished the drive off with a two-yard touchdown carry, Steve Mike-Mayer added the extra point, and San Francisco had the early 7-0 lead.

The Vikings responded with a promising drive that was fueled by the running of Chuck Foreman, who gained 27 yards on the first three plays. However, the visitors came up empty when the series stalled at the San Francisco 34 and Fred Cox was short on a 51-yard field goal attempt. Jackson (pictured below) carried five times for 21 yards and Williams had a 30-yard run as the Niners drove to the Minnesota eight, but they failed to add to their lead when Mike-Mayer hit the right upright on a 25-yard field goal try.

As the game headed into the second quarter, the Vikings had to punt and this time the 49ers didn’t come up empty. Jackson had a 24-yard run to advance the ball into Minnesota territory and Scott Bull threw to WR Jim Lash, an ex-Viking, for 10 yards. Bull was sacked for a ten-yard loss on third down, but Mike-Mayer was successful on a field goal from 45 yards and San Francisco was ahead by 10-0.

The Vikings put together a long drive of 85 yards in 17 plays. Facing a third-and-11 situation from their own 14, Fran Tarkenton threw to Ahmad Rashad for a 33-yard gain and a third-and-six play from the San Francisco 36 resulted in a Tarkenton completion to Foreman for nine yards. A pass interference penalty allowed Minnesota to convert another third down and the final play of the series resulted in a Tarkenton toss to Sammy White in the end zone for a 17-yard TD. Cox converted to make it a three-point game at 10-7.

The 49ers had to punt from deep in their own territory and the Vikings needed just five plays this time to score again. Tarkenton threw to Rashad for a 47-yard pickup and, two plays later, it was Tarkenton-to-Rashad once more for an eight-yard touchdown. DT Cleveland Elam blocked the extra point attempt but the visitors were ahead by 13-10 with 2:24 remaining in the first half.

San Francisco responded by advancing 83 yards in seven plays. Williams started the series off with a 23-yard run and, just after the two-minute warning, Bull completed a pass to WR Gene Washington for 16 more yards. A pass interference call on CB Nate Wright placed the ball on the Minnesota one, and Bull dove into the end zone from there for a TD. Mike-Mayer converted and the 49ers were back in front by 17-13 at halftime.

The 49ers had the ball first in the third quarter but FS Paul Krause intercepted a Bull pass and that resulted in Cox kicking a 37-yard field goal that narrowed the score to 17-16. Once again it was Jackson and Williams carrying the load as the Niners kept the ball on the ground, but the drive stalled at the Minnesota 30 and Mike-Mayer was short on a 47-yard try for a field goal.

The teams exchanged punts for the remainder of the period, but the 49ers were winning the field position battle and had advanced to the Minnesota 25 as the contest entered the fourth quarter. Mike-Mayer booted a 38-yard field goal early in the final period and San Francisco was up by four points.

The Vikings punted following their next series and, on the second play of the ensuing possession, Williams took off on a 26-yard run that put him over a thousand yards for the season. However, he also had to leave the game with a sprained ankle, hobbling off the field to a loud ovation from the crowd. The teams returned to exchanging punts and now it was Minnesota benefiting from the exchanges. A 44-yard kick by Neil Clabo had the 49ers pinned back at their five yard line with 9:38 remaining to play.

The Niners went three-and-out and punted, giving the Vikings possession at the San Francisco 24 following a 14-yard return by DB Autry Beamon. Foreman ran the ball three straight times and, after LB Skip Vanderbundt stopped him short of a first down on a three-yard carry, the Vikings faced fourth-and-one at the 15. Foreman carried once more, and this time it was LB Dave Washington stopping him for no gain.

The 49ers were unable to maintain control of the ball as Bull’s six-yard run on third down came up inches short of a first down and forced a punt. Minnesota still had 1:19 to work with after taking over at the San Francisco 47. On second down, following an incomplete pass, Tarkenton was penalized for intentional grounding in order to avoid being sacked for a sizeable loss. As it was, it cost the Vikings 15 yards and a down, and a completion to Rashad for seven yards had them facing fourth-and-18. Tarkenton threw to WR Bob Grim for a gain of 27 yards to keep the series alive, but two passes into the end zone fell incomplete as time ran out. The 49ers held on to win by a final score of 20-16.  

San Francisco had the edge in total yards (331 to 282), with 317 on the ground, and first downs (17 to 16). The 49ers also were credited with three sacks, to two for Minnesota, although they also suffered the game’s only turnover and drew more penalties (9 to 8). Both teams had problems with placekicking as Minnesota’s Fred Cox missed an extra point as well as a field goal attempt and Steve Mike-Mayer failed on two of four field goal tries.

Wilbur Jackson and Delvin Williams both gained over 150 rushing yards, with Jackson accumulating 156 on 30 carries that included a touchdown and Williams compiling 153 yards on 20 attempts despite being knocked out of the game with an injury during the fourth quarter. Scott Bull went to the air only eight times and completed three for 32 yards with one interception. Three receivers had a catch apiece for the 49ers, with Gene Washington gaining a team-leading 16 yards on his reception.

For the Vikings, Fran Tarkenton (pictured at right) completed 16 of 37 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns while giving up no interceptions. Ahmad Rashad had 6 receptions for 103 yards and a TD. Chuck Foreman rushed for 93 yards on 23 carries and gained another 23 yards on three catches.

“We wanted to run at them and that’s what we did,” explained Delvin Williams. “We ran it straight up the middle. Our plan was to run the ball and to pass as little as possible, to keep the pressure off Scott (Bull).”

The 49ers split their last two games of the season with Scott Bull at quarterback and finished with an 8-6 record that was good for second place in the AFC West but not good enough to qualify for the postseason. Minnesota recovered to win its last two games to once more top the NFC Central at 11-2-1 and advanced to the Super Bowl before losing to the Oakland Raiders.

Delvin Williams broke Joe Perry’s 22-year-old franchise rushing record with 1203 yards on 248 carries (4.9 avg.) and scored seven touchdowns. He was selected to the Pro Bowl. Wilbur Jackson gained 792 yards on 200 attempts (4.0 avg.) with one TD. Scott Bull ended up completing 21 of 48 passes for 252 yards (43.8 %) with two touchdowns and four interceptions. He also rushed for 66 yards and two TDs.

November 28, 2015

2004: Chargers Rally to Defeat Chiefs in Back-and-Forth Game

The fortunes of the San Diego Chargers had changed dramatically since the 4-12 finish of 2003 as they met the Kansas City Chiefs on November 28, 2004. Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer’s team had won four straight games and was at 7-3 and even with Denver atop the AFC West. QB Drew Brees (pictured at right), considered a disappointment following his first three seasons, was breaking out in a big way, as was second-year TE Antonio Gates, while RB LaDainian Tomlinson continued to be a top rusher and receiver out of the backfield. The coaching of first-year defensive coordinator Wade Phillips brought about a significant improvement with the defense.  

The Chiefs were on an opposite trajectory. Having been a 13-3 playoff team in 2003, Kansas City had lost its last three games and was struggling with a 3-7 record. Under Head Coach Dick Vermeil, the offense was still productive, led by QB Trent Green and TE Tony Gonzalez, although star RB Priest Holmes was out with a knee injury. The defense was at the root of the club’s problems and ranked among the league’s least effective units.

There were 77,447 fans in attendance at Arrowhead Stadium on a 35-degree day. The Chargers had the first possession and put together a promising drive as WR Eric Parker gained 20 yards on a first-play end-around and Drew Brees completed three passes and had a 14-yard run. However, the drive stalled at the Kansas City 11 and Nate Kaeding’s 29-yard field goal attempt was unsuccessful.

The Chiefs punted following a short series and San Diego struck quickly. Brees threw to Parker for a 55-yard gain to the KC two and, two plays later, LaDainian Tomlinson scored a touchdown from a yard out. Kaeding added the extra point and the visitors were in front by 7-0.

The ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, giving the Chiefs starting field position at their 40, and they went 60 yards in six plays. Trent Green had passes to Tony Gonzalez (pictured below) for 12 and 27 yards and RB Derrick Blaylock, the stand-in for Priest Holmes, ran for a five-yard TD. Lawrence Tynes converted to tie the score at 7-7.

The Chargers punted following their next possession and a penalty on the return had the Chiefs starting from their own six yard line. As the game moved into the second quarter, consecutive carries by RB Larry Johnson picked up 18 yards and, with Green passing effectively and Johnson runs mixed in, Kansas City advanced methodically down the field. Green completed five of his passes, two of them to Gonzalez for 22 yards and the longest covering 16 yards to TE Jason Dunn. The 13-play, 94-yard drive culminated in Johnson’s six-yard touchdown run up the middle. Tynes added the point after and the home team had a 14-7 lead.

The Chargers responded with a long drive of their own that covered 70 yards in 12 plays. They converted three first downs, all on passes by Brees, including a 17-yard toss to Parker on third-and-seven that set up Tomlinson’s three-yard carry for a TD. Kaeding’s kick tied the score at 14-14.

Green passed Kansas City down the field on the next series and Tynes kicked a 28-yard field goal that put the Chiefs back in front by three. With time running out in the first half, Brees threw to WR Kassim Osgood for a 27-yard gain to the KC 43 and two short completions to Tomlinson picked up another nine yards, but Kaeding missed on a 52-yard field goal attempt and the home team took a 17-14 lead into halftime.

Kansas City WR Dante Hall started the third quarter off with a 77-yard kickoff return, but he fumbled at the end without being hit and the Chargers gained possession at their five yard line. They managed to reach their 45 before having to punt and the Chiefs punted it back following a three-and-out series. On San Diego’s first play from midfield, Parker took off for a 38-yard run to the KC 12 and, while the Chargers couldn’t reach the end zone, Kaeding tied the score with a 25-yard field goal.

The teams exchanged punts before the Chiefs began to move effectively in the closing minutes of the period. Green completed three straight passes, the first to WR Johnnie Morton for 18 yards, and a throw to Gonzalez in a third-and-nine situation gained 23 yards to the San Diego 31. On the second play of the fourth quarter, Blaylock broke away for a 22-yard touchdown. Tynes missed the extra point, but Kansas City was back in front at 23-17.

Brees passed the Chargers back down the field, completing six throws along the way. The longest was to WR Keenan McCardell for 23 yards and the last to Antonio Gates for an 18-yard TD. Kaeding added the extra point and San Diego was in the lead by a point at 24-23. It didn’t last long, however, as Hall returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown, this time maintaining his grip on the football for the full distance. Green threw to WR Eddie Kennison for a two-point conversion and KC was back on top by 31-24.

The Chargers ran into problems with penalties on their next series, one of which wiped out a 51-yard pass play to Gates. However, backed up to their 19 and facing second-and-22, Brees threw to Osgood for a 65-yard pickup to the KC 16 and, three plays later, he connected with Gates for an 11-yard TD. Kaeding added the PAT and, with less than seven minutes remaining in regulation, the score was again tied at 31-31.

San Diego got the ball back when a third-and-11 pass by Green was intercepted by LB Donnie Edwards, who returned it 13 yards to the Kansas City 32. The Chargers reached the 17 before Brees was sacked by CB William Bartee and LB Scott Fujita for a loss of seven yards on third down, but Kaeding kicked a 43-yard field goal and the visitors had a three-point lead.

The Chiefs regained possession with 2:15 left on the clock, but after Green threw to Blaylock for six yards on first down, the next three passes fell incomplete. San Diego held on for a 34-31 win.

“Everybody got their money’s worth today,” summed up San Diego’s Coach Schottenheimer. “It was quite an exciting game.”

The Chargers, in ending a seven-game losing streak at Kansas City, led in total yards (498 to 310), first downs (25 to 20), and time of possession (36:46 to 23:14). The Chiefs turned the ball over twice, to none suffered by San Diego, and while the Chargers were penalized more times (9 to 5), Kansas City’s infractions came at more inopportune times.

Drew Brees completed 28 of 37 passes for 378 yards and two touchdowns while giving up no interceptions. With his two long carries, Eric Parker led the Chargers with 58 rushing yards and also caught three passes for another 78 yards. LaDainian Tomlinson (pictured at left) gained just 46 yards on 21 attempts that included two TDs but also had 10 pass receptions for 57 yards. Antonio Gates gained 92 yards on his 7 catches that included two for scores and, thanks to the one long gain, Kassim Osgood matched the yardage total on his two receptions.

For the Chiefs, Trent Green was successful on 21 of 34 throws for 208 yards with no TDs and one interception. Tony Gonzalez caught 8 passes for 105 yards. Derrick Blaylock rushed for 75 yards on 8 carries that included two touchdowns and Larry Johnson ran the ball 10 times for 43 yards and a TD. Dante Hall averaged 38.8 yards on six kickoff returns, one of which resulted in a touchdown and another that came close.

The Chargers went on to win their next three games, and four of their last five, to finish first in the AFC West with a 12-4 record. They lost their Wild Card playoff contest to the New York Jets in overtime. Kansas City reeled off four wins following the loss to the Chargers but lost the season finale in the rematch at San Diego to place third in the division at 7-9.

Drew Brees ranked second in the AFC with a 104.8 passer rating, gaining 3159 yards with 27 TD passes against just seven interceptions. He was selected to the Pro Bowl, as were both LaDainian Tomlinson, who ran for 1335 yards and a league-leading 17 rushing touchdowns, and Antonio Gates, who caught 81 passes for 964 yards (11.9 avg.) and 13 TDs, and both of them also were consensus first-team All-NFL selections.

Tony Gonzalez topped the NFL with 102 pass receptions, which accounted for 1258 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was chosen to the Pro Bowl. Trent Green topped the league in pass attempts (556) and the conference in completions (369) and passing yards (4591). His 27 TD passes were a career high.

November 27, 2015

Highlighted Year: Bob Berry, 1971

Quarterback, Atlanta Falcons

Age:  29
7th season in pro football, 4th with Falcons
College: Oregon
Height: 5’11” Weight: 190

Berry passed for 4148 yards and 37 touchdowns in college and led Oregon to three consecutive winnings seasons and a Sun Bowl victory. He was a future draft pick of the NFL Eagles (11th round) and AFL Broncos (26th round) in 1964. The Minnesota Vikings traded for his rights and Berry joined them as a backup in 1965. He saw limited action behind Fran Tarkenton, Ron VanderKelen, and later Joe Kapp, over the course of three seasons. Berry threw a total of 46 passes and started one game in 1966 before being obtained by Atlanta in ‘68, where he was reunited with ex-Vikings Head Coach Norm Van Brocklin and given an opportunity to start in competition with Randy Johnson. Very competitive and a good leader, Berry was also undersized and prone to being sacked. He was an accurate passer at short range, typically rolling out and throwing to his backs and tight ends, and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1969.

1971 Season Summary
Appeared in 11 of 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 226 [17]
Most attempts, game – 27 vs. St. Louis 10/10, at New Orleans 12/19
Completions – 136 [14, tied with Greg Landry]
Most completions, game – 18 at New Orleans 12/19
Yards – 2005 [12]
Most yards, game – 309 at Detroit 10/3
Completion percentage – 60.2 [2, 1st in NFC]
Yards per attempt – 8.9 [1]
TD passes – 11 [13, tied with Pete Liske, Fran Tarkenton & Dennis Shaw]
Most TD passes, game – 3 at Detroit 10/3
Interceptions – 16 [9, tied with Jim Plunkett & Daryle Lamonica]
Most interceptions, game – 4 vs. St. Louis 10/10
Passer rating – 75.9 [6]
300-yard passing games – 2
200-yard passing games – 4

Attempts – 19
Most attempts, game – 5 (for 4 yds.) vs. Green Bay 11/22
Yards – 31
Most yards, game – 19 yards (on 3 carries) vs. St. Louis 10/10
Yards per attempt – 1.6
TDs – 0

Falcons went 7-6-1, the first winning record in franchise history, to finish third in the NFC West.

Berry passed for a career-high 2158 yards in 1972 but, deemed too limited to continue to start, was dealt back to Minnesota. He spent the last three seasons of his career as a backup to Fran Tarkenton. Overall, Berry completed 56.4 percent of his passes for 9197 yards and 64 touchdowns, with an equal number of interceptions. 8489 yards and 57 TDs came with the Falcons.


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

November 26, 2015

1961: Giants Take Control in Second Half to Defeat Browns

Two fierce rivals in the NFL Eastern Conference, the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns, faced off on November 26, 1961 in Cleveland. Having dropped to third in ’60 after winning the conference in three of the preceding four seasons, the Giants had a first-year head coach in Allie Sherman who, at age 39, was the NFL’s youngest. Two preseason acquisitions were paying off in rejuvenating the offense, with 35-year-old QB Y.A. Tittle (pictured at right), formerly of the 49ers, and split end Del Shofner, an ex-Ram, proving to be a particularly potent passing combination. The defense, dominated by savvy veterans, continued to be one of the league’s toughest units. New York had won its last three games and was 8-2.

The Browns were under the guidance of Head Coach Paul Brown for the 16th year, going back to the years of domination in the All-America Football Conference. Cleveland had won four AAFC titles and three NFL Championships under Brown, but none since 1955. FB Jim Brown was the key to the offense that was directed by efficient, if unspectacular, QB Milt Plum. The line was excellent and the receivers capable while the defense was particularly strong up front. The Browns were coming off a big win over the Eagles in which Jim Brown gained a record 237 rushing yards and, at 7-3, could catch up to their New York rivals with a win at home.

There were 80,455 fans in attendance at Municipal Stadium. The Browns took the opening kickoff and accumulated three first downs. Milt Plum completed three straight passes at one point to reach the New York 45, but the drive stalled when Plum missed on a throw intended for wide-open end Rich Kreitling and Cleveland was forced to punt.

The Giants punted in turn and the home team put together a 73-yard series in six plays. Facing third-and-15, Plum threw to Jim Brown for the necessary yardage and Brown then swept around left end for a 16-yard gain. Two plays later, Plum connected with flanker Ray Renfro (pictured below) for a 43-yard touchdown and, with Lou Groza adding the extra point, the Browns were ahead by 7-0.

The visitors again punted following their next possession and, as the game entered the second quarter, Cleveland was driving. Plum threw to Renfro for 11 yards and a first down and Brown gained 28 yards on a carry around end to the New York 43. However, DE Jim Katcavage sacked Plum on the next play and the Browns were unable to advance further, forcing them to punt.

The Giants proceeded to advance 80 yards in seven plays. Y.A. Tittle completed all four of his passes, two to TE Joe Walton for 11 and 12 yards and the last two to Del Shofner for 17 and 30 yards. Tittle carried the ball himself around end for a five-yard TD and Pat Summerall converted to tie the score at 7-7.

On the first play after the ensuing kickoff, Plum went to the air and his pass was intercepted by safety Jim Patton, who returned it 21 yards to the Cleveland 38. Tittle completed passes to split end Kyle Rote for 19 yards and FB Alex Webster for 17 before a pass interference penalty on the Browns gave the Giants a first down at the one. From there, HB Bob Gaiters ran for a touchdown, Summerall added the point after, and the visitors were ahead by 14-7.

The Browns responded with an 85-yard drive in eight plays. Plum threw to Renfro for a 57-yard gain to the New York 29 and Brown ran for another 11. Another running play lost nine yards, but on second-and-19, Plum tossed a flare pass to HB Bobby Mitchell that gained 25 yards and, three plays later, Brown scored a TD from a yard out. Groza added the extra point and the halftime score was tied at 14-14. Thus far, Cleveland had outgained the Giants both on the ground (68 to 18) and through the air (181 to 133) but was not in the lead.

The Giants had the first possession in the third quarter and drove to a score. The big play was a Tittle screen pass to Webster that gained 22 yards, but the series stalled after reaching the Cleveland 25. Summerall kicked a 34-yard field goal that put the Giants in front by 17-14.

The Browns went three-and-out on their next series and the Giants, regaining possession at their 25, advanced to another score. Gaiters had runs of 8 and 11 yards and Tittle completed passes to Rote for 25 yards and Shofner for 15. Summerall booted another field goal, this time from 17 yards despite being partially deflected by DE Jim Houston, and New York’s lead was extended to 20-14.

The Browns punted once again but got the ball back on the next play when Gaiters fumbled and LB Galen Fiss recovered at the New York 22. But a pass intended for Renfro, who was wide open after CB Erich Barnes slipped and fell, was far off target. A sack of Plum by Katcavage and DE Andy Robustelli cost Cleveland 10 yards on a third down play and, attempting to convert on fourth down, Plum’s pass fell incomplete.

The failure to take advantage of the break proved costly to the Browns. As the game headed into the fourth quarter, the Giants were driving thanks to a Tittle pass to Shofner for 15 yards and an option throw by Gaiters to Webster that picked up 27 yards to the Cleveland 23. Gaiters ran for an 11-yard touchdown, Summerall converted, and New York was ahead by 27-14.

On the next Cleveland series, Coach Brown sent backup QB Len Dawson into the game. The move went awry when Barnes intercepted Dawson’s second pass and returned it 34 yards for a TD. Summerall again converted and, for all intents, with 12 minutes remaining the game was over. The Browns managed to score once more on a 15-yard TD pass from Plum to Renfro while Summerall capped the scoring for the Giants with an 11-yard field goal. New York came away with a convincing 37-21 win.

Thanks to their second half domination, the Giants led in total yards (369 to 334) and first downs (24 to 20). Cleveland managed just 66 rushing yards, to 116 for New York. Both teams turned the ball over twice.

Y.A. Tittle completed 17 of 26 passes for 233 yards with one interception, and while he threw for no touchdowns, he ran for one and his passing set up the other scores. Del Shofner caught 6 passes for 97 yards and Kyle Rote contributed five receptions for 58 yards. Bob Gaiters (pictured at right) topped the Giants with 63 yards on 15 carries that included two touchdowns and also completed a 27-yard pass. Alex Webster rushed for 49 yards on 15 attempts and caught four passes for another 65 yards.

For the Browns, Milt Plum was successful on 19 of 33 throws for 284 yards and two TDs while giving up an interception, but was just one-of-seven during the crucial third quarter. Likewise, Jim Brown gained just 68 rushing yards on 20 attempts with a TD and was effectively shut down in the last two quarters. He also had five pass receptions for 46 yards and his backfield mater, HB Bobby Mitchell, also had five catches, for 54 yards, but was virtually invisible as a ball carrier with two yards on two attempts. Ray Renfro led the club with 7 catches for 166 yards and two scores.

“This was our greatest game of the season,” said Coach Sherman for the Giants. “It was our greatest game because this was our greatest challenge. This is a team with a soul. They come back when they’re behind. They never let up.”

“My guys tried hard enough, we’re not good enough,” summed up Paul Brown from the Cleveland perspective.

It was the seventh win in the last eight meetings with the Browns for New York. The Giants lost to Green Bay the following week but defeated the Eagles and tied Cleveland in the rematch in New York to top the Eastern Conference with a 10-3-1 record. They lost badly to the Packers in the NFL Championship game. The Browns ended up in third at a disappointing 8-5-1.

Y.A. Tittle was one of the NFL’s top-ranked passers as he threw for 2272 yards and 17 touchdowns. He received MVP honors from the Newspaper Enterprise Association as well as being a first-team All-NFL selection of UPI and The Sporting News and a Pro Bowl participant. Del Shofner placed second in the league with 1125 yards on a career-high 68 pass receptions and scored 11 TDs. He also was a consensus first-team All-NFL and Pro Bowl choice. While rookie Bob Gaiters had a strong outing against the Browns, he struggled with consistency and had a tendency to fumble. He rushed for 460 yards on 116 carries and scored six touchdowns in what proved to be his most successful NFL season.  

November 25, 2015

Highlighted Year: David Boston, 2001

Wide Receiver, Arizona Cardinals

Age: 23
3rd season in pro football & with Cardinals
College: Ohio State
Height: 6’2”   Weight: 210

Boston caught a school-record 191 passes for 2855 yards (14.9 avg.) and 34 touchdowns in college, including 85 for 1455 yards and 13 TDs in ’98, his last season. He chose to enter the 1999 NFL draft with a year of eligibility remaining and was chosen by the Cardinals in the first round (eighth overall). Boston caught 40 passes for 473 yards (11.8 avg.) and two touchdowns in a mediocre rookie season but moved into the starting lineup full-time in 2000 and had 71 receptions for 1156 yards (16.3 avg.) and 7 TDs. Big, fast, and able to run effectively after catching the ball, Boston also drew criticism for his attitude and off-field problems, although he showed greater maturity and dedication coming into 2001.

2001 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 98 [7] 
Most receptions, game – 9 (for 108 yds.) at Dallas 10/28, (for 137 yds.) vs. NY Giants 11/11
Yards – 1598 [1]
Most yards, game – 145 (on 8 catches) vs. Denver 9/23
Average gain – 16.3 [6]
TDs – 8 [13, tied with five others]
100-yard receiving games – 9

Attempts – 5
Yards – 35
Average gain – 7.0
TDs – 0

TDs – 8
Points – 48

Awards & Honors:
1st team All-NFL: AP, PFWA, Sporting News
1st team All-NFC: Pro Football Weekly
Pro Bowl

Cardinals went 7-9 to finish fourth in the NFC East.

Boston’s 2002 season was cut short halfway through by a knee injury and he ended up with 32 catches for 512 yards (16.0 avg.) and one TD. He signed a big free agent contract with San Diego in ’03 and caught 70 passes for 880 yards (12.6 avg.) and 7 TDs but clashed with his coaches and was traded to Miami in 2004. Boston received a four-game suspension for steroid use but ended up missing the entire season with a knee injury. He appeared in just five games in ’05 before reinjuring his knee. Boston signed with the Buccaneers in 2006 and was released following further off-field problems. He attempted a comeback with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL in ’08 and appeared in one game, catching 2 passes for 16 yards, before a foot injury that required surgery forced him to the sidelines for good. Overall, Boston caught 315 passes for 4699 yards (14.9 avg.) and 25 touchdowns in the NFL. Of those totals, 241 receptions for 3739 yards (15.5 avg.) and 18 TDs came with the Cardinals.


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

November 24, 2015

1985: Campbell Runs for 160 Yards as Saints Defeat Vikings

RB Earl Campbell (pictured at right) was nearing the end of his Hall of Fame NFL career as the New Orleans Saints played the Minnesota Vikings on November 24, 1985. Once the league’s premier running back with the Houston Oilers, he had been dealt to New Orleans midway through the 1984 season, which reunited him with Head Coach O.A. “Bum” Phillips, who had coached Campbell during his best years with the Oilers. It had not brought a turnaround for the worn-down 30-year-old power runner who had last run for a hundred yards in a game during the ’83 season, which was also the last time he reached a thousand yards and gained Pro Bowl recognition.

The Saints were having plenty of other difficulties. After starting out at 3-2, they were in the midst of a six-game-losing streak that had them at 3-8. Ex-USFL star QB Bobby Hebert started for the first time in the previous week’s loss at Green Bay, replacing the mediocre Dave Wilson. The defense, which had been an asset during most of Phillips’ coaching reign, was performing badly.

Minnesota had a 5-6 record, attempting to bounce back after a disastrous 3-13 campaign with Les Steckel as head coach in ’84. His predecessor, Bud Grant, had come out of retirement to try and right the ship.   

There were 54,117 fans in attendance at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. The Vikings had the first possession, went three-and-out, and punted. Earl Campbell carried on each of New Orleans’ first four plays, gaining a total of 29 yards. Faking a pitch to Campbell on the fifth play, Bobby Hebert instead handed off to FB Wayne Wilson, who ran 41 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown. Morten Anderson added the extra point.

WR Buster Rhymes returned the ensuing kickoff 38 yards to the Minnesota 42 and the Vikings struck quickly as, two plays later, QB Tommy Kramer threw to RB Arthur Anderson for a 54-yard TD. Jan Stenerud converted to tie the score at 7-7.

The Saints got good starting field position for their next series thanks to a 45-yard kickoff return by CB Willie Tullis to the Minnesota 46. It was Campbell running three times for 25 yards to start it off. Wilson netted a one-yard loss on two carries and, facing third-and-11, Hebert tossed his first pass of the game to WR Eugene Goodlow for a pickup of 17 yards to the five yard line. Two plays later, Campbell ran for a four-yard touchdown and, adding Andersen’s conversion, the visitors were on top by 14-7.

The Vikings responded strongly as Kramer connected with TE Steve Jordan for 18 yards and RB Ted Brown broke loose for a 21-yard run. But another running play lost yardage and Kramer’s next pass was intercepted by LB Glen Redd, who returned it 25 yards to the Minnesota 38. It was Campbell again carrying the load as the Saints reached the nine yard line at the end of the period and, two plays into the second quarter, Andersen booted a 26-yard field goal to extend the lead to 17-7.

A short Minnesota possession resulted in a punt and the Saints advanced 48 yards in seven plays to score again. Campbell continued to run effectively and a pass interference penalty on CB Carl Lee picked up 34 yards. The drive stalled but Andersen kicked another field goal, this time from 47 yards, to make it a 20-7 game with less than eight minutes to go in the first half.

The teams exchanged punts until, just after the two-minute warning, New Orleans TE Hoby Brenner fumbled when hit by CB Willie Teal after catching a pass for 26 yards to midfield, and Teal recovered. Kramer completed three straight passes, the longest to Rhymes for 27 yards to the New Orleans five. The Vikings couldn’t penetrate the end zone, but Stenerud kicked a 22-yard field goal to narrow the margin to 20-10 at halftime.

The Saints had the ball first in the third quarter and advanced 33 yards in eight plays that culminated in a 45-yard Andersen field goal. New Orleans was up by 23-10. The Vikings punted following their possession and it looked promising for the Saints as Campbell ran the ball four times for 25 yards and Hebert completed a pass to Brenner for 14. However, after reaching the Minnesota 30, Lee intercepted an Hebert pass and returned it 33 yards to the New Orleans 39. Kramer completed four consecutive throws, the longest to WR Mike Jones for 17 yards, but after achieving a first-and-goal at the 10, the home team once again couldn’t score a touchdown and settled for a 22-yard Stenerud field goal. The spread was once again ten points as the game headed into the fourth quarter.

Following a punt by the Saints early in the period, the Vikings again drove into New Orleans territory. Facing third-and-ten at the 43, Minnesota got a break when the Saints were called for defensive holding, giving them another first down, and Kramer immediately passed to WR Anthony Carter for a pickup of 19 yards. The drive bogged down at the 20, but Stenerud chipped away further at the New Orleans lead with a 37-yard field goal that made the tally 23-16.

WR Eric Martin returned the kickoff 48 yards and the Saints started their next series off at the Minnesota 49, but Wilson fumbled on a third-down carry and DE Keith Millard recovered for the Vikings at the 38. Kramer had completions to Carter for 25 yards and RB Allen Rice for six as Minnesota advanced to the New Orleans 26, but a long pass by Kramer was picked off by CB Dave Waymer and returned 15 yards to the 18.

The Saints managed to reach their 42 before having to punt. Minnesota was quickly back in business when a first down pass intended for Carter drew a pass interference call on Waymer that picked up 45 yards to the New Orleans 30. This time the Vikings didn’t come up empty as a third-down pass from Kramer to Jones was good for a six-yard touchdown. Stenerud added the extra point to tie the score at 23-23 with 1:47 left in regulation.

The ensuing kickoff went out of bounds and the next, squibbed kick was returned 23 yards by RB Bobby Fowler to the 50. Campbell carried twice for 11 yards before Hebert threw to TE John Tice for a 39-yard TD. Andersen added the point after and New Orleans held on to win by a final score of 30-23.

The Saints had the edge in total yards (371 to 284) and first downs (19 to 17). Of the yardage total for New Orleans, 234 came on the ground. Each team turned the ball over three times.

Earl Campbell rushed for 160 yards on a team-record 35 carries that included one touchdown.  Wayne Wilson (pictured at left) contributed 65 yards and a TD on his 12 attempts. Bobby Hebert completed 10 of 14 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown, his first in the NFL, while being intercepted once. Hoby Brenner topped the Saints with three pass receptions for 51 yards.

For the Vikings, Tommy Kramer was successful on 19 of 45 throws for 240 yards and two TDs with three interceptions. Ted Brown ran for 40 yards on 8 attempts and also topped the club with 8 catches for 54 yards. Alfred Anderson also gained 54 yards on his one long scoring reception. Greg Coleman averaged 51.6 yards on his five punts.

The 160-yard outing against the Vikings was Earl Campbell’s fortieth, and last, career hundred-yard performance. He ended up with 643 yards on 158 carries (4.1 avg.) and his TD at Minnesota was the only one he scored in what was his last season.  

The game against the Vikings was also the last for Coach Phillips, who resigned and was replaced by his son, Wade, the defensive coordinator. The Saints won again the next week but lost their last three contests to end up with a 5-11 record and placed third in the NFC West. Minnesota bounced back to split the remaining four games and finished at 7-9, which ranked third in the NFC Central and was considered a respectable outcome after the debacle of ‘84. Bud Grant retired for good and offensive coordinator Jerry Burns was elevated to head coach.

November 23, 2015

Highlighted Year: Pete Catan, 1984

Defensive End, Houston Gamblers

Age: 26
4th season in pro football, 1st in USFL & with Gamblers
College: Eastern Illinois
Height: 6’2”   Weight: 240

In college, Catan set school records with 47 career sacks, including 21 in a season and six in a single game. He joined the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL in 1981 and spent three seasons with them, compiling 26.5 sacks and six fumble recoveries. His CFL high for sacks was 12.5 in ’82, a season in which he was named a Western All-Star. Catan signed with the Gamblers as a free agent in 1984, although contractual issues caused him to miss the team’s first game.

1984 Season Summary
Appeared in 15 of 18 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Sacks – 16 [2, tied with Sam Clancy]
Most sacks, game – 3 at Oklahoma 3/31
Multi-sack games – 4
Interceptions – 0
Fumble recoveries – 2
Fumble recovery TDs – 0

TDs – 1
Points – 6
(TD scored on return of blocked field goal)

Postseason: 1 G (USFL First Round playoff vs. Arizona)
Sacks – 2
Interceptions – 0
TD – 0

Awards & Honors:
1st team All-USFL: League, Sporting News, College & Pro Football Newsweekly

Gamblers went 13-5 to finish first in the USFL Central Division. Lost USFL First Round playoff to Arizona Wranglers (17-16).

Catan missed time due to injuries in 1985 but still accounted for 11 sacks and received second-team All-USFL recognition. Following the spring league’s demise, he failed to catch on with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL but did return briefly to the CFL with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in ’87. Overall, he accumulated 53.5 sacks in his pro career, 27 of with the Gamblers.


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