September 23, 2014

1973: Raiders End Miami’s Winning Streak


The Miami Dolphins, who were coming off an undefeated NFL Championship season in 1972, had an 18-game winning streak on the line (playoff games included) as they met the Oakland Raiders on September 23, 1973. Head Coach Don Shula’s team had last been defeated by the Cowboys in Super Bowl VI following the ’71 season and, in terms of regular season play, had won their last game in 1971 in addition to all 14 in ‘72 and, with a 21-13 victory over the 49ers in Week 1, the first in ’73 for a total of 16. QB Bob Griese directed an efficient ball control offense with FB Larry Csonka the chief ground gainer and WR Paul Warfield the dangerous receiver who could stretch the field and keep opposing defenses honest. The so-called “No Name” defense was tough and effective.

Oakland, coached by John Madden, topped the AFC West in 1972 with a 10-3-1 record but had lost its ‘73 opening game at Minnesota the previous week. At age 32, QB Daryle Lamonica had his share of critics but was still a fine passer and there was quality and depth at the receiving and running back positions. The offensive line was excellent and the defense was a good veteran group.   

The game was played at Memorial Stadium at the Univ. of California due to a scheduling conflict for the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum with baseball’s Oakland Athletics, and there were 74,121 fans in attendance, which set a franchise record for a Raiders home game. The Dolphins had first possession and moved in typical fashion from their 16 yard line with Larry Csonka and HB Mercury Morris running the ball and Bob Griese completing three short passes. But after reaching the Oakland 45, Csonka fumbled and SS George Atkinson recovered for the Raiders.



Now it was Oakland’s turn to move methodically down the field, with an 11-yard carry by HB Charlie Smith followed by FB Marv Hubbard (pictured at left) running the ball four straight times, the last picking up 26 yards to the Miami four. The Dolphins held at that point and George Blanda (pictured at top), who had recently celebrated his 46th birthday and was playing in his 300th pro game, kicked a 12-yard field goal to give the Raiders the early 3-0 lead.

The Dolphins had to punt following their next series and, in a possession that stretched into the second quarter, Oakland kept the ball on the ground and moved effectively, the biggest carry being for 19 yards by Smith. Once again the Raiders went for a field goal, this time much longer from 46 yards, but the result was the same as Blanda’s kick was good.

Miami went three-and-out on its next possession, but got a break when SS Jake Scott intercepted a pass by Daryle Lamonica. Starting at the Oakland 41, Csonka and HB Jim Kiick ran the ball down to the 18. However, Griese threw three straight incomplete passes at that point and the Dolphins came up empty when Garo Yepremian’s 26-yard field goal attempt was wide to the right. Neither team was able to threaten again for the remainder of the half, which ended with the Raiders ahead by 6-0.

The teams exchanged punts to start the third quarter before the Raiders, taking advantage of a short 24-yard kick by Larry Seiple, gained possession at the Miami 46. Smith and Hubbard again ran to good effect and Lamonica completed a pass to Smith for seven yards. The drive stalled at the 12 and Blanda kicked his third field goal, this time from 19 yards.

RB Charlie Leigh returned the ensuing kickoff 51 yards to give the Dolphins good starting field position at the Oakland 45, but they were unable to put together a drive and Yepremian was short on a 45-yard field goal attempt that DT Art Thoms, stretching the full length of his 6’5”, got a hand on.

The teams again traded punts as the contest headed into the fourth quarter, with neither able to move well on offense. With 11 minutes remaining in the game, the Raiders began to advance as Lamonica completed passes to WR Fred Biletnikoff for nine and 22 yards. From the Miami 27, Smith and Hubbard again ground away at the Dolphin defense, and after driving 58 yards in 12 plays, Blanda was successful on a 10-yard field goal try, his fourth. With the clock down to 2:24, Oakland was up by 12-0.

The Dolphins came out throwing following the kickoff, with Griese completing passes to Kiick and Lee that totaled nine yards. Morris ran for six yards and a first down, and after an incompletion, he carried for seven yards. Griese threw to TE Jim Mandich for ten yards and the Dolphins picked up another 15 yards thanks to a personal foul. The seven-play, 75-yard series concluded with Griese passing to Mandich for a 28-yard touchdown. With Yepremian’s extra point, the Dolphins were down by five points and the clock showed just over a minute to go.

Miami tried for an onside kick but HB Pete Banaszak recovered for the Raiders. Three running plays were followed by a punt into the end zone and, with 42 seconds left and a winning streak on the line, the Dolphins took over at their 20. But all four of Griese’s passes fell incomplete and the Raiders held on to win by a final score of 12-7.

Oakland led in total yards (250 to 195) and first downs (12 to 10), reflecting the defensive nature of the contest. Neither team reached triple figures in net passing yards, with the Dolphins leading by 90 to 63. Miami turned the ball over twice, to one by the Raiders.

Daryle Lamonica went to the air just 10 times and had 7 completions for 63 yards with one intercepted. Marv Hubbard ran for 88 yards on 20 carries and Charlie Smith was right behind with 80 yards, also on 20 attempts. Fred Biletnikoff was Oakland’s leading receiver with three catches for 36 yards. The specialists did their part, with George Blanda kicking four field goals in as many attempts to account for all of the team’s points and Ray Guy averaging 49.0 yards on six punts. Otis Sistrunk, Art Thoms, and Phil Villapiano were most noteworthy in what was an outstanding group effort by the Oakland defense.



For the Dolphins, Bob Griese completed 12 of 25 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown with none intercepted. Mercury Morris gained 48 yards on 7 carries and Larry Csonka had 47 yards on 10 attempts. Charlie Leigh led the club with three catches, for 16 yards, while Jim Mandich (pictured at right) totaled 38 yards on his two receptions that included the game’s only TD.

“We wanted to play them last year and stop the streak but we didn’t get the chance,” said Oakland’s Coach Madden. “But now we’re the team that did it.”

The Dolphins shook off the loss and reeled off ten straight wins on the way to a 12-2 record and second Super Bowl victory. Oakland lost the following week, and with the offense having difficulty scoring points, Daryle Lamonica was replaced by Ken Stabler at quarterback. The Raiders again topped the AFC West at 9-4-1 and advanced to the AFC Championship game, where the Miami exacted its revenge.

The 24th-year veteran George Blanda went on to kick a career-high 23 field goals in 33 attempts (69.7 %) and, adding in 31 extra points, scored an even 100 points. Marv Hubbard led the Raiders in rushing with 903 yards and in touchdowns with six. He was selected to the Pro Bowl.

September 22, 2014

Highlighted Year: Jim Arnold, 1987

Punter, Detroit Lions



Age: 26
5th season in pro football, 2nd with Lions
College: Vanderbilt
Height: 6’3”   Weight: 211

Prelude:
Arnold was a four-time All-Southeastern Conference choice in college as well as consensus All-American as a senior in 1982. He was chosen by the Kansas City Chiefs in the fifth round of the ‘83 NFL draft and led the league with a 44.9 average in 1984 and received second-team All-NFL honors from the Associated Press. A lesser performance in 1985 set the stage for his release prior to the ’86 season and he was picked up by Detroit for the last seven games, averaging 42.6 yards on 36 punts.

1987 Season Summary
Appeared in 11 of 15 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Punting
Punts – 46
Most punts, game – 6 vs. Green Bay 10/25, at Chicago 11/22
Yards – 2007 [20]
Average – 43.6 [2]
Best average, game – 52.7 (on 3 punts) vs. LA Rams 12/6
Punts blocked – 0
Longest punt – 60 yards

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

Lions went 4-11 to finish fifth in the NFC Central in the strike-affected season.

Aftermath:
Arnold followed up with another Pro Bowl year in 1988 after punting a team-record 97 times for a 42.4-yard average, which topped the NFC. He ended up playing a total of eight years for the Lions and set a franchise career records with 536 punts, averaging 42.7 yards per kick. He played for the Miami Dolphins in 1994 before retiring. Overall, he punted 866 times over 12 seasons for a 42.3-yard average with five blocked. He was named to the Pro Bowl twice and received first- or second-team All-NFL honors on three occasions.

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Highlighted Years features players who were 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 21, 2014

1970: Browns Defeat Jets in Monday Night Debut


Pro football on Monday nights was not unprecedented, but as a regularly-scheduled weekly television series, which it became in 1970, it was an innovation. The American Broadcasting Company promoted the concept vigorously and provided resources for covering the games that the other networks typically used only for playoff contests. An entertaining trio of announcers Howard Cosell, Keith Jackson, and ex-Cowboys QB Don Meredith added to the showcase.

The first week’s contest on September 21, 1970 pitted the Cleveland Browns, an established NFL team that had been shifted to the American Football Conference as part of the merger (thus being aligned with former American Football League teams), against the New York Jets, champions of the AFL two years earlier.

The Browns were coached by Blanton Collier for the eighth season and had advanced to the last two NFL Championship games. It was anticipated that, with recent success and grouped with three mediocre teams in the new Central Division of the AFC, that the Browns would contend. They had traded away star WR Paul Warfield to Miami in order to draft QB Mike Phipps out of Purdue, but veteran Bill Nelsen was still the starting quarterback. HB Leroy Kelly remained a major cog in the offense and they also had WR Gary Collins and TE Milt Morin. The team’s biggest questions pertained to the reshuffled defense.

New York, coached by Weeb Ewbank, had followed up the 1968 Super Bowl season with a division-topping 10-4 record in ’69. Now in the AFC East, they continued to rely on QB Joe Namath passing to a good group of receivers led by Don Maynard and George Sauer and the running game featured FB Matt Snell and HB Emerson Boozer. The defense was good up front but questionable in the secondary.

It was a clear night at Municipal Stadium in Cleveland with a stadium-record 85,703 fans in attendance and an estimated 35 million watching the telecast. The Jets punted following the first series of the game and Cleveland drove 55 yards in nine plays. Bill Nelsen had completions to Milt Morin for 13 yards and to FB Bo Scott for 21 and a third-down pass to Gary Collins was good for an eight-yard touchdown. Don Cockroft added the extra point.

The Jets reached midfield on their next possession but again had to punt. Starting at their 16, the Browns drove to another score, going 84 yards in 11 plays. Leroy Kelly ran effectively and a pass interference call on a third-and-eight play kept the drive alive. In New York territory, Nelsen threw to Morin for 18 yards and to Scott for 15 and it was Scott running around end for the last two yards and a TD. Cockroft added the extra point and Cleveland carried a 14-0 lead into the second quarter.

The Jets, relying primarily on runs by Emerson Boozer and Matt Snell, put together an eight-play, 61-yard series that resulted in Boozer plowing into the center of the line for a two-yard touchdown. Jim Turner converted and Cleveland’s lead was cut to 14-7.



Nelsen completed a pass to Morin for 25 yards on the next series but the Browns ended up having to punt. The Jets also moved well, with Namath completing back-to-back passes to George Sauer (pictured at left) for 17 and 40 yards, but after reaching the Cleveland 17 Namath again looked to Sauer but was picked off by CB Walt Sumner, who returned it 34 yards. Following another Cleveland punt, another New York drive into Browns territory ended with Namath being intercepted once more, and the score remained unchanged at the half.

The Browns started off the third quarter with WR Homer Jones taking the second half kickoff and returning it 94 yards for a touchdown and, with Cockroft’s PAT, a 21-7 lead. In response, Namath came out throwing and immediately connected with Don Maynard for 20 yards and Sauer for 16 to reach the Cleveland 44. Another pass to Sauer picked up 13 yards and then Snell and Boozer accumulated another 13 yards between them on the ground. Namath found Sauer once again for an additional 13 yards and, two plays later, Boozer raced 10 yards through the middle for a TD to complete the 10-play, 80-yard drive. Turner converted and it was once more a seven-point contest.

The Browns started their next series with favorable field position at their own 47 after a good kickoff return with a penalty tacked on. They advanced 47 yards in six plays and Cockroft kicked a 27-yard field goal. In their next series, the running of Snell and Boozer moved the Jets back into Cleveland territory, and Namath also completed two short passes. However, the drive stalled at the 42 and Turner’s 50-yard field goal attempt fell short.

The Browns punted on the final play of the third quarter and New York again threatened to score. Snell ran for 19 yards on the first play of the series and, after five more running plays, a pass interference call on CB Erich Barnes put the ball on the Cleveland seven. But on the next play, Snell fumbled and DE Jack Gregory recovered to end the threat. The Browns responded with a long six-minute drive. Nelsen completed three passes, the longest to Morin for 22 yards, and Scott had a 17-yard run. But Cockroft missed to the right on an 18-yard field goal try.

The Jets took over from their 20 with 5:40 remaining on the clock and, with Namath throwing on every down, they quickly moved 80 yards in four plays. Completions to Boozer, WR Rich Caster, and Sauer picked up 14, 19, and 14 yards, respectively, and a throw to Sauer was good for a 33-yard touchdown. Turner’s conversion put the visitors just three points behind at 24-21.

The time was running down to two minutes as the Browns went three-and-out on their next possession, but Cockroft’s 65-yard punt had to be chased by DB Mike Battle, who failed to catch the ball at the 30 and downed it at the New York four. Four plays later, Namath’s pass was intercepted by LB Bill Andrews, who returned it 25 yards for a clinching touchdown. Cockroft again converted and Cleveland came away the winner by a final score of 31-21.

The Jets dominated in total yards (454 to 221) and first downs (31 to 20). However, they also turned the ball over four times, to none suffered by Cleveland, and were penalized 13 times at a cost of 161 yards, to 8 flags thrown on the Browns.



Bill Nelsen completed 12 of 27 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown with none intercepted. Milt Morin (pictured at right) had 5 catches for 90 yards and Leroy Kelly rushed for 62 yards on 20 carries.

For the Jets, Joe Namath was successful on 18 of 31 throws for 298 yards and a TD, but gave up three interceptions, including the last one that led directly to the game-clinching score. George Sauer caught 10 of those passes for 172 yards and a touchdown and Don Maynard gained 69 yards on his four receptions. Matt Snell topped the ground game as he rushed for 108 yards on 16 attempts and Emerson Boozer contributed 58 yards on 15 carries that included two TDs.

Following the exciting opening contest, neither team ended up meeting expectations over the course of the season. The Browns reached 4-2 before losing five of their last eight contests and ending up at 7-7 and in second place behind the third-year Cincinnati Bengals. Leroy Kelly’s performance dropped off due to an ankle injury and Homer Jones failed to fill the shoes of the departed Warfield (his kickoff return TD against the Jets was the highlight of his season). The Jets won their second game but proceeded to lose six straight on the way to a 4-10 record. Injuries were the key to New York’s collapse, with Joe Namath suffering a broken wrist and Matt Snell a torn Achilles tendon that sidelined them for most of the season.

Pro football on Monday nights did not disappoint, however, and the program maintained consistently strong ratings in its first year and well beyond. 

September 20, 2014

1976: Raiders Hold Off Rally by Chiefs for Monday Night Win


Two fierce rivals, the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs, were featured in a Monday night NFL game on September 20, 1976. The visiting Raiders had won their opener over Pittsburgh the previous week while Kansas City lost to the Chargers, but beyond that, the two clubs were in very different places as they met for the 35th time.

Oakland, coached by John Madden for the eighth season and coming off an 11-3 record in ‘75, had topped the AFC West in five of the previous six seasons. QB Ken “The Snake” Stabler (pictured above) was an able, if immobile, passer and had fine wide receivers available in Cliff Branch and the aging Fred Biletnikoff, plus up-and-coming TE Dave Casper. There was also a good, if unspectacular, group of running backs operating behind an excellent line. The defense was tough and aggressive.

The Chiefs had not done so well in recent years. They finished at 5-9 in each of the previous two seasons, including their first under Head Coach Paul Wiggin, successor to the esteemed Hank Stram, in ’75. QB Len Dawson had finally retired after an outstanding career and longtime backup Mike Livingston was taking over the reins, but there were still too many aging players on the roster.

It was a clear Monday night at Arrowhead Stadium with 60,884 fans in attendance. The teams traded punts before the Raiders drove 67 yards in 12 plays. Ken Stabler completed six passes, including two that converted third downs and the last for a 15-yard touchdown to Dave Casper. Fred Steinfort added the extra point.

Following another short possession leading to a punt by the Chiefs, Oakland put together another 12-play scoring drive that extended into the second quarter, advancing 72 yards. FB Mark van Eeghen (pictured below) and HB Pete Banaszak ran effectively and Stabler connected twice on passes to Cliff Branch, the first for 13 yards to convert a third down and the second for a 10-yard TD. Steinfort again converted and the Raiders were ahead by 14-0 and clearly the dominant team.



The teams exchanged punts until the Raiders got the ball back at their 14 with three minutes to play in the half. HB Clarence Davis ran for the necessary 14 yards in a third-and-14 situation and Banaszak followed up with a 15-yard carry. Completions to Branch, Casper, and Fred Biletnikoff advanced the ball to the Kansas City 20 and, with the clock down to 27 seconds Steinfort kicked a 37-yard field goal to stake Oakland to a 17-0 halftime lead. Kansas City had managed just 37 yards of offense thus far.

The Chiefs had the first possession of the third quarter and, with Mike Livingston completing passes to TE Walter White for 25 yards and WR Henry Marshall for 21, reached the Oakland 23. However, they came up empty when Jan Stenerud was wide on a 41-yard field goal attempt.

CB Tim Collier intercepted a Stabler pass on the next series, but the Chiefs fumbled the ball right back. Oakland went three-and-out and had to punt, and Kansas City put together another good drive of 54 yards in nine plays, and this time didn’t fail to put points on the board. HB Woody Green ran the ball four times for 35 yards and FB MacArthur Lane carried for the last yard and a touchdown. Stenerud added the extra point and it was a 17-7 game after three quarters.

The Raiders responded by driving 72 yards in eight plays. A 16-yard Stabler completion to Biletnikoff had an unnecessary roughness penalty on FS Gary Barbaro tacked onto it to advance Oakland to the KC 14, and from there Stabler connected with WR Mike Siani for a TD. Steinfort’s PAT again made it a 17-point margin favoring the visitors, although “The Snake” was injured from a hit by DE Wilbur Young on the scoring play.

The Chiefs had to punt following their next series and the Raiders, now with Mike Rae at quarterback for Stabler, punted the ball back in turn. With 3:41 left on the clock, Kansas City took over and drove 87 yards in 12 plays. Livingston completed three passes but it was the running of Green and Lane that fueled KC’s advance. Livingston ran the ball himself for a one-yard touchdown and, with Stenerud again adding the extra point, Oakland’s lead was narrowed to 24-14.

That still appeared formidable as the Raiders took possession, but Banaszak ran the ball three straight times, fumbled on the last carry after gaining first down yardage, and LB Billy Andrews recovered for the Chiefs at the Oakland 25. On the next play, Livingston threw to TE Billy Masters in the middle of the end zone for a TD, Stenerud converted, and the home team was only behind by a touchdown.

That was as far as Kansas City’s surge would carry, however. The ensuing try for an onside kick failed and, with the Chiefs out of timeouts, the Raiders were able to run out the clock as van Eeghen carried four times for 27 yards and two first downs. Oakland held on to win by a final score of 24-21.

The Raiders dominated in total yards (446 to 280), with 211 of that total coming on the ground, and also had the edge in first downs (25 to 18). Oakland also recorded the only three sacks of the game, but also turned the ball over twice (to one by KC) and was penalized 11 times at a cost of 104 yards, to 8 flags thrown on the Chiefs.

Ken Stabler was highly efficient as he completed 22 of 28 passes, including 11 of his first 12, for 224 yards and three touchdowns while giving up one interception, until a strained right knee forced him from the contest. Mark van Eeghen ran for 84 yards on 19 carries, Pete Banaszak contributed 61 yards on 11 attempts, and Clarence Davis gained 59 yards on his 12 runs. Cliff Branch had 5 catches for 62 yards and a TD and Dave Casper was right behind at 5 receptions and 57 yards with a score.

For the Chiefs, Mike Livingston was successful on 12 of 21 throws for 190 yards and a TD with none intercepted. Woody Green ran for 75 yards on 14 attempts and caught three passes for 28 more yards while MacArthur Lane (pictured below) gained 34 yards on 9 carries that included a touchdown and had a team-leading four pass receptions for 69 yards.



“I can’t account for the first half,” said Kansas City’s Coach Wiggin. “I wish I could. It was just a solid indication we were playing a superior football team.”

The Raiders lost only once all season, again topping the AFC West at 13-1 and advancing to a win over the Vikings in the Super Bowl. Kansas City compiled a third straight 5-9 record to place fourth in the division.

Ken Stabler missed the following week due to his injury but came back to lead the NFL in passing (103.4 rating) in addition to completion percentage (66.7), yards per attempt (9.4), and TD passes (27). He was chosen to the Pro Bowl and received the Bert Bell award as NFL Player of the Year. Cliff Branch (46 catches, 1111 yards, 24.2 avg., 12 TDs) and Dave Casper (53 catches, 691 yards, 10 TDs) were both consensus first-team All-NFL as well as Pro Bowl selections. Mark van Eeghen ran for 1012 yards on 233 carries (4.3 avg.), his first of three straight thousand yard ground-gaining seasons.

Woody Green’s career ended four weeks later due to a knee injury that required surgery while 34-year-old MacArthur Lane led the Chiefs in rushing with 542 yards and topped the NFL with 66 catches, for 686 yards.

September 19, 2014

Rookie of the Year: Vernon Maxwell, 1983

Linebacker, Baltimore Colts



Age: 22 (Oct. 25)
College: Arizona State
Height: 6’2”   Weight: 219

Prelude:
As a defensive end in college, Maxwell accounted for 28 sacks and 348 tackles. He received honorable mention All-American honors in 1980 and ’81 and was a consensus first-team choice in 1982. The Colts chose him in the second round of the ’83 NFL draft, where he was reunited with Head Coach Frank Kush, who had recruited him to Arizona State, and Maxwell moved directly into the starting lineup at outside linebacker.

1983 Season Summary
Appeared and started in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Sacks – 11
Most sacks, game – 3 vs. Denver 9/11
Interceptions – 1
Int. return yards – 31
Int. TDs – 0
Fumble recoveries – 2
Forced fumbles – 6
Tackles – 92

Awards & Honors:
NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year: AP, PFWA

Colts went 7-9 to finish fourth in the AFC East.

Aftermath:
The Colts moved to Indianapolis in 1984 and Maxwell was part of a good group of linebackers, contributing 8.5 sacks. However, his tackles dropped to 53 and, with rumors of off-field problems, he was traded to San Diego during training camp in ’85 but was waived prior to the season and picked up by the Detroit Lions, appearing in nine games. Maxwell played two more inconsistent years with Detroit and also was with Seattle in 1989 and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL in 1991 and ’92. Overall, he appeared in 77 NFL and 14 CFL games and recorded 19.5 of his 21.5 NFL sacks with the Colts, never again approaching the level of performance of his rookie season.

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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). 

September 18, 2014

1927: Packers Defeat Triangles with Two Fourth Quarter TDs


To open their seventh NFL season, the Green Bay Packers hosted the Dayton Triangles on September 18, 1927. The Packers had finished fifth in the league with a 7-3-3 record in ‘26 and had newcomers in tailback Red Dunn, formerly of the Cardinals, and end Lavvie Dilweg, who was previously with Milwaukee. Curly Lambeau (pictured at right) was still playing at tailback as well as coaching the team.

Dayton was 1-4-1 in league games in 1926 and had a new player-coach in Lou Mahrt. The Triangles had not posted a winning record since 1922 and were 4-23-3 in their last four seasons. Dependent on local talent, they played a disproportionate share of road games and had difficulty competing with the NFL’s better clubs.

There were 3600 fans in attendance at City Stadium in Green Bay on a windy day, which had an effect on the kicking game. The Triangles hung tough defensively against the Packers for three quarters and did well with some long passes, although the plays were from their own end of the field and didn’t get them into Green Bay territory. Meanwhile the Packers, typically one of the NFL’s better passing teams, managed only one completion. Dayton threatened twice, but Earl Britton missed a 40-yard field goal attempt and Walter Achiu failed on an attempt from 33 yards.

Vern Lewellen did a good job punting under the conditions, outperforming the Dayton kickers and keeping the Triangles on their side of the field. Following Green Bay’s first series of the third quarter, Lewellen punted 70 yards to once again mire the Triangles in their own territory. A punt into the wind by the visitors gave the Packers the ball near midfield and they drove 46 yards to a touchdown carry of one yard by Curly Lambeau. Red Dunn added the extra point.

Midway through the fourth quarter, lineman Jug Earp blocked a punt and tackle Tiny Cahoon recovered in Dayton territory. The Packers made a couple of first downs before Lambeau again ran for a TD, this time from seven yards out, and Dunn again successfully converted. The Packers came away winners of the hard-fought contest by a final score of 14-0.

Green Bay went on to post a 7-2-1 record, losing twice to the Bears and ending up second to the Giants in the standings. The shutout of the Triangles was the first of five overall as the Packers outscored their opponents by a combined 113 to 43. Dayton, meanwhile, defeated the Frankford Yellow Jackets the next week but didn’t win again, finishing with another losing tally of 1-6-1.

Curly Lambeau’s two touchdowns against the Triangles were his only ones of the season. Verne Lewellen went on to lead the team with five TDs and 30 points and Red Dunn contributed a touchdown and seven extra points.

September 17, 2014

1967: Eagles Win Back-and-Forth Opener Over Redskins


The Philadelphia Eagles were coming off of a 9-5 record in 1966 and had some new faces on the roster as they hosted the Washington Redskins on September 17, 1967. Head Coach Joe Kuharich had developed a reputation for being willing to deal since taking over the reins in ’64. In the most recent offseason, flanker Gary Ballman (pictured above) was obtained from the Steelers and star TE Mike Ditka of the Bears, who had worn out his welcome in Chicago following a contract dispute, was brought in to replace retired TE Pete Retzlaff. QB Norm Snead, who came to the Eagles from Washington in 1964 in a controversial trade for QB Sonny Jurgensen, had suffered through a miserable ’66 season and was benched for the last several games in favor of Jack Concannon and King Hill, but Concannon was traded to the Bears for Ditka, Hill was injured during the preseason, and Snead was now back firmly in the starting job and looking to rebound.

With the Redskins in town for the opening game, coached by Otto Graham for the second year, Snead once more faced Sonny Jurgensen, and the ex-Eagle had a Pro Bowl year in ’66 in which he threw for 3209 yards and 28 touchdowns for the 7-7 club. Charley Taylor, shifted from halfback to split end, led the NFL in pass receptions and, together with flanker Bobby Mitchell and TE Jerry Smith, was part of a formidable receiving corps. The running game was far less impressive, however, and FB Ray McDonald had been chosen in the first round of the draft to address that issue. There were questions regarding the defense, but star MLB Sam Huff was back for his 12th season as well as a rising talent in OLB Chris Hanburger.

60,755 fans were in attendance at Franklin Field. Things started off with a bang for the Redskins when rookie flanker John Love returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown. Charlie Gogolak added the extra point and the visitors were ahead by 7-0 after less than 20 seconds of play.

The Eagles responded by going 80 yards in five plays on their initial series. Norm Snead (pictured below) threw to Mike Ditka for eight yards, FB Tom Woodeshick rushed for a total of five yards on two carries, and, after an illegal procedure call backed the Eagles up, HB Israel “Izzy” Lang ran 13 yards around end for a first down. Snead then went long for Gary Ballman, and it resulted in a 59-yard touchdown. Sam Baker successfully converted to tie the score.



Washington had to punt on its next possession, but got the ball back two plays later when Snead fumbled while being sacked and DE Bill Briggs recovered at the Philadelphia 13. Helped by a holding penalty, the Eagles were able to keep the visitors out of the end zone and Washington settled for a 30-yard Gogolak field goal to move back into the lead.

The Eagles moved the ball effectively on the ground, with Lang and Woodeshick carrying, but Lang fumbled and Sam Huff recovered at his own 38. A few plays later, FB A.D. Whitfield fumbled the ball back and Philadelphia put together a seven-play, 58-yard series. Lang had runs of 12 and 19 yards and Snead completed two passes, the second of which was for a 10-yard TD to Ballman. Baker’s extra point made the score 14-10 in favor of the Eagles.

Heading into the second quarter, Washington put together a promising drive as Sonny Jurgensen completed four passes for 45 yards, but Gogolak was short on a 37-yard field goal attempt. Philadelphia again moved the ball well, starting off with a Snead throw to Ditka for 25 yards, but after reaching Washington territory, a holding penalty and sack moved the Eagles back and they had to punt. The Redskins advanced 73 yards in six plays, four of them pass completions by Jurgensen. The longest was to split end Charley Taylor for 35 yards to the Philadelphia 13 and, two plays later, HB Joe Don Looney ran five yards for a touchdown. Gogolak added the PAT and Washington was now in front in the see-saw battle by a score of 17-14.

Following a 33-yard kickoff return by split end Ben Hawkins, there were just over three minutes left in the half as the Eagles started their next series. On a third-and-eight play, Snead connected with Woodeshick for 30 yards and, two plays later, Ballman caught a pass for a 22-yard gain to the Washington two. Snead scored on a quarterback sneak two plays after that, and with Baker’s kick, Philadelphia took a 21-17 lead into halftime.

The Eagles found themselves trapped deep in their own territory on the first series of the third quarter, and Baker’s punt from his end zone was short and gave the Redskins possession at the Philadelphia 33. Jurgensen immediately threw to Taylor for 10 yards and a first down, but after the possession bogged down at the 18, Gogolak’s 25-yard field goal attempt was blocked by LB Harold Wells.

Philadelphia again had to punt after a short series and this time the visitors didn’t come up empty. The Redskins drove 55 yards in seven plays, the biggest a Jurgensen throw to Taylor that picked up 36 yards. Jurgensen’s third completion of the series was to Jerry Smith for a four-yard TD and, adding Gogolak’s PAT, Washington was again in the lead by 24-21.

The Eagles came out throwing when they got the ball back, with Snead completing three passes before Woodeshick took a handoff on a draw play and broke away for a 40-yard touchdown. Baker converted and the five-play, 63-yard series had Philadelphia back again in front by a score of 28-24.

It was Jurgensen’s turn to fill the air with passes when Washington regained possession, and he connected with Bobby Mitchell for a 43-yard gain to the Philadelphia 32. Throws to Taylor and Smith picked up 12 yards apiece, but three straight passes into the end zone from the 12 yard line fell incomplete and the Eagles blocked another Gogolak try for a field goal on the final play of the period.

The Eagles went three-and-out on their next series and punted and, starting from their own 26, the Redskins again moved down the field. Looney and Ray McDonald ran well and Jurgensen completed three passes. But after reaching the Philadelphia eight, Love, in place of the injured Gogolak, missed on a 15-yard field goal attempt.

The teams traded punts before the Eagles added an insurance score. Snead fired long for Ben Hawkins and it was complete for a 68-yard gain to the Washington six. Three plays later, Woodeshick ran for a one-yard TD, Baker converted, and the home team was in front by 11 points with less than three minutes remaining on the clock. Jurgensen again went to the air and, at one point, completed five straight throws, but after reaching the Philadelphia 33, he was sacked on a fourth down play to effectively end the game. The Eagles came away winners by the score of 35-24.

Philadelphia compiled more total yards (426 to 388) although the Redskins had the edge in first downs (21 to 18). Each team recorded three sacks and the Eagles turned the ball over twice, to one suffered by Washington. The Redskins were hurt by a combined four missed field goals out of five attempts.

Norm Snead completed 18 of 27 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Gary Ballman had four catches for 105 yards and both receiving TDs while Ben Hawkins, thanks to his long catch in the second half, gained an even 100 yards on 5 receptions. Mike Ditka also caught 5 passes, for 42 yards. Izzy Lang rushed for 75 yards on 13 carries and Tom Woodeshick was right behind with 74 yards, also on 13 attempts, with two touchdowns.

For the Redskins, Sonny Jurgensen (pictured below) was successful on 25 of 46 throws for 324 yards and a TD while having none picked off. Charley Taylor caught 8 of those passes for 144 yards and Jerry Smith also hauled in 8 receptions, for 81 yards and a score. Bobby Mitchell contributed 6 catches for 82 yards. Ray McDonald led the rushers by gaining 47 yards on 8 carries.



The Eagles got off to a 3-1 start before dropping four of their next five games on the way to a 6-7-1 record, which placed second in the Capitol Division of the Eastern Conference. Washington ended up third at 5-6-3.

Norm Snead had his most productive season as a passer for the Eagles, throwing for 3399 yards and 29 touchdowns while giving up 24 interceptions. Gary Ballman continued to perform well and caught 36 passes for 524 yards (14.6 avg.) and six TDs, but Mike Ditka missed five games with injuries and ended up with just 26 receptions for 274 yards and two scores. It was Ben Hawkins, in his second year, who broke out in a big way and led the NFL with 1265 yards on his 59 catches (21.4 avg.) that included 10 touchdowns.

Sonny Jurgensen went on to another big season, leading the league in pass attempts (508), completions (288), yards (3747), and TDs (31). Charley Taylor again led the circuit in pass receptions (70) and Jerry Smith (67) and Bobby Mitchell (60) ranked second and fourth. Ray McDonald proved to not be the answer at fullback, however, gaining just 223 rushing yards.