February 11, 2016

Highlighted Year: Cliff Battles, 1932

Tailback/Defensive Back, Boston Braves


Age: 22
1st season in pro football
College: West Virginia Wesleyan
Height: 6’1”   Weight: 198

Prelude:
A multi-sport star in college who was also a Phi Beta Kappa student, Battles put up significant numbers playing football for a small school. In 1930, he rushed for 354 yards, totaled 469 all-purpose yards, and scored seven touchdowns in a game against Salem College, and in another contest had three scoring runs of over 80 yards. While the team didn’t do so well when taking on stronger competition, Battles drew interest from several NFL teams and signed with the first-year Braves.

1932 Season Summary
Appeared in 8 of 10 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Rushing
Attempts – 148 [1]
Yards – 576 [1]
Yards per attempt – 3.9 [5]
TDs – 3 [2, tied with five others]

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 4
Yards – 60
Yards per catch – 15.0
TDs – 1 [10, tied with fourteen others]

Passing
Attempts – 20 [16, tied with Bob Campiglio & Hap Moran]
Completions – 2
Yards – 42
Completion percentage – 10.0
TD passes – 0
Interceptions – 2 [13, tied with eight others]

All-Purpose yards – 636 [1]

Scoring
TDs – 4 [5, tied with five others]   
Points – 24 [6, tied with four others]

Awards & Honors:
1st team All-NFL: Collyers Eye

Braves went 4-4-2 to finish fourth in the NFL.

Aftermath:
Battles ranked second in rushing to teammate FB Jim Musick with the re-named Redskins in 1933, gaining 737 yards that included 215 in a single game, making him the first NFL player to reach the 200-yard rushing threshold in a single contest. He was a consensus first-team All-NFL selection for his efforts. Running with a long stride, Battles had excellent cutting ability as well as speed, and was adept at returning kicks. He received primarily second-team All-NFL honors in 1934 and ’35 but was a consensus first-team selection in 1936 as he rushed for 614 yards and the Redskins finished first in the Eastern Division, although he was injured early in the NFL Championship loss to Green Bay. The franchise was shifted to Washington for 1937 and Battles set a league rushing record with 874 yards. The Redskins won the NFL title but, when owner George Preston Marshall refused to give his star runner a raise, Battles retired. Overall, he rushed for 3511 yards on 839 carries (4.2 avg.), caught 38 passes for 546 yards (14.4 avg.), and scored a total of 31 touchdowns. He received consensus first-team All-NFL honors three times and at least some first-team or second-team recognition after three other seasons. Battles, who initially became an assistant coach at Columbia, was later head coach of the AAFC’s Brooklyn Dodgers. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1968.

--

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

February 9, 2016

Highlighted Year: Keith Bostic, 1987

Safety, Houston Oilers



Age: 26
5th season in pro football & with Oilers
College: Michigan
Height: 6’1”   Weight: 223

Prelude:
An All-Big Ten performer in college, Bostic was chosen by the Oilers in the second round of the 1983 NFL draft. He moved into the starting lineup at strong safety during his rookie season and accounted for two interceptions and three sacks. Bostic proved to be a steady player in his first four seasons, noted for his aggressive play and teaming well with FS Bo Eason. The two combined for 162 solo tackles in 1985, a season in which Bostic reached a career high with five sacks. Coming into the 1987 season, Bostic had started 60 games, intercepted six passes, and registered 12 sacks.

1987 Season Summary
Appeared in 12 of 15 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Interceptions – 6 [2, tied with four others, 1st in AFC]
Most interceptions, game – 2 vs. LA Rams 9/13
Int. return yards – -14
Most int. return yards, game – 7 (on 1 int.) at San Francisco 11/8
Int. TDs – 0
Sacks – 3
Most sacks, game – 1 vs. Atlanta 10/25, at Pittsburgh 11/15, vs. San Diego 12/6
Fumble recoveries – 1

Postseason: 2 G
Interceptions – 0
Fumble recoveries – 1
TDs – 0

Awards & Honors:
1st team All-NFL: NEA
2nd team All-NFL: AP
1st team All-AFC: UPI, Pro Football Weekly
Pro Bowl

Oilers went 9-6 in the strike-shortened season (three games were played with replacement players) to finish second in the AFC Central and qualified for the postseason as a Wild Card. Won AFC Wild Card playoff over Seattle Seahawks (23-20). Lost AFC Divisional playoff to Denver Broncos (34-10).

Aftermath:
Bostic spent one more season with the Oilers, and was a Pro Bowl alternate, before departing as a free agent in 1989. He signed with the Indianapolis Colts but was waived during the preseason and, after a brief tenure with the Browns in 1990, his career came to an end. Overall, he played in 96 games over seven seasons, as well as four postseason contests, and compiled 13 interceptions and 17 sacks, all with the Oilers.

--

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

February 7, 2016

1993: AFC Wins First Overtime Pro Bowl


The AFC-NFC Pro Bowl on February 7, 1993 was played before 50,007 fans at Aloha Stadium on a sunny day with intermittent clouds. It marked the 14th consecutive year that the game was played in Honolulu. Coaches were Don Shula of the Dolphins for the AFC and San Francisco’s George Seifert for the NFC.

The NFC took the opening kickoff and drove 65 yards in 14 plays. QB Steve Young of the 49ers scrambled for eight yards in a third-and-three situation and completed five passes, the longest to his San Francisco teammate, TE Brent Jones, for 17 yards. The advance finally stalled at the AFC 10 and Morten Andersen of the Saints kicked a 27-yard field goal.

The AFC punted following their first series but got the ball back four plays later when a Young pass was intercepted by Denver FS Steve Atwater at the AFC 29. Miami QB Dan Marino completed consecutive throws to WR Anthony Miller of the Chargers for 16 yards and Houston WR Haywood Jeffires for 11 to get the ball into NFC territory, but a holding penalty moved them back, and on third down Marino was sacked by Minnesota DE Chris Doleman for a 15-yard loss, resulting in a punt.

The AFC managed to get on the scoreboard when, on the first play of the second quarter, LB Junior Seau of the Chargers intercepted a Young pass and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown. Kansas City’s Nick Lowery added the extra point to give the AFC a 7-3 lead. The NFC responded with a 10-play, 58-yard possession. An illegal blitz (an infraction specific to the Pro Bowl) on the AFC converted a third down and Dallas RB Emmitt Smith broke away for a 23-yard gain to the AFC 34. The NFC converted another third down before the drive came to an end at the AFC 20 and Andersen kicked a 37-yard field goal to narrow the score to 7-6.



QB Troy Aikman of the champion Cowboys (pictured at right) was behind center for the next NFC series and came out throwing, hitting on three straight passes to pick up 25 yards, two of them to his Dallas teammate, WR Michael Irvin. The nine-play drive covered 54 yards and ended with Aikman passing to Irvin once more for a nine-yard TD. Andersen converted and the NFC took a 13-7 lead.

The AFC went three-and-out and punted, and with 56 seconds remaining in the first half, Aikman again went to the air, connecting with Atlanta WR Andre Rison for 18 yards, RB Barry Sanders of the Lions for 19, and Rison again for 11 yards. But Aikman’s next two passes fell incomplete, with a Sanders run for no gain in between, and Andersen’s field goal try was blocked by DE Leslie O’Neal of the Chargers and returned by Miami LB Bryan Cox to the NFC 35.

Houston QB Warren Moon completed a pass to Jeffires and it appeared that time had run out in the half before the receiver got out of bounds. Players began to head to the locker room and technicians started to pull sets for the halftime show onto the field. But the officials ruled that there were still two seconds remaining and the field was cleared. On the final play of the half, Lowery booted a 42-yard field goal and the NFC margin was narrowed to 13-10 at halftime.

The AFC started the third quarter off with a short series and punted. On the NFC’s third play, Aikman threw to Dallas TE Jay Novacek for 26 yards, but after Sanders ran twice to gain another 14 yards, Aikman’s next pass was picked off by SS Henry Jones of the Bills, who returned it 32 yards to the NFC 42. With Pittsburgh RB Barry Foster (pictured at top) running effectively and his teammate with the Steelers, QB Neil O’Donnell, completing a pass, the AFC reached the 11 before settling for a 29-yard Lowery field goal to tie the score at 13-13.

Atlanta CB Deion Sanders returned the ensuing kickoff 46 yards and the NFC started with good field position near midfield. QB Brett Favre of the Packers was in the game and misfired on his first three passes before connecting with San Francisco WR Jerry Rice for 48 yards to the AFC two. RB Ricky Watters of the 49ers lost two yards on first down and, while Rice picked up three yards on a short toss from Favre, the AFC defense held as Favre was stuffed for no gain on a quarterback sneak and, on fourth down, Watters dove for the end zone and came up short.

The AFC had possession as the game headed into the fourth quarter. O’Donnell completed passes to Houston WR Ernest Givins for six yards and WR Andre Reed of the Bills for nine, but the AFC had to punt. RB Johnny Bailey of the Cardinals returned the kick but fumbled when hit by Buffalo WR Steve Tasker, the AFC’s special teams representative, and punter Rohn Stark of the Colts recovered at the AFC 39. However, on the next play O’Donnell’s pass was intercepted by Phoenix SS Tim McDonald.

The NFC punted for the first (and only) time following a short series and a 20-yard return by Indianapolis WR Clarence Verdin had another 15 yards tacked on for unnecessary roughness. Starting at the NFC 37, the AFC netted a yard in three plays and Lowery missed a 54-yard field goal attempt.

Favre threw to WR Fred Barnett of the Eagles for 16 yards on first down and the NFC maintained possession when an apparent interception was nullified by a pass interference penalty. Favre was sacked by DE Howie Long of the Raiders on third down and that set up another big play for the AFC on special teams. A field goal try by Andersen was blocked by Tasker and CB Terry McDaniel of the Raiders recovered and ran 28 yards for a touchdown. Lowery converted and the AFC was back in front by 20-13 with eight minutes left in regulation.

Young was back at quarterback for the NFC and he threw to Irvin for 19 yards and ran for eight. Sanders ran for six yards and it was Young to Irvin again for 12 to the AFC 35, but a holding penalty backed the NFC up and the next two passes were incomplete before Young was intercepted by Buffalo CB Nate Odomes.

The AFC punted following the next series and the NFC took over at its 22 with less than three minutes remaining on the clock. Young threw to Rice for 16 yards but was sacked by DE Neil Smith of the Chiefs for a loss of eight. Two plays later, he passed to Brent Jones for 16 yards and a first down and, after another sack, connected with Rison for 18. Throws to Novacek and Rison got the ball to the AFC 20, but the next two passes were incomplete and Young was sacked by Cox on third down. Facing fourth down and with time running out, a scrambling Young completed a throw to RB Rodney Hampton of the Giants at the goal line for a 23-yard touchdown with ten seconds remaining in regulation. Andersen tied the score at 20-20 with the point after and, with the score tied at 20-20 at the end of four quarters, the game went into overtime.

The NFC won the toss and had the first possession in overtime, but Young fumbled when caught from behind by Kansas City LB Derrick Thomas while scrambling and Long recovered for the AFC at the NFC 28. Foster ran the ball four times to reach the NFC 16 before Lowery came on to kick the game-winning 33-yard field goal at 4:09 into OT. The AFC won the first overtime Pro Bowl game by a final score of 23-20.

The NFC far outgained the AFC (472 yards to 114) and also had big margins in first downs (30 to 9) and offensive plays (90 to 50). However, the NFC turned the ball over six times, to one suffered by the AFC, and the AFC had both an interception and blocked field goal returned for touchdowns.

Dan Marino completed just three of nine passes for 31 yards and Neil O’Donnell had the most completed passes for the AFC, with four, out of seven attempts for 23 yards with one intercepted. Barry Foster rushed for 57 yards on 15 carries to lead the team by far (runner-up was RB Harold Green of the Bengals with nine yards on four attempts). Haywood Jeffires led the receivers with three catches for 26 yards and Anthony Miller contributed 23 yards on his two receptions. Steve Tasker (pictured below) was named the game’s MVP as he accounted for four tackles, a forced fumble, and a blocked kick. Regularly recognized for his outstanding play on special teams, Tasker was appearing in his fourth of an eventual seven Pro Bowls.


For the NFC, Steve Young was successful on 18 of 32 throws for 196 yards and a TD, but gave up three interceptions and had the disastrous fumble in overtime. He also led the team in rushing with 34 yards on six carries. Troy Aikman was 10-of-15 for 120 yards with a touchdown and an interception and Brett Favre, making his first Pro Bowl appearance, completed four of eight passes for 74 yards with no TDs or pickoffs. Andre Rison had 8 catches for 80 yards and Jerry Rice gained 78 yards on his four receptions while Michael Irvin scored a TD among his 5 catches for 59 yards.

The game marked the first time that the Pro Bowl went into overtime and reduced the NFC’s lead in the series to 13-10 since going to the AFC vs. NFC format following the 1970 AFL/NFL merger.

February 5, 2016

1991: Bill Belichick Becomes Head Coach of Cleveland Browns


On February 5, 1991 owner Art Modell of the Cleveland Browns introduced Bill Belichick at a press conference as the eighth head coach in franchise history (not counting interims). He received a five-year contract and, two months shy of his 39th birthday, was the youngest head coach in the NFL at the time.

Belichick had most recently been defensive coordinator of the New York Giants, who had edged Buffalo in the Super Bowl less than two weeks previously. He beat out Mike White, the quarterback coach of the Los Angeles Raiders, to succeed to the job that Bud Carson was forced to vacate after nine games of his second season at the helm (Jim Shofner was the interim coach for the last seven contests).

The son of Steve Belichick, who played for one season in the NFL as a fullback for the Detroit Lions in 1941 and went on to become a highly regarded college scout, Belichick was a graduate of Wesleyan University in Connecticut. His first NFL assistant coaching job was with the Baltimore Colts in 1975 at age 23 as a low-paid special assistant, essentially studying game film and running errands. He moved on to more significant positions with the Lions and Broncos before joining the Giants in 1979. In New York, he started out coaching special teams under Head Coach Ray Perkins, added linebackers to his responsibilities, and, retained by Bill Parcells, moved up to defensive coordinator in 1985. The Giants won two Super Bowls during Belichick’s tenure and the defense was a key to the team’s success.

Belichick already had a reputation as a hard worker with strong organizational skills, who was also intense and a highly knowledgeable student of the game. He inherited a team that was coming off of a dismal 3-13 record in 1990 after five straight playoff seasons. In selecting his staff, Belichick retained one holdover assistant, offensive line coach Hal Hunter, and included Nick Saban as defensive coordinator and Gary Tranquill, a career college assistant, to coach the quarterbacks.

The Browns improved to 6-10 in ’91 and were noticeably more competitive. Veteran QB Bernie Kosar, who had taken a beating in recent seasons, was sacked 41 times but also passed for 3487 yards and 18 touchdowns while giving up nine interceptions. The big-back combination of FB Kevin Mack and RB Leroy Hoard was effective and the receivers, led by WR Webster Slaughter, were capable. DT Michael Dean Perry initially held out but came back to make the Pro Bowl for the third straight year while providing leadership to a young defensive line. 36-year-old LB Clay Matthews was utilized primarily for his skill as a pass rusher and did well although injuries decimated the defensive backfield, where SS Eric Turner, the team’s first draft choice, missed the first half of the season due to a stress fracture in his foot but came on strong when he finally took the field.

The record was slightly better at 7-9 in 1992, although the Browns were at 7-6 before losing their last three contests. Kosar was limited to seven games due to a broken ankle, and with backup QB Todd Philcox also going down, journeyman Mike Tomczak accumulated eight starts. Rookie FB Tommy Vardell joined the corps of power running backs while HB Eric Metcalf was outstanding as a third-down back and punt returner. There was retooling among the receivers, where WR Michael Jackson had a breakout season and ex-Giants TE Mark Bavaro was steady. On defense, Perry got off to a slow start and complained about his role but came on stronger as the season progressed. Matthews appeared to be ageless and he and DE Rob Burnett led the club with nine sacks apiece. Age and injuries were still an issue in the backfield.

The 1993 season was highlighted by the dramatic, and controversial, decision to jettison Kosar from the team after seven games. The move was all the more stunning because Vinny Testaverde, the veteran obtained from the Buccaneers to back up Kosar, was injured and the team had to go with Philcox. The club lost four straight games, but Testaverde performed well when he took over the starting job and the Browns duplicated their ’92 record at 7-9. Vardell led the team in rushing and Metcalf was an All-Pro in his all-purpose role. WR Mark Carrier, another ex-Buc, teamed well with Jackson and the line, built around center Steve Everitt, was much improved. The defense was strongest on the line and in the backfield, but the linebackers were showing their age and lack of speed.

The pressure was on Belichick to show greater results in 1994, and the Browns responded by going 11-5 and reaching the playoffs. Testaverde’s performance was uneven but the play of other personnel on offense helped. When Vardell went down with a season-ending knee injury, Hoard ably stepped in and was named to the Pro Bowl along with Metcalf. Four starters on defense also made the Pro Bowl, including Perry, Burnett, Turner (who was also a first-team All-Pro by AP and the Pro Football Writers), and ex-Giants LB Pepper Johnson.  Both of the team’s first-round draft picks, CB Antonio Langham and WR Derrick Alexander, contributed significantly. Having finished second in the AFC Central, the Browns defeated New England in the Wild Card playoff round before losing to the division-rival Steelers at the Divisional level. It was a solid year and expectations were high for 1995.

Those high expectations failed to materialize. Cleveland got off to a 3-1 start, lost three straight, and was at 4-4 before the bottom fell out. Modell announced that the franchise would be moved to Baltimore in 1996 and the distracted club finished up at 1-7 for an overall record of 5-11. Testaverde was benched for four games and WR Andre Rison, who was brought in as a free agent from Atlanta at high cost to upgrade the receiving corps, proved a poor fit and became a negative presence in the locker room. The defense also slipped badly, and Turner was injured for half the season.

After five years, Belichick’s tenure with the Browns came to an end. His overall regular season record was 36-44 and 1-1 in the postseason. He took over a team in dire need of rebuilding and had steadily done so, making the greatest progress on the offensive line and the defense. The team had drafted well and, except in the notorious case of Rison, made good veteran pickups to fill holes.  Belichick had drawn criticism for his dour demeanor, which alienated the media and fans, and his intensity wore thin, not least with Modell, who initially had given the coach a vote of confidence to go with the team to Baltimore in ’96, only to dismiss him instead (Belichick was succeeded by one of his mentors, Ted Marchibroda, under whom he had served in his first assistant coaching job).

Belichick rejoined Bill Parcells, now head coach of the Patriots, in ’96 and went with him to the Jets the following year, acting as assistant head coach. He was set to replace Parcells with the Jets in 2000 but backed out to instead become head coach in New England. A year later, the Patriots won their first of six AFC titles and four Super Bowls (to date) under Belichick’s direction.

February 4, 2016

Highlighted Year: Frank Garcia, 1983

Punter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers



Age: 26
2nd season in pro football, 1st with Buccaneers
College: Arizona
Height: 6’0”   Weight: 205

Prelude:
A versatile player in high school who played quarterback and halfback as well as handling the placekicking and punting, Garcia performed well as a punter in college. He had difficulty catching on as a pro, however, failing to catch on with Atlanta in 1979, San Diego in ’80, and both Green Bay and Tampa Bay in 1981 before appearing in one game with Seattle after punter Jeff West was injured. He was let go by the Seahawks in ’82 and joined the Chicago Blitz of the USFL in the spring of 1983 but was cut once again after averaging 37.5 yards on 18 punts, with two touchbacks and eight inside the 20. Garcia got another shot with the Buccaneers and made the club.

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

Punting
Punts – 95 [1]
Most punts, game – 10 at Green Bay 10/2
Yards – 4008 [2]
Average – 42.2 [6, 1st in NFC]
Best average, game – 48.4 (on 8 punts) at Minnesota 11/6
Punts blocked – 1 [3, tied with ten others]
Longest punt – 64 yards

Awards & Honors:
2nd team All-NFC: UPI

Buccaneers went 2-14 to finish fifth in the NFC Central while generating the fewest total yards (4477) in the NFL.

Aftermath:
Garcia spent another four seasons with the Buccaneers and remained steady, if not outstanding. Typically, his net average ranked lower than his gross average. He was let go after a 1987 season in which his average dipped to a low of 38.9 yards with a poor net average of 28.3. Overall, he averaged 41.1 yards on 379 punts with Tampa Bay.

--

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

February 2, 2016

1986: Simms Rallies NFC to Pro Bowl Win


It was a calm, sunny day at Aloha Stadium with 50,101 fans in attendance for the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl on February 2, 1986, marking the seventh straight year that the NFL’s annual all-star game was held in Honolulu. The coaches were John Robinson of the Rams for the NFC and Miami’s Don Shula for the AFC.

The NFC had first possession and advanced to the AFC 37 but came up empty when Morten Andersen of the Saints missed a 54-yard field goal attempt. The AFC drove 63 yards in 11 plays as San Diego QB Dan Fouts completed five passes, three of them to WR Steve Largent of the Seahawks. RB Marcus Allen of the Raiders ran for a two-yard touchdown and Pittsburgh’s Gary Anderson added the extra point.

The teams exchanged punts but the NFC was on the move as the opening period ended thanks to three pass completions by QB Phil Simms of the Giants (pictured above), two of them for 16 yards apiece to Tampa Bay TE Jimmie Giles and WR James Lofton of the Packers. However, facing fourth-and-two at the AFC 31 early in the second quarter, a carry by Atlanta RB Gerald Riggs came up short. But the NFC got a break three plays later when a Fouts pass was intercepted by safety Joey Browner of the Vikings, who returned it 48 yards for a TD. Morten Andersen’s conversion tied the score at 7-7.

The AFC responded with a 78-yard drive in eight plays. Allen ran effectively and Fouts completed another two throws to Largent (pictured below), and it was Allen taking a pitchout and tossing an option pass to San Diego WR Wes Chandler for a 51-yard touchdown. Gary Anderson added the point after and the AFC was back in the lead by 14-7.



QB Jim McMahon of the recently-crowned champion Bears was behind center for the next NFC series, but he was hindered by a knee injury suffered in the Super Bowl. McMahon was sacked for an eight-yard loss by DE Howie Long of the Raiders on first down and, two plays later, was picked off by Denver CB Louis Wright, who returned it 12 yards to the NFC 19. The AFC picked up another three points when Gary Anderson booted a 34-yard field goal four plays later for a 17-7 advantage.

Another short series for the NFC ended with McMahon fumbling when sacked by DE Mark Gastineau of the Jets on third down and Denver DE Rulon Jones recovered for the AFC at the NFC 10. On the next play, QB Ken O’Brien of the Jets connected with Pittsburgh WR Louis Lipps for a touchdown. Gary Anderson added the extra point and, with four minutes remaining in the first half, the AFC held a 24-7 lead, which remained the score at halftime.

The AFC started off the third quarter by advancing to midfield, but O’Brien fumbled when attempting to hand off and Dallas DT Randy White recovered for the NFC at the AFC 49. After a running play lost a yard, Simms, back behind center for the NFC due to McMahon’s injury, completed three consecutive passes, the longest to TE Doug Cosbie of the Cowboys for 23 yards. Simms finished off the six-play possession with a pass to Washington WR Art Monk for a 15-yard TD, Morten Andersen converted, and the AFC lead was narrowed to 24-14.

The teams traded punts before the AFC put together a promising drive. Allen again ran the ball well and Fouts completed three passes, two to Largent for 20 yards and one to Chandler for 23. But after reaching the NFC 18, a Fouts throw into the end zone was intercepted by CB Leroy Irvin of the Rams to snuff out the opportunity.

The clubs again exchanged punts and, as the game entered the fourth quarter, Irvin’s 32-yard punt return put the NFC at the AFC 32. Simms threw to Cosbie for 19 yards and San Francisco RB Roger Craig ran twice for 11 yards. It was Simms to Cosbie for a two-yard touchdown and, with Morten Andersen adding the extra point, the AFC lead was whittled down to three points at 24-21.

The AFC went primarily to the air on the next series and O’Brien connected on five straight passes and a roughing-the-passer penalty on LB Otis Wilson of the Bears put the ball on the NFC 13. But once again the NFC came through with an interception in the end zone as O’Brien’s next toss was picked off by Chicago LB Mike Singletary.

Starting from their 20, the NFC drove 80 yards in 10 plays. Simms converted a third-and-six situation with a completion to Lofton for 19 yards and, after a fumble resulted in a nine-yard loss, he threw to Monk for 17 yards on a third-and-16 play. RB Joe Morris of the Giants gained 11 yards on a fake reverse and, two plays after that, it was Simms to Monk for 17 yards to the AFC 15. From there, Simms connected with Giles for a touchdown and Morten Andersen’s kick made it a four-point game. The AFC had one last shot and it ended when a Fouts pass was intercepted by Irvin to nail down the 28-24 win for the NFC.   

The AFC had the edge in total yards (382 to 272) and first downs (24 to 18). However, they also turned the ball over five times, to two suffered by the NFC.

Phil Simms, who was named the game’s MVP, completed 15 of 27 passes for 212 yards and three touchdowns while giving up no interceptions. The hobbled Jim McMahon was a lackluster one-of-six for seven yards and gave up an interception and fumble. Joe Morris led the NFC rushers with 34 yards on 8 attempts and Roger Craig, who also carried 8 times, was second with 25. Art Monk and Doug Cosbie caught four passes apiece, for 61 and 55 yards, respectively. On defense, LeRoy Irvin accounted for two interceptions and Joey Browner had one that was returned for a score.

For the AFC, Dan Fouts was successful on 16 of 27 throws for 173 yards, but none were for TDs and he was intercepted three times. Ken O’Brien was 8-of-15 for 87 yards and a touchdown with an interception as well. Marcus Allen rushed for 58 yards on 16 carries that included a TD and also threw a scoring pass. Steve Largent caught a then-Pro Bowl-record 8 passes, for 82 yards, and Wes Chandler gained 114 yards on his four pass receptions that included a touchdown. 

“When Jim (McMahon) got hurt, I knew I was going to play the rest of the game,” said Phil Simms. “I can’t say I was real thrilled about Jim getting hurt…but it turned out well.”

The game marked a return to the victory column for the NFC, which lost the previous year’s contest after having won two straight. The NFC held a 10-6 advantage since the AFC vs. NFC format had been adopted following the 1970 merger.

January 31, 2016

Highlighted Year: Joey Galloway, 1997

Wide Receiver, Seattle Seahawks





Age: 26 (Nov. 20)
3rd season in pro football & with Seahawks
College: Ohio State
Height: 5’11” Weight: 188

Prelude:
Galloway caught 108 passes for 1894 yards (17.5 avg.) and 19 touchdowns in college. He was chosen by the Seahawks in the first round of the 1995 NFL draft (eighth overall), who were looking to add speed at wide receiver, and moved directly into the starting lineup. Galloway caught 67 passes for 1039 yards (15.5 avg.) and seven TDs as a rookie and also returned 36 punts for a 10.0 average with one touchdown. He followed up with 57 receptions for 987 yards (17.3 avg.) and seven more TDs in 1996.

1997 Season Summary
Appeared in 15 of 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 72 [15, tied with Andre Rison & Shannon Sharpe]     
Most receptions, game – 8 (for 75 yds.) at St. Louis 10/19, (for 98 yds.) at Denver 11/2
Yards – 1049 [16]
Most yards, game – 117 (on 7 catches) vs. Oakland 10/26
Average gain – 14.6
TDs – 12 [2, tied with James Jett, Rod Smith & Antonio Freeman, 1st in AFC]
100-yard receiving games – 3

Rushing
Attempts – 9
Yards – 72
Yards per attempt – 8.0
TDs – 0

Scoring
TDs – 12 [5, tied with four others]
Points – 72

Seahawks went 8-8 to finish third in the AFC West while leading the NFL in passing yards (3959).

Aftermath:
Galloway had another strong year in 1998, catching 65 passes for 1047 yards (16.1 avg.) and 10 touchdowns, but a long contract holdout in ’99 cost him half the season, as well as good will with the organization, and he was traded to the Dallas Cowboys in 2000. A knee injury suffered in the first week cost him the remainder of the season and he had a mediocre year in 2001, averaging a then-career-low 13.4 yards on 52 catches. He bounced back in ’02 with 61 receptions for 908 yards (14.9 avg.) and six TDs and led the NFL by averaging 19.8 yards, although on just 34 catches, in 2003. Traded to Tampa Bay for WR Keyshawn Johnson in ’04, Galloway spent the next five seasons with the Buccaneers and, following an injury-plagued year in which he was limited to ten games, he achieved career highs with 83 receptions for 1287 yards in 2005. It was the first of three straight thousand-yard receiving seasons in his mid-thirties. A foot injury hindered his performance in 2008 and he was released, finishing up with brief stints with New England and Washington in 2009 and ’10. Overall, Galloway caught 701 passes for 10,950 yards (15.6 avg.) and 77 touchdowns, with 283 of those catches for 4457 yards and 37 TDs coming with the Seahawks. He also returned 141 punts for a 9.6-yard average and five TDs.

--

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