September 2, 2014

1979: Anderson Runs for 193 Yards but Cards Fall to Cowboys


The Dallas Cowboys had won 14 straight opening games as they started another season against the St. Louis Cardinals on September 2, 1979. A perennial contender under Head Coach Tom Landry, Dallas had won a second consecutive NFC Championship in ’78 before losing a close contest to the Steelers in the Super Bowl. The Cowboys were still sound on both sides of the ball, with QB Roger Staubach the NFL’s most efficient passer, outstanding receivers in Drew Pearson and Tony Hill, and a defense that was adept at stopping the run as well as rushing opposing passers, although DE Ed “Too Tall” Jones had departed to try his hand at boxing and SS Charlie Waters went down with a knee injury in the preseason. In addition to the losses on defense, if there was a concern heading into the first week of the ’79 regular season, it was that star RB Tony Dorsett was injured and rookie Ron Springs would be filling in.

The Cardinals had gotten off to a miserable 0-8 start in 1978, but won six of their last eight contests on the way to a 6-10 record. Legendary Univ. of Oklahoma head coach Bud Wilkinson had come out of retirement at age 62 and was back for a second year in St. Louis. QB Jim Hart was coming off a year in which he passed for a career-high 3121 yards, WR Pat Tilley had emerged as a quality possession receiver, and the offensive line was anchored by stalwarts in OT Dan Dierdorf, G Bob Young, and C Tom Banks. However, there was a lack of speed at running back, a situation that had been addressed by taking Univ. of Miami RB Ottis Anderson (pictured above) with the eighth overall pick in the first round of the NFL draft.

There were 50,855 fans on hand at Busch Memorial Stadium. The Cowboys struck first in the opening period when Rafael Septien kicked a 37-yard field goal. They scored again on a four-yard run by FB Robert Newhouse in the second quarter and, with Septien’s extra point, were up by 10-0. However, a 33-yard run by Ottis Anderson set up a two-yard touchdown pass from Jim Hart to TE Al Chandler. Mike Wood added the PAT and the score was 10-7 at the half.

Midway through the third quarter, Septien kicked a 24-yard field goal to extend the Dallas lead to six points. However, a fumble deep in Dallas territory by TE Doug Cosbie was recovered by St. Louis CB Roger Wehrli and set up the second touchdown for the Cardinals which came on an 18-yard pass completion from Hart to Pat Tilley. Wood’s extra point put the home team in the lead by 14-13.

The Cowboys responded with a 79-yard drive. Roger Staubach completed passes of 12 and 21 yards along the way and the series concluded with Ron Springs throwing an option pass to Tony Hill for a 30-yard TD. Dallas failed to add the extra point but was back in front by 19-14 with 12:35 remaining in the game.

The Cards were unable to move on their next series, but on the following possession Anderson broke away for a 76-yard touchdown run, and it seemed as though an upset might be in the making. Wood added the PAT and St. Louis was up by two points with time running down.

DB Wade Manning returned the ensuing kickoff 47 yards to give Dallas good starting field position at the St. Louis 48. Newhouse gained 14 yards on two carries and Staubach completed a pass to Hill for seven yards. With 1:16 remaining on the clock, Septien booted a 27-yard field goal and the Cowboys came away with a narrow 22-21 win.

Dallas led in total yards (455 to 342) and first downs (24 to 17). Both teams were productive on the ground, with St. Louis piling up 237 rushing yards to 161 for Dallas, but the Cowboys were far more effective through the air, compiling 294 net passing yards to 105 for the Cards. St. Louis also turned the ball over twice, to one turnover suffered by the Cowboys.



Roger Staubach (pictured above) completed 20 of 34 passes for 269 yards and, while he threw for no touchdowns, he also gave up no interceptions. Robert Newhouse gained 108 yards on 18 carries and scored a TD. Ron Springs rushed for just 30 yards on 15 attempts but also threw the 30-yard scoring pass. Tony Hill caught five passes for 113 yards and a score and Drew Pearson was right behind with five receptions for 99 yards.

For the Cardinals, Ottis Anderson was the star on offense with 193 yards on 21 carries that included the one long touchdown run. FB Wayne Morris contributed 41 yards on 10 attempts and had four catches for 28 yards. Jim Hart was successful on 12 of his 29 throws for 112 yards and two TDs, but also gave up two interceptions. Al Chandler had four receptions for 21 yards and a touchdown and Mel Gray and Pat Tilley each pulled in two passes apiece, for 32 and 31 yards, respectively. One of Tilley’s was good for a score.

The narrow escape in St. Louis did not immediately portend trouble for the Cowboys, who got off to a 7-1 start on the way to winning the NFC East for the fourth straight year with an 11-5 record. They were upset by the Rams in the Divisional playoff round. The Cardinals won their next contest but lost the next three on the way to a 5-11 finish and the bottom of the division. Bud Wilkinson failed to last the year and Jim Hart found himself being challenged by former first draft choice Steve Pisarkiewicz.

Ottis Anderson proved to be a bright spot amid the gloom in St. Louis. His outstanding opening week performance was the first of nine 100-yard rushing games on the way to 1605 yards on 331 carries (4.8 avg.). He scored a total of 10 touchdowns (8 rushing, 2 receiving) and received consensus first-team All-NFL as well as Pro Bowl honors. Anderson also was named NFC Player of the Year by The Sporting News and was the Associated Press selection for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

September 1, 2014

Highlighted Year: Matt Bahr, 1984

Placekicker, Cleveland Browns



Age:  28
6th season in pro football, 4th (3rd complete) with Browns
College: Penn State
Height: 5’10” Weight: 175

Prelude:
One of two brothers to become placekickers in the NFL (his older sibling Chris kicked for the Bengals, Raiders, and Chargers), Bahr received All-America honors in college after connecting on 81.5 percent of his field goals and was chosen by the Steelers in the sixth round of the 1979 NFL draft. He also played soccer, in college and professionally with the Colorado Caribous and Tulsa Roughnecks of the North American Soccer League, before joining the Steelers. Bahr kicked 18 field goals and a league-leading 50 extra points for Pittsburgh in 1979, a season capped with a Super Bowl victory, and played a second year before being beaten out by David Trout in the ’81 preseason and moving on to the San Francisco 49ers. He was traded to Cleveland four games into the season and, while there were concerns about the length of his kickoffs, Bahr connected on a solid 13 of 20 field goal tries. Following a lesser year in 1982, he rebounded in ’83 to lead the NFL with an 87.5 field goal percentage (21 of 24).

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

Kicking
Field goals – 24 [4, tied with Mark Moseley & Gary Anderson; 1st in AFC]
Most field goals, game – 3 vs. New England 10/7, at Atlanta 11/18
Field goal attempts – 32 [7, tied with Gary Anderson]
Most field goal attempts, game – 4 vs. New England 10/7
Field goal percentage – 75.0 [9]
PATs – 25
PAT attempts – 25
Longest field goal – 50 yards at Cincinnati 10/21

Scoring
Field Goals – 24
PATs – 25
Points – 97 [17]

Browns went 5-11 to finish third in the AFC Central.

Aftermath:
Bahr spent another five seasons with the Browns, although injuries were a factor when he tore knee ligaments while making a tackle in 1986 that cost him the remaining four games that year, the postseason, and most of ’87. After kicking 143 field goals and 248 extra points, resulting in 677 points for the Browns, Bahr moved on to the New York Giants in 1990 and, in addition to 17 field goals in 13 regular season contests, booted five field goals against the 49ers in winning the NFC Championship game 15-13. He also was successful on both of his three-point attempts in the one-point Super Bowl win over Buffalo. After two more years with New York, Bahr started the 1993 season with Philadelphia, who waived him in December, and finished up with New England, where he kicked a career-high 27 field goals in ’94. He played one more season for the Patriots (and was cut in the 1996 preseason in favor of rookie Adam Vinatieri)  and concluded his 17-year career with 300 field goals out of 415 attempts (72.3 %), 522 extra points, and 1422 points, which ranked ninth in NFL history at the time.

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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

August 31, 2014

1997: Eddie George Runs for 216 Yards as Oilers Beat Raiders in Tennessee Debut


The team that had been known as the Houston Oilers for 37 years began a new chapter as a Tennessee-based franchise on August 31, 1997. Coached by Jeff Fisher, the Oilers were coming off of an 8-8 record in ’96. While they faded badly after getting off to a 5-2 start, they were a rebuilding team that also showed improvement and had young talent at key positions. Mobile third-year QB Steve McNair was heading into his first season as the starter, with veteran Chris Chandler having been dealt away during the offseason. RB Eddie George (pictured at right) rushed for 1368 yards and received Rookie of the Year recognition, and he was expected to carry even more of a load in his second year.

The team they were facing in the opening week was the Raiders, who had returned to Oakland two years before after a 13-season sojourn in Los Angeles. The Raiders were coming off a 7-9 tally in 1996 and had made changes at head coach, where Joe Bugel was replacing Mike White, and quarterback, with the talented but immature Jeff George taking over from Jeff Hostetler. They also had a fine runner in Napoleon Kaufman and a reliable receiver in WR Tim Brown. However, the defense was full of question marks.

There was a disappointing crowd of 30,171 in attendance at the 62,300-seat Liberty Bowl in Memphis, which was to serve as a first-year home for the Nashville-bound club, on a damp and hazy day, and many of them were there to support the visiting Raiders.

The teams exchanged punts to start the game. Commencing their second possession from their own nine yard line, the Raiders suffered a turnover when Napoleon Kaufman fumbled after catching a pass from Jeff George and the LB Lonnie Marts recovered for the Oilers at the 20. Four plays later, Al Del Greco kicked a 30-yard field goal to put the home team in front by 3-0.

Oakland responded by moving into Tennessee territory when George threw to TE Rickey Dudley for a 26-yard gain. Two runs by Kaufman gained nine yards but a third down option pass was incomplete and Cole Ford’s 46-yard field goal attempt was wide to the left.

The Oilers came back with a five-play, 63-yard drive that featured a pass from Steve McNair to WR Willie Davis that picked up 21 yards to the Oakland 38. Another pass by McNair resulted in a 48-yard touchdown completion to WR Chris Sanders. Del Greco added the extra point and Tennessee took a 10-0 lead into the second quarter.

Following a punt by the Raiders, Tennessee’s next series ended with McNair being intercepted by SS James Trapp to give Oakland good starting field position at the Oilers’ 49. However, after advancing to the 37, the visitors lost ground and once again had to punt. Oakland again got the ball back on a turnover, this time a fumble by WR Derrick Mason, and again failed to capitalize. The half ended with the Oilers ahead by ten, and Eddie George had already gained 95 yards rushing.

Tennessee started off the third quarter with a 14-play series that covered 47 yards, converting two third downs along the way, and finishing up with Del Greco kicking a 37-yard field goal. But down by 13 points, the Raiders struck quickly on their next possession. On the second play, George completed a pass to Tim Brown for a 59-yard touchdown and, with Ford’s successful conversion, the tally stood at 13-7.

Following a short series by the Oilers that resulted in a punt, Oakland put together another scoring drive that stretched into the final period and was helped along by a pass interference penalty in a third-and-nine situation. George completed passes to Brown for 19 and 13 yards along the way and capped the nine-play, 75-yard possession with another throw to Brown for a 27-yard TD. With Ford’s extra point, the Raiders were in the lead by 14-13.

The teams traded punts before Tennessee put together a 90-yard series that took 13 plays. The last six were all runs by George, the final carry good for a 29-yard touchdown. George then successfully ran for a two-point conversion and, with just over two minutes remaining in regulation, the Oilers were back in the lead at 21-14.

The Raiders started off from their own 47 following a 34-yard kickoff return by RB Tim Hall. George completed four straight passes, the longest covering 18 yards to WR Olanda Truitt, to get to the Tennessee 16. The next three throws fell incomplete and, while RB Derrick Fenner ran for seven yards, two sacks had the Raiders back at the 16 and facing fourth-and-goal and the clock down to 28 seconds. However, George tossed a bullet to Brown between two defenders for a TD and, with Ford adding the all-important extra point, the game was tied at 21-21 and went into overtime.

Tennessee had the first possession in the extra period but went three-and-out and had to punt. The Raiders were no more successful and punted in turn. Starting at their 35, the Oilers got two pass completions from McNair to TE Frank Wycheck, one for 21 yards and then for 10 to reach the Oakland 32. McNair ran the ball himself around end for 11 more yards and, after George went up the middle for six yards, Del Greco came in to kick the decisive field goal from 33 yards. The Oilers came away the winner in their first game as a Tennessee team by the final score of 24-21.

Tennessee had more total yards (419 to 332), with 255 yards of that total coming on the ground, and also had the edge in first downs (20 to 17). The Oilers also turned the ball over twice, to one turnover suffered by Oakland. Each team recorded three sacks.

Eddie George rushed for 216 yards on 35 carries that included a touchdown – it was the second-highest opening-game rushing total in NFL history at the time. Steve McNair completed 13 of 25 passes for 182 yards and had one TD as well as one interception. He further contributed 23 yards on the ground. RB Ronnie Harmon caught 5 passes for 50 yards and Chris Sanders gained 51 yards on his two receptions that included a touchdown. Al Del Greco was successful on all three of his field goal attempts, including the game-winner in overtime.



For the Raiders, Jeff George (pictured at left) was successful on 21 of 37 throws for 298 yards and three TDs with none intercepted. Tim Brown caught 8 of those passes for 158 yards and three scores. Napoleon Kauffman ran for just 32 yards on 12 carries.

Coach Jeff Fisher awarded a game ball to Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist, but garbled the presentation by saying “This is from the Hou…er, Tennessee… Oilers organization.”

The Week 1 win was followed by four consecutive losses before the Oilers won six of their next eight contests and finished up with another 8-8 season that placed them third in the AFC Central. Practicing in Nashville, 210 miles away, while playing before sparse crowds in Memphis hurt, and the team moved to Nashville’s Vanderbilt Stadium in 1998 before finally coming to rest in a newly-constructed stadium in ’99 – and with a new name, the Titans, as well.

The Raiders dropped to 4-12, tying with San Diego at the bottom of the AFC West. While Jeff George passed for a league-leading 3917 yards and topped the AFC with 29 TD passes and Tim Brown caught 104 passes for 1408 yards, they could not make up for poor defensive play.

Eddie George went on to rush for 1399 yards on 357 carries (3.9 avg.) and was chosen to the Pro Bowl for the first of four straight seasons. The 216-yard performance against Oakland remained his career high.

August 30, 2014

1945: Hutson TD on Interception Caps Win for Packers Over College All-Stars


The 12th College All-Star Game on August 30, 1945 featured the Green Bay Packers, NFL Champions of the previous year, against an All-Star team coached by Bernie Bierman of Minnesota. The Packers, appearing in the annual contest for the third time, were coached by Curly Lambeau and featured end Don Hutson (pictured above), the NFL’s top receiver and scorer, who would also prove his value as a defensive back.

Bernie Bierman was head coach of the All-Stars for the second time, having been coach when the collegians tied the Detroit Lions in 1936. The roster featured future pro stars such as halfbacks Charlie Trippi of Georgia (pictured below) and Tom Harmon of Michigan, tackles Bill Willis from Ohio State and Purdue’s Dick Barwegan, who had all appeared in prior All-Star Games due to the liberalized wartime eligibility rules that allowed underclassmen to play.



There were 92,753 fans in attendance at Soldier Field on a very hot night, most of them rooting for the collegians, but the All-Stars were rarely able to dent the Packers, and were hurt by turnovers when they did. Green Bay took the opening kickoff and, with tailback Irv Comp passing effectively, the Packers drove to the All-Star 12 yard line and Don Hutson kicked a 20-yard field goal.

A quick kick by Charlie Trippi pinned the pro champs back and gave the All-Stars good field position on the ensuing punt, but C/LB Charley Brock intercepted a pass on his eight yard line and returned it 25 yards.

The Packers reached the All-Star 20 on the first play of the second quarter thanks to a run by FB Don Perkins, but a pass into the end zone was intercepted by Washington State FB/DB Bob Kennedy. However, after crossing the goal line, he retreated back into the end zone and was tackled for a safety. Instead of giving the ball up on a turnover, Green Bay was ahead by an extended margin of 5-0.

Following a fumble by Texas Tech FB Walter Schlinkman that was recovered by tackle Buford “Baby” Ray, the Packers struck quickly on a 20-yard touchdown pass from tailback Tex McKay to HB Herman Rohrig. Hutson added the point after to lengthen Green Bay’s lead to 12-0.

The All-Stars responded by moving well on offense and scoring on a pass from Kennedy to St. Joseph end Nick Scollard that covered 63 yards, with the receiver evading one defender and going the last 20 yards unmolested. Tom Harmon kicked the extra point and the tally remained 12-7 at the half.

The All-Stars got a break in the third quarter when Comp fumbled when hit by Bill Willis and G Damon Tassos of Texas A & M recovered at the Green Bay 34. The All-Stars, however, once again came up empty.

The Packers passed their way to midfield but a long throw by HB Lou Brock was picked off by Trippi at the eight, and he returned it to the 34. Any momentum shift ended when Harmon, caught from behind by Hutson and end Clyde Goodnight after breaking away for a 46-yard gain, fumbled and Brock recovered for the defending champs. However, the All-Stars got the ball back on the last play of the period when Indiana tackle Ed Bell recovered a fumble by HB Joe Laws at the Green Bay 31.

It looked like trouble for the Packers until Hutson intercepted a pass by HB Perry Moss from Tulsa on his own 15 and returned it 85 yards for a game-breaking touchdown. For good measure, Hutson also kicked the extra point.

The All-Stars threatened once more when Trippi intercepted a pass, returning it to the Green Bay two before being knocked out of bounds, and out of the game, by Laws. After the collegians were flagged for being offside, Ohio State QB Les Horvath fumbled and end Harry Jacunski recovered for the Packers at the 17 to end the threat. The final score was 19-7 for the Packers.

The All-Stars had more yards through the air (162 to 95) while the Packers outgained the collegians on the ground (132 yards to 68). Green Bay had the edge in first downs (15 to 12). Don Hutson accounted for 11 points on a touchdown, field goal, and two extra points.

The win for Green Bay put the NFL ahead of the collegians in the series by seven to three, with two ties. The Packers went on to post a 6-4 record in the regular season, finishing third in the Western Division. Don Hutson, in his final year, led the NFL in pass receptions for the eighth time with 47 catches and scored 97 points, which ranked second in the league.

Charlie Trippi, the MVP for the All-Stars, went on to a nine-year career with the Chicago Cardinals that resulted in his being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He would go on to appear in one more College All-Star Game, this time as a member of the Cards in 1948.

August 29, 2014

1935: Bears Shut Out College All-Stars


The second edition of the College All-Star Game, played on August 29, 1935 for the benefit of Chicago charities, was the first (and only) in the series in which the team representing the professionals was not the defending NFL (or, later, Super Bowl) champion. The Chicago Bears, back for a second straight year after playing to a scoreless tie in the inaugural event, had gone undefeated in topping the Western Division in 1934 but lost the title game to the Giants.

The Bears, coached by George Halas, were hindered by injuries to FB Bronko Nagurski and HB Gene Ronzani , both of whom played only briefly, and were also without their regular quarterbacks, Carl Brumbaugh and Keith Molesworth.

The All-Stars, who were picked by the votes of over 737,000 fans, were coached by Alabama’s Frank Thomas and contained future Hall of Fame end Don Hutson out of Alabama, future Green Bay coach Phil Bengtson, a tackle from Minnesota, and future President of the United States Gerald Ford, a center who starred at Michigan.

There was a big crowd of 77,450 in attendance at Soldier Field for the Thursday night game with heavy rain falling throughout much of the contest. The Bears got on the board in the first quarter of what quickly turned into a defensive struggle. Carries of 18 and 12 yards by HB Beattie Feathers (pictured above) put the ball on the All-Star three yard line, but Chicago was unable to cross the goal line in the next three plays and settled for a 27-yard field goal by Jack Manders.

That was it until the final period. The collegians got a break at one point when Chicago drew a 15-yard penalty after reaching the All-Star two and came up empty, but by and large the teams punted often while maneuvering for field position.

In the fourth quarter, HB Bill Shepherd of Western Maryland, attempting to punt from his own end zone, dropped the ball as he fielded a bad snap and was smothered for a safety by the Bears. Still, the All-Stars nearly managed to pull the game out. They got their best field position of the game at the Chicago 42 thanks to a short punt. Following a one-yard run, Shepherd took off around end for 14 yards and then Don Hutson ran the ball on a reverse and reached the eight yard line. However, at that point the Bears held on defense and the All-Stars were forced to give up the ball on downs. Chicago came away the winner by a final score of 5-0.

The Bears had the advantage in total yards (166 to 127) and first downs (10 to 6). Each team punted 14 times and both had just two pass completions apiece due to the weather conditions, on nine attempts by the All-Stars and 11 by Chicago. The Bears were hurt by 112 yards in penalties.

Bill Shepherd and tackle Tony Blazine of Illinois Wesleyan had the most noteworthy performances for the All-Stars. Beattie Feathers, who had been a participant the previous year as a member of the All-Stars, played well for the Bears, with some effective line-drive punts as well as his running.

“It was that damned rain,” said Coach Thomas of the All-Stars, explaining his squad’s defeat. “It turned what started out to be a great wide-open game into a battle where the style was cramped.”

The Bears went 6-4-2 during the regular season, which, with all of the Western Division teams finishing with winning records, placed them third behind the Lions and Packers. They would go on to play in a total of seven College All-Star Games, compiling a record of 5-1-1.

Bill Shepherd started off the 1935 season with the Boston Redskins, but was traded to Detroit and was a component of the Lions’ outstanding ground attack on the way to winning the NFL Championship. He received second-team All-NFL honors from UPI and the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Shepherd stayed with the Lions for five more years and continued to be a key player in the backfield.

August 27, 2014

Rookie of the Year: Claude Humphrey, 1968

Defensive End, Atlanta Falcons



Age: 24
College: Tennessee State
Height: 6’5”   Weight: 255

Prelude:
Following a college career that was capped by receiving All-American honors in 1967 from The Sporting News and Time magazine, Humphrey was chosen in the first round (third overall) by the Falcons in the 1968 AFL/NFL combined draft. He moved directly into the starting lineup and made an impact with his skill as a pass rusher.

1968 Season Summary
Appeared in all 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Sacks – 11.5 (unofficial)
Interceptions – 0
Fumble recoveries – 3

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

Falcons went 2-12 to finish fourth in the Coastal Division of the NFL Western Conference.  

Aftermath:
Humphrey continued to develop in 1969, receiving second-team All-NFL honors from NEA and UPI, and was chosen to the Pro Bowl for the first of five straight years in ’70. He was a consensus first-team All-NFL selection in 1972 and ’73. Humphrey missed only two games in his first seven years, but lost all of 1975 due to a major knee injury. He came back in ’76 to achieve an unofficial career high in sacks with 15 and was back in the Pro Bowl in 1977, a season in which the Falcons defense excelled and gave up just 129 points. However, four games into the ’78 season Humphrey abruptly retired. The Falcons traded him to the Philadelphia in the offseason, and he came back with the Eagles to play another three years that included a NFC Championship in ’80. Utilized as a pass rushing specialist in his last two seasons, he was credited with 14.5 sacks in 1980. Overall, he played in 171 games over 13 seasons and, while sacks were not yet officially compiled, he was unofficially credited with 122 over that time. In addition to twice being a consensus first-team All-NFL choice, he received at least second-team or all-conference selections after six other seasons and was named to the Pro Bowl on six occasions as well. Humphrey was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 2014.

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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).

August 26, 2014

Highlighted Year: Ashley Ambrose, 1996

Cornerback, Cincinnati Bengals



Age: 26 (Sept. 17)
5th season in pro football, 1st with Bengals
College: Mississippi Valley State
Height: 5’10” Weight: 192

Prelude:
Ambrose was chosen by the Indianapolis Colts in the second round of the 1992 NFL draft. While he displayed talent on coverage, he was also inconsistent and failed to live up to expectations. He intercepted five passes, all in his last two years in Indianapolis, and had a good postseason as Indianapolis advanced to the AFC Championship game in 1995. Ambrose moved on to the Bengals as a free agent for ‘96.

1996 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Interceptions – 8 [3]
Most interceptions, game – 2 at San Diego 9/8
Int. return yards – 63
Most int. return yards, game – 31 (on 1 int.) at Buffalo 11/17
Int. TDs – 1 [4, tied with many]
Sacks – 0
Fumble recoveries – 0
Forced fumbles – 1
Tackles – 44
Assists – 6

Scoring
TDs – 1
Points – 6

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

Bengals went 8-8 to finish third in the AFC Central and led the NFL with 34 interceptions.

Aftermath:
Ambrose followed up his breakout year with another solid effort in 1997, but problems at the other cornerback position combined with a deficient pass rush made it more challenging. After three years in Cincinnati, he moved on to the Saints in ’99 and then signed with Atlanta in 2000, where he combined with Ray Buchanan to create a fine cornerback tandem. Making up for diminishing speed with savvy, Ambrose spent three seasons with the Falcons before returning to New Orleans in 2003 for his final two years (he signed with the Chiefs in 2005, but was released prior to the regular season). Over the course of 13 seasons, Ambrose intercepted 42 passes, three of which he returned for touchdowns. He overcame a slow start with the Colts to become a good, if not spectacular, NFL cornerback and 1996 remained the only season in which he received All-NFL and Pro Bowl recognition. Afterward, Ambrose went on to become an assistant coach at the college level.

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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