October 30, 2012

2005: Bengals Intercept Favre Five Times on Way to Win Over Packers

The Cincinnati Bengals entered the 2005 NFL season having not finished with a winning record since 1990. However, following two 8-8 tallies under Head Coach Marvin Lewis, the Bengals were clearly on the rise and entered the October 30 contest against the Green Bay Packers at 5-2. Second-year QB Carson Palmer was coming into his own and had fine wide receivers to throw to in Chad Johnson (later known as Chad Ochocinco) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The running back tandem of power-running Rudi Johnson and speedy Chris Perry was productive. A major concern was that the defense tended to give up too many yards against the run.

The Packers, coached by Mike Sherman, were still overly dependent on 13th-year QB Brett Favre and, at 1-5, were in a state of decline after making the playoffs in each of the previous four seasons. WR Donald Driver was a dependable target for Favre’s passes, but injuries had depleted the running game and the defense was mediocre.

There was a crowd of 65,940 in attendance at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals had first possession and drove 60 yards in 11 plays. Carson Palmer finished it off with a four-yard touchdown pass to Chris Perry for the early lead. The teams traded punts to conclude the opening period, but the Packers put together a 66-yard scoring drive in 11 plays to start the second quarter. Favre completed all five of his passes, including one to TE Bubba Franks for 21 yards to the Cincinnati seven in a third-and-six situation. RB Tony Fisher scored a TD from a yard out and, with Ryan Longwell’s successful conversion the contest was tied at 7-7.

Cincinnati responded with another long drive. Helped along by two defensive penalties, Palmer passed to T.J. Houshmandzadeh for an eight-yard touchdown. The Bengals had a chance to score again in the first half as Favre’s tipped pass was intercepted by LB Odell Thurman (pictured above). Starting at their 43, the Bengals advanced to the Green Bay 29 but time ran out and the score remained 14-7 in favor of the home team at halftime.

The clubs again traded punts to start the third quarter but a promising Green Bay drive into Cincinnati territory that included a 28-yard gain on a pass to Donald Driver ended with Favre being intercepted for a second time. CB Deltha O’Neal grabbed the throw at his own two yard line, which stopped a potential Green Bay score but also pinned the Bengals back deep in their own territory. After getting out to their 40, they had to punt.

Once again O’Neal picked off a Favre pass, this time returning it to the Green Bay 42 for more favorable field position. The Bengals gained nothing in three plays, however, and again kicked it away. This time it was CB Tory James intercepting Favre on the first play of Green Bay’s ensuing possession. Cincinnati still couldn’t move the ball as the game headed into the fourth quarter, but again the Bengals kicked and got the ball back on an interception. It was the second pickoff for Thurman, and finally Cincinnati capitalized on the very next play when Palmer passed to FB Jeremi Johnson for a 27-yard touchdown.

The Packers followed up with a series that didn’t end with an interception, but they had to punt after losing ground. Cincinnati’s next series ended with Palmer being intercepted by CB Ahmad Carroll to give Green Bay another shot with 8:28 remaining. The Packers made the most of the opportunity, going 88 yards in 13 plays and converting three third downs along the way. A one-yard Favre completion to Franks for a touchdown followed by Longwell’s successful extra point made it a seven-point game with just over three minutes on the clock.

The Bengals played conservatively on their next series as the Packers used up their timeouts. Kyle Larson’s 47-yard punt was downed at the Green Bay 10 and there were now only 56 seconds remaining on the clock. A 48-yard pass interference penalty moved the ball into Cincinnati territory and Favre threw to WR Antonio Chatman for 19 yards to the 28 yard line. With the defense reeling a bizarre circumstance ensued as a fan ran onto the field, causing the next play to be blown dead by the officials. Grabbing the ball out of Favre’s hand, the inebriated man eluded security and caused play to be halted for several minutes until he was removed.

Once the action resumed, Favre was sacked for a two-yard loss by the re-grouped defense and then threw a pass from beyond the line of scrimmage that resulted in a game-ending penalty. The Bengals had held on for the 21-14 win.

The Packers outgained Cincinnati (353 yards to 317) and had the edge in first downs (23 to 21). However, they suffered the five turnovers on interceptions as opposed to one by the Bengals.

Carson Palmer completed 22 of 34 passes for 237 yards with three touchdowns against one interception. Rudi Johnson ran for 72 yards on 22 carries and Chris Perry (pictured at left) added three attempts for 18 yards in addition to a team-high 6 pass receptions that gained 25 yards and included a TD. T.J. Houshmandzadeh gained 77 yards on 5 catches and Chad Johnson, who also caught 5 passes, added 62 yards.

For the Packers, Brett Favre was successful on 26 of 39 throws for 279 yards and a TD, although he was picked off five times. Antonio Chatman caught 8 passes for 97 yards while Bubba Franks contributed 62 yards and a touchdown on 7 receptions and Donald Driver had 5 catches for 76 yards. Tony Fisher led the running attack with 51 yards and a TD on 17 carries.

Regarding the circumstance with the fan that entered the field and halted play, Cincinnati LB Brian Simmons said “That did slow it down and give us a chance to huddle, and we kind of came together as a defense. But you don’t want to see that because somebody could get hurt.”

It was the single event that rendered the game notorious, and while it disrupted a Green Bay possession that could potentially have tied the score, the five interceptions had the greater cumulative impact on the outcome.

Cincinnati ended up with an 11-5 record and topped the AFC North. However, they lost in the Wild Card round of the playoffs when Carson Palmer went down with a major knee injury early in the contest. The Packers continued to flounder and, at 4-12, ended up at the bottom of the NFC North with their first losing season since 1991 – the year before Brett Favre’s arrival.

October 28, 2012

1945: Baugh Passes Redskins Over Giants

The Washington Redskins had a 2-1 record as they faced their traditional division rivals, the New York Giants, on October 28, 1945. In their second year under Head Coach Dudley DeGroot, the team’s key player was still QB Sammy Baugh (pictured above), who was successfully completing the transition from single-wing tailback to T-formation quarterback. Other formidable weapons on offense were FB Frank Akins, HB Steve Bagarus, and end Joe Aguirre, who also handled the placekicking.

The Giants, in their 15th year under Head Coach Steve Owen, had topped the Eastern Division in 1944 but had taken a much more significant hit in key personnel lost to the military in the offseason than had Washington. They came into the contest at 1-1-1.

There was a sellout crowd of 55,461 on hand at the Polo Grounds. The Giants scored first when, five minutes into the game, they recovered a Baugh fumble at the Washington 33. After losing ground on a pass attempt, QB Marion Pugh threw for a 39-yard touchdown to end John Weiss, who outmaneuvered Baugh for the score. This was the high point of the contest for the Giants, as well as the nadir for Sammy Baugh.

The Redskins were held on downs in their next possession, but tied the score on a second quarter drive in which Baugh threw to Bagarus for 21 yards, end Doug Turley for 17 more, and then HB Wilbur Moore for a 17-yard touchdown. Joe Aguirre’s successful extra point made it 7-7. Just before the half, the Redskins scored again on an Aguirre field goal from 37 yards.

Washington kept up the momentum on the first series of the third quarter, taking the second half kickoff and driving to another TD. Moore started the possession off with a 27-yard run and Baugh completed a 26-yard throw to Bagarus along the way. Frank Akin plowed into the line for a three-yard touchdown to finish the drive.

Penalties nullified two apparent Washington touchdowns later in the second half as the visitors completely dominated the Giants. Baugh, a fine safety on defense, intercepted a pass and returned it 69 yards to set up the final Washington score. It was Baugh passing to end Wayne Millner for a six-yard TD following the long return.

New York took the ensuing kickoff and scored one last time in the last 30 seconds of the fourth quarter. The Redskins came away with a 24-14 win that was not as close as the tally implied.

Washington was well ahead in total yards (413 to 237) and first downs (18 to 11). The Redskins not only were strong through the air but on the ground, outgaining the Giants in rushing yardage by 182 yards to 30. Each team turned the ball over twice.

Aside from Sammy Baugh, with the two touchdown passes and long interception return, the top performer for Washington was Steve Bagarus, who caught 8 passes for 162 yards.

“That guy (Baugh) is getting better all the time,” said Steve Owen. “And I don’t mean better for us. He’s the best ever.”

The Redskins lost just one of their remaining games to finish atop the Eastern Division with an 8-2 record. They lost a close-fought NFL Championship game by one point to the Cleveland Rams. New York dropped to 3-6-1, the franchise’s first losing record in nine years, to end up tied for third in the division with the Boston Yanks.

Sammy Baugh, in his ninth season with the Redskins, set a league record that lasted until 1982 by completing 70.3 percent of his passes. He led the NFL in pass completions (128), ranked second in yards (1669), and third in touchdown passes (11). “Slingin’ Sammy” was intercepted just four times, thus also giving him the league’s lowest interception percentage among qualifiers (2.2). By today’s passer rating system he registered a 109.9 – a formidable rating by current standards, let alone those of the 1940s.

Frank Akins ran the ball 147 times, more than any other NFL back, and ranked second in rushing with 797 yards (5.4 avg. per attempt). Steve Bagarus (pictured below) was third in pass receptions (34) and receiving yards (617), thus averaging 18.1 yards per catch. 

October 27, 2012

1963: Raiders Upset Chargers in Wild Cliffhanger

The Oakland Raiders were a franchise transformed in 1963. After three seasons in the American Football League that produced a 9-33 record and little fan support, 34-year-old Al Davis was hired away from the San Diego Chargers to become head coach and general manager. He brought a new attitude as well as a new look to the club, and it was beginning to show on the field. By the time the Raiders faced Davis’ old team, the Chargers, on October 27 the record was just 3-4 – but that was two more wins than they had in all of 1962.

San Diego, under Head Coach Sid Gillman, was a powerful and well-balanced team with a 5-1 record. Veteran QB Tobin Rote directed an offense that was potent both on the ground with HB Paul Lowe and all-purpose FB Keith Lincoln as well as through the air thanks to flanker Lance Alworth. Moreover, the Raiders had never beaten the Chargers, going back six games in series history, and most of the scores had been lopsided.

There were 30,182 fans at Balboa Stadium in San Diego. They saw the Raiders get a major break following a first quarter interception by LB Archie Matsos, who lateraled to CB Claude “Hoot” Gibson for a 13-yard return to the San Diego 25. After two short carries by HB Clem Daniels, split end Art Powell, who was double-covered all day, put Oakland on the board by catching a 20-yard pass from QB Tom Flores.

Keith Lincoln returned the ensuing kickoff for San Diego 43 yards to near midfield. In a series highlighted by a 17-yard run by Paul Lowe and 13-yard Keith Lincoln carry, the Chargers advanced to the Oakland 16 where the defense stiffened and George Blair kicked a 23-yard field goal.

A punt by the Raiders from deep in their own territory gave the Chargers good starting field position at their own 42 on their next possession. Rote threw to Alworth for 15 yards and Lowe ran for 10. On first down, Rote fired to Alworth in the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown and, with the successful extra point, San Diego was in front by 10-7.

Following the touchdown by Alworth, Al Davis moved CB Fred Williamson to cover him, with good results as the fleet receiver was essentially shut down the rest of the way.

In the second quarter, Williamson set up Oakland’s second touchdown with an interception at the San Diego 30. Daniels got the ball to the 10 on two carries and, after advancing to the five, Flores threw to FB Alan Miller for a TD. The Raiders were back in front at 14-10.

The Chargers retook the lead by 17-14 after a pass from QB John Hadl, subbing for Rote, to TE Jacque MacKinnon that covered 69 yards and concluded the first half scoring. In addition, Oakland’s Flores had to leave the game late in the second quarter due to a head injury and was replaced by Cotton Davidson.

On the second play of the third quarter, CB Dick Harris returned an interception 23 yards for a TD to make it 23-14. Blair’s extra point attempt failed following a bad snap. A fumble recovery by Gibson set up a 39-yard scoring pass from Davidson to flanker Dobie Craig that, with Mike Mercer’s successful PAT, brought the Raiders back to within two points behind. George Blair kicked another field goal for San Diego, this time from 36 yards, to make it a five-point game at 26-21 heading into the final period.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Powell (pictured below) scored another touchdown, this time on an outstanding 46-yard catch on a pass from Davidson in which he pulled the ball in over his shoulder while well-covered by two defenders. The Raiders were back in front at 28-26.

Oakland’s lead didn’t last long, however. San Diego’s Lincoln took off on a 51-yard scoring run on the next series. Following a key defensive stand by the Raiders, they got the ball back with just under four minutes remaining on the clock. Daniels took off on a 41-yard run to the San Diego 20. Davidson, unable to find any receivers on the next play, ran for 11 yards to the nine. Two plays lost a yard before Davidson, with 1:52 left on the clock, scrambled for time and threw to FB Glenn Shaw in the end zone for a ten-yard touchdown. A two-point conversion attempt failed, but Oakland had the lead.

There was still time for the Chargers, but Rote was tossed for a 20-yard loss and then Gibson intercepted a pass with a minute left to seal the exciting 34-33 win for the Raiders.

The Chargers had more total yards (380 to 296) and first downs (18 to 13) than Oakland, but they also turned the ball over six times against three turnovers by the Raiders.

In relief of Tom Flores, who was successful on three of 11 passes for 31 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, Cotton Davidson (pictured at left) was very effective, completing 5 of 10 throws for 115 yards with three good for TDs against one intercepted. He also gained 27 yards on five runs. Clem Daniels was outstanding as he rushed for 125 yards on 19 carries. Art Powell caught three passes for 77 yards, two of them for scores.

As for the Chargers, Tobin Rote, who encountered heavy pressure, had a subpar performance as he completed 6 of 14 passes for 67 yards and a TD with four interceptions. Keith Lincoln was sensational in rushing for 130 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, but while Paul Lowe gained 82 yards on 12 attempts, most of that came in the first half - he was largely a nonfactor in the last two quarters. Thanks to the long TD reception, Jacque MacKinnon had 111 yards on three catches while Lance Alworth gained 50 yards, also on three receptions.

San Diego’s a great football team, but we’ve got a great bunch on our club and they just wanted that game so badly today they wouldn’t quit,” summed up Al Davis.

The win for Oakland was the second straight of an eventual eight in a row to close out the season and included another victory over the Chargers at home. The Raiders, at 10-4, ended up second to San Diego (11-3) in the AFL Western Division. The Chargers routed the Boston Patriots in the league’s title game.

Clem Daniels went on to lead the AFL in rushing with 1099 yards on 215 carries (5.1 avg.). Art Powell ranked second with 73 pass receptions for a league-leading 1304 yards and 16 touchdowns. Both were All-AFL selections and Daniels received Player of the Year consideration from The Sporting News.

October 25, 2012

1959: Eagles Overcome 24-Point Deficit to Defeat Cardinals

In the second season under Head Coach Buck Shaw, and after four straight losing records, the Philadelphia Eagles began to show improvement in 1959. Veteran QB Norm Van Brocklin (pictured at right) brought strong leadership qualities as well as skill to the offense, flanker Tommy McDonald had emerged as one of the NFL’s most potent deep receivers, and the combination of HB Billy Barnes and FB Clarence Peaks was a good, if not flashy, one. Chuck Bednarik, once a great linebacker was now a capable center and provided stability to the line. The Eagles were off to a 2-2 start, with one of the wins an upset of the Giants.

On October 25 the Eagles faced the Chicago Cardinals in a game played at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota, auditioning as a future expansion locale (the Vikings would arrive in 1961). The Cardinals, in what would be their final season as a Chicago-based team, moved two of their home games to the Twin Cities due to the lure of a substantial guaranteed gate. While second-year HB John David Crow was developing into a formidable player in Head Coach Frank “Pop” Ivy’s intricate offense, the Cards were 1-3 and John Roach was starting his first game at quarterback due to injuries to King Hill and M.C. Reynolds.

Attendance was 20,112 in near-freezing weather. They saw the Cardinals dominate the first half. In the first quarter, Crow scored on a 10-yard pass from Roach. In the second quarter, DB Jimmy Hill returned a blocked field goal attempt by Paige Cothren for a 77-yard touchdown for the Cards (Cothren, a newcomer to the Eagles, had a tough debut as he failed on all three of his three-point attempts). A 15-yard field goal by Bobby Joe Conrad made it 17-0 at the half.

Early in the third quarter, the lead for the Cardinals increased to 24-0 when DHB Dick “Night Train” Lane intercepted a pass and returned it 37-yards for a TD. However, that proved to be the high water mark for Chicago.

The Eagles came right back on their next possession as Van Brocklin went long to Tommy McDonald for a 71-yard gain to the Chicago 14. HB Billy Barnes plowed in from a yard out for a touchdown that finally put Philadelphia on the board.

On the next series, LB Bob Pellegrini intercepted a pass by Roach that set up a 29-yard touchdown pass play from Van Brocklin to McDonald. The next Chicago series also ended with an interception, this time by LB Chuck Weber. Barnes covered 17 yards in two carries, the second for a two-yard TD. The Eagles were down by just three points heading into the final period.

Late in the fourth quarter, Philadelphia completed its comeback. Van Brocklin again threw to McDonald, this time in the end zone for a 22-yard TD that put the Eagles in the lead with just over three minutes left to play. The Cards were unable to respond offensively and Philadelphia won by a final score of 28-24.

The Eagles led in total yards (399 to 313) and first downs (22 to 14). While the rushing totals were nearly identical (each team ran the ball 38 times, with Philadelphia gaining 168 yards to Chicago’s 163), Philadelphia was the more proficient passing club. The Cards turned the ball over six times, four on interceptions, to two turnovers by the Eagles.

Norm Van Brocklin passed for 207 yards and two TDs in the second half as he led Philadelphia back. Tommy McDonald (pictured below) caught three key passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns. Billy Barnes rushed for 111 yards on 23 carries and scored twice. As for the Cardinals, HB John David Crow gained 74 yards on 16 carries and caught four passes for 51 yards.

“We loosened up in the second half and once we started hitting we were on our way,” said Buck Shaw on behalf of his Eagles.

“That Van Brocklin, you can’t give that fellow any openings,” lamented Cardinals DT Frank Fuller. “We put a hard rush on him in the first half but they gave him a split second more time to throw in the second half. He doesn’t need any more than that.”

The Eagles continued their improved play, ending up with a 7-5 record to finish in a tie with Cleveland for second place in the Eastern Conference. The Cardinals won their next game but lost the remainder to close out the long run in Chicago at the bottom of the conference with a 2-10 tally.

Norm Van Brocklin ranked second in the NFL in pass attempts (340), completions (191), and yards (2617). His 16 touchdown passes were third and he was selected to the Pro Bowl for the eighth time.

Tommy McDonald tied for second in catches (47, along with Lenny Moore of the Colts and Del Shofner of the Rams) and third in receiving yards (846, tied with Moore). His 10 touchdowns via receiving placed second. He earned a second trip to the Pro Bowl as a result.

October 24, 2012

2011: Scobee Kicks Jaguars to Upset of Ravens

The Jacksonville Jaguars were floundering at 1-5 with no relief in sight as they took on the Baltimore Ravens on October 24, 2011. It had been nothing but one defeat after another for Head Coach Jack Del Rio’s team following an opening-week victory over the Titans. While the offense contained a formidable talent in RB Maurice Jones-Drew, scoring points was difficult with QB Blaine Gabbert very much a work in progress and a weak receiving corps. The defense was the far better unit, but could only do so much without more point production.

Meanwhile the Ravens, under Head Coach John Harbaugh, had been to the postseason in each of the previous three seasons and was 4-1 coming into the contest at Jacksonville. Long known for solid defense, Baltimore’s offense featured an outstanding running back of its own in Ray Rice and a skilled, if oft-criticized, quarterback in Joe Flacco.

There was a crowd of 62,976 for the Monday night game at EverBank Field. Neither offense was able to move effectively during the first quarter. The Jaguars got the first break when Rice fumbled (his first in 522 touches) and CB Rashean Mathis recovered at the Baltimore 34. But after a drive that featured Jones-Drew runs of 11 and 12 yards, the star running back fumbled on a first-and-goal play at the three and LB Jameel McClain recovered for the Ravens (originally ruled down by contact, the call was reversed upon replay).

Baltimore couldn’t get beyond its own seven yard line in the ensuing series and Sam Koch’s punt was returned 28 yards by WR Mike Thomas to give the Jaguars good field position at the Ravens’ 33. A nine-yard sack of Gabbert by LB Terrell Suggs in a third-and-four situation moved the ball back to the 36, but Josh Scobee (pictured above) successfully kicked a 54-yard field goal to make it a 3-0 game in favor of Jacksonville.

The defensive struggle continued into the second quarter. Midway through the period, Gabbert started a series for the Jaguars with back-to-back completions of 24 yards to WR Jason Hill and 11 yards to WR Mike Sims-Walker to get to the Baltimore 38. The drive stalled there and once again Gabbert was sacked on third down, but the ensuing punt was nullified when DE Paul Kruger was penalized for running into the kicker. While it was just a five-yard penalty, it led to three more points for the Jaguars as Scobee again connected from 54 yards. Neither of the teams was able to get out of its own territory for the remainder of the period and the score remained 6-0 at halftime. The Ravens had failed to register a first down and gained a total of just 25 yards of offense for the half (as opposed to 85 yards for the home team).

Jacksonville got the ball first in the third quarter and put together a long drive of 68 yards in 16 plays, helped along by three costly penalties on the Ravens. Scobee kicked his third field goal of the game from 22 yards to extend the lead for the Jaguars to 9-0.

Baltimore responded with a series that made it to the Jacksonville 27, but on third down Flacco was sacked for a seven-yard loss by FS Dwight Lowery and Billy Cundiff missed a field goal attempt from 52 yards.

Heading into the fourth quarter the teams traded punts until, with 5:22 on the clock, the Ravens put together a long scoring drive. Starting from their 10, Flacco completed five straight passes and, going to the air on every play, went 10 for 13. The last was complete to WR Anquan Boldin for a five-yard touchdown and, with the successful extra point, it was a two-point game at 9-7.

Now with just over two minutes remaining, Baltimore attempted an onside kick, but it was touched by a Raven before going the required distance and Jacksonville took over. Three short carries by Jones-Drew set up a 51-yard field goal attempt by Scobee that was successful. While there was still time for the Ravens to try and win the game, a Flacco pass was intercepted by CB Drew Coleman to nail down the 12-7 win for the Jaguars.

In a game in which neither offense had much success, Jacksonville led in total yards (205 to 146) and first downs (13 to 11). Baltimore’s normally proficient ground game was held to 34 yards while the Jaguars had just 73 net passing yards. The Ravens turned the ball over twice, to one turnover by Jacksonville, and also hurt themselves with 10 penalties.

Maurice Jones-Drew (pictured above) was, not surprisingly, the key to the offense with 105 yards on 30 carries, making him the first running back to reach the 100-yard mark in a game against the Ravens defense in 2011. Blaine Gabbert completed 9 of 20 passes for 93 yards, and while none were for scores, he also threw no interceptions. Jason Hill was the top receiver with 4 catches for 62 yards. Josh Scobee became the sixth NFL placekicker to boot three field goals from over 50 yards in a game.

For the Ravens, Joe Flacco was successful on 21 of 38 throws for 137 yards with a TD and an interception. Ray Rice rushed for just 28 yards on 8 carries but also led the club in receptions with 5 catches for 35 yards. Anquan Boldin gained 40 yards on his four receptions that included the only touchdown of the game.

“It finally feels good to win one after all those losses,” said Maurice Jones-Drew.

“They basically beat us with their defense,” summed up Coach Harbaugh for the Ravens. “I don’t think it was any one thing. It was a lack of execution. It’s almost as bad as you can play on offense.”

“You’ve got to give them (the Jaguars) credit,” added Anquan Boldin. “They played like it was their Super Bowl.”

The Jaguars lost the next week and won just once more before Coach Del Rio was fired. Overall, they ended up with a 5-11 record to finish third in the AFC South. Baltimore recovered to win 8 of their remaining 10 regular season contests and top the AFC North at 12-4. The Ravens advanced to the AFC Championship game before succumbing to the New England Patriots.

Maurice Jones-Drew led the league with 343 carries for 1606 yards and was a consensus first-team All-Pro as well as Pro Bowl selection.

In his eighth season with Jacksonville, Josh Scobee ranked third in field goal percentage (92 %) as he connected on 23 of 25 attempts. He was five of six from 50 or more yards out.


(NOTE TO READERS: Today's post marks the third anniversary of the launch of Today in Pro Football History. For regular readers, thank you, I hope you have enjoyed it and will continue to do so. For newcomers, I encourage you to take a look at the archived material. Feedback and suggestions are always welcome - there is an e-mail link on my profile page.)

October 23, 2012

1977: Metcalf & Morris Lead Cardinals Past Saints

The St. Louis Cardinals were sporting a 2-3 record as they hosted the New Orleans Saints on October 23, 1977. The Cardinals, in their fifth season under Head Coach Don Coryell, had won in double figures in each of the preceding three years and gone to the postseason twice. But they started slowly in ’77, losing three of their first four contests before winning at Philadelphia the previous week. While there was feuding between coach and owner and players complaining about their salary levels, there was also talent, especially on an explosive offense that included QB Jim Hart, all-purpose HB Terry Metcalf, and WR Mel Gray.

New Orleans was coached by Hank Stram, formerly of the Chiefs, where he had enjoyed success. The Saints, a perennially losing club since coming into the league ten years earlier, were off to a 1-4 start and were without injured starting QB Archie Manning.

There were 48,417 fans in attendance at Busch Memorial Stadium and they saw the Cardinals start fast. Six minutes into the game, Hart threw to Gray for a 38-yard touchdown. FB Wayne Morris followed up with a one-yard scoring carry at 11:32 into the first quarter.

Shortly thereafter, LB Kurt Allerman blocked Tom Blanchard’s punt and on the first play of the second quarter Morris scored again on a nine-yard draw play. At 21-0, it seemed as though a rout was in progress.

However, New Orleans began to get back into the game after DT Derland Moore recovered a fumble by Terry Metcalf at the St. Louis 46. A 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on DT Mike Dawson erased a loss by the Saints on the first play from scrimmage after the turnover. Two runs by FB Tony Galbreath got the ball to the 19 and from there HB Chuck Muncie ran for a touchdown on a sweep to the right.

The Cards responded with Metcalf returning the kickoff 51 yards to the New Orleans 44. The fleet halfback followed up with a pass reception for 11 more yards and two carries by FB Jim Otis advanced St. Louis to the 21. But after catching a pass from Hart, TE Jackie Smith fumbled at the eight and DE Joe Campbell recovered for New Orleans.

The Saints proceeded to drive to another score in eight plays. Muncie gained 22 yards on another sweep and QB Bobby Scott, the replacement for Archie Manning, passed to backup TE James Thaxton for 20. Thaxton caught a pass from Scott for a 25-yard touchdown and with another successful extra point New Orleans was only a TD behind.

Following a punt by the Cardinals, the Saints drove 80 yards to the tying touchdown. Scott threw to TE Henry Childs for a 53-yard TD and the teams went into halftime tied at 21-21.

The Cardinals moved back in front on their first series of the third quarter. They drove 70 yards in 14 plays, eating up 7:44 off the clock in so doing. The highlight of the drive was a Hart pass to HB Jerry Latin for 14 yards to the New Orleans six. Morris ran for five yards and then leaped into the end zone from a yard out for the touchdown.

The Saints roared back with a drive from their 24 to the St. Louis five. However, the Cards held as Scott tossed three incomplete passes and New Orleans had to settle for a 22-yard field goal by Rich Szaro that narrowed the home team’s margin to 28-24.

In the fourth quarter, the Cards scored again on an option pass from Metcalf to Gray that covered 11 yards. New Orleans kept pace as Scott passed to Childs for a 29-yard TD with 7:18 left to play.

The Cardinals finally put the game away with just over a minute left on the clock as HB Steve Jones scored from a yard out. That possession was helped along by a fake field goal attempt in which holder/CB Roger Wehrli ran for 19 yards and a first down. They padded the lead following an interception by CB Lee Nelson when Morris scored his fourth TD with a 12-yard run with 44 seconds to go. Wehrli intercepted Scott’s final pass of the game to end it and St. Louis came away with a 49-31 win that, for most of the game, was closer than the final tally indicated.

The single-game total of 49 points was the most for the Cardinals in 12 years. They led in total yards (487 to 440), including 244 on 52 running plays, and first downs (31 to 23). Each team turned the ball over twice.

Jim Hart completed 17 of 24 passes for 225 yards with a touchdown and none intercepted. Wayne Morris had a notable performance, rushing for 95 yards on 25 carries that included four touchdowns. Terry Metcalf added 78 yards on 17 attempts, caught 5 passes for 62 yards, and completed both of his option passes, including one for a TD. Mel Gray also gained 62 pass receiving yards on three catches that included two for touchdowns.

For the Saints, Bobby Scott (pictured below) was successful on 16 of 35 throws for 285 yards with three TDs but also two interceptions. Chuck Muncie ran for 102 yards and a touchdown on just 13 carries. The two tight ends were the most productive receivers for the club as Jim Thaxton had four pass receptions for 83 yards and a TD and Henry Childs caught three for 79 yards and two scores.

“We (backs) moved the ball real well, but the line did a fantastic job,” said Wayne Morris.

“In the final analysis, I thought we fought like hell,” summed up Hank Stram. “We never stopped. They (the Cardinals) are an excellent blocking team.”

The win evened the Cards’ record at 3-3 and put them in a three-way tie for second in the NFC East with the Giants and Redskins behind the Cowboys. It was also the second of six consecutive wins, but after peaking at 7-3 the team lost four straight to fall out of contention and end the year at 7-7 and third in the division. The feud between owner and coach led to Don Coryell departing afterward.

New Orleans won the next week against the Rams but ultimately finished at the bottom of the NFC West with another losing record at 3-11. Hank Stram was dismissed afterward.

Terry Metcalf ranked second in the NFL in all-purpose yards with 2022 that included 739 on 149 rushing attempts (5.0 avg.), 403 on 34 pass receptions, 772 on 32 kickoff returns, and 108 on 14 punt returns. He was selected to the Pro Bowl for the third time. Having played out his option, he jumped to the CFL for 1978.

Wayne Morris ended up running for 661 yards on 165 carries and caught 24 passes for 222 more yards. His four rushing TDs against the Saints were half of his season total of eight, and he had one pass receiving touchdown to give him nine on the year.

October 21, 2012

2001: Patten Runs, Catches, and Passes for TDs as Patriots Rip Colts

The New England Patriots brought a 2-3 record into their October 21, 2001 game at Indianapolis. The biggest story of their season thus far had been the injury to starting QB Drew Bledsoe that propelled unknown backup Tom Brady into the starting lineup. In the second year under Head Coach Bill Belichick the club was still viewed as a work in progress.

The Colts had been to the postseason the previous two years under Head Coach Jim Mora but had been badly beaten by the Patriots two weeks earlier and then, after their bye week, had lost to Oakland to fall to 2-2. Fourth-year QB Peyton Manning was already considered to be one of the NFL’s best, as was RB Edgerrin James in his third year. But the defense was becoming a source of concern.

There was a crowd of 56,022 at the RCA Dome. The Colts had first possession and drove to the New England 28, with the big play being a pass from Manning to TE Ken Dilger that gained 25 yards, but Mike Vanderjagt’s 46-yard field goal attempt was blocked and returned 35 yards by New England CB Leonard Myers to give the Patriots excellent starting field position at the Indianapolis 29. They made the most of it in short order as WR David Patten took the ball on an end-around play and raced around right end for the 29-yard touchdown.

The Colts again drove into New England territory on their next possession as Edgerrin James ran effectively and caught a pass from Manning. Vanderjagt booted a 42-yard field goal to get the home team on the board.

The Patriots punted to end their next series and Indianapolis appeared set to score again when Manning threw to WR Marvin Harrison for a 68-yard gain to the New England two. However, the Colts weren’t able to punch into the end zone and, following a sack of Manning by LB Mike Vrabel for a six-yard loss on third down, Vanderjagt again had a field goal attempt blocked, this time by safety Tebucky Jones on a 25-yard try, and the score remained 7-3 after a quarter of play.

The teams traded punts to start the second quarter, but after the Patriots took possession on their own nine yard line following a 34-yard kick by Hunter Smith, it was Patten again making a big play as he pulled in a pass from Brady at the 48 and went the distance for a 91-yard touchdown. With another successful extra point by Adam Vinatieri, it was 14-3 in favor of New England.

Following a short series by the Colts, it was Patten striking again on the Patriots’ next play from scrimmage, this time throwing an option pass to WR Troy Brown for a 60-yard touchdown. David Patten had accounted for a touchdown in three different ways – by rushing, receiving, and passing – and in each instance it was on the first play of a New England possession. He had almost singlehandedly staked the Patriots to a 21-3 lead that would prove insurmountable for the Colts.

Things got worse for Indianapolis when James fumbled on the next series and LB Tedy Bruschi recovered for the Patriots at the Colts’ 24. Six plays later Brady passed to TE Jermaine Wiggins for a two-yard TD. While the Colts managed to score once more on a 42-yard Vanderjagt field goal before the period was over, New England went into halftime leading by a 28-6 margin, even though the offense’s time of possession was just eight minutes. The frustrated home crowd booed the Colts heavily as they headed for the locker room.

The second half was anticlimactic. The Colts drove to a two-yard Manning-to-Harrison touchdown pass followed by a successful two-point conversion that made it 28-14. The Patriots responded with a 43-yard field goal by Vinatieri. Indianapolis again reached scoring territory but, after having a first down at the New England 12, was unable to penetrate the end zone and settled for a 24-yard Vanderjagt field goal. Early in the fourth quarter, Brady tossed another TD pass to Patten, this time from six yards out, and that was it. Another drive by the Colts ended with Manning fumbling the ball away while being sacked by DE Bobby Hamilton after reaching the New England 16, and the Patriots were able to eat up almost all of the remaining time with an 18-play possession. New England came away with a big 38-17 win.

The Colts led in total yards (484 to 385) and first downs (28 to 19) but were beaten by big plays and blocked kicks (prior to the two blocked field goals in the first quarter, Mike Vanderjagt had had only two of his previous 100 attempts blocked). They had difficulty scoring when they got inside the red zone and turned the ball over twice while New England suffered no turnovers. The Patriots sacked Peyton Manning four times while the Colts never got to Tom Brady.

David Patten was the biggest star for the Patriots as he became the first player since Walter Payton of the Bears in 1979 to account for a touchdown by rushing, receiving, and passing in the same NFL game. His overall statistics were four catches for 117 yards and two touchdowns, one rushing attempt for 29 yards and a TD, and one pass completion for a 60-yard score.

Tom Brady had a fine performance, completing 16 of 20 passes for 202 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Troy Brown caught 8 passes for 120 yards and TD. RB Antowain Smith led the rushing attack with 71 yards on 21 carries.

Several noteworthy offensive performances for the Colts went to waste. Peyton Manning was successful on 22 of 34 throws for 335 yards and a TD with none intercepted. Edgerrin James gained 143 yards on 30 rushing attempts. Marvin Harrison had 8 catches for 157 yards and a touchdown.

“It started out bad with the blocked field goal and it didn’t get a whole lot better,” summed up Jim Mora for the Colts.

It did get better for the Colts with wins over the next two weeks, but they were followed with seven losses in the last nine games. Indianapolis sank to 6-10 and a fourth place finish in their last AFC East season, which also was the end for Jim Mora’s coaching reign.

New England, on the other hand, lost its next game but then won eight of nine to win the AFC East with an 11-5 record. The improbable climb continued to a Super Bowl upset of the St. Louis Rams.

Rising quickly out of obscurity, Tom Brady had a Pro Bowl year, completing 63.9 percent of his passes for 2843 yards with 18 touchdowns against 12 interceptions.

David Patten caught 51 passes for 749 yards (14.7 avg.) and four touchdowns. He ran the ball five times for 67 yards with the TD against the Colts his only one of the year (and, for that matter, his career) and had one other passing attempt, which was intercepted. Formerly with the Giants and Browns, the undersized (5’10”, 190) but fast fifth-year wide receiver went on to play a total of four seasons in New England where he was a member of three championship squads. 

October 20, 2012

1957: Rookie Jurgensen Leads Eagles to Upset of Browns

Coming off a 3-8-1 record in 1956 in their first year under Head Coach Hugh Devore, the Philadelphia Eagles did well in the high rounds of the ’57 NFL draft. With the seventh pick in the first round, they took FB Clarence Peaks of Michigan State. Further seeking to bolster the running game, they chose Wake Forest HB Billy Barnes in the second round and HB Tommy McDonald from Oklahoma in the third. And in the fourth round, they drafted QB Sonny Jurgensen of Duke.

The stocky (5’11”, 195) Jurgensen had not thrown the ball much in college with a run-oriented team, but was reputed to have a strong arm and had shown great accuracy when he did pass. For the past several years, the Eagles had utilized the quarterback tandem of Adrian Burk and Bobby Thomason, and with Burk having retired to pursue a legal career there was a need to break in someone new.

Peaks and Barnes moved directly into the starting lineup while McDonald, who was too small at 5’9” and 182 pounds to play running back as a pro, would not make an impact until later once he was shifted to flanker - and the impact would indeed be great. Jurgensen backed up the veteran Thomason as Philadelphia lost its first three games.

On October 20 the Eagles faced the Cleveland Browns, who were off to a 3-0 start under Head Coach Paul Brown and had beaten Philadelphia at home the week before. They had a promising rookie of their own in FB Jim Brown, taken in the first round of that same draft out of Syracuse. Brown had already become the key to the ground-oriented offense directed by veteran QB Tommy O’Connell while second-round draft choice Milt Plum from Penn State, the quarterback of the future, backed him up.

The previous week’s game in Cleveland was a fight-filled contest in which seven players were ejected. Commissioner Bert Bell issued a warning prior to the rematch that the teams should “play football, not fight”. By and large his instructions were followed in the rematch.

There were 22,443 in attendance at Connie Mack Stadium as Sonny Jurgensen started at quarterback for the injured Thomason. There was no scoring in the opening period but the Eagles, with Billy Barnes running well, advanced to the Cleveland 8 yard line on the last play of the first quarter. On the second play of the second quarter, Bobby Walston kicked a 12-yard field goal to give the home team a 3-0 lead.

The Browns failed to tie the score later in the period when Lou Groza’s 39-yard field goal attempt into a stiff wind went wide. Philadelphia later put together an 80-yard drive in six plays, with Jurgensen passing to end Rocky Ryan, who pulled the ball in at the 15 and ran it in for a 46-yard touchdown. The Eagles held a 10-0 lead at the half.

The third quarter was scoreless, but then Philadelphia put together a seven-play, 45-yard scoring drive after LB Chuck Bednarik intercepted a pass by Tommy O’Connell and returned it 14 yards. Barnes ran for 14 yards and, after carrying again for a short gain, Clarence Peaks broke away for a 25-yard carry to the one yard line. On second down, Jurgensen scored on a quarterback sneak.

O’Connell was injured and replaced by the rookie Milt Plum, who led Cleveland on a 69-yard drive midway through the fourth quarter. Following a pass from Plum to HB Billy Reynolds to the Philadelphia one, Jim Brown blasted into the end zone for a touchdown. That was it for the Browns as the Eagles held on for a 17-7 win.

The Browns outgained the Eagles (285 yards to 270) although Philadelphia surprisingly outgained Cleveland on the ground (186 to 103). The Browns had the edge in first downs (14 to 13) but they also turned the ball over six times, four by interception, while Philadelphia gave the ball up just once on a fumble. While there wasn’t the fighting of the previous week’s game, there were a total of 16 penalties called – 10 on the Browns and six on Philadelphia.

Billy Barnes (pictured at left) rushed for 87 yards on 22 carries, overshadowing Jim Brown, who had 53 yards on 12 attempts. Sonny Jurgensen didn’t go to the air often, but was effective in his first career start as he completed 6 of 9 passes for 84 yards with a touchdown and none intercepted.

The upset of the Browns didn’t herald better things for the Eagles – they were shut out at Pittsburgh the next week and won only three more times to finish at 4-8 and in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, leading to the replacement of Hugh Devore as head coach by Buck Shaw. Cleveland, on the other hand, lost only once more to top the conference at 9-2-1, although the Browns lost badly to Detroit in the NFL Championship game.

Sonny Jurgensen started five games as a rookie and showed promise as he completed 33 of 70 passes for 470 yards with five touchdowns and eight interceptions. The arrival of veteran star Norm Van Brocklin from the Rams in 1958 relegated the young quarterback to the bench and he would not re-emerge until 1961, the year after “The Dutchman” guided the team to the league title and then retired. However, Jurgensen broke out in a big way in ’61 on his way to a Hall of Fame career with the Eagles and Redskins.

Billy Barnes also had an impressive first year, gaining selection to the Pro Bowl as he rushed for 529 yards on 143 carries (3.7 avg.) and caught 19 passes for 212 more. Jim Brown outdid the rest of the rookie class, however, as he led the NFL in rushing with 942 yards on the way to becoming the league’s dominant rusher over the course of a brilliant nine-year career that, like Jurgensen's, led to enshrinement in Canton.

October 18, 2012

1964: Late Scores Propel Cards to Win Over Redskins

The St. Louis Cardinals were 3-1-1 and battling to stay even with the Cleveland Browns in the NFL Eastern Conference race as they hosted the Washington Redskins on October 18, 1964. Coached by Wally Lemm, the Cardinals had a well-balanced offense with occasionally-erratic but typically effective QB Charley Johnson (pictured at right) throwing to outstanding receivers in split end Sonny Randle and flanker Bobby Joe Conrad or handing off to a good group of running backs led by HB John David Crow. The defense featured linebackers Dale Meinert and Bill Koman plus CB Pat Fischer and FS Larry Wilson. PK Jim Bakken was one of the league’s best.

The Redskins, coached by Bill McPeak for the fourth year, were 1-4, having lost to the Cards two weeks earlier at home and won for the first time the previous week. Washington had not put together a winning record since 1955 but had made key acquisitions in the previous offseason, most notably QB Sonny Jurgensen, obtained from the Eagles, and MLB Sam Huff, formerly of the Giants. In addition, rookie HB Charley Taylor had been drafted in the first round out of Arizona State and was proving to be an excellent outside runner as well as pass receiver.

There were 23,748 in attendance on a 60-degree day at Busch Stadium. They saw Washington start fast, scoring two touchdowns in the first six minutes of the first quarter. Jurgensen threw to Taylor for a 77-yard gain that set up a one-yard sneak by the quarterback for a TD.

On the first play following the ensuing kickoff, Charley Johnson fumbled while rolling out and DT Joe Rutgens recovered for the Redskins. Jurgensen threw to split end Angelo Coia, who beat CB Jimmy Hill for a 32-yard touchdown. Including two successful extra points, it was 14-0 in favor of the visitors.

Before the opening period was over, however, Jim Bakken kicked a 17-yard field goal for the Cards and then Dale Meinert recovered a fumble by Washington HB Tom Tracy at the Redskins’ 27. St. Louis quickly capitalized when Johnson passed to Sonny Randle for an 11-yard TD. The score was 14-10 after a quarter of play.

Midway through the second quarter St. Louis took the lead when a 35-yard drive ended with John David Crow running for a nine-yard touchdown. With time running out in the first half the Cardinals went 52 yards on a possession that ended when Johnson fooled the Redskins defense by passing to a wide-open TE Jackie Smith for a one-yard TD pass. The Cards were up by 24-14 at the half.

Neither team was able to move the ball during the third quarter, but two interceptions set up Washington scores as the Redskins defense proved effective against the St. Louis offense for most of the second half. Johnson had difficulty completing passes until midway through the final period.

Early in the fourth quarter, CB Johnny Sample intercepted a Johnson pass at the Washington 28 and returned it to the 44. The Redskins took advantage as Taylor ran for a 37-yard gain and Jurgensen completed an 18-yard pass to star flanker Bobby Mitchell for a touchdown to make it a three-point game.

LB Jim Carr intercepted another pass by Johnson that gave the Redskins good field position at the St. Louis 49. The ensuing drive stalled at the 15 and a well-thrown Jurgensen pass was dropped by Coia in the end zone. Washington had to settle for a field goal by 40-year-old Jim Martin from 24 yards out to tie the game at 24-24 with just under two minutes left to play.

The Cardinals took possession at their 27 to start the ensuing drive. Johnson, who had been ineffective for much of the second half, threw to FB Joe Childress (pictured at left) for a 30-yard gain. Following two runs by Childress that added another 13 yards, Johnson then connected with split end Bill Gambrell for 11 yards to the Washington 19 with the clock down to 48 seconds. A five-yard completion to Conrad was followed by a short run by Crow and then Johnson’s pass to Conrad, who broke two tackles, for a 12-yard touchdown.

Now down by seven points, a desperate Jurgensen threw a desperation pass that was intercepted by Pat Fischer and returned 39 yards for a TD to seal the 38-24 win for St. Louis.

The Cardinals had more total yards (366 to 264) and far more first downs (26 to 9). But four turnovers, including the two damaging interceptions that led directly to Washington scores, hurt St. Louis while the Redskins turned the ball over three times. In addition, Johnson was sacked five times while the St. Louis defense failed to register any sacks at all.

Charley Johnson completed 17 of 30 passes for 226 yards with three touchdowns but also three interceptions. He also gained 32 yards on four rushes. Joe Childress ran for 86 yards on 15 carries and caught two passes for 48 more yards while John David Crow contributed 53 yards on 16 attempts that included a TD. Bobby Joe Conrad (pictured below) was the top receiver for St. Louis with 5 catches for 52 yards and the game-winning touchdown.

For the Redskins, Charley Taylor had a big day with 62 yards rushing on 9 carries and three pass receptions for 81 yards. Sonny Jurgensen was successful on 11 of 25 throws for 159 yards and two TDs with one intercepted. Bobby Mitchell and Angelo Coia each had three catches for 35 yards and scored a touchdown.

The win kept the Cardinals even with the Browns atop the Eastern Conference, but a midseason slump hurt their chances and while they finished up with four straight wins, it gave them a 9-3-2 record that placed second to Cleveland’s 10-3-1. The Redskins won five of their next six contests and ended up tied for third in the conference with Philadelphia at 6-8.

Charley Johnson led the NFL in pass attempts (420), completions (223), yards (3045), and, more unfortunately, interceptions (24) while ranking fourth in touchdown passes with 21. Bobby Joe Conrad was the fourth-ranked pass receiver in the league with 61 catches, good for 780 yards (12.8 avg.) and six TDs. He was selected to the Pro Bowl.

Sonny Jurgensen had a good first year in Washington, ranking second to Johnson in pass completions (207) and yards (2934) while ranking ahead in touchdown passes (24) and with far fewer interceptions (13). Like Conrad, he was chosen for the Pro Bowl.

Charley Taylor (pictured below) had an outstanding first year, garnering Rookie of the Year and Pro Bowl honors as he rushed for 755 yards on 199 carries (3.8 avg.) and caught 53 passes for 814 yards (15.4 avg.) and totaled 10 touchdowns. Two years later, he was shifted to split end as he went on to a 13-season Hall of Fame career.

October 17, 2012

1926: Driscoll Dominates as Bears Shut Out Cards

In the early days of the NFL, one of the league’s biggest stars was John “Paddy” Driscoll. At a time when versatility was highly valued, the 5’11”, 160-pound Driscoll could run and pass effectively out of the quarterback, halfback, or tailback positions, was a good defensive player, and an excellent punter and drop-kicker. After playing collegiately at Northwestern and having a brief major league baseball career, Driscoll was with the Great Lakes Naval Training Station football team that won the 1919 Rose Bowl (and included George Halas, later the long-time head coach and owner of the Bears). After playing professionally in the pre-NFL year of 1919 with Hammond, he joined the Chicago Cardinals of the new league (then called the American Professional Football Association) for 1920.

From then through 1925, Driscoll scored 17 touchdowns, kicked 37 field goals and 31 extra points, and scored 244 points while receiving All-Pro recognition in five of the six years. He led the league in scoring in 1923 and in field goals on three occasions, including 1925 as the Cardinals won the NFL Championship. Driscoll also tended to be particularly effective against the cross-town rivals of the Cards, the Chicago Bears.

In 1926, a rival league, the first to be called the American Football League, was formed and Driscoll received a salary offer from that circuit’s Chicago franchise that the Cardinals could not match. Not wanting to see Driscoll go to the other circuit, the Cards sold him to Halas and the Bears for $3500.

Driscoll proved to be a good pickup for the Bears, and on October 17, 1926 they faced the Cardinals. It was a big game – both teams had yet to lose (the Cards were 4-0 and the Bears 3-0-1). There were 12,000 fans in attendance at Normal Park, home of the Cards.

Three minutes into the first quarter, Driscoll dropkicked a 38-yard field goal following his fair catch of a punt. Early in the second quarter, Driscoll passed to Halas, an end as well as the owner and coach, for a 40-yard gain to the Cardinals’ 20. He followed up with a run around end for 11 yards and shortly thereafter went off tackle for a five-yard touchdown. The multitalented back added the extra point to make it 10-0.

Later in the same period, center George Trafton of the Bears intercepted a pass in Cardinals territory, and while they weren’t able to move the ball on offense, Driscoll booted a 25-yard field goal. Before the end of the half, Driscoll completed the scoring with a 50-yard field goal and that was it. While the Cardinals drove into Bears territory on several occasions during the second half, fumbles kept them from scoring and the halftime score of 16-0 ended up being the final tally.

The Bears accumulated 10 first downs to 8 for the Cards. Paddy Driscoll accounted for all of the points against his former team as he kicked three field goals, scored a touchdown, and added the extra point. Backs Roy Lamb and Red Dunn were the top ground gainers for the Cardinals.

The first defeat of the season for the Cardinals moved the Bears into undisputed possession of first place. They didn’t hold onto it in the end, however, finishing second in the division-less, 22-club NFL with a 12-1-3 record. The only team to defeat them, the Frankford Yellow Jackets, claimed the league title at 14-1-2. The Cardinals slumped to 5-6-1, winning just one more game after the initial loss to the Bears (they played them twice more and suffered another defeat along with a tie). They placed tenth in the final standings.

Paddy Driscoll led the NFL in scoring for the second time with 86 points and also was the leader in touchdown passes (6, tied with Eddie Scharer of the Detroit Panthers) and field goals (12) – both were league records, the scoring mark lasting until 1941 and the field goal total remaining the standard until 1950. He also scored a total of six touchdowns and kicked 14 extra points and was named first-team All-NFL by Collyers Eye Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, and the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Driscoll stayed with the Bears until 1929, when his playing career ended. At the time, he was the NFL’s career scoring leader with 402 points and, not surprisingly, the career leader in field goals with 51. His 63 extra points were also a record and he was named to at least one all-league team in eight of his nine years in the NFL. Driscoll went on to become a long-time assistant coach for the Bears and was head coach in 1956 and ’57, when Halas took a hiatus. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965.

October 16, 2012

1989: Backup QB Reich Leads Bills to Last-Minute Win Against Rams

The Buffalo Bills were 3-2 and without their starting quarterback as they took on the undefeated Los Angeles Rams on October 16, 1989. QB Jim Kelly suffered a shoulder separation in a 37-14 loss to the Colts the previous week and the little-known backup quarterback, Frank Reich, was forced to step in. Under Head Coach Marv Levy, the Bills had won the AFC East in 1988 and featured a productive offense that included RB Thurman Thomas and WR Andre Reed while the defense was anchored by DE Bruce Smith and included a good linebacking corps.

The Rams, in their eighth season under Head Coach John Robinson, were 5-0 and a more pass-oriented team than they had been throughout most of Robinson’s tenure with the club. QB Jim Everett was the reason, and he had a reliable target for his passes in WR Henry Ellard while second-year WR Willie “Flipper” Anderson was emerging as a potent deep threat.

It was a rainy Monday night at Rich Stadium for the nationally-telecast contest. Things started well for the Rams when CB Jerry Gray intercepted Frank Reich’s second pass of the night, giving LA good field position at the Buffalo 46. The Bills defense held, but Dale Hatcher’s punt was muffed by CB Mickey Sutton and recovered by LA’s WR Ron Brown at the Buffalo 16. Five plays later Everett threw to RB Buford McGee in the end zone for a three-yard touchdown.

There was no further scoring in the first quarter as neither offense was able to get much going. Buffalo got a break with 5:23 to go in the half when Los Angeles RB Greg Bell (an ex-Bill) fumbled at his own 20 and NT Jeff Wright recovered. Scott Norwood kicked a 28-yard field goal four plays after that to cut LA’s lead to 7-3.

The Bills got the ball back at the Rams’ 49 following a punt with 2:16 left on the clock and advanced to the 29 in seven plays, from where Norwood was again successful on a 47-yard field goal try to make it 7-6 at the half.

The defenses continued to dominate in the third quarter. On their third series of the second half, the Rams drove into Bills territory as Everett completed passes to Henry Ellard for 24 and 19 yards. The drive stalled at the Buffalo 17 and Mike Lansford booted a 34-yard field goal to stretch the LA lead to 10-6.

The Bills responded with a late-period scoring drive that stretched into the fourth quarter. Reich completed a pass to Thurman Thomas for 13 yards in a third-and-10 situation and Buffalo advanced to the Los Angeles 23. The 12-play, 52-yard possession ended with another Norwood field goal, this time from 40 yards.

It was once again a one-point game, but the Rams came back with a long series that covered 60 yards in 12 plays. Everett completed four passes and Lansford capped the drive with a 36-yard field goal.

On Buffalo’s next play from scrimmage, Reich threw to Andre Reed for a 47-yard gain to the LA 39. A costly defensive holding penalty nullified a sack of Reich on third down and a 15-yard completion to Reed put the ball at the six. Reich’s one-yard TD pass to Thomas and Norwood’s extra point put the Bills in front for the first time at 16-13 with a little over two minutes remaining.

The Rams failed to convert a fourth-and-four play just after the two minute warning, but three plays later Thomas fumbled and safety Michael Stewart recovered. LA made the Bills pay in short order as Everett passed to the fleet Willie Anderson for a 78-yard touchdown. It was 20-16 and, with the Bills getting the ball back with 1:17 left on the clock, it seemed as though the Rams would remain undefeated.

Reich passed to Reed on first down, who fumbled but C Kent Hull saved the day for Buffalo by recovering. A short completion to Thomas was followed by a false start penalty that made it third-and-six. Reich threw to Thomas for 17 yards and a first down at the LA 43. Two more passes to Thomas gained another 21 yards and a toss to RB Ronnie Harmon picked up 14 yards. With 20 seconds left in the game, Reich threw to Reed for an eight-yard touchdown to finish off the seven-play, 64-yard drive. It finished off the Rams, too, as there was time left for only one Everett pass and Buffalo won by a score of 23-20.

Buffalo outgained the Rams (348 yards to 266) and had more first downs (17 to 15). Of LA’s yardage total, only 59 came on the ground. The Bills turned the ball over four times, to two suffered by Los Angeles.

Frank Reich, overcoming a slow start, completed 21 of 37 passes for 214 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Thurman Thomas (pictured below) rushed for 105 yards on 24 carries and caught 9 passes for 67 yards and a TD. Andre Reed gained 106 yards on 8 pass receptions that included the winning touchdown.

For the Rams, Jim Everett was successful on just 15 of 36 throws for 219 yards and two TDs with one picked off. With the long scoring reception Flipper Anderson had 87 yards on only two catches while Henry Ellard hauled in 4 passes for 70 yards. Greg Bell, the NFL’s second-ranking rusher coming into the game, ran for 44 yards on 21 attempts.

Reich continued to perform well for the Bills, leading them to two more wins before Kelly returned to the lineup. It was a controversy-filled year in Buffalo as Kelly feuded with teammates, two assistant coaches engaged in a fist fight in the film room, and fingers were pointed at players who had fueled the ’88 surge but seemed less consistent in 1989. For all that, Buffalo topped the AFC East for the second straight year, but with a lesser 9-7 record. The Bills lost at Cleveland in the Divisional playoff round.

As for the Rams, the loss at Buffalo was the first of four in a row, but they recovered to finish with six wins in their last seven games to finish at 11-5 and second to San Francisco in the NFC West. They qualified for the postseason as a Wild Card and advanced to the conference title game where they lost to the arch-rival 49ers.

In his relief role, Frank Reich completed 53 of 87 passes (60.9 %) for 701 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions. He went on to play five more years in Buffalo before moving on to the expansion Carolina Panthers, capably backing up Jim Kelly and engineering a memorable comeback in the 1992 postseason. 

October 14, 2012

1945: Rams Explode in 4th Quarter to Beat Packers

The NFL contest in Green Bay on October 14, 1945 was a faceoff between two Western Division teams that had started off the season at 2-0. The Green Bay Packers were the defending NFL Champions and still a potent squad, especially after their all-time great end Don Hutson had been persuaded to put off retirement and come back for another year. Coached by Curly Lambeau, the franchise’s founder, the Packers were a team that was used to contending.

As for the visiting Cleveland Rams, they had never been above .500 in any season since joining the NFL in 1937. But they had a new head coach in Adam Walsh, who installed a T-formation offense, and a talented rookie quarterback out of UCLA to run it in Bob Waterfield (pictured above). The Rams had an outstanding receiver of their own in end Jim Benton, who was ably complemented by Steve Pritko, plus a good group of running backs.

There were 24,607 fans in attendance at Green Bay’s City Stadium on a bright and clear day. The Rams scored on their first possession, driving 49 yards and finishing with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Waterfield to Benton. While Waterfield’s first extra point attempt was successful, it was nullified by a holding penalty and the second try was no good when it sailed wide. Still, Cleveland was ahead by 6-0.

That remained the situation until the third quarter when Rams HB Tom Colella fumbled and Green Bay tackle Paul Lipscomb recovered at the Cleveland 25. FB Ted Fritsch ran three times to get to the one and tailback Irv Comp went the last yard for a TD. Hutson kicked the extra point to put the Packers ahead by 7-6.

In the fourth quarter, the Packers went 54 yards, with the highlight a pass from tailback Roy McKay to Hutson for 24 yards. Fritsch plowed through the middle for a three-yard touchdown and Hutson added the point after.

Down by 14-6 in the final period, the Rams had possession at their own 27 and put together a seven-play scoring drive. Waterfield capped it by passing to Colella for a nine-yard TD. Cleveland then received a big break when Green Bay’s McKay fumbled and tackle Roger Eason recovered for the Rams at the Packers’ 17. FB Don Greenwood, Colella, and Waterfield each took a turn running the ball to get to the one yard line and Greenwood scored from there.

McKay and Comp took turns trying to connect on passes to Don Hutson until DB Albie Reisz intercepted one and returned it to the Green Bay 5. Colella ran the ball in from there for a touchdown that sealed the win for the Rams. Thanks to the three fourth quarter TDs, and Waterfield’s successful conversions after each, Cleveland came away the winner by a final score of 27-14.

The Rams led in total yards (289 to 232) but Green Bay had the edge in first downs (16 to 12). However, Cleveland ran the ball more effectively (154 yards on 45 carries to 81 yards on 39 attempts) and the Packers turned the ball over six times, as opposed to four turnovers by the Rams.

As usual, Don Hutson was Green Bay’s chief offensive weapon, catching 7 passes for 110 yards, but he was unable to penetrate the end zone (he had done so four times in one quarter the previous week against Detroit). Jim Benton caught 5 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown for the Rams.

The win moved the Rams into first place in the Western Division and that’s where they stayed, going 9-1 and beating Washington for the NFL title. Green Bay dropped to third with a 6-4 record.

Bob Waterfield overcame a severe rib injury to achieve league MVP honors while passing for 1609 yards and leading the league in yards per attempt (9.4) and touchdown passes (14, tied with Sid Luckman of the Bears).

Jim Benton (pictured below) and Don Hutson were the NFL’s most productive receivers. In his final season, Hutson led the league for the eighth time (fifth consecutive) with 47 pass receptions while his 834 yards ranked second to Benton’s 1067. Benton placed second to Hutson with 45 catches.

The 1945 season marked a change in direction for the two franchises. Green Bay went into a decline that wasn’t reversed until the arrival of Vince Lombardi as head coach and general manager in 1959. The Rams, who moved to Los Angeles in 1946, won four division or conference titles over the course of the next decade and a league championship while regularly being among the NFL’s contending teams.

October 13, 2012

1991: Moon Passes for 423 Yards to Rally Oilers Past Jets

The Houston Oilers were well established by 1991 as the NFL’s most prolific passing team. Under second-year Head Coach Jack Pardee, they operated a run-and-shoot offense that had 34-year-old QB Warren Moon (pictured at right) throwing early and often to a talented stable of wide receivers that included Drew Hill, Haywood Jeffires, Ernest Givins, and Curtis Duncan. They were off to a 4-1 start as they took on the New York Jets on October 13.

The Jets, coached by Bruce Coslet, were 3-3 after having won their previous two games following three straight losses. QB Ken O’Brien, in his eighth season, was a steady if not spectacular performer and he had two good targets in wide receivers Al Toon and Rob Moore. RB Brad Baxter had outperformed the team’s 1990 first round draft choice, Blair Thomas.

There were 70,758 fans in attendance on a cloudy day at Giants Stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands. They saw the Jets take the opening kickoff and roll 80 yards in 10 plays. O’Brien completed four passes, including one for a 34-yard gain to Baxter to the Houston three yard line. From there, Baxter ran up the middle for the final three yards and a touchdown.

The Oilers went three-and-out on their initial possession and the Jets came back to score again. O’Brien started the drive off with an 18-yard completion to Toon and later threw to WR Chris Burkett for 23 yards to the Houston seven. New York wasn’t able to punch in for another TD, but the 59-yard possession ended with Pat Leahy kicking a 21-yard field goal to make it 10-0.

In the second quarter, Houston finally got something going on offense. The Oilers converted a fourth-and-one play at the New York 31 with a Moon pass to Haywood Jeffires (pictured below) for nine yards. Throwing on every play, Moon finished off the 10-play, 54-yard series with a three-yard TD pass to a diving Curtis Duncan in the end zone. Ian Howfield missed the extra point attempt, however, and the score remained 10-6 in favor of the Jets.

Following a New York punt, the Oilers took over at their 17 and Moon immediately threw to Jeffires for 35 yards. The drive went 83 yards in 10 plays with Moon converting two third downs with a 21-yard completion to Jeffires on third-and-five at the New York 43 and a 14-yard pass to Drew Hill in a third-and-six situation that made it first-and-goal at the four. RB Lorenzo White finished off the possession by taking a pitchout for a one-yard touchdown. This time the point after was successful and Houston was in front at 13-10.

New York had to punt again following its next series but Moon was intercepted by DB Lonnie Young to give the Jets a last shot with 21 seconds before the half and the ball at the Houston 47. Two O’Brien completions got the ball to the 34, but Leahy’s 52-yard field goal attempt sailed wide to the right and the Oilers maintained the three-point lead at the intermission.

Starting at their own six yard line after a short kickoff return to start the second half, the Oilers moved the ball effectively with Moon hitting on passes of 16 yards to Hill, 13 yards to Jeffires, and 9 more to Jeffires again to start the drive. But after reaching the New York 44, Moon was intercepted by CB Mike Brim, who returned it 13 yards to not only stop Houston’s drive but also give the Jets good field position. New York made the most of it, moving methodically down the field in 14 plays that ended with Leahy booting a 31-yard field goal to tie the score.

Moon had the Oilers driving again as the third quarter came to an end, but the drive stalled at the New York 32 and the attempt to convert a fourth-and-seven situation ended with an incomplete pass intended for WR Ernest Givins that was broken up by Lonnie Young.

The Jets went three-and-out on their next possession and Houston again came out throwing with Moon going to Jeffires for gains of 14 and 35 yards to the New York 27. An apparent touchdown run by White was nullified by a holding penalty, but the Oilers scored on Howfield field goal of 23 yards to move back in front at 16-13.

New York was unable to move the ball on its next series, even after retaining possession when a punt hit Houston DB Marcus Robertson on the arm and was recovered by Burkett for the Jets. Still, a second Louie Aguiar punt went out of bounds at the Houston six, and with just under six minutes remaining there was still time for the Jets – if they could get the ball back.

White ran for a two-yard loss on Houston’s first play, but then Moon threw to Duncan for nine yards and, in a big third-and-three situation, hit Duncan again for 23 more yards. White ran for 11 yards and then Moon passed for eight before handing off to White three more times for short gains while the Jets used their first two timeouts. But on third-and-four, Moon threw to Hill on a crossing pattern and the wide receiver went all the way for a 37-yard touchdown.

It was the clincher for Houston – the Jets drove to a last-play touchdown as O’Brien passed to Burkett from 18 yards out, but time ran out on New York. The Oilers came away with a 23-20 win.

Houston significantly outgained the Jets (436 yards to 279) and had the edge in first downs (25 to 21). Neither team ran the ball effectively, with New York gaining 43 yards on 21 attempts and the Oilers compiling just 27 on 15 carries. The Oilers sacked O’Brien four times while Moon was sacked once by the Jets. Houston also turned the ball over three times while New York suffered just one turnover.

Warren Moon went to the air 50 times and had 35 completions for 423 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Haywood Jeffires led the receivers with 13 catches for 186 yards while Curtis Duncan added 8 receptions for 67 yards and a TD and Drew Hill (pictured below) pulled in 6 passes for 80 yards and a score. Lorenzo White led what there was of a running attack with 24 yards on 11 attempts that included a TD.

For the Jets, Ken O’Brien completed 24 of 42 passes for 269 yards with a TD and one intercepted. Chris Burkett caught 6 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown and Al Toon also had 6 receptions, for 51 yards. Brad Baxter had 31 yards and a touchdown on 10 rushing attempts.

“This should show people we are for real,” say Haywood Jeffires. “Now we can go to Miami and come up with back-to-back wins on the road. I think we will and people will consider us a Super Bowl contender.”

Houston did indeed win the next week against the Dolphins and made it to 7-1 before losing again. The Oilers did lose three of their last five games, but after having been a Wild Card team the previous four years, they won the AFC Central with an 11-5 record. In the postseason, they once again beat the Jets to get through the Wild Card round but lost a close contest at Denver in the Divisional round to once again come up short of a trip to the Super Bowl. New York was 8-8 on the year but still managed to finish second in the AFC East and qualify for a Wild Card spot.

Filling the air with passes on a regular basis, Warren Moon led the NFL in attempts (655), completions (404), yards (4690), but also interceptions (21). Still, his passer rating of 81.7 ranked only tenth and he was fifth in touchdown passes with 23. He was selected to the Pro Bowl for the fourth straight year.

Haywood Jeffires led the league with 100 pass receptions and ranked fourth with 1181 yards. He was a consensus first-team All-Pro and also was chosen for the Pro Bowl for the first of an eventual three consecutive times. Drew Hill ranked third by catching 90 passes and seventh in yards with 1109.