August 31, 2013

1997: Rob Johnson Rallies Jaguars to Win Over Ravens in First Start


The Jacksonville Jaguars had gone from first-year expansion team to playoff participant, reaching the AFC Championship game, a year later in 1996. Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s club started slowly but came on strong in the second half of the season, with the NFL’s second-ranked offense (and first-ranked passing offense) leading the way. QB Mark Brunell and wide receivers Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell distinguished themselves and veteran RB Natrone Means provided a vital spark during the playoff run.

On August 31, 1997 the Jaguars traveled to Baltimore to open their third season against the Ravens, a team they had twice beaten the previous year in closely-contested games. However, after taking all of the team’s snaps in ’96, Brunell suffered a preseason knee injury that made him unavailable for Week 1. In his place would be Rob Johnson (pictured above), a highly-regarded third-year backup who had performed very well in preseason games but, due to Brunell’s durability, had seen scant action during the regular season. He would be making his first pro start.

The Ravens, coached by Ted Marchibroda, were starting their second year in Baltimore following the move of the franchise from Cleveland. Like the Jaguars, they featured a strong passing game led by 33-year-old QB Vinny Testaverde, who was coming off a Pro Bowl season. However, the injury-plagued defense gave up 441 points and the team ended up with a 4-12 record.

There were 61,018 fans in attendance at Memorial Stadium for the late-afternoon game. In the first series, the Jaguars drove 84 yards in eight plays. Rob Johnson completed all three of his passes, the longest to Keenan McCardell for 25 yards that moved the ball into Baltimore territory. Facing a third-and-three situation at the 25, Johnson ran the ball himself up the middle for a touchdown.

The Ravens went three-and-out on their ensuing possession although Greg Montgomery’s punt traveled 53 yards to the Jacksonville 7. LB Peter Boulware sacked Johnson for a three-yard loss on the first play but the young quarterback came right back with back-to-back completions to McCardell that gained a total of 20 yards and a first down. Johnson completed two more passes for sizeable gains as the Jaguars went 93 yards in 12 plays. A throw to TE Ty Hallock picked up 23 yards to the Baltimore 44 and a completion to RB James Stewart on a third-and-13 play was good for 31 yards to the one yard line. Three plays later Natrone Means gained the last yard for a TD and, with another successful Mike Hollis extra point, the score was 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.

The Ravens had the ball as the second quarter started and their offense had come to life. On the last play of the opening period, Vinny Testaverde connected with RB Earnest Byner for a 17-yard gain to the Jacksonville 29. Four plays into the second quarter Testaverde threw to WR Jermaine Lewis for a 17-yard touchdown and, with Matt Stover’s extra point, it was a 14-7 game.

Now it was the Jaguars going three-and-out on offense and the Ravens regained possession at their 26 after the resulting punt. Converting two third downs along the way, Baltimore took eight plays to go 74 yards and score again. Testaverde completed seven passes, including the last one to Lewis that was good for a 42-yard TD. Stover tied the game at 14-14.



The teams traded punts until Jacksonville FS Chris Hudson intercepted a Testaverde pass and returned it 23 yards to the Baltimore 34. The Jaguars moved backward thanks to a sack and holding penalty, but facing second-and-19, Johnson hit Jimmy Smith (pictured at left) for a 22-yard gain. Two plays later he found Smith again for a 20-yard touchdown and, adding the successful PAT, Jacksonville was back in front by 21-14.

The Ravens got the ball back on the ensuing kickoff with just over a minute remaining in the half. Testaverde was successful on four passes, three of them to WR Michael Jackson, in getting the ball to the Jacksonville 14 and, on the last play before halftime, Stover booted a 33-yard field goal. The Jaguars were up by 21-17 at the midway point.

Jacksonville’s lead didn’t last long in the third quarter, however, as the Ravens struck quickly following a 42-yard return of the second half kickoff by Lewis. Three plays later Testaverde threw to Jackson for a 54-yard touchdown and, with the successful extra point, Baltimore was in front by 24-21.

On the third play of the ensuing series, Johnson, already gimpy, was injured after getting off a pass to Smith for a 20-yard gain. Steve Matthews came in at quarterback and completed three passes as the Jaguars reached the Baltimore 40 before having to punt. Bryan Barker’s kick was downed at the five.

Thanks to runs by Byner and Testaverde’s passing, the Ravens were able to move the ball to their 35 before CB Deon Figures intercepted a pass to give the Jaguars possession at their own 44. Johnson was back in at quarterback despite a sprained ankle and, with Means running effectively in addition to short pass completions, Jacksonville advanced to the Baltimore 24 before Means was dropped for a loss on a third-and-two play at the end of the period. Hollis missed a 43-yard field goal try to start the fourth quarter.

The Ravens again moved the ball well, this time going 60 yards in 13 plays and putting points on the board. Stover made a 25-yard field goal that stretched the home team’s lead to six points.

Starting at their 20 following a touchback on the kickoff, the Jaguars got 25 yards right away on a Johnson completion to McCardell. Four plays later they converted a third-and-six situation as Johnson connected with TE Pete Mitchell for 23 yards and then followed up with a Johnson-to-Smith pass play for a 28-yard touchdown. Hollis kicked the extra point that put the Jaguars back in front by a point with 5:47 left on the clock.

The Ravens had three more possessions but couldn’t regain the lead. The first series went three-and-out with a punt, the second lasted just two plays before Figures intercepted a Testaverde pass for the second time, and the last ended at midfield when a fourth-and-18 pass was ruled incomplete. The Jaguars came away with a 28-27 win.

Jacksonville outgained the Ravens (411 yards to 373) while Baltimore accumulated more first downs (22 to 19). The Ravens also turned the ball over three times, to one suffered by the Jaguars, although Jacksonville was penalized 11 times to three flags thrown on the home team.

Rob Johnson had a fine performance as he completed 20 of 24 passes for 294 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Jimmy Smith had 6 catches for 106 yards and two TDs while Keenan McCardell contributed 6 receptions for 84 yards. Natrone Means ran for 67 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries.



For the Ravens, Vinny Testaverde was successful on 24 of 41 throws for 322 yards with three TDs but also three interceptions. Michael Jackson (pictured at right) caught 8 of those passes for 143 yards and a score. Jermaine Lewis had two TDs among his four catches for 73 yards and also added 118 yards on his four kickoff returns.  Earnest Byner had 63 yards on 14 rushing attempts.

The severe ankle injury kept Johnson out of the Week 2 contest and Brunell was back in action thereafter. Jacksonville went on to an 11-5 record, placing second in the AFC Central and again qualifying for the postseason. The Jaguars lost to Denver in the Wild Card round. The Ravens finished at the bottom of the division at 6-9-1.

Rob Johnson saw little action the rest of the way but his performance at Baltimore drew the interest of other teams. He was traded to Buffalo during the next offseason for first and fourth round draft choices, although he did not find much success as a full-time starting quarterback in a career that lasted until 2003.

August 30, 2013

1944: Bears Rally to Beat College All-Stars


The Chicago Bears, defending NFL Champions, were missing several veteran players due to World War II military service as they faced the College All-Stars on August 30, 1944. Owner/Head Coach George Halas was in the service as well, with assistants Hunk Anderson and Luke Johnsos acting as co-coaches. Fortunately for them, star QB Sid Luckman (pictured above) was available thanks to a ten-day furlough from the Merchant Marine.

For the All-Stars, coached by Northwestern’s Lynn “Pappy” Waldorf, Tulsa QB Glenn Dobbs was available on a 20-day furlough from the Army. Due to relaxed wartime eligibility rules that allowed underclassmen to play, Dobbs was making his second appearance in the annual contest. Other notable players included HB Charlie Trippi from Georgia, Ohio State tackle Bill Willis, guards Dick Barwegan of Purdue and Bruno Banducci from Stanford, Indiana QB Lou Saban, and HB Steve Van Buren of LSU.

For the second straight year the game was played at Northwestern University’s Dyche Stadium. There were 48,769 fans on hand in rainy conditions for the Wednesday night contest. Chicago got the first break when Charlie Trippi fumbled a punt and HB Ray Nolting recovered for the Bears at the All-Star 36. However, the Bears were unable to capitalize and penalties moved them back to midfield, from where they were forced to punt.

The All-Stars couldn’t move either but Dobbs booted the ball 85 yards on a quick-kick punt that pinned the Bears at their own two yard line. Chicago was forced to punt in turn and Luckman’s kick gave the All-Stars good field position at the Bears’ 33. The All-Stars scored in four plays. Dobbs threw to Notre Dame end John Yonakor for 30 yards to the Chicago three and, after failing to cross the goal line on the next two plays, Dobbs passed to another Notre Dame player, HB Creighton Miller, in the corner of the end zone for a four-yard touchdown. Lou Saban added the extra point.

The Bears were forced to punt again and the All-Stars again drove to a score, helped along by Indiana HB Billy Hillenbrand’s 32-yard punt return. Dobbs completed two passes and, on a third down play, faded back to pass but instead ran 12 yards and, at the one, fumbled but C John Tavener from Indiana recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. Saban again added the extra point and the All-Stars held a 14-0 lead.



With the game rapidly getting away from the Bears, the defending champs put together a solid 80-yard drive in response. After HB Ray “Scooter” McLean (pictured at right) ran for 11 yards, Luckman completed two passes, the longest to Nolting for 21 yards as the first quarter ended. The Bears finally got on the board on the fourth play of the second quarter when FB Gary Famiglietti ran for a three-yard TD.

Two minutes later the All-Stars had to punt and Dobbs’ kick was partially blocked. Luckman threw to McLean to advance to the All-Star 14. On a fourth down play from the 12, end Jim Benton caught the game-tying touchdown pass. Pete Gudauskas successfully converted following each score. Each team had another shot to put more points on the board in the second quarter but interceptions blunted the drives.

The halftime featured a tribute to college football players serving in the military during World War II. In the darkened stadium, entertainer Don Ameche took particular note of the six former All-Star participants who had died during the conflict.

The All-Stars took the second half kickoff and went 65 yards to re-take the lead with Hillenbrand in for Dobbs. The drive featured three pass completions and Saban ran for a one-yard TD and added the extra point. The Bears responded with a 64-yard scoring drive of their own. Three Luckman completions, the last to McLean for 16 yards, set up the scoring play as McLean weaved his way to an 18-yard touchdown to again tie the score.

A Chicago punt pinned the All-Stars back at their eight yard line. Dobbs tried another quick-kick, but with a torrential rain falling the kick was partially blocked and the Bears took over at the All-Star 29. With Famiglietti and McLean running effectively, Chicago moved inside the ten yard line before the series stalled. Pete Gudauskas kicked a 14-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter that gave the Bears the lead for the first time.

The All-Stars fought back during the final period and at one point reached the Chicago 38 but Luckman intercepted a pass to snuff out the threat. The Bears held on to win the hard-fought contest by a score of 24-21.

The Bears outrushed the All-Stars (143 to 73) and had the edge in first downs (14 to 9) while the collegians went to the air more times and gained more yards (146 to 128). However, four of their 32 passes were intercepted. Along with a fumble, the All-Stars suffered five turnovers to just two by the Bears. Neither team was able to mount a credible pass rush.

The win was the eighth thus far for the pro teams against three for the collegians and two ties. The Bears were participants for the fifth time and improved their record to 4-0-1.

In the season that followed, the Bears, who had topped the Western Division for four straight years, fell into a tie for second place with Detroit at 6-3-1. Sid Luckman was usually able to get away from his Merchant Marine duties to play on Sundays, but a slow start kept Chicago behind the Packers.

Glenn Dobbs (pictured below), the MVP for the All-Stars, returned to his military duties and played service football before joining the All-America Football Conference, where he played for Brooklyn and Los Angeles. He continued to be a top passer and punter and went on to play in Canada after the AAFC’s demise.


August 29, 2013

Rookie of the Year: Hugh Douglas, 1995

Defensive End, New York Jets



Age: 24
College: Central State (Ohio)
Height: 6’2”   Weight: 255

Prelude:
Douglas was twice a Division 1 NAIA All-American during a college career in which he accumulated 42 sacks in 32 games. He was chosen by the Jets in the first round (16th overall) of the 1995 NFL draft and, used initially as a situational player for his pass rushing skill, moved into the starting lineup in November. While he was on the light side for his position, but compensated with good speed and agility (he eventually filled out to 280 pounds).

1995 Season Summary
Appeared in 15 of 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Sacks – 10 [18, tied with Phil Hansen]
Most sacks, game – 3 vs. Jacksonville 9/17
Multi-sack games (2 or more) – 2
Interceptions – 0
Fumble recoveries – 2
Forced fumbles – 0
Tackles – 25
Assists – 8

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

Jets went 3-13 to finish fifth in the AFC East while leading the league in fewest passing yards allowed (2740) – although they ranked 25th against the run (2016 yards).

Aftermath:
Ankle problems limited Douglas to 10 games in 1996, but he still accounted for 8 sacks and improved as a defender against the run. However, with the arrival of Bill Parcells as head coach in ’97 the Jets shifted to a 3-4 defense and Douglas proved to be a poor fit. He was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1998 and, back in a 4-3 alignment, flourished as he registered 12.5 sacks. Knee and biceps injuries limited him to four games in ’99 but he came back in 2000 to post a career-high 15 sacks and achieve consensus first-team All-NFL as well as Pro Bowl honors. Two more Pro Bowl seasons followed in 2001 and ’02 in which he had 9.5 and 12.5 sacks, respectively. Douglas went to Jacksonville as a free agent in 2003, had a disappointing season as accumulated wear began to show, and finished up his career in ’04 back with the Eagles. Overall, he had 80 sacks over the course of ten seasons and 138 games, was chosen to the Pro Bowl a total of three times, and received first- or second-team All-NFL recognition on two occasions.

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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 28, 2013

1961: Giants Obtain Del Shofner from Rams


After having won three Eastern Conference titles and a NFL Championship in the four years from 1956 thru ’59, the New York Giants went 6-4-2 and dropped to third place in 1960. Looking toward the 1961 season, the Giants were facing several areas of concern.  

Two of the problems facing new Head Coach Allie Sherman were at quarterback and offensive end. While veteran Charlie Conerly had been a capable quarterback over the years, he was 40 years old and showing signs of wear. George Shaw had split time with Conerly in ’60, was found wanting, and sent off to the expansion Minnesota Vikings, and young prospect Lee Grosscup was too inexperienced. In addition, there were concerns about a lack of speed among the available receivers.

In mid-August the first of those issues was addressed when Y.A. Tittle, an accomplished veteran who was five years younger than Conerly, was obtained from the 49ers. On August 28 the receiving corps was bolstered by the acquisition of split end Del Shofner from the Los Angeles Rams.

The Giants traded the 1962 first draft choice that they had obtained from the Vikings in the deal for Shaw to LA in order to get the lanky (6’3”, 186 pounds) four-year veteran (the Rams used the draft choice to pick QB Roman Gabriel from North Carolina State).

Shofner had come out of Baylor where he was a versatile player who, in his senior year, led the team in rushing, pass receiving, pass interceptions, kick returning, punting, and scoring. Taken by the Rams in the first round of the 1957 draft (ironically enough, with a draft choice they had obtained from the Giants), he was used as a defensive halfback during his rookie year and intercepted two passes. He was shifted to offensive end in ’58 with outstanding results as he led the NFL in pass receiving yards (1097) while catching 51 passes for a 21.5-yard average and eight touchdowns.

Shofner followed up that performance by catching 47 passes for 936 yards (19.9 avg.) and seven TDs in 1959. He was a consensus first-team All-NFL as well as Pro Bowl selection after each season. However, a pulled leg muscle kept him out of action for much of 1960 and he had only 12 catches for 122 yards (10.2 avg.) and one score. He still handled LA’s punting for the third consecutive season, averaging 42.6 yards on 54 kicks.

The arrival of Tittle and Shofner paid dividends for 1961 and beyond. Tittle supplanted Conerly as the starting quarterback and had a Pro Bowl year, throwing for 2272 yards and 17 touchdowns. Shofner caught 68 passes for 1125 yards and 11 TDs, also garnering a Pro Bowl selection as well as consensus first-team All-NFL honors. The revitalized Giants narrowly topped the Eastern Conference with a 10-3-1 record although they were blown out in the NFL title game by the Packers.

The combination of Tittle to Shofner remained effective in 1962 and ’63. In 1962 Shofner showed his toughness when, injured against the Steelers in the fifth game of the season, he was initially diagnosed with a broken shoulder that was expected to keep him out of action for six to eight weeks. Instead, he missed only one game and when he returned for a contest against the visiting Washington Redskins had one of the great receiving games in franchise history as he pulled in 11 passes for 269 yards and a TD. It was all part of a day in which Tittle threw for 505 yards and a record-tying seven touchdowns.

Shofner went on to accumulate 53 catches for 1133 yards (21.4 avg.) and 12 TDs. He again received consensus first-team All-NFL and Pro Bowl honors. It was the same in 1963 as he pulled in 64 passes for 1181 yards (18.5 avg.) and 9 touchdowns. In his first three seasons with the Giants, Shofner caught 185 passes for 3439 yards, averaging 18.6 yards per catch, and scored 32 TDs. Along the way he had 13 hundred-yard performances and on four occasions caught three touchdown passes in a game.

With Tittle having stellar seasons at quarterback, twice setting new NFL records for touchdown passes in a season and receiving MVP recognition in each of the three years, and with a solid and well-seasoned defense, the Giants topped the Eastern Conference each time. However, they failed to win the NFL Championship, twice losing to the Packers and, in 1963, to the Bears. That last loss was perhaps the most galling as Tittle suffered a knee injury that hindered his effectiveness and Shofner missed a first quarter pass in the end zone that could have given the team a 14-0 lead.

In any event, the title game loss in ’63 marked something of a turning point. The Giants crashed in 1964, falling into last place with a 2-10-2 record. It marked the end of Tittle’s Hall of Fame career and, among others, Shofner suffered through an injury-plagued campaign, appearing in just six games and catching 22 passes for 323 yards and no touchdowns. He remained with the Giants until 1967 but suffered from an assortment of injuries and had much-reduced production. In contrast with his first three stellar years in New York, over his last four seasons Shofner had 54 receptions for 876 yards (16.2 avg.) and three touchdowns.

Still, the first three great seasons justified the trade that brought Shofner to the Giants. He stretched the field and provided Y.A. Tittle with a potent deep threat. A thin and unlikely looking pro football player, Shofner had a great combination of speed, hands, and savvy as a receiver. When his 11-season career came to an end, he had caught 349 passes for 6470 yards, an 18.5-yard average gain, and 51 touchdowns. In addition, he was a consensus first-team All-NFL and Pro Bowl selection following five of those seasons.

August 27, 2013

MVP Profile: Johnny Unitas, 1964

Quarterback, Baltimore Colts



Age:  31
9th season in pro football & with Colts
College: Louisville
Height: 6’1”   Weight: 194

Prelude:
Unitas was chosen in the 9th round of the 1955 NFL draft by the Steelers, but failed to make the team in the preseason. After playing semi-pro football, he was signed by the Colts to back up starting QB George Shaw and when Shaw went down with a broken kneecap four games into the ’56 season, Unitas got his chance, showed potential, and held onto the job. He broke out in 1957, leading the league in pass attempts (301), yards (2550), TD passes (24), and yards per attempt (8.5). The Colts contended and Unitas was selected to the Pro Bowl and received MVP consideration. It set the stage for a championship season in ’58, with Unitas leading the NFL with 19 TD passes despite missing two games due to injury and then leading the Colts to a title with a memorable overtime win over the Giants. Unitas was chosen to a second Pro Bowl and was a consensus first-team All-Pro for the first time. An outstanding play-caller as well as passer with a quick release, he was adept at throwing long, short, or in between. He followed up in 1959 by leading the NFL in pass attempts (367), completions (193), yards (2899), and a then-record 32 touchdown passes. The Colts repeated as league champs and Unitas received MVP as well as All-NFL and Pro Bowl recognition. He continued to excel, although the Colts went into a brief decline. His record 47-straight-game TD passing streak ended in 1960 (and remained the standard until 2012) and he led the NFL in passing attempts, completions, and yards twice more and TD passes once through 1963, by which point he had achieved seven straight Pro Bowl selections.

1964 Season Summary
Appeared in all 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Passing
Attempts – 305 [8]
Most attempts, game – 32 at Chicago 11/8
Completions – 158 [8, tied with Don Meredith]
Most completions, game – 16 at Chicago 11/8
Yards – 2824 [3]
Most yards, game – 289 vs. Minnesota 11/15
Completion percentage – 51.8 [10]
Yards per attempt – 9.3 [1]
TD passes – 19 [5]
Most TD passes, game – 3 vs. Chicago 9/27, vs. LA Rams 10/4
Interceptions – 6 [14, tied with John Roach]
Most interceptions, game – 2 at Detroit 10/25
Passer rating – 96.4 [2]
200-yard passing games – 9

Rushing
Attempts – 37
Most attempts, game - 5 (for 16 yds.) at Green Bay 9/20
Yards – 162
Most yards, game – 34 yards (on 4 carries) at Chicago 11/8
Yards per attempt – 4.4
TDs – 2

Scoring
TDs – 2
Points – 12

Postseason: 1 G (NFL Championship at Cleveland)
Pass attempts – 20
Pass completions – 12
Passing yardage – 95
TD passes – 0
Interceptions – 2

Rushing attempts – 6
Rushing yards – 30
Average gain rushing – 5.0
Rushing TDs – 0

Awards & Honors:
NFL MVP: AP, UPI, Bert Bell Award, Sporting News
1st team All-NFL: AP, NEA, UPI, NY Daily News
1st team All-Western Conference: Sporting News
Pro Bowl

The Colts went 12-2 to finish first in the Western Conference while leading the NFL in total yards (4779), scoring (428 points), and touchdowns (54). Lost NFL Championship to Cleveland Browns (27-0).

Aftermath:
Unitas was having another outstanding season in 1965 until felled by a knee injury, still garnering consensus first-team All-NFL honors. He was chosen for the Pro Bowl following the 1966 and ’67 seasons, the latter of which saw him gain MVP honors for the fourth (and last) time. A severe elbow injury caused him to miss virtually all of the 1968 season and he showed wear over the remainder of his 18-year career that ended with the Chargers in 1973, although he quarterbacked the Colts through one last championship season in 1970. For his career, Unitas set then-NFL standards for pass attempts (5186), completions (2830), yards (40,239) and touchdowns (290). He was named to 10 Pro Bowls and received first- or second-team All-NFL honors eight times. Unitas had his #19 retired by the Colts and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1979.

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MVP Profiles feature players who were named MVP or Player of the Year in the NFL, AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press, Pro Football Writers Association, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, Maxwell Club – Bert Bell Award, or the league itself).

August 26, 2013

1949: Hornets Edge Bills in AAFC Season-Opening Game


The All-America Football Conference’s Chicago franchise had undergone significant alteration coming into the 1949 season. The league had installed new ownership and the nickname was changed from Rockets to Hornets. Ray Flaherty was brought in to coach the team, and he had experienced success with the NFL Redskins and AAFC Yankees. Most importantly, there were many new players on the roster, including ten alone who had come from the defunct Brooklyn Dodgers. For a team that was coming off a miserable 1-13 record, it could only be an improvement.

The Hornets opened the regular season on August 26 against the Buffalo Bills. The Bills had nearly been sold and relocated to Houston in the offseason, but strong community support kept the team in place. Head Coach Red Dawson’s club was coming off a 7-7 campaign in ’48 that was good enough to tie for first place in the mediocre Eastern Division and had advanced to the league title game, only to be pummeled by the mighty Cleveland Browns. QB George Ratterman had skillfully guided the productive offense, but he was holding out in a salary dispute and was thus unavailable for the first game of the new season. Untested backup QB Jim Still started in his place.

There were 23,800 in attendance at Soldier Field for the Friday night game. The Hornets unveiled a single-wing attack, taking advantage of the presence of tailbacks Bob “Hunchy” Hoernschmeyer (pictured at top), who was returning to the team after a hiatus with the Dodgers; Johnny Clement, formerly of the NFL Steelers; and Bob Chappuis, another Brooklyn refugee.

It was the Bills getting on the board first on a touchdown pass from Jim Still to end Al Baldwin that covered 18 yards. Not only did it put the visitors ahead by 7-0 after Chet Adams added the extra point, but it marked an AAFC-record seventh straight game, stretching back to the previous season, in which Baldwin (pictured below) had scored a TD.



The Hornets scored twice in the second quarter on big plays to take the lead. Bob Hoernschemeyer passed to wingback Ray Ramsey on a play that covered 63 yards for a touchdown. Johnny Clement then connected with wingback Paul Patterson for a 35-yard TD. With both PATs successfully added, Chicago led at halftime by a 14-7 tally.

Neither club scored during the third quarter. Buffalo had difficulty moving on offense while the Hornets proved to be adept at turning the ball over. The Bills got a break in the fourth quarter when a bad snap on a punt gave them possession on the Chicago 38. The series culminated in a 13-yard run by HB Chet Mutryn that, with the successful extra point, tied the score.

Late in the fourth quarter the Hornets had the ball in scoring territory and Jim McCarthy booted a 21-yard field goal that broke the deadlock. Chicago held on to win by a final tally of 17-14.

The Hornets significantly outgained Buffalo (305 yards to 193), with the Bills only able to generate 66 yards through the air. The visitors had the edge in first downs (9 to 7) and Chicago turned the ball over six times (two interceptions and four fumbles) to three suffered by Buffalo.

It was an encouraging – if sloppy – start for the Hornets, who were thrashed by the 49ers the following week but won their next two and had a 4-3 record before the bottom fell out. They lost their remaining games and ended up at 4-8, tying them for fifth in the division-less AAFC with the Los Angeles Dons.

Bob Hoernschmeyer and Johnny Clement continued to handle the bulk of the playing time at tailback. Hoernschmeyer threw more passes (167 to 114) for more yards (1063 to 906) but Clement was more accurate (50.9 to 41.3). Each passed for six touchdowns. Hoernschmeyer also led the team in rushing with 456 yards, with Clement next at 388.

Buffalo had George Ratterman back in the fold in short order and, after getting off to a 1-4-1 start that cost Coach Ramsey his job, finished strong. The Bills ended up with a 5-5-2 record that placed them fourth and gave them a spot in the playoffs. They lost to the Browns in the first round.

Al Baldwin’s streak of games with touchdown receptions ended the week following the opening game. He ranked second for the year in the AAFC with 53 pass receptions, 719 yards, and 7 scoring catches (tied with Dante Lavelli and Mac Speedie of the Browns). 

August 25, 2013

Rookie of the Year: Joe Delaney, 1981

Running Back, Kansas City Chiefs



Age: 23 (Oct. 30)
College: Northwestern State (Louisiana)
Height: 5’10” Weight: 184

Prelude:
Delaney starred in both track and football in college, and rushed for 3047 yards and 31 touchdowns, including 299 yards on 28 carries in a game against Nicholls State. He was chosen by the Chiefs in the second round of the 1981 NFL draft with the hope that his speed would make him an ideal situational back.

1981 Season Summary
Appeared in 15 of 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Rushing
Attempts – 234 [16]
Most attempts, game - 29 (for 193 yds.) vs. Houston 11/15
Yards – 1121 [10]
Most yards, game – 193 yards (on 29 carries) vs. Houston 11/15
Average gain – 4.8 [5, tied with James Brooks, Tony Dorsett, & Curtis Dickey]
TDs – 3
100-yard rushing games – 5

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 22      
Most receptions, game – 3 (for 104 yds.) vs. Oakland 10/11, (for 31 yds.) vs. Seattle 11/22
Yards – 246
Most yards, game - 104 (on 3 catches) vs. Oakland 10/11
Average gain – 11.2
TDs – 0

Kickoff Returns
Returns – 1
Yards – 11
Average per return – 11.0
TDs – 0

Scoring
TDs – 3
Points – 18

Awards & Honors:
AFC Rookie of the Year: UPI
1st-team All-AFC: UPI, Pro Football Weekly
Pro Bowl

Chiefs went 9-7 to finish third in the AFC West while leading the AFC in rushing (2633 yards).

Aftermath:
Injuries marred Delaney’s play in 1982, a strike-shortened season, and he appeared in eight of the nine games. He ran the ball for 380 yards on 95 carries (4.0 avg.) and caught just 11 passes. His career was tragically cut short during the offseason when he drowned while attempting to save three children in a pond. Chiefs players wore a patch in his honor during the 1983 season and his name was later added to the team’s Ring of Honor at Arrowhead Stadium.

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Rookie of the Year Profiles feature players who were named Rookie of the Year in the NFL, 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 23, 2013

1946: Long TDs by Hirsch Spur College All-Stars to Win Over Rams


The 13th College All-Star Game on August 23, 1946 featured a transplanted defending NFL Champion, the Los Angeles Rams, facing an All-Star team coached by Bo McMillin of Indiana, who had guided a previous group of All-Stars to a win in 1938.

As the Cleveland Rams in 1945, Head Coach Adam Walsh’s team had gone 9-1 in winning the Western Division and then edged the Redskins for the league title. Rookie QB Bob Waterfield excelled in the club’s new T-formation offense that also featured end Jim Benton and a good group of running backs. New for 1946, in addition to the franchise’s location, was HB Kenny Washington who, along with end Woody Strode, broke the NFL’s color line, plus former Heisman Trophy winner HB Tom Harmon, who had returned from military duty.

The All-Stars had a talented roster that included tailback Otto Graham from Northwestern, Tulane HB Dub Jones, and FB Pat Harder and HB Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch from Wisconsin (pictured above; Hirsch also played at Michigan during his stint as a Marine Corps officer candidate). Due to relaxed eligibility rules during World War II that allowed underclassmen to participate, several players were appearing in the contest for the second or third time.

There were 97,380 fans in attendance at Chicago’s Soldier Field for the Friday night game. In the first quarter, after the Rams were stopped at the All-Star 30, the collegians struck quickly. The first play of the series gained two yards and then “Crazylegs” Hirsch took a pitchout and tore off to his right on a 68-yard touchdown carry, outrunning the Rams secondary and eluding a last-gasp tackle at the ten yard line. Pat Harder added the extra point.

In the second quarter, the Rams mounted their greatest threat, reaching the All-Star nine yard line after Bob Waterfield connected with Jim Benton for a 27-yard gain, but they came up empty and the score remained 7-0 at the half.

The Rams appeared to be flat, blowing several scoring opportunities in the first half, particularly after All-Star fumbles. On three occasions they were inside the All-Star 20 yard line and in the collegians’ territory two more times but failed to put points on the board in each instance. The All-Stars were well prepared to defend against the passing game and as a result Waterfield had few open targets. LA’s typically strong aerial attack was successful only sporadically and the running game could not adequately compensate.

In the third quarter, and after a series by the Rams that ended with a failed 39-yard field goal attempt, Hirsch struck again as he grabbed a long, arching pass from Otto Graham in full stride for a 62-yard TD. The collegians had taken over on their 20 and gained 18 yards in three plays. Graham’s pass traveled 37 yards in the air and Hirsch got past DHB Jim Gillette to score. Once again, Harder kicked the extra point to make it 14-0.

In the fourth quarter the desperate Rams inserted some of their newcomers to try to turn things around. Tom Harmon ran the ball once for an eight-yard loss and suffered a dislocated elbow. Kenny Washington attempted to throw an option pass from behind his own goal line and was tackled by Yale DE Paul Walker for a safety that capped the scoring. The All-Stars came away with a stunning 16-0 win.

Apart from the two long scoring plays, the All-Stars were hardly dominant on offense. They outgained LA by 227 yards to 167 and the Rams actually led in first downs by 7 to 5. The collegians were guilty of sloppy play as they fumbled the ball seven times and the Rams recovered four of them. LA was unable to capitalize, however, and Bob Waterfield had a rough performance as he completed 7 of 16 passes and had two intercepted.

It was the fourth win for the All-Stars in the series, against seven for the pro champs and two ties. Bo McMillin became the first coach to twice lead the All-Stars to victory. Along with Hirsch, tackle Martin Ruby from Texas A & M received accolades as one of the stars of the game.

In the ensuing NFL season, the Rams went on to finish 6-4-1 and placed second in the Western Division. Waterfield led the league in pass attempts (251), completions (127), and touchdown passes (17). 

“Crazylegs” Hirsch, who ironically enough had been chosen by the Rams in the first round of the 1945 NFL draft, instead joined the Chicago Rockets of the new All-America Football Conference (AAFC). He started out as a halfback but, after an injury-filled sojourn that concluded with his suffering a severe head injury during the ‘48 season, joined the Rams. Starting out as a halfback who was often flanked out wide, Hirsch moved to end and became a record-breaking receiver over a career that ended in 1957. The same flashy skills that he used to such advantage in the 1946 College All-Star Game were evident during his years in the NFL and he caught 343 passes for 6299 yards and 53 touchdowns. In 1968 Hirsch was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

August 22, 2013

MVP Profile: Lee Roy Selmon, 1979

Defensive End, Tampa Bay Buccaneers



Age:  25 (Oct. 20)
4th season in pro football & with Buccaneers
College: Oklahoma
Height: 6’3”   Weight: 255

Prelude:
Selmon won the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award as college football’s best lineman in 1975 and was the first overall draft choice of the expansion Buccaneers for ’76 (his brother Dewey, a linebacker, was picked in the second round). He missed half of his rookie season due to a knee injury but came back strong in 1977 and excelled as a pass rushing right end in a 3-4 alignment despite often being double or triple-teamed by opponents. Another solid year in ’78 was tempered by his undergoing knee surgery afterward.

1979 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Sacks – 11 (unofficial)
Interceptions – 0
Fumble recoveries – 2
Fumble recovery TDs – 1
Forced fumbles – 3
Tackles – 117

Scoring
TDs – 1
Points – 6

Postseason: 2 G
Sacks – N/A
Interceptions – 0

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

Buccaneers went 10-6 to finish first in the NFC Central – the first winning record in franchise history – while leading the NFL in fewest yards allowed (3949), fewest passing yards allowed (2076), and fewest points allowed (237). Won NFC Divisional playoff over Philadelphia Eagles (24-17). Lost NFC Championship to Los Angeles Rams (9-0).

Aftermath:
Selmon was chosen to the Pro Bowl again in 1980 and every year thereafter until a back injury ended his career in 1984 – a total of six consecutive selections (he was forced to sit out the 1985 season before formally retiring). He also received 1st or 2nd team All-NFL recognition in 1980, ’82, ’83, and ’84. Sacks were not counted as an official statistic until 1982, so while had 23 in his last three seasons with a high of 11 in 1983, he has unofficially been credited with 78.5 for his career. Selmon’s #63 was retired by the Buccaneers (the first such honor in franchise history) and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1995.

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MVP Profiles feature players who were named MVP or Player of the Year in the NFL, AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press, Pro Football Writers Association, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, Maxwell Club – Bert Bell Award, or the league itself). Also includes Associated Press NFL Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year.

August 20, 2013

1948: Cards Shut Out College All-Stars


The 15th annual College All-Star Game on August 20, 1948 featured the Chicago Cardinals, defending NFL Champions, against a highly-regarded group of All-Stars coached by Notre Dame’s Frank Leahy. The All-Stars had won the last two games by identical 16-0 scores and the Cardinals came into the contest as underdogs, which was certainly an oddity in the history of the series.

The Cardinals, playing in their home town, were coached by Jimmy Conzelman and known for their outstanding offensive backfield that featured QB Paul Christman, FB Pat Harder, and halfbacks Charlie Trippi (pictured above) and Elmer Angsman operating out of the T-formation.

The past two winning All-Star teams had utilized the T-formation but Coach Leahy made a controversial decision in deciding to split his squad into T-formation and single wing groups. There was plenty of depth for both, with four T-formation quarterbacks (most notably Bobby Layne of Texas and Notre Dame’s Johnny Lujack) and three single wing tailbacks on the roster.

There was a crowd of 101,220 in attendance at Soldier Field under a full moon for the Friday night contest. The All-Stars got the first break early in the contest when C Dick Scott of Navy recovered a fumble by Charlie Trippi in Chicago territory.  However, they were unable to move the ball as Johnny Lujack threw two incomplete passes and Charlie Conerly of Mississippi punted into the end zone for a touchback.

The Cards responded impressively by going 80 yards in 15 plays.  Only one was a pass as Chicago moved methodically down the field, with the longest gain 19 yards on a lateral from Paul Christman to Elmer Angsman. Angsman finished the series as he punched over for a touchdown from two yards out and Pat Harder added the extra point.

The All-Stars threatened in the second quarter but turned the ball over on downs at the Chicago 32 yard line. The collegians got a break shortly thereafter when HB Boris “Babe” Dimancheff fumbled and the All-Stars recovered at the Chicago 27. Shifting to the single-wing, they advanced ten yards and again came away empty.



The Cards responded with another impressive drive, going 83 yards in nine plays. Three were Christman (pictured at right) pass completions, to Angsman and ends Bill Dewell and Mal Kutner. They scored on a 14-yard run by HB Vic Schwall on a quick-opener and Harder again successfully converted.

The All-Stars recovered yet another fumble by the Cards and Michigan end Len Ford ran 55 yards for what would have been a touchdown under NFL rules. However, they were using college rules for the All-Star Game and the ball was returned to the point of recovery. The tally remained 14-0 in favor of the Cardinals at the half.

The All-Stars provided some excitement in the scoreless third quarter, putting together an 84-yard drive. Notre Dame HB Bill Gompers ran for 20 yards on a sweep and Conerly tossed a lateral to Lujack who proceeded to fire a long pass to end Dan Edwards for a 44-yard gain. Two big defensive plays by DB Marshall Goldberg kept the All-Stars out of the end zone, however, the big one a stop of FB Floyd Simmons, another Notre Dame participant, at the one foot line on fourth down.

The Cards made it a rout in the fourth quarter. First, LB Vince Banonis intercepted a pass by Illinois QB Perry Moss and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown. Then LB Bill Blackburn recovered a fumble by Bobby Layne that set up a 13-yard scoring pass from QB Ray Mallouf to Trippi four plays later. Harder kicked both extra points and that was more than enough as the Cardinals came away with a big 28-0 win.

It was the most decisive score thus far in the history of the series. Passing yardage was practically even (133 to 132 yards, in favor of Chicago) but the Cardinals had 200 rushing yards, almost twice the total amassed by the collegians. The Cards fumbled the ball away three times, all in the first half. However, they only punted three times and the defense did a fine job of keeping the All-Star attack in check.

The win for the defending NFL champs was the eighth thus far, with the All-Stars having won five and two ending in ties. Center Jay Rhodemyre of Kentucky was voted the most valuable player by his All-Star teammates.

Chicago went on to have another outstanding season, topping the Western Division with an 11-1 record. However, they lost the NFL Championship game to the Philadelphia Eagles in blizzard conditions.

August 18, 2013

Rookie of the Year: Mike Croel, 1991

Linebacker, Denver Broncos



Age: 22
College: Nebraska
Height: 6’3”   Weight: 231

Prelude:
Considered the top outside linebacker available in the 1991 NFL draft, Croel was taken in the first round (fourth overall) by the Broncos. With great speed and agility, he was still a raw talent and moved into the starting lineup early in the season, although injuries cost him three games.

1991 Season Summary
Appeared in 13 of 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Sacks – 10 [15, tied with Sean Jones, Jeff Lageman & Rufus Porter]
Most sacks, game – 2 vs. Kansas City 10/20
Interceptions – 0
Fumble recoveries – 0
Tackles – 84

Postseason: 2 G
Sacks – 0
Interceptions – 0
TD – 0

Awards & Honors:
NFL Rookie of the Year: Sporting News
NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year: AP, PFWA
AFC Rookie of the Year: UPI

Broncos went 12-4 to finish first in the AFC West and take the second playoff seed in the conference while leading the AFC in sacks (52), fewest passing yards allowed (2755), and fewest points allowed (235). Won AFC Divisional playoff over Houston Oilers (26-24). Lost AFC Championship to Buffalo Bills (10-7).

Aftermath:
Croel was moved to weakside outside linebacker in 1992, across from Simon Fletcher, and was effective but had half as many sacks as during his rookie season. He remained a fixture in Denver’s fine corps of linebackers until 1994, after which he left as a free agent to rejoin former Broncos Head Coach Dan Reeves with the New York Giants. Following a mediocre year in 1995, Croel moved on to the Baltimore Ravens for ’96 and, afflicted by injuries, bounced around thereafter, playing with the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe and Seattle Seahawks in 1998. Croel had one last shot with the Los Angeles Xtreme of the XFL in 2001 but retired before the season started. Overall, for his NFL career, he appeared in 102 games spread over six seasons and recorded 24 sacks but did not sustain the success of his outstanding rookie year.

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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 16, 2013

MVP Profile: Aaron Rodgers, 2011

Quarterback, Green Bay Packers



Age:  28 (Dec. 2)
7th season in pro football & with Packers
College: California
Height: 6’2”   Weight: 225

Prelude:
Rodgers was chosen by the Packers in the first round of the 2005 NFL draft (24th overall) and backed up veteran QB Brett Favre for three seasons before inheriting the starting job. He performed well in the unenviable role of following a legendary performer in 2008, throwing for 4038 yards and 28 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. In ’09 he showed improvement, tying for the league lead in lowest interception percentage (1.3) while passing for 4434 yards and 30 TDs and showing impressive mobility as he rushed for 316 yards. The Packers reached the postseason and Rodgers was selected to the Pro Bowl. In 2010, the Packers started off slowly and Rodgers sustained two concussions, but he and the team played well down the stretch, qualified for a Wild Card playoff spot, and achieved a NFL Championship with a win over the Steelers in the Super Bowl.

2011 Season Summary
Appeared and started in 15 of 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Passing
Attempts – 502 [16]
Most attempts, game – 46 at NY Giants 12/4
Completions – 343 [10]
Most completions, game – 29 vs. Denver 10/2
Yards – 4643 [5]
Most yards, game – 408 vs. Denver 10/2
Completion percentage – 68.3 [2]
Yards per attempt – 9.2 [1]
TD passes – 45 [2]
Most TD passes, game – 5 vs. Chicago 12/25
Interceptions – 6
Most interceptions, game – 1 on six occasions
Passer rating – 122.5 [1]
400-yard passing games – 1
300-yard passing games – 8
200-yard passing games – 15

Passer rating of 122.5 set NFL record

Rushing
Attempts – 60
Most attempts, game - 9 (for 36 yds.) vs. Denver 10/2
Yards – 257
Most yards, game – 52 yards (on 8 carries) at San Diego 11/6
Yards per attempt – 4.3
TDs – 3

Scoring
TDs – 3
Points - 18

Postseason: 1 G (NFC Divisional playoff vs. NY Giants)
Pass attempts – 46
Pass completions – 26
Passing yardage – 264
TD passes – 2
Interceptions – 1

Rushing attempts – 7
Rushing yards – 66
Average gain rushing – 9.4
Rushing TDs – 0

Awards & Honors:
NFL MVP: AP, PFWA, Bert Bell Award, Sporting News
1st team All-NFL: AP, PFWA, Pro Football Focus, Sporting News
Pro Bowl

Packers went 15-1 to finish first in the NFC North with the conference’s best record while leading the NFL in scoring (560 points) and touchdowns (70). Lost NFC Divisional playoff to New York Giants (37-20).

Aftermath:
Rodgers had another Pro Bowl season in 2012, leading the league in passing for the second straight year (108.0 rating) while throwing for 4295 yards and 39 touchdowns against just 8 interceptions. Through eight seasons (five as a full-time starting quarterback), Rodgers has a passer rating of 104.9 – the highest for a NFL player with at least 1500 pass attempts - and has been selected to the Pro Bowl three times.

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MVP Profiles feature players who were named MVP or Player of the Year in the NFL, AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press, Pro Football Writers Association, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, Maxwell Club – Bert Bell Award, or the league itself).


August 14, 2013

1974: Fire Defeat Bell on Carter TD Pass in Last Two Minutes


The Chicago Fire was 4-1, but coming off a big loss to the Florida Blazers, as they faced the Philadelphia Bell in World Football League action on August 14, 1974.

The Fire, coached by Jim Spavital, had Virgil Carter at quarterback (pictured at right), a smart and experienced player who had been with the Bears and Bengals in the NFL. The running game was strong with HB Cyril Pinder, formerly of the Eagles and Bears, and unheralded but effective rookie FB Mark Kellar.

Philadelphia was coached by Ron Waller and featured an exciting and complex offense that was guided by QB Jim “King” Corcoran, an eccentric field general who had been around the minor league football circuit for nearly a decade. Running backs John Land and Claude Watts were also experienced minor league players who were proving to be productive, although Land was out for the game at Chicago. 

The Bell’s record stood at 3-2 and they were determined to keep pace with the New York Stars in the Eastern Division. But while the team had drawn huge crowds to JFK Stadium for its initial home games, it had recently been learned that many of the tickets had been distributed for free or at a substantial discount, casting a shadow over both the franchise and WFL.

There were 27,607 fans in attendance at Soldier Field for the Wednesday night game. The Fire, coming off the big loss the previous week, seemed flat during the early going. The Bell scored first in the opening period as Claude Watts ran for a six-yard touchdown. RB Alan Thompson added the action point for an 8-0 lead (in the WFL, touchdowns were worth seven points and were followed by an action point, which could not be kicked). Before the period was over, Chuck Ramsey booted a 26-yard field goal for the home team and the score was 8-3 after a quarter of play.

In the second quarter, Cyril Pinder caught a pass from Virgil Carter for a six-yard TD and Carter ran for the action point. Mark Kellar added a one-yard touchdown carry and although the try for the action point failed, Chicago held an 18-8 lead.

The Bell scored once again in the first half as Corcoran connected with Thompson for a two-yard TD. The pass for an action point was unsuccessful and the score stood at 18-15 in favor of the home team at the intermission.

The Fire took command and opened up a 25-15 lead in the third quarter as Pinder scored another touchdown, this time on a one-yard carry through the line. The action point attempt failed. Meanwhile, the Fire’s defensive line harassed Corcoran and the Bell could get nothing going offensively.

However, Chicago’s 10-point lead evaporated in the fourth quarter as the Bell scored twice. First, Chicago safety Barry Ruffner fumbled a punt at his own 10 yard line to set up a Philadelphia score. Corcoran ran for a TD from a yard out although the pass attempt for the action point failed.

Four minutes later, a shanked punt gave the Bell good field position at the Chicago 45. It didn’t take long for the visitors to capitalize. On the next play, Corcoran tossed a pass down the middle to Watts that resulted in a 45-yard touchdown. Again the action point try was unsuccessful, but Philadelphia led by 29-25 with 8:13 remaining in the contest.

Still behind with 3:34 left on the clock, the Fire drove 80 yards in nine plays. Carter completed five straight passes along the way, the last to WR Jack Dolbin from 11 yards out for a TD. The action point attempt was no good but the home team was back in front by three points with the clock down to 1:34. The lead held up and Chicago came away with a 32-29 win.

Chicago accumulated 394 yards on offense, to 346 for the Bell, with 275 of that total coming on the ground. The Fire also held a 23 to 15 advantage in first downs. Philadelphia turned the ball over three times, to two suffered by Chicago, and was hurt by 10 penalties.



Both Cyril Pinder (pictured at left) and Mark Kellar reached triple digits in rushing yards, with Pinder gaining 151 yards on 18 carries and Kellar running for 112 yards on 23 attempts. Each scored a rushing touchdown and Pinder added another on one of his two pass receptions. Virgil Carter completed 12 of 20 passes for 119 yards and two TDs with one intercepted. Jack Dolbin and Mark Kellar each caught three passes, for 26 and 13 yards, respectively. TE Don Burchfield gained 37 yards on his two receptions to top the club.

For the Bell, Jim Corcoran was successful on 17 of 34 throws for 256 yards and two touchdowns but with three interceptions. Alan Thompson paced the ground game with 49 yards on 16 carries and while Claude Watts ran for only 20 yards and a TD on 5 attempts, he also caught 5 passes for 144 yards and the one long score. Thompson also had five receptions, for 29 yards and including a TD.

The Fire appeared to be back on track and won two of their next three games, but reversed course and didn’t win again the rest of the season. Injuries, in particular to Virgil Carter, were the primary culprit as Chicago ended up at 7-13 and third in the Central Division. Philadelphia was 9-11 and third in the Eastern Division, although in bizarre fashion they made it to the postseason, falling in the first round.

Virgil Carter ended up ranking second in the WFL in touchdown passes with 27 – putting him behind Jim “King” Corcoran, the league leader with 31 – and also in completion percentage at 54.5. Cyril Pinder led the club with 925 rushing yards on 179 carries for a fine 5.2-yard average. He scored a total of 11 touchdowns, putting him second on the club to Mark Kellar with 15.

Claude Watts ended up leading the Bell in touchdowns with 18 (and was second in the WFL overall) as he rushed for 927 yards on 199 carries (4.7 avg.) and caught 46 passes for 584 yards.