October 31, 2014

Rookie of the Year: Jeremy Shockey, 2002

Tight End, New York Giants

Age: 22
College: Miami (FL)
Height: 6’5”   Weight: 252

After performing well in junior college at Northeastern Oklahoma A & M, Shockey moved on to the Univ. of Miami where he starred on the 2001 national championship team, catching 40 passes for 519 yards and seven touchdowns, and received first-team All-Big East honors. The Giants chose him in the first round of the 2002 NFL draft. Lively and demonstrative, as well as talented, Shockey drew attention almost immediately and was productive despite a foot injury.

2002 Season Summary
Appeared in 15 of 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 74      
Most receptions, game – 11 (for 111 yds.) vs. Washington 11/17
Yards – 894
Most yards, game – 116 (on 7 catches) at Indianapolis 12/22
Average gain – 12.1
TDs – 2
100-yard receiving games – 2

TDs – 2
Points – 12

Postseason: 1 G (NFC Wild Card playoff at San Francisco)
Pass receptions – 7
Pass receiving yards – 68
Average yards per reception – 9.7
Pass Receiving TDs – 1

Awards & Honors:
NFL Rookie of the Year: League/Pepsi
1st team All-NFL: AP
1st team All-NFC: Pro Football Weekly
Pro Bowl

Giants went 10-6 to finish second in the NFC East and qualify for the postseason as a Wild Card entry. Lost NFC Wild Card playoff to San Francisco 49ers (39-38).  

A knee injury limited Shockey to nine games in 2003, but he caught 48 passes and was named to the Pro Bowl. Injuries would continue to be an issue, and he was also held in to block more in ’04, but Shockey remained an outstanding pass receiving tight end. He had productive seasons in 2005 and ’06, catching 65 passes for 891 yards and 66 for 623, respectively, and was named to the Pro Bowl after each. A broken leg kept Shockey out of the playoffs during the 2007 NFL Championship season for the Giants and he was dealt to New Orleans, where he continued to battle injuries for the next three years. He was still productive when healthy, catching 139 passes in 38 games for 1460 yards, and had a TD reception in the Super Bowl win over the Colts following the 2009 season. Shockey was released following the 2010 season and played one last year with the Carolina Panthers in 2011, where he split time with Greg Olsen. Overall, Shockey caught 547 passes for 6143 yards (11.2 avg.) and 37 touchdowns, with 371 receptions, 4228 yards, and 27 TDs coming with the Giants. He was selected to the Pro bowl four times, all with New York. Highly competitive, outspoken, and prone to controversy, he was also a talented receiver when healthy, but injuries ultimately curtailed his career.


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).

October 30, 2014

1960: Texans Edge Broncos as Late Field Goal Attempt Fails

The Dallas Texans of the new American Football League were coming off of three straight losses and had a 2-4 record as they faced the Denver Broncos on October 30, 1960. Owned by the league’s founder, Lamar Hunt, and coached by Hank Stram, the Texans had a good defense and an exciting all-purpose weapon on offense in rookie HB Abner Haynes (pictured above). Split end Chris Burford was good, too, but QB Cotton Davidson lacked consistency and passing accuracy.

Denver, coached by Frank Filchock, was less talented overall but had a better record at 4-2. QB Frank Tripucka, a 32-year-old CFL veteran, directed the attack with little ground support (especially at fullback), other than ex-Green Bay HB Al Carmichael. Unheralded end Lionel Taylor was coming on as a possession receiver.

It was a cold, clear day at Bears Stadium with 13,002 fans in attendance. The Texans took the opening kickoff and drove into Denver territory with Abner Haynes and FB Jack Spikes running effectively. But facing second-and-11 at the 17, Cotton Davidson’s deflected pass was intercepted by safety Al Romine. However, Dallas got the ball back two plays later when Al Carmichael fumbled and LB Ted Greene recovered at the Denver 37. The Texans didn’t come up empty, scoring in four plays. The biggest was a screen pass from Davidson to Haynes that covered 34 yards and Spikes scored a touchdown standing up from a yard out. Spikes, who doubled as placekicker, added the extra point and the visitors led by 7-0.

The teams exchanged punts before the Broncos put together a 61-yard drive in three plays. Frank Tripucka threw to end Lionel Taylor for 14 yards and, after another long pass was almost picked off, Carmichael (pictured below), making up for the earlier fumble, broke away for a 47-yard TD. Gene Mingo converted to tie the score.

As the game moved into the second quarter, a three-and-out series by the Texans ended with a punt and the Broncos did the same. However, DB Clem Daniels fumbled the kick and OT Eldon Danenhauer recovered for Denver at the Dallas 31. Tripucka completed passes to Gene Mingo, a halfback as well as kicker, and Carmichael to reach the 16, but Taylor lost two yards on an end-around and Tripucka’s next two aerials were overthrown. Mingo attempted a 26-yard field goal that was wide to the right and the home team came up empty.

The clubs again traded punts before the Texans put together an eight-play, 64-yard drive. Haynes ran the ball five times for 19 yards and caught a swing pass for another ten, and his last carry of three yards was good for a touchdown. Spikes added the point after to put Dallas back in front by 14-7.

The Broncos drove into Dallas territory on their next series. Tripucka passed to Mingo for 18 yards to midfield on a third-and-eight play and two defensive holding penalties on the Texans helped keep the drive alive. But after reaching the 24, HB Bob Stransky fumbled after catching a pass and DT Ray Collins recovered for Dallas. The first half ended with Dallas still in front by seven.

Denver started the third quarter off with a short possession and punted. Starting from their 20, the Texans moved methodically down the field. Davidson threw to Chris Burford for 15 yards to convert a third-and-seven situation and, after Haynes and Spikes ran the ball to the Denver 22, Davidson completed a third-down pass to Haynes for 14 yards to give the visitors a first-and-goal at the eight. Davidson’s first down pass was incomplete, but he connected with Haynes on second down for a five-yard gain to the three.  Spikes plowed down to the one and, electing to go for it on fourth down, Davidson kept the ball on a quarterback sneak but was stopped a foot short of the goal line.

The Broncos ran three times and punted, and the Texans regained possession at the Denver 49. Once again the Texans chipped away as Spikes gained eight yards and Haynes six. Davidson threw to Burford for a 25-yard gain to the ten yard line but the drive stalled at the four and Spikes booted an 11-yard field goal. Dallas was now up by 17-7.

On Denver’s second play following the ensuing kickoff, Tripucka’s pass was intercepted by Daniels at the Broncos’ 26. However, the opportunity for the Texans to pad the lead was lost when Haynes fumbled and DE Chuck Gavin recovered for the Broncos at the Denver 16.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, a Tripucka bomb was intercepted by CB Duane Wood at the Dallas 10. The Texans picked up nine yards and punted, but retained possession when Carmichael fumbled and OT Jerry Cornelison recovered at his 42. Two plays later, CB John Pyeatt intercepted a throw by Davidson to give the Broncos the ball at their 24.

It didn’t look promising when Tripucka was sacked on first down by DE Paul Miller for a ten-yard loss, but after Mingo gained back four yards, on third-and-16 Tripucka threw to Carmichael for 22 yards. Carmichael picked up another five yards shortly thereafter and then Tripucka connected with HB Bob McNamara on a play that covered 55 yards for a touchdown. Mingo converted and the Broncos were now three points behind with 8:48 to play.

The Texans managed to convert two third downs as they ran the clock down to just over three minutes on their next series, but after reaching the Denver 47 they had to punt. Tripucka came out throwing, completing six passes, two of them on third down plays, to get the Broncos to the Dallas 21. McNamara dropped a pass at the 15 and Carmichael lost a yard on a draw play, setting up a 29-yard game-tying field goal attempt by Mingo. The kick was wide to the left and Dallas came away with a 17-14 win.

The Texans had the edge in total yards (308 to 302) and first downs (19 to 13). Denver turned the ball over five times, to four suffered by Dallas, while the Broncos recorded four sacks, to two by the Texans.

Abner Haynes was typically productive in his all-purpose role, rushing for 81 yards on 27 carries that included a touchdown, catching 7 passes for 96 yards, and returning two kickoffs for 38 yards. Cotton Davidson completed 12 of 23 throws for 187 yards and gave up two interceptions. Chris Burford contributed 78 yards on four pass receptions. Jack Spikes (pictured below) gained 50 yards on 18 rushes that included a TD and also kicked a field goal in addition to both extra points.

For the Broncos, Frank Tripucka was successful on 14 of 31 aerials for a TD as well as two interceptions. Al Carmichael ran for 61 yards on six attempts that included a touchdown and also caught three passes for 40 yards. Gene Mingo had a team-leading four receptions for 50 yards in addition to 42 rushing yards on 8 attempts, but missed both of his field goal tries. Bob McNamara had the most receiving yards with 55 on his lone scoring catch.

The team’s fortunes shifted as the season continued. Dallas went on to win its next two games, including the rematch with the Broncos, and finished strong for an overall 8-6 record that placed second in the Western Division. Meanwhile, Denver didn’t win another game, while tying one, and ended up at the bottom of the division at 4-9-1.

Abner Haynes had a spectacular first year, leading the AFL in rushing with 875 yards on 156 carries (5.6 avg.) and in all-purpose yards (2100) thanks to his team-leading 55 catches for 576 yards, 215 yards on 14 punt returns (a league-leading 15.4 avg.), and 19 kickoff returns that totaled 434 yards. He scored 12 touchdowns and was named AFL Player of the Year by UPI.

Al Carmichael ran for 211 yards on 41 attempts (5.1 avg.) and added 616 yards on 32 pass receptions (19.3 avg.), scoring a total of seven TDs, before a leg injury ended his season in the tenth game. Gene Mingo had better kicking performances as he led the AFL with 18 field goals, a 64.3 field goal percentage, and 123 points. Frank Tripucka led the league in pass attempts (478), completions (248), and yards (3038), but also interceptions (34). 

October 29, 2014

1978: Broncos Pull Out Win Over Seahawks in Overtime

The Denver Broncos, defending champions of the American Football Conference, were 5-3 as they traveled to Seattle to take on the up-and-coming Seahawks on October 29, 1978, a team they had beaten handily four weeks earlier at home. A season after reaching the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, Head Coach Red Miller’s team was still heavily dependent on the “Orange Crush” defense. The conservative offense was again directed by QB Craig Morton and he had fine receivers available in WR Haven Moses and TE Riley Odoms. The ground game operated with a six-member running-back-by-committee arrangement.

Seattle, in its third year of existence and coached by the stoical Jack Patera, was at 4-4 and coming off a big win over the Raiders the previous week. The offense was led by the mobile lefthanded QB Jim Zorn and included WR Steve Largent and RB Sherman Smith as other key components. The defense included talented newcomers in LB Keith Butler and FS John Harris.

There were 62,948 fans on hand at the Kingdome. The Broncos took the opening kickoff and drove 70 yards. Craig Morton completed a pass to Riley Odoms for 26 yards to the Seattle 38 and fullbacks Lonnie Perrin (pictured above) and Jon Keyworth and HB Otis Armstrong all ran effectively. Jim Turner kicked a 34-yard field goal to give Denver the early lead.

Seattle responded with a five-play, 66-yard drive of its own, culminating in a pass from Jim Zorn to WR Sam McCullum that resulted in a 44-yard touchdown. Efren Herrera added the extra point and the home team was in front by 7-3.

Denver put together another methodical series, utilizing more members of the running back corps, with FB Larry Canada carrying three times for 22 yards and HB Rob Lytle contributing 15 yards on two attempts. The drive stalled at the Seattle 17 and Turner missed on another 34-yard field goal attempt.

The Seahawks punted following their next possession but got the ball back two plays later when WR Jack Dolbin fumbled after catching a short pass and DE Ernie Price recovered at the Denver 16. In a series that extended into the second quarter, Seattle scored in seven plays, the last a four-yard run by Zorn on a quarterback draw for a TD. Herrera kicked the point after and the Seattle lead grew to 14-3.

The teams traded punts until the Broncos again drove into Seattle territory, but a fake field goal attempt failed. Shortly thereafter, LB Randy Gradishar intercepted a pass to give Denver the ball at the Seattle 34. It took just two plays to score, with Morton rolling out and throwing to WR Rick Upchurch for a 29-yard touchdown. Turner added the PAT and the Broncos had closed to 14-10, which remained the score at halftime.

Heading into the third quarter, both offenses were having difficulty mounting drives, and passing was especially problematic. Midway through the period the Broncos got the ball at the Seattle nine following a fumbled snap by Zorn and Perrin ran for a one-yard touchdown. Turner converted and the visitors were in front by 17-14.

In the fourth quarter, a tipped pass intended for Steve Largent was intercepted by LB Bob Swenson to give the Broncos the ball at the Seattle 45. They picked up 12 yards before having to punt. The teams exchanged punts once more before the Seahawks, with Steve Myer now at quarterback, put together a series that involved an interception that, thanks to a fumbled lateral by Gradishar on the return, ended up giving the ball back to Seattle. Myer completed three passes and ran twice for ten yards and Herrera kicked a 37-yard field goal with 56 seconds remaining to tie the score and send the game into overtime.

The Broncos had first possession in the extra period and punted. A short series by the Seahawks also resulted in a punt, but after HB Dave Preston ran for 16 yards, Perrin fumbled and SS Autry Beamon recovered for Seattle at his 41. Zorn was back behind center, but his first down pass was deflected and picked off by CB Steve Foley (pictured at left), who returned it 30 yards to the Seattle 36. Keeping the ball on the ground, the Broncos reached the Seattle one and Turner came in to kick an 18-yard field goal. The first try was wide to the left after Morton, the holder, barely fielded a bad snap, but the 15-year veteran placekicker got a reprieve when the Seahawks were penalized for having twelve men on the field, and given another shot he was successful. Denver came away with a 20-17 win at 12:59 into overtime.

The Broncos significantly outgained Seattle (423 yards to 258), with the six Denver running backs totaling 278 rushing yards, and had the edge in first downs (25 to 19). The Seahawks turned the ball over five times to three suffered by Denver, while the Broncos committed 12 penalties, at a cost of 103 yards, to 9 flags thrown on Seattle, for 61 yards, although the last penalty on the Seahawks was ultimately the most costly.

Jon Keyworth led the strong Denver running attack with 70 yards on eight carries, followed by Larry Canada’s 68 yards on 15 attempts and Lonnie Perrin gaining 57 yards on 15 tries that included a touchdown. Craig Morton completed just 11 of 28 passes for 155 yards and a TD, although he had none intercepted. Haven Moses caught three of those passes for 60 yards while Rick Upchurch added 42 yards and a score on two receptions and also returned three punts for 61 yards.

For the Seahawks, Jim Zorn also had a rough passing performance as he was successful on only 9 of 29 throws for 110 yards and a touchdown while giving up three interceptions. In his relief stint, Steve Myer was 6 of 11 for 38 yards and was picked off once. Sherman Smith ran for 73 yards on 17 carries and caught four passes for another 21 yards. Sam McCullum (pictured at right) gained 57 yards on his three pass receptions that included a TD.

“On the first attempt, the snap was high,” explained Jim Turner of the miss on the first try for the winning field goal in overtime. “I don’t know how Craig (Morton) caught the ball.”

The overtime win for the Broncos marked the third (and last) time they went into OT during the season, and was the second time they came out on top. They lost to the Jets the following week but then won four of five on the way to finishing with a 10-6 record and topping the AFC West for the second straight year. They did not get deep into the playoffs this time, however, losing to Pittsburgh in the Divisional round. Seattle recovered to win five of its last seven contests and post the first winning record in the young franchise’s history at 9-7, which ranked third in the highly-competitive division.

October 28, 2014

2001: Cunningham Rallies Ravens to Win Over Jaguars

The NFL’s defending champions, the Baltimore Ravens, were struggling at 3-3 as they hosted the Jacksonville Jaguars on October 28, 2001. Coached by Brian Billick, the Ravens had ridden a stifling defense through the 2000 postseason to a Super Bowl triumph, and that defense was still largely in place. However, the offense was another story. QB Elvis Grbac had been signed away from the Chiefs, was not proving to be the upgrade at the position that he was expected to be, and now was out with an injury. RB Jamal Lewis, outstanding as a rookie during the championship season, went down for the year in training camp with a knee injury and his replacement, veteran Terry Allen, was on the downside of his career and was now also injured.  38-year-old Randall Cunningham (pictured above) was starting at quarterback and inexperienced Jason Brookins was subbing at running back for Allen against the Jaguars.

Cunningham, whose greatest seasons had come with the Eagles and Vikings, had been an All-Pro as recently as 1998 but was nearing the end of his career. No longer the potent running threat with the big arm that he had been in Philadelphia, he spent the 2000 season with Dallas and was signed to provide a veteran backup to Grbac.

Jacksonville, under Head Coach Tom Coughlin, was 2-3 and also experiencing problems, having won its first two games before dropping three straight. The Jaguars also were missing a key player in RB Fred Taylor, who was nagged by injuries, but still had an established nucleus in QB Mark Brunell and wide receivers Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell.

There were 69,439 fans in attendance at PSINet Stadium. WR Damon Gibson returned the opening kickoff 35 yards to give the Jaguars good starting field position at their own 47 and they advanced deep into Baltimore territory. Mark Brunell completed four passes, three of them to Keenan McCardell, and Jacksonville was also helped by a pass interference penalty. But facing fourth-and-one at the eight yard line, Brunell’s pass intended for Jimmy Smith was incomplete and the visitors came up empty.

The teams traded punts before the Ravens, starting at their own 10, began to move on offense. Randall Cunningham threw to TE Shannon Sharpe for a gain of 30 yards to start the drive and hit on three more passes, two to WR Qadray Ismail. However, a holding penalty and a sack blunted progress and on the first play of the second quarter Matt Stover kicked a 49-yard field goal.

A long return on the ensuing kickoff was nullified by a holding penalty and the Jaguars started at their 18, but, with the help of the mobile Brunell’s passes and a 38-yard run, they managed to advance into Baltimore territory. The series stalled and Mike Hollis booted a 40-yard field goal to knot the score at 3-3.

The teams again traded punts. Regaining possession with just over three minutes remaining in the first half, the Ravens moved from their own 16 to the Jacksonville 35 as Cunningham completed seven passes, the longest to Sharpe for 16 yards, but a sack by LB Kevin Hardy put them in a hole they couldn’t dig out of and they punted. The score remained unchanged at halftime.

The Ravens took the second half kickoff and drove from their 32 to the Jacksonville seven. Cunningham connected with Ismail for 20 yards and Jason Brookins had a 23-yard run along the way. But facing third-and-four, RB Moe Williams was dropped for a three-yard loss and the Ravens settled for a Stover field goal from 28 yards.

On Jacksonville’s next possession, Brunell completed consecutive passes to Smith for 19 and 11 yards, but two plays later McCardell fumbled after making a reception and DE Rob Burnett recovered for the Ravens at the Baltimore 44. With Brookins running four times for 21 yards, the home team advanced into Jacksonville territory, but facing third down at the 31, Cunningham was sacked for an eight-yard loss by DT Gary Walker and the Ravens had to punt.

Starting back at their ten, the Jaguars drove 90 yards in eight plays. Brunell (pictured above) had completions to McCardell for 12 and 13 yards and a roughing-the-passer penalty erased a second-and-15 situation. Brunell ran the ball himself for 17 yards and threw to Smith for a 35-yard touchdown. Hollis added the extra point and Jacksonville was ahead by 10-6.

In the last minute of the third quarter, a Cunningham pass was intercepted by LB Hardy Nickerson. Brunell threw to McCardell for 34 yards and, on the first play of the final period, hit RB Stacey Mack for an 11-yard TD. Hollis converted and now the visitors were up by eleven points at 17-6.

Cunningham completed four passes on the next Baltimore series, the longest to Ismail for 19 yards, and the nine-play, 71-yard possession ended with Brookins running two yards for a touchdown.  The Ravens tried for a two-point conversion, but Cunningham’s pass intended for WR Brandon Stokley was incomplete and the margin remained five points at 17-12.

A short series by the Jaguars resulted in a punt and Baltimore put together another scoring series of 56 yards in seven plays. A face mask penalty helped the drive along and Cunningham completed a pass to Sharpe for 13 yards in a third-and-three situation to reach the Jacksonville nine. Following two carries by Brookins that picked up seven yards, Cunningham threw to Ismail for a two-yard touchdown that was upheld upon review by the officials. Once again, the try for two points failed but the Ravens held a one-point lead with four minutes to play.

In response, the Jaguars moved methodically down the field as Brunell completed five straight passes, two to McCardell and one for 15 yards to WR Sean Dawkins that converted a third down. But facing third-and-five at the Baltimore 44, Brunell tossed two incomplete passes to turn the ball over on downs. The Ravens were able to run the clock down before punting and, taking over with 19 seconds left, Jacksonville was unable to move from its 42 yard line. The Ravens held on for an 18-17 win.

The Jaguars had more total yards (365 to 305) while Baltimore led in first downs (23 to 19) and time of possession (33:44 to 26:16). Each team turned the ball over once. Jacksonville recorded five sacks, to three by the Ravens, but also was assessed 10 penalties, at a cost of 70 yards, to four flags thrown on Baltimore.

Randall Cunningham completed 23 of 31 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown with one interception, and crucially was seven-for-seven and 76 yards in the fourth quarter. Jason Brookins rushed for 82 yards on 19 carries that included a TD. Shannon Sharpe (pictured below) and Qadray Ismail each had 7 catches, for 89 and 85 yards, respectively, and Ismail scored a touchdown.

For the Jaguars, Mark Brunell was successful on 25 of 37 throws for 306 yards and two TDs and had no interceptions, also rushing for 55 yards on four carries, which made him the team’s leading ground gainer. Keenan McCardell caught 10 passes for 118 yards and Jimmy Smith gained 119 yards on his 7 receptions that included a score.

Baltimore ended up finishing second in the AFC Central with a 10-6 record and once again qualified for the playoffs as a Wild Card entry. The postseason run didn’t go as far as in 2000, as after beating Miami in the Wild Card round, the Ravens lost to the Steelers at the Divisional level. The Jaguars won only one of their next five games but rallied to win three straight and closed out with a 6-10 record that placed fifth in the division.

“I don’t know if I’ll play next week or anymore,” said Randall Cunningham. “I’m retiring after this season.”

Cunningham did indeed play again the next week, which was another win for the Ravens. Overall, he appeared in six games in 2001 and completed 60.7 percent of his 89 passes for 573 yards and three touchdowns against two interceptions.

October 27, 2014

Highlighted Year: Jared Allen, 2007

Defensive End, Kansas City Chiefs

Age:  25
4th season in pro football & with Chiefs
College: Idaho State
Height: 6’6”   Weight: 270

Chosen by the Kansas City Chiefs in the fourth round of the 2004 NFL draft, Allen was initially viewed as strictly a situational player who would add depth on the defensive line, but surprised by leading the team in sacks as a rookie with 9. Intense, tenacious, and with good instincts, he followed up with 11 sacks in ’05 and improved his play against the run. Allen led the league in fumble recoveries in 2006 with 6, although his sacks fell to 7.5, and there was friction with the front office as well as a suspension from the league for a second DUI offense heading into 2007.

2007 Season Summary
Appeared in 14 of 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Sacks – 15.5 [1]
Most sacks, game – 2.5 vs. Cincinnati 10/14
Multi-sack games – 6
Interceptions – 0
Fumble recoveries – 0
Forced fumbles – 3
Tackles – 55
Assists – 9

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 2        
Yards – 3
Average gain – 1.5
TDs – 2

TDs – 2
Points – 12

Awards & Honors:
1st team All-NFL: AP, PFWA, Sporting News
Pro Bowl

Chiefs went 4-12 to finish third in the AFC West.

The Chiefs traded Allen to Minnesota in the offseason where he continued to excel as a member of a stronger overall defensive line. He received All-NFL and Pro Bowl honors in 2008 and ’09 while recording 14.5 sacks each year. 2010 was a down year for the franchise as a whole, and Allen had a comparative off-year, although he still led the team with 11 sacks, his fourth consecutive season in double figures. He bounced back strongly with a 22-sack season in 2011 and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year by The Sporting News as well as receiving consensus first-team All-NFL and Pro Bowl recognition. He followed up with 12 sacks in ‘12 and was selected to the Pro Bowl for the fifth time. He registered 11.5 sacks in 2013 and signed with the Chicago Bears as a free agent for 2014. In ten seasons and 157 games through 2013, Allen was credited with 128.5 sacks, as well as five interceptions and 17 fumble recoveries. He has been a consensus first-team All-NFL honoree four times in addition to the five Pro Bowl selections.


Highlighted Years features players who were consensus first-team All-League* selections or league* or conference** leaders in the following statistical categories:

Rushing: Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Passing: Yards, Completion Pct., Yards per Attempt, TDs, Rating
Receiving: Catches, Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Scoring: TDs, Points, Field Goals (min. 5)
All-Purpose: Total Yards
Defense: Interceptions, Sacks
Kickoff Returns: Average
Punt Returns: Average
Punting: Average

*Leagues include NFL (1920 to date), AFL (1926), AFL (1936-37), AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974-75), USFL (1983-85)

**NFC/AFC since 1970

October 26, 2014

1969: Jets Run for 210 Yards to Defeat Patriots

The New York Jets had won the 1968 AFL Championship and stunned the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III and were 4-2 as they hosted the Boston Patriots on October 26, 1969. Coached for the seventh year by Weeb Ewbank, the Jets were known primarily for their passing offense, and that centered around star QB Joe Namath and the outstanding wide receivers Don Maynard and George Sauer. With HB Emerson Boozer and FB Matt Snell (pictured above), they could run the ball, too. On defense they were sound on the line and at linebacker, but there were concerns about the defensive backfield.

Boston was 0-6 and had already lost to the Jets at home. Their first-year head coach was Clive Rush, a former New York assistant, and another ex-Jet was the starting quarterback, Mike Taliaferro. There were promising young players such as HB Carl Garrett and G Mike Montler, but the defense was missing star MLB Nick Buoniconti, dealt away to Miami. However, the strong suit was the defensive backfield, and the Patriots hoped to disrupt New York’s passing attack.

It was a sunny and pleasant day at Shea Stadium with 62,298 fans in attendance. The Patriots had the first possession and drove 82 yards in seven plays. QB Mike Taliaferro had completions of 16 yards to WR Charley Frazier and 19 yards to Carl Garrett and connected with WR Bill Rademacher, yet another ex-Jet, in the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown. Gino Cappelletti added the extra point.

New York put together a scoring drive in response. Joe Namath had a completion to George Sauer, but it was Matt Snell and Emerson Boozer carrying the load and Snell ran 12 yards for a TD. Jim Turner’s extra point tied the score at 7-7.

Boston came right back with a 74-yard series. FB Jim Nance had a 16-yard run up the middle and, on a third-and-nine play, Taliaferro threw to Rademacher for 17 yards to the New York 40. The series finally ended with a Cappelletti field goal from 39 yards and the visitors took a 10-7 lead into the second quarter.

The Jets continued to keep the ball on the ground, although Namath did find Don Maynard open for a 20-yard gain at one point. The drive stalled at the Boston 30 and Turner once again knotted the score with a 38-yard field goal.

The Patriots had to punt following their next series, but made a big play on defense when safety John Charles intercepted a Namath pass and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown. Cappelletti converted and the visitors were again in the lead by 17-10.

A short series by the Jets that ended in a punt led to Taliaferro being intercepted by CB Randy Beverly, who returned it to the Boston 33. However, Snell fumbled the ball back two plays later. The Patriots were forced to punt and New York advanced into Boston territory, but with time running out in the first half, Turner missed a 37-yard field goal attempt and the score remained unchanged at halftime.

On the third play following the second half kickoff, the visitors got a break when Boozer fumbled and DT Ray Jacobs recovered for the Patriots. The turnover led to a field goal try by Cappelletti, but he was unsuccessful from 49 yards. The Jets reached midfield on their next possession, helped along by a Namath pass to Sauer that picked up 25 yards, but had to punt. However, they pinned the Patriots deep in their territory and, when forced to punt in turn, Janik’s kick traveled only 29 yards to give the Jets good field position at the Boston 41.

In a series in which Snell ran four times for 16 yards, the Jets put points on the board with a 32-yard Turner field goal that narrowed Boston’s lead to 17-13. The Patriots again had to punt and, in a possession that extended into the fourth quarter, the Jets drove to another score. On a third-and-ten play, Namath, finding his receivers covered, uncharacteristically scrambled for 16 yards and New York picked up another 15 yards on a personal foul by the Patriots. Now at the Boston 47, the Jets pounded down the field and Boozer scored a touchdown from two yards out. Turner added the extra point and New York was ahead by 20-17.

On the next series, Taliaferro fumbled when hit attempting to pass and DT John Elliott recovered at the Boston 31. The Jets kept the ball on the ground with Snell and Boozer carrying and added to the lead when Turner kicked a 13-yard field goal. With time winding down, the Patriots went three-and-out on their next series and punted. New York was able to run out the last two minutes and won by a final score of 23-17.

The Jets had more total yards (318 to 211), with only 108 through the air but 210 on the ground, and also had the lead in first downs (21 to 10). New York was hurt by three turnovers, to two by the Patriots, but of the seven penalties called during the game, six were on Boston.

Matt Snell rushed for 109 yards on 23 carries and Emerson Boozer contributed 67 yards on 15 attempts, with each scoring a touchdown. Joe Namath completed 10 of 21 passes for 115 yards and no touchdowns while giving up one interception. George Sauer had four catches for 58 yards to top the Jets.

For the Patriots, Mike Taliaferro (pictured below) was successful on 12 of 24 throws for 139 yards and a TD with one interception. Jim Nance rushed for 58 yards on 11 carries and Carl Garrett added 20 on 8 attempts and also had four pass receptions for 40 yards. Bill Rademacher was the top receiver with 6 catches for 78 yards and a TD.

The Jets cruised to first place in the Eastern Division with a 10-4 record but, in the expanded playoff format used in the AFL’s last year before merging with the NFL, they lost in the Divisional round to the Chiefs, second-place finishers in the Western Division. Boston won for the first time the following week against the Oilers, the first of four wins in five games, and ended up tied for third in the division with Buffalo at 4-10.

The combination of Matt Snell and Emerson Boozer continued to be productive over the course of the season. Snell rushed for 695 yards on 191 carries (3.6 avg.) and was a consensus first-team All-AFL selection as well as AFL All-Star. Boozer had 604 yards on 130 attempts (4.6 avg.) and gained more yardage as a receiver (222 on 20 receptions to 187 on 22 catches for Snell).

Mike Taliaferro had his most productive pro season, throwing for 2160 yards and 19 touchdowns, which tied Namath for second in the league. He was also named to the AFL All-Star game. Bill Rademacher’s performance against the Jets was the best of his career. A backup who caught just three passes during five years with New York, he had 17 receptions for 217 yards (12.8 avg.) and three TDs in ’69.

October 25, 2014

1959: Third Quarter Surge Propels Colts Over Packers

The Baltimore Colts, defending champions of the NFL, had a 3-1 record as they hosted the Green Bay Packers on October 25, 1959. Head Coach Weeb Ewbank’s team had a potent offense directed by QB Johnny Unitas, operating behind an outstanding line and with excellent receivers in ends Raymond Berry and Jim Mutscheller as well as HB Lenny Moore, who was frequently flanked out where his speed could be best utilized but was also an excellent runner from scrimmage. FB Alan “the Horse” Ameche provided power between the tackles. If there was concern with the defense, it was that age was beginning to wear it down, but players like DE Gino Marchetti and DT Gene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb were still of a high caliber.

Green Bay, under new Head Coach Vince Lombardi, had won its first three games before losing badly to the Rams the previous week. QB Lamar McHan, a sixth-year veteran obtained from the Cardinals, performed well in the early going while HB Paul Hornung, who lacked speed but was versatile, was thriving in the new regime. After years of mediocrity, the Packers had the look of a rebuilding team with promise.

There were 57,557 fervent fans in attendance at Memorial Stadium. They saw a scoreless first quarter, but Green Bay had the ball as the period wound down and went 79 yards in two plays to get on the board. On the first play of the second quarter, FB Lew Carpenter ran 55 yards off tackle for a touchdown, sliding on his stomach into the end zone. Paul Hornung added the extra point.

The Colts responded with a 14-play, 80-yard drive. Lenny Moore had a 15-yard run and Unitas threw passes to Jim Mutscheller and Raymond Berry as well as Moore along the way. Unitas connected with Berry for an eight-yard TD to cap the series and Steve Myhra added the extra point to tie the score at 7-7. Not only did the Packers give up a touchdown, but they lost star safety Bobby Dillon to an injury that cost him the rest of the game and further hindered their efforts at pass defense.

Baltimore advanced 79 yards in nine plays on its next series. Unitas again had throws to Berry and Moore, plus Alan Ameche, and rookie HB Alex Hawkins also ran effectively. Ameche ran the final three yards for a touchdown, Myhra again added the PAT, and the Colts took a 14-7 lead into halftime.

The second half did not begin auspiciously for the Packers when DB Johnny Symank muffed the kickoff and LB Ray Nitschke recovered and ran it to his 12 yard line. But three plays into the third quarter, Lamar McHan connected with end Max McGee (pictured at left) for an 81-yard touchdown. With the successful extra point, the score was tied at 14-14. It proved to be the high water mark for Green Bay.

The teams exchanged punts, and safety Johnny Sample of the Colts had a 25-yard return to the Green Bay 36. A pass interference penalty moved the ball to the 28 and, six plays later, Baltimore moved in front. Unitas passed for first downs to Moore and Berry and, after two carries by Ameche lost yardage, Unitas faked a handoff and threw to the fullback who was uncovered in the end zone for a three-yard TD. Myhra added the extra point.

Two plays after the ensuing kickoff, McHan threw a short pass that was intercepted by LB Bill Pellington, and he returned it 30 yards for another Baltimore touchdown. Myhra converted again and the home team’s lead was up to 14 points.

The Packers took the kickoff and again turned the ball over in short order, this time on the third play as McHan’s poorly-thrown pass beyond the reach of Paul Hornung was picked off by safety Ray Brown. Brown returned the interception 44 yards to the Green Bay 18. The Colts needed six plays to reach the end zone again as Unitas completed three passes to Berry, the last for a two-yard TD. In less than six minutes, the Colts had a 35-14 lead.

Early in the fourth quarter, Baltimore nearly extended the lead when DHB Carl Taseff returned a punt 75 yards that was nullified by a clipping penalty. However, shortly thereafter “Big Daddy” Lipscomb recovered a fumble by McHan that was forced by Gino Marchetti and Baltimore padded its margin with a 43-yard Steve Myhra field goal.

The Packers scored once more on a McHan pass to rookie end Boyd Dowler that covered four yards, finishing off an 80-yard series, but it was long after the game had been decided. Baltimore won handily by a final score of 38-21.

Green Bay had the edge in total yards (344 to 309) while the Colts led in first downs (25 to 16). However, Baltimore recorded four sacks, to two by the Packers, and Green Bay turned the ball over six times, to devastating effect in the third quarter, while the Colts had two.

Johnny Unitas completed 19 of 29 passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns while giving up no interceptions. Raymond Berry (pictured below) had 10 catches for 117 yards and two TDs while Lenny Moore contributed four receptions for 41 yards in addition to 42 yards on 8 rushing attempts. For the Packers, Lamar McHan threw for two TDs, but was intercepted four times. Thanks to the long scoring catch, Max McGee gained 110 yards on his three receptions.

The win kept the Colts in a tie for first in the Western Conference with the 49ers and, while they lost their next two games, they won the rest to again finish first with a 9-3 record. They defeated the Giants in the NFL Championship game for the second straight year. Green Bay lost its next three contests, marking five straight, before turning around and finishing the season with a four-game winning streak to end up at 7-5 and tied for third place in the conference with San Francisco. By the end, McHan had given way at quarterback to Bart Starr. While the Colts swept the season series with Green Bay and were clearly the superior team, in the next year the tide began to turn.

Johnny Unitas set a new NFL record for touchdown passes with 32 while also leading the league in pass attempts (367), completions (193), and yards (2899). He received MVP as well as first-team All-NFL and Pro Bowl recognition. Also garnering first-team All-NFL and Pro Bowl honors were Raymond Berry, who led the league with 66 pass receptions for 959 yards and 14 TDs, and Lenny Moore, who had 47 catches for 846 yards and six scores and rushed for 422 yards and two more touchdowns on 92 carries for a third-ranked 1268 yards from scrimmage.

October 24, 2014

Rookie of the Year: DeMeco Ryans, 2006

Linebacker, Houston Texans

Age: 22
College: Alabama
Height: 6’1”   Weight: 229

Ryans was a consensus first-team All-American in 2005 and SEC Defensive Player of the Year. He was chosen by the Texans in the second round of the 2006 NFL draft. An outside linebacker in college, he was moved to middle linebacker by Houston where he became an immediate contributor and outshone first overall pick DE Mario Williams. What Ryans lacked in size and speed he made up with excellent instincts and technique.

2006 Season Summary
Appeared and started in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Sacks – 3.5
Most sacks, game – 1 at Dallas 10/15, at NY Giants 11/5, at Oakland 12/3
Interceptions – 1
Int. return yards – 16
Int. TDs – 0
Fumble recoveries – 1
Forced fumbles – 1
Tackles – 126
Assists – 30

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

Texans went 6-10 to finish fourth in the AFC South.

Ryans followed up with a Pro Bowl season in 2007 and established himself as a top player at his position and a leader on the Houston defense. He was a Pro Bowl selection again in 2009 but went down with an Achilles tendon injury six games into the 2010 season and the defense suffered in his absence. Ryans returned to play in every game in 2011 but was less successful playing in a 3-4 defense and was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012. He continued to be a solid starter in Philadelphia, and while less effective in pass coverage than earlier in his career, Ryans brought savvy and leadership. Through 2013, he had accumulated 13.5 sacks, five interceptions, 667 tackles and 209 assists.


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).

October 23, 2014

1977: Raiders Score 2 TDs in 4th Quarter to Overcome Todd & Jets

The Oakland Raiders, defending NFL Champions, were heavy favorites as they faced the New York Jets on October 23, 1977. Head Coach John Madden’s team was 4-1 and coming off a loss the previous week to the upstart Denver Broncos. QB Ken “The Snake” Stabler (pictured at right) gave up seven interceptions against the Broncos, but was still a highly capable passer while FB Mark van Eeghen led the ground attack, and the line was very much a strong point. The aggressive defense was showing some age in spots but remained a tough unit.

New York, meanwhile, was 2-3 under new Head Coach Walt Michaels and in the process of rebuilding. Gone was star QB Joe Namath, and in his place was another quarterback out of Alabama, Richard Todd. The team’s 1976 first draft choice was showing potential, but had tossed only three touchdown passes thus far. Another player displaying potential was swift rookie WR Wesley Walker, who could make big plays but also had many drops in the early going.

There were 56,734 fans in attendance on a sunny afternoon at Shea Stadium. The Raiders took the opening kickoff and drove 72 yards in 12 plays. Mark van Eeghen ran the ball seven times for 48 yards, with a 19-yard carry setting up his three-yard touchdown run. Errol Mann kicked the extra point to give the visitors the early 7-0 lead.

The Jets responded with a six-play, 73-yard possession. Richard Todd completed three passes to TE Jerome Barkum, the second for 39 yards to the Oakland 22 and the last for an 18-yard TD. Pat Leahy converted to tie the score.

Oakland came back with a long scoring drive of 76 yards in 13 plays. Ken Stabler completed a pass to TE Dave Casper for 13 yards in a third-and-12 situation and connected with Casper again for a 19-yard touchdown. Mann’s kick gave the Raiders a 14-7 lead.

The Jets then struck quickly in return. On the second play after the kickoff, and following a holding penalty that backed them up to their 13 yard line, Todd fired long down the right sideline for Wesley Walker (pictured at left), who beat CB Skip Thomas to make the catch and went the distance for an 87-yard TD. However, Leahy missed the extra point and Oakland was still ahead by 14-13 at the end of the eventful opening period.

Following a quarter of unstoppable offense, the teams traded punts to start the second quarter. Midway through the period, the Jets again moved rapidly to put points on the board. On first down, Todd again went long for Walker and it was complete for a 52-yard gain to the Oakland 22. FB Clark Gaines picked up eight yards on a draw play and then Todd passed to WR Rich Caster coming across the middle for a 14-yard TD. This time Leahy made good on the PAT and New York held a 20-14 lead.

On the next series, the Jets got the ball back when Stabler, pressured by DE Lawrence Pillers, threw a pass that was intercepted by LB John Ebersole. But two plays later, Todd was picked off by CB Neal Colzie. The visitors went three-and-out on the resulting possession and punted, and, taking over with 1:41 left in the first half, the Jets advanced 58 yards in eight plays to extend their lead. Todd completed four straight passes at one point, the first to Walker for 21 yards, and he finished off the drive with a throw to Gaines in the middle of the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown. Leahy converted and New York had a 27-14 halftime margin.

The third quarter started with turnovers as Todd fumbled the ball away while attempting to pass, Casper coughed up the football after making a catch, and Colzie intercepted a throw from Todd. The last gave the Raiders the ball at their own five yard line, and unable to move on offense, they punted and the Jets had good starting field position at the Oakland 43. Two carries by HB Kevin Long and a screen pass to Gaines advanced the ball to the 20, but the drive stalled and Leahy was wide on a 32-yard field goal attempt.

In a series that extended into the fourth quarter, the Raiders drove 80 yards in 11 plays. Stabler completed five passes, including one to Casper that gained 18 yards in a second-and-11 situation, and the drive was capped by a throw to WR Fred Biletnikoff for a seven-yard touchdown. Mann added the extra point and New York’s lead was cut to six.

The Jets had to punt after a short series but retained possession due to a penalty on the Raiders. Todd threw to Caster for a 58-yard gain to the Oakland 10, but the Raiders held and Leahy missed another field goal try, this time from 26 yards.

On the ensuing series, Stabler threw to WR Mike Siani for gains of 29 and eight yards to reach the New York 43, and following a short carry by van Eeghen, “The Snake” connected with Casper for 15 yards. Two more runs by van Eeghen picked up eight yards before Stabler found Siani in the left corner of the end zone for a 24-yard TD. Mann’s conversion put the Raiders in front by a point.

Pinned deep in their territory following the kickoff, the Jets couldn’t get beyond their 14 and had to punt. Oakland took possession at the New York 44 with 6:11 left and never relinquished it. van Eeghen and HB Clarence Davis chipped away and reached the 11, from where Mann attempted a 27-yard field goal that missed to the right. However, the Jets were penalized for running into the kicker and that clinched it. The Raiders won by a final score of 28-27.

The game was reminiscent of the old shootouts so common when the teams were in the AFL. The Jets had the edge in total yards (442 to 423), although Oakland was more balanced with 213 net passing yards and 210 on the ground, while the Raiders had the lead in first downs (29 to 17). New York turned the ball over three times, to two by Oakland, but ultimately the game came down to Pat Leahy’s missed extra point and two errant field goals.

Mark van Eeghen (pictured at right) had a big rushing performance, gaining 143 yards on 36 carries that included a touchdown. Ken Stabler completed 19 of 26 passes for 230 yards and three touchdowns, two of them in the fourth quarter, and gave up one interception. Dave Casper had 7 catches for 92 yards and a TD and Mike Siani contributed 86 yards on his five receptions that also included a score.

For the Jets, Richard Todd had a big performance as he hit on 17 of 29 throws for 396 yards and four touchdowns while being picked off twice. Wesley Walker caught four of those passes for 178 yards and a TD, Jerome Barkum added another 94 yards on four receptions that included a score, and Rich Caster pulled in three catches for 82 yards and another TD. Clark Gaines had 5 pass receptions for 38 yards and a TD and also led the club with 9 carries for 35 yards on the ground.

“We all knew what we had to do,” said Ken Stabler regarding the Oakland comeback. “We were 13 points down but we knew we had plenty of time. We kept our poise.”

The Raiders went on to win their next three games on the way to an 11-3 record, although for the first time in six years they failed to finish first in the AFC West. They were second to the Broncos, but qualified for the playoffs as a Wild Card and reached the conference title game before falling to Denver. New York continued to struggle and won only one more contest the rest of the way to end up fourth in the AFC East at 3-11.

Ken Stabler passed for 2176 yards and his 20 touchdowns ranked second in the NFL, although he also gave up 20 interceptions. He was chosen to the Pro Bowl for the fourth time. Mark van Eeghen led the AFC with a career-high 1273 yards on 324 carries (3.9 avg.).

Richard Todd (pictured at left), who missed three games due to injury, had a respectable season with 1863 passing yards and 11 touchdowns while being intercepted 17 times. Wesley Walker had 35 catches for 740 yards and three TDs, and his 21.1 yards per reception led the NFL.  

October 22, 2014

1961: Mitchell & Plum Spur Browns Over Steelers

The Cleveland Browns were 3-2, having lost the previous week against Green Bay, as they took on the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 22, 1961. Head Coach Paul Brown’s team had an outstanding rushing tandem with FB Jim Brown and HB Bobby Mitchell operating behind a solid line, but the pass receivers were less impressive and now QB Milt Plum was out with a dislocated right thumb suffered against the Packers. Len Dawson, still yet to emerge in his fifth year after having been drafted by the Steelers in the first round out of Purdue in 1957, was starting in his place.

Pittsburgh, under Head Coach Buddy Parker, was 1-4 and had showed a tendency for losing close contests. QB Bobby Layne was out with a shoulder injury and Rudy Bukich, a 29-year-old career backup, was filling in. Split end Buddy Dial was a fine deep threat FB John Henry Johnson led the ground game, but age, combined with a big turnover in personnel, was a problem for the Steelers on both sides of the ball.

There were 29,266 fans in attendance at Forbes Field. The Steelers had first possession and punted, but got the ball back when CB Johnny Sample intercepted Len Dawson’s third pass. Rudy Bukich threw to Buddy Dial for 19 yards but, after advancing to the Cleveland 36, the home team came up empty when Lou Michaels was short and low on a 44-yard field goal attempt.

On Cleveland’s next series, Bobby Mitchell ran to his right and down the sideline for a 48-yard gain to the Pittsburgh 16. Two carries by HB Tom Watkins picked up six yards, but Dawson was then sacked by DT Gene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb and Lou Groza kicked a 24-yard field goal to make it 3-0.

The Steelers punted following a short series and, in a drive that extended into the second quarter, the Browns advanced deep into Pittsburgh territory. Jim Brown ran four consecutive times for 22 yards to start things off and Mitchell converted a fourth-and-one play with a two-yard carry. However, after Brown took a pitchout and ran 20 yards to the Pittsburgh one yard line, the great fullback fumbled while attempting to hurdle the line and safety Jackie Simpson caught the ball in the air in the end zone and returned it to the nine.

The Steelers again had to punt and the Browns, taking possession at their 49, went 51 yards in seven plays, this time not coming up empty. Brown and Mitchell ran effectively and Dawson completed a pass to Mitchell for nine yards. Mitchell gained the last six yards for a touchdown and, with Groza’s extra point, the visitors were in front by 10-0. That remained the score at halftime as the teams traded punts for the remainder of the half.

The frustrated home fans booed the Steelers as they returned to the field for the second half. The Browns edged into Pittsburgh territory on the first series of the third quarter, but a Dawson pass was picked off by CB Bill Butler and he returned it to the Cleveland 42. Now the Steelers moved effectively with John Henry Johnson and HB Tom Tracy running well. Bukich threw to Dial for a 12-yard touchdown and, adding Michaels’ PAT, which hit the crossbar but made it over, the Cleveland lead was cut to 10-7.

A short possession by the Browns was followed by a punt and, after no gain on a first down running play, Bukich connected with Dial on three straight passes for 17, 33, and 10 yards to reach the Cleveland 13. HB Dick Hoak ran twice for eight yards and, on third-and-two, Dial came through with a leaping catch that picked up three yards. On the next play, Tracy ran for a two-yard TD between the goal posts and, with Michaels successfully converting, the Steelers were ahead by 14-10.

Milt Plum was at quarterback for the next Cleveland series, and he threw to ends Leon Clarke for 23 yards and Rich Kreitling for 10 to get to the Pittsburgh 35. The drive stalled at the 29 and Groza kicked a 36-yard field goal to make it a one-point contest.

On the last play of the period, safety Bobby Franklin intercepted a Bukich pass and the Browns, taking over at the Pittsburgh 25, drove to a score in five plays. Plum had a pass to Mitchell for 11 yards along the way and it was Mitchell running the last nine yards for a touchdown. Groza added the extra point and Cleveland was back in the lead by 20-14.

The Steelers had to punt on their next series, but got the ball back at the Cleveland 24 when Mitchell fumbled a pitchout and DT Joe Krupa recovered. Tracy was stopped for a four-yard loss on the next play, but Bukich connected with Dial for 24 yards and Tracy gained the last yard for a TD. Michaels converted to put the home team back on top by 21-20.

The Browns came back with a six-play, 72-yard drive. Plum completed a pass to TE Gern Nagler for 18 yards and another to Mitchell, also for 18, and after Mitchell ran for 14 yards, he sped around end for an 18-yard touchdown. Groza kicked the point after and the see-saw battle had Cleveland back in front by 27-21.

On Pittsburgh’s first play from scrimmage following the kickoff, Bukich tossed a screen pass to Johnson who fumbled after running into his own man and DE Paul Wiggin recovered for the Browns at the 10. The Steelers were able to keep the visitors out of the end zone, but Groza kicked a 12-yard field goal to make the score 30-21 with less than three minutes remaining to play.

Pittsburgh, starting at its own six after the kickoff, responded with a big play two snaps later as Bukich connected with Dial for an 88-yard touchdown. Michaels kicked the PAT to make it a two-point game, but by the time the Steelers got the ball back again, the clock was down to 45 seconds and the game ended for them on their 32 yard line. Cleveland came away with a 30-28 win.

The Browns had the edge in total yards (378 to 309) and first downs (21 to 17), with 229 of their total coming on the ground. They also turned the ball over four times, to three suffered by Pittsburgh, but recorded six sacks, to one by the Steelers.

Both Bobby Mitchell and Jim Brown went over a hundred yards rushing, with Mitchell compiling 119 yards on 14 carries that included three touchdowns and Brown gaining 114 yards on 29 attempts. Mitchell also caught four passes for 47 more yards to lead the Browns. Len Dawson completed 6 of 12 passes for 68 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions before being relieved by Milt Plum, who was 6-of-8 for 88 yards and, while also throwing for no TDs, gave up no interceptions. Lou Groza was successful on all three of his field goal attempts.

For the Steelers, Buddy Dial (pictured at right) had a huge performance in defeat with 9 catches for 235 yards and two touchdowns. Rudy Bukich was successful on 15 of 24 throws for 275 yards and two TDs with one interception. John Henry Johnson rushed for 35 yards on 8 carries and Tom Tracy was right behind with 34 yards on 12 attempts that included two for touchdowns.

The Browns won again the next week as they sought to keep up with the Giants and Eagles in the Eastern Conference, but they ultimately finished at 8-5-1 to settle for third place. Pittsburgh came back with a three-game winning streak, including one over the Browns in the rematch in Cleveland, and finished strong for a 6-8 record that ranked fifth in the conference.

Bobby Mitchell was called up to active military duty but was still able to get passes to play on the weekends and rushed for 548 yards on 101 carries (5.4 avg.) and had 32 pass receptions for another 368 yards (11.5 avg.), scoring a total of 10 touchdowns. Jim Brown, as he had in each of the previous four seasons since entering the NFL, led the league in rushing with 1408 yards on a then-record 305 carries (4.6 avg.) and received his annual first-team All-NFL and Pro Bowl honors. Milt Plum topped the NFL in passing efficiency for the second straight year, completing 58.6 percent of his throws for 18 TDs against 10 interceptions.

As had been the case throughout his career to date, Len Dawson saw scant action over the course of the season, throwing 15 passes -  his highest total thus far. He moved over to the Dallas Texans of the AFL in 1962 and his fortunes changed dramatically for the better.

In his third year, Buddy Dial gained selection to the Pro Bowl after catching 53 passes for 1047 yards (19.8 avg.) and 12 touchdowns. His 235-yard pass receiving performance against the Browns remained the franchise record until 2002. Rudy Bukich ultimately moved back to the bench with the return of Bobby Layne, but won four of his seven starts and had a solid completion percentage of 57.1 on his 156 passes. 11 were good for TDs, but he also gave up 16 interceptions.

October 21, 2014

1973: Vikings Sink Feisty Eagles as Gilliam Stars

The Minnesota Vikings were undefeated at 5-0 as they hosted the Philadelphia Eagles on October 21, 1973. Head Coach Bud Grant’s team had not allowed more than 16 points in any game thus far, but while best known for strong defense, the Vikings were a formidable team on offense as well. 33-year-old QB Fran Tarkenton was an outstanding and mobile passer, rookie FB Chuck Foreman was potent as both a runner and receiver out of the backfield, and WR John Gilliam (pictured at right) provided speed on the outside. The line was solid.

Philadelphia, under first-year Head Coach Mike McCormack, was 1-4-1 and a seventeen-point underdog. Coming off of a dreadful last-place finish the year before, the Eagles were rebuilding with an offense led by QB Roman Gabriel, a 12th-year veteran who had been obtained at heavy price from the Rams during the offseason. 6’8” WR Harold Carmichael was having a breakout season and rookie TE Charle Young further bolstered the passing game. The problem was with a thin defense in need of fortification on the line and at linebacker.

It was a clear day at Metropolitan Stadium with 47,478 fans in attendance. The Eagles got the first break when Chuck Foreman fumbled at the end of a 16-yard run and DE Will Wynn recovered at the Minnesota 41. However, they weren’t able to gain much ground and Tom Dempsey’s field goal attempt from 44 yards was wide to the right.

The Vikings responded with an 80-yard drive in six plays. Fran Tarkenton ran twice for 19 yards and John Gilliam ran for 44 yards and a touchdown on a well-executed double-reverse. Fred Cox added the extra point for the early 7-0 lead.

The teams traded punts, each stopping just short of midfield. A Philadelphia series was then blunted when Harold Carmichael’s gain on a pass into the flat was nullified by a hurdling penalty as the rangy wide receiver leaped over CB Nate Wright. Following a punt, Minnesota moved methodically into Eagles territory on a series that extended into the second quarter. Tarkenton completed four short passes, with a 10-yard completion to WR Carroll Dale gaining the necessary yardage to convert a third down, and also scrambled for a 12-yard gain in a second-and-nine situation. But after reaching the Philadelphia 24, Cox’s field goal try from 31 yards was blocked by CB Joe Lavender.

Another short series led to a punt by the Eagles, and the Vikings didn’t come up empty this time, advancing 65 yards in seven plays. In a third-and-seven situation, Tarkenton threw twice to Gilliam for 14 and 42 yards to the Philadelphia six. Three plays later, HB Oscar Reed leaped into the end zone from a yard out and, with Cox’s conversion, Minnesota was up by 14-0.

Regaining possession with four minutes remaining in the first half, the Eagles put together a 10-play, 80-yard drive. HB Po James (pictured below) started off with a 17-yard carry up the middle and Gabriel completed five passes along the way. In a fourth-and-one situation at the Philadelphia 46, HB Tom Sullivan ran for four yards. A holding penalty nullified an apparent long scoring toss to Carmichael, but following a nine-yard gain by James on a draw play, Gabriel threw to Charle Young for 20 yards, to James for 12, and to Carmichael for 11. James ran the last 12 yards for a TD and, and with Dempsey adding the PAT, the home team’s lead was halved to 14-7. There was still 1:03 left in the period as the Vikings regained possession, but Cox was short on a field goal attempt from 53 yards and time ran out on the Eagles at their 31.

Philadelphia had first possession in the third quarter but had to punt, and the short kick by Tom McNeill gave the Vikings the ball at their own 43. They went 57 yards in eight plays, the last a Tarkenton pass to a wide-open Gilliam for a 24-yard touchdown. Cox kicked the extra point to make it a 21-7 game.

The Eagles responded with a 14-play, 76-yard scoring drive of their own. Gabriel, with his first of six completions during the series, threw to Young for a 24-yard gain.  Four of his passes, in fact, were to the rookie tight end, the last for 12 yards to the Minnesota three, and two plays later FB Lee Bouggess ran for a two-yard TD. Dempsey’s conversion again made it a seven-point margin.

In a series that moved into the fourth quarter, the Vikings came back with a 69-yard drive that took 13 plays. Tarkenton (pictured at left) had completions to TE Stu Voigt for 15 and 13 yards and Foreman outraced Lavender and FS Bill Bradley to the goal line for a five-yard touchdown. Cox again made it a 14-point game with the extra point.

The teams exchanged punts before the Eagles put together a nine-play, 78-yard series. Gabriel threw to WR Don Zimmerman for 14 yards and to Carmichael for 19 in a third-and-10 situation and James had runs of 22 and seven yards. From the Minnesota 17, Young took a handoff on an end-around play and plowed over three defenders on the way to a TD. Dempsey initially failed to convert, but an offside penalty on the Vikings gave him a second chance that he made good on.

The determined Eagles had again closed to seven points and there were four minutes remaining to play, but they never got the ball again as Minnesota was able to run out the clock, helped by Tarkenton’s 16-yard scramble that converted a third-and-nine situation. The final score was 28-21.

The Vikings led in total yards (409 to 315) and first downs (25 to 19), with Minnesota’s total showing offensive balance – 217 on the ground and 192 net yards through the air. The Vikings suffered the game’s only turnover and managed to record two sacks, to one by Philadelphia.

John Gilliam caught 6 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown and added another TD on his 44-yard run. Fran Tarkenton completed 16 of 21 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions and also ran for 49 yards on 9 carries. Chuck Foreman topped the Vikings with 68 rushing yards on 21 attempts that included a TD.

For the Eagles, Roman Gabriel was successful on 23 of 32 throws for 201 yards and no TDs but also no interceptions. Po James ran for 78 yards on 11 carries that included a score and also had 6 catches for 25 yards. Charle Young (pictured at right) caught 6 passes also, for 86 yards, and had the 17-yard touchdown carry and Harold Carmichael contributed 6 receptions for 52 yards.

The Vikings reached 9-0 before finally dropping a game and ended up on top of the NFC Central with a 12-2 record. They won the NFC Championship but were handily beaten by Miami in the Super Bowl. Philadelphia won its next two games and continued to provide exciting offense and mediocre defense on the way to a 5-8-1 tally and third place finish in the NFC East.

John Gilliam went on to a Pro Bowl season as he caught 42 passes for 907 yards (21.6 avg.) and scored eight touchdowns. Fran Tarkenton remained efficient throwing the ball, completing 61.7 percent of his passes and compiling a career-high 93.2 rating while giving up only seven interceptions.

Roman Gabriel led the league in pass attempts (460), completions (270), yards (3219), and TD passes (23, tied with Roger Staubach of the Cowboys) and was selected to the Pro Bowl. Harold Carmichael topped the NFL in both pass receptions (67) and yards (1116) and Charle Young received Rookie of the Year recognition for his 55 catches and 854 yards. Both receivers were Pro Bowl choices and received All-NFL recognition, with Young a consensus first-team honoree.