September 30, 2016

Highlighted Year: Dutch Clark, 1931

Tailback/Defensive Back, Portsmouth Spartans

Age: 25 (Oct. 11)
1st season in pro football
College: Colorado College
Height: 6’0”   Weight: 182

Clark started at quarterback for three years at Colorado College and received first-team All-American recognition from the Associated Press in 1928, a season in which he rushed for 1349 yards, despite playing for a small college. After spending a year as an assistant coach at the school, he joined the Spartans.

1931 Season Summary
Appeared in 11 of 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Rushing TDs – 9 [1]
Receiving TDs – 0
Other TDs – 0
Total TDs – 9 [2]
Field Goals – 0
Extra Points – 6 [5]
Points – 60 [3]

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

Spartans went 11-3 to finish second in the NFL.

Clark had another outstanding year for the Spartans in 1932, rushing for 461 yards and leading the league in scoring with 55 points, and again receiving consensus first-team All-NFL recognition. He became head coach at the Colorado School of Mines in 1933 but returned to the team, which was now the Detroit Lions, in ’34 and continued from where he had left off, rushing for a career-high 763 yards, which ranked third in the NFL, and scoring 73 points, which placed second. An all-purpose tailback in a ground-oriented single-wing offense, Clark also excelled on defense and was a fine drop-kicker. In seven seasons with the Spartans/Lions, he led the league in rushing touchdowns and scoring three times, was part of a record-setting defense that had seven straight shutouts in 1934, and a key component in Detroit’s NFL Championship season in ’35. Overall, he rushed for 2772 yards while averaging 4.6 yards-per-carry, caught 28 passes for 341 yards, and passed for 1507 yards and 11 TDs. Clark scored 42 touchdowns and kicked 15 field goals and 72 PATs for a total of 369 points. He was a consensus first team All-NFL selection in six of his seven seasons, the Lions retired his number, and Clark was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a Charter Member in 1963. An excellent leader, he also coached the Lions in 1937 and ’38 and, following his playing career, was head coach of the Rams for four seasons.  


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

September 29, 2016

1946: Eagles Dominate Second Half to Defeat Rams in LA Debut

The Los Angeles Rams were making their West Coast regular season debut as they hosted the Philadelphia Eagles on September 29, 1946. They were coming off of a NFL Championship the previous year as the Cleveland Rams, also their first year under Head Coach Adam Walsh, who installed the T-formation and put QB Bob Waterfield in charge of it with outstanding results. Despite the success, owner Dan Reeves lost money and chose to move the franchise to LA. There were newcomers in HB Tom Harmon, a former Heisman Trophy winner, as well as HB Kenny Washington and end Woody Stode, the first African-American players to appear in the NFL since 1933.

The Eagles had gone 7-3 the previous year, barely missing the Eastern Division title, and one of their wins was against the Rams (the only defeat inflicted on them). Head Coach Earle “Greasy” Neale was assembling a good team that most notably featured HB Steve Van Buren and there were excellent linemen in MG Bucko Kilroy and tackles Al Wistert and Vic Sears. Philadelphia had added promising newcomers in halfbacks Bosh Pritchard and Russ Craft in addition to veteran C/LB Alex Wojciechowicz.

There were 30,553 fans in attendance at the Memorial Coliseum on a hot day with temperatures in the nineties. The Rams scored first, putting together a 75-yard drive in the first quarter, with the biggest play a pass from Bob Waterfield to HB Jack Banta that covered 24 yards. FB Pat West ran the last two yards for a touchdown and Waterfield added the extra point.

The Eagles responded with a 21-yard field goal by Roy Zimmerman to narrow the margin to 7-3. The Rams, moving effectively on the ground, reached the Philadelphia eight, but a holding penalty moved them back and a pass was intercepted by LB Ben Kish. The Eagles scored once more before the first quarter was over when Augie Lio booted a 42-yard field goal.

Early in the second quarter, West (pictured at left) broke away for a 72-yard gain down the middle to the Philadelphia eight. From there, FB Mike Holovak scored a TD, Waterfield converted, and the score remained 14-6 at halftime.

The Eagles started off the third quarter with a drive that resulted in Zimmerman kicking a 19-yard field goal to narrow the score to 14-9. The Rams lost Waterfield, who completed 6 of 9 passes in the first half, due to a rib injury suffered when hit hard by Bucko Kilroy while passing, and he played sparingly for the remainder of the contest. The Rams bogged down on offense as Jim Hardy and Kenny Washington, normally a halfback but being given a trial at quarterback, took turns behind center.

Philadelphia was on the move later in the period, and following a 24-yard run by Russ Craft, QB Allie Sherman (pictured at top) passed to end Larry Cabrelli for a 38-yard touchdown. Zimmerman added the extra point to put the Eagles ahead by 16-14.

Early in the fourth quarter, and following a turnover in which G Duke Maronic hit Holovak behind the line and grabbed the ball away from him, the visitors struck again. Sherman threw for another TD two plays later, this time to end Jack Ferrante that covered 28 yards, and Zimmerman’s point after put the Eagles ahead by nine points.

Midway through the final period, Waterfield re-entered the contest and completed a pass to end Steve Pritko but, after Holovak ran the ball down to the Philadelphia 20, the Rams came up empty. It proved to be their last gasp. The Eagles picked up two more points when Washington, attempting to pass from his own end zone, stepped out of bounds for a safety, and that was it. Philadelphia dominated the second half and came away with a 25-14 win.

The Eagles led in total yards (316 to 233) as well as first downs (16 to 15), topping Los Angeles both in rushing (141 to 116) and through the air (175 to 117). The Rams turned the ball over four times, to two suffered by Philadelphia, but the Eagles were penalized nine times, with six flags thrown on LA.

Allie Sherman was the most productive passer for the Eagles, hitting on 7 of 11 throws for 113 yards and two touchdowns while giving up no interceptions. Steve Van Buren, who had a quiet day running the ball from scrimmage with 33 yards, contributed kickoff returns of 54 and 46 yards.

For the Rams, Bob Waterfield ended up completing 7 of 13 passes for 78 yards with two intercepted. Jim Hardy was 2 of 12 for 23 yards and an interception and Kenny Washington completed just one of seven for 16 yards. Pat West, who left the game due to injury shortly after his long scoring carry, gained 83 yards on five rushing attempts that included a TD. As for Tom Harmon, he had a quiet debut, being held to negative yardage on three carries.

The Eagles won their next game before losing two and they ended up with a 6-5 record to place second in the Eastern Division. Los Angeles followed up with two wins and a tie on the way to going 6-4-1 and finishing second in the Western Division.

Allie Sherman, the future head coach of the New York Giants, was typically a backup and, for the year, ended up completing 17 of 33 passes for 264 yards and four touchdowns while giving up three interceptions.

Bob Waterfield recovered to lead the NFL in pass attempts (251), completions (127), and TD passes (17, tied with Sid Luckman of the Bears) and, for good measure, in extra points (37). He received first-team All-NFL honors from the Associated Press and UPI.

September 28, 2016

Highlighted Year: Al Denson, 1967

Flanker, Denver Broncos

Age: 25
4th season in pro football & with Broncos
College: Florida A & M
Height: 6’2”   Weight: 208

Denson starred as a wide receiver in college, catching 68 passes for 1420 yards and 18 touchdowns. He was chosen by the Broncos in the sixth round of the 1964 AFL draft (the Philadelphia Eagles picked him in the NFL draft, also in the sixth round).and caught 25 passes as a rookie flanker. However, he was shifted to backup tight end and his productivity dropped to nine receptions in ’65, but moving into a starting role he had 36 catches for 725 yards (20.1 avg.) and three touchdowns in 1966. Denson returned to flanker, his natural position, in ’67.

1967 Season Summary
Appeared in all 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 46 [8, tied with Eric Crabtree & Mike Garrett]     
Most receptions, game – 7 (for 134 yds.) vs. NY Jets 9/24, (for 102 yds.) at Buffalo 11/19, (for 97 yds.) at San Diego 11/23
Yards – 899 [6]
Most yards, game – 134 (on 7 catches) vs. NY Jets 9/24
Average gain – 19.5 [4]
TDs – 11 [1, tied with Otis Taylor]
100-yard receiving games – 4

Attempts – 1
Yards – -2
TDs – 0

TDs – 11 [3]
Points – 66 [10]

Awards & Honors:
1st team All-AFL: NEA
2nd team All-AFL: AP, UPI, NY Daily News
2nd team All-Western Division: Sporting News
AFL All-Star Game

Broncos went 3-11 to finish fourth in the AFL Western Division.

Denson was injured in the first week of the 1968 season and appeared in just eight games, but still caught a respectable 34 passes for 586 yards (17.2 avg.) and five touchdowns. He followed up with 53 catches for 809 yards (15.3 avg.) and 10 TDs in ’69, and received some second-team All-AFL recognition as well as selection to the last AFL All-Star Game. Following a 47-catch, 646-yard season in 1970, Denson was traded to Minnesota but was little used and left the team, bringing his career to an end. Overall, he caught 260 passes for 4275 yards (16.4 avg.) and 32 touchdowns, with 250 for 4150 yards and all of the TDs coming with the Broncos. Denson received first-team All-AFL recognition from the NEA after one season, was a second-team choice three times, and was selected to two AFL All-Star Games.


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

September 27, 2016

1970: Key Turnovers & Brodie TD Passes Lead 49ers Past Browns

The San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns were both 1-0 as they faced each other on September 27, 1970. The 49ers, in their third year under Head Coach Dick Nolan, were coming off of an injury-plagued 4-8-2 record in 1969 but had the tools in place to do much better. QB John Brodie (pictured above) was an experienced and able passer and there was quality at wide receiver and running back. The defense was effective as well, and the placekicking problem of the previous year was resolved with the acquisition of PK Bruce Gossett. The 49ers started off with a Week 1 win against the Redskins.

Cleveland, coached by Blanton Collier since 1963, was in a new division thanks to the AFL/NFL merger, having been placed in the AFC Central. A perennial contender in the NFL’s Eastern Conference, it was anticipated that the Browns would dominate the AFC competition. QB Bill Nelsen was a good leader and passer, although playing on gimpy knees, and star WR Paul Warfield had been dealt away during the offseason in order to trade up for QB Mike Phipps of Purdue in the first round to be groomed as the successor. WR Gary Collins and TE Milt Morin were proven pass receivers, and HB Leroy Kelly a consistent performer. The Browns defeated the Jets the previous Monday night.

There were 37,502 fans in attendance on a hot day at Kezar Stadium. The 49ers advanced 63 yards in eight plays on their first possession as John Brodie threw to HB Doug Cunningham for a 29-yard gain and capped the series with a swing pass to FB Ken Willard that covered the final five yards for a touchdown. Bruce Gossett added the extra point for the 7-0 lead.

Cleveland responded with a six-play, 68-yard possession. Bill Nelsen connected with Leroy Kelly on first down for a 41-yard pickup and FB Bo Scott swept for the final three yards and a TD. Don Cockroft added the game-tying point after.

With the game still in the first quarter, the 49ers got a big defensive play when Nelsen was hit while passing and SS Mel Phillips intercepted for the 49ers, who returned it 35 yards for a touchdown. Gossett’s conversion made it a 14-7 contest heading into the second quarter.

The teams exchanged punts before the Browns put together a 95-yard drive in 10 plays, the big one a Nelsen completion to WR Fair Hooker that gained 69 yards to the San Francisco 16. The 49er defense held and Cockroft kicked a 20-yard field goal to make it 14-10.

The 49ers advanced to the Cleveland 43 on their next series, losing WR Dick Witcher to a shoulder separation along the way, and a holding penalty forced a punt. However, San Francisco got another break on defense two plays later when Scott fumbled and DT Roland Lakes recovered at the Cleveland 15. On the next play, Brodie threw to WR Jimmy Thomas for a TD. Gossett added the extra point and the Niners led by a 21-10 score.

The Browns came back with an 80-yard drive in eight plays. Nelsen completed five passes, with the longest to Milt Morin for 27 yards and two to Hooker, for 18 yards and finally an eight-yard TD with 1:12 remaining in the first half. There was still time for the 49ers, but the clock ran out on them at the Cleveland 22 and the score remained 21-17 at halftime.

Cleveland’s first series of the third quarter ended with Kelly running 33 yards up the middle for a touchdown. With Cockroft’s point after, the Browns had their first lead of the day at 24-21. The teams traded punts and Cleveland then took six plays to advance 83 yards, helped along by a 28-yard pass interference penalty. On the second play of the fourth quarter, Willard (pictured at left) carried on a draw play for the last nine yards and a TD. Gossett’s extra point attempt was blocked, but San Francisco was back in front by 27-24.

The visitors fought back with a five-play, 80-yard drive. Nelsen was knocked out of the game when, under a heavy pass rush, he suffered a leg injury after completing a pass to Hooker that gained 62 yards to the San Francisco eight. Blanton Collier chose to go with Don Gault, who had spent time on the taxi squad, over Mike Phipps and Gault handed off to Kelly on the next play for an eight-yard TD. Cockroft’s extra point was successful and Cleveland was back in the lead at 31-27.

After a short series by the 49ers, the Browns, with Gault at quarterback, initially appeared to move the ball well. A throw to Gary Collins picked up 23 yards but, three plays later, LB Dave Wilcox intercepted a pass and returned it 11 yards to his own 36. On second down, Brodie connected with Thomas, who made the catch over LB John Garlington and raced the remaining 35 yards for a 61-yard touchdown. Gossett converted.

Down by three points and with eight minutes left on the clock, there was still plenty of time for the Browns. Taking possession at their 24 following the ensuing kickoff, they ran three plays and, facing fourth down and less than a yard to go, chose to punt. In a key series, the 49ers then controlled the ball for 13 plays (nine of them carries by Willard), going to the air only once. The Browns finally got the ball back at their 30, but with only 22 seconds left to play. San Francisco held on to win by a final score of 34-31.

Cleveland had the edge in total yards (448 to 435) while the 49ers led in first downs (24 to 20). The Browns turned the ball over four times, which proved critical, while San Francisco had none.

John Brodie completed 20 of 31 passes for 277 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Ken Willard ran effectively, gaining 105 yards on 22 carries that included a TD in addition to a score on his lone pass reception. WR Gene Washington had 5 catches for 40 yards but Jimmy Thomas was the pass receiving star for the 49ers with four for 78 yards and two touchdowns.

For the Browns, Bill Nelsen was successful on 14 of 25 throws for 308 yards and a TD, but also gave up an interception that led directly to a score, before being knocked out of the game. Fair Hooker (pictured at right) caught four passes for 157 yards and a touchdown and Gary Collins contributed four receptions for 68 yards. Leroy Kelly rushed for 74 yards on 16 attempts that included two scores and also gained 54 yards on two pass receptions. Bo Scott ran 15 times for 48 yards and a TD but gave up a critical fumble.

“You can’t blame the defense for two of the touchdowns,” said Coach Collier in defeat. “You can’t make as many mistakes as we did and win in this league.”

The 49ers lost the following week but went on to top the NFC West with a 10-3-1 record. They reached the NFC Championship game before falling to Dallas. Cleveland was without Bill Nelsen due to damaged knee ligaments the next week but won with Gault and Phipps at quarterback. However, the Browns slumped during the second half of the season and finished at a disappointing 7-7 and second in the AFC Central.

John Brodie had his finest season as he led the NFL, completing 223 passes for 2941 yards and 24 touchdowns, which were all league-leading figures. He was the consensus MVP and received first-team All-NFL and Pro Bowl honors.

The performance by Jimmy Thomas was his best of the season. Appearing at halfback as well as wide receiver, he caught a total of 12 passes for 221 yards (18.4 avg.) and scored one more TD for a total of three. 

The unheralded Fair Hooker also had his best game of the year, not reaching the hundred-yard threshold for the remainder of the season (or his career, for that matter), but he did emerge as a pleasant surprise for the Browns with 28 catches for 490 yards (17.5 avg.) and two TDs.

September 26, 2016

Highlighted Year: Charles Haley, 1994

Defensive End, Dallas Cowboys

Age: 30
9th season in pro football, 3rd with Cowboys
College: James Madison
Height: 6’5”   Weight: 250

Haley excelled as an inside linebacker in college before moving to the outside as a senior in 1985. He was chosen by the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth round of the 1986 NFL draft and was used as a defensive end in pass rushing situations, accumulating a team-leading 12 sacks as a rookie. Haley moved into a starting role at left outside linebacker in 1988 and was selected to the Pro Bowl after recording 11.5 sacks. Able to shift from linebacker to pass-rushing defensive end as needed, he used his size and speed to great advantage and reached double figures in sacks in three straight seasons, with a career-high 16 in 1990 when he was a consensus first-team All-NFL selection. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl that year and again in ’91, although plagued by injuries. However, due to clashes with the coaches, Haley was dealt to the Cowboys just prior to the 1992 season. Inserted at right defensive end, his sack total dropped to six but his presence improved the overall line play as Dallas won a NFL Championship. Haley had a lesser season in ’93 due to a ruptured disc that required off-season surgery.

1994 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Sacks – 12.5 [4, tied with Leslie O’Neal]
Most sacks, game – 4 at Pittsburgh 9/4
Multi-sack games – 2
Interceptions – 1
Int. return yards – 1
Int. TDs – 0
Fumble recoveries – 0
Forced fumbles – 3
Tackles – 42
Assists – 9

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

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

Cowboys went 12-4 to finish first in the NFC East while leading the NFL in fewest passing yards allowed (2752) and fewest overall yards allowed (4313) and the NFC in sacks (47) and fewest points allowed (248). Won NFC Divisional playoff over Green Bay Packers (35-9). Lost NFC Championship to San Francisco 49ers (38-28).

Haley initially announced his retirement following the 1994 season but was persuaded to return in ’95 and had one last Pro Bowl season with 10.5 sacks. There were further injuries, however, cutting short his 1996 season, and he was away from the game for nearly two years until returning to the 49ers for the postseason in 1998. Haley stayed on to play one last year with the club in 1999 before retiring for good. Overall, he accumulated 100.5 sacks, 34 of which came with the Cowboys, and reached double figures six times. Haley also added 11 more sacks in the postseason and appeared with five Super Bowl-winning teams. He was a consensus first-team All-NFL choice twice, received first- or second-team All-NFC honors after two other seasons, and was chosen to five Pro Bowls. Haley was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 2015.


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

September 25, 2016

1955: Ameche Spurs Colts to Upset of Bears

The Baltimore Colts were heavy underdogs as they hosted the Chicago Bears in their season-opening game on September 25, 1955. Coming off of a 3-9 record in Head Coach Weeb Ewbank’s first season, the team had 12 rookies on the roster, most notably FB Alan “the Horse” Ameche, the Heisman Trophy winner out of Wisconsin, and QB George Shaw, the bonus first draft pick out of Oregon. The defense featured established players in DE Gino Marchetti, DT Art Donovan, DE Don Joyce, and safety Bert Rechichar, who also handled the placekicking. However, the Colts were without injured star HB Buddy Young.

Chicago was coming off of an 8-4 record in 1954 but there was an extra element at play. Owner George Halas had already indicated that his thirtieth year doubling as head coach would be his last, and there was a sense of urgency to send him out with one last NFL title.

There were 36,167 fans in attendance at Memorial Stadium and the home crowd saw the Colts start off in stunning fashion. On the second play from scrimmage, Alan Ameche carried the ball for the first time and charged down the left sideline for a 79-yard touchdown. Bert Rechichar added the extra point. Midway through the first quarter the Colts scored again when Rechichar kicked a 23-yard field goal and the home team led by 10-0.

Early in the second quarter, it was George Shaw spurring a Baltimore drive, completing all three of his passes as the club advanced 67 yards. Two of them were to end Lloyd Colteryahn, for a gain of 15 yards and, two plays later, for an 11-yard TD. Rechichar again converted to put the Colts up by 17-0.

The Bears finally got on the board with four minutes remaining in the first half when QB George Blanda threw to end Harlon Hill for a touchdown from 10 yards out, completing a 65-yard drive, and Blanda also booted the point after. But Rechichar’s long kickoff return set up his second field goal from 43 yards five plays later and the halftime score was 20-7.

In the third quarter, a pass interference penalty on the Colts gave Chicago a first down at the Baltimore three. From there, HB Bob Watkins ran around left end for a TD and, with Blanda’s conversion, the Baltimore lead was narrowed to 20-14. However, just before the end of the period, the Colts were able to get into scoring territory and came away with a third field goal by Rechichar, this time from 10 yards.

The Bears missed opportunities in the fourth quarter. Blanda failed on a 37-yard field goal attempt and Rechichar came up with a key interception at his 12 yard line to thwart another potential Chicago scoring threat. In one other foray into Baltimore territory, the Colts sacked Blanda on consecutive plays, but he followed up with a 49-yard field goal that again made it a six-point game.

In the final seconds, the desperate Bears resorted to a trick play from their own 19 as end Bill McColl threw to Hill, who gained 59 yards to the Baltimore 22, but the clock ran out on the visitors at that point. The Colts pulled off the upset by a final score of 23-17.

Chicago, playing from behind from the start, led in total yards (361 to 306) and first downs (23 to 14). However, the Bears also turned the ball over four times, to one by Baltimore, and the Colts did well keeping the ball on the ground, gaining 226 yards on 45 running plays. Prior to Bill McColl’s long pass play at the end, Chicago’s quarterback combination of George Blanda and Ed Brown accounted for 227 yards on 20 completions with a touchdown and two interceptions. But the Colts sacked Chicago quarterbacks five times for losses totaling 47 yards while suffering only two in return.

Alan Ameche rushed for 194 yards on 21 carries that included the long touchdown and George Shaw completed 7 of 12 passes for 97 yards and a TD with no interceptions. For the Bears, Harlon Hill had 5 catches for 107 yards and a TD in a losing cause.

Baltimore’s win was the first of three straight to open the season, but the Colts were badly beaten in the second meeting with the Bears and had only two more victories the rest of the way. They finished fourth in the Western Conference with a 5-6-1 record. Chicago took an opposite course, losing its first three contests before the victory in the return engagement with the Colts spurred a six-game winning streak. However, an upset loss to the cross-town Cardinals derailed the Bears at that point and, while winning their two remaining games, they ended up second in the conference at 8-4, just behind the Rams, who were 8-3-1.

Alan Ameche led the NFL in rushing with 961 yards on 213 carries (4.5 avg.) and scored nine touchdowns. He received consensus first-team All-NFL honors as well as Rookie of the Year recognition from UPI and The Sporting News, and was selected to the first of four consecutive Pro Bowls. His 194-yard single-game performance against the Bears remained the franchise record until 1971.

Beyond Ameche and George Shaw, other rookies began to emerge from among Baltimore’s first-year crop, such as HB L.G. Dupre and end Raymond Berry, and they would eventually become part of the team that won back-to-back titles in 1958 and ’59.

As a further footnote, George Halas’ retirement, which was always more of a formality than a reality, lasted for two years before he returned to the sideline in 1958. He finally retired for good following the 1967 season, his fortieth.

September 24, 2016

1950: Layne & Walker Lead Lions to Win Against Steelers

The Detroit Lions were coming off of a big opening-week win as they hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 24, 1950. Coached by Bo McMillin, the Lions had not had a winning season in five years, but there were several promising newcomers on the roster. QB Bobby Layne (pictured above) was obtained from the New York Bulldogs, HB Bob “Hunchy” Hoernschemeyer came over from the defunct AAFC, and the rookie crop included the last two Heisman Trophy winners, HB Doak Walker and end Leon Hart. There were also good young veterans such as end Cloyce Box, MG Les Bingaman, and DHB Don Doll. Detroit thrashed Green Bay the previous week by a score of 45-7.

The Steelers, under the guidance of Head Coach John Michelosen, were operating out of the NFL’s last remaining single-wing offense. They also had a tough defense with a line anchored by DE Bill McPeak who was joined by rookie DT Ernie Stautner. Pittsburgh put up seven points in losing to the Giants in the opening game.

There were 19,600 fans in attendance at Briggs Stadium. The contest was a defensive struggle, although Detroit moved the ball more effectively. In the first quarter, the Lions missed a scoring opportunity when Doak Walker missed a 35-yard field goal attempt. Interceptions of Bobby Layne passes in Pittsburgh territory, at the two and the 20, kept the Lions off the board as well. Finally, Detroit advanced the ball to the Pittsburgh five when time ran out and the game remained scoreless at halftime.

In the third quarter, and following a fumble by Detroit FB Ollie Cline at the Pittsburgh 28, the Steelers struck for the game’s first score. TB Bob Gage had runs of 10 and 18 yards before passing to end Elbie Nickel for a 43-yard touchdown. Joe Geri added the extra point.

The Steelers had another shot when DB Jim Finks intercepted a pass by QB Fred Enke at midfield and returned it to the Detroit 25. A second-down pass by back Charlie Seabright for Gage in the end zone just missed the mark and, on fourth down, Geri was wide on a 27-yard field goal attempt.

Now the Lions put together an 80-yard drive that culminated in a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter when Layne threw to Walker, who just pulled away from safety Lynn Chandnois for an 11-yard touchdown. Walker also added the game-tying point after.

Neither team seemed capable of adding points during the final period, and when the Lions were forced to punt with three minutes remaining to play, a tie appeared likely. But, in the game’s pivotal play, Gage fumbled after fielding the kick when hit by Detroit end Dick Rifenberg and end Barney Hafen recovered at the Pittsburgh 15. The home team managed to pick up three yards in three plays before Doak Walker came on to boot a 20-yard field goal and the Lions held on to win by a final score of 10-7.

Detroit had significant edges in total yards (372 to 176) and first downs (24 to 8). But while the Lions outgained Pittsburgh’s single-wing attack on the ground (265 to 54), the Steelers had more yards through the air (122 to 107). Detroit also turned the ball over five times, to two by Pittsburgh.

Bobby Layne completed 10 of 24 passes for 78 yards but also ran for 118 yards on 15 carries. Doak Walker (pictured at right), who scored all of Detroit’s points, contributed 87 yards on 16 rushing attempts. For the Steelers, Bob Gage was successful on 8 of 22 passes with a touchdown while rushing for 45 yards on 11 carries, although the pivotal fumble on the punt diminished an otherwise solid performance.

The Lions split their next two games and were at 3-1 before losing four straight. They finished strong for a 6-6 record that placed fourth in the National Conference. Pittsburgh also went 6-6, tying for third with the Eagles in the American Conference. With the league’s lowest-scoring offense, the Steelers maintained the pattern established in the contest against Detroit as the defense typically kept games close.  

Bobby Layne led the league in pass attempts (336) and yards (2323). His 16 touchdown passes ranked fourth, and he added another four TDs carrying the ball as he ran for 250 yards. Doak Walker continued to be a prolific scorer, leading the NFL with 128 points. He accounted for 11 touchdowns, 8 field goals, and 38 extra points and received first-team All-NFL honors from the Associated Press and UPI as well as selection to the Pro Bowl.  

September 23, 2016

Highlighted Year: Otto Graham, 1946

Quarterback/Defensive Back, Cleveland Browns

Age:  25 (Dec. 6)
1st season in pro football
College: Northwestern
Height: 6’1”   Weight: 190

A single-wing tailback in college, Graham chose to sign with the Browns of the new AAFC rather than the NFL Detroit Lions, who had drafted him in the first round in 1944, after coming out of the Navy. An outstanding athlete, he first played pro basketball before joining the Browns for the 1946 season. Mobile and an accurate passer, Graham quickly adapted to the T-formation.

1946 Season Summary
Appeared in all 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 174 [5]
Completions – 95 [4, tied with Bob Hoernschemeyer]
Yards – 1834 [2]
Completion percentage – 54.6 [2]
Yards per attempt – 10.5 [1]
TD passes – 17 [1]
Most TD passes, game – 4 vs. Chicago 11/17
Interceptions – 5 [11, tied with Kay Eakin, Cotton Price & Walt Williams]
Passer rating – 112.1 [1]

Attempts – 30
Yards – -125
Yards per attempt – -4.2
TDs – 1

Interceptions – 5 [5, tied with Steve Juzwik & Cliff Lewis]
Return yards – 102 [5]
TDs – 1 [1, tied with seven others]

Punt Returns
Returns – 12 [9]
Yards – 129 [15]
Average per return – 10.8
TDs – 0

TDs – 2         
Points – 12

Postseason: 1 G (AAFC Championship vs. NY Yankees)
Pass attempts – 27
Pass completions – 16
Passing yardage – 213
TD passes – 1
Interceptions – 1

Rushing attempts – 3
Rushing yards – -19
Average gain rushing – -6.3
Rushing TDs – 0

Interceptions – 1
Int. return yards – 4
TDs – 0

Punt returns – 5
Punt return yards – 20
Average per return – 4.0
Punt return TDs – 0

Awards & Honors:
1st team All-AAFC: League, UPI
2nd team All-AAFC: NY Daily News

Browns went 12-2 to finish first in the AAFC Western Division while leading the league in passing yards (2266), total yards (4244), touchdowns (55), and scoring (423 points). Won AAFC Championship over New York Yankees (14-9).

The Browns won all four AAFC titles with Graham behind center. He was the league MVP in 1947 as he led the AAFC in completion percentage (60.6), passing yards (2753), TD passes (25), and yards per attempt (10.2), and co-MVP with San Francisco’s Frankie Albert in ’48, a season in which he once more led the AAFC in passing yards (2713) while tossing another 25 TD passes and Cleveland went undefeated. Graham led the league in passing yards (2785) once again in 1949, and while no MVP was awarded by the league, he was a consensus first-team All-AAFC selection. The Browns moved to the NFL in 1950 and kept up their winning ways by achieving another championship. Graham was selected to the Pro Bowl that year and was also named league MVP by UPI in 1951, although Cleveland lost the title game. In ’52, he led the NFL in pass attempts (364), completions (181), yards (2816), and TD passes (20) as well as interceptions (24). Cleveland again lost the title game but won the championship games following the 1954 and ’55 seasons (the latter after Graham was coaxed out of retirement to play one more year) and he led the league in completion percentage in each of his last three years as well as yards (2722) and yards per attempt (10.6) in 1953, and TD percentage (8.1) and yards per attempt (9.3) in ’55. Altogether, over 10 seasons (four in the AAFC, 6 in the NFL) Graham averaged 9.0 yards per attempt (a record 8.6 in the NFL alone) while throwing for 23,584 yards (10,085 in AAFC, 13,499 in NFL) with 174 TDs (86 in AAFC, 88 in NFL). He also ran for 882 yards and scored 44 TDs, with a high of 8 in 1954. Graham was a league MVP twice and first-team All-league honoree three times in the AAFC as well as three-time MVP with four first-team All-league selections in the NFL and was chosen for the first five Pro Bowls. Perhaps most significantly of all, he quarterbacked Cleveland to a championship game in all ten years, winning seven of them. The Browns retired his #14 and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1965.


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

September 22, 2016

1997: Jaguars Avoid Defeat with Blocked FG Return Against Steelers

The Jacksonville Jaguars were 2-0 and coming off of their bye week as they hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 22, 1997. Moreover, Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s team had won those games with two different backup quarterbacks at the helm due to a knee injury suffered by QB Mark Brunell (pictured above), who led the NFL with 4367 passing yards in 1996, and he was now returning to action. Overachievers who went all the way to the AFC title game the previous year, the third-year expansion team had won six straight regular season games dating back to the previous November.

Pittsburgh, coached by Bill Cowher, was accustomed to contending. Third-year QB Kordell Stewart was new to the starting lineup but the ground game was led by dependable RB Jerome Bettis and the defense was typically tough. The Steelers split their first two games.

There were 73,016 fans in attendance at Alltel Stadium for the Monday night game. The Jaguars had the game’s first possession and drove 68 yards in ten plays. Mark Brunell converted a third-and-10 situation with a pass to WR Keenan McCardell for 15 yards and RB Natrone Means ran for five yards on a third-and-three play. Consecutive throws by Brunell were complete to McCardell for 15 yards and to WR Jimmy Smith for 23 to reach the Pittsburgh three yard line and two plays later Means gained the final yard for a touchdown. Mike Hollis added the extra point.

Pittsburgh WR Will Blackwell returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards, but the play was nullified by a holding penalty. However, the Steelers proceeded with an 80-yard scoring series that took six plays. The biggest was a third down throw by Kordell Stewart to WR Charles Johnson that picked up 49 yards to the Jacksonville 12 and, following a six-yard run by RB Jerome Bettis, Stewart scrambled for a six-yard TD. Norm Johnson’s kick tied the score at 7-7.

A short Jacksonville series ended with a punt but the Jaguars got the ball back three plays later when Stewart fumbled when sacked by DE Tony Brackens and LB Eddie Robinson recovered at the Pittsburgh 38. In a possession that stretched into the second quarter, Means ran for nine yards on first down and Brunell completed three passes, the last to Smith for an 11-yard TD. Hollis converted to give the home team a 14-7 lead.

The Steelers started off with the ball at their 42 following a 40-yard kickoff return by Blackwell, but after reaching the Jacksonville 39 they were forced to punt. A long series by the Jaguars started off with Brunell being sacked by LB Levon Kirkland for a loss of 11 yards but Brunell threw to Smith for 29 yards and, a few plays later and facing third-and-20, connected with RB James Stewart for 29 yards to the Pittsburgh 43. It appeared that the drive was finally thwarted when Brunell was sacked for a seven-yard loss by DT Oliver Gibson and then threw an incomplete pass when facing third-and-15 at the Pittsbugh 38. But punter Bryan Barker passed instead of kicking and it was complete to DB Dana Hall for a 22-yard gain. However, after getting to the 11, the home team came up empty when Hollis missed a 29-yard field goal attempt.

Jacksonville got the ball back two plays later when Stewart’s pass was intercepted by CB Aaron Beasley, who returned it five yards to the Pittsburgh 35 with 1:21 remaining in the first half. Brunell completed four passes and Hollis was successful on a 20-yard field goal to give the Jaguars a 17-7 halftime lead. Jacksonville had thus far dominated time of possession, holding onto the ball for 21 of the game’s first 30 minutes.

Down by ten, the Steelers started off the third quarter with a 13-play, 80-yard drive. Bettis (pictured at right) ran for 44 yards on 7 carries, with a long of 16, RB George Jones contributed an 18-yard run, and Stewart completed three passes, the last to WR Yancey Thigpen for a four-yard touchdown. Norm Johnson’s point after narrowed the score to 17-14.

The Jaguars, helped along by a pass interference penalty on the Steelers, came back with a series that resulted in Hollis kicking a 45-yard field goal. Another long Blackwell kickoff return that covered 52 yards put the Steelers at the Jacksonville 48 and, on a seven- play drive that featured a 19-yard run by Bettis and a Stewart toss to Charles Johnson for 26 yards, they scored on the first play of the fourth quarter as Stewart connected with TE Mark Bruener for a one-yard TD. Norm Johnson’s extra point put the visitors in front by 21-20.

The Jaguars again reached Pittsburgh territory as Brunell passed to Smith for a 41-yard pickup but, after the drive was stopped at the 19, Hollis failed on a 38-yard try for a go-ahead field goal. The Steelers had to punt on their next series and Jacksonville again had a long possession that ran over six minutes off the clock and was helped along by a critical unnecessary roughness penalty on DE Nolan Harrison to nullify a third down sack. Brunell completed six passes, three of them to Smith and the longest to WR Reggie Barlow for 18 yards, and this time Hollis came through with a 27-yard field goal that put the Jaguars back on top by 23-21 with 4:14 remaining to play.

Starting from their 40 following Blackwell’s 30-yard kickoff return, the Steelers kept the ball on the ground and also received help with a five-yard penalty on the Jaguars on a fourth-and-one play. Stewart threw to Thigpen for a 21-yard gain to the Jacksonville 25 and Pittsburgh was at the 22 when Norm Johnson came on to attempt a final-play field goal from 40 yards to win the game. However, the snap was low and the holder, QB Mike Tomczak, had difficulty in getting the ball set, placing it at a bad angle. Johnson’s kick was blocked by DE Clyde Simmons and safety Chris Hudson recovered and ran 58 yards for a touchdown. Hollis added the superfluous extra point and the Jaguars not only avoided a last-second defeat but won in stunning fashion by a final score of 30-21.

Jacksonville led in total yards (343 to 306), first downs (23 to 19), and time of possession (33:55 to 26:05), although Pittsburgh was much better at controlling the ball in the second half. The Jaguars were stifled on the ground as Pittsburgh outgained them, 153 to 40, but had a big lead in net passing yards (303 to 153). The Steelers turned the ball over twice, to none by Jacksonville. Pittsburgh led in sacks (three to two) but also in penalties (6 for 82 yards, against four for 35 yards against Jacksonville). The teams combined for just three punts (two by Pittsburgh, one for the Jaguars) although both clubs had trouble on field goals, with Mike Hollis missing two from under 40 yards and Norm Johnson’s lone attempt being botched at the end.

Mark Brunell completed 24 of 42 passes for 306 yards and a touchdown with none intercepted. Jimmy Smith had a big performance with 10 catches for 164 yards and a TD and Keenan McCardell contributed 6 receptions for 51 yards. Natrone Means rushed for 40 yards on 24 carries that included a score.

For the Steelers, Kordell Stewart was successful on 11 of 16 throws for 155 yards and two TDs while giving up an interception, and also ran the ball 7 times for 19 yards and a touchdown. Jerome Bettis, who came on strong in the second half, gained 114 yards on 21 rushing attempts. Yancey Thigpen caught 5 passes for 53 yards and a TD and Charles Johnson gained 88 yards on his four receptions. Will Blackwell averaged 37.8 yards on four kickoff returns. 

“This was a big win for us because it was on Monday night, it was against the Steelers, and because of the way we won,” said Mark Brunell.

“We just found a way to win,” said Coach Coughlin. “I told the team on Sunday night to never take anything for granted because a lot of teams had trouble this season with field goals.”

Jacksonville lost the following week but was at 5-1 before losing two more, including the rematch with the Steelers. The pattern of a flashy passing game and mediocre ground attack held throughout the season. The Jaguars ended up with an 11-5 record, as did Pittsburgh, and the Steelers won the AFC Central title due to the net division points tiebreaker. Jacksonville was demolished by Denver in the Wild Card playoff round while Pittsburgh reached the AFC Championship before also losing to the Broncos in a closer contest.

Mark Brunell went on to lead the AFC in passing with a 91.2 rating as he completed 60.7 percent of his passes for 3281 yards and 18 touchdowns while giving up just seven interceptions. He was selected to a second straight Pro Bowl where he was joined by Jimmy Smith, who accumulated 82 catches for 1324 yards (16.1 avg.) and four TDs.

September 21, 2016

Highlighted Year: Isaac Curtis, 1973

Wide Receiver, Cincinnati Bengals

Age: 23 (Oct. 20)
1st season in pro football
College: San Diego State
Height: 6’0”   Weight: 190

Curtis started out in college as a running back at the Univ. of California, where he was also a track star, but controversy that led to NCAA sanctions against the school caused him to transfer to San Diego State as a senior. Curtis had an outstanding year at wide receiver for the 10-1 Aztecs under the guidance of Head Coach Don Coryell, catching 44 passes for 832 yards (18.9 avg.) and seven touchdowns. He received first-team All-Pacific Coast Athletic Association honors and was chosen by the Bengals in the first round of the 1973 NFL draft (15th overall). Curtis moved directly into the starting lineup and developed into a stellar performer over the course of the season.

1973 Season Summary
Appeared in all 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 45 [11, tied with Boobie Clark & Mike Siani]     
Most receptions, game – 8 (for 106 yds.) vs. Kansas City 10/21
Yards – 843 [5, 1st in AFC]
Most yards, game – 144 (on 2 catches) at Houston 12/16
Average gain – 18.7 [5]
TDs – 9 [4, tied with Harold Carmichael]
100-yard receiving games – 3

Attempts – 2
Yards – -11
Average gain – -5.5
TDs – 0

TDs – 9 [10, tied with four others]
Points – 54

Postseason: 1 G (AFC Divisional playoff at Miami)
Pass receptions – 1
Pass receiving yards – 9
Pass Receiving TDs – 0

Rushing attempts – 1
Yards – -1
TDs – 0

Awards & Honors:
2nd team All-AFC: UPI
Pro Bowl

Bengals went 10-4 to finish first in the AFC Central. Lost AFC Divisional playoff to Miami Dolphins (34-16).

Curtis was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of the next three seasons and was regarded as one of the league’s more potent deep threats at a time when teams were less inclined to go to the air. While his catches dropped to 30 in 1974, 10 were for touchdowns, and he led the NFL by averaging 21.2 yards on 44 receptions in ’75. Curtis lost half of the 1977 season due to knee surgery but bounced back to catch a career-high 47 passes in ’78, although his average dropped to 15.7 and only three were for TDs. He remained with the Bengals until 1984 and, while no longer an elite receiver, was still capable of making big plays. Overall, Curtis caught 416 passes for 7101 yards (17.1 avg.) and 53 touchdowns. He received first- or second-team All-NFL honors three times, first-team All-AFC recognition after five seasons, and was selected to four Pro Bowls.


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

September 20, 2016

1971: Vikings Rally to Defeat Lions

The Minnesota Vikings opened the 1971 season on September 20 as they faced their strongest NFC Central rivals, the Detroit Lions, in a Monday night game. Both teams had reached the postseason in 1970, with the Vikings topping the division for the third straight year (and first in the NFC/AFC format) with a 12-2 record while the Lions were the Wild Card playoff entry at 10-4. However, Detroit had lost six straight games to the Vikings, the team they needed to beat if they were to rise further.

Minnesota was entering its fifth season under the direction of Head Coach Bud Grant and was known for its rather plodding offense and strong defense. QB Gary Cuozzo (pictured above) was adequate, at best, and while Norm Snead had been obtained from the Eagles to challenge him for the starting job, he was still behind center for the opening game. The line was solid and the backs capable, although they lacked speed. The strength of the rugged defense was the imposing front four of ends Carl Eller and Jim Marshall and tackles Alan Page and Gary Larsen.

The Lions, coached by former star linebacker Joe Schmidt, were viewed as a team on the rise. QB Greg Landry was emerging as a talented passer who could also run effectively. Likewise, FB Steve Owens was up-and-coming and there were good veterans in the running back mix as well. Detroit had a noteworthy defense as well, and while the front line did not compare to Minnesota’s, the linebackers and backfield were at least as impressive.  

There were 54,418 fans in attendance on a clear night at Tiger Stadium with temperatures in the fifties. The Lions had the first possession and put together a long drive of 71 yards. Greg Landry made two big plays carrying the ball rather than passing, gaining a yard on a quarterback sneak to convert a fourth down at the Minnesota 44 and then, facing a third-and-nine situation, taking off and running for 10 yards. HB Mel Farr also had a 17-yard gain but WR Larry Walton missed a pass in the end zone and the series resulted in a 20-yard Errol Mann field goal.

HB Clint Jones fumbled on the ensuing kickoff and TE Craig Cotton recovered for the Lions at the Minnesota 21. Four plays later, Landry (pictured at left) rolled out to his right and tossed a three-yard touchdown pass to Farr. Mann added the extra point and Detroit was ahead by 10-0.

The Vikings had yet to run a play on offense and when they did it resulted in another turnover as HB Dave Osborn fumbled and DE Larry Hand recovered for the Lions at the Minnesota 35. However, the Vikings held the home team to a three-and-out series and Mann’s 39-yard field goal attempt hit the crossbar and was unsuccessful.

The teams traded punts as the game headed into the second quarter. Detroit put together a drive that featured Landry passing to Walton for 19 yards on a third-and-five play, but unable to get beyond the Minnesota 46, Mann’s field goal try from 53 yards was wide.  

The Lions got a break on defense when FS Tom Vaughn intercepted a pass by Gary Cuozzo, who was being pressured by Hand, and returned it eight yards to the Minnesota 28. A run was followed by two passes intended for Walton at the goal line that fell incomplete and resulted in Mann kicking a 36-yard field goal. Detroit was ahead by 13-0 with less than five minutes to play in the first half. The Vikings mounted a 60-yard series that resulted in a 13-yard Fred Cox field goal to finally get on the board with three seconds remaining on the clock and the halftime score was 13-3.

Minnesota came alive on offense to start the third quarter, advancing 80 yards in five plays. Cuozzo threw to WR Bob Grim for 24 yards and connected with Grim again, who outmaneuvered CB Lem Barney and, after falling down at the two but not being downed, reached the end zone for a 45-yard touchdown. Cox added the point after to narrow Detroit’s margin to 13-10.

A possession that featured Landry running for 14 yards on a second-and-10 play ended at the Minnesota 45 and once again Mann missed on a long field goal attempt from 53 yards. The Vikings punted after a short series and Barney returned it 13 yards to the Detroit 42, and from there on the next play, a nine-yard run by Steve Owens, the Lions gained another 15 yards due to a personal foul on the Vikings. Three more running plays got the ball to the Minnesota 21, but a holding penalty moved them back and, while a Landry screen pass to Farr gained seven yards back, Mann again was wide on a field goal attempt, this time from 36 yards.

The Vikings had the ball as the game headed into the fourth quarter and Cuozzo completed passes to Grim for nine yards on a third-and-six play and to RB Oscar Reed for 16. RB Jim Lindsey picked up 18 yards on three straight carries and caught a pass for six more to set up a 42-yard Cox field goal that tied the score.

On the ensuing kickoff return, Barney was hit hard by FB Bill Brown, fumbled, and the Vikings regained possession as safety Karl Kassulke recovered at the Detroit 20. Cuozzo threw passes to Reed for seven yards and TE Stu Voigt for nine and, while the Lions halted the advance at the two when Vaughn alertly tackled Cuozzo, Cox put the visitors in front on a nine-yard field goal with 5:18 remaining to play.

Detroit was unable to mount another threat until getting a break in the last minute when a facemask penalty added 15 yards to a punt return and gave the Lions first down at the Minnesota 45 with 46 seconds remaining on the clock. Landry threw to WR Earl McCullouch for 20 yards to get the ball to the Minnesota 25, but Mann missed yet again on a 33-yard field goal attempt and the Vikings came away winners by a final score of 16-13.

Minnesota had the edge in total yards (275 to 221) while the Lions led in first downs (15 to 14). Detroit had the greater success running the ball (160 yards on 38 attempts to 43 yards on 29 attempts) while the Vikings were more effective through the air (232 to 61). Minnesota turned the ball over four times, with early miscues helping to dig the first quarter hole, to two suffered by the Lions. Missed field goals proved fatal to Detroit as the usually-reliable Errol Mann failed on five of seven attempts, three of which were under 40 yards, while Minnesota’s Fred Cox was successful on all three of his tries.

Gary Cuozzo completed 19 of 32 passes for 232 yards and a touchdown while giving up two interceptions. Bob Grim (pictured at right) had a big performance with 7 catches for 126 yards and a TD. Jim Lindsey led the Vikings with 21 rushing yards on six carries and Dave Osborn gained 17 yards on 9 attempts but also caught 5 passes for 40 yards.

For the Lions, Greg Landry had a rough performance, succeeding on just 8 of 26 throws for 61 yards and a TD with none picked off. He also ran the ball six times for 35 yards to rank third among the club’s ground gainers, as HB Altie Taylor had 51 yards on 13 carries and Steve Owens gained 45 yards on 12 attempts. Mel Farr caught a team-leading three passes for 14 yards and a touchdown in addition to six rushes for 23 yards. Larry Walton accumulated 22 yards on two receptions but had damaging drops as well.

“We dropped the football a couple of times,” said Coach Grant with reference to Minnesota’s first quarter fumbles. “It took a quarter and a half for us to recover from that.”

“We beat them physically but couldn’t put the points on the board,” summed up Joe Schmidt of the Lions.

Minnesota lost the next week but then won five straight games on the way to another NFC Central title with an 11-3 record. The Vikings fell to Dallas in the Divisional playoff round. The Lions won four consecutive contests and were at 7-3-1 before dropping three straight games, including the rematch with Minnesota, to close out the season at 7-6-1 and again second in the division, but without a spot in the postseason.

Bob Grim went on to have his finest pro season, catching 45 passes for 691 yards (15.4 avg.) and seven touchdowns. He was rewarded with selection to the Pro Bowl.

Greg Landry recovered from his rough opening week to also gain Pro Bowl recognition as he passed for 2227 yards and 16 TDs and rushed for 530 yards, at the time a record for a NFL quarterback. Errol Mann survived the bad first week to connect on 22 of 37 field goal attempts (59.5 %) as well as all 37 extra point tries, for a total of 103 points, which ranked second in the NFC.