October 31, 2016

Highlighted Year: Lynn Chandnois, 1951

Tailback/Halfback, Pittsburgh Steelers


Age: 26
2nd season in pro football & with Steelers
College: Michigan State
Height: 6’2”   Weight: 195

Prelude:
Following two years of military service during World War II, Chandnois was an all-purpose star at Michigan State, rushing for 885 yards on 129 carries, intercepting 7 passes, and accumulating 1382 total yards as a senior in 1949, when he received some All-American recognition. Overall, he gained 3535 all-purpose yards, including 2103 rushing with a 6.6-yard average, and set school career records for interceptions (20) and interception return yards (410). Chandnois was chosen by the Steelers in the first round of the 1950 NFL draft (eighth overall). With speed and excellent running ability in the open field, he made his biggest mark as a rookie returning kickoffs as he averaged 29.3 yards on 12 returns. His numbers were more modest on offense, where he gained 216 yards on 71 rushing attempts (3.0 avg.) and caught 7 passes for 158 yards (22.6 avg.).

1951 Season Summary
Appeared in all 12 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Rushing
Attempts – 108 [12]
Most attempts, game – 17 (for 60 yds.) vs. San Francisco 10/14
Yards – 332
Most yards, game – 76 yards (on 16 carries) at Green Bay 10/7
Yards per attempt – 3.1
TDs – 2

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 28 [20, tied with Fred Cone, John Hoffman & Elbie Nickel]
Most receptions, game – 6 (for 89 yds.) at Washington 12/16
Yards – 440
Most yards, game – 104 (on 3 catches) vs. NY Giants 10/1
Yards per catch – 15.7 [13]
TDs – 4 [12, tied with four others]
100-yard receiving games – 1

Passing
Attempts – 43
Completions – 16
Yards – 256
Completion percentage – 37.2
Yards per attempt – 6.0
TD passes – 2 [19, tied with five others]
Most TD passes, game – 1 at Chi. Cards 10/28, vs. Green Bay 11/11
Interceptions – 4
Passer rating – 34.6

Kickoff Returns
Returns – 12 [15]
Yards – 390 [10]
Average per return – 32.5 [1]
TDs – 0
Longest return – 55 yards

Punt Returns
Returns – 12 [18, tied with Buddy Young & Vitamin Smith]
Yards – 55
Average per return – 4.6 [19]
TDs – 0
Longest return – 20 yards

All-Purpose yards – 1217 [6]

Scoring
TDs – 6         
Points – 36

Steelers went 4-7-1 to finish fourth in the NFL American Conference.

Aftermath:
Chandnois again led the NFL by averaging 35.2 yards on 17 kickoff returns in 1952, two of which were touchdowns. He also rushed for 298 yards and caught 28 passes for 370 on his way to accumulating 1378 total yards and was selected to the Pro Bowl. His most productive season came in 1953, when he achieved career highs in rushing attempts (123), yards (470), and pass receptions (43), and averaged 29.0 yards on 21 kickoff returns, leading the league with 1593 all-purpose yards. Chandnois was again named to the Pro Bowl. He spent three more seasons with the Steelers, with declining numbers due to injuries, until 1956. Overall, he averaged 29.6 yards on 92 kickoff returns, still among the highest marks in NFL history. Chandnois also rushed for 1934 yards on 593 carries (3.3 avg.), caught 162 passes for 2012 yards (12.4 avg.), and averaged 4.7 yards on 66 punt returns. In all, Chandnois accumulated 6978 all-purpose yards and scored a total of 26 touchdowns. He was a two-time Pro Bowl selection.

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

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

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

**NFC/AFC since 1970

October 29, 2016

2000: Struggling Falcons Rally to Edge Panthers


The Atlanta Falcons were in the midst of a five-game losing streak as they hosted the Carolina Panthers on October 29, 2000. Two years removed from a NFC Championship, the Falcons, coached by Dan Reeves, were coming off of a losing season in 1999 and at 2-6 thus far in 2000. QB Chris Chandler was struggling behind a poor line and RB Jamal Anderson (pictured above), highly productive in 1998, was back after missing virtually all of ’99 with a knee injury but was slow in returning to form. The Falcons had beaten Carolina in a sloppy game in the season’s third week, putting them at 2-1, but had lost every game since. The Panthers, in their second year under Head Coach George Seifert, had a 3-4 record but were coming off of two wins in their last three games and were hoping to get into the playoff hunt.

There were 46,178 fans in attendance at the Georgia Dome. The Panthers had the first possession and put together a long series that covered 75 yards in 16 plays, helped along by a 26-yard pass interference penalty that converted a third-and-13 play. QB Steve Beuerlein completed four passes, two of them to WR Donald Hayes, and the longest to FB William Floyd for 15 yards. The drive finally stalled at the Atlanta 17 and Joe Nedney kicked a 35-yard field goal. The Falcons responded with a long series of their own as Jamal Anderson ran effectively and Chris Chandler also hit on four throws. Morten Andersen tied the score with a 35-yard field goal.



Following a Carolina punt early in the second quarter, Chandler had a pass picked off by DT Sean Gilbert to give the Panthers the ball again at the Atlanta 39. Helped along by a Beuerlein (pictured at right) throw to WR Muhsin Muhammad for seven yards to convert a fourth down, the visitors drove to another Nedney field goal, this time from 48 yards to go up by 6-3. The Falcons had another scoring opportunity later in the period, but Andersen missed a 46-yard field goal and the score remained unchanged at halftime.

Following an exchange of punts to start the third quarter, Chandler again gave up an interception, this time to SS Mike Minter who returned it eight yards to the Carolina 42. Beuerlein completed five passes, most significantly to Hayes for 19 yards and, on a third-and-19 play, to RB Tim Biakabutuka for 25 yards to the Atlanta five. The Panthers failed to reach the end zone, but they came away with a third Nedney field goal from 25 yards to extend the lead to 9-3.

The next Carolina possession also resulted in three points as a roughing-the-passer penalty, a Beuerlein toss to TE Wesley Walls for 19 yards, and an unnecessary roughness infraction that wiped out a sack helped the Panthers along. Nedney’s 24-yard field goal put the visitors up by 12-3 with 12:40 to play and it appeared that the visitors had the game in hand.

The Falcons instead came back with a 13-play, 80-yard drive. Chandler hit on four straight passes and seven overall along the way. Three were to WR Terance Mathis, including a nine-yard gain that converted a third-and-three situation, and two were to WR Tim Dwight, with one for 13 yards on a third-and-six play to the Carolina 19. Jamal Anderson ran for the last two yards, Morten Andersen converted, and the score was narrowed to 12-10.

Atlanta got the ball right back when Beuerlein’s next pass was intercepted by CB Ray Buchanan, who returned it 13 yards to the Carolina seven. Two carries by Anderson netted a yard and Chandler was sacked by LB Hannibal Navies for a seven-yard loss, but Morten Andersen booted a 31-yard field goal and the Falcons were up by a point with the clock down to 2:57.

There was still time for the Panthers, but Beuerlein fumbled when sacked by DT Ed Jasper on a second down play and DT Travis Hall recovered for Atlanta at the Carolina 21. While a holding penalty wiped out a 17-yard run for a would-be touchdown by Jamal Anderson and Morten Andersen missed on a 42-yard field goal try that hit the upright, there were just 50 seconds to play when the Panthers got the ball back. Beuerlein threw two short passes to WR Isaac Byrd, but the game ended on a desperate long pass toward the end zone that Buchanan intercepted to clinch the 13-12 win for the Falcons.     

In a game dominated by the defenses, Atlanta rolled up the most yards (281 to 209) while each team had 16 first downs. The Falcons did especially well on defense, holding the Panthers to just 30 rushing yards in 20 attempts and registering five sacks, to one by Carolina. The Panthers also turned the ball over four times, three in the fourth quarter, while Atlanta had three turnovers. Both teams were heavily penalized, with Carolina drawing 9 flags at a cost of 58 yards to 8 penalties for 98 yards on the Falcons.



Chris Chandler (pictured at left) completed 19 of 29 passes for 191 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Jamal Anderson rushed for 90 yards on 25 carries that included the game’s only TD and also had 5 catches for 15 yards. Terance Mathis led Atlanta’s receivers with 7 pass receptions for 89 yards.

For the Panthers, Steve Beuerlein, who was heavily pressured throughout the contest, was successful on 21 of 41 throws for 202 yards and gave up three interceptions. Tim Biakabutuka led the receivers with 51 yards on four receptions as well as rushing with 23 yards on 14 attempts. Wesley Walls, who left the game with a season-ending knee injury in the third quarter, and Donald Hayes also had four catches apiece, for 47 and 41 yards, respectively. Joe Nedney was a perfect four-of-four on field goals.

“When you’re struggling like we are it seems like so many things happen and sometimes we are our own worst enemy,” said Atlanta’s Coach Reeves. “We are glad to get the win.”

“That is about as brutal a loss as they come,” said George Seifert from the Carolina perspective. “I can’t imagine that it can get much tougher than this.”

Unfortunately for the Falcons, the struggles continued and they didn’t win again until the season finale. Chris Chandler continued to have difficulty in an injury-plagued season and while Jamal Anderson ended up rushing for 1024 yards, Atlanta was unable to control the ball effectively while dealing with injury problems on defense. Their 4-12 record put them in the NFC West’s basement. Carolina won the next week but remained an inconsistent team that placed third in the division at 7-9.

October 28, 2016

Highlighted Year: Hugh Douglas, 2000

Defensive End, Philadelphia Eagles


Age: 29
6th season in pro football, 3rd with Eagles
College: Central State (OH)
Height: 6’2”   Weight: 280

Prelude:
Douglas was twice a Division 1 NAIA All-American during a college career in which he accumulated 42 sacks in 32 games. He was chosen by the Jets in the first round (16th overall) of the 1995 NFL draft and, used initially as a situational player for his pass rushing skill, moved into the starting lineup in November. While initially on the light side for his position (he weighed 255 as a rookie), Douglas compensated with good speed and agility. He was credited with 10 sacks and received NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors from the Associated Press and Pro Football Writers. Ankle problems limited Douglas to 10 games in 1996, but he still accounted for 8 sacks and improved as a defender against the run. However, with the arrival of Bill Parcells as head coach in ’97 the Jets shifted to a 3-4 defense and Douglas proved to be a poor fit. He was traded to the Eagles in 1998 and, back in a 4-3 alignment, flourished as he registered 12.5 sacks, although knee and bicep injuries limited him to four games and two sacks in ’99.

2000 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Sacks – 15 [4]
Most sacks, game – 2.5 at Green Bay 9/17
Multi-sack games – 3
Interceptions – 1
Int. return yards – 9
Int. return TDs – 0
Fumble recoveries – 0
Forced fumbles – 2
Tackles – 44
Assists – 12

Postseason: 2 G
Sacks – 2
Most sacks, game – 2 vs. Tampa Bay, NFC Wild Card playoff
Interceptions – 0
TDs – 0

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

Eagles went 11-5 to finish second in the NFC East and qualified for the postseason as a Wild Card while leading the conference in fewest points allowed (245). Won NFC Wild Card playoff over Tampa Bay Buccaneers (21-3). Lost NFC Divisional playoff to New York Giants (20-10).

Aftermath:
Douglas followed up with two more Pro Bowl seasons in 2001 and ’02 in which he had 9.5 and 12.5 sacks, respectively. He moved on to Jacksonville as a free agent in 2003, had a disappointing season as accumulated wear began to show, and finished up his career in ’04 back with the Eagles. Overall, Douglas had 80 sacks over the course of ten seasons and 138 games, was chosen to the Pro Bowl a total of three times, and received first- or second-team All-NFL recognition on two occasions.

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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 27, 2016

1996: Bengals Rally to Defeat Jaguars in Bruce Coslet’s Coaching Debut


The Cincinnati Bengals had a new head coach as they hosted the Jacksonville Jaguars on October 27, 1996. Off to a 1-6 start, David Shula had been let go and replaced by Bruce Coslet (pictured above), the offensive coordinator who had once coached the New York Jets. The son of the highly-successful Don Shula had been a major disappointment, failing to turn around a team that had not posted a winning record in six years, and the Bengals had recently been prone to blowing leads in the second half. It was hoped that Coslet, known as a motivator in New York, could provide a needed spark.

The opposing Jaguars, a second-year expansion team, came into the game with a 3-5 record. While Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s club had the league’s top passing offense, Jacksonville was still a work in progress. QB Mark Brunell was mobile and a talented passer, but thus far also lacked consistency and was prone to throwing interceptions, and the running game was not providing much help.

There were 45,890 fans in attendance at Cinergy Field on a pleasant day, well under the stadium’s capacity. The Bengals had the ball first and drove from their 18 to the Jacksonville 30 as QB Jeff Blake completed passes to RB Eric Bieniemy for 13 yards and WR David Dunn for 26, but came up empty when they failed to convert a fourth-and-one play. The teams traded punts for the remainder of the opening period.



As the game headed into the second quarter, the Jaguars put together a 75-yard drive in seven plays. Mark Brunell threw to WR Andre Rison for 32 yards, RB James Stewart (pictured at left) had carries of 13 and 12 yards, and Brunell finished the series off with a 14-yard run for a touchdown. Mike Hollis added the extra point.

A short series by the Bengals again ended with a punt, but Cincinnati got the ball back three plays later when Brunell was hit by DE Jevon Langford as he was passing and LB James Francis intercepted the errant throw at the Jacksonville 31. It took the home team five plays to capitalize as Blake connected with TE Tony McGee for 18 yards and WR Carl Pickens for an 11-yard TD. Doug Pelfrey added the game-tying point after. That was it for the scoring as the teams exchanged punts for the remainder of the half, much to the displeasure of the home fans.

Following another exchange of punts to start the third quarter, the Jaguars advanced 73 yards in eight plays. Stewart broke away for a 34-yard run on first down and, keeping the ball on the ground with Stewart and RB Natrone Means, the visitors reached the Cincinnati 11, from where Brunell threw to Means for a touchdown. Hollis converted and the Jaguars were back in front by 14-7 with 2:41 remaining in the period.

The Bengals had the ball as the third quarter concluded, with Blake throwing to Bieniemy for 13 yards in a third-and-seven situation and then connecting with WR Darnay Scott for 46 yards to the Jacksonville 10. On the first play of the final period, Blake tossed a scoring pass to Pickens from there and Pelfrey’s kick made it 14-14.

The Jaguars had to punt from deep in their own territory on the next possession as Brunell was sacked twice for losses totaling 19 yards. The Bengals started their series from their 40 and went 60 yards in 11 plays. Blake completed four straight passes at one point, two of them to Pickens, and ran for 10 yards to convert a third down. The payoff came when Blake ran an option play and flipped the ball to RB Ki-Jana Carter, who scored a one-yard touchdown. Pelfrey again converted to put Cincinnati up by seven, although Blake was shaken up and had to sit out the remainder of the game.

On Jacksonville’s next play, Brunell’s tipped pass was picked off by FS Bo Orlando, giving the Bengals possession at the Jaguars’ 22. Backup QB Erik Wilhelm threw to Pickens for five yards and Carter ran four straight times, the last for a four-yard TD. Pelfrey added the extra point to make it a 28-14 game with 3:32 left to play. The Jaguars managed to drive to one more touchdown, with Brunell throwing to WR Jimmy Smith from 11 yards out, but they couldn’t recover the resulting onside kick and the Bengals were able to run out the clock and win by a final score of 28-21.  

Jacksonville led in total yards (338 to 267) and also had the edge in first downs (19 to 18) although the Bengals had the ball longer (31:36 to 28:24). The Jaguars also recorded five sacks, to four for Cincinnati, but they also turned the ball over twice, to none suffered by the Bengals.

Jeff Blake completed 19 of 30 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns while giving up no interceptions. Carl Pickens had 6 catches for 51 yards and two TDs and David Dunn gained 66 yards on his three receptions. Eric Bieniemy pulled in 6 passes for 47 yards in addition to running the ball five times for eight yards. Ki-Jana Carter (pictured below) filled in for Garrison Hearst, who sprained his ankle in the second quarter, and topped the Cincinnati runners with a modest 27 yards on 8 carries, although two were for touchdowns.


For the Jaguars, Mark Brunell was successful on 18 of 31 throws for 215 yards and two TDs, but also with two costly interceptions. He also ran the ball 7 times for 45 yards and a touchdown. James Stewart gained 80 yards on 14 rushing attempts and Natrone Means contributed 24 yards on seven rushes as well as a TD on his lone catch. WR Keenan McCardell had five pass receptions for 52 yards and Andre Rison gained a team-leading 74 yards on his three catches. On defense, DE Clyde Simmons accounted for 2.5 of the team’s sacks.

The win signaled a turnaround for the Bengals as they won their next two games on the way to a 7-2 finish. They ended up breaking even at 8-8 and placing third in the AFC Central. The Jaguars also caught fire, winning six of their last seven games to go 9-7 and secure a Wild Card playoff slot. They advanced all the way to the AFC Championship game before falling to the Patriots.

Unfortunately for Bruce Coslet, the initial success did not last. The Bengals followed up with a 7-9 record in 1997 and dropped to 3-13 in 1998 and 4-12 ’99. He was dismissed three winless games into the 2000 season, having compiled a 21-39 record in Cincinnati.

October 26, 2016

Highlighted Year: Dave Casper, 1976

Tight End, Oakland Raiders



Age: 25 (Sept. 26)
3rd season in pro football & with Raiders
College: Notre Dame
Height: 6’4”   Weight: 228

Prelude:
Casper played two seasons as a tackle in college before moving to tight end and caught 21 passes for 335 yards and four touchdowns. He received consensus first-team All-American honors in 1973 and was chosen by the Raiders in the second round of the ‘74 NFL draft. Casper spent his first two seasons backing up TE Bob Moore and caught a total of nine passes for 97 yards, although four were for touchdowns and he also performed well when pressed into action in the AFC Championship game loss to the Steelers in ’75. With Moore gone in 1976, Casper moved into the starting lineup.

1976 Season Summary
Appeared in 13 of 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 53 [8, tied with Ahmad Rashad]  
Most receptions, game – 12 (for 136 yds.) at New England 10/3
Yards – 691 [17]
Most yards, game – 136 (on 12 catches) at New England 10/3
Average gain – 13.0
TDs – 10 [3, tied with Sammy White & Bob Chandler]
100-yard receiving games – 3

Rushing
Attempts – 1
Yards – 5
TDs – 0

Scoring
TDs – 10 [9, tied with Sammy White, Bob Chandler & Andy Johnson]
Points – 60

Postseason: 3 G
Pass receptions – 9
Most pass receptions, game – 4 vs. New England, AFC Divisional playoff; vs. Minnesota, Super Bowl
Pass receiving yards – 122
Most pass receiving yards, game – 70 vs. Minnesota, Super Bowl
Average yards per reception – 13.6
Pass Receiving TDs – 1

Rushing attempts – 1
Rushing yards – -13
Rushing TDs – 0

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

Raiders went 13-1 to finish first in the AFC West. Won AFC Divisional playoff over New England Patriots (24-21), AFC Championship over Pittsburgh Steelers (24-7) & Super Bowl over Minnesota Vikings (32-14).

Aftermath:
Casper’s breakout season in 1976 was the first of four straight in which he was a consensus first-team All-NFL selection. Big and fast, he was a formidable blocker as well as outstanding receiver, and made memorable plays in the postseason. Casper was traded to the Houston Oilers during the 1980 season, where he was reunited with former Raiders QB Ken Stabler. His production gradually dropped off and, following a short stint with Minnesota in 1983, he finished up back with the Raiders, now in Los Angeles, in ’84. Overall, Casper caught 378 passes for 5216 yards (13.8 avg.) and 52 touchdowns. Of that, 255 receptions for 3294 yards and 44 TDs came with the Raiders. He added another 27 catches for 363 yards and seven TDs in the playoffs. In addition to receiving first-team All-NFL honors four times, Casper was chosen to five Pro Bowls. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 2002.

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

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

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

**NFC/AFC since 1970

October 25, 2016

1964: Browns Pull Away in Fourth Quarter to Defeat Giants


For years during the 1950s and early 60s, games between the Cleveland Browns and New York Giants were often battles for control in the NFL Eastern Conference. The meeting on October 25, 1964 was different, however, in that while the Browns were contending once again with a 4-1-1 record, New York had fallen on hard times and was at 1-4-1.

Cleveland was coached by Blanton Collier for the second year and coming off of a 10-4 second-place finish in ’63. FB Jim Brown, in the eighth season of his career, remained the key player on offense, but QB Frank Ryan (pictured above) had emerged as a capable field general and there was an impressive new target available for his passes in rookie split end Paul Warfield.

Head Coach Allie Sherman’s Giants had won three straight conference titles, but age and injuries had caught up to the team. QB Y.A. Tittle, whose passing had fueled so much success, had just turned 38 and was taking a beating. Other offensive stalwarts such as FB Alex Webster and flanker Frank Gifford were injured. The defense was missing MLB Sam Huff, who had been dealt to Washington in a controversial deal, as well as DT Dick Modzelewski, who was proving helpful to the Browns.

There were 81,050 fans in attendance at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium for the latest installment in the fierce rivalry. In the first quarter, the Giants struck first with a drive that covered 63 yards in 13 plays. Y.A. Tittle completed two passes and HB Dick James finished it off with a one-yard touchdown carry. Don Chandler missed the extra point attempt, but New York was ahead by 6-0.

Defensively, New York was proving surprisingly effective at stopping the Browns, in particular keeping Jim Brown in check. The home team finally got on the board midway through the second quarter when rookie HB Leroy Kelly returned a punt 68 yards for a TD and Lou Groza added the point after. The Giants had an opportunity to score again before halftime, but after covering 60 yards in seven plays, Tittle’s pass into the end zone was picked off by CB Bernie Parrish. Cleveland maintained the 7-6 halftime advantage.

In the third quarter, LB Galen Fiss intercepted a pass to give the Browns possession at their 40, and six plays later Frank Ryan threw to Paul Warfield for an 11-yard touchdown. Groza booted the point after to put the home team up by 14-6. New York responded with a five-play series that covered 80 yards. HB Steve Thurlow tossed an option pass to flanker Aaron Thomas for 33 yards and Tittle surprised the Browns by rolling out and carrying the ball for a seven-yard touchdown. Chandler made good on the point after and the third quarter ended with the Browns clinging to a narrow 14-13 lead.

The situation changed dramatically early in the fourth quarter. The Giants regained possession in their territory due to an interception, but Cleveland DE Paul Wiggin picked up a fumble by Dick James and returned it two yards for a touchdown. Groza’s conversion lengthened the Cleveland lead to 21-13.



Five plays into the next New York series, LB Jim Houston intercepted a Tittle pass and returned it 44 yards to the New York 31. Jim Brown ran 22 yards to the nine and from there Ryan threw to flanker Gary Collins for a TD, Groza again adding the extra point. On the ensuing kickoff, HB Clarence Childs fumbled and backup FB Charlie Scales (pictured at left) grabbed it in the air and ran 23 yards for yet another Cleveland touchdown. Groza converted once more and, within the period of four minutes and 24 seconds, the Browns had scored 21 points and the once-close contest was now a 35-13 runaway.

New York put rookie QB Gary Wood in the game, and he passed to FB Ernie Wheelwright for a 20-yard TD. With the conversion, the score was narrowed to 35-20, but that was the last gasp for the Giants. Relieving Ryan, QB Jim Ninowski tossed a pass to TE John Brewer for 41 yards and hit Brewer again for an 11-yard touchdown. Groza’s PAT ended the scoring as the Browns won by a final tally of 42-20.

New York had big leads in total yards (426 to 225) and first downs (23 to 15). The Giants even out-rushed Cleveland by 166 yards to 97, but they also turned the ball over six times, which proved disastrous in the fourth quarter, to three turnovers by the Browns.

Frank Ryan completed just 8 of 17 passes for 86 yards and two touchdowns while giving up three interceptions. Jim Brown, who was 90 rushing yards short of 10,000 for his career coming into the game, was held to 56 yards on 12 carries. John Brewer led the Browns with four catches for 80 yards and a TD.



For the Giants, Y.A. Tittle was successful on 19 of 31 throws for 177 yards with no TDs and three interceptions.  In relief, Gary Wood was three-of-three for 44 yards and a touchdown. Ernie Wheelwright (pictured at right) rushed for 94 yards on 20 attempts and also had 5 pass receptions for 68 yards and a score. Split end Del Shofner also had five catches, for 31 yards, while Aaron Thomas gained 83 yards on his four receptions.

The Browns won their next three games on the way to a 10-3-1 record that topped the Eastern Conference, and they upset the Baltimore Colts for the NFL Championship. New York won the next week but didn’t again the rest of the way, ending up in last place at 2-10-2.

October 24, 2016

Highlighted Year: Bruce Harper, 1977

Halfback, New York Jets


Age: 22
1st season in pro football
College: Kutztown State
Height: 5’8”   Weight: 174

Prelude:
Playing at a small school, Harper rushed for 2169 yards in three varsity seasons and was an honorable mention Little All-American in 1976. He went undrafted by the NFL but signed with the Jets as a free agent in ’77. What Harper lacked in size, he made up for with speed and versatility and made the club as a backup halfback who primarily returned kicks.

1977 Season Summary
Appeared in all 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Rushing
Attempts – 44
Most attempts, game – 8 (for 33 yds.) vs. New England 10/2
Yards – 198
Most yards, game – 33 yards (on 4 carries) at Houston 9/18, (on 8 carries) vs. New England 10/2
Average gain – 4.5
TDs – 0

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 21      
Most receptions, game – 4 (for 32 yds.) vs. Baltimore 9/25
Yards – 209
Most yards, game – 55 (on 1 catch) at Buffalo 10/9
Average gain – 10.0
TDs – 1

Passing
Attempts – 1
Completions – 0
Interceptions – 0

Kickoff Returns
Returns – 42 [1]
Yards – 1035 [1]
Most yards, game – 122 (on 3 ret.) at New Orleans 12/4
Average per return – 24.6 [8]
TDs – 0
Longest return – 60 yards

Punt Returns
Returns – 34 [10, tied with Howard Stevens]
Yards – 425 [5]
Most yards, game – 66 (on 5 ret.) vs. Buffalo 12/11
Average per return – 12.5 [6]
TDs – 0
Longest return – 49 yards

All-Purpose yards – 1867 [3, 1st in AFC]

Scoring
TDs – 1
Points – 6

Jets went 3-11 to finish fourth in the AFC East.

Aftermath:
Continuing to perform well as a utility player, Harper led the AFC in all-purpose yards in each of the next three seasons and the entire NFL in 1978 (2157) and ’80 (2072). He also topped the league in kickoff return yards in 1978 and ’79 and had his best year as a punt returner in 1978, averaging 12.6 yards on 30 returns that included a touchdown. Effective in a limited role out of the backfield, Harper’s top rushing season was 1981, when he carried 81 times for 393 yards (4.9 avg.) and four TDs. Used more as a pass receiver, he gained 634 yards on 50 catches in 1980 and topped out at 52 receptions for 459 yards in ’81. Harper spent his entire career with the Jets until suffering a career-ending ACL tear in 1984. Overall, he compiled 11,429 all-purpose yards, with 1829 on 374 rushing attempts (4.9 avg.), 2409 on 220 pass receptions (11.0 avg.), 1784 on 183 punt returns (9.7 avg.), and 5407 on 243 kickoff returns (22.3 avg.). He scored a total of 21 touchdowns.

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

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

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

**NFC/AFC since 1970

October 22, 2016

1967: Defense & Special Teams Propel Oilers to Upset of Chiefs


The Kansas City Chiefs were the reigning AFL Champions and off to a 3-2 start as they hosted the Houston Oilers on October 22, 1967. Coached by Hank Stram, the Chiefs were a well-balanced club with precision-passing QB Len Dawson operating behind an outstanding line, and with a productive running game as well, while rookie PK Jan Stenerud added an extra scoring dimension. The defense was a good one and had gained size up front with the recent addition of mammoth DT Ernie Ladd. Kansas City had lost a high-scoring game to San Diego the previous week but was expected to return to winning form against the Oilers, a club they had beaten in their first game.

Houston was at 2-2-1 and had not posted a winning record in five years, including a 3-11 tally in 1966. Head Coach Wally Lemm, with the help of GM Don Klosterman, had transformed the defense, in particular adding rookie LB George Webster (pictured above) and young veteran CB Miller Farr, who was acquired from the Chargers. The offense remained a problem, however, and QB Pete Beathard was obtained from Kansas City two weeks earlier in the deal that sent Ladd to the Chiefs.

There were 46,365 fans in attendance at Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium. They saw the Chiefs start off the scoring with a 40-yard Jan Stenerud field goal, but the early lead was quickly erased when DB Zeke Moore returned the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown. John Wittenborn’s extra point put the Oilers in front by 7-3.

Shortly thereafter, another big play on special teams helped the Oilers as DB Larry Carwell returned a punt 33 yards. The resulting possession ended with Wittenborn kicking a 45-yard field goal for a 10-3 score, which remained the tally heading into the second quarter.

Carwell’s next punt return covered 26 yards to the KC 49, again putting Houston into good field position. Five plays later, Pete Beathard threw a touchdown pass to HB Sid Blanks that covered 39 yards and Wittenborn again added the point after. It got worse for the Chiefs on their next possession when HB Mike Garrett ran into an official while running a pass pattern and FS Jim Norton intercepted a Dawson throw and returned it 23 yards for a TD. Wittenborn’s conversion had the Oilers up by 24-3.

The reeling Chiefs finally put together an 80-yard drive in 12 plays, the key one being a Dawson pass to split end Chris Burford that picked up 44 yards. Garrett ran for a five-yard touchdown and Stenerud added the PAT. Kansas City got a break when Moore fumbled the resulting kickoff and end Frank Pitts recovered, setting up a 13-yard field goal by Stenerud. The score was narrowed to 24-13 at halftime.



Late in the third quarter, the Chiefs put together a 12-play, 85-yard drive to narrow the margin further. Dawson had a 24-yard scramble to reach the Houston two, and from there Garrett (pictured at left) ran for another TD. KC then faked the kick on the extra point attempt in an effort to pick up two points, but Dawson’s pass intended for TE Fred Arbanas was broken up by George Webster.

There was no further comeback for the Chiefs, however, as the Houston defense kept them in check. In the fourth quarter, the Oilers were also able to keep an offensive series going thanks to a roughing-the-kicker penalty on a punt, and when they finally did kick the ball away a few plays later, the Chiefs had to start from their five. Kansas City had one last chance when Dawson connected with Burford for a 22-yard gain to reach Houston territory, but a fumble at the 31 with 2:50 left on the clock ended it and the Oilers held on to win by a final score of 24-19.

The Chiefs dominated statistically, with big leads in total yards (323 to 127) and first downs (19 to 7). But they also turned the ball over three times, one of which led directly to a Houston touchdown, while the Oilers suffered one turnover. Kick returns also played a key role for the Oilers, with the one TD on a kickoff and the two long punt returns that led to points.


Pete Beathard completed only three of 14 passes for 63 yards, but one was for a touchdown and none were intercepted. Flanker Monte Ledbetter had two catches for 24 yards and Sid Blanks gained 39 yards and scored a TD on his lone reception. FB Hoyle Granger led the Houston runners with 51 yards on 13 carries. Zeke Moore had the 92-yard kickoff return and Larry Carwell averaged 20.0 yards on his four punt returns. Jim Norton (pictured at right) helped with his punting, averaging 47.0 yards on 7 kicks, as well as contributing two key interceptions, one that was returned for a score and the other in the end zone to thwart a Kansas City scoring opportunity. Also on defense, George Webster had nine tackles and three pass deflections, MLB Garland Boyette was credited with 17 tackles, and CB W.K. Hicks had 13 tackles and broke up two passes.

For the Chiefs, Len Dawson was successful on 17 of 31 throws for 175 yards but had no TDs and gave up three interceptions. Mike Garrett gained 69 yards on 19 rushing attempts that included two touchdowns and FB Curtis McClinton contributed 48 yards on 10 carries. Flanker Otis Taylor had 6 catches for 40 yards while Chris Burford gained 97 yards on five receptions.

“I’d rather be lucky than good,” said Houston’s Coach Lemm. “We just got the early breaks and that did it for us.”

The luck was generally good for the Oilers during the rest of the regular season as they went 6-2 the rest of the way to win the Eastern Division with a 9-4-1 record. Houston’s defense led the AFL in both fewest rushing (7) and passing (10) touchdowns allowed, and gave up the least points overall (199). However, it couldn’t stop the Raiders in the AFL Championship game, which was a 40-7 rout. Kansas City bounced back to win three straight, but they were unable to keep up with Oakland in the Western Division and placed second at 9-5.

October 21, 2016

Highlighted Year: Ward Cuff, 1938

Wingback/Defensive Back, New York Giants



Age: 26
2nd season in pro football & with Giants
College: Marquette
Height: 6’1”   Weight: 198

Prelude:
Cuff starred in track as well as football in college and was part of the Marquette team that went 7-1 in 1936 before losing to TCU in the first Cotton Bowl. He was chosen by the Giants in the fourth round of the 1937 NFL draft and was primarily a backup in his rookie season, although he had a two-touchdown performance against Brooklyn. He also kicked the first two field goals of his career, the longest from 42 yards.

1938 Season Summary
Appeared in all 11 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Kicking
Field goals – 5 [1, tied with Ralph Kercheval]
Most field goals, game – 2 vs. Pittsburgh 10/3
Field goal attempts – 9 [2, tied with Jack Manders & Clarke Hinkle]
Field goal percentage – 55.6 [1]
PATs – 18 [1]
PAT attempts – 20 [1]
Longest field goal – 23 yards vs. Philadelphia 9/25

Rushing
Attempts – 18
Yards – 38
Yards per attempt – 2.1
TDs – 0

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 8
Yards – 114
Yards per catch – 14.3
TDs – 1 [16, tied with many others]

Scoring
TDs – 2         
Field Goals – 5
PATs – 18
Points – 45 [4]

Postseason: 1 G (NFL Championship vs. Green Bay)
Field goals – 1
Field goal attempts – 2
PATs – 2
PAT attempts – 2
Longest field goal – 14 yards

Rushing attempts – 2
Rushing yards – -12
Average gain rushing – -6.0
Rushing TDs – 0

Kickoff returns – 1
Kickoff return yards – 27
Kickoff return TDs – 0

Fumble recoveries – 1

Awards & Honors:
2nd team All-NFL: INS
Pro All-Star Game

Giants went 8-2-1 to finish first in the NFL Eastern Division. Won NFL Championship over Green Bay Packers (23-17).

Aftermath:
The versatile Cuff played another seven seasons for the Giants and saw action at wingback, fullback, and halfback and typically handled the placekicking. He twice led the NFL in field goals while with New York, with a high of seven in 1939. His best rushing season was in 1943, when he gained 523 yards on 80 carries (6.5 avg.) and his best for pass receiving was in 1941, with 19 catches for 317 yards (16.7 avg.), the same year in which he intercepted four passes for a league-leading 152 yards. Having scored 305 points for the Giants, Cuff finished his career with the Cardinals in 1946 and Green Bay in ’47, where he led the league one last time with seven field goals. Overall, Cuff rushed for 1851 yards on 344 attempts (5.4 avg.) and 7 TDs, caught 106 passes for 1559 yards (14.7 avg.) and 13 touchdowns, intercepted 13 passes, one of which he returned for a score, and averaged 12.1 yards on 37 punt returns and 25.1 yards returning 14 kickoffs. He kicked 43 field goals out of 98 attempts (43.9 %) and was successful on 156 of 162 extra points for a total of 411 points. Cuff was named to three Pro/NFL All-Star Games. His #14 was retired by the Giants (who un-retired it for Y.A. Tittle but was later retired again to honor both players).

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

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

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

**NFC/AFC since 1970

October 20, 2016

1946: Browns Surge in Second Half to Defeat Dons


The undefeated Cleveland Browns faced a major test in the inaugural All-America Football Conference season as they hosted the Los Angeles Dons on October 20, 1946. The Browns were off to a sensational start under innovative Head Coach Paul Brown and had a 6-0 record. Brown had assembled a team that included many players that he was familiar with from coaching in the college and service ranks, such as QB Otto Graham, ends Dante Lavelli and Mac Speedie, FB Marion Motley (pictured at right), G Bill Willis, and OT/PK Lou Groza, and they were all excelling.

The Dons were at 3-1-1 under Head Coach Dudley DeGroot. Viewed as the more glamorous team coming into the AAFC season, LA had several established pro veterans. They also had QB Angelo Bertelli, the Heisman Trophy winner out of Notre Dame, although Charlie O’Rourke had done the better job thus far behind center.

There were 71,134 fans in attendance, which was the largest crowd in pro football history at the time. The Browns threatened first as they reached Los Angeles territory thanks to a pass from Otto Graham to Dante Lavelli that gained 46 yards, but they came up empty when a fake field goal attempt failed. The Dons then drove 67 yards, resulting in QB Charlie O’Rourke throwing to end Bob Nowaskey for an 18-yard touchdown. Joe Aguirre added the extra point to make it 7-0.

Los Angeles was able to keep the Browns in check on offense for the remainder of the first half, but was also unable to add more points. In the second quarter, Cleveland stopped another advance by the Dons when Graham, showing his skill on defense, intercepted an O’Rourke pass at his 31 and returned it to the LA 45. HB Don Greenwood ran for two yards and two passes were incomplete but the Browns scored on a 48-yard Lou Groza field goal. The score remained 7-3 at halftime.

In the third quarter Cleveland’s offense came to life and put together an 85-yard drive. Key plays were runs by HB Edgar “Special Delivery” Jones for 15 yards and FB Gaylon Smith for 16 before a pass from Graham to Lavelli gained 36 yards and set up Graham’s two-yard carry for a TD. Groza added the point after and the Browns were in front by 10-7.

As the fourth quarter started, Joe Aguirre of the Dons attempted a 34-yard field goal that was blocked by tackle Chet Adams. Three plays later, Graham connected with Mac Speedie for a 47-yard touchdown, Groza again converted, and the home team’s lead was up to 17-7.

LA responded with a 50-yard series but, after reaching the Cleveland 26, had to turn the ball over on downs. Two running plays, the longest for 17 yards by Greenwood, got the ball past midfield and then, with the Dons looking for a pass, Marion Motley broke away for a 48-yard TD. Groza added the extra point to make it 24-7.

The Dons again drove into Cleveland territory, going 62 yards. Following an O’Rourke throw to Nowaskey to make it first-and-goal on the six, O’Rourke kept the ball himself on the next play, running around end for a touchdown. Aguirre’s PAT made it a ten-point game, but it didn’t take long for the Browns to respond. On their first play from scrimmage after the ensuing kickoff, Motley struck again, running 68 yards for a touchdown. Groza converted, thus sealing the 31-14 Cleveland win.

The Dons had the edge in total yards (395 to 353) and first downs (21 to 10), outrushing Cleveland by 274 yards to 224, but the Browns made the bigger plays in the second half that overcame LA’s statistical edge. Each team turned the ball over three times.

With the two long touchdowns, Marion Motley rushed for 143 yards on just eight carries. Otto Graham completed four of 10 passes for 129 yards with a touchdown and an interception. For the Dons, Charlie O’Rourke and Angelo Bertelli combined for 10 pass completions out of 20 attempts for 121 yards and a touchdown along with an interception.

The Browns finally lost the next week to another Western Division rival, the San Francisco 49ers. They were defeated again in the rematch with the Dons but didn’t lose another game on the way to a 12-2 record and a title game victory over the New York Yankees. Los Angeles placed third in the Western Division at 7-5-2.

Otto Graham went on to lead the AAFC in touchdown passes (17) and yards per attempt (10.5) and placed second in passing yards (1834) and completion percentage (54.6). He received first-team All-AAFC honors. Marion Motley rushed for 601 yards on just 73 carries for an 8.2 average and five touchdowns.

October 19, 2016

Highlighted Year: La’Roi Glover, 2000

Defensive Tackle, New Orleans Saints


Age: 26
5th season in pro football, 4th with Saints
College: San Diego State
Height: 6’2”   Weight: 285

Prelude:
Glover was credited with 18.5 sacks in college and was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the fifth round of the 1996 NFL draft. He saw action in only two games as a rookie and played with the Barcelona Dragons of the WLAF in the Spring of 1997. Waived by the Raiders during the preseason in ’97, the Saints picked Glover up and he recorded 6.5 sacks as a backup before moving into the starting lineup and compiling 10 sacks in 1998 and 8.5 in ’99. The arrival of DT Norman Hand allowed the Saints to take better advantage of Glover’s speed and strength as a pass rusher.

2000 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Sacks – 17 [1]
Most sacks, game – 3 at Chicago 10/8, vs. Carolina 10/15, at St. Louis 11/26
Multi-sack games – 5
Interceptions – 0
Fumble recoveries – 1
Forced fumbles – 3
Tackles – 54
Assists – 13

Postseason: 2 G
Sacks – 0
Interceptions – 0
Fumble recoveries – 1
TDs – 0

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

Saints went 10-6 to finish first in the NFC West while leading the NFL in sacks (66). Won NFC Wild Card playoff over St. Louis Rams (31-28). Lost NFC Divisional playoff to Minnesota Vikings (34-16).

Aftermath:
Glover followed up with 8 sacks and another Pro Bowl selection in 2001 before departing for Dallas as a free agent. A disruptive player with surprising speed who was also good against the run, he received first-team All-NFL honors from the Pro Football Writers and Sporting News in 2002 and was a second-team choice of the Associated Press in both 2002 and ’03. Glover was a Pro Bowl pick in each of his four seasons with the Cowboys, although he was less effective as a nose tackle with the shift to a 3-4 defense in 2005. Released by Dallas, he spent the last three years of his career with the St. Louis Rams, through 2008, before retiring. In all, Glover compiled 83.5 sacks, 50 while he was with New Orleans. He was a consensus first-team All-NFL selection twice and was selected to six Pro Bowls.

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

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

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

**NFC/AFC since 1970