Top Ten Single Season Defenses in NFL History : #2 2000 Baltimore Ravens

The bludgeoning Baltimore Ravens in 2000 was one of the greatest defenses in NFL history and lands at #2 on The Chancellor of Football’s list. Aside from winning Super Bowl XXXV, their greatest accomplishment was setting the record for fewest points allowed in a season with 165. Do you realize allowing 3, 10, and 3 in the AFC playoffs, that in 19 games they still bested the old 16 game record of the ’86 Bears 186 points with only 181?? Remember the Giants touchdown in Super Bowl XXXV was a kick return and not allowed by the defense. Still that is 188 points in 20 games!!

Ray Lewis' greatest season was the 2000 campaign.

Ray Lewis’ greatest season was the 2000 campaign.

To fully appreciate the Ravens season as a whole you have to understand how anemic an offense they carried. Their 16th ranked offense was the 2nd lowest of all Super Bowl champions.

For the season they were ranked 2nd overall allowing 247.9 yards per game. Yet #1 against the run setting the record for fewest yards allowed rushing in a 16 game season with only 970. Yielding a paltry 2.7 yds per carry when league average was 4.0. Baltimore held 11 of their 16 regular season opponents to 10 or fewer points. Four of which were shutouts. By the way, they also held all four of their postseason opponents to 10 or fewer for a total of 15!!

  • 2000 Baltimore Ravens allowed 970 yds rushing
  • 1985 Chicago Bears allowed 1,319 yds rushing
  • 1991 Philadelphia Eagles allowed 1,136 yds rushing
  • 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers allowed 1,457 yds rushing *14 games
  • 1977 Dallas Cowboys allowed 1,651 yds rushing *14 games
Boulware off the edge was a staple of Baltimore's pass rush.

Boulware off the edge was a staple of Baltimore’s pass rush.

This was a physically imposing defense that started with mountains in the middle in DTs Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams. Keeping blockers off 2000′s NFL Defensive Player of the Year in Ray Lewis. Who roamed free garnering 137 tackles, 3 sacks and an interception. It was one of the most dominating performances by a defensive player in league history. From The [[_]]

Fellow Linebackers Jamie Sharper (72 tackles /5 forced fumbles) and Peter Boulware clogged passing lanes, stuffed the run, and blitzed effectively. Boulware had 7 sacks as a Nickle rushing end. DE Rob Burnett led the team with (10.5 sacks) was a holdover from the Cleveland Browns days. He and fellow DE Michael McCrary were steady rushers that couldn’t be moved off the ball.

The most underappreciated aspect of this defense was the secondary. Led by Hall of Fame Safety Rod Woodson (77 tackles/ 4 forced fumbles /4 ints) this group was never out of position. They ranked 8th against the pass in 2000 yet were 2nd in passing TDs allowed with 11 while snatching 17 of the team’s 23 interceptions. Chris McAlister (4ints) and Duane Starks (6ints – The [[_]]) were top shelf corners and SS Kim Herring, Corey Harris, and Robert Bailey (The [[_]]) pounded TEs and slot receivers when teams went to multiple receiver sets.

During the season the Ravens were 1-1 against Pro Bowl quarterbacks and 2-0 against top 10 offenses. They held the NFL’s #2 offense to 3 points in their AFC Wildcard win. Yet this group was ranked #2 in 2000 and on their way to Super Bowl XXXV when they took on the #1 defense in the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round.

After vanquishing the Titans the Ravens had to go on the road to face the Oakland Raiders for the AFC Championship. In Oakland they faced the 6th best offense in football and the #1 rushing offense with 154.4 yards per game. Strength vs strength in a battle to make it to Super Bowl XXXV.

With their 16-3 win, you do realize this was only the 2nd time in the Super Bowl era a team hosted the conference championship and couldn’t score a touchdown, right?? Only the Baltimore Colts performed this with their 34-0 win over Art Modell’s Cleveland Browns for the 1968 NFL Championship prior to Super Bowl III. That is only twice in 70 games! The 2000 Baltimore Ravens were the greatest defensive 11 in NFL history and are #2 on The Chancellor of Football’s list. Why weren’t they #1?? That will be explained in the next article.

Thanks for reading and share the article for once would ya’

 

Legends Of The Fall: Bart Starr

Why is it when great quarterbacks of the past comes up, few name Bart Starr?? Of course when talk of the 1960′s Green Bay Packers comes up, first we think of Vince Lombardi. Then we think of their signature play in the power sweep and their ferocious defense. Yet the glue that not only held everything together but made big play after big play in championship competition was quarterback Bart Starr.

 

The Origin of The Black & Blue Division

Our Soul of the Game series is always about hitting and hitters when it comes to football. However today is a look back at NFL Films chronicling the birth of the NFC Central. An ode to the visceral side of football.

Minnesota’s Purple People Eater’s ruled the division winning it 5 times in the 7 years covered (1967-1973). The division produced two NFL champions in Lombardi’s last championship team in ’67, and the ’69 Vikings who went on to play the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl IV. Some of the best defensive statistics in history came from these teams. Defense, cold weather and a ton of hitting.

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

Top Ten Single Season Defenses in NFL History : #3 2013 Seattle Seahawks

As we’re winding down this series of greatest single season defenses, the first question asked was where did the ’13 Seahawks belong in this group??

The Legion of Boom reigns supreme after 2013.

The Legion of Boom reigns supreme after 2013.

Do you realize Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith not only wasn’t a week 1 starter, but isn’t guaranteed to be one at Outside Linebacker for 2014?? He replaced  KJ Wright #50 who had been injured. Its the depth and lack of drop off in production that makes this group great. They ranked #1 and were led by The Legion of Boom secondary which boasts 3 Pro Bowl Players.

Starting with defending Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year Richard Sherman, who led the NFL with 8 interceptions. He returned those for 158 yards and a significant week 4 touchdown. He also was 7th on the team in tackles with 48, defensed 17 passes and recovered 2 fumbles.

Kam Chancellor's thunderous hit on Vernon Davis a year ago is still the defense's seminal moment in becoming the NFl's most feared defense.

Kam Chancellor’s thunderous hit on Vernon Davis a year ago is still the defense’s seminal moment in becoming the NFl’s most feared defense.

By the time you add Pro Bowl FS Earl Thomas (105 tackles/ 5 ints/ 11 pass defensed/ 2 forced fumbles) & the thunderous shots by Pro Bowl SS Kam Chancellor (99 tackles / 3 ints/ 12 passes defensed/ 1 forced fumble) you have one of the best secondaries in history. That’s what a championship can elevate you to. Three of four in the secondary made the Pro Bowl.

This group was #1 overall (273.6 ypg.) while finishing #1 against the pass allowing 172 yards per game. Those stats were 28 and 22 ypg. better than the defenses ranked 2nd. Quarterbacks finished with a 63.4 rating in a modern game where the rules have been altered to favor the pass. How does that rank against other great defenses??

  • 2013 Seahawks passer rating allowed 63.4
  • 1985 Chicago Bears passer rating allowed 51.2
  • 1991 Philadelphia Eagles passer rating allowed 52.1
  • 2000 Baltimore Ravens passer rating allowed 62.5
Chancellor brings the intimidation factor. At 232 lbs. he hits with the force of a linebacker.

Chancellor brings the intimidation factor. At 232 lbs. he hits with the force of a linebacker.

For the season they held 7 opponents to 10 points or less and one of those was the 4th best offense in football, the New Orleans Saints.  An 8th team held to less than 10 was the record setting #1 offense of the Broncos in the Super Bowl when they could only muster 8 points. The highest scoring team in history with 606 points averaging 37.8 per game, was held scoreless until the last play of the 3rd quarter. By then they were down 36-0.

Avril terrorized quarterbacks rushing them from the front side.

Avril terrorized quarterbacks rushing them from the front side.

Before their 43-8 destruction of Denver, they bested Brees and the Saints in the playoffs were they held them to 15 points as well.  They did lose to one Pro Bowl quarterback in Andrew Luck but that is offset by shutting down the 5,477 yards and 55 TD record setting Peyton Manning in Super Bowl XLVIII. So 3-1 against Pro Bowl QBs and holding 2 of them to less than 10 points is strong defensive football. Keep in mind the defense was missing CB Brandon Browner (suspension) and LB KJ Wright (injury) or the Broncos may have been shut out.

By the time we get to the pass rush of Cliff Avril (8.5 sacks) and Michael Bennett(8 sacks) rushing side by side from the strong side, this group plays front 7 by committee. Utilizing blitzes they garnered 44 sacks while surrendering an NFL best 231 points. In contrast the 1971 Dallas Cowboys or the Doomsday Defense gave up 222 in 14 games.

So yes The Legion of Boom belongs on this list. To do it in the modern NFL where if you sneeze near a receiver it’s a penalty, they gave a world class performance. One of the best in history and #3 on The Chancellor of Football’s list.

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

Top Ten Single Season Defenses in NFL History : #4 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers

Now how could we have a category on the best defenses and defenders in NFL history and not include the Pittsburgh Steelers?? As we moved into the 1970′s following the merger, we saw the hashmarks narrowed in 1974 and the goal posts moved to the end line to provide offenses more room to operate. Scoring had been down for much of the first half of the decade and it was thought this additional field to cover would hamper defenses. Especially those with burly MLB types that had limited range tracking sideline to sideline, or defending the pass.

No one could run on the '76 Steelers

No one could run on the ’76 Steelers

Enter Jack Lambert. A converted outside linebacker who stood 6’4 and stayed at a playing weight of 220 lbs. the majority of his career. What he brought to the table was the speed to get further back than the Willie Lanier’s and the Dick Butkus’, a prior generation’s middle linebackers who were mainly there to stuff the run. His ability to get past twenty yards in pass defense was the impetus for the Steelers to run what is NOW misnamed the “Tampa 2″.

It started in Pittsburgh because against the run and rushing the passer, Ernie Holmes, Joe Greene, Dwight White, and LC Greenwood were the finest front four of their era….possibly football history. Lambert, along with outside linebackers Andy Russell, and Jack Ham, only needed to clean up against the run and were already a step back ready to clog the middle and flat areas against the slower tight ends of that era. The result??

A defense put together from astute drafting grew into one of menace that powered the Steelers to victories in both Super Bowls IX and X. In Super Bowl IX the Steelers held the Vikings to just 17 yards rushing for the game. A record that stood until Super Bowl XX. They stood tall and defended against a frantic last second effort in Super Bowl X. So strong was the Steeler defense, Coach Chuck Noll ran the ball on 4th and 9 and let the Cowboys have the ball at their own 40 yard line leaving it up to the defense to win the game. While winning a second straight world title they set the Super Bowl record for sacks with 7.

A young team with an unprecedented chance to win a third straight Super Bowl went into the 1976 season with their front four in their prime.With Terry Bradshaw growing up as a quarterback and growing receivers John Stallworth and Lynn Swann with one of history’s finest defense….What would they do for an encore?? Could they threepeat??

This team was primarily responsible for the upcoming rule changes of 1978 and this was their best season. For the year they were #1 overall (237.4 y/pg) gave up just 138 points and held 7 of 8 straight opponents to 10 points or less. Five of those came by shutout and the first modern team to record 3 in a ow. In fact they only allowed 2 touchdowns in the last 10 games and those came in the same game. A 32-16 win over the Oilers. They had a string of 25 quarters where they didn’t allow a touchdown. They were so good they had to be legislated out of business.

Starting in 1978 they instituted the “Mel Blount Rule” where receivers could only be jammed / hit within the first five yards of the scrimmage line. Blount was bludgeoning receives all down the field until the pass was thrown. Pass protectors were allowed to extend their arms to better protect against the Steel Curtain. The head slap was another tactic taken away from Pittsburgh’s charging front four in 1978. All of these rule changes can be traced back to this group.

RIP Coach Noll

RIP Coach Noll

One of the best in history and number 4 on The Chancellor of Football’s list.

Dedicated to the memories of Art Rooney, Chuck Noll, Ernie Holmes, LC Greenwood, & Dwight White.

 

The Most Influential College Football Game In The Last 50 Years

Slaton celebrated all night with a dazzling rushing performance.

Slaton celebrated all night with a dazzling rushing performance.

Then along came Rich Rodriguez and his West Virginia Mountaineers. He took the spread offense to a complete zenith with what you could do with a 53 1/3 yard wide field and implemented a power rushing attack from a spread formation. First he recruited Pat White from Alabama.  At 6’0 (being generous) and 185 lbs. he was short for a quarterback and had a decent arm, yet it was his 4.28 40 yard dash that made it nearly impossible for interior linebackers to read blocking patterns, than get to the flank to defend against his options or pitch to Steve Slaton.

Slaton was brought down from Pennsylvania and one of the nation’s fastest running backs coming out of high school in 2005.  He had committed to Maryland who had offered him a scholarship then retracted their offer.  He took his 4.3 speed to West Virginia to team with Pat White, Owen Schmitt, recievers Darius Reynaud #82 and Brandon Miles#7 and a powerhouse was born. They spread from a traditional set and some 3 receivers yet ran what they call a speed option that most MLBs didnt have the lateral quickness to stay with.  The result?? First we have to set the table for you.

Pat White became the first QB in history to win 4  New Years Bowl Games.

Pat White became the first QB in history to win 4 New Years Bowl Games.

The Miami Hurricanes and Boston College had just fled the Big East to join the ACC. Many felt that the Big East was no longer a top flight conference with two of their heavyweight schools having departed. Yet the Mountaineers started a redshirt freshman in Pat White, and a freshman tailback in Steve Slaton and a new offense took the country by storm.  They improved as the season went on and Slaton finished the season with 1,128 yards and 17 TDs, while White finished with 952 yds rushing and 7 TDs to go along with moderate passing to keep defenses honest.

Once they ran out to a 10-1 record, their Big East championship gave them an automatic bid to the BCS Sugar Bowl where they would take on Georgia. The Bulldogs that year were 12-1 and only a close loss in SEC play had kept them from appearing in the National Championship Game. Experts scoffed that West Virginia’s offense couldn’t perform that well against a superior defense from a superior conference. Yes experts were treating the Big East as a second tier conference with the remaining teams.  So the battle lines were drawn and since the Sugar Bowl had to be moved from New Orleans to Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, because of Hurricane Katrina, this would be a home crowd for the Bulldogs too. No way the Mountaineers could stay on the field with an SEC team……………….right??

So the landscape has changed, first through the proliferation of cable television stations allowing players to play in far away places and still be seen back home.  This changed the way colleges could approach players when they weren’t the clear cut favorite to land a particular recruit. Players weren’t forced to switch positions to go to a particular name school when there were other alternatives. This happened simultaneously with the NCAA limiting the amount of scholarships teams which spread talent all over the collegiate landscape.

Steve Slaton killed Georgia with 202 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Steve Slaton killed Georgia with 202 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Then in an effort to find the great equalizer, coaching innovations leveled the playing field even more with better tactics while landing a better athlete on their campus than ever before.  Couple these factors with the natural chip on the shoulder that most underdogs play with and college football has turned into “On any given Saturday…” Making college football an even greater game than before.

Yet it was this Sugar Bowl played in prime-time that changed the attitudes of coaches and pundits of the power conferences. From coast to coast teams were using the uptempo spread offense to run as well as pass. Teams could outflank those they couldn’t physically go toe to toe with. Forcing their opponent to field a different set of defenders and players who play better in space. This game was Rich Rodriguez’s masterpiece and changed the way college football is being played today.

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

Top Ten Single Season Defenses in NFL History : #5 1991 Philadelphia Eagles

A recurring theme that seems to be running through these greatest defenses were they had to carry anemic, inefficient offenses through the season. One such incident took place when the Philadelphia Eagles lost the 1990 NFL MVP in Randall Cunningham in the first week 1991. All appeared to be lost as they attempted to go on without their #1 weapon. This defense turned in one of the last truly great performances finishing #1 against the run, #1 against the pass, and obviously #1 overall.

1991 Pro Bowl members of the Eagles defense.

1991 Pro Bowl members of the Eagles defense.

When you carry a team that played five quarterbacks during the season, you’ve done something. We’re sure you remember that renowned NFL quarterback Brad Goebel or Pat Ryan, right?? Who?? Brad Goebel not Stan Gable…that’s a fictitious character from Revenge Of the Nerds.

As for real quarterbacks they had two games against the Redskins Mark Rypien, that year’s Super Bowl MVP. Two more against Hall of Famer Troy Aikman then one against Steve Young and Warren Moon. Also Hall of Fame members. All but Young made the Pro Bowl in 1991. They went 3-3 against them and held Young’s 49ers (#3 offensively) and Aikman’s Cowboys (#9 offensively) to less than 100 yards passing in two complete games that year.

Remember these two went on to face each other in 3 consecutive NFC Championships the following year and won the next four Super Bowls.

They faced 6 top 10 offenses going 3-3 against them. Defensively they held 6 opponents to 10 points or fewer. Two of those games were against top ten offenses as we mentioned earlier. Counting match-ups with divisional foes as individual games, 8 times they held their opposition to their lowest offensive output for the season.

Half the defense made the Pro Bowl starting with the late Reggie White, the late Jerome Brown, and Clyde Simmons. These three accounted for 37 of the Eagle’s 55 sacks. Those 3 alone had just 7 sacks fewer than the 2013 NFL champion Seahawks had as a team. OLB Seth Joyner (110 tck / 6.5 sacks / 6 ff /3 ints) and CB Eric Allen who picked off 5.

The only reason SS Andre Waters didn't make the Pro Bowl was his reputation.

The only reason SS Andre Waters didn’t make the Pro Bowl was his reputation.

Amazingly the late SS Andre Waters didn’t make the Pro Bowl even though he had 156 tackles. It was he and FS Wes Hopkins that sent the early message in their signature game against the Oilers. Did you know starting the very next week, when others used their 13-6 destruction against Houston as a blueprint, stats diminished for the Run & Shoot beginning the very next week??

In winning 7 of their last 8 attempting to make the playoffs, the quarterback rating was around 40.0. For the season 206 of 467 (44.1%) for 2,807 yards 16 TDs and 26 interceptions would get a quarterback cut or ripped by ESPN shows. Well this was the passing given up by the 91′ Eagles all year.

Or think of it like this: Look at the ’91 Eagles performance against 6 top 10 offenses and 4 HOF QBs. Compare those stats to Geno Smith who was the worst rated QB last year:

  • Geno Smith – 247 of 443 (55.8%) 3,046 yds 12tds 21 ints
  • ’91 Eagles – 206 of 467 (44.1%) for 2,807 yards 16 TDs and 26 interceptions

One of the best in history and #5 on The Chancellor of Football’s list.apicofme3

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

 

 

 

Top Ten Single Season Defenses in NFL History : #6 1971 Baltimore Colts

One of the greatest defensive performances in NFL history happened in 1971. The defending Super Bowl champion Colts had the #1 defense and drug a struggling offense to the AFC Championship Game. They allowed the 2nd fewest yards per game mark in the NFL since 1970 with 203.7 yards. With only 140 points allowed, it would have been an NFL record had the ’69 Vikings not broken their old scoring record of 144 with 133.

Bubba smith coming off the ball.

Bubba smith coming off the ball.

One interesting aspect of the ’71 Colts was how anemic their once great passing offense had become.  The 38 year old Unitas completed just 52.3% of his passes for 3 TDs and 9 interceptions. Earl Morrall, who was 37, fared no better with an even lower 50.3% with 7 TDs to 12 ints. They were 21st in passing offense and 12th overall making the defense work harder.

During the ’71 season the defense held 7 of their 14 opponents to 10 points or less. Including 5 of their first 6. Baltimore’s D recorded 3 shutouts and held their first playoff opponent to 3 points. In facing 5 top ten offenses that year, they were 4-1 and held two of those to 10 points or less. Yet why aren’t they remembered??

Yet the media anoints others of that era and obscures this team…lets compare a few:

  • 1971 Baltimore Colts – #1 overall / 203.7 yds all. / 140 points given up / 28 int
  • 1971 Dallas Cowboys – #3 overall / 243.3 yds all. / 222 points given up / 26 int
  • 1972 Miami Dolphins – #1 overall / 235.5 yds all. / 171 points given up / 26 int
  • 1970 Minnesota Vikings – #1 overall / 200.2 yds all. / 143 points given up / 28 int
  • 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers – #4 overall / 261.5 yds all. / 162 points given up / 27 ints

Right now fans of the Doomsday Defense, The No Name Defense, and the Steel Curtain are saying to themselves ‘Its not all about stats”. Which is true until you realize this was a defending Super Bowl champion that made it back to the AFC Championship Game despite its offense. Had they won against Miami, they would have taken on the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl VI. Well that is who they beat in Super Bowl V to become champions in the first place.

Mike Curtis tackling Cliff Branch.

Mike Curtis tackling Cliff Branch.

Led by Pro Bowlers DE Bubba Smith, MLB Mike Curtis, LB Ted Hendricks, SS Jerry Logan, and FS Rick Volk, its amazing only Hendricks is in the Hall of Fame. Curtis definitely should be but when you think of Hendricks making the Hall that is primarily from his work with the Raiders.

This was the last hurrah for the Colts as everything came apart starting in 1972. That was the year owner Carroll Rosenbloom swapped franchises with Robert Irsay. Head Coach Don McCafferty fired, John Unitas sent to the bench and the run as an NFL elite team ended.

Yet a tremendous performance by the defense in 1971 allowed them to hang on for one more season.

Dedicated to the memories of Don McCafferty, Bubba Smith, & Carroll Rosenbloom

Top Ten Single Season Defenses in NFL History : #7 1977 Dallas Cowboys

For all the talk of the Gritz Blitz and the Orange Crush Defense in 1977, it was the year of The Doomsday Defense II. They faced off with the Denver Broncos down in New Orleans in Super Bowl XII and the better defense won. They carried their season statistical domination into that game and forced a then Super Bowl record 8 turnovers. This was the last NFL champion to finish #1 on defense and #1 on offense. In giving up just 229.5 yards per game, most don’t realize that was better than the 1978 champion Pittsburgh Steelers (260.5) or even the great ’76 version (237.5).

After Craig Morton was benched, Hollywood Henderson and Doomsday treated Norris Weese to a rough outing. Super Bowl XII

After Craig Morton was benched, Hollywood Henderson and Doomsday treated Norris Weese to a rough outing. In Super Bowl XII

Unofficially that year was the little known fact that DE Harvey Martin recorded 26 sacks. The league didn’t start keeping that statistic until 1981 or that would still be a record. It was arguably his best season as he was named All Pro and made the Pro Bowl. Surprisingly he was only joined by SS Charlie Waters, FS Cliff Harris, and DT Randy White.

Yet this group does have some knocks against it. They only faced 3 top ten offenses that year and gave up  212 points  for the season. The highest of our top ten. However they were 2-1 in those games and were the first Super Bowl champion to face their eventual Super Bowl opponent during the season. Winning the finale 14-6.

Supe Bowl XII Co-MVPs Randy White and the late Harvey Martin.

Supe Bowl XII Co-MVPs Randy White and the late Harvey Martin.

So why are they in the top ten??

The number one reason this group is here is this was the height of The Flex Defense. Their dominance was felt in a season long display. They held 7 of their 14 opponents to 10 points or less then became the first team since the merger to hold their 3 opponent to 10 points or less. One of those was the #3 ranked offense of the  Chicago Bears and NFL rushing champion Walter Payton. He was held to 60 yards on 19 carries in a 37-7 win in the divisional round.

The havoc they raised in Super Bowl XII with 4 sacks, countless hurries that led to 4 interceptions on the biggest stage didn’t hurt. When half your line, DT Randy White and DE the late Harvey Martin, become the first defensive linemen to win Super Bowl MVP, that puts on an exclamation point on the season.

Other talents such as Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson made names for themselves as well. They would defend their championship in the following Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers where they ranked #2 in defense. That’s another story for a different time.

landry.2Epilogue: This was the crowning jewel in the late Tom Landry’s coaching career. Where he engineered a majority of the tactics to bring the 4-3 to be the modern staple of defense in the NFL. It was his ability to innovate that defense and come up with the Flex Defense to read and react as well as keep the Middle Linebacker (Bob Breunig) free of potential blockers.

Dedicated in the memory of both Tom Landry and Harvey Martin.

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

 

Top Ten Single Season Defenses in NFL History : #8 1975 Minnesota Vikings

Much like the “dead ball” era in major league baseball when pitchers dominated the 1960′s, NFL defenses in the ’70′s were the equivalent in football. Up in Minnesota, the Vikings used a dominant front four to limit opponents to 225.2 yards per game. Far and away the best in the league that year. In fact the ’75 Steelers, #9 on this list, was ranked 4th allowing 261.5 yards for the season. They only gave up 180 points or 12.3 pts per game in the ’75 campaign.

Interestingly this team didn’t use it’s cold weather advantage to compile these statistics. They played 3 of their final 4 games on the road. One of those came in the temperature controlled Silverdome against the Lions. Within their statistics you can definitely see their dominance. They held 6 teams to 10 points or less while ranking #1 against the pass (115.8 yds / gm) and #1 against the run (109.4 yds/ gm).  This team threatened to go undefeated bolting out to a 10-0 start.

NFL's All Time interception leader with 81. Paul Krause

NFL’s All Time interception leader with 81. Hall of Famer Paul Krause

Led by All Pro and Pro Bowl DT Alan Page, this group put significant pressure on the quarterback. Free Safety Paul Krause, the NFL’s all time leading interceptor had 10 on the season. He made the Pro Bowl in ’75 along with MLB Jeff Siemon who picked off 3 more passes and CB Bobby Bryant who snatched 6. They were 3rd in interceptions with 28.

The only knock on this group is they played just 2 top 10 offenses the entire year. However they did face the #1 ranked offense in the Buffalo Bills in the season finale. OJ was threatening for 2,000 again and playing at home, was held to 57 yards rushing to finish with 1,817. They held the Bills to just 13 points and forced them to miss the playoffs.

From this group, Alan Page, Paul Krause, and DE Carl Eller all made the Pro Football Hall of Fame. There are many who believe DE Jim Marshall should be in as well. This team went into the playoffs with a head of steam. They lost 17-10, when Roger Staubach hit Drew Pearson in the famous “Hail Mary” with :24 left in the NFC Divisonal Playoffs.

There stellar defensive season ranks 8th in The Chancellor of Football’s list.

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

Top Ten Single Season Defenses in NFL History : #9 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s were definitely known as a defensive football team. They came of age during their run leading up to Super Bowl IX, but it was in the following two seasons they were at their zenith. The late Chuck Noll had a roster that entered its prime on the defensive side first after drafting DT “Mean” Joe Greene in 1969.

The banner that hung in Three Rivers Stadium honoring the Front Four.

The banner that hung in Three Rivers Stadium honoring the Front Four.

As defending Super Bowl champion, everyone gave them their best shot. For all the talk of the ’76 version, this team was equally stout. They only allowed 162 points while holding 8 of 14 opponents to 10 or fewer points. This didn’t include the Cincinnati Bengals, who under Paul Brown and Bill Walsh fashioned the league’s #2 ranked offense. The Steelers did hold them to 24 and 14 points to sweep them as they finished 12-2 to Cincy’s 11-3.

In fact the ’75 AFC Central was the first time in history 3 teams finished with at least 10 wins thanks to the 10-4 Oilers. Take away the games with the Steelers and the Bengals finished 11-1 and Houston 10-2 v the rest of the NFL. Pretty significant to go 4-0 against these two then wouldn’t you say??

When it comes to quality opponents, two of the Steeler’s 8 games of 10 or less allowed  came against top 10 offenses that year. Now add in both the AFC Divisional playoff and the AFC Championship where they gave up 10 points in both wins over Baltimore (12th offense) and Oakland (4th in offense). Then they made it to Super Bowl X and beat the 3rd best offense in the Dallas Cowboys.

Joe Greene was the 1st Steeler drafted in the Chuck Noll era.

Joe Greene was the 1st Steeler drafted in the Chuck Noll era.

Now this is a heavyweight champ that left little standing in their wake defensively. The lone blemish?? OJ Simpson and Buffalo’s #1 ranked offense got off on them in a 30-21 win. “The Juice” broke for over 200 yards in Three Rivers Stadium. Buffalo ran for 308 yards in that game.

All that withstanding, the Steelers sent 3/4ths of their secondary to the Pro Bowl. Cornerback Mel Blount, who led the league with 11 interceptions, joined FS Mike Wagner and SS Glen Edwards. These guys were behind a good group of Linebackers that included fellow Pro Bowlers Jack Lambert, Andy Russell, and Jack Ham. Yes all three made the Pro Bowl. Once you follow that up with DT “Mean” Joe Greene and DE LC Greenwood, you have 8 of the starting 11 in the Pro Bowl….. Eight!! Come on…that is beyond the college try. Now you know why the ’78 Steelers didn’t make the top ten.

RIP Coach Noll

RIP Coach Noll

This article is dedicated in the memory of DT Ernie Holmes, DE LC Greenwood, DE Dwight White, and former Head Coach Chuck Noll who passed last week.

Thanks for reading and lease share the article.

 

 

Top Ten Single Season Defenses in NFL History : #10 1986 Chicago Bears

Welcome to the second installment on the 10 greatest defenses in NFL history. We are off to a rousing start as folks are putting in their reasons for their teams and why the honorable mention units should have made the top ten list. Truth of the matter is all bias has to be removed and the great equalizers lie in the season statistics, play against strongest offenses during their year, and what precedents they set.  If one team is sitting in front of another for having set a precedent, a team with less stature or ranking cannot sit above them on the list.

So now we have to countdown to the single season defenses in NFL history starting with #10.

The best trio of linebackers in the game in Mike Singletary, Wilber Marshall, and Otis Wilson.

The best trio of linebackers in the game in Mike Singletary, Wilber Marshall, and Otis Wilson.

10. 1986 Chicago Bears –  A season after bludgeoning their way to the NFL title, this group was poised to repeat. If Mike Ditka would have stayed the course and not played Doug Flutie at quarterback who was on the team for four weeks, they would have. Having done so he robbed NFL fans of the greatest 2 year dynasty the NFL had ever seen. They were 15-1 in 1985 then went 14-2 which tied for the best record in the league that year. 29-3 over two seasons?? So why is this group in and the ’86 Giants and ’02 Bucs left off??

  • ’86 Bears – 187 pts allowed *NFL record / 10 of 16 opponents held to 10 or fewer points / 258.1 yds per game (1st) / 62 sacks (2nd) / 31 int. (2nd)
  • ’86 Giants- 236 pts allowed / 5 of 16 opponents held to 10 or fewer points *2 more in playoffs* / 297.3 yds per game (2nd) / 59 sacks (4th / 24 int. (tied 7th)
  • ’02 Bucs – 196 pts allowed / 9 of 16 opponents held to 10 or fewer points / 252.8 yds per game (1st) / 43 sacks (6th) / 31 int. (1st)

Furthermore in compiling these statistics the yardage difference between #1 & #2 in 1986 (258.1 to 297.3) is the second biggest difference since 1970. No way in hell you could say the Giants defense in 1986 was better than Chicago’s…no way.

In a year where two future Hall of Famers Dan Hampton (10 sacks) and Richard Dent (11.5 sacks) didn’t make the Pro Bowl, LB Wilber Marshall, DT Steve McMichael, late SS Dave Duerson, and MLB Mike Singletary did. All this before we bring up FS Gary Fencik. They were 2-1 against Pro Bowl quarterbacks. They split with the Vikings and Tommy Kramer beating him once 23-0. Then they pasted Boomer Esiason and the NFL’s #1 offense 44-7 on the road. By the way the Bengals were 10-6 that year and the Browns were 12-4 and played for the AFC Championship. The Bears beat them also. In fact they were 4-1 on the year vs top ten offenses.

This group had to drag a Bears offense that had been handicapped by the loss of Jim McMahon through several qbs that couldn’t complete 50% of their passes. The true reason the ’86 Bears didn’t win Super Bowl XXI and the ’86 Giants did was this incident right here. 

The defense drug a team with no offensive continuity to the best record in the NFL at 14-2. However since the 2 losses came within the NFC and only 1 of the Giants had, New York got homefield advantage. The Bears fell to the Redskins in the divisional round 27-13 behind 3 turnovers on their own side of the 50 in the 2nd half. Even the 10th best defense in NFL history could save them from that. As for would the ’86 Bears have beaten the ’86 Giants had they played?? The first game of 1987 had both teams healthy and the Bears, without McMahon again, won 34-19. Two of New York’s touchdowns were on defense and special teams.

The Bears season in microcosm was this game against the Lions:

This defense really should be higher but we’re starting the top ten off with a bang. Thanks for reading and please share the article.

Top Ten Single Season Defenses in NFL History: Honorable Mention

When Malcolm Smith crossed the goal line to put Seattle up 22-0 in last February’s Super Bowl, pundits were already arguing where they ranked among the NFL’s greatest defenses. Here at Taylor Blitz Times we wanted to let some time pass before we waxed too philosophical about their exploits. As the keeper of the flame, it’s up to The Chancellor of Football to accurately place each great defense. We will do this in 3 parts.

Smith's 69 yard interception in Super Bowl XLVIII ended the competitive phase of the game.

Smith’s 69 yard interception in Super Bowl XLVIII ended the competitive phase of the game and trumpeted the question: Where would you rank Seattle’s defense with  the all-time greats??

One of the criteria for greatest ever defenses you have to ask is: How dominant were they at their peak? They had to bring the lumber over an entire season. These defenses had to be stout with a performance that stands the test of time in remembrance. Without further adieu we have to get on with the Honorable Mention. Those right outside the top ten.

1977 Denver Broncos – The original Orange Crush defense that led the Broncos to Super Bowl XII and Denver’s first ever winning season. This was the first great full time 3-4 defense that yielded only 148 points (10.6 pts / game) and just 18 touchdowns for the season. Holding 7 of their opponents to 10 points or less.

Even with an offense that turned it over 8 times, the still held Dallas to 27 points in Super Bowl XII.

Even with an offense that turned it over 8 times, the still held Dallas to 27 points in Super Bowl XII.

Led by Randy Gradishar, ESPN’s Tom Jackson, and the late Lyle Alzado this defense had an unheard of 4 All Pros concentrated on this defense and 5 Pro Bowlers. This not ready for primetime group came out of nowhere and swallowed the Steelers and Raiders in the playoffs before falling to Dallas in New Orleans. This group swarmed like bees and ushered in the era where 3-4 defenses took over the NFL.

1978 Pittsburgh Steelers – In the first year in which the NFL moved to a 16 game schedule, this group set the new record with fewest points allowed in a season with 195. Powered by the Steel Curtain, they held 8 of 16 opponents to 10 or fewer points. This group did more blitzing than in years past to get to the quarterback. They did have 5 Pro Bowl defenders and 1 All Pro in Jack Ham, but there were stronger incarnations of the Steeler defense.

A fact that gets lost is going into Super Bowl XIII, the consensus was Pittsburgh force vs the finesse Cowboys. Yet it was Dallas whose defense was ranked #2 and Pittsburgh’s #3, For the season they yielded 260.5 yards per game, unofficially had 52 sacks and 27 interceptions which ranked 7th. They peaked in the playoffs holding both Denver and Houston to 10 points and 5 points respectively. Yet gave up some serious candy to the Dallas offense (320 yards & 31 points)

1968 Baltimore Colts – The team that is best known for coming up short in Super Bowl III against the AFL’s New York Jets in Super Bowl III. In The Chancellor of Football this was the best team that Don Shula ever coached and one of his defensive assistants was the late Chuck Noll. This defense held 10 of 14 regular season opponents to 10 or fewer points. At one point late in the season, they gave up 1 touchdown over 25 quarters including a string of 16 straight quarters w/out a touchdown allowed.

md-darkroom-hutchins-curtisThe Colts of ’68 shut out 3 regular season opponents and the fourth was against the Browns who gave the 13-1 team their only loss. That drubbing was avenged 34-0 in the NFL Championship Game. They even set the record with only 144 points allowed. Between 1967 & 1968 their record was 24-4-2. If only this team had won on January 12th 1969…..but….

2000 Tennessee Titans – Lost in the delirium over the great 2000 Ravens defense, is the fact they finished #2 to the Titans that year in rankings. Jeff Fisher’s bunch only allowed 238.9 yards per game and held 6 opponents to 10 points or less over the campaign.

Second year DE Jevon Kearse led the team with 11.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. Samri Rolle had 7 interceptions he returned for 140 yards and a touchdown. SS Blaine Bishop had 84 tackles to go with 2.5 sacks but 0 interceptions. All three were All 3 were Pro Bowlers but only Samari was an All Pro Player. One issue is they didn’t force enough turnovers (29) and they finished just +1 in turnover ratio. These are poor marks considering they only saw 1 Pro Bowl quarterback the entire season. Yet they were #1 against the pass (151 yds /gm) and #3 against the run (86 yds /gm).

1987 San Francisco 49ers – One of the last teams to finish with the NFL’s #1 offense and defense happened with this group in 1987. They were gaining momentum allowing only 1 touchdown in the final 16 quarters of the season and none in the final 12 as the playoffs beckoned. They held 5 opponents to 10 or fewer points including two shutouts in their final three games. One of which was a 41-0 hammering of the NFC Champion Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. 

Led by All Pro and Pro Bowler Ronnie Lott (5 ints) this group was #1 against the pass (165 yds /gm) while only yielding 273 yards for the game. What makes this more remarkable are 3 games were played with replacement players due to the strike. Had the season been 16 games instead of 15 and no strike, these numbers could have been even better. They were also #5 against the run (107.4 yds / gm) thanks to All Pro and Pro Bowl Nose Tackle Michael Carter.

Jim Burt knocking Joe Montana out with a concussion in their 49-3 rout in the '86 playoffs.

Jim Burt knocking Joe Montana out with a concussion in their 49-3 rout in the ’86 playoffs.

1986 New York Giants – A romanticized defense that knocked 5 quarterbacks out on their way to the Super Bowl XXI championship. Yet they were #2 in 1986 and allowed 39 more yards per game than the #1 Chicago Bears with 297.3 yards per game. Second biggest discrepancy between #1 and #2 since 1970.

Led by League MVP and Defensive Player of the Year Lawrence Taylor’s 20 sacks, New York held 5 teams to 10 points or fewer during the regular season. They held their 2 NFC playoff opponents to 3 & 0 points respectively. There were 4 Pro Bowl defenders on this defense in LB Harry Carson, NT Jim Burt, DE Leonard Marshall, and the aforementioned LT.

2008 Pittsburgh Steelers – Close but no cigar. This team finished with the #1 ranking allowing just 237.2 yards per game. They held 8 opponents to 10 or fewer points yet gave up 223 for the season. One mark against them is they only faced 2 Pro Bowl QBs and lost both games. Losing 24-20 to Peyton’s Colts and 21-14 against Eli’s Giants. This was also the year they beat the Patriots 33-10 with Matt Cassel at QB not an injured Tom Brady. Big difference. This group had 51 sacks but only 20 interceptions. The last time we saw them, Kurt Warner passed for 377 yards, 2nd highest in Super Bowl history, and needed Big Ben to bail them out with a game winning pass with :32 left.

This group did have NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison and Pro Bowl SS Troy Palamalu who would win the award 2 years later. Harrison had 16 sacks with 7 forced fumbles. James Farrior (122 tackles) was the 3rd and final Pro Bowler on a talented roster which included LaMarr Woodley (11 sacks).  They were a world champion but this group didn’t perform high enough against the best competition. The top ten is a Sugar Ray Leonard’s list, the honorable mention is where Thomas Hearns resides.

Dwight Smith capped off Super Bowl XXXVII with 2 defensive touchdowns. Should have been the MVP.

Dwight Smith capped off Super Bowl XXXVII with 2 defensive touchdowns. Should have been the MVP.

2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The final team to miss the call to the top ten was the 2002 Buccaneers. The undisputed #1 defense that year. However playing in the new NFC South they feasted on patsies. On 3 occasions they took on top 10 offenses and they lost two of those games to Philadelphia (10th) and Pittsburgh (5th).

This team yielded 252.8 yards per game had 43 sacks and 31 interceptions which ranked 6th and 1st respectively. This team only gave up 196 points while holding 9 regular season opponents to 10 or fewer points. However a closer look reveals they came against offenses ranked 26th, 18th, 14th, 23rd, 31st, 31st, 12th, 14th, and 29th. Chris Redman (who??) quarterbacked the Ravens who was the first in this group. While NFL journeyman Jim Miller led the Bears in the last game.

This team fielded 5 Pro Bowl players in NFL Defensive Player of the Year Derrick Brooks, Shelton Quarles, Hall of Famer Warren Sapp, Simeon Rice (15.5 sacks), and S John Lynch. This group scored on defense. Brooks tied the NFL record with 4 defensive touchdowns and CB Dwight Smith set a Super Bowl record with 2 interception returns for touchdowns. Their numbers and performance should get them in until you look at the competition. Someone reading this is going to describe how they throttled the #1 Raider offense in the Super Bowl. Yet how much do you attribute to Monte Kiffin’s defense or Jon Gruden knowing the Raider offense and personnel??

Thanks for reading and now its time for the top 10.

The Immaculate Reception Encore

One of the unique themes in NFL history is whenever a team has a famous miracle playoff win, those teams rarely win the Super Bowl. Well even the NFL championship for that matter when you think back to Detroit’s 31-27 win over San Francisco in the 1957 playoffs. In that game the 49ers were up 24-7 in the 3rd quarter only to lose to a series of backups for the Lions. Fast forward to The Immaculate Reception and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1972 playoffs.

The No Name Defense stopping Franco Harris in the '72 AFC Championship Game.

The No Name Defense stopping Franco Harris in the ’72 AFC Championship Game.

After winning their first ever playoff game over the Oakland Raiders, most people forget they ran smack into the undefeated Miami Dolphins. As far as the AFC Championship Game, the Steelers were playing with house money. They were one game away from the Super Bowl and were able to host the championship game since it was rotated by division back then.

Pete Rozelle didn’t institute home field advantage until 1978. He did it as a means to reward not only the team with the best record. He wanted to insure teams would play all the way through their schedule and not take the final weeks off. Yet in ’72, the 14-0 Miami Dolphins traveled to the 11-3 steel city to take on Franco’s Italian Army for the right to go to Super Bowl VII.

It was the first of only three times Don Shula and Miami would meet Chuck Noll’s Steelers in the playoffs during their coaching careers. Noll had served on Shula’s staff in Baltimore and had ties dating back to the Cleveland Browns of the 1950′s where they were both players.

Ironically the case remains. Why is it when a team should be riding an emotional lift like a miracle finish in the playoffs, they don’t win it all?? It’s easy to say they let down but would it be more that they’re an incomplete team that gets exposed as competition gets better?? The ’72 Steelers (Immaculate Reception) the ’72 Cowboys (Roger’s 1st comeback) the ’75 Cowboys (Hail Mary) ’80 Cowboys (Duel In Dixie) ’86 Denver Broncos (The Drive) ’99 Tennessee Titans (Homerun Throwback) all fell short of winning it all….. The lone exception would be the 1981 San Francisco 49ers with The Catch. 

RIP Coach Noll

RIP Coach Noll

Chuck Noll would obviously make his mark, embarking on one of the greatest runs in history. Over the next 7 seasons, his team made the playoffs every year with their winning a Super Bowl in 4 of those seasons. We lost another legend with Noll’s passing Friday night. This article is dedicated to the Hall of Fame coach…

Former Oakland Raider Mike Davis Ready To Part With “Red Right 88″ Football

It could have been borne from the comment about The Immaculate Reception football being worth a million dollars from the Football Life series. Or was it simply a scenario where a player has gained enough from a momento from his past?? Whatever the reason, in casual conversation former Oakland / LA Raider Mike Davis has decided to sell the football he has held since the Red Right 88 interception against the Cleveland Browns in the 1980 playoffs.

Mike Davis clutch interception in the 1980 AFC Playoffs saved the Raiders season.

Mike Davis clutch interception in the 1980 AFC Playoffs saved the Raiders season.

To understand the value of the ball you have to understand where it came from. It is from the single play that saved the Raiders season and propelled them to become the first wild card team to win the Super Bowl 3 weeks later. The entire story of Jim Plunkett wouldn’t have been complete without this play.

Head coach Tom Flores, whom we believe should be in the Hall of Fame, wouldn’t have been able to leave the shadow cast by John Madden without it. The 11-5 Cinderella Raiders were riding high after a wildcard win over the Houston Oilers 27-7. They had vanquished former Raider Kenny Stabler, whom they traded before the season. Now they were off to play the AFC Central champion Browns.

What is forgotten is how great the Cleveland Browns of that era was. In 1980 they were great throwing the football. In fact they were ranked 2nd only to the San Diego Chargers of Air Coryell fame. Quarterback Brian Sipe was the NFL MVP in 1980 and Head Coach Sam Rutigliano had just won his second straight Coach of the Year honor. Sipe threw for 4,132 yards 30 touchdowns with just 14 interceptions. Over the 1979 and ’80 seasons they had come from behind to win 14 times in the last 2 minutes. In contrast, Roger Staubach had 23 over his entire career to earn the nickname Captain Comeback.

So the football world was gearing up for an aerial AFC Championship between the Cleveland Browns and the San Diego Chargers. It was to be the changing of the guard from the grind it out Pittsburgh Steelers to the first conquerors of the new passing NFL set up by the rules in 1978 favoring such. The Chargers had vanquished the best defense in football in the Buffalo Bills in one AFC playoff 20-14 on Saturday. Now they awaited the Browns who would play an Oakland Raider team full of unknowns, with a journeyman quarterback and unknown coach on Sunday…

The Raiders escaped the confines of Cleveland Municipal Stadium and rode the wave of momentum into San Diego. They won the AFC Championship 34-27 for the right to play the Philadelphia Eagles for Super Bowl XV. All the while Mike Davis clutched the football that propelled his Raiders into NFL history. He would eventually win two Super Bowls with the team when they came back and dethroned the Washington Redskins in XVIII. There he made another iconic play when from his Strong Safety position blitzed sacking Joe Theismann. It was the final turnover and the famous visual of Theismann slowly walking off. His jersey, half pulled off exposing his shoulder pads and stained by field paint.

Yet it was the famous play in the 1980 NFL playoffs that altered the course of NFL history. NFL pundits were ready to crown Air Coryell as the sucessors to the ground oriented teams that dominated the 1970s. Accolades that were thrown around a year later when San Francisco and their passing offense made it to the top of pro football.

mikedavisfacebookSo what would this football be worth? To Oakland Raider fans?? To Cleveland Brown fans?? To a collector?? To the Pro Football Hall of Fame?? Mike’s question hit me like a ton of bricks and it took me a day to realize that football’s value. You can see a part of the conversation on social media to know that it’s true. You’re hearing about this for the first time.

The first thing Mike, we have to get that your ball appraised and possibly auctioned by one of the memorabilia auction houses. Here at Taylor Blitz Times, we would like to hear from Raider fans what it would be like to own a big piece of Oakland Raider history like this. The Chancellor of Football has an idea what the football would be worth. But lets hear from the professionals who appraise such things first.

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

Follow up comment from Mike Davis: MikeDavis&I

 

 

SUPER BOWL VII CHAMPION 1972 MIAMI DOLPHINS

Undefeated season…17-0 and a win in Super Bowl VII 14-7 over the Washington Redskins and still regarded by many as the best team of all time.  They have the argument in their favor…1 season everyone vanquished…no one else can make that claim.

superbowlviiYet going into Super Bowl VII the Dolphins were a 3 pt underdog. Why? George Allen was completing a rebuilding with old veterans and hadn’t won any big games as a head coach. His Rams couldn’t leapfrog the Packers in the western conference in 1967. He was the Defensive Coordinator for George Halas’ last champion in 1963, but how does that rate better than Shula’s club who had just gone to the Super Bowl a year before?

Larry Csonka, Mercury Morris (both 1,000yd rushers), Kiick ran solidly and Manny Fernandez dominated the Super Bowl from his defensive tackle spot. Could the 72 Dolphins handle the ’78 Steelers? Would Terry Bradshaw outsmart Jake Scott or Dick Anderson?  After further review, The Chancellor doesn’t think so.

super-bowl-logo-1972Under the same systems in 1973 when the Steelers played Miami, S Dick Anderson picked off the Steelers 4 times returning them for 121 yards and 2 touchdowns. It was the signature game of a Defensive Player of the Year season. The No Name Defense was rarely out of position and would make even a more mature Bradshaw make some mistakes. In Super Bowl VII, Jake Scott fooled veteran Billy Kilmer into 2 ints as he went on to become the MVP.

During the 1972 season, they were masterful with 3 shutouts and allowing 10 points or less in 6 games.

visideThe 78 Steelers were giving up some candy to running games and I think the Dolphins would move the ball on them.  I think the 72 Dolphins would beat them.  Bob Griese wouldn’t turn the ball over either.  By the way in 1973 Pittsburgh was a playoff team and to make it to Super Bowl VII in 1972 Miami beat Pittsburgh in Three Rivers to get to the Super Bowl.  Don’t look now but Miami doesn’t get the respect their due. Are there stronger teams…its debatable…but I think they would handle Pittsburgh in a mythical match-up.

By the way, I used the 78 Steelers instead of the 79 Steelers because in 1979 the Steelers led the NFL with 52 turnovers. That team doesn’t beat the mistake proof 72 Dolphins. No way.

2014 Seattle Seahawks Preview – The Birth of a Dynasty?

As time wound down toward the end of Super Bowl XLVIII, there were several questions floating around Met Life Stadium. Was this one of the NFL’s greatest defenses?? Are we looking at the birth of a dynasty out in Seattle?? The first question is a resounding yes and the next question can’t be answered for a few years. Yet one point definitely remains, how can the Seahawks not be the odds on favorite to defend their crown in Super Bowl XLIX out in Arizona next February??

The Legion of Boom leads one of the best defenses in NFL history.

The Legion of Boom leads one of the best defenses in NFL history.

They just re-signed WR Sidney Rice to bolster the receiving corps along with a healthy Percy Harvin. The front office just signed Pro Bowl S Earl Thomas and CB Richard Sheman to long-term deals. It’s only a matter of time before they ink a deal with QB Russell Wilson.

Next is the feel good story that shapes the Seahawks different from other NFL franchises from a culture standpoint. The signing of 6th round pick OT Garrett Scott knowing he had a heart condition, allows him his full compensation of $550,000 even though they had to release him. Guarantee that struck a positive chord in every player across the league. If you thought free agents wanted to play for Seattle now, this move will resonate for years to come.

Quarterback: The Seahawks seem slated for a 7-10 year run with Russell Wilson at the helm. Yet make no mistake he still has to improve his ability to go through his progressions within the structure of the offense.

Russell Wilson keeps plays alive with his legs if they're not there initially.

Russell Wilson keeps plays alive with his legs if they’re not there initially.

Think back to the NFC Championship where Russell was really in a slump. Up until that 4th quarter touchdown bomb to Jermaine Kearse, we weren’t sure Wilson could make a play to end the ball game. Too many times if his first read wasn’t there, he’d take off. Coach Pete Carroll’s staff does a great job in calling play action roll-outs and half rolls where he has two reads. Sure this limits throws to half the field. However Wilson’s decision making of when to run or when to throw has been great. It was off kilter for those first two playoff games though.

For the season, Wilson completed 63.1% of his passes for 3,357 yards 26TDs to only 9 interceptions. Terrific numbers but his game has to evolve. When the Seahawks are in shotgun they normally run slants and go routes. Teams will adjust and start throwing zone blitzes in an attempt to force him to be hesitant and cut off running lanes with speed. The Seahawks also should watch for delayed blitzes designed for him to pull the ball down and scramble into an area where a defender will be headed.

If The Chancellor of Football has seen this on film, you better believe Jeff Fisher, Bruce Arrians, and Jim Harbaugh within the division have. Yet because of his decision making and ability to run, their playoff level at quarterback.

Offensive Backfield: For all the conversation, the NFL is a passing league and the running back has been devalued, here is exhibit A on quite the contrary.  Marshawn Lynch is the attitude and toughness of his team. From an X’s and O’s standpoint his downhill running style is why Russell Wilson is effective.  Teams have to honor that stretch run which makes the play fake so successful. When they don’t, Lynch bursts through for 4.2 yards per carry. Last year he did so while running for 1,257 yards and a career best 12 touchdowns.

Marshawn Lynch is the key to Seattle winning this game.

Lynch is the tone setter for the Seahawks.

Lynch runs with fury and reminds The Chancellor of Marion ‘The Barbarian”Barber yet he doesn’t seem likely to burn out in the next year or so. He sets the tone for the entire Seahawk football team. This year they may have to spell him in games to keep him fresh for the stretch run. If he’s able to power the team to another Super Bowl win, his resume becomes a Hall of Fame one. Still Super Bowl quality at running back.

Receiver: This is where the offense needs improvement the most. A rejuvenated Sidney Rice could help them stretch the field. Doug Baldwin is a gritty receiver who won’t wow you but slips to get open when Wilson scrambles and catches passes in traffic.

However the Seahawks have a serious jolt of speed with 2nd round selection Paul Richardson. If Harvin can stay healthy, this group could be lethal from multiple receiver (3 or more WR) sets on the field. First is where will Harvin line up?? In a slot position? Wing Back? Out of the backfield. While opponents concentrate on Percy, the Seahawks now have several receivers who can get deep.

The player who should be on the field more this year is Jermaine Kearse. Going into his 3rd year he should fully know the system. He just passes the eyeball test at there is more potential to his play than Baldwin. This year will also be a full year with Percy Harvin in the mix. This is still a receiver by committee group. If Sidney Rice can be the player he once was this could be a playoff caliber group. As of right now they’re average.

Offensive Line: The most misleading statistic afforded this team all year would be the 44 sacks allowed in 2013. How many times on rolls and scrambles were defenders able to track down Wilson to shove him out of bounds behind the line?? Those are recorded as sacks. Yet it’s a give and take scenario with Wilson making a rusher miss when protection breaks down.

Led by Pro Bowl Center Max Unger, this is a relatively young line with no starter past his fifth season. In pounding up the middle, Seattle in obvious power situations (3rd/4th & 2 or less) converted 60% of the time. For a straight ahead running team with 509 rushing attempts, to be tied for 5th in the league with just 6 negative rushing plays, says a lot about their blocking. When you can power your team to 2,188 yards, 14 TDs, and a 4.3 yard average, you’re playoff caliber up front.

Defensive Line: Now the best off-season move last year happened on day two of free agency when they plucked DE Cliff Avril, formerly of the Detroit Lions. His addition along with Michael Bennett allowed the team to terrorize opponents with a 3 DE alignment in Nickle and Dime sub packages. Bennett had 8 1/2 sacks while lined up inside Avril who had 8 as well. These two combined for 10 forced fumbles that usually broke the back of opponents.

Avril terrorized quarterbacks rushing them from the front side.

Avril terrorized quarterbacks rushing them from the front side.

Brandon Mebane is the stay at home Defensive Tackle that offsets this. So when teams run draws and screens, he’s nomally there with the linebackers to make a play. Seattle did lose DE Chris Clemons, but he had his least effective season with only 4 sacks. One replacement for the 3rd rusher is 3rd year player Bruce Irvin #51.  He was used more at linebacker in 2013 yet amassed 8 sacks as a rookie. Still a Super Bowl level group up front.

Linebackers: Did you know that Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith wasn’t a week 1 starter?? That’s right the man who sealed both the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl has to beat out KJ Wright #50 (80 tackles/4 passes defensed) for the OLB position on the weakside.

Yet Smith had a great postseason to boost his resume. In the regular season he started 8 games had 54 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 sack and 2 interceptions. He will definitely be on the field to accompany MLB Bobby Wagner (120 tackles/ 7 passes defensed/ 5 sacks). With another season like that he will replace either Bowman or Willis of San Fran in the Pro Bowl. Don’t forget Bruce Irvin also aids here. Defensive speed is the mantra to this group and it cleans up what makes it past the front four with aplomb. This is a playoff level group. They need to force a few more turnovers.

Once Seattle funnels your receivers to the middle, Cam is there to knock 'em  out.

Once Seattle funnels your receivers to the middle, Kam is there to knock ‘em out.

Secondary: The reciprocal advantage to a pass rush is a secondary that won’t have to cover more than 5 seconds. When the secondary play extends beyond that, it allows the pass rush more time to get to the quarterback& you get the coverage sack.

Both happen in Seattle. Starting with the coverage of reigning Taylor Blitz Time Defensive Player of the Year in Richard Sherman. He led the NFL with 8 interceptions, returning them for 158 yards and that significant touchdown. He also was 7th on the team in tackles with 48, defensed 17 passes and recovered 2 fumbles.

By the time you add Pro Bowl FS Earl Thomas (105 tackles/ 5 ints/ 11 pass defensed/ 2 forced fumbles) & the thunderous shots by Pro Bowl SS Kam Chancellor (99 tackles / 3 ints/ 12 passes defensed/ 1 forced fumble) you have one of the best secondaries in history. That’s what a championship can elevate you to. Three of four in the secondary in the Pro Bowl. That’s beyond outstanding and now Sherman and Thomas are signed to long term deals.

Seattle did lose Nickel Back Walter Thurmond and regular starting CB Brandon Browner to free agency. However Byron Maxwell manned one of the corners after Browner’s suspension, and picked off 4 passes and defensed 11 others while starting 5 games. This is a Super Bowl caliber secondary if ever there was one.

Overall: This juggernaut has been the NFL’s best for the last two seasons and will be for a third. Although they are league champion you still can’t put a finger on where you would start to attack this team. One of history’s finest defenses and they come at you in waves with no true focal point. Right now the rest of the NFL is in a conundrum. Everyone is lining up in multiple receiver sets and playing in space. Seattle performs best here and Chancellor, Wright, and Wagner are there to lay pads on receivers.

teishaseahawks3

Teisha, will it be confetti or raining skittles next February in Arizona??

They stay to the ground and minimize offensive mistakes. Since they take long drives and dominate time of possession, opponents feel rushed to score and get back into the game. This plays into Seattle’s hands again where they have taken the 2007 New York Giants’ blue print of 3 DE alignments, and tweaked it. Instead of 3 power rushers they have ends who are speed rushers. Couple that with the crowd noise and this is going to be a 14-2 or 15-1 team when you look at their schedule. A possible loss to St Louis on the road in week 7 and maybe one more in Arizona in week 15 look like the only hiccups. Carroll’s team should bludgeon their way to Super Bowl XLIX easily.

Next up: The Denver Broncos

The model in the pic where it’s raining skittles is the lovely Teisha Lyons. International Fashion Model and friend to TBT. Please click the link and like her page as well.

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

 

SUPER BOWL VI RUNNER UP 1971 MIAMI DOLPHINS

Super Bowl VI in New Orleans pitted Dallas v. Miami.  The first serious season in the sun for Miami came to an inglorious end with a 24-3 loss yet served to be the springboard for the undefeated 1972 season that were to come.  However the trip through the AFC playoffs was an exercise in self discovery with the 2OT win over the Chiefs and the 21-0 AFC Championship over Shula’s former team and defending Super Bowl champion Colts.

superbowlvi2My feeling is this team had to have been emotionally drained by the time Super Bowl VI was kicked off.  If you look at the divisional playoff game, which was the longest game ever played at 82:40, that’s almost a game and a half that went deep into the 6th quarter!  Ed Podolak was a beast in that game for Kansas City with 350 all purpose yards.

It was a draining game being played away from home on Christmas of all things.  Miami outlasted the Chiefs (Super Bowl IV winner) 27-24 and staggered off to the AFC Championship game.

super-bowl-logo-1971If you read my post on the Super Bowl watch the Colts received for losing Super Bowl III, you remember me speaking on the corporate pressures that hastened Don Shula’s departure and Carroll Rosenbloom (then Colts owner) switching ownership with the Rams.

Well Rosenbloom was still the Colts owner when they won Super Bowl V and were headed down to Miami to play the AFC Championship game to make it to Super Bowl VI.  You knew that Shula and Rosenbloom both wanted that game against one another.  You know Shula was pushing the Dolphins hard that week and answering questions about playing his former team.  The Dolphins prevailed 21-0 and were off to the Super Bowl VI.

This team must have been exhausted going into that game coupled with the excitement of being in their first Super Bowl too.  They had to be drained…

Yet this is the ring for conquering the rest of the AFC, and we know of course the Dolphins went on to back to back wins in Super Bowl VII and VIII.

Unsung Players: James Jones

When pictures of the abandoned Silverdome surfaced on aol.com this week, it struck a nerve with everyone The Chancellor interacts with. Of course all of us pictured so many Thanksgiving Day games, Barry Sanders breaking ankles, and the incomparable Billy Sims flying high into the end zone. However sandwiched between these two was a fullback who was a #1 draft pick in James Jones.

The Silverdome as it exists today. Almost a scene from the shoow "Life after People"

The Silverdome as it exists today. Almost a scene from the shoow “Life after People”

In the vignette to follow, you’ll see Jones was forced into a bigger role with the Lions although the team was lacking in talent to fully showcase him. Had QB Chuck Long developed fully or Eric Hipple able to avoid injuries, the offense could have gotten on track.

They just didn’t have the talent at receiver to stretch the field and provide more running room. Not a single Pro Bowl performer on offense between 1983-1988 slowed what could have been an even more productive career.

As twilight is descending on the Silverdome with all of it’s assets being auctioned off, why not take a look back at James Jones career. His name should be thought of with the best Detroit Lions who played in this building. Yes Super Bowl XVI was played here but these men toiled on the floor of this stadium trying to bring Detroit a winner.

Jones had the talent to be one of the best fullbacks in league history. When you play for a team that is always behind it’s hard to get rushing totals to be considered among the elite. Players like Jones are overlooked when playing for incomplete teams that lose most of the time. That has to be frustrating. Its worth taking a look back and think what might have been as the Silverdome fades from memory.

Thanks again and please share the article.

 

 

 

The History of The AFL: Making Amends

As The Chancellor of Football, it’s imperative the history of the NFL and AFL is preserved and showcased for future generations. One of my favorite friends to Taylor Blitz Times is Chris Burford. Not only was he the starting wideout for the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl I, he was the first player signed in the history of the American Football League. He also suggested a great book to me last year. The Ten Gallon War which covered the days when the Chiefs / Dallas Texans battled the Cowboys for the heart of Dallas.

chris burfordAt the end of the highlight for Super Bowl I, he’s the one who puts on the Cowboy hat and heads out as John Facenda’s voice offers “In another year it will be the turn of the AFL. But this first spectacle of a sport belonged to Green Bay.”

These words echoed in my mind when Chris commented on an article which was the earlier incarnation of one I did on the ’66 Chiefs here.

“The major press were all in the NFL’s corner and denigrated our teams throughout the 60′s…however, when all was said and done after 10 years and 4 Super Bowls, the score was AFL 2 NFL 2…..(Chiefs 1-1), and the football world knew we could play with or against anybody….was a great time in pro football and a joy to have played in the AFL, from the beginning and through the emergence of the league….John Facenda, the Sabol’s, Pete Rozelle, Sports Illustrated, and the NFL propaganda machine notwithstanding.”

Full comment and original article here.

I thought it would be fitting to share with Chris one of my older archives where the late Steve Sabol had the late John Facenda narrate The History of The AFL. It’s told in a very respectful vain. The importance of this is even in the highlight for Super Bowl III, NFL Films narrated it with an NFL slant. Steve Sabol some time around 2000, later apologized for it. Going over the top about “One more moment for the master”- John Unitas trying to bring the Colts from behind instead of focusing on Joe Namath, the AFL, and the Jets victory. Which further validates Chris’ point.

So without further adieu lets take you back to this gem recorded in 1987 yet was produced in 1982.

Unfortunately I started two a day practice and didn’t get the other two shows recorded. What most folks don’t understand is there is still a battle between the AFL and NFL. For those that were there, some like Al Davis, didn’t want a merger. Others went on yet have their memories intact of the 10 year war and are fighting to be remembered and recognized. How the late DE Jerry Mays and FS Johnny Robinson were on the All Time AFL team, yet not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, are glaring omissions.

Websites like mine and Todd Tobias’ Tales From The American Football League do what we can to recognize these players. I know this doesn’t totally make amends Chris but something I wanted to share this Memorial weekend.

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

SUPER BOWL VI CHAMPION 1971 DALLAS COWBOYS

By the way…”America’s Team” used to be called “Next Year’s Champions” ’til they won this ring in Super Bowl VI, 24-3 over the Miami Dolphins in New Orleans.

superbowlviThis ended an odyssey of multiple championship and playoff losses between the years of 1966-1970. The Green Bay Packers escaped Dallas twice in the NFL Championship games in ’66 and ’67. Losses to the Cleveland Browns in 68 & 69 kept the Cowboys from further glory. The worst was still to come…

Thanks to the merger in 1970, Dallas’ playoff nemesis Cleveland moved over to the AFC where they struggled. Dallas had played the Vikings in the 1968 Playoff Bowl in Miami and knew they could handle them, yet they were struggling too. One of the new pieces Dallas added to the puzzle was Duane Thomas, a slashing, elusive runner who provided a missing element to the Cowboys arsenal. However the Cowboys were intact with a veteran laden team and seemed destined to ascend to their first world championship. So what happened?

Well they made it to Super Bowl V in Miami where they faced the Baltimore Colts, another team that had moved over to the AFC. These two pre-merger NFL antagonists were embroiled in a defensive struggle where Dallas clearly outplayed the Colts and were poised to take a 20- 6 3rd qtr lead when Duane Thomas fumbled at the 1 yard line. Are you kidding me, the 1 yard line? Nothing demoralizes a team than to drive the length of the field& come away without points, especially, in a game where they’re hard to come by.
You can’t hurt your team worse than that Duane. The silent treatment that followed in 1971 was something Duane put everyone through when he didn’t get a raise from Tom Landry / Gil Brandt, who remembered that fumble. How can a player who ….sigh…you get the picture.

super-bowl-logo-1971The defense, which had a series of let downs in previous championship games played brilliantly. Doomsday knocked Johnny Unitas out of the game, in fact the Colts first touchdown was a fluke double tipped pass. They even blocked the extra point and kept the Colt point total to 6 until deep in the 4th quarter. Chuck Howley (Super Bowl V MVP & only time losing player received the award) and the Cowboys defense forced 7 turnovers yet the offense could only eek out 13 points to lose on a last second field goal 16-13.

superbowl-trophyNow comes the day, Super Bowl VI, football’s version of the Brooklyn Dodgers (many times the bridesmaid) finally has their day in the sun. This time they had an ace up their sleeve. Just like Johnny Podres of those Dodger teams, the Cowboys arrived with Roger Staubach who was unburdened by those losses since it was Craig Morton (Super Bowl V) and Don Meredith quarterbacking those other playoff defeats.

The Cowboy’s defense that day held the Dolphins (who would go on to win the next two Super Bowls including an undefeated season) to just 3 points and Duane Thomas didn’t fumble at the 1, he scored from the 3. Couple touchdown passes from Staubach to Mike Ditka and Lance Alworth and the Cowboys finally won their prize.

I never heard it expressed but I would suspect that the chase to get that championship made obtaining this one sweeter than a team winning it without those near misses. I do remember Bob Lilly describing in “America’s Game” that the day after Super Bowl VI he felt empty. That the chase was over and the greatest day of his life as a football player was over. Aside from losing the ’72 NFC Championship game to the Redskins the week after the famous playoff comeback vs. the 49ers, it seems that could be said for the Dallas roster that had been fighting to win it all since the mid 60s.

Did they get old? maybe…They exhausted their tank in that win over the Miami Dolphins and shedding that label…”Next Year’s Champion’s” Looking at Dave Edwards pic wearing his ring…you can seriously see the pride in the accomplishment.

SUPER BOWL V RUNNER UP 1970 DALLAS COWBOYS

Well they made it to Super Bowl V in Miami where they faced the Baltimore Colts, a former NFL team that had moved over to the new AFC. These two pre-merger NFL antagonists were embroiled in a defensive struggle where Dallas clearly outplayed the Colts and were poised to take a 20- 6 3rd qtr lead when Duane Thomas fumbled at the 1 yard line. Are you kidding me, the 1 yard line?

sbv4Nothing demoralizes a team more than to drive the length of the field & come away without points. Especially, in a game where they’re hard to come by.
You can’t hurt your team worse than that Duane. The silent treatment that followed in 1971 was something he put everyone through when he didn’t get a raise from Tom Landry / Gil Brandt, who remembered that fumble. How can a player who ….sigh…you get the picture.

The defense, which had a series of let downs in previous championship games played brilliantly. Tom Landry’s defense knocked Johnny Unitas out of the game, in fact the Colts first touchdown was a fluke double tipped pass. They even blocked the extra point and kept the Colt point total to 6 until deep in the 4th quarter.

super-bowl-logo-1970If ever a team left a great defensive effort on the field, this was it. Has there ever been another NFL championship, or Super Bowl, where a team held it’s opponents two QBs to less than 50% completion rate and lost the game?? The Doomsday Defense forced 7 turnovers. Three of these were interceptions, two by MVP Chuck Howley.

Twice they stopped Colt scores in the red zone. In the 4th quarter!!  One was an end zone interception by Howley at the start of the period. The other when S Cornell Green forced Eddie Hinton to fumble at the same 1 yard line Duane Thomas had in the 3rd. They had finally broken the Colts offense until their anemic offense gave the game away with Morton’s interception. You could feel the angst when Bob Lilly threw his helmet after Jim O’Brien winning field goal.  Had they brought a semblance of an offense they would have won this game.  They would have to wait another year for a chance at the title.

Quiet On the Set

The Cleveland Browns are starting to demonstrate when subterfuge gives way to not knowing when to stop talking. General Manager Ray Farmer says that incumbent starter Brian Hoyer is ahead of Johnny Manziel by a wide margin. Really?? Then why were you looking for a quarterback in the first round again??

Manziel at his first rookie camp in Cleveland.

Manziel at his first rookie camp in Cleveland.

There is a difference between making a person earn their keep and when you can start to erode one’s confidence or irritate a player. Coming off like this in the press isn’t in your best interest. Be conservative with what you express outwardly. You’re Cleveland, not the Dallas Cowboys. Deflect the questions in a way that doesn’t come off as pompous or dismissive. Especially to one you want to develop into becoming the face of your franchise.

When grooming a quarterback to be a leader, you never tear him down publicly or even in front of his teammates. It has to happen behind closed doors. Manziel will have enough critics trying to break him down in AFC North defenses, than in the coming competition with Hoyer for the starting QB spot. You have to show more of a partnership approach so Manziel knows you’re in it with him. Otherwise he’ll develop as a quarterback but you could erode his stance to be viewed as a leader within the structure of the team.

So my message is simple… close ranks. Be the quiet Cleveland Browns and leave everyone guessing how Manziel is doing in the OTAs. Go so far as limiting how much press can even be around Manziel to minimize the circus on the inside. Make Roger Goodell fine you because of the secrecy kept in limiting the press access to your team. Then stop talking altogether to build anticipation while others speculate on what they will see when the 2014 Browns take the field in preseason.

While its important to know how to sell, it’s just as important to know when to sell. Be very quiet in the front office Cleveland. Go groom Manziel behind an iron curtain.

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

SUPER BOWL V CHAMPION 1970 BALTIMORE COLTS

When you think of the old Baltimore Colts, the first flashback that comes to mind are the black and white films with Johnny Unitas leading the team in the 1950′s. Then another thought stirs up images of Bert Jones, Lydell Mitchell and the mid 1970′s version with Head Coach Ted Marchibroda. You follow-up that thought with the green and yellow Mayflower trucks moving the team to Indianapolis in the middle of the night in 1984. Yet sandwiched between the first and second of these events is the most forgotten champion in modern football history. The 1970 Baltimore Colts.

The bauble won for becoming the first champion of the post AFL/NFL merger.

The bauble won for becoming the first champion of the post AFL/NFL merger.

There are varied reasons why this team is so overlooked when you think of this franchise.  Did you know this is the only Super Bowl winner where the franchise was sold just one year later?? Before the 1972 season, Robert Irsay (Los Angeles Rams) and Carroll Rosenbloom swapped franchises.

Carroll had one of the most successful tenures as an owner in NFL history. Yet after losing Super Bowl III, one of the landmark games in league history, he lost Head Coach Don Shula to the Miami Dolphins after the 1969 season.

The last ring won by John Constantine Unitas and Carroll Rosenbloom.

The last ring won by John Constantine Unitas and Carroll Rosenbloom.

So is it ironic or part of the story that his last game as Colts owner, was a 21-0 loss to Shula’s Miami Dolphins in the 1971 AFC Championship Game?? Another twist was it was played in the Orange Bowl which had been the site of Super Bowl III.

Another reason this champion wasn’t remembered is there wasn’t a main powerful character. Yes the Colts had an aging fading John Unitas at quarterback. In 1970, he finished with a career low 51.7% completion percentage, and was the only qb to win the Super Bowl in a year he threw more interceptions (18-14) than touchdowns. He was 3 seasons removed from 11 straight Pro Bowl seasons and 5 player of the year awards.

By this time he was getting by on inspiration and finding the touch at the right time. As was the case in the first ever AFC Championship Game, clinging to a 20-17 lead late in the 4th. Unitas had reserve WR Ray Perkins motion from the backfield and lofted a perfect sideline floater just past Raider CB Nemiah Wilson for the decisive touchdown. It was the only touchdown he threw in the game as he went 11 of 30 for 245 yards.

Super Bowl V was the first NFL championship game not played on natural grass.

Super Bowl V was the first NFL championship game not played on natural grass.

It was echoed in Super Bowl V as he went 3 for 9 for 88 yards with 2 interceptions and 1 TD before being knocked out of the game. The lone touchdown was the bizarre 75 yarder to John Mackey where the ball bounced from Colt Eddie Hinton and Cowboy Mel Renfro first. So the late Earl Morrall had to come off the bench to save the Colts season just as Unitas tried to in Super Bowl III.

The game was played at a frantic pace with 11 total turnovers in what was nicknamed The Blunder Bowl. The Colts outlasted the Dallas Cowboys, they didn’t beat them. A last second interception by Mike Curtis put them in position for Jim O’Brien to win it with a field goal 16-13.

Another reason they weren’t remembered were they were coached by the late Don McCafferty. He was the hand picked successor once Don Shula departed for Miami having been the long time Offensive Coordinator. By the time we make it to 1972 the Colts were winless in their first five games. General Manager Joe Thomas wanted Unitas benched. When Cafferty refused he was fired.

super-bowl-logo-1970Less than 1 1/2 years after winning Super Bowl V, Carroll Rosenblom was no longer the owner, John Unitas was no longer the quarterback, Don McCafferty was no longer the coach, and the magic was gone from 33rd Street in Baltimore. The romantic era starting with the 1958 NFL Championship Game win over the Giants, ended in the 1971 AFC Championship in Miami.

In many ways it has a lifetime achievement feel than a best of the league feel. Would they have won Super Bowl VI had they rematched with the Cowboys?? How different would have Don McCafferty’s legacy been had they won it? As a matter of fact, the Dolphins split their games with the Colts in 1970 and 1971. Would the Colts even make it to Super Bowl V had the Dolphins been able to get past Oakland in the ’70 playoff game??

Epilogue: Carroll Rosenbloom’s Rams won the NFC West 5 times from 1973-1978 but lost the NFC Championship 4 times. He died from a heart attack and drowned before the 1979 season when the Rams did make it to Super Bowl XIV. Which left the team to his wife…. Georgia Rosenbloom who later remarried. Georgia Rosenbloom-Frontiere.

Don McCafferty died of a heart attack in 1974 after he had coached the Detroit Lions for one season.

John Unitas remains one of the greatest players in NFL history and was the first to throw for more than 40,000 yards. A staple at Baltimore Ravens games well into the 2000s. Unitas passed away on Sept 11th, 2002.

Bubba Smith, the giant Defensive End  passed away in August 2011. Smith played the majority of his career in Baltimore and stated in 2007 “Super Bowl III, I still haven’t gotten over it.”

Earl Morrrall, the journeyman quarterback who was player of the year in 1968 with Unitas out. Was with the team when they lost Super Bowl III. Afterward he would duplicate his 1968 with a great performance leading the Dolphins to the undefeated season in Bob Griese’s absence. He won 2 more Super Bowls (VII & VIII) with Don Shula’s Miami Dolphins. Morrall died last month on April 25, 2014.

To these men I dedicate this article to… they were a champion. NFL champions for 1970.

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

 

 

 

 

SUPER BOWL IV RUNNER UP 1969 MINNESOTA VIKINGS

The NFL’s northern most outpost was originally an AFL territory yet the story has been told how they jumped ship and were given an NFL franchise. However the years that followed saw a team that struggled for respectability. superbowliv

However the 1969 Minnesota Vikings sported the first Mexican American to quarterback his team to the Super Bowl in Joe Kapp. Never understood why they don’t have a larger Hispanic following with such a significant historic backdrop.

The Minnesota Vikings had departed with Fran Tarkenton and brought in Joe Kapp (California Bears) from Canada to play quarterback. He threw ugly passes and played football from his gut. He was a fearless leader who avenged a playoff loss the year before against Baltimore. In 1968 the Colts were regarded as the greatest team with the greatest defense ever. The Colts beat Minnesota 24-14 in a divisional playoff match where they sacked and hit Kapp repeatedly.

superbowliv3In 1969, game 2 he threw for a record 7TDs in a rematch with the Colts to wrest the NFL dominance mantle winning 52-14. Led by The Purple People Eaters defensive line of Alan Page, Carl Eller, Gary Larson, and Jim Marshall, the league’s #1 unit carried the team through the season. The Vikings went on to finish on a 12 game winning streak and broke the Colts 1968 defensive record of 144 points allowed with 133. It was just the tonic the NFL needed as writers / loyalists established the Vikings an 11 point favorite. Not since the 1934 Chicago Bears rolled into the NFL Title Game undefeated had the league witnessed a winning streak as long as the Vikings.

super-bowl-logo-1969It was during the NFL playoffs where Kapp cemented his legacy. On a routine pass play, protection breaks down and Kapp escapes the pocket. Coming up to make the tackle was Cleveland Brown linebacker Jim Houston. Joe gave a shoulder fake and went right into Houston. Unwittingly he kneed him in the head knocking him out cold. Quarterbacks don’t knock out linebackers. This further enhanced the image of the Vikings as a rough and tumble ball club.

Although Super Bowl IV was the last game for Joe Kapp, he galvanized the team as they remained among the league’s elite over the next decade. They were the last NFL champion before the merger with the AFL and were a team in every sense of the word.

The Truth About Michael Sam

Now the world is abuzz with the first openly gay player in Michael Sam drafted by the NFL. The ironic side to this is how this story had gone away in the month before the draft. After coming out, talk had died down once the combine and pro day at Missouri was over. Pundits waxed philosophical about what quarterback would be taken where in the following weeks. Once Johnny Manziel was drafted, there was no lead story until Sam’s selection in the 7th round and the kiss seen around the world.

The SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year, Michael Sam was drafted in the 7th round by the St Louis Rams.

The SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year, Michael Sam was drafted in the 7th round by the St Louis Rams.

Now we see draftees every year turn and kiss their girlfriends, fiances, and the loving peck on the cheek to dear old mom. It happens all the time, but nothing like this. Which tells you all you need to know about Sam. He understands he is carrying the torch for the gay community into the NFL and is going to be front and center about it.

Yet when you calculate your moves for maximum affect as he has, were these the best things to do for Michael Sam the football player?? As a 7th round draft pick, wouldn’t he have been better served to come in quietly with the focus on making the team?? He has put a bigger target on his back because of it and the scrutiny has just started.

Don’t forget he is coming into a Rams pass rush that was 3rd in sacks with 53 on the year. All Pro Defensive End Robert Quinn was 2nd in the league with 19 sacks followed by Chris Long’s 8.5. Four players recorded 5 or more sacks last season are still on the roster. This is going to be no easy task. He will have to play special teams and could make it if the Rams mimic the Nickel rush of Seattle’s with 3 speed rushing ends.

However we’re moving into supposed uncharted territory with Sam being the first openly gay active player. David Kopay, the late Jerry Smith of the Redskins, and the late Roy Simmons of the New York Giants were the first to come out after their careers ended. There have been rumors on players over the years but this will be different. The issue being put forth seems to be more about life style choice than it is about being able to play football.

The Miami Dolphins moved swift to fine CB Don Jones for tweeting disgust of the kiss between Sam and his partner. Then sent to sensitivity training also. Why isn’t he entitled to voice his own opinion?? He didn’t stop Sam from entering a locker room or causing a problem within a team structure. Everyone won’t be comfortable with the changes taking place with the inclusion of openly gay players. The media is pushing this too strongly and it’s forcing a backlash of either you support the cause, or ostracized for non support. That is wrong.

The gay agenda has been thrust on to everyone in a way that makes many of us Americans uncomfortable. Tolerance is different than acceptance. Sam needs to be accepted by his teammates and his lifestyle tolerated. Not everyone is going to like it and some based on religious grounds. The pendulum has swung too far when a person can’t voice their opinion without sanctions levied against them. What the Dolphins did was wrong. Ease up on the knee-jerk reactions.

As for Michael Sam, better click clack that chinstrap. You have to go against the Rams #1 draft pick in Tackle Greg Robinson. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to make the opening day roster and that task begins here.

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

All The Johnny Manziel Subterfuge

A few days ago I posed the question: If you change your mock draft for the 10th time, what’s the difference between that and talking in circles?? Pundit after pundit for weeks explained why they thought Manziel would fall in the draft. Well the Cleveland Browns made him a late first round pick and energized the franchise and fan-base.

manzielAfter months of speculation on where he’ll slip in the draft a funny thing happened. When you asked GMs what they thought about him, reviews were mixed. Yet when you asked defensive players who they least wanted to face of the incoming quarterbacks, Manziel topped that list by far. How much of it was smokescreen to get Johnny to fall to them at a specific draft position??

Former GM Charlie Casserly was his most vocal critic citing his being the most overrated player in the draft. This from a guy that drafted Heath Shuler & David Carr?? To quote Bill Belichick “When has Charlie Casserly been right?”

The consensus has always been to draft a 6’3 strong armed pocket passer. Yet the NFL is evolving. Didn’t we just watch a small mobile QB beat the pocket passer in Super Bowl XLVIII a few months back?? Colin Kaepernick came within a few plays of winning the ultimate game the year before that. There is more than one way to play the position and a new profile of how the position looks. You can offset a smaller quarterback with roll-outs, waggles, and spread formations. Drew Brees has been carving up the record books lately at 6’0, so what is everyone talking about??

More important…who cares??

The Browns needed Johnny Manziel as much as he needed them. He will have a chip on his shoulder from this entire draft ordeal and want to prove a point. Its the immeasurable qualities like the will to win, and the ability to inspire teammates that you can’t get from combines and pro days. Watching his best college performances against teams that were thought to be better than his shows fight. He’ll have plenty of those days with the Browns looking up to the AFC North and most teams from a talent standpoint. He’s wired psychologically to take that on. The Heath Shulers, David Carrs, Blaine Gabberts of the world were not.

Speaking of free agents Cleveland might attract....LeBron James sporting a Manziel jersey traveling with the Miami Heat.

Speaking of free agents Cleveland might attract….LeBron James sporting a Manziel jersey traveling with the Miami Heat.

Now the Browns can draw more attention from the upper echelon of free agents that will be available before the season begins. We still have a few rounds of the draft to go, but look for the Browns to make a move at receiver with the pending suspension of wideout Josh Gordon.

The Cleveland Browns relevancy begins now.  Just call him Johnny Cleveland!

Thanks for reading and share the article.

 

 

SUPER BOWL IV CHAMPION 1969 KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Super Bowl IV in ancient Tulane Stadium, the scene for Kansas City’s 23-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings in the last ever AFL game. The merger followed this game and to have the score after 4 games: AFL 2 wins, NFL 2 wins, was poetic justice since the two leagues battled for a decade. So many ironies during this era it’s hard to choose where to begin…but we have to start somewhere right?

sbiv

We’ll start with an epilogue I posted with the 1966 Chief’s AFL Championship ring on the origins of the Kansas City Chiefs and the Minnesota Vikings and the irony of those two teams facing each other in the last ever game of the AFL.

The AFL was originally going to have a franchise in Minnesota and in a move of espionage out of James Bond, cold war, double agent dealing, the NFL told the owners of that franchise to stay quiet and at the last minute award them an NFL franchise in 1960 to try to sink the new league. The AFL couldn’t’ operate with only 7 teams. Fittingly the last game in the history of the AFL, Super Bowl IV, Kansas City beat Minnesota 23-7 to offer some payback.

super-bowl-logo-1969

 

What happened to the team that would have been in Minnesota you ask? They went west and became the Oakland Raiders the Chiefs main rival. As irony would have it, they too bested Minnesota in a Super Bowl winning the 11th edition 32-14. So when you think of the Vikings of the 70′s and their 4 Super Bowl losses, karma caught up to them for what happened in 1960…folks I can’t make this stuff up.

sbiv2This game was significant because NFL loyalists still weren’t giving the AFL its due after the crushing loss in Super Bowl III. Thought it was just a fluke. One of the great things about the AFL was its close camaraderie between the players and teams, knowing they were only part of an overall league fighting for their respect. They each played their part and they represented their league.

Joe Namath recalled when the New York Jets returned to their hotel after beating Baltimore in Super Bowl III, he could remember being greeted by Emmitt Thomas, Buck Buchanan, and Willie Lanier (Chiefs) as told on HBO’s History of the AFL circa 1995. Len Dawson (Chiefs QB) was also in the stands for the Jets monumental win over Baltimore so to have this group carry the banner into the last Super Bowl and last game in the AFL’s history had personal weight, league-wide weight, and TOTAL legitimacy for the AFL’s legacy with another win.
sbiv3Another significant point to this team is that this was the first Super Bowl champion that African American’s comprised half their roster and had the first Mexican American QB to get a ring in Tom Flores. However the 1969 Minnesota Vikings sported the first Mexican American to quarterback his team to the Super Bowl in Joe Kapp (never understood why they don’t have larger Hispanic followings with these significant historic backdrops).

The Minnesota Vikings had departed with Fran Tarkenton and brought Joe Kapp (California Bears) from Canada to play quarterback. He threw ugly passes and played football from his gut and as a fearless leader who avenged a playoff loss the year before against Baltimore. In 1968 the Colts were regarded as the greatest team with the greatest defense ever. The Colts beat Minnesota 24-14 in a divisional playoff match where they sacked and hit Kapp repeatedly.

In 1969, game 2 he threw for a record 7TDs in a rematch with the Colts to wrest the NFL dominance mantle from them winning 52-14. The Vikings went on to finish the season on a 12 game winning streak and break the Colts 1968 defensive record of 144 points allowed with 133. The 12 game winning streak to finish the season was the longest the NFL had seen in 35 years. Yikes, they were steamrolling to the Super Bowl…all they have to do was win this last game.

Kansas City, like Green Bay before them resembled what future NFL teams would look like. That defense with Willie Lanier, Bobby Bell, and Jim Lynch at the linebacker spots. Two that are in the Hall of Fame (Bell and Lanier…in fact Bobby Bell was the first outside linebacker inducted into the Hall of Fame) and one that should be in Jim Lynch. Jim Marsalis, and Emmitt Thomas at the cornerback spots. To imagine Emmitt Thomas, think of a little lighter Mel Blount. Johnny Robinson and Patrick Kearney were interchangeable safeties.

Then you have the front four: Aaron Brown, Jerry Mays (AFL all decade team member), Buck Buchanon, and Curley Culp were as physical as the Steelers of the 70′s with less notoriety because they played in the AFL. They made it to the big stage this day. All this before I get into Hall of Famer Len Dawson and WR Otis Taylor who should be…then versatile Mike Garrett, Warren McVea, and Robert Holmes running the ball as a group. This was a complete team and one of the most powerful Champions ever.

Thanks for reading and by the way if you wanted to see Super Bowl IV in its entirety, click the link “Super Bowl IV” at the start of this article.

Enjoy

SUPER BOWL III RUNNER UP 1968 BALTIMORE COLTS

Wow Talk about shock and awe!!!

superbowliii

The Jets 16-7 win over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III was one of those events that defined an era. Everyone has spoken of the great accomplishment, the AFL arriving on the big stage but so few people talk about the vanquished 15-1 Baltimore Colts and Don Shula.

The loss was so devastating and embarrassing that the NFL didn’t issue a championship ring. A team that was 3hrs away from being the greatest team in NFL history received THIS WATCH when they failed to win the game…wow! Think the NFL thought highly of their championship season? Now before you ask, the answer is yes the teams that lost Super Bowls I, II, and IV did receive rings.

old-nfl-logoLet’s take you back to 1968…The Colts were motivated to win it all in 1968 because in 1967 they had the BEST record ever to NOT make the playoffs:11-1-2 including a win over the Packers who would go on to win Super Bowl II. The Rams had an identical record and won the tiebreaker for giving the Colts their one loss. The Colts were in the Western Conference and for the better part of the 60′s couldn’t unseat the Packers.

Except in 1964 when Paul Hornung was suspended for gambling, yet the Colts were upset in Cleveland in the Championship game. Yes you heard me correctly…the Packers and Colts were in the WESTERN CONFERENCE back then. So Vince Lombardi steps down and the Packers run out of steam and the Colts go 13-1 in 1968. So in TWO seasons they had only lost 2 games going 24-2-2. No regular season overtime back then hence the two ties.

super-bowl-logo-1968Like other teams I’ve mentioned, this team that DIDNT win it all was the strongest Baltimore Colts team ever. They had a defense that set the league record for fewest points allowed in a 14 game season with 144 points. They held 11 of their 14 opponents to 10 pts or less including 3 shutouts. The great Johnny Unitas got hurt and Earl Morrall replaced him and became league MVP at quarterback. They had Tom Matte and Jerry Hill as arguably the best running tandem in football. Their only regular season loss in 1968 was to the Cleveland Browns who they would go on to blow out 34-0 in the NFL Championship game IN CLEVELAND. So with that it was as though they practically had an undefeated season and were lauded as the best team in NFL history.

Then came January 12th, 1969…wow!! One look at this watch shows you how embarrassed the NFL was to lose to the upstart AFL. The corporate pressures, corporate culture and such were so great that within 2 years coach Don Shula was gone. Within 4 years Carroll Rosenbloom would swap franchises with Robert Irsay (then Rams owner), become owner of the Rams, would later marry Georgia, drown and she became Georgia Rosenbloom-Frontiere owner of the Los Angeles / St. Louis Rams. Of course this legitimized the AFL and NFL merging as well. Everyone talks about the champion but take a look across the river and pay attention to the team that loses it. The after affects can be frightening…

Would all of this have happened had the Colts WON Super Bowl III?

Epilogue: Although the Colts would go on to win Super Bowl V, how redemptive was it?

SUPER BOWL III CHAMPION 1968 NEW YORK JETS: The Demons From Super Bowl III

One of the great things about the NFL and its history are the stories behind the men. Unfortunately the greatest lessons come from those that come up short in big games. Everyone loves a David v. Goliath scenario when the underdog pulls off an upset. When a landmark incident takes place like Super Bowl III, all eyes follow the winner who have vanquished a favored foe and the game is revered and talked about for years to come.

sbiii.3Super Bowl III has been rehashed, talked about, re-shown, and re-released in 1997 (as a video broadcast) for a generation to see for themselves a landmark game that changed the course of the NFL. It was the centerpiece to a  Hall of Fame career for Joe Namath and allowed Weeb Ewbank to become the only coach to win a championship in both leagues. Yet what does all this fallout do to the men who lost that event?? Is the harm irreparable for  the men who came up short in Super Bowl III?? How easy is it to forget and move on??

Surely the Baltimore Colts could go on and win another championship and set things straight, right?? Here are the accounts of  Bill Curry, Mike Curtis, and the late Bubba Smith. As you listen to the recount through their eyes, you will get a different feeling about Super Bowl III than ever before.

Copy of Joe Namath's Super Bowl III ring.

Copy of Joe Namath’s Super Bowl III ring.

What is ironic, these are interviews celebrating their Super Bowl V championship for the America’s Game series. What makes these poignant is the dissident sound of honesty reflected in their voices. What makes these stories resonate is this was a game 45 years ago and made even more impactful that this was the last interview for Bubba Smith to talk about this with his passing away in August 2011.

CHAPTER I:  The updated story from our upcoming book as written July 12,  2010 and showcased online: SUPER BOWL III RUNNER UP 1968 NFL CHAMPION BALTIMORE COLTS

CHAPTER II: A vignette of what was shared by Bill Curry, Bubba Smith, Mike Curtis, and Ernie Accorsi as the events and aftermath of Super Bowl III were recounted.

CHAPTER III/EPILOGUE: Again, what makes this unique are the events that take place hastening Don Shula’s departure, where he became the NFL’s All Time winning coach in Miami and not Baltimore. Even after winning Super Bowl V, Carroll Rosenbloom was still disenchanted with being the owner of the Baltimore Colts and swapped franchises with the Rams Robert Irsay in 1972.

super bowl iii3Was it ironic or a part of the story, that after winning Super Bowl V, the Baltimore Colts made it to the AFC Championship to defend their title?? Who did they lose to 21-0, to bring about the end of an era (1958-1971) where the Colts were among the NFL elite?? Don Shula and the Miami Dolphins in the Orange Bowl. Another irony is Don Shula went on to become the winningest coach in NFL history in the stadium where Super Bowl III was held. The Orange Bowl. Don Shula went on to excorcise his demons. As for Carroll Rosenbloom, Ernie Accorsi, Bubba Smith, Mike Curtis, and Bill Curry??

So remember to pay close attention to the men and these moments. What will become of the principles of a landmark event for those on both sides of the equation. A compelling study in the psychology of man and sport.  This is one of the reasons we love bringing you these real life stories with such richness.

super-bowl-logo-1968Thanks for reading and share this with those who love football and football history. Teach them something that scores on ESPN won’t tell them.

SUPER BOWL II RUNNER UP 1967 OAKLAND RAIDERS

Ahhh…January 14, 1968 the second AFL/ NFL World Championship game…Super Bowl II: Packers 33-14 over Oakland. The game was best remembered as Vince Lombardi’s final game as legendary Packers coach. Yet the culmination of Al Davis work, since returning from a stint as AFL commissioner, also took the field that day down in the Orange Bowl.

 

Al Davis first Raider ring

Al Davis first Raider ring

The 1967 Raiders had the best record in all of pro football with a 13-1 record. After throttling the Houston Oilers 40-7 in the AFL Championship, they were poised to avenge the AFL’s first SuperBowl loss. Behind the “Mad Bomber” Daryle Lamonica, this era of Oakland Raider football was among the best in Raider history. When you look at the years 1967, ’68,’69, and 1970 the Raiders made it to the AFL Championship or AFC Championship every year.

The block AFL "A" along with the 1967 AFL Championship score 40-7 over Houston.

The block AFL “A” along with the 1967 AFL Championship score 40-7 over Houston.

Warren Wells and Hall of Famer Fred Biletnikoff were the receivers during these years. Wells was the quintessential deep threat where as Biletnikoff was the intermediate target piling up yardage over the middle. Biletnikoff at one point held the postseason record for receptions, yardage, and touchdowns who later was named Super Bowl XI MVP. Hewritt Dixon and Clem Daniels (AFL All Time leading rusher) were the running backs for this team.

The defense was led by Ben Davidson at DE, Carleton Oats, Tom Keating on the defensive line formed a serious pass rush. Dan Conner and Gus Otto were steady linebackers yet the secondary was a serious strength of this team and where they borrowed the techniques started in Buffalo of tight cornerbacks playing “bump and run” coverage. Hall of Famer Willie Brown and Kent McCloughan were strong on coverage. This coverage along with the rush was what propelled this team to a 13-1 record.

 

Silver & Black...#1 in the AFL West

Silver & Black…#1 in the AFL West

They played in some of the most famous games in football history, from The Heidi Bowl to George Blanda’s miracle season of 1970 where he garnered MVP votes for 5 nail biting finishes. It was this era that propelled the Raiders into becoming the winningest organization in sports…then the Stabler, Branch, Biletnikoff (still going), Tatum, Atkinson, Villapiano, Hendricks era took it from there.

super-bowl-logo-1967Not bad for a franchise that was supposed to be in Minnesota huh? Minnesota?? Yeah Minnesota. I have told the story before where one of the final AFL teams was going to be in Viking country. However the NFL brass told the owners of the Minnesota territory to wait until the last second to defect to the NFL for one of their franchises. When that happened, the AFL moved the chess piece further west and drafted the Oakland territory. So its fitting that the masterpiece that was the first Raider Super Bowl win was in the 11th edition against Minnesota…. How’s that for irony?? LOL

SUPER BOWL II CHAMPION 1967 GREEN BAY PACKERS & The Ghost of Vince Lombardi

To threepeat or 3 NFL Championships in a row…only time it’s been done in the modern era…1965-1966-1967…concluded with Super Bowl II win over the Oakland Raiders 33-14 and included the legendary ICE Bowl win over Dallas in the NFL Championship game 21-17. Legendary teams do legendary things! Can you imagine playing football in -15*F and wind chill near -50*F in 1960s fabrics?? Yikes but that’s what made the difference between Lombardi’s Packers and Dallas during that game. I can’t remember a famous last minute drive under similar conditions. I mean “The Drive” of Elway fame, Cleveland v. Denver in 1986, took place in a balmy 12 degrees.

alt_sports_cd_super_bowl_ii_lg

Super Bowl II was the final of 3 NFL champihips in a row.hence the 3 large diamonds.

But wow, three championships in a row! Vince Lombardi IS a football God and he kept teams from equaling that feat. Look at the strange circumstances that surrounded others trying to equal it…its Lombardi I tell ya’

1. Early 70s Dolphins after winning Super Bowls 7 & 8, loses to the Oakland Raiders in the famous Sea of Hands play in ’74 playoffs…Divine intervention? Go watch that play and you’ll see that the Dolphins had 2 backups trying to cover the throw from Ken Stabler to Clarence Davis…the Dolphins lost two DBs in the second half of that game and also gave up a bomb to Cliff Branch in the 4th quarter also…not saying Lombardi did it…but he had a hand in it…

2. Pittsburgh Steelers win Super Bowls 9 & 10 come into ’76 primed to duplicate. Long story short…Pittsburgh overcomes a bad start and in winning their last 9 games while only giving up 28 pts including 5 shutouts. Both Rocky Bleier AND Franco Harris rushed for 1,000 yds that season with Bradshaw injured. Finally healthy they light up Baltimore 40-14 in the divisional playoff (only AFC playoff pt total that high in the 70s) and lose BOTH Franco and Rocky in that game? Really?? Without either RB able to play the next week, they lose to the Raiders in AFC title game 24-7. I’m tellin’ you…Lombardi has something to do with all these strange circumstances…

super bowl ii23. Oh those wonderful 49ers of late 80s lore. Won back to back in Super Bowls 23 and 24, started 1990 10-0 and went on to go 14-2 and host their old protagonist, the New York Giants in the NFC Championship. Now yes, Leonard Marshall knocked Joe Montana from the game…but leading 13-12 and running out the clock, dependable Roger Craig loses the ball, squirting out behind him without really being hit? WTH? Giants recover and make last second field goal to escape 15-13: I can’t make this up!! Ghost of Lombardi and another strange circumstance…

4. The boisterous Dallas Cowboys of Super Bowls 27 and 28, and fairly healthy yet without Jimmy Johnson are coming to San Fran for the ’94 NFC Championship, were geared up for this battle. OK, Emmitt Smith was nursing a hamstring injury. Including the playoff game with the Packers, the week before, the Cowboys had only turned the ball over 20 times all year!! ALLYEAR!! Wouldn’t you know they turned it over 3 times in 5 minutes and were out of it 21-0 after 7 minutes of play on their way to losing 38-28…so Emmitt’s hamstring had nothin’ to do with it! LOL. This represented the first time in NFL/NFC championship history that a team was down 21-0 in the 1st quarter. That is a span from 1933-1994!! 61 yrs that hadn’t happened. Off in the distance you can hear Lombardi’s ghost chuckling…

super bowl ii35. Then you had the steady Denver Broncos who won Super Bowls 32 and 33, over the Packers and Falcons respectively. With an opportunistic defense, John Elway with Terrell Davis (the 2000 yd rusher in 1998) was the engine that made that team go. With the specter of a possible three-peat looming, Elway decided to retire. Shanahan whom many thought would start Bubby Brister the veteran over 2nd year player Brian Griese… a total brain freeze where Lombardi must have “clouded his judgment.” LOL So what happened…? Enter 1999, the Broncos struggled out of the gate 0-2 when Griese threw an interception against the Jets in week 3, Terrell Davis blew out his knee while making the tackle. Now the two most indispensable Broncos: Davis and Elway were gone and the 0-3 record doomed the season… In a more ironic twist, tackle Mark Lepsis was a backup tackle in ’98, was the first to help Davis off the ground when he crossed 2,000 yards. It was he who fell on Davis in ’99 blowing out his knee on exactly the same spot on the field. Ah, that Lombardi…can almost hear his voice now “What the hell is goin’ on out here?”

super-bowl-logo-1967Now someone may ask “what about the 78-79 Steelers or the ’03-’04 New England Patriots?” Well let’s just say Lombardi’s intervention wasn’t necessary. The ’80 Steelers were swept by perennial division rival doormat Cincinnati, which gave the Browns the division title knocking Pittsburgh out of the playoffs. Hmmm maybe Vince was busy.

The Patriots just seemed to run out of gas in their playoff run. All strange circumstances of Green Bay’s 3 championships about to be equaled and goofy, weird circumstances kept it from happening EACH time. If you listen closely, off in the distance, you can hear Vince laughing.

SUPER BOWL I CHAMPION 1966 GREEN BAY PACKERS

War of the Worlds… The first meeting of champions from both the upstart American Football League, and the established National Football League took place on January 15, 1967 in Los Angeles. NFL Films called it “Spectacle of a Sport” and it was when you think about it. Separate leagues, separate television contracts, and even different balls made the two leagues as different as night and day. The AFL was the league that went for 2 pt conversions and had the names of the players on the back of the jersey where the more established NFL was more conservative by nature.

4654756ringDid you know the LA Coliseum for Super Bowl I had over 15,000 empty seats? The game was broadcast on 2 networks….well kinda…lol Pete Rozelle and the NFL had the main CBS feed and microphone, where the AFL’s NBC just gave a commentary over the video supplied by CBS for their broadcast. So after the game, commentators for both networks were fighting over the INDIVIDUAL locker room microphone after the game when it was time for the trophy presentation and subsequent interview of Vince Lombardi. That is nuts…

How far had the AFL come in the 6 years since its inception? The Chiefs were behind only 14-10 after a 1st half where the Chiefs held their own however the game changed on a Willie Wood interception in the 3rd quarter, running it back to the Chief 5. A few touchdowns later and the Packers were on cruise control 35-10 which was the final.

Super-Bowl-Trophy-SizeIn my opinion, this was the best of the Green Bay champions of the 1960s. They were more diverse than previous champions and the mixture of young talent with the veterans made for a lethal combination. The exact peak where veteran savvy and physical ability meet before aging would slow the Packer machine. You still had Jim Taylor as the bludgeoning fullback where at halfback Elijah Pitts along with rookie Donny Anderson supplemented aging Paul Hornung. Bart Starr was now the chief QB in the league who threw for 4TDs in the ’66 NFL title game against Dallas and 2 more against the Chiefs in the Super Bowl which doesn’t include a 64yd TD strike to Carroll Dale that was called back. What 3 yards and a cloud of dust? This team wasn’t just running sweeps anymore.

Speaking of sweeps: Forrest Gregg, Jerry Kramer, Bill Curry, Fuzzy Thurston (always loved that name), and Bob Skoronski were still supplying those holes and were the essence of the Packers. They beat you on the line of scrimmage…that plain and simple. Forrest Gregg went on to win a 3rd ring with the Cowboys in Super Bowl VI and coached the Cincinnati Bengals to Super Bowl XVI. Kramer became the voice of that team thru a series of bestselling books. Curry went on to play in 2 more Super Bowls with the Baltimore Colts and coached at the University of Alabama as well.

Thurman SuperBowl XXV 233These men paved the way for many a 1,000yd rusher in the 60′s. TE Marv Fleming has to be added to the mix since TEs had to block back then. Fleming replaced Ron Kramer as Starr’s short pass option over the middle. He would go on to play in 5 of the first 8 Super Bowls (3 with Miami) becoming the first man to win 4 rings (the Charles Haley of his day). Carroll Dale, Boyd Dowler, and “out all night” Max McGhee were steady, heady receivers. Max went on to enjoy success in the restaurant business… Chi Chi’s I believe.

Again…winning on the line was the name of the game with the Packers when it came to defense: Willie Davis, Ron Kostelnik, the late Henry Jordan, and the late Lionel Aldridge were draped on Len Dawson in the second half of Super Bowl I like a tailored suit. They were a veteran group that did its main job of stopping the run, and in a 4-3 defense, keep blockers off of the MLB. Since the late Ray Nitschke skated into the Hall of Fame, I think it’s fair to say they did it well. How many highlights do you see Nitschke making plays tackle to tackle? Tons. Texan Lee Roy Caffey and Dave Robinson were solid at outside linebacker. Robinson along with Bobby Bell was the prototype to the modern outside linebacker with their size and range when the league brought in the Robert Braziles, Clay Matthews, Lawrence Taylors and Ricky Jacksons in the 80′s.

super-bowl-logo-1966The late Bob Jeter, former USC quarterback turned safety Hall of Famer Willie Wood, Tom Brown, and Hall of Famer Herb Adderley (converted RB from Michigan State) was simply the best defensive backfield in football…maybe football history. Who could read a QB better than a former QB? When it came to athletes Adderley in his heyday was Deion Sanders without the flash. Adderley won another ring in Super Bowl II with the Packers then would go on to play in 2 more Super Bowls with Dallas, winning in Super Bowl VI along with Forrest Gregg. However Adderley was still a starter and blanketed Hall of Famer Paul Warfield, of Miami, in that game some 5 yrs later.

Another look at this team tells you another story. Lombardi coached at a time when it was expressed Italians / Catholics weren’t viewed as football coaches (see how he didn’t get the job to replace Jim Lee Howell in New York) or would be voted President back in the late 50′s. I bring this up because as you look up the racial make up for most teams in the 60′s, the Packers more than any team did more for diversity and breaking quotas than any other team. At least in the NFL. Lombardi had a lot to do with that obviously and they were constant champions. Not 3 in 4 yrs, not 2 Super Bowls in a row, not 4 Super Bowls won in a decade. They won half (FIVE) of the decades championships, there must have been suicidal Bears fans everywhere in the 60s.

Aside from football X’s and O’s this football team will never be forgotten.

SUPER BOWL I RUNNER UP 1966 KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

The first AFL Super Bowl representative was the 1966 Chiefs, by virtue of a 31-7 burial of MY Buffalo Bills who were trying to 3-peat in the AFL.  With a little bit of luck the Cowboys would best the Packers and the Chiefs could play the Cowboys in Super Bowl I…..uh, sorry Green Bay wasn’t having it besting the Cowboys 34-27 in the NFL Title game.  Then those Packers went on to beat Kansas City in Super Bowl I 35-10.  So why am I talkin’ about Dallas??  Would you believe there is a history?

1loserThe KC Chiefs had moved from Dallas to Kansas City back in 1963 and even though they were AFL Champions, Lamar Hunt (AFL Founder) moved the team to not compete with the Dallas Cowboys.  The NFL, conservative and slow to expand, placed a new franchise in Dallas in 1960 since Lamar Hunt would have a team there.  They were even more shiesty with what they did with the Minnesota territory…yet we’ll get back to that…

AllDecalsDuring the 1960s, war raged between the NFL and AFL, these two principles from Dallas who both lived there crossed paths several times and were architects, in clandestine, about a possible merger between the two leagues.

They even met once at Love Field in Dallas under the Texas Ranger statue to talk about it right before Hunt boarded a plane for Houston to meet with Bud Adams and other AFL owners to vote Al Davis AFL Commissioner where the war for players escalated 10 fold. This act and subsequent talent drain included signing players from the other league (free agency LOL) that finally brought each side to the table.  At the meeting to announce the merger did you notice that Tex Schramm (Cowboys) and Lamar Hunt (Chiefs) flanked NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle at that conference?

So it would have been something had the Chiefs faced the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl I.  Uh, but you see there was this team from Green Bay and…Uh…well, LOL let’s just say they weren’t going to be denied.  So with that, this ring is for the AFL Champion Kansas City Chiefs formerly known as the Dallas Texans for reaching Super Bowl I.

 

super-bowl-logo-1966EPILOGUE: About that Minnesota thing… The AFL was originally going to have a franchise in Minnesota and in a move of espionage out of James Bond, cold war, double agent dealing, the NFL told the owners of that franchise to stay quiet and at the last minute award them an NFL franchise in 1960 to try to sink the new league.  The AFL couldn’t operate with only 7 teams.  Fitting that the last game in the history of the AFL, Super Bowl IV, Kansas City beat Minnesota 23-7 to offer some payback.

What happened to the team that would have been in Minnesota you ask?  They went west and became the Oakland Raiders, the Chiefs main rival.  As irony would have it, they too bested Minnesota in a Super Bowl winning the 11th edition 32-14.  So when you think of the Vikings of the 70′s and their 4 Super Bowl losses, karma caught up to them for what happened in 1960… The fact that the Vikings first and last Super Bowl losses came courtesy of these two teams is more karma than ironic. Folks I can’t make this stuff up.

Legends of The Fall: Dan Marino

When you ask someone what their definition of a great quarterback is, you invariably wind up with several answers. The one attribute in everyone’s criteria is that of a great passer. It can be argued that Dan Marino was the best pure passer in NFL history.  Everyone mentions his quick release but forgets how fiery his delivery of the football was.

Marino's legendary release.

Marino’s legendary release.

To define his quick release, for the football coaching impaired, is the time it took to complete his throwing motion. The easiest way to measure this back then were to slow film down to individual frames. The average QB release would take 15 frames where Marino was routinely between 8 & 9. So the ball was coming out half a second sooner.

The direct results were more passes getting downfield and less sacks. If we look at his peak years of 1984-1986, Marino was only sacked 48 times while attempting 1,754 passes. The Dolphins led the league in fewest sacks all 3 seasons. Yet through that explosive delivery was the zip and hutzpah he put on the football. For he had one of the strongest arms in league history.

Unlike Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, who had league rules altered year after year to make them record breakers, Marino came in and shattered records through sheer ability. People talk of the great class of 1983 and most want to talk about John Elway first. Oh yeah?? Take a look at something:

  • Marino ’84-’86 – 1076 of 1754 for 13,967 yards & 122 TDs
  • Elway ’84-’86 –  821 of 1489 for 9,974 yards & 59 TDs

* To match Marino’s 122 TD total you would have to have Elway’s total from 1984 to the 13th week of the 1990 season! Almost 4 more years!

During this time both Marino and Elway had taken their teams to Super Bowl XIX and XXI respectively. Of these vids, if you only watch one, watch the 1986 vignette. Yet I digress… take a look at Marino’s record breaking fast pitch 1984:

Then you have 1985 where he led the Dolphins back to the AFC Championship Game. Had they won, we would have had a rematch between Marino and Chicago’s 46 defense in Super Bowl XX. Considering Miami gave the 18-1 Bears their only defeat, its something to think about.

Then you have perhaps his greatest season in 1986:

What made his 1986 season special is he was truly all they had and teams still couldn’t stop him. In 1984 he still had many teammates who had made it to Super Bowl XVII the year before he was drafted. The Killer Bs defense was there but aging. By 1986 most of those teammates were gone as a rebuliding phase had started. Still he went 378 of 623 for 4,746 yards and 44 touchdowns. The 44 was 8 more than the previous record and he was within 56 yards of Fouts’ other mark of 4,802.

Also because it was the second time scaling those heights. He had set the record of 5,084 yards and 48 touchdowns in his 1984 campaign. He shattered the old record of 36 touchdowns which had stood for 21 years. He did it in his first full season as a starter. Not his 7th or 8th when Manning and Brady finally topped his mark.

Ultimately it was the fact that the game had passed by Don Shula as to why Marino didn’t make it back to the Super Bowl. The rest of his career the Dolphins failed to get a prime time receiver or runner. In 1995 they were the poster child for why the quick fix free agent route wasn’t the best place to build a team.

Yet when you look back at the promise of a young Dan Marino, the sky was the limit. He was definitely a legend of the fall.

 

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

 

Bring back The ProCap – Concussions In The NFL

As the NFL has to come to grips with paying true benefits and restitution to former players, they have to deal with the protection of the present day player. As the NFL has kept the contract for NFL helmets with Riddell, what ever happened to the ProCap that gave players additional helmet padding??

Mark Kelso was the first to sport a ProCap back in 1989.

Mark Kelso was the first to sport a ProCap back in 1989.

Who remembers the helmet of Buffalo Bill Mark Kelso and San Francisco 49ers T Steve Wallace?? Back in the 1980′s there were more players who wore helmets manufactured by Bike. A few NFL players were wearing them. Most notably Ronnie Lott in San Francisco, then Wilber Mashall and Otis Wilson in Chicago.

Yet the long standing relationship with Riddell effectively led to an exclusive contract which ended Bike helmets in the pros. Yet there were several manufacturers like Schutt who have come onto the scene touting advancements in helmet manufacturing in recent years.

Steve Wallace wore the ProCap while battling on the line of scrimmage.

Steve Wallace wore the ProCap while battling on the line of scrimmage.

Now we don’t have any statistics regarding concussions between both manufacturers. But when Mark Kelso donned a ProCap after his 4th career concussion in 1989, he only missed 2 games from 1990 -1993. Somewhere during that time Steve Wallace started to wear his. What happened to these during this time of heightened concussion awareness?? Why isn’t every player wearing one??

With all the talk on heightened awareness regarding CTE, concussion protocol, and rule changes: What about extended use of the ProCap??

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

 

 

Legends of The Fall: Wes Chandler & John Jefferson

During the glory years of Air Coryell, the receivers were John Jefferson, Charlie Joiner, and Tight End Kellen Winslow. Head Coach Don Coryell had taken full advantage of the rule changes in 1978 to produce the most prolific passing offense in league history. His San Diego Chargers were the evolutionary link between Sid Gillman’s high scoring AFL version of the Chargers and the offenses we know today.

The acrobatic John Jefferson was Lynn Swann 3.0

The acrobatic John Jefferson was Lynn Swann 3.0

Quarterback Dan Fouts was the trigger-man and was in the midst of building a Hall of Fame resume. In 1979 he broke Joe Namath’s single season passing record with 4,082 yards. Then shattered it with 4,715 yards the following year. So it was imperative that management keep top level receivers for Fouts to throw to. As a team they won the AFC West in ’79 and made it to the AFC Championship Game in 1980

However going into 1981, several players desired new contracts and were holdouts. Upset with the inability to bring WR John Jefferson and DE Fred Dean to camp, each man was traded to teams thought to be NFC wastelands in San Francisco and Green Bay. Although they were the odds on favorite to make it to Super Bowl XVI before this, management pulled the trigger that could have brought down Air Coryell.

Wes Chandler scoring on a punt return in the "Epic In Miami" 1981 AFC playoff against the Dolphins.

Wes Chandler scoring on a punt return in the “Epic In Miami” 1981 AFC playoff against the Dolphins.

Yet they had an ace up their sleeve and traded for Wes Chandler a few weeks later. Whom they were sure could fill the shoes of former All Pro John Jefferson. You have to understand Jefferson was the most electrifying talent in the league. His circus catches and boundless enthusiasm was the lightning rod spirit of those Charger teams.

Asking Chandler to fill his shoes was not going to be easy. Yet week 6 of 1981, right before the trade deadline, the Chargers turned in their trade papers to Pete Rozelle’s office.

Yet first you need to understand the man he was going to replace. John Jefferson’s first 3 seasons with San Diego, they set the record and broke it for passing offense each season. His years from 1978-1980 were the most electric of any incoming receiver in NFL history. The acrobatic Jefferson produced highlight reel after highlight reel level catches. He amassed 199 rec. for 3,431 yards and 36 TDs as 1/3 of Air Coryell!! In this vignette about the ’80 Chargers you’ll get a better glimpse.

His battles with Lester Hayes that year were epic. Hayes was NFL Defensive Player of the year as he amassed 13 interceptions. Jefferson had 2-100 yard receiving games against him and 3TDs. Both were voted All Pro as he had a career best 1,340 yards on 82 receptions and 13 touchdowns.

In fact, the 1980 Chargers were the first team in history to have the standard set of receivers (2 wideouts and tight end) go over 1,000 yards in the same season. Against the Giants in week 7, they became the first standard set to all go over 100 receiving yards in the same game. Now they were going on without his services. How would the Chargers fare?

Well over in the NFC, another wideout from the 1978 draft was toiling away in New Orleans:

That 1982 season by Chandler ranks in The Chancellor of Football’s top five all time seasons by a receiver. He caught 49 passes for 1032 yards and 9 touchdowns in that strike shortened season. Just 8 games. Projected over a full season he would have had 98 receptions for 2064 yards and 18 TDs. At the time, 101 was the record for catches by Charley Hennigan back in the AFL in 1964. The TD record in a season was 17 held by Hall of Famer Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch from 1951. He would have become the first and only 2,000 yard receiver and come close to or broken the other two records.

jefferson inspired figurine

jefferson inspired figurine

John Jefferson went on to team with James Lofton and made the Packers a formidable passing team for several years. In fact he made his fourth and final Pro Bowl in 1982 when he and Lofton went as teammates. However his best days were left in the team he should have helped to a Super Bowl in San Diego. Contract disputes kept that team from it’s greatest triumph.

For their careers

  • John Jefferson 351 rec. 5,714 yds 47TDs
  • Wes Chandler 559 rec. 8,966 yds 56TDs

When you picture Air Coryell in your mind, these two and their acrobatic catches are the first you envision. They were the spectacular performers of the group where Hall of Fame voting went with the numbers and impact of Charlie Joiner, Dan Fouts, and Kellen Winslow.

Amazingly Head Coach Don Coryell also sits outside the Hall of Fame. Too much is made of a coach not winning a Super Bowl yet Joe Gibbs left his staff and won 3 in Washington. He deserves to be in as well.

The high flying Chargers of the early 1980s. Just as we remembered them.

The high flying Chargers of the early 1980s. Just as we remembered them.

Although Chandler and Jefferson didn’t have Hall of Fame numbers, these two shouldn’t be forgotten for their contributions were just as great. Definitely legends of the fall.

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

 

Missing Rings: The 1986 Seattle Seahawks

Now that the ink is drying in the record book for the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks, it’s interesting to look at the team’s overall history. When we travel down the road to yesteryear, our remembrance of great teams that should have won the Super Bowl are normally teams that appeared in it. Yet if we returned to the last week of the season of 1986, you’d be surprised to learn the team that scared everyone going into the playoffs that year was the Seattle Seahawks.

The real Curt Warner was the first real super star in the history of the Seahawks.

The real Curt Warner was the first super star in the history of the Seahawks.

I know what you’re thinking. How could one of the best teams in Seahawk history be better than a team that appeared in the Super Bowl?? Well for starters the squad that made it to Super Bowl XL survived a fairly weak NFC playoff pool. Even the NFC Championship win had them best the Carolina Panthers who were starting a 4th string running back.

The team was born out of the expansion draft in 1976 along with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They struggled mightily early on until a couple drafts in the early 80s brought superstars to the Pacific Northwest. In 1981 they drafted 3 time All American Safety Kenny Easley to fortify the defense. Two years later they brought in RB Curt Warner to bring juice to the offense. Where the bulk of media attention was on the class of ’83 quarterbacks, the real Curt Warner had a great rookie season with 1,449 yards rushing and 13 TDs.

They made their first foray into the NFL playoffs where they ended John Elway’s rookie season with a 31-7 win under the artificial sky of the Kingdome. Where it was thought this was as far as they could go, they went on to a huge upset over Don Shula’s Dolphins on the road 27-20. The Seahawks found themselves just one game away from Super Bowl XVIII and a trip to Los Angeles beckoned. They had swept the 12-4 Raiders during the regular season and were playing in their first championship in team history. One more win and the cinderella Seahawks would play for it all down in Tampa.

Another big time defender Seattle had was Jacob Green

Another big time defender Seattle had was Jacob Green

In the AFC Championship, Marcus Allen came of age rushing for 154 yards while snagging passes for 62 more as the Raiders prevailed 34-14. It seemed the Seahawks had turned the corner, yet the team was unable to put together a championship run in 1984 when Warner was lost for the season. They were bound together by their defense but the lack of offensive firepower came back to haunt them in a 31-14 playoff loss to the Dolphins.

Hall of Fame receiver Steve Largeant was the steady star who was a perennial 1,000 yard receiver.

Hall of Fame receiver Steve Largeant was the steady star who was a perennial 1,000 yard receiver.

They followed that with an 8-8 record in 1985 as they eased Warner back after a knee reconstruction. He did make it past 1,000 yards but it was Dave Krieg who came of age. He made the Pro Bowl in ’84 after throwing a team record 32 touchdowns, yet tossed 24 interceptions. He reduced his picks to 20 in 1985 in his second full season as a starter.

After back to back campaigns with over 3,600 yards passing from Krieg, Warner’s knee gaining full strength, and returning with the NFL’s 11th ranked defense featuring the 1984 NFL Defensive Player of the year in Kenny Easley…1986 looked like it would be the Seahawk’s year.

From the outset of 1986, Seattle was on a mission. They opened with a rousing 30-0 win over Pittsburgh. They made it to 2-0 before having to take on the defending AFC Champion Patriots on the road. Down 31-21 with less than 8 minutes to go, the Seahawks turned it on scoring 17 points including a blocked kick to stun the Patriots 38-31. Despite the fact Tony Eason passed for 414 yards and 3 TDs, Seattle showed how strong they could turn it on offense, defense, and special teams to win against a quality opponent.

At no time was this more evident than when they took on the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants  in week 7. The Seahawk defense took over and sacked Phil Simms 7 times while intercepting 3 of his passes. Jacob Green had the best game of his career as he registered 4 sacks. He did this against T Brad Benson, who 8 weeks later, became the first offensive lineman ever named NFC Offensive Player of the week for his performance against Dexter Manley. On this day in the Kingdome however, they couldn’t slide the line or help Benson as the Seahaks won a slugfest 17-12.

At 5-2 the Seahawks had proven to win every type of game against the stiffest of competition. This is the mark of a champion. The only opponent they couldn’t overcome was themselves. Following the win in New York, they lost a marquee game against Denver for the AFC West divsion lead 20-13. What was painful is they had two touchdowns in that game called back. They lost their mojo and went on a four game tailspin and fell out of contention.

The one constant that kept the season from turning sour in 1986: Curt Warner

After a team meeting, the Seahawks went on a tear as they finished with a five game winning streak. Curt Warner was the lead horse as he ran for 556 yards on 110 carries with 6 touchdowns over that time. The assault started with 122 yards in a 31-14 win in Dallas on Thanksgiving. He scored twice as he tallied 116 yards in a 37-0 Monday Night massacre against the division rival LA Raiders. Which set up the final game of the season where he saved his best performance for last.

Before we go there we have to mention the defense raising their level of play. During the 4 game losing streak, the defense had broken allowing an average of 451 yards / 29.75 points per game and only logged 5 sacks. Over the last five weeks the defense improved dramatically. They only surrendered 272 yards and only 10 points per game. The #1 and #2 defense in Chicago  and New York gave up 258 and 297 yds per game respectively. In the Monday Night 37-0 win against the Raiders, they registered a team record 11 sacks.

This five game streak included a match-up with the eventual AFC Champion and Division Champion Denver Broncos, in the regular season finale.

That rousing 41-16 win was the culmination of the team finally firing on all cylinders. NFL playoff tie-breakers kept the 10-6 Seahawks out. Yet for the first time in the Super Bowl era, one team beat both Super Bowl participants during the season. The Giants last loss was a 17-12 defeat up in the Kingdome in week 7. Then the finale blowout of the Broncos.

To this day, the Dave Krieg to Steve Largent connection remains the best in team history.

To this day, the Dave Krieg to Steve Largent connection remains the best in team history.

No one wanted to face this team as the ’86 playoffs were being set up. You had Curt Warner’s conference leading 1,481 yards and 13 touchdowns. Fellow Pro Bowler and future Hall of Famer Steve Largent’s 70 receptions for 1,070 yards and 9 TDs. The league’s  best kick returner in Bobby Joe Edmunds. Emerging star in Pro Bowl linebacker Fredd Young and a now healthy quarterback in Dave Krieg (60% completion rate/ 21TDs – 11 ints). They had to sit and watch a knock kneed New York Jet team become the first team in NFL history to make the playoffs after losing their last five games.

This is a cautionary tale as to why you have to win every game. During their 4 game losing streak they lost to those Jets 38-7. Cautionary?? This easily could have been your Super Bowl XXI champion. They finished 8th in offense and their defense was 8th in points allowed. They were jelling as the playoffs neared and in 1986 they played the league’s toughest schedule. They faced 3 of the teams that made the conference title games that year.

In that regular season loss to the Jets, they may have left their ring on the table.

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

Legends Of The Fall: Mike Quick

When you talk about the greatest receivers in NFL history, the name undoubtedly at the top of the list is Jerry Rice. Yet when you think of being able to catch passes from back to back Hall of Famers, it made it easier to accomplish what he did. With sporadic quarterbacking what would Rice’s career resemble most?? That of Mike Quick the player who most reminds our CEO of Rice.

Greatest receiver in Eagles history...Mike Quick

Greatest receiver in Eagles history…Mike Quick

Some may scoff but you have to remember in the early 1980′s, the big numbers coming from receivers were all in the AFC. The great quarterback class of ’83, the Air Coryell Charger receivers, Marino and the Marks Bros., and Steve Largent up in Seattle.

From 1983 through 1986, no one was better than Quick who caught 263 passes for 4,647 yards and 42 touchdowns. He was Jerry Rice before Jerry Rice yet was stuck between the aging Ron Jaworski and the emergence of Randall Cunningham which cost him in the end. Think about it… In 1986 Quick had the 4th of his 5 straight Pro Bowl appearances. He totaled 60 receptions for 939 yards and 9 touchdowns. Not great totals until you realize the Eagles set an NFL record allowing 104 sacks.

His 1983 total of 1,409 yards receiving was the most since Hall of Famer Don Maynard in 1967. That was the year Joe Namath became the first quarterback in history to throw for 4,000 yards. Quick played on the 27th (2nd to last) ranked offense in the NFL in contrast. He played for defensive minded head coach Marion Campbell. What would the late Bill Walsh been able to accomplish drawing plays up for Quick??

Quick making a big play against the Redskins.

Quick making a big play against the Redskins.

In the end you can understand the dilemma that affects certain careers. The cupboard was bare as he played his first 7 years without a single fellow Pro Bowler on offense. By the time Randall Cunningham made the Pro Bowl in ’88, the Eagles had drafted his heir apparent in Cris Carter.

After injuries robbed Quick of his once lethal speed, he retired after the 1990 season. His 363 catches for 6,464 yards and 61 TDs falls short of Hall of Fame consideration. Yet in his prime, he was an electrifying performer who could score from anywhere.

thanks for reading and please share the article.

The Soul Of the Game: Leonard Smith

leonard smithOne of the hardest hitting Buffalo Bills of all time was strong safety Leonard Smith. He was acquired in a trade early in the 1988 season as the missing piece to help a young team learn how to win. It wasn’t that Smith was from a winning tradition, but he was an old pro that brought an attitude and intimidating style of play.

More important he was the old pro that led the Bills defense and taught them how to win in the NFL. Upon his arrival in 1988, Bruce Smith was entering his fourth year. Linebackers Shane Conlan, Cornelius Benett, were entering their second seasons as was Nate Odomes. All four of these players went on to become Pro Bowl and All Pro performers but not until Smith’s work ethic and attitude had rubbed off on the young Bills.

The day that it was announced that Smith had been traded to the Bills, a young Chancellor of Football told his friends at practice that Buffalo will be in the playoffs. You can’t underscore the importance of a grizzled old pro that has been through the wars who still hunger for a championship. The same as it had with Fred “Hacksaw” Reynolds on the 1981 49ers or Charles Haley with the ’92 Dallas Cowboys.

Here was the thought at the time of his time in St. Louis before the move to Buffalo.

If you want to think of who Smith played most like, think of Rodney Harrsion formerly of the Chargers and Patriots. He was a Strong Safety that blitzed and stuffed the run. His strong suit wasn’t covering speedy receivers but he could put the wood to tight ends and running backs. In 1986, even though the great Bears were in their heyday, it was St Louis that led the NFL against the pass and was 4th in 1987 which was Smith’s last full season. In 1988 once he moved to Buffalo, their defense ranked fourth against the pass while the Cardinals slipped to 12th. The Bills started 11-1 and won their division by Thanksgiving which was the earliest in history.

...and he had crazy haircuts.

…and he had crazy haircuts.

Smith played 10 seasons in the NFL with his last being in 1991. A knee injury suffered between the 1991 AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl XXVI abruptly ended his career. Yet the men he influenced went on to play in two more Super Bowls as the team was more offensive minded by then. Everyone forgets that 1988 team was a run oriented with the 4th best defense in football. They didn’t break out into the “K-Gun” until the 1989 NFL playoffs.

“Leonard Smith… was a head hunter” – Former Dallas Cowboy great and Cardinals secondary coach Mel Renfro.

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

 

AFC Arms Race: Denver Broncos v New England Patriots

The NFL has become corporate in their thinking but have we had two off-seasons where the lead teams in a conference have gone after each other like this?? First, we had Seattle and San Francisco try to one up each other as they fortified their teams throughout the preseason last year. Now this year in the AFC, the Patriots and Broncos have completely raised the bar through the early free agent signing period.

Talib joined the Broncos after signing for $57 million.

Talib joined the Broncos after signing for $57 million.

The Broncos struck first when they snatched Pro Bowl corner Aquib Talib who starred last year for the Patriots. Ironically it was Bill Belichick who complained Denver intentionally tried to take him out of last year’s AFC Championship Game. Now they sign him for $57 million?? Go with that where you will but then they signed DE/LB DeMarcus Ware to fortify the pass rush.

If Ware can show half the skill from his 2008-2010 years, the Broncos could have the league's best pass rush.

If Ware can show half the skill from his 2008-2010 years, the Broncos could have the league’s best pass rush.

No question the Broncos jumped to the early lead in the AFC arms race. Couple these signings with the return and motivation of All Pro Von Miller and this isn’t the defense they sent to Super Bowl XLVIII in New York. The most important factor is Miller is a left side rusher where Ware comes in from the blindside. Neither has to learn to rush from a different stance than they’re used to. With a potent rush, Talib will be able to take away the opponents best receiver.

On the east coast the Patriots recovered from the loss of Talib with the signing of Darelle Revis. Why didn’t they just keep Talib?? Well they also struck gold with the signing of former Seahawk CB Brandon Browner. Knowing they eventually will have to stop the Broncos potent offense, these two signings go a long way in achieving that. Now that WR Eric Decker has signed with the Jets this will be easier to accomplish.

The key for Denver could be signing pro bowl safety TJ Ward.

The key for Denver could be signing pro bowl safety TJ Ward.

Up until these signings it seemed the Broncos had the leg up on their AFC counterparts. The Patriots are on the verge of signing wideout Brandon Lafell formerly of Carolina. The glaring weakness that the Patriots were forced to face in the AFC Championship Game is they need bigger receivers. If it weren’t for cap penalties the right thing to do is cut Amendola and sign another big receiver. Former Titan Kenny Britt is scheduled to visit New England today.

Now that RB Knowshon Moreno isn’t really getting the free agency attention he sought, he may come back into the fold. The one signing that has gone under the radar is Denver signing former Cleveland Brown SS TJ Ward. He can bring the thunder in the secondary and create a more aggressive culture within the defense.

The 6'4 Browner matches  well with Denver's big receivers.

The 6’4 Browner matches well with Denver’s big receivers.

We are being flashed back to the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys in the 1990s. These two know they are competing with each other while being head and shoulders above everyone else in the conference. The Bengals haven’t proved they can win the big game. Indy is coming on but might be a year away. Pittsburgh and Baltimore have fallen a few steps beneath these two and every move is to one up the other.

Now we look toward the draft to see where these two will go. Each lost a young linebacker as former Patriot Brandon Spikes signed with Buffalo. Wesley Woodyard signed with Tennessee. Time to watch who the Patriots get for Tom Brady the rest of this offseason. They need some size at receiver. As for Denver, they filled all of their defensive weaknesses. Barring injury this should be a better Bronco team than last year’s Super Bowl unit. However with one or two more moves there will be a Patriot team waiting for them in the AFC Championship Game.

Thanks for reading and share the article.

Corey Dillon Belongs In The Hall of Fame

There are many NFL fans who miss true talents around the league and just focus on their team. That narrow focus can keep one from seeing a Hall of Fame talent at work. That doesn’t mean an overlooked player should miss the call to the hall if he doesn’t garner great media attention. It’s about what they accomplished on the field and how well their peers respected their exploits.

Dillon was a violent runner.

Dillon was a violent runner.

Did you know that at one point Corey Dillon owned the greatest single game rushing performance and the #6 performance in NFL history?? Not Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, Eric Dickerson, LaDanian Tomlinson, nor Adrian Peterson or any great back you’ve ever watched accomplished that . Well, you have to be in your mid fifties at least to say you saw someone perform to that high a level. That was when OJ Simpson held sway in the NFL. You’d have to be in your fifties!!

Not only that, his 6th place (at the time) performance stood as the NFL’s rookie rushing record at 247 yards in a 1997 game against the Tennessee Oilers. That record Dillon broke had been Jim Brown’s. Each of these have since been broken but it was the manner in which they were set that sets them apart.

Unlike the shifty make ‘em miss running style of most halfbacks, Dillon struck like the hammer of Thor. He was a passionate violent runner that thrived on contact. Once he positioned a defender to one side, he’d forearm, stiff-arm, or shoulder right through them. He made a joke of arm tackles and if you wanted to tackle him, your heart had better be in it.

Dillon's passion led to frustration as the Bengals piled up losses.

Dillon’s passion led to frustration as the Bengals piled up losses.

For years media pundits painted him with the broad brush of that of a malcontent. Yet let me ask: If you were one of the best talents in the league, how frustrated would you be with a team that couldn’t get you any help?? In 1999 Inside The NFL broadcast their show from Cincinnati asking “Why can’t the Bengals tun it around?? Were they the JV of the NFL??” They interviewed player after player and the only one whose eyes burned fire with frustration were Dillon’s.

For an instant you could peer into his soul and you understood him completely. For all the hard work to make it to the NFL, then play for a franchise that couldn’t field a better team. He was toiling in anonymity loss after loss. All those childhood dreams of playing in a Super Bowl were dying an agonizing death.

It looked like 2000 would be no different as the Bengals started out 0-6. They had only scored 34 points while being shut out 3 times when the Denver Broncos, just two years removed from back to back championships, came to town. The heavens opened up and the football god’s touched Dillon, allowing his fury to be unleashed in the greatest rushing display in NFL history.

Inside The NFL Perspective:

Did The Chancellor of Football say the greatest rushing display in the history of pro football?? Absolutely!! Listen, on a day when the Bengals completed just 4 passes, Dillon got off on a defense focused squarely on him. As for the record of 278 yards being broken twice by Jamal Lewis and Adrian Peterson, we will put them side by side in a minute. You have to remember the football world was still reeling from Walter Payton’s death. We were just 1 week short of the 1 year anniversary of his passing. As for the record comparison:

  • 2000 Corey Dillon 22 car. 278 yds 2TDs
  • 1977 Walter Payton 40 car. 275 yds 1 TD
  • 2003 Jamal Lewis 30 car. 295 yds 3TDs
  • 2007 Adrian Peterson 30 car. 296 yds 3TDs

However a closer look and Corey lost 6 yds on 6 of his carries. So in essence he ran for 284 yards in 16 carries or 17.75 yards per rush!!! Yikes!!! Best in history by a wide margin… It was Corey who wiped Jim Brown and Walter Payton from the record book, proving to a generation those records weren’t unbreakable. Payton’s record had stood for 23 years.

Dillon finished the 2000 season with a team record 1,435 yards rushing. Don’t forget he had two games against the  record setting Super Bowl champion Raven’s defense that ranked #2, and two more vs. Tennessee’s ranked at #1. What would he have done had he played in a less stout division defense-wise??

What would he have done behind a line like the Dallas wall with Larry Allen??

In 7 years he only played once with a Pro Bowl lineman.  That was T Willie Anderson in 2003. By then he was splitting time with Rudi Johnson. In that same year Chad Johnson (Ocho Cinco) made the Pro Bowl. Other than that he played with NO Pro Bowl players for all that time. In those circumstances he ran for 1,000 yards in 6 of 7 seasons. In stark contrast Emmitt Smith’s line had 16 Pro Bowl Linemen and TEs between 1991-1995 alone. But alas he was traded to the New England Patriots for a second round pick when he failed to rush for 1,000 in 2003.

What did the Patriots get??

Try the driving force for their back to back championship season of 2004. He wasn’t just a member of that team. Dillon ran for a Patriots team record 1,635 yards and 13TDs & was the closer for the best of the three champions in their dynasty. He had 9 100 yard performances that year and the playoff clinching win came against Cincinnati. Where he received the game ball from Bill Belichick.

The Patriots went on to win Super Bowl XXXIX 24-21 which validated the career of Corey Dillon. For his career he rushed for 11,241 yards and 82 TDs. Dillon is one of a select few to set the franchise record in rushing for multiple teams. As the argument heats up about the candidacy of other power runners like Eddie George and Jerome Bettis, neither showed the exhibition of power and speed Dillon displayed. Not to record breaking levels. He had 7 1,000 yard seasons and was a world champion. What could have become of Dillon’s career had he more talent around him??

One of history's best power runners.

One of history’s best power runners.

For induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I present to you Corey Dillon.

AFC Divisional Playoff: Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots

After one of the greatest come from behind victories in NFL history, the Colts have earned a first class trip to New England. Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to stop the Patriots from making a 3rd straight trip to the AFC Championship Game. The Colts are riding an emotional high but do they have the horses to win a high stakes playoff game against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady??

Andrew Luck came of age in last week's comeback. The Colts will always believe they can win from this point forward, no matter the deficit.

Andrew Luck came of age in last week’s comeback. The Colts will always believe they can win from this point forward, no matter the deficit.

One of the items that gets lost in the aftermath of last week is Indy gave up a near playoff record 513 yards and 44 points. They gave up 378 yards passing and 4 touchdowns to Alex Smith at home, and now they plan to improve on that against Brady on the road?? Never forget weaknesses are magnified in the playoffs. Hard to improve on the 20th ranked defense when they’re not playing well.

Don’t forget the last time Tom Brady saw the Indianapolis Colts, he draped 59 points on them. Of course fans will say Luck is playing better now. However he doesn’t play linebacker or cover receivers. Last week, Pro Bowl DE Robert Mathis had a timely sack and forced fumble, but that was it.

Legarrette Blount has played like Dorsey Levens  of late.

Legarrette Blount has played like Dorsey Levens of late.

Now some may point out the Patriots aren’t the same team they were a year ago and they’re right. Brady has had a modest season by his standards. Yet the Pats have shifted strategies. In their last two games against the Ravens and Buffalo Bills, they rushed for 142 and 267 yards respectively. Those were the 10th and 12th best defenses also, Indy’s is 20th. One was getting revenge on the defending champions that ended their season last year, and the other was against a division rival playing in the equivalent of their Super Bowl.

Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich will pressure Andrew Luck today.

Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich will pressure Andrew Luck today.

The Colts will need to run the football and control the tempo of the game. If not Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich will come after Luck. Their not as flashy as a Robert Mathis but they did combine for 19.5 sacks 3 forced fumbles and 4 fumble recoveries. Add to that the genius of Belichick when it comes to taking away an opponents best receiver. He will keep TY Hilton from getting open which will make Luck hold the football even longer which will allow the rush more time to get there.

Everyone has their eye on Andrew Luck but The Chancellor of Football’s is on the defensive alignment and assignments that Belichick will throw at him. I have gone on record calling him the greatest coach of the last 50 years in the NFL. He configured a 2 man line defense that slowed the 90 Bills in Super Bowl XXV. The week before he stopped Joe Montana and the Niners from 3-peating with normal 3-4 and safeties over the top. He stopped The Greatest Show on Turf when he repeated his Super Bowl XXV performance upsetting the Rams in XXXVI. He spent the last decade keeping Peyton, Edgerrin James, and Marvin Harrison from reaching the Super Bowl while he won 3. Each of those teams had 3 Pro Football Hall of Fame talents on those rosters.. Do you really think he can’t stop a second year quarterback and a modest talent in Hilton??

Look for LaGarrette Blount to get the football on a rainy day. The Colts weren’t tackling well last week and will struggle stopping the run. In a physical game the Patriots will win 31-13. What happened to this team when they played earlier against the Seahawks and 49ers?? They rose to the occassion then and Head Coach Chuck Pagano needs them to wake up and get back to that tonight.

Who do you have in this game??

 

 

 

 

AFC Wild Card: Kansas City Chiefs @ Indianapolis Colts

Playoff time in the National Football League begins now and you can smell it. Listening to all the pundits talk about the team no one wants to play, they keep talking about the wrong team. The team no one wants to play isn’t the San Diego Chargers, it’s the Indianapolis Colts. They are the giant killers that toppled Denver from the ranks of the unbeaten, beat the Seahawks, bludgeoned the 49ers, and three weeks ago upended the Chiefs to keep them from winning the AFC West.

Lucas Oil Stadium with championship banners hanging.

Lucas Oil Stadium with championship banners hanging.

Keep in mind they are coming into this playoff match-up with a higher defensive ranking than the Chiefs. They have to contend with Jamaal Charles who represents 35% of the Chiefs offense. Today Andy Reid has to get Alex Smith to go downfield with DeWayne Bowe while the Colts are keying on Charles.

He led the Chiefs in rushing (1,227 yards) receptions (70) and the league in touchdowns with 19. Right now Reid’s offense is too one dimensional. Dexter McCluster could be a wild card here but we have to see some new wrinkles.

Today the Colts will win 30-21 as they are plus 5 in takeaways at home. Take out the aberration when they turned it over 5 times in a 38-8 loss to the Rams, that number jumps to plus 10.  In the last seven games, Kansas City has forced only 6 turnovers in 6 games and 7 versus the Raiders. The problem is they’ll be missing Tamba Hali although LB Justin Houston is back. The playoffs start with a win in Lucas Oil by the Colts.

Thanks for reading and share the article.

Vincent T. Lombardi – Growing Up Lombardi & The 1965 NFL Championship Season

Vince Lombardi carried off the field by Jerry Kramer at the end of Super Bowl II

Vince Lombardi carried off the field by Jerry Kramer at the end of Super Bowl II

When the NFL talks about winning coaches, one name towers above all others…Vince Lombardi. He was a leader of men and motivated the Green Bay Packers to great heights in the 1960′s. His team won half the NFL championships of the 1960′s while appearing in 6 total. No team has won more than four in a decade in the modern era. Yet when folks talk about a three-peat, everyone keeps forgetting Lombardi and his Packers achieved this feat.

Think about that for a second… Chuck Noll would have had to take the 1970′s Pittsburgh Steelers to two more Super Bowls to equal that feat. Yet there is debate on who was the greater team. You have to give the edge to Green Bay because they did win three in a row. When they say no one has achieved this in the Super Bowl era, that isn’t entirely true.

The two that concluded this 3 year period were victories in Super Bowl I & II. Yet there is one season that seems to go overlooked of the Lombardi Packers…the 1965 NFL Championship team.

The 1961 Packers were known for Lombardi’s first championship. It’s the 1962 team that was remembered as Lombardi’s greatest and strongest team. Only a Thanksgiving Day ambush 26-14 loss to the Lions kept them from going undefeated. They were 13-1 while outscoring the opposition 415-148 while repeating as champions. Of course his ’66 squad won the first Super Bowl and the ’67 team was known for winning The Ice Bowl then Lombardi’s last game, Super Bowl II.

However when you go back to 1965, the Green Bay Packers were trying to re-establish themselves among the NFL elite. They had a chance to win 3 in a row after ’61 & ’62, however Paul Hornung’s season long suspension for gambling short circuited that effort. After watching the Bears and Colts win their conference in 1963 and 1964, the Packers were back to contend.  However there was a new bully on the block. The Cleveland Browns powered by Jim Brown had won it all in 1964, and was looking to repeat in 1965 to take their place among greatest league champions.

In their 23-12 victory over Cleveland, the Packers not only ended Jim Brown’s playing career on a down note, they would be the last to hold the rotating NFL trophy that moved from champion to champion. The following year was the first to be played under the merger agreement and the Tiffany Company started to produce a Super Bowl Trophy every year. Lombardi had driven his team back to prominence where they would sit atop the football world for three years. They had unseated a reigning champion to do it. That can’t be underscored.

After winning 99 games in 9 years, 6 conference championships, and five world championships, how does one follow that type of success?? Most of the Packers players had mainly played for Vince Lombardi and were used to his demanding, driving spirit. Bart Starr, Jerry Kramer, Fuzzy Thurston, Ray Nitschke, Willie Davis, Forrest Gregg, and Herb Adderley had all grown up Lombardi. Now as we look back should they have replaced the Green Bay legend with a coach that was similar in temperament??

Vince Lombardi will always be seen as the gold standard when it comes to NFL coaches. One unique aspects of his tenure and times are the broken stereotypes that were forged through his time. It was thought of at the time he wouldn’t become a head coach or be successful because of his Italian and Catholic roots. It was one of the reasons he didn’t succeed New York Giant Head Coach Jim Lee Howell, whom he served as Offensive Co-Ordinator during the championship years 1956-1958. Only once he was hired and successful in Green Bay did they try to lure him back. Ironically he beat the Giants for his first two championships. Prejudice is bad for business.

Furthermore the NFL during that time was one where black players were unable to play the “thinking” positions on defense such as linebacker or safety. There had to be a sensitivity to that plight because of the stigmas Lombardi himself faced. Although Willie Wood was unable to play quarterback in the pros, he went on to be an 8 time Pro bowl participant and became a Hall of Fame player. The same for Linebacker Dave Robinson, who was just elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame this past February.

One of the way his legend has become so large is he passed away in 1970, just 3 seasons removed from coaching his great Packer teams. This leads to several question. He coached the Washington Redskins to a 7-5-2 record in his only season of 1969. Ironically his first season in Green Bay was 7-5 in 1959.

  • Would he have completed the rebuild of the Washington Redskins?? Remember they did play in Super Bowl VII just 3 years later.
  • Would his legend have been damaged had he only a  moderately successful career had he lived longer and coached the Redskins into the mid 1970′s??
  • If he had gone back to New York and coached the Giants in 1960 would he have been as successful as he went on to become in Green Bay??
Green Bay Packers 1965 NFL Championship Ring

Green Bay Packers 1965 NFL Championship Ring

After his passing in September of 1970, the NFL decided to name the Super Bowl Trophy in his honor.  In such a condensed time of 9 years, his teams won 5 championships. Don Shula, the NFL’s all time winningest coach won 2 in 33 years. Tom Landry won 2 in 29 years. All time greatest coach in NFL history?? You better believe it. Of all his great teams, it’s the 1965 team that seems to be forgotten about. After all they were the first in the only successful three-peat in NFL history won on the field, and is the chief reason he’s immortalized.

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Super Bowl XLVII Preview: Ray Lewis and His NFL Legacy

Ray at a Baltimore practice session.

Ray at a Baltimore practice session.

The mere mention of his name conjures up images of frighteningly intense play from his great 2000 season. We have seen and heard his pregame speeches and he has spawned an entire generation of Middle Linebackers to imitate his play. One such player will line up for the San Francisco 49ers in Patrick Willis. Do you think it’s a coincidence that he wears number 52?? With this being his last NFL game how do we see him going out??

While it’s true that Lewis has lost a step, he’s been very effective as of late. In the AFC Championship he was in on 14 tackles. Against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the divisional round, he had 17 tackles and 1 fumble recovery. What you don’t see are the flash plays that he was able to achieve in the early 2000′s. However you do see a veteran linebacker take the minimum amount of steps necessary to make plays from his position.

The 2012 Ray Lewis in Lando Calrissian facemask. Are we sure he won't intimidate Colin Kaepernick on gameday??

The 2012 Ray Lewis in Lando Calrissian facemask. Are we sure he won’t intimidate Colin Kaepernick on gameday??

This is a veteran linebacker that needs to key with the zone option read Colin Kaepernick will run at them on Sunday. In the Ravens defense, when they see this play, Lewis needs to stay on Frank Gore and the outside guys in Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger, and Bernard Pollard have to be there to hit Kaepernick early to get his attention. Lewis out in space would definitely be a liability at this time. He, Haloti Ngata, and Terrence Cody have to take care of Frank Gore at the point of this play.

If the Ravens can prove to use the front 3 to eat up the blockers and limit Gore’s effectiveness on the read option, Lewis will be able to scrape from inside out if Ellerbe and Kruger can keep containment. This will have to be later in the game once the read option has been neutralized up front. This game may be won or lost on this premise. Lewis needs to flow from his Inside Linebacker position to the cut back point of this play with containment. If the 49ers can stretch the outside, Lewis will not be able to make it to that point to stop Kaepernick.

Ironically, he was the last player introduced in Super Bowl XXXV when players were introduced individually.

Ironically, he was the last player introduced in Super Bowl XXXV when players were introduced individually.

Don’t underestimate the value of leadership and what it means to motivate men. It’s a lot like going to war with Genghis Khan to those fellow players in the huddle with him. Warriors bring out the best in fellow warriors. The Ravens had lost 4 of 5 at the end of the season without him. During that time they had allowed 27.7 points per game in those 4 losses and only 4 turnovers. Take out the 2 special teams touchdowns against Denver, Baltimore is only giving up 16 points per game and forced 8 turnovers upon his return.

His place in history is secure. Simply put, he is the greatest Middle Linebacker of the last 50 years. Dick Butkus ruled the first 50 and the eras are different and here, we pay homage to each era. More players have used his example how they need to be when it comes to being a leader on his or her team. You have some that lead by words before or during a contest, or you have those who lead by deed. When you have both you catch lightning in a jug. When you have a player that players from other teams look to for leadership and counsel off the field, what does that tell you??

He has a chance to walk off into the sunset with another Super Bowl triumph. The first team achieved greatness because of his will. We’re hard pressed to think this second incarnation of the Ravens won’t do the same thing.

Epilogue: You know..everyone is entitled to their opinion of Ray Lewis. Rather than go on your page and say something, I’ll say it here. I hear others saying he is no role model from his obstruction of justice charge following his trial. What is disturbing is anyone who still vents how he is a murderer and such never seem to keep it to themselves…including a Mrs. Wes Welker. Now, I’m sure those of the opinion went over every nook and cranny of that trial’s evidence to find him guilty…right??

Brian Billick on the sidelines of Super Bowl XXXV.

Brian Billick on the sidelines of Super Bowl XXXV.

Maybe not, but there are many that preach forgiveness and all these virtues yet have none for the man. Let’s ask the question… Why?? I’m sure you donated money to funds set up for the the two deceased men who were killed in that fight. Correct?? By the way do you know their names?? Have your opinions, but I find it ironic we’re headed to Super Bowl XLVII some 12 years later and I can hear Brian Billick’s voice the second they arrived in Tampa for XXXV.

He stepped to the podium and sternly said ‘We’re not going to re-try Ray Lewis and go over that trial. Number one it’s inappropriate and two you’re not qualified.’ No matter his repentance those still feel compelled to say or express venomous comments at the mention of his name as though you’re pure of sin or misdoing. Seriously?? So no matter what he’s done, you have decided to be judge, jury, and executioner on his character forever. Nevermind charitable works, turning his life over to Christ and the lives he has touched. What would you say about him if his behavior was that of an athlete with run-ins after the fact?? Out in the nightlife with questionable behavior?? We’d be listening to how unrepentant his behavior is or had been.

What really is upsetting is how so much of this smack of racism. For African Americans it’s an unspoken but understood issue that once you fall from grace you won’t be forgiven. In Lewis’ case in many instances on the web, OJ is always brought up and it seems to be the same people with the race bating. How many of these have written the Atlanta District Attorney or the Atlanta police department looking for follow-up information?? Yet do we hear murder yelled out every time we saw or speak of actor Robert Wagner, whose wife Natalie Wood, drowned mysteriously with just a few people on the boat?? Aside from one outburst a few years before he died how often was “Chappaquiddick” yelled at Ted Kennedy after the drowning incident that involved Mary Jo Kopechne in 1969?? I don’t remember that slur following Kennedy around every where he went.

In those latter two incidents the person was there but the venom was never delivered anywhere near the frequency of bombs hurled at Lewis. This upsets me to know end because we don’t hear of the Robert Blake incident with this frequency either now do we?? Everyone needs to come off of their high horse and those that hide behind the “concerned citizen” cloak have nothing to fear. Unless you’re going to meet up with and have a fight with a younger Lewis outside of a bar with each of you banked by sets of friends you have nothing to worry about. He’s turned his life over to Christ and has led an exemplary life after that in the name of redemption. At what point do you forgive?? Just a thought…

Thanks for reading and please share the article. New logo of the Taylor Blitz Times

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Lester Hayes Belongs In The Hall of Fame

Does he have on enough stickum??

As the NFL changed the rules in 1978 to liberate the passing game, many thought the big physical cornerback would give way to smaller quicker men. Those who could turn and run with receivers after the 5 yard “chuck” zone (The Mel Blount Rule) would be highly sought after. Yet one team held steadfast to the belief of not allowing that receiver a free ride off the line of scrimmage.

The Oakland Raiders who in 1977, just one year removed from winning Super Bowl XI, selected Lester Hayes out of Texas A&M. Where the league saw smaller cornerbacks at 175-180 lbs enter the league at that time. Hayes was a converted college safety who stood 6’0 and weighed 200 lbs.

His inclusion into the Raiders organization was at the right time as Hall of Fame cornerback Willie Brown retired and took over as secondary coach. Under his tutelage Hayes became a master of bump and run coverage and with his size, manhandled receivers at the line of scrimmage. Sure a receiver could run free after 5 yards but he had to get there first.

Another retiring Hall of Fame Raider was WR Fred Biletnikoff who went against Hayes in practice. Fred ran crisp routes and was a slower version of Steve Largent or a Charlie Joiner. Going up against he and Cliff Branch, who was the one of the league’s perennial deep threats, honed his skills to that of one of the greatest cornerbacks the game had ever seen. He also borrowed Biletnikoff’s use of stickum and took it to obscene levels. Take a look at the pic on the right if you think we’re joking.

Stickum talk aside, his true coming out party was the 1979 season where he led the team with 7 interceptions, returning 2 for touchdowns in the only losing season for the Raider organization during the 1970′s. John Madden had retired and Tom Flores had taken over as Head Coach and the Raiders were a team in transition. Most teams make a transition in personnel with a defensive leader being a linebacker or a star defensive lineman being a marquee player yet here was a cornerback just starting to make a name for himself at the helm. However he couldn’t unseat Louis Wright of Denver, Mel Blount of Pittsburgh, or Mike Haynes of New England on the 1979 AFC Pro Bowl roster. Naturally you’ll conclude they had better seasons yet Blount and Haynes made it on reputation with only 3 interceptions each and Wright only had 2. A gross injustice just because Hayes team had slipped that year.

Enter the greatest single season for a cornerback in NFL history and the greatest coaching job in NFL history…the 1980 Oakland Raiders. In the second season for Tom Flores, the Raiders became the first team to win the Super Bowl from a wildcard position. The team had replaced nine defensive starters from a Super Bowl team just four years before.

Lester Hayes intimidating style at cornerback belied his agility to cover the fastest and best route runners in the NFL.For the season, he picked off 13 passes, just one short of the NFL record by “Night Train” Lane in 1951.  Not only was that the highest total in 39 years, no cornerback has come within 2 of that performance since then (Everson Walls in 1981). He returned those passes for 273 yards and one touchdown and went on to be the Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

He was the first player to receive the award while playing for a team that didn’t finish as a top 10 defense with the Raiders finishing 11th. He did this while facing Hall of Fame WRs Steve Largent in Seattle, Charlie Joiner and Kellen Winslow in San Diego, and the electrifying John Jefferson also of the Chargers with whom he had epic battles with.

During the 1980 season teams kept testing him and coming up snake eyes. If you added his 4 interceptions during the playoffs he finished with 17 interceptions in one season. If you look at that against the year Hall of Famer Deion Sanders won his NFL MVP (1994 with San Francisco) from the same position, 6 interceptions for 303 yards and 3 TDs with 2 more ints. in the postseason, it dwarfs it tremendously. Sanders needed another NINE interceptions just to tie him!!! http://espn.go.com/nfl/player/stats/_/id/49/deion-sanders  You would have to add Deion’s next FOUR seasons with Dallas to total 17!! Tremendous

Oakland went on to win Super Bowl XV and the 80 playoffs began with a wildcard battle against Houston and former quarterback Ken Stabler. The Raiders prevailed 27-7 with the final points scored on Hayes intercepting Stabler and returning it 20 yards hand held high to send the Raiders to Cleveland and the divisional round. He intercepted Stabler twice then intercepted 1980 NFL MVP Brian Sipe twice in the 14-12 upset of the Browns. In the AFC Championship against the Chargers and the Super Bowl with the Eagles, Dan Fouts and Ron Jaworski just didn’t throw into his area. How do we know this?? In Super Bowl XV Hayes was the left cornerback. Jaworski threw exclusively to his right and Right OLB Rod Martin picked off a Super Bowl record 3 interceptions in a 27-10 win.

The NFL outlawed stickum after that 1980 season in anther decision that Raider loyalist felt was the offspring from the court battle between Raiders’ owner Al Davis and commissioner Pete Rozelle. Some thought that Hayes inability to use stickum had a lot to do with his interception total dropping, when in fact quarterbacks just flat didn’t throw into his area. He never intercepted more than 3 passes in a season from that point forward.

Lester Hayes showing off both rings from Super Bowl XV and XVIII

After being overshadowed by Mike Haynes for that 1979 Pro Bowl slot, he was joined by his former counterpart in 1983 to form one of the greatest CB tandem in NFL history. In that year the Washington Redskins became the highest scoring team in NFL history scoring 541 points on their way to Super Bowl XVIII. Washington’s quarterback Joe Theismann was the NFL’s MVP and the Redskins were being hailed as the greatest team in NFL history…yet they had to defend their title against Los Angeles.

The Raiders started their charge in the 83 playoffs with a 37-10 devastation of the Pittsburgh Steelers which ironically began with Hayes getting the team started with an 18 yard TD interception return. After a 30-14 win against the Seahawks in the AFC Championship experts had the Redskins winning a high scoring game.

What took place in Super Bowl XVIII was a dismantling of epic proportions. Charlie Brown, who had caught 78 for 1,225 and 8 TDs during the regular season, was smothered along with Art Monk and held to a combined 4 receptions by Hayes and Haynes. The coverage was so superb the Raiders blitzed their linebackers and recorded 6 sacks as Joe Theismann had his worst game of the year. His stat-line?? Theismann was held to 16 of 35 for 243 yards and 2 ints. Only one pass was completed in Lester Hayes area the entire day. He won his second championship ring as the Raiders won in dominating fashion 38-9.

Hayes at this point was the best cornerback in all of football. He played in 5 straight Pro Bowls from 1980-1985 and was the player most future NFL’ers modeled their game after. Most notably Hanford Dixon of the Cleveland Browns. Everything from the three foot long towel hanging from his waist to his aggressive play against a receiver at the line. Dixon and Frank Minnifield are the tandem that Lester Hayes and Mike Haynes are most often compared to. As a combo… Dixon and Minnifield were the best tandem in NFL history, yet the man who gave his defense the name “Dawg Defense” and was it’s best player, modeled himself to be like Lester what would you call him?? In The Chancellor’s book, he’s a Hall of Famer

For induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I present to you Lester Hayes

The Soul Of The Game: The Purple People Eaters

The Minnesota Vikings front four was one of the greatest defenses in NFL history. They were the NFL’s first super front four and it’s members were Hall of Famers Carl Eller and Alan Page. Gary Larsen was the other DT, then later Doug Sutherland, and DE and team captain Jim Marshall who should be. Although the 1968 Baltimore Colts were heralded as the greatest defense in NFL history for giving up a record 144 points on the way to Super Bowl III, it was this group that broke that record with 133 allowed  in 1969. They also powered the Vikings to 12 straight wins (longest win streak in 35 years) and carried the team on it’s back to Super Bowl IV.

All four made the Pro Bowl in 1969.

All four made the Pro Bowl in 1969.

This defense made history as well. DT Alan Page was the first defensive player in NFL history to win the MVP of the league in 1971. No player would win that honor again until New York Giants LB Lawrence Taylor, who won the honor in 1986. What is interesting was the year Page won the award the Vikings didn’t make it to the Super Bowl. They lost to the Dallas Cowboys, who went on to win Super Bowl VI.

Yet this team was remembered for having reached the Super Bowl 4 times. Although they came up short in the big game as a team, what this defensive unit was able to do from 1968-1977 was spectacular. The team won 9 division championships on the way to 4 conference championships. It’s possible that they would have won a fifth conference championships and played in 4 straight Super Bowls had Dallas not completed the Hail Mary in the 1975 divisional playoff game. They preceded the Dallas Cowboys Doomsday Defense, the Steelers Steel Curtain, or the Denver Broncos Orange Crush.  These were the super defenses of the 1970s immortalized by nicknames to accompany their fierce play. At the head of that pack for a decade of dominance wrests the Purple People Eaters.

Thanks for the years of great play gentlemen.vikings today

Fritz Shurmur’s Eagle Defense: The Birthplace of the Zone Blitz

NFL Guru: Defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmur

The NFL has had several geniuses when it comes to coaches. Yet when it comes to coordinators many have not received their due nor have any made the Pro Football Hall of Fame based on their contributions. One such coach that did receive Hall of Fame consideration was Dick LeBeau (enshrined in 2011 as a player), who as a long time defensive coordinator has been credited (with Dom Capers) for creating the zone blitz in the modern NFL. Yes Pittsburgh became Blitzburgh but the true zone blitz, as a scheme, came from the mind of Fritz Shurmur.

In 1989, Shurmur was the defensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams. When the team suffered multiple injuries along the front line, yet had all their linebackers healthy, necessity became the mother of invention. His team employed a 3-4 defense that featured Kevin Greene, who had back to back 16.5 sacks in 1988 and 1989 (thanks Kevin), coming off the corner. Yet going into the wildcard matchup as an underdog, Shurmur decided  to go with emphasizing his linebackers over his linemen and came up with a 2 down lineman 5 linebacker set up to confuse Randall Cunningham.

You have to understand that this was Randall Cunningham at the height of his career, in fact the next year 1990,  he was the NFL’s MVP. However in 1989 he was on his way to stardom when he electrified a national audience on a Monday night by shaking off a hit by New York Giant Carl Banks, and throwing a touchdown to TE Jimmie Giles. He was a threat that ran for nearly 1,000 yards in the following year. He was John Elway 2.0 and the league was having serious problems in defending against such an athletic talent at QB. In 1989 he led the Eagles in rushing with 621 yards while throwing for 3,400 yards 23 TDs and only 16 interceptions. The Eagles had won 5 of their final 6 games in 1989 and wanted to make amends in the playoffs for their 1988 playoff Fog Bowl loss in Chicago. Although they lost a toe to toe battle with the defending champion San Francisco 49ers in the regular season, the Eagles believed they could play with anyone and wanted a rematch with Joe Montana and company. But first they had to get through a wild card battle with the Los Angeles Rams, whom they taunted in the papers heading into the game. How would Shurmur defend Randall??

Shurmur opted for speed and confusion. One of the first items for a quarterback to determine is who the Mike (Middle) linebacker is. This is to set not only the blocking schemes but where the focal point to how the offense could attack the defense. Well the Rams shifted into their “Eagle” defense where OLBs Kevin Greene #91, Mel Owens #58, and Mike Wilcher #54 manned the outside with ILBs Larry Kelm #52, and Fred Strickland #53 were supplemented by either Brent Faryniarz #51 or George Bethune #57.  You have to understand the Rams weren’t doing this as a nickel defense, they were doing this on first and second downs also. Strickland would take the role of ‘nose-backer’ sometimes lining up as a nose tackle 1 yard off the ball and then would stand up to join the other four linebackers in a stand up position. They played a cat and mouse game as to who was the Mike on most plays.

Along with the outside linebackers taking a page out of Buddy Ryan’s 46 defense and stacking two OLBs over the tight end.  The Rams jumped on the Eagles  14-0 in the first quarter forcing Philadelphia to pass. There were plays where Los Angeles would have as many as 4 linebackers lined up on one side of the formation yet only rushed  one with a blitzing DB.  Along with confusing Cunningham from an alignment standpoint, Shurmur drew up defenses that had DE Mike Piel #95 either dropping or spying. With an array of blitzes off the corner and so much speed on the field  to chase Cunningham, once he scrambled, had one of his worst days. The Eagles had little continuity and one of the reason the offense couldn’t adjust was the untimely death of Eagle quarterback coach Doug Scovil just a week prior to the game. Without his working confidante, Randall and Buddy Ryan’s offense couldn’t adjust as Kevin Greene recorded 2 sacks and hurried him into a 24 of 40 for 238 yards, 1 interception performance and no splash plays whatsoever.

Once the game was over and the Rams danced out of Philadelphia’s Veteran’s Stadium 21-7 winners, the league took notice of Shurmur’s masterpiece. Every other coordinator running a 3-4 during that time employed some of the same tactics Fritz pioneered. At the time it was thought by pundits that they couldn’t employ that gimmicky type of defense against a down hill running team. In fact their next opponents would be exactly that style of offense and many waited for the Rams to sign a DL during the week, and when they didn’t, knew they’d see the defense again. An underdog for a second consecutive playoff game they traveled to the Meadowlands where Ottis “OJ” Anderson and the New York Giants would run into the belly of the Rams “Eagle” defense. No way could they win a second cold weather road game…right??

In this first vignette, you see the Eagle defense against the Giants on a sweep play. Notice how Shurmur has “nose backer” Strickland #53 off the ball? A concept borrowed from Tom Landry’s defensive tackle position in his Flex Defense, allowing Strickland to use his speed and agility against New York center Bart Oates.

On this play you recognize the cat and mouse game Shurmur’s defense is playing with Phil Simms. Not only does ‘nose backer’ Fred Strickland #53 line up over center in a 3 point stance, he then stands up to give the Rams 4 standing linebackers from the center to the weak side of the formation. Who’s coming?? Who’s dropping?? Simms is so rattled at this point he overthrows Lionel Emanuel and the boo birds were out in the Meadowlands.

On this play you’ll notice that SS Michael Stewart is up on the line to the strong side yet Shurmur still employed twin outside linebackers to the top of the screen in Mel Owens #58 and Mike Wilcher #54.  With the two linebackers up near the line of scrimmage they have to be accounted for by the Giants front line. You’ll notice they engage the OL which kept them from sliding their blocking attention to Kevin Greene who runs over FB Maurice Carthon #44. Since they were in a 2TE max protection, the only outlet for Simms to throw to as he scrambles to his left is Ottis Anderson #24, yet the aforementioned Owens (who backed off after engaging Giant T Jumbo Elliot) and ILB Larry Kelm were sitting right there. With nowhere to throw the ball, time was up and Greene was right there for the sack. You can clearly see the confusion in the Giants offense. Look at Zeke Mowatt #84 who completely does a 360 and didn’t help Carthon on Greene. Why?? SS Stewart was there to occupy him. Genius

The Rams had been losing 6-0 when the Giants, late in the second quarter, uncharacteristically threw into the teeth of the Eagle defense and an interception set the Rams up to take a 7-6 lead at the half. The biggest play in the game and the turning point that allowed the Rams to upset the Giants 19-13. On this final play DE Mike Piel #95 drops off in the weak flat along with LB Strickland, lined up in 3 point stance in front of Giants guard William Roberts, who also drops.  George Bethune #57, takes over as the ‘nose backer with Brent Faryniarz #51 rushing from the weak-side along with Greene #91 on the strong side. Since Strickland’s first step is forward, Roberts #66 has to honor his charge and not help out LT Jumbo Elliot.  He has no one to block!! Greene and Faryniarz’s rush is so strong Simms has to get rid of the ball and Jerry Gray, zoning away from RB Dave Meggett,  tips the pass that Michael Stewart intercepts. You also notice that Meggett’s “scat” route was to his right and away from the DE that dropped in the weak flat.  Shurmur fielded ONE DL and didn’t rush him!! In a nickel defense?? Think about that for a second…

This was a masterpiece performance by a true NFL genius in Fritz Shurmur. The ’89 Rams fell to the eventual Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship and this defense never got the attention the 46 defense, the Steel Curtain, or the Ravens defense did because they didn’t win it all. Had they beat the 49ers and then the Broncos to win Super Bowl XXIV, this defense would have gone down in history. Yet what is interesting is this defense had it’s prime note taker in Giant defensive coordinator and current Patriot coach Bill Belichick. How do we know this?? He used the 2 man front 1 year later in Super Bowl XXV to stop the Buffalo Bills to win that trophy. Just last year he used the defense with 5 standing players to force NY Jet QB Mark Sanchez into several interceptions. He used it against Tim Tebow also in both the regular season win and again in the playoffs. What Shurmur started in the 1989 playoffs live on to this day in a few 3-4 defenses. One centerpiece to this defense was Kevin Greene who moved on to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1993 to help form Blitzburgh.  Surely Greene took his playbook with him to Pittsburgh and may have shared some of these principles with Steeler coaches.


EPILOGUE: As for Shurmur, he moved on to become a champion defensive coordinator with the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXI with Mike Holmgren. You want to hear about the ties that bind?? From the late 80s into the early 90′s, Mike Holmgren was the offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers while Fritz Shurmur was his nemesis counterpart within the division for the Rams. Trust us…going into that 1989 NFC Championship it wasn’t a forgone conclusion that the Niners would win. In fact, in ’89 the Rams won game 2, 13-12 in Candlestick and even though the Rams lost the NFC Championship to SF, they returned to San Francisco the following year. In that game the ‘Niners were 10-0 and the Rams were 3-7 when the Rams hammered them 28-17 when the Niners were trying to 3peat. So when Holmgren took the head coaching job in Green Bay he took Fritz Shurmur with him. Shurmur followed Holmgren to Seattle in 1999. However he passed away before the 1999 season. Yet now as the Cleveland Browns GM, Holmgren hired current head coach Pat Shurmur, who is the nephew of Fritz.  Shurmur developed other defenses that we will give mention to in the near future yet this 1989 run with his “Eagle defense” was his masterpiece. Even though he went on to coach a 4-3 in Green Bay, his use and expertise to adapt to personnel turned his 3-4 into a juggernaut that nearly stole an NFL title.

This article is dedicated to the memory of Leonard Frank “Fritz” Shurmur (July 15, 1932 – August 30, 1999)

Thanks for reading and share the article. Coaches don’t forget to adapt to your personnel instead of forcing your plays down the throat of a group that may not be able to run it.

Death Becomes the Run & Shoot on a Monday Night

Single outside receiver site adjustments from the Run and Shoot

Whatever happened to the Run & Shoot as a pro offense?? You remember in the early 90s, when several downtrodden franchises looked to this offense to gain a tactical advantage on the competition.  Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, and Seattle deployed 4 receivers who ran their routes according to how defenses were playing them.  Borrowing on a concept from Bill Walsh’s offense, it was up to both the receiver and quarterback to read the defense, then adjust the route accordingly.

The truth of the matter is for each team with 4 receivers; the 3rd and 4th receivers were better than the opposing 3rd and 4th defensive backs that were normally platooned to cover them.  These teams started racking up yards by the bushel and along with Buffalo’s “K Gun offense”, the zenith of the Run & Shoot was 1991 when each team, except Seattle. who abandoned the offense in 1990, made the playoffs.  The Bills set offensive records for TDs scored and 33TD passes in a season by Jim Kelly.  In fact Thurman Thomas was NFL MVP with over 2,100 combined yards from scrimmage.

Everyone thought of the Bills “No Huddle” offense as an offshoot of the Run & Shoot because of option routes run by Andre Reed in the slot and Thurman Thomas out of the backfield.  Teams had a hard time adjusting and no matter how your corner played any of these receivers, the receiver would change his route and use the corner’s position against him.  For instance if the corner played outside position in a cover 3 zone, the adjustment would be a seam route by the slot receiver, or a skinny post for the outside receiver.  That same corner came up in press one on one, the receiver would try for an outside release and run a fly pattern.   In a cover 2 where the corner was off, he would adjust and run a hook with the underneath receiver running a down and out underneath his pattern, as the outside receiver occupied the corner.  What could a defense do to combat an offense that used your very choices against you?

Enter the NFC East.  This was the division that each team fielded twin 200 lbs. safeties receivers were funneled to. Whether it was Myron Guyton / Greg Williams with the New York Giants, Danny Copeland / Brad Edwards of the Washington Redskins, or the more punishing Andre Waters / Wes Hopkins duo that was on patrol in Philadelphia’s Veteran Stadium.  Where most teams were employing mainly dime defenses that were off the receiver, these teams started fielding nickel and dime defenses with cover two over the top and bludgeoned smaller  run and shoot receivers.  Many pundits look back to the Giants 1990 Super Bowl XXV defeat of the Buffalo Bills and their use of a 2 man line nickle and dime variations to slow down Buffalo’s no huddle / run and shoot tactics.

However thats misleading…the Giants conceded the run to the Bills (see Thurman Thomas’ 135 yards rushing) to set the tone punishing receivers with hits from the linebackers and safeties.  It was more of a victory based on the strong time of possession difference from the methodical Giants offense more than defensive tactics. A 40:31 to 19:29 possession time difference as a matter of fact.  Although Super Bowl XXV, at the end of the 1990 season, did set the blueprint for playing physical defense against this speed type offense.  So when and where was the run and shoot conquered as an offense??

The signature game that signaled the death of the Run & Shoot as an offense, came in week 14 of the 1991 season.  A Monday night matchup where the Houston Oilers hosted the Philadelphia Eagles.  The Eagles as a defense had come to full fruition as a unit originally put together by Buddy Ryan and now run by defensive coordinator Bud Carson.  They had high hopes that 1991 would be their year: they returned ’90 NFL MVP Randall Cunningham and an improving defense, yet torn ligaments to Cunningham’s knee courtesy of Bryce Paup in the season opener, sent the Eagles season spiraling.  Not quite… A defense that ranked near the bottom in ’88, Buddy Ryan helped their esprit de corp when he drafted only four players in 1989 citing he liked his guys.  The team grew defensively into a giant by 1991 although Ryan was no longer with them.  The defense kept them in games week after week and they came into this matchup 7-5.  Could they best the #1 passing offense in the league? Could they do it on the road?

The Houston Oilers were the vanguard of the run n shoot teams and with Warren Moon had put up the most prolific numbers. In 1990 Moon passed the Oilers to the playoffs with 4,689 yards and 33 TDs.  The most since Dan Marino’s record setting 1984 and he missed 1 full game and time in 2 others.  Along the way he passed for 514 yards against the playoff bound Chief’s #6 ranked defense. Coming within 41 yards of Norm Van Brocklin’s 50 year old record of 554. Alas Moon suffered a broken thumb and missed the Oiler’s playoff loss to Cincinnati.

Going into 1991, Moon was on a near record setting pace again and some thought this, and not Buffalo was the strongest AFC team.  The Redskins were 8-0 and the Oilers 7-1 when they met in a week 8 slugfest with the eventual world champion Redskins. The game was won  by Washington 20-17 in RFK, yet they showed they indeed were ready to stand toe to toe with the best the NFC offered. Going into the Monday Night tilt against the beat up Philadelphia Eagles at home, many thought the Oilers juggernaut offense would roll in this game too.

What took place over the next three hours was one defensive masterpiece that many defensive affecionados remember reverently to this day. The Eagles employed a 4-2-5 nickel variation with OLB Seth Joyner and MLB Byron Evans, who was lanky for a middle backer yet had great range, for most of the night.  Occasionally they’d bring in the dime defense (6 defensive backs) yet what they did differently was press the receivers and blitz off short corners. The hitting was vicious with Wes Hopkins and Andre Waters leading the way.  They knocked out both Ernest Givins and Drew Hill out of the game twice each. The first vicious shot was a dirty elbow from Wes Hopkins that broke Givins nose, yet set the tone for the night.

Joyner played his way to the Pro Bowl and almost the Hall of Fame that night with 2 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery to keep the game close.  Reggie White, Jerome Brown (The U), Mike Golic, and Clyde Simmons swallowed Allen Pinkett’s attempts to run holding the Oilers to a paltry 21 yards rushing for the game.  They also provided a serious rush that they supplemented with the occasional blitz that beat Houston into total submission before a stunned audience of millions. When dime back Otis Smith’s thunderous hit on Drew Hill, on an outside swirl route, forced Houston’s fifth fumble of the night. The rest of the league were on their second tablet from taking notes. The Eagles won 13-6 in front of a shocked audience.

Early 90s pic of Eagles L-R: Clyde Simmons, Eric Allen, Jerome Brown, Seth Joyner, and Reggie White

The beating was so decisive it ruined the Oilers season and this game was the complete blueprint on how to stop the run and shoot. Going into the game the Oilers were averaging 307 yards passing, just off pace needed to break Marino’s passing record, yet staggered away from this game only averaging 232 the rest of the season. The 226 they gained through the air against the Eagles was their season low.

The average was also down for the Falcons and Lions over the last 4 weeks of the season as well. The Oilers went down in the divisional round of the ’91 playoffs 26-24 to Denver, and the lone run n shoot playoff winner was Detroit who went on to whip Dallas 38-6. In fact the Cowboys had lost 4 games to run n shoot teams in 1991. The next year the Cowboys drafted a rangy MLB Robert Jones, in a Byron Evans mold, and brought in CB Kevin Smith, SS and former rangy college linebacker Darren Woodson, to stop those offenses the next year. The first of their 3 Super Bowl wins in the 90s and it started with that 1992 draft to mimick what the Eagles fielded in 1991.

As for the run n shoot, its effectiveness was diminished and the race for the record book was over.  In 1991 Houston passed for 4,621 yards where in 1992 that number dropped to 4,029. In ’92 neither the Lions or the Falcons came within 3 games of the playoffs and the Lions and Bills started to alter their offensive approach. The Oilers along with the Falcons ran the offense until 1993,yet the Falcons never returned to the playoffs…and the Oilers?? Well they went into the 1992 wildcard and took a 28-3 halftime lead on Buffalo who was playing with 6 & 7 DBs on the field.  Warren Moon at the half was 19 of 22 for almost 300 yards and 4 TDs and ballooned the lead to 35-3.

In the 3rd quarter, the Bills decided to play it the same way the Eagles had in ’91 inserting rangy MLB Carlton Bailey #54 and Darryl Talley #56 and they shut Houston down in the second half enroute to the greatest comeback in NFL history winning 41-38 in OT. Couple these landmark events with the system’s inability to score in the red zone and the run n shoot’s fate was sealed.  Even now the run n shoot receiving principles of WR route running based on options lives on in playbooks, just not in a 4 receiver set, nor as an entire offensive approach.

As for the Philadelphia Eagles defense that was the architect of the run n shoot’s demise? They went on to become the last great defense to finish #1 against the run, #1 against the pass, and #1 overall.  A distinction the ’85 Bears, ’86 Giants, ’76 Steelers, ’78 Steelers, ’08 Steelers, nor ’00 Ravens could match.  They finished the season winning 7 of 8 games and finished 10-6 and narrowly missed the playoffs.

The combined quarterback rating for their final 6 QBs was less than 40.0, and their principle line rushers R. White, Jerome Brown(The U), and Clyde Simmons combined for 37 sacks (which if they played last year would rank 11th in the NFL by themselves), and all 3 were Pro Bowlers and 1st team All Pro. Seth Joyner and Eric Allen earned Pro Bowl distinctions in 1991 as well.  They don’t receive the recognition of those other great defenses because they didn’t win the Super Bowl. Who would have operating with 5 different starting quarterbacks? They were one of the best defenses in NFL History.  Had Randall Cunningham not been injured…

Prologue: The impact of the players of this era in Eagle history were felt throughout the decade…

Super Bowl XXXI ring

Reggie White-Became the main prize in 1993′s free agent derby, signed with Green Bay and went on to become the NFL’s all time sack leader. Recorded 3 sacks in Super Bowl XXXI when he became a champion with Green Bay along with former Eagle TE Keith Jackson. They bested the New England Patriots who had former Eagle RB Keith Byars and CB Otis Smith on the team. White passed on the week of Christmas 2004 which cast a pall over the playoffs that year. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame posthumosly in 2006. RIP Reggie White.

Commemorative patch worn by the 1992 Philadelphia Eagles in Jerome Brown’s memory.

Jerome Brown- An all pro talent who passed away the following June. He’s still one of the most beloved Miami Hurricanes and missed by Hurricane fans everywhere. The 1992 Eagles dedicated their season to his memory and wore this commemorative patch on their jerseys the entire season. They also kept an equipped locker for him throughout the season and set it up on road trips also. His locker was with the ’92 Eagles in the Superdome as they won their first playoff game in 15 years.

Brown was the predecessor to fellow Hurricanes DTs Cortez Kennedy Russell Maryland, and Warren Sapp. Kennedy, who changed his number to 99 in honor of Jerome and went on to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year in his honor in 1992 while playing for the Seahawks. Every Hurricane playing in the NFL during 1992 wore a black #98 on their helmet that year including several that played for the Dallas Cowboys. The next time you watch Super Bowl XXVII where Dallas beats Buffalo you’ll see the black #98 on the back of many helmets. Jerome was alos the inspiration and reason former Hurricane Warren Sapp wore #99 during his entire NFL career. R.I.P Jerome Brown

Super Bowl XXXII

Seth Joyner & Clyde Simmons- Were twin free agent prizes that signed with Buddy Ryan and the Cardinals in 1994. I wrote the Buffalo Bills organization and suggested we grab Simmons and Joyner to join Bruce Smith and Cornelius Bennett to fortify our defense to get to our fifth Super Bowl…yet I digress Joyner went on to join White with the Packers (1997) in their bid to repeat as champions yet they lost to Denver in Super Bowl XXXII. Well if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, and when Denver (1998) went on to become back to back champions a year later. Seth Joyner was a Bronco and guess what number he wore?? Number 99. He is a motivational speaker in Arizona now http://sethjoyner.com/ runs youth football clinics and is a coach himself. Can also be heard on Philly radio w/ co-host Artie Clear http://www.theartieclearshow.com/

joyner_and_clear-logo---transparent

Eric Allen- Played on through the 2001 season finishing with the Raiders. A popular notion is he should have been 1993′s NFL Defensive Player of the Year for his 64 tackles 6 interception performance in which returned 4 of them for touchdowns.  The most famous being a 91 yard interception against the Jets. After weaving his way into the endzone, he handed the ball to teammate Randall Cunningham who was on crutches having been injured earlier in the game. His last game as a player was the famous “Tuck Game” in New England in the 2001 playoffs. Former teammate Otis Smith was a Patriot CB. He’s currently an ESPN analyst.

Byron Evans-Played 8 years with the Eagles through the ’94 season and was an underrated talent. Has an internet radio show he does with former teammate CB Mark McMillan on the Voice of America Network. http://www.voiceamerica.com/show/1475/hard-hittin-radio

Andre Waters- The hard hitting safety went on to join Simmons and Joyner in Arizona for the ’94 and ’95 seasons. He had gone into coaching yet passed away in 2006 R.I.P. Andre Waters

Super Bowl XXXVI Ring

Otis Smith-Was an Eagle dimeback in ’91. He went on to be the wily CB for a veteran laden Patriot team that lost Super Bowl XXXI to Green Bay. Yet was a Patriot 5 years later man handling Tory Holt and Isaac Bruce to stop the Greatest Show on Turf as he became a champion in Super Bowl XXXVI.

Mike Golic- finished his career with Miami and is half of the popular duo Mike and Mike on ESPN television and radio in the morning.

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!