Ken Stabler Belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame – HOF Edition

Originally Published 12, July 2015 w/Prologue 10, May 2019

When it comes to who should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, most inductees are in for the stellar performance over their careers entirety. Others are in based upon producing some of the greatest moments in football history. A third definition in the eyes of the The Chancellor is “Can we talk about the era in which a player performed without his name coming up?”  Ken Stabler of the Oakland Raiders fits the bill in all 3 of these categories.

KennyStablerHere in Taylor Blitz Times we have chronicled the long time bias against former Raiders when it comes to enshrinement. Head Coach John Madden’s field general has yet to be elected to Canton. Stabler was a throwback QB who called his own plays and routinely led the Raiders into the playoffs during the 1970’s. Along with Fan Tarkenton, Roger Staubach, and Terry Bradshaw, these four ruled the 1970’s and arguably Stabler had the most legendary moments.

On December 23,1972 in the AFC Divisional Playoff in Pittsburgh, Stabler, whom Madden had been grooming since 1968, was the wild card needed to change the tide of a game down 6-0. Desperate for some offense, John Madden inserted a young, mobile Kenny “The Snake” Stabler in for an anemic Daryle Lamonica which produced immediate results.

On a last second desperation drive, the Raiders came scrambling downfield with a young quarterback in his first significant action in an NFL playoff game. At the Steelers 30 with less than 1:30 to go, Stabler avoided the Steel Curtain, took off and scored on a 30 yard TD run to give the Raiders their first lead of the game 7-6. “The Snake” had done it!! A hero was born!! There was bedlam on the Oakland sideline and with 1:13 to go began to make reservations for they would host the AFC Championship Game against the undefeated Miami Dolphins.

However this was overshadowed by The Immaculate Reception that happened 4 plays later. Then later that day Roger Staubach had his 1st famous comeback in a 30-28 win in San Francisco. Yet Oakland knew they had their quarterback of the future and he could perform in pressure situations. Like a young George Blanda, who had a magical run during 1970, the Raiders could depend upon Stabler’s heroics for years to come.

Over the next 5 seasons as the starter, Stabler guided the Raiders to the AFC Championship Game. An NFL record. He was a daring quarterback who was a true river boat gambler. This led to some interceptions but even more daring touchdowns. He was old school yet enjoyed wine, women, and song out in the nightlife. He still came in and put in his work and teammates respected him and would follow him anywhere.

In 1973 Stabler completed an unheard of 62.7% of his passes, for 1,997 yards 14 TDs and 10 interceptions. The Raiders won the AFC West and got revenge on the Pittsburgh Steelers with a 33-14 win in the playoffs. The Miami Dolphins, on their way to back to back championships, beat them in the ’73 AFC Championship 27-10. Take a wild guess who was there to get revenge in the 1974 AFC Divisional Playoff?

 

Stabler ended the Dolphin dynasty with the touchdown to Clarence Davis in what became known as The Sea of Hands. One of the most famous games in NFL history.

Although the Raiders lost the AFC Championship the next two years to the rival Steelers, they came back in’76 with a vengeance. They recorded a 13-1 record and sought revenge on those Steelers yet needed another “Snake” come from behind miacle win in the AFC divisional round to get there.

 

1977-01-17 CoverThe Raiders would go on to win the AFC Championship 24-7 over Pittsburgh, then Super Bowl XI over Minnesota 32-14. He had guided the Raiders to that elusive championship in an era when it seemed they would be destined to always be the bridesmaid. He had several great performances left but becoming a champion was the ultimate.

In defending that championship in 1977, Stabler guided Oakland to a record 5th straight AFC Title game in Denver. They fell short 20-17 in getting to Super Bowl XII. How much did that have to do with the fatigue from the 6 quarter epic, Ghost To the Post 37-31 victory over the Baltimore Colts 1 week before??

 

Stabler’s Raider career was filled with great highlights and one important Super Bowl championship. In 1976 he had one of the greatest season a QB could have. He went 194 of 291 for 2,737 yards 27 TDs and 17 ints and an astonishing completion rate of 67.7% and a 103.4 passer rating. Remember this is a guy who extolled the Raiders philosophy of pressure football while throwing the ball deep.

However Stabler’s career wasn’t a series of statistics. He was one of the NFL’s most visible and recognizable personalities. He did make four Pro Bowls, was voted NFL MVP in 1974, was All Pro twice, and led the league in touchdown passes on 2 occasions. Furthermore,”The Snake” also was voted to the 1970’s NFL All Decade Team and finished with 194 TDs and 222 interceptions. A trade to the Houston Oilers after the 1979 season ended his stint  in Oakland. However he did go out with a bang:

 

Before his retirement in 1984, he did play for the late Bum Phillips twice in Houston and with the New Orleans Saints. Yet it was the magic he deftly showed out in Oakland that should have him in Canton. You can’t even pick out the best quarterback/receiver combo from the 1970s. Was it Stabler to Cliff Branch who should be in the Hall of Fame?? Would it be Stabler to TE Dave Casper who is in “the hall”?? No…it has to be the obvious in Stabler to Hall of Famer Fred Biletnikoff…right?? If all of his receivers are in and being considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame what does that make of the quarterback who helped get them there??

Unfortunately with his passing on Wednesday, we will have to lobby for Stabler to be enshrined posthumously.

For the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I present Kenny “The Snake” Stabler

RIP Ken Stabler (December 25, 1945 – July 8, 2015)

Epilogue: 9, May 2019 When going through the pics and remembering the 2016 enshrinement weekend at the Hall, it was an emotional weekend. During the Gold Jacket Ceremony, one of the “Grandsnakes” came on the stage to receive Stabler’s Hall of Fame crest. Not only did we give a standing ovation, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Not in the section I was in.

halloffamecrest.stablerIt was impossible to not think how great Kenny would have enjoyed that weekend. He would have shared it with his family and would have definitely included his grandsons to which he was most proud of in everything he did.

Having been to two of the last three ceremonies it’s the stories, the celebrating of a player and a family’s legacy to this great game, and the camaraderie reveling in the accomplishment. The Raider family was out in force and came far and wide to celebrate his enshrinement. Yet the elephant in the room is we all felt cheated out of hearing from the man himself.

chancellor.hall

I wore a Jerry Kramer jersey into “The Hall” then removed it to reveal a Stabler shirt I picked up after the Gold Jacket ceremony.

For the record I do wish the PFHoF presented Stabler’s family with a ring and gold jacket.

It was bittersweet however its better that Ken Stabler’s Hall of Fame legacy is in Canton where it belongs and no longer being debated.

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1964 NFL Champion Cleveland Browns: Gary Collins Surprise MVP

 

Did you know that the NFL had a rotating trophy in the years before the Super Bowl? How do we know this? Well in 1995 when it was determined that Cleveland was to keep the Browns team colors, records, etc., there was no championship trophy for 1964. In fact, in more ways than one, they left it in Green Bay following a loss in the 1965 NFL Championship Game. Following the 1965 season we started the Super Bowl series where teams kept a trophy to commemorate the accomplishment…but there were rings.

Yet the year before the Cleveland Browns hosted the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in the 1964 NFL Title Game. With the Baltimore Colts defense keying on Jim Brown, Frank Ryan hit surprise MVP Gary Collins #86 with 3 TD passes in a 27-0 upset. Collins 3TD receptions in a title game went unmatched until Jerry Rice had 3 in Super Bowl XXIV some 26 years later. OK that isn’t entirely true since today they use the NFC Championship Game as an equivalent to the old NFL Championship Game we have to include Preston Pearson’s 3TDs in the 1975 NFC Championship Game when Dallas beat the Rams 37-7….yet I digress

Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown gaining yardage as Lenny Lyles closes in. (Tony Tomsic via AP)

This was the last championship won by the lake. So yes Jim Brown did play for an NFL Champion during his career. The team was quarterbacked by Frank Ryan who went on to be a college professor and designed the first electronic voting system for either US Congress or the House of Representatives…the memory escapes me. He threw for, then a career best, 25TDs as he completed 174 of 344 for 2,404 yards. On a par with what Norm Van Brocklin and Bart Starr had thrown for in 1960-62 winning championships. In fact, aside from Earl Morrall’s 26TDs in 1968, this was the most for an NFL Champion QB during the 1960’s.

The Ed Thorpe NFL Championship Trophy for 1965. No one knows where the one all the teams held is.

A uniquely forgotten team amidst the slew of Green Bay Packers championship teams throughout the decade.

Brown as he had in 8 of his 9 seasons led the league in rushing with 1,446 yards and 7 scores. His punishing runs were the bludgeoning focal point of the Cleveland offense. No one knew he was just a season away from retiring as the NFL’s all time leading rusher with 12,312 yards. 

However the 3 time MVP had some help as #1 draft pick Paul Warfield turned in a rookie season for the ages. In what would be a Hall of Fame career, Warfield hauled in 52 passes for a team record 920 yards and 9 scores. He was the deep threat the team had been missing since Dante Lavelli. With Collins coming off of a 1963 where he had a team record 13 TD receptions, teams were in a quandry. Teams keyed on Brown and tried to slow #86 but the addition of Warfield made Cleveland’s offense lethal. 

Collins played on through the 1971 season yet it was this performance that was the highlight of his career. Yet take a look at his stats vs a few contemporaries:

  • Max McGee– 345 rec. 6,346 yards 50 TDs *1 Pro Bowl
  • Gary Collins – 331 rec. 5,299 yards 70 TDs *2 Pro Bowls **3 All Pros
  • Del Shofner – 349 rec. 6,470 yards 51 TD *5 Pro Bowls **5 All Pros
  • Raymond Berry – 631 rec. 9,275 yards 68 TDs *6 Pro Bowls **3 All Pros

Does he deserve Hall of Fame consideration??

Ironically, the team that bears the name of Paul Brown, won this championship without him. In a power struggle he was removed by new majority owner Art Modell and replaced by Blanton Collier. More irony can be found in the fact that in Cleveland 4 years later, the Colts got revenge shutting out the Browns 34-0 in the NFL Championship Game on their way to Super Bowl III. Then the obvious irony of losing not only their last NFL Championship appearance to Baltimore, but then lost their original incarnation as a franchise to Baltimore when Art Modell moved them there following the 1995 season.

Gary Collins snares one of his three TD receptions in the '64 NFL Title Game.

However in 1964 they were league champions and went on to defend that title in 1965 against Green Bay at Lambeau. This was also the team of the 1950s and is the only team in league history to win an NFL title in their first year in the league.

Further food for thought: What was first IRRESPONSIBLY taught to the masses as the “West Coast Offense” was the 1950s playbook of Paul Brown’s from Cleveland and taught to Bill Walsh in Cincinnati. In fact the most famous play in “west coast offense” history, the pass to Dwight Clark from Joe Montana in the ’81 NFC Championship Game, was an old Cleveland Brown play called Q-8 option and NOT sprint right option.

Think not?? Guess what the audible is in the West Coast Offense at the line of scrimmage to “Sprint Right Option?? A hand signal which is short hand for Q-8!! It started in Ohio….NOT in San Francisco. Know your history kids… Class dismissed

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NFL Playoffs & Historically Bad Calls Take Two

During each postseason every football fan dreads a moment where the game is decided by the referees and not the players on the field. We think back to “The Tuck Rule”, Mike Renfro’s catch/non catch in the ’79 AFC Championship, or Bert Emanuel’s catch/non catch in the NFC Championship. Yet yesterday for the 1st time since Referee Jim Tunney made the call after Renfro’s catch had a nationally televised audience yelling in anguish at a moment instant replay could have corrected.

Sean Payton dispairs over one of the most egregious non calls in NFL history.

Football coaches and players at all levels will tell you “The eye in the sky doesn’t lie” meaning the truth is always caught on film. It’s there for teams to study film against an opponent or the camera can catch what has been missed by the naked eye of an out of place referee. On Sunday we were stricken with two occasions that marred both conference championship games.

Which raises some questions for the NFL:

  • Why can’t penalties or missed penalties like pass interference be reviewed??
  • Why can’t a team challenge a play during the last two minutes of a ball game when it’s the most important time of the contest??
  • Why does the ruling in under 2 minutes to go take place in a backroom at the NFL’s offices and not an official on the field in the arena??

Lets take a look at the 1st in the NFC Championship. With just 1:49 to go in a 20-20 tie at the 13 yard line, Drew Brees faced a 3rd and 10. Brees threw toward the near sideline to Tommylee Lewis who had run a wheel route out of the backfield when… and here it is in real time:

Coach Sean Payton screaming at the official withstanding, there were several penalties that could have and should have been called.

  • Pass Interference: Robey-Coleman never turned to locate the ball colliding with Lewis before the ball arrived.
  • Personal Foul: Blow to the head of a receiver reaching for the football.
  • Illegal Contact: As Robey-Coleman hit Lewis at the 6 yard line, 7 yards from the line of scrimmage. You’re only allowed to chuck a receiver 5 yards downfield or under.

The fact we’re talking the final minutes of a conference championship game on the line and a Super Bowl berth at stake, this is one of the worst outcomes in the history of the league.  The fact you had Fox analyst Mike Pereira, who is the former Vice President of Officiating for the NFL right there expressing there could have been two of the penalties I just highlighted lent to a national televised audience despair with the situation. Let alone the emotional release of the Super Dome crowd who was witnessing “the great train robbery.” With booing you could have heard across state lines in Mississippi.

Our minds as fans were just coming to grips with the fiasco in New Orleans and the NFC Championship when the AFC Title Tilt reached the 4th quarter. With 7:05 to go in the game Kansas City held the momentum and a 21-17 lead when Chris Jones was flagged for a “roughing the passer” penalty. It was such a bad call both Jim Nantz and Tony Romo were in the middle of professing it was a phantom call when former NFL official Gene Sterratore offered this commentary:

Andy Reid should have been allowed to challenge that personal foul call!!

Now we have to talk about what needs to be done in this situation. First where has Roger Goodell been in the midst of one of the worst scandals in the history of the NFL?? His silence is glaring during a week when the league’s integrity is being called into question. With a Super Bowl on the line, these calls to put what many feel to be the match-up the league office wanted to see makes this the equivalent of the Black Sox Scandal in baseball a century earlier. If the Los Angeles Rams were to win down in Atlanta next Sunday, the NFL could wind up with it’s first champion with claims against it’s legitimacy.

There are several precedents that should have taken place. Goodell should have stepped in and had the final 1:49 of that game replayed. However he didnt and we have to guard the integrity of the game and remove the league office from the involvement of any contest while it’s going on. The league office controlling the official instant replay calls with 2:00 or under has always been a sore spot of contention anyway.

#1. The official in charge of the game to make any and all decisions need to be in charge of the game. Not some nefarious figure in the NFL office. What difference does it make to change a call in the 1st quarter if you’re derailed by an untimely call at the most important juncture of the game??

#2. Open Instant Replay challenges to three (per half) to all coaches and allow challenges at any and all times of the game. This needs to be opened up to challenge penalties called on the field and any 15 yard foul or defensive penalty that carries the weight of an automatic first down whether called or not called.

#3. The NFL needs to move to assigning officiating crews who have worked together all year to oversee playoff games. Not an all star crew. This way these officials know how to work together and communicate verbal and non-verbal along with confidently conferring with each official before making a big call in an important juncture of a playoff game.

The purpose of instant replay as an officiating tool is to get the call right. Ironically the day before these events, The Chancellor heard from Jim Tunney “The Dean of NFL Referees” about the controversial call in the ’79 AFC Championship his crew made on Mike Renfro’s catch/no catch that gave berth to the first incarnation of instant replay in officiating:

Here is what Jim Tunney offered as an explanation: 

That scenario offered finality in knowing Tunney and his officials made the call on the field that day. As a historian I’ve never been able to speak on the Steelers as Super Bowl XIV champions and I doubt I would be able to do so if the Rams win it next Sunday.

However we need to see changes and the NFL needs to guard it’s integrity by letting the officials and an instant replay official on-site make every call concerning any contest. Blown calls need to be reversed even when it comes to a penalty being called or reversing a call where a flag had been thrown. Too much is at stake here.

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Nick Foles v. Carson Wentz – The Philadelphia Eagles Could Have a Problem

There comes a time when a team has to make a tough decision based upon an expected return on investment, ability to achieve goals, and prestige to the organization. Especially when it comes to selecting their franchise quarterback, what is more important – potential or demonstrated ability to achieve goals based upon experience??

As the final seconds ticked away in Sunday Night’s 16-15 Wildcard win in Soldier Field, it became apparent Nick Foles had saved the 2018 Eagles season. The magic carpet ride last year that concluded with a Super Bowl MVP and this uniform display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame seems to have been extended.

If the Eagles pull off another upset in the divisonal round against the Saints, Foles will have won his 5th straight post season game.

Now ask yourself a question: “What is the definition of a franchise quarterback?” He is a signal caller who can be counted on to lead his team to a championship and keeps his team in contention over an extended period of time. Preferably a 5-7 year window.

Yet when you think of Foles, he is thought of as a caretaker of the position until 1st round draft pick Carson Wentz returns from injury. By all accounts Foles was coming to the end of the line in Philly. He had been the dutiful soldier who stepped in and led the Eagles to a championship, then took his place behind Wentz again. He said all the right things but things will change with another berth in the NFC Championship Game.

How do you turn your back from a QB that leads you to multiple conference championship games?? I know Wentz was drafted in the 1st round of 2016 but there is no guarantee he has the moxie and cool to win NFL playoff games. Think back to another 1st round pick, Donovan McNabb, and the 3 straight NFC Chanpionship losses he had before breaking through in ’04. Would the Eagles have stayed with McNabb in those losses had they a Super Bowl winning QB to replace him??

Think back to 1992 when former Eagle OC Frank Reich quarterbacked the Bills to a 41-38 win in the greatest comeback in NFL history when they had been down 35-3 in an AFC Wildcard Game. He then engineered a 23-3 win in Pittsburgh the following week. Having lost 2 of the previous Super Bowls and HoF QB Jim Kelly healthy, Bills fans and local press were split 50/50 on whether they should stay with the “hot hand” of Reich going into the AFC Championship. After they won it, it was the 1st question Kelly was asked about by NBC and it followed him in the weeks leading up to Super Bowl XXVII.

Carson Wentz has yet to play in a playoff game. The closest he came was 2017’s 43-35 win over the Rams in the LA Coliseum when he blew out his knee. The Eagles did achieve homefield advantage with the win however Foles has eclipsed even that:

NFL records held by Foles:

  • Foles: 7 TD passes – 11/23/13 v. Oakland Raiders tied record held by Joe Kapp 1969 Vikings v Colts 9/28/69.  Also tied 4 others including Peyton Manning 2013 Broncos v Ravens
  • Foles: The only QB in NFL history to throw for 7 TDs and finish with a perfect rating of 158.3.
  • Set an NFL record with a touchdown to interception ratio of 13.5 with 27 TDs to 2 ints.
  • Tied the NFL record for most consecutive completions with 25 w/ Phillip Rivers in ’18 finale v Redskins.

Had Chip Kelly not sabotaged the Eagles in trading away DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Macklin he could have been doing this from 2013 on.

In the penultimate game this year against the Texans he inspired his team while throwing for a team record 471 yards to cement a playoff berth. This was delivered with their season on the line.

Did you know that both Carson Wentz and Nick Foles have now each played 40 games for the Eagles?? Guess who has the higher passer rating (93.2 -92.5)??

You also know that St Nick holds the Eagles records for highest passer rating (119.3/2013), the top two seasons for fewest interceptions and interception percentage…right??

Now keep in mind Carson Wentz won the Taylor Blitz Times Offensive MVP last season so this isn’t a knock against him. It’s just that Foles infuses juice into this team and he has rallied the offense where it sputtered some with Wentz coming back from injury. With Foles at only 29 years of age to Wentz’s 26, he has entered the realm of mature quarterback where the game has slowed down for him. In this day and age where you can’t hit the qb, he can play until he’s 40. He’s grounded and as he appeared in last year’s Super Bowl, the brightest of lights didn’t make him flinch. In fact he played better… just like these games down the stretch.

Foles threw for a team record 471 yards on the NFL’s 12th ranked team.

Eight weeks ago the Eagles suffered the worst loss for a champion in the 52 year history of the Super Bowl 48-7 down in New Orleans. Now they return to the scene of the crime in the divisional playoff round. If Nick rises to the occasion and pulls off this upset it may turn the tables and the team should keep Foles and trade Carson Wentz.

What about a trade of Carson Wentz to Denver for Von Miller and a #1pick if John Elway was serious about trading Von??

What about a trade of Carson Wentz to Tennessee for Pro Bowl DT Jurrell Casey and Marcus Mariota to be the backup?? Team DT Fletcher Cox with Casey to form a tandem to rival Donald and Suh out in Los Angeles.

What about a trade of Carson Wentz to Jacksonville for LB Myles Jack and a #1pick?? Or get Tom Coughlin to throw in CB Jaylon Ramsey??

Think of the possibilites of what would be available trading across conference to teams desperate for a franchise quarterback??

Nick Foles could have this on the table with a win this week down in New Orleans. Keep in mind he lost a tough game 26-24 in the Superdome to Drew Brees in 2013. In that game he was 23 of 33 for 195 yards 2 TDs and no picks. If he handled the noise and pressure of facing Drew Brees in his 1st ever playoff game, will he be nervous 5 years later as a reigning Super Bowl MVP?? I don’t think so…

Nick Foles… your mission should you choose to accept it…

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The 2018 Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year – Khalil Mack

With the NFL’s second season upon us we have to look back to the team and players who made the 2018 season. Keep in mind this blog is about defense and the unheralded players appreciated by the rank and file. Yet bookending a season where Taylor Blitz & The Chancellor was there for the induction ceremony for our 1st subject written for the PFHoF in Robert Brazile, it’s with great pride to announce the 1st 2 time Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year in Chicago Bear Khalil Mack.

Mack made his presence felt the second he put on a Bears uniform.

Mack bested ’17 Taylor Blitz DoY Aaron Donald for this honor based upon his ability to show up in important games and the domino affect he has had on a division and a conference.

Dating back to a 2010 loss to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship, the Bears were 2-12 against them while Aaron Rodgers and company won the NFC North 5 times. The Bears either finished 3rd or last in all 7 of those years.

The Bears trade for Mack and sign him on Sept 2nd and one week later & not in football playing shape introduced himself in week 1 on Sunday Night Football.

Mack dazzled a national audience becoming the 1st defensive player in NFL history to record a tackle, a sack, force a fumble, recover a fumble and return an interception for a touchdown in the same game. On one of his 5 hurries forced Rodgers into a sack that knocked him out for much of the game as the Bears forged to a 20-0 lead in front of a shocked and silenced Lambeau Field. His impact on that game far exceeded his 3 tackles, sack, forced fumble and TD on an interception return. Although they lost 23-22 to their NFC North antagonist, the mantle of dominance shifted to Chicago from Green Bay on that day.

Mack shifted the entire focus of opponents blocking schemes.

The following week against perennial NFC West force Seattle he terrorized Russell Wilson sacking him once, forced a fumble, 5 tackles and another tackle for loss. Yet with all the attention focused on Mack, the Bears integrated 1st round draft pick Roquan Smith into the lineup and the Bears chased Wilson into 6 sacks. A monster defense was born.

The affect both of these games had on Sunday night in primetime was immense. Not only did Mack infuse confidence and swagger into his team, opposing teams had to adjust their blocking schemes to accommodate him. Where was he lining up?? We even warned in our week 1 preview: All of a sudden the 2016 Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year & NFL Defensive Player of the Year lands in an NFC North without a Pro Bowl Tackle and you don’t think it will be an issue??

The clincher was another big game where the 9-3 Bears, still battling for respect, hosted the 11-1 Rams and 2017 Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald. Where Donald was neutralized Mack had another 3 tackles, sack and forced fumble as the Rams #2 offense was held to 214 yards and 6 points. By far these were their season lows as the Bears announced they were for real. On two of Jared Goff’s 4 interceptions he was hurried by #52.

Mack’s performance has raised the NFL’s 10th ranked defense in 2017 to a ranking of 3rd while garnering 50 sacks. This also ranks 3rd. The Bears won the NFC North for the first time since 2010 and host the defending champion Eagles this weekend. They will do so with a terrorist to come off the corner in Khalil Mack.

For good measure the Bears won the NFC North with a 24-17 win over Green Bay in front of a frenzied Soldier Field. Mack had 6 tackles and 2.5 sacks as the Bears eliminated the Packers from the playoffs and soon after fired Coach Mike McCarthy. The changing of the guard was complete.

Mack finished with 47 tackles, 10 for loss, 6 forced fumbles, 4 recoveries and an interception for a touchdown. His best performances came against Chicago’s superior competition where Aaron Donald disappeared in games the Rams lost.

Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year recipients:

  1. 2011 -D’Qwell Jackson: Cleveland Browns – Recorded 158 total tackles (115 solo) 3.5 dqwell-jackson-11sacks, 1 forced fumble with 2 recoveries and garnered 1 interception as the only light on a 4-12 team. The Browns were in the top ten defensively all year and finished 10th.
  2. 2012 –Navorro Bowman: San Francisco 49ers – Garnered 148 total tackles (98 solo) 2 sacks, 6 passes defensed, and 1 interception with a fumble forced. Was an All Pro force who outperformed his more celebrated All Pro teammate Patrick Willis. Starred on the NFL’s #3 defense and made the play of the year knocking down a 4th down pass to Roddy White on the last play of the NFC Championship Game. Sent the Niners to the Super Bowl.
  3. 2013 – Richard Sherman: Seattle Seahawks – He led the NFL with 8 interceptions, returning them for 158 yards and a week 4 TD against Houston that turned their season around. He also had 48 tackles, defensed 17 passes, recovered 2 fumbles and tipped Colin Kaepernick’s desperation throw into the game clinching interception in the NFC Championship Game.
  4. watt2014 – J.J. Watt: Houston Texans – One of the greatest defensive performances ever with 78 tackles, led the league with 20.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 5 recoveries returning 1 for a touchdown. Then had 1 interception returned 80 yards for his 2nd defensive touchdown. He drug a rebuilding Texan team to within a game of making the  playoffs with a 9-7 record in Bill O’Brien’s rookie season. May have been the greatest season by a defender in NFL history.
  5. 2015 – Thomas Davis: Carolina Panthers – The 6th best defense in 2015 & made it to Super Bowl L where Davis played with a plate in his broken arm just 2 weeks after the original injury. Toughness aside he garnered 105 total tackles (75 solo) 5.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 4 interceptions, and 2 fumble recoveries. Although his teammate Luke Kuechly garnered national media attention, the 4 additional sacks and 2 more forced fumble won Davis the Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year Award.
  6. 2016 – Khalil Mack – Mack’s season has been transcendent as he collected 55 tackles (46 solo) 11 sacks with 5 forced fumbles. He’s recovered 3, returning 1 for a touchdown before we remind you he has 1 pick for another touchdown that also came in the win over Carolina. These are huge impact plays that decide contests not innocuous stats in the middle of a game without meaning or context. In the last 2 seasons he has 14 sacks that have come in the 3rd & 4th quarter of games.
  7. 2017 – Aaron Donald – Despite missing 2 games, Donald forced 5 fumbles in his 11.5 sacks and had 15 tackles for loss. Keep in mind he held out all of the preseason awaiting a new contract. Imagine had he been in game shape in week one??

Congratulations to Khalil Mack and his Bears have a big game with Philadelphia tomorrow… will he have another big game performance himself??

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The 2018 Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year Preview: Aaron Donald

When the Rams left St Louis to return to Tinseltown it was hard to think of a defensive team or dominant defensive player to rise from the ranks as one of the league’s best. Yet the reigning Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald is leading the league in sacks with 16.5 and has been the only consistent Ram defender this year.

Donald tracks down Russell Wilson

With all the high profile signings of DT Ndamukong Suh, Aquib Talib and Marcus Peters this defense was supposed to sprint to Super Bowl LIII with the balance of a potent offense. At times Suh has been handled by rival lines and not the force he’s been in years past. Talib has missed 8 games due to injury and Peters has been scorched over the last 7 weeks.

Even DE Dante Fowler’s play (2 sacks) has cooled after his mid-season trade from Jacksonville.

Although Donald was held at bay against Philadelphia and Chicago, he wreaked havoc against Detroit in the Rams last win 3 weeks back. Donald terrorized the Lion’s front line for 4 hits on Matthew Stafford, another 4 tackles for loss and 2 sacks and a forced fumble. That performance in a 30-16 win propelled the Rams to 11-1 and a 2nd straight NFC West championship.

The most disruptive DT since John Randle or Warren Sapp.

As Donald goes so go the Rams. One glaring stat that pops up is of his league leading 19.5 sacks, none have come in the 3 losses to New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Chicago. He did hit Drew Brees 4 times in a 45-35 loss however not enough to slow the Saints down.

Yesterday he set the single season team record after a 3 sack performance in a 31-9 win over the Cardinals. He left a lasting impression on rookie QB Josh Rosen. Yet will he show up to dominate the big game come playoff time??

He is the leader of an underachieving defense that began the season with Super Bowl aspirations. He has his sights on breaking Hall of Famer Michael Strahan’s sack record of 22.5. All that stands in his way is a 49ers front line that Donald killed garnering 4 sacks, 8 tackles and another 5 hits on QB C. .J. Beathard.

If Donald gets the record it’s going to be hard to not give it to him. He’ll be the first to win our Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year in back to back seasons. Stay tuned.

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