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.

Epilogue: The fan vote for the 2021 has begun and fans can make their sentiments known on the Pro Football Hall of Fame website here. The Chancellor’s vote for Corey is in…several times.

Legendary Days: Bo Jackson Explodes On A Monday Night

Think back to 1986 when Bo Jackson decided to play baseball instead of report to the Tampa Bay Buccaneer organization. What could he have accomplished had he donned that uniform?? Would he have become one of the all time rushers and turned around a moribund franchise?? Or would he spend the bulk of his career playing in relative obscurity as Corey Dillon did in his?? It’s still interesting to think about when we think of the career of Jackson.

Bo Jackson was a force

Bo Jackson was a force

Most observers hold on to the what if scenarios over what other players actually performed on the field. The Chancellor doesn’t but what can’t be underscored was the impact he had when the Raiders decided to pick up his rights in the 1987 NFL draft. Yet they had to wait until he finished off his MLB season first.

The 1987 LA Raiders were an aging fading team in need of a spark. They were light years away from the ’83 group that won Super Bowl XVIII and were in the midst of a 7 game losing streak when they traveled to Seattle on a Monday night. Although it wasn’t a scintillating match-up, this was the first chance for a nation to catch the former Heisman winner playing his “hobby”.

The problem was we were left without knowing the best Bo could have been. He could have broken records or he could have just been a good pro. The player that he reminds me of most is Herschel Walker. Another former Heisman winner with a super man type body. Most straight line power runners wear down against modern defenses. There are some exceptions and Bo could have been one of them. Make no mistake about it he had the potential to be one of the biggest stars in NFL history. Yet we didn’t get the chance to see it and that’s the problem. We’re stuck in a gray twilight of what he could have been.

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On This Date In 1968: The Heidi Game -The Most Fantastic Finish Never Seen

One of the greatest games of football lore was the famous “Heidi Game” of 1968. It was back in the American Football League when the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets were forming quite a rivalry. The interest nationally between these teams actually took root the season before.

The Raiders and Jets had a short lived intense rivalry toward the latter years of the AFL.

The Raiders and Jets had a short lived intense rivalry toward the latter years of the AFL.

Quarterback Joe Namath had been a transcendent figure for the AFL since he was drafted back in 1965. However Jets brass believed they had finally built a team around him that could compete for the league championship. With their glamour quarterback in the media center of New York, there was some animosity brewing with rival teams. One was the Oakland Raiders whose defense, The 11 Angry Men, played a physical style of football that went beyond the whistle.

In what could have been the 1967 AFL Championship match-up, the 11-1 Western Division leading Raiders hosted the East leading 7-3-1 Jets. Oakland won an entertaining game 39-28, which was New York’s third loss in a row. This game was made famous when Ike Lassiter #77 smashed Namath in the face fracturing his cheekbone. Joe finished the game with 370 yards yet threw 3 costly interceptions. The backsliding Jets watched as they were leapfrogged by the Houston Oilers who stole the division and faced Oakland in the title game.

A 40-7 trouncing of the Oilers sent the Raiders (13-1) to take on Vince Lombardi’s Packers in Super Bowl II. However when a league is battling for respectability, it makes for great television when the league can showcase it’s stars in the championship and to a man the Jets believed they could take the Raiders. They would have to wait until the following season to measure themselves against the defending AFL champions. In a week 10 battle, each team came in 7-2 and again leading their divisions with battle lines drawn from the season prior. A national televised audience tuned in to NBC for the game of the year.

The Jets went away from this game knowing they could beat the Raiders and only a miracle finish kept them from winning. That knowledge kept the New Yorkers motivated and they would get revenge in the 1968 AFL Championship where they would win 27-23. From there they would proceed into history with their famous Super Bowl III upset of the Baltimore Colts. The AFL and Heidi gained extensive notoriety from the NBC gaffe and when the television contracts were reworked with the NFL merger, games would be shown in their entirety from then on.

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Legendary Days: Rookie Earl Campbell Rushes For 199 Yards on Monday Night

One of the biggest travesties that has taken place over the last ten years was the move of Monday Night Football to cable television. In fact it’s only trumped by the proliferation of too many channels carrying NFL football. When you go back to the last generation of us fans, many of our seasons were remembered by tremendous performances on Monday Night.

One great performance there and you were a made man in the eyes of all NFL fans, for every single one of them were watching the same exploits.  ABC was accessible to the rich and the poor, the young and the old, which allowed generations of fans to watch the same game as well.

The "Luv Ya' Blue" Houston Oilers of the late 1970's was a team that almost won it all.

The “Luv Ya’ Blue” Houston Oilers of the late 1970’s was a team that almost won it all.

Well on one memorable Monday Night in 1978, every NFL fan watching witnessed one of the transcendent games of the 1970’s. The Houston Oilers were 7-4 and hosting the 8-3 Miami Dolphins in the marquee game of the week.

You have to understand the Oilers had been one of the NFL’s bottom feeders their entire existence up to that point. They had only appeared in 1 postseason game in their entire 19 year existence. A 40-7 loss in the 1967 AFL Championship Game. So even that hadn’t gone so well….

Enter Earl Campbell

Every year the NFL has it’s share of rookies who are supposed to live up to press clippings. The “Tyler Rose” stepped onto the field with the Oilers from day one and showed he belonged. Having won the Heisman Trophy his senior season at Texas, he came in as a marked man. Although he had lifted the lowly Oilers into playoff contention, the majority of America had only read of his exploits in newspapers. This Monday Night matchup would become the showcase where the Oilers proved they belonged with the NFL’s elite. Also it would solidify Earl Campbell’s chances to win rookie of the year honors. After all he came into this week 12 contest with 944 yards rushing.

Just as the late Bum Phillips recalled in the clip above, it was one where the crowd noise helped carry the game past a good game into one of great remembrance. Campbell, being cheered on by a raucous crowd, put on a performance for the ages that trumpeted his arrival as well as the Oilers as a force to be reckoned with. It was a back and forth game Houston won 35-30.

This may not have been one of Don Shula’s Super Bowl teams from half a decade before but they were an 11-5 AFC East Wild Card participant that year.  In fact, the Oilers would defeat them again 13-7 down in the Orange Bowl for Houston’s first ever postseason win. Who was the AFC East Champion that year?? The New England Patriots who were rocked 31-14 as Campbell powered the Cinderella Oilers to the AFC Championship Game.

Campbell leapfrogging Patriot cornerback Raymond Clayborn in the '78 playoffs.

Campbell leapfrogging Patriot cornerback Raymond Clayborn in the ’78 playoffs.

Alas they fell to the Steelers in the championship game and would do so again in 1979. Yet it was this performance that put Earl Campbell on the map for good in the eyes of all football fans, not just the NFL. You have to realize the majority of America was down to just NBC, CBS, and ABC when it came to college football and most hadn’t seen him play at the collegiate level. Campbell wound up rushing for 1,450 yards to lead the league in rushing. It was the first time a rookie had done so since Jim Brown in 1957.

Of course he would go on to the collegiate and Pro Football Hall of Fames and ushered in the era of the big super back. George Rogers, Herschel Walker, Bo Jackson, and Keith Byars would follow from college to pro. However none captured the imagination of the football world the way Earl Campbell did that November Monday Night.

As their careers are forever attached, Campbell and Phillips exit Three Rivers Stadium after the 1979 AFC Championship Game.

As their careers are forever attached, Campbell and Phillips exit Three Rivers Stadium after the 1979 AFC Championship Game.

This article is dedicated to the memory of former Houston Oiler Head Coach Bum Phillips (September 29, 1923 – October 18, 2013) A coach who nearly made it to legendary status yet is remembered for the family atmosphere he fostered on those teams. He was the quintessential Texas gentleman that called games for the Oilers for years on radio as well. NFL fans everywhere will miss him.

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The Golden Age of Hating The Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys helmet design on Facebook.

Dallas Cowboys

It was a feeling that manifested itself sometime during the 1970’s. We can put it on the late George Allen, former coach of the Washington Redskins, who was first to verbalize a total disdain for the Dallas Cowboys. It raised the level of rancor between the Redskins and Cowboys that elevated their rivalry to the national level.

They had a behind the scenes rivalry that was based upon the Cowboys becoming the NFL’s most southern most team when they came into the league in 1960. Before that, the Redskins of George Preston Marshall were. It was during the 1970’s when their rivalry was felt between the fans and the players on the field.

However the disdain Allen felt during the early 1970’s was felt by many teams and fans. The feeling was the late Tom Landry and his Dallas Cowboys were given too much publicity by the networks and the print media. CBS was constantly covering the Cowboys and the level of success they had in the 1970’s, with 5 Super Bowl visits, seeded hatred in their rivals. Especially within their division. Yet none of them were good enough to challenge them in the NFC East.

By the time NFL Films made the 1978 Dallas Cowboys yearbook and labeled it “America’s Team” hatred was at an all time high. Even jealousy if you will. It was the arrogance and air of supremacy the Cowboys organization painted during those CBS days that fueled two schools of fans.

Right down to the cheerleaders. Jenny Poussin https://www.instagram.com/realjennypoussin/

You had those who thought of themselves as beautiful and carried themselves with a sense of arrogance  and identified with the team and their cheerleaders. Then you had the regular meat and potatoes folks who loved when the Pittsburgh Steelers punched them square in the mouth during Super Bowls X and XIII. They were also fans of all other teams. Yet when your team is no longer in it, they cheered for whoever was facing Dallas in the playoffs or Super Bowl.

Ironically, this is where the Steelers gained their nationwide fans. It had nothing to do with the fact they won 4 Super Bowls in the 1970’s, it was the fact they beat the Cowboys in two of those Super Bowls that made them remain as fans.

As the 1980’s beckoned, many of the teams that Dallas had sat on for the previous decade began to grow anew.  A fresh generation of coaches and players started to internalize the disdain for the bully on the block and began their ascent. It was known that you had to take out Landry’s Cowboys if you really want to be recognized as champions. Although the Redskins were the one with the more acknowledged rivalry, it was the Philadelphia Eagles under Dick Vermeil that got the first crack at the boys from the Lone Star State.

Much of the animosity started at the beginning of the week, when the Eagles were cast as underdogs against Landry’s Cowboys in the 1980 NFC Championship Game. Although they were hosting, the Eagles were made underdogs by Vegas. Right on cue, the Eagles were being treated as bit role players even though they split their games with Dallas that year.

An upset Dick Vermeil made a declaration that ratcheted feelings up when he vowed “Never allow anyone to take you for granted! I get the feeling the Dallas Cowboys are taking us for granted right now. We’re here because we earned the right to be here. If the Dallas Cowboys are going to take us for granted, we’ll whip their ass!”

To further irk Tom Landry, Vermeil opted to play in their white uniforms forcing the Cowboys to play in the blue jerseys, which they felt were jinxed. Dallas complained to the league office yet for once the powers that be didn’t allow Gil Brandt and Tex Schramm to get their way. The crowd at Veteran’s Stadium was unforgiving as the two teams emerged from the tunnel.  It was 4* and -17* windchill when on the Eagles second play from scrimmage:

The roar of the crowd during Wilbert Montgomery’s touchdown was the loudest ever at Veteran’s Stadium. Cowboy haters everywhere delighted as the Eagles held the early upper hand on the Cowboys 7-0. As the game wore on and Landry’s charges behind 17-7 late in the fourth quarter, they were able to punt and pin the Eagles to their own 5 yard line. From their own 5 yard line the Eagles ended fading hopes for Dallas when in 3 runs Philadelphia moved the football to the Dallas 25. Montgomery was putting the finishing touches on a signature day when he struck with this 54 yard masterpiece.

The Eagles vanquished the Cowboys 20-7 on their way to Super Bowl XV. Wilbert Montgomery etched his name into  Philadelphia lore with a 194 yard performance. They had destroyed the Flex Defence, rushing for 263 yards on 40  carries averaging 6.575 yards a pop!! Cowboy haters everywhere rejoiced in hearing Landry, Danny White and Cowboy apologists have to answer the questions as the defeated football team. In fact many Cowboy haters pulled for the Oakland Raiders in the Super Bowl two weeks later. People weren’t cheering for the Eagles as much as they were for Dallas to lose.

The following year the Cowboys had revamped their secondary &  national press covered the exploits of rookies Everson Walls (who should be a Hall of Famer), Michael Downs, and Ron Fellows. Although the publicity was on this group in Big D, they were overshadowing an even greater group in San Francisco. Where Bill Walsh had drafted and started rookie CB Ronnie Lott, CB Eric Wright, and S Carlton Williamson to go along with scrappy veteran S Dwight Hicks.  Yet through most of the 1981 season, you didn’t hear about the 49ers. Even after a 45-14 devastation of the Cowboys in week 5 with Ronnie Lott scoring the decisive touchdown.

Did you know the 49ers didn’t make the Monday Night Football highlight package?? Don’t tell our CEO there was no media bias. Nor can you say the coverage of Dallas’ rookie trio of defensive backs didn’t motivate the group by the bay. Was it borne from the Cowboys propaganda and success of the 1970s?? Or was it borne from Tom Landry’s ties to the New York media since his pro coaching career started there??

Did you know the late Pat Summerall who broadcast many of the Cowboys games in that era, was a teammate and friend of Landry back in New York?? So when they didn’t make the ABC Monday Night package it fed into the hating Dallas mantra that much more by the 1981 NFC Championship Game.

There had been a history between the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas. In fact you could say the 49ers were who Dallas had built their reputation on with wins over them in the 1970 and 1971 NFC Championship Games. At that point the Cowboys were called “Next Year’s Champions” for four straight playoff defeats to Vince Lombardi’s Packers and the Cleveland Browns. As a new decade beckoned it was the Niners and the Cowboys who stepped to the fore.

Once Dallas emerged and won Super Bowl VI, their prestige soared where the vanquished 49ers went into a tailspin the rest of the decade. Yet before that happened, there was the 1972 NFC Divisional playoff where a measure of revenge was going to be exacted against Landry’s troops when Roger Staubach led a furious 4th quarter rally. Staubach led Dallas to a 30-28 win after they were behind 28-13 with 5:00 to go in the game. This is when he earned the nickname Captain Comeback.

Fast forward to the 1981 NFC Championship where the resurrected 49er franchise, now under Eddie DeBartolo, were preparing for the game. Still smarting from the lack of respect afforded his group after the 45-14 win and no media coverage, set the tone of a franchise when talking to a reporter. “They ate it once and they can eat it (defeat) again.” Reminiscent of Dick Vermeil the year before, Cowboy haters were all pulling for the 49ers in this game when they took the field.

The final stint came when the Washington Redskins had their turn to climb over Dallas to make it to the summit of pro football. After a strike shortened season where the 8-1 Redskins entered a playoff tournament to make it to Super Bowl XVII, most pundits picked the media darling Cowboys to win the NFC Champoinship citing the Redskins only loss was courtesy of the Cowboys. Our CEO can remember being fired up for the NFC Championship between Washington and Dallas and knew it was going to be a thing of beauty.

It actually started when the Redskins were putting the finishing touches on a 21-7 win over the Vikings to set up the NFC Conference final when the chant “We want Dallas!!  We want Dallas!!” resonated from the jam packed crowd at RFK.   Just moments before, John Riggins who had rushed for 185 yard was in the midst of a curtain call, turned and gave a bow to the crowd sending them into a frenzy.  Those sights and sounds reverberated throughout the stadium and CBS chose instead of showing the final plays of that game, panoramic views of the raucous fans.

As for the rest of the Cowboy haters who gathered to watch this team go down again. Look no further than another bulletin board comment that jump started the festivities. It started with Dexter Manley professing in the paper that he “hated Dallas” that Monday that got the ball rolling.  Then back and forth in the newspaper ensued from Danny White of the Cowboys, to Redskin owner Jack Kent Cooke, EVERYONE was stoking the fire.  How bad did it get?  There was even a heated argument about the game within the House of Representatives the Friday before the game and the late Thomas “Tip” O’Neill adjourned session an hour early.  It was on!!!!

Over a football game? Yes over a football game. The hating of Dallas really grew wings in the George Allen era.  He preached it, lived it, and over all the treatment America’s Team received as a media darling kept breeding that hatred within rival teams.  Real Redskin fans will talk with high regard of the fact that they beat Dallas in the ’72 NFC Championship when the Cowboys were defending champions.  So here we were some 10 years later and all that animosity was a thing of the past right?  After all new owner, new coach, new quarterback and cast of characters comprised the Redskins roster.  Right?

With that we were at an end of an era where other NFL teams were able to get their due as the 1980’s moved on. Media coverage transferred from Dallas to new teams coming from Chicago, the New York Giants, Denver Broncos, of course the 49ers and the Redskins who were dominant the rest of the decade. From this era came the nationwide fan base of the San Francisco 49ers much like the Steelers. The backlash of the “America’s Team” name and over favorable coverage brewed hatred from the majority of NFL fans and players.

Notice in these videos, the look in their eye and the description of elation for vanquishing the Dallas Cowboys of that era. In all three cases before the NFC Championship, where decorum was to be quiet, and not give the Cowboys bulletin board material. Coaches and owners in these instances were doing it let alone players. It set the table for things to come and put their organizations on high alert of what was expected of them.

The hatred for everything Dallas began to dissipate at this time. There was some animosity left when the ’85 Bears bloodied them 44-0 in Texas Stadium after 9 straight losses to them. Yet by the time of Tom Landry’s departure, people felt bad about what happened to the Cowboys and watched the dismantling of a franchise with mixed emotions.

You were almost mad that they were 1-15 in 1989, because the villain from Texas was gone. The Jimmy Johnson Cowboys of the 1990’s were an envied team, not a hated one. To be hated you had to be more than a good  football team, and in retrospect that was what made hating the Dallas Cowboys worthwhile.

My homegirl Jenny P can be found @ https://www.instagram.com/realjennypoussin/

The way they were marketed, branded, and packaged. The way their coach was treated like a God and their quarterback in Roger Staubach was the idol which gave way to Danny White. Well until these NFC Championship losses tarnished White’s legacy.

Their cheerleaders were even made famous. They had telvision specials and still do to this very day. All of this tapped into the inferiority complex of many players and fans of other teams. When it came time to beat them for a championship or a game of importance, it was the Holy Grail.

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Greatest Defensive Performance in an NFL Game – Vernon Perry

Vernon Perry of the Houston Oilers was a solid strong safety.

Vernon Perry of the Houston Oilers was a solid strong safety.

When it comes to great performances in the NFL we tend to think of superstars having spectacular days. However there are times when a player finds himself totally in tune with a situation and turns in the game of a lifetime.

Such was the case with SS Vernon Perry of the late 70’s Houston Oilers. He was the college teammate of the late Walter Payton and Oiler teammate Robert Brazile at Jackson State. After a stint in Canada, Perry only played five seasons in the NFL (1979-1983) and the only distinction he gained was being named 2nd team All Pro in 1980.

In 1979, the Oilers were chasing perennial champion and division rival Pittsburgh, to whom they lost the 1978 AFC Championship Game to. Perry’s rookie year helped solidify a secondary that picked off 34 passes for the season. They were built as a run heavy team behind legendary Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell. In week 15 the Oilers beat the Steelers 20-17 to give them both identical 11-4 records. A loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the final week relegated the Oilers to the wild card role and the Steelers the division championship.

The wild card game was one of the most physical games in NFL history. The Denver Broncos “Orange Crush” defense battled tooth and nail in the 13-7 loss to the Oilers. They knocked out Earl Campbell, leading receiver Ken Burrough, and starting quarterback Dan Pastorini.

So a team that had serious aspirations of reaching Super Bowl XIV, or at least a rematch with the Steelers, would have to do so without Campbell’s 1,697 yards in the divisional round. Since the game would be on Saturday and not Sunday, they would be without Pastorini and Burrough as well.

Air Coryell - Dan Fouts, Charlie Joiner, John Jefferson, and Kellen Winslow

Air Coryell – Dan Fouts, Charlie Joiner, John Jefferson, and Kellen Winslow

Picture the 1990’s Dallas Cowboys going into a playoff game without Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin all not being in the game. This was that equivalent.

Their opponent was the AFC West Champion San Diego Chargers who also had Super Bowl aspirations. In 1979 they became the first team since the merger to make the playoffs passing more then they ran. Dan Fouts had thrown for 4,082 yards which was an NFL record at the time. They too finished with a 12-4 record to tie Pittsburgh for best record in the conference, and had their confidence boosted in week 12 with a 35-7 blowout of those Steelers. They had Pro Bowlers in John Jefferson (61 rec. 1,090 yds 10TDs), Charlie Joiner (72 rec. 1,008 yds 4TDs) along with Hall of Fame DE Fred Dean and DT Gary “Big Hands” Johnson.

The Chargers finished winning 6 of their last 7 and had held 4 of their last 5 opponents to 7 points or less. For the year, finished 5th in the NFL in defense and were healthy and home for the divisional round. This was a Super Bowl ready group… All they had to do was get past an Oiler team without it’s starting quarterback, running back, and leading receiver.

Naturally the Chargers scored on their first possession to take a 7-0 lead and were driving to take a two score lead when Vernon Perry struck…

The Chargers were undaunted but found the Oiler defense was tougher than anticipated. Once they drove inside the red-zone on the next drive, they stalled at the 7 yard line. They were up 7-3 when they lined up for a 26 yard field goal in the second quarter when:

A pensive crowd started to sit on their hands as their high-flying Chargers were clinging to that same 7-3 lead and couldn’t increase it. The Oilers were also struggling to finish drives. The Chargers were coming out with 3:24 to go and they were sure they’d score on the last drive of the half when Vernon Perry decided to undercut Charlie Joiner crossing the middle.

Thanks to the field position caused by Perry’s 2nd theft, the Oilers scored to take a 10-7 halftime lead. With a team that scored 411 points, 2nd most in the NFL in 1979, it was only going to be a matter of time before the Charger juggernaut got rolling.

Or so San Diego fans thought.

Truth be told they had moved the football early and it was becoming clear the Oilers weren’t going away. The team traded 3rd quarter touchdowns and the Oilers were on top 17-14 after Mike Renfro’s 47 yard touchdown. From that point on an upset seemed imminent and the Chargers started pressing. With just over 3:00 to go in the game, Fouts led his team into field goal range when:

Complete disappointment had set in when the San Diego offense took the field with 1:00 to go. Even though they were only behind by 3 and needed a field goal, their body english was that of a defeated team. Yet with under 10 seconds to go, Dan Fouts could get them into field goal range or hope for a pass interference when he heaved his last pass…

After the game Oiler Head Coach Bum Phillips addressed his team “We were short on man power but we were long on guts” was an understatement. Not once can our CEO remember where a team had to go into a playoff game missing 80% of their season’s offensive production due to injury.

Behind Vernon Perry’s NFL playoff record 4 interceptions, 8 tackles, 2 passes defensed, and a blocked field goal he returned 57 yards, the Oilers pulled off the biggest upset since Super Bowl III. Not only did it come when the Oilers desperately needed it in a playoff game, he set up the Oilers’ first 10 points which gave the team confidence believing they could win.  It was the best defensive performance in NFL history by an individual in The Chancellor of Football’s estimation.

It set up an AFC Championship rematch with the champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Armed with their hot rookie safety they made it to the gunlap in the race for Super Bowl XIV. Once there Perry got the Oilers off to a great start early in the game.

Yet alas the Oilers fell 27-13 in a game made famous by the Mike Renfro no touchdown call that sparked the instant replay debate. At the time the score would have been tied 17-17 late in the third quarter and the Oilers would have had the momentum in a quiet Three Rivers Stadium. However that is another story for another day. For it was the week before when Vernon Perry made NFL history that was the story of the 1979 playoffs and a game for the ages.

 

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Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!