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NFL – Bills’ Game Review

19 Oct

At Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday, the Buffalo Bills stole a victory over the visiting Minnesota Vikings in a game they had no business winning. For most of the game, Buffalo continued their maddening habit of shooting themselves in the foot with mistakes, turnovers and penalties – a habit they haven’t been able to break for 14 non-playoff seasons under five different coaches. Bills’ fans have seen this act so often over the years that they show little patience for the current team when they start to exhibit their same story, different day behavior. So for the third time in four home games, the Bills were booed off the field at halftime, this time trailing a very beatable Viking team, 13-10. Neither club did anything in a listless third quarter, and when Orton threw a bad interception in the early portion of the final quarter to set up a Minnesota field goal, the Bills found themselves down 16-10 in a game that they were favored to win. Kyle Orton, the Bills’ QB who had a tough afternoon with six sacks against and another pair of turnovers, pulled his offensive unit together and engineered an 80 yard drive that culminated with a 2  yard touchdown strike to Sammy Watson with one second left on the clock to steal a 17-16 win. Here are some thoughts about things that happened during the game and what they might mean going forward:

* Orton’s performance was typical of his career – he was brutally awful at times, but brilliant on the final drive, which actually was much longer than 80 yards, as the Bills needed to overcome penalties and sacks that caused third and fourth and long situations. Orton hit Scott Chandler and Chris Hogan on key completions before connecting with Watkins for the winning score.

* Watkins had his best game of what has been an uneven rookie year. He’s had some average games also, mostly when he didn’t seem completely recovered from an early season rib injury, but he is without a doubt going to grow into a major weapon for his team’s offense for the remainder of this year and beyond. He is slowly developing some chemistry with Orton and will be scary good when he’s completely on the same page with his veteran signal-caller.

* The Bills’ running game took a major hit looking ahead to the immediate future. Fred Jackson suffered a groin injury and left the game. That meant that C.J. Spiller, who’s struggled all year, was going to get his chance to get multiple carries. Unfortunately, on his first attempt, he went down with a collarbone injury, which happened after he was tackled on a stirring 53 yard scamper. Anthony Dixon did an admirable job finishing the game as the lone back, and in the coming weeks, depending on how long Jackson and Spiller are sidelined, off-season trade acquisition Bryce Brown will get his first chance to contribute after being an inactive healthy scratch all year.

* There were some unsung heroes in the game Sunday, including Leodis McKelvin, who nabbed a pair of interceptions, Dixon with some key runs, the defensive line with four sacks, and linebacker Preston Brown with some impressive tackling.

* The Bills’ offensive line has looked overwhelmed the last 2 weeks, especially the guards, Erik Pears and rookie Cyril Richardson. Why wouldn’t the coaching staff want to take a look at the backups, Chris Hairston and Kraig Urbik, at some point? Urbik was a starter on last year’s line that led the rushing attack to a second-best in the NFL ranking, but supposedly lost his job to Pears, who hasn’t impressed.

 
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Classic Team Logo of The Day

19 Oct

FAMURattlers

Logo of a small college football program, the Florida A&M University Rattlers. One of the top historically black college programs, the Rattlers have existed since 1907 and won 12 Black College national championships over the years. They have been a great provider of talent to pro football, with their alumni including the late Willie Galimore, Billy Joe, Bob Hayes, Ken Riley and Nate Newton.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

19 Oct

72toppsdennisshaw

1972 Topps football card of former NFL quarterback Dennis Shaw, who played 9 seasons in the league for 4 different teams. Drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 1970, Shaw took over the team’s starting job in his rookie year and won the NFL Offensive Rookie of The Year award, making him one of only seven signal callers to win the award. In 1974, following 3 years with the Bills, Shaw was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for a receiver named Bobby Moore, who changed his name to Ahmad Rashad and went on to have a terrific career with the Bills and Minnesota Vikings. Shaw never repeated the success he had in Buffalo, and wound up retiring after the 1978 season.

 

NFL – Throwback Thursday: Dempsey’s Record Breaking Day

16 Oct

With the Detroit Lions facing the New Orleans Saints on this week’s NFL schedule, the “Throwback Thursday” feature harkens back to November 8, 1970, to a game played between these 2 franchises in which Saints’ kicker Tom Dempsey booted a record-breaking 63 yard field goal in the dying seconds to give his team a 19-17 win. Dempsey wasn’t your average run-of-the mill NFL placekicker. He not only was a straight-ahead style kicker in a era when soccer-style kickers were becoming more prevalent, he also was born with no toes on his right foot and no fingers on his right hand, and wore a quirky flat-surfaced shoe on his right kicking foot. In the early 1970s, the Lions were an elite team in the NFC, while the Saints were only four years removed from being an expansion franchise, so Detroit was a heavy favorite in the game. The Lions got touchdowns from Charlie Sanders, their All Pro tight end, on a throw from Bill Munson, and on a ten yard run by Mel Farr, while the Saints attack settled for Dempsey field goals. He kicked a total of four in the game, including the record-breaking game winner. As the fourth quarter was winding down, Dempsey kicked his third three-pointer to put New Orleans ahead and looking to be on their way to the huge upset. Then Munson led the Lions downfield and set up Erroll Mann for a short field goal to put his club ahead. It may have been total desperation that caused the Saints to even attempt the winning try. The team had fired their original coach, Tom Fears, and this matchup was the replacement coach J.D. Roberts’ first game at the helm. With pretty much nothing to lose, Roberts sent Dempsey out for the unimaginable record attempt, and Dempsey came through. On the kick, holder Joe Scarpati handled a perfect snap from the long snapper, Jackie Burkett. Amazingly, and in stark contrast to today’s era of specialization, Scarpati and Burkett also made huge contributions that day to New Orleans’ defensive effort, with Scarpati snagging an interception and Burkett contributing a pair of picks. The win, which was one of only two games the Saints would win that year, cost the team the top college draft pick in 1971, but they did alright with the second pick, selecting quarterback Archie Manning, who would be a lone bright spot of their losing franchise in the coming years. Dempsey’s record broke the old mark, held by Baltimore’s Bert Rechichar, by seven yards, and the record would stand until the Broncos’ Matt Prater, kicking in the high altitude of Denver, hit a 64 yarder in 2013.

dempseyFG

Tom Dempsey boots record 63 yard field goal

 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

16 Oct

BCEagles

This is a logo of a major Eastern college football team, the Boston College Eagles, who have been playing the sport since 1893 and are currently the second-most popular Catholic university gridiron program, behind only Notre Dame. There are many B.C. alumni who have gone on to play in the NFL, including Art Donovan, Bill Romanowski, Fred Smerlas, Doug Flutie, Chris Snee and current players Matt Ryan, B.J. Raji and Luke Kuechly.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

16 Oct

70toppsmelfarr

1970 Topps football card of former NFL running back Mel Farr, who played seven seasons in the league for the Detroit Lions. He was a two-time Pro Bowler, and during his playing career, he and teammate Lem Barney, the Hall of Fame cornerback, sang background vocals on Marvin Gaye’s hit song “What’s Going On”. After retiring as a player, Farr opened Mel Farr Ford, a dealership in suburban Detroit that by 1998 grossed almost $600 million , making it the top-ranked African American-owned business in the U.S.

 

NFL – Bills’ Game Review

12 Oct

Sunday’s contest between the Buffalo Bills and division rival New England Patriots was highlighted by a stirring pre-game ceremony that saw the new owners of the Bills, Terry and Kim Pegula introduced to the fans. The excitement surrounding the new era of Bills’ football certainly fired up both the fans and players, but unfortunately the opponent was the Patriots, who have routinely come into Ralph Wilson Stadium over the past decade or so and rained on Western New York parades. After their rushing attack ran roughshod over the Bills’ defense to secure two wins last year, you figured Bill Belichick’s crew would come out pounding the ball again in this year’s meeting. Instead, they rarely ran the ball, and Tom Brady picked apart the Buffalo secondary all day long and had one of his usual signature days against the Bills, throwing for over 300 yards and 4 touchdowns as New England won, 37-22. They never trailed in the game, as Brady ran his overall record against the Bills to 23-2.  They didn’t turn the ball over, and created 3 turnovers. They overwhelmed Buffalo’s offensive line, sacking Kyle Orton 5 times and basically stuffing the run game. Brady burned Jim Schwartz’s defense, which is designed to limit big plays, for 43 and 56 yard touchdown passes. Buffalo’s vaunted pass rush sacked Brady twice, but for the most part he stood comfortably in the pocket and delivered pinpoint throws to various receivers to either keep drives alive or score quick-strike touchdowns. And yes, there were the customary questionable calls by the officials against the Bills, which gave Belichick and Brady help they didn’t need. Belichick, love him or hate him, is one of the NFL’s best at devising strategy to neutralize his opponents’ strengths, and capitalize on their weaknesses, and now has run his record against Buffalo’s Doug Marrone to 3-0. The Bills’ coaches were pretty much schooled at every turn in this game, and even seemed intimidated by the New England “mystique” (hype?). One example – the Pats were stacking the line of scrimmage  all day determined to stop the Bills’ running game, leaving Darrelle Revis single-covering star rookie receiver Sammy Watkins on the outside, but Orton never even looked Watkins’ way until late in the second half. Revis is a terrific player, but completely staying away from him for almost the entire game, when he’s covering your star receiver, is ridiculous.

So the Bills proved once again they’re nowhere near the class of team that New England is, but even with the crushing defeat, all is not lost. Miami and the New York Jets, the other AFC East rivals, both lost, leaving the Bills in second place at 3-3. They don’t have to worry about trying to at least compete with the Pats until the season’s final week, so they need to concentrate on improving enough to beat the teams they have on their upcoming schedule, very beatable teams in Minnesota and the Jets. The focus should be on getting Orton more comfortable with his offensive teammates, getting the offensive line stabilized and improved, figuring out what’s wrong with C.J. Spiller and tightening things up on defense, which will involve getting the players on that unit playing together again, as they did in the season’s first quarter.

 
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Classic Team Logo of The Day

12 Oct

AFL-game-program_1962-Boston-Patriots_Buffalo-Bills

Courtesy of www.greyflannelsuit.net , here is a program from a 1962 American Football League game between the Buffalo Bills and Boston Patriots featuring cartoon logos of the team’s mascots. These cartoon drawings were popular artwork during the early years of the league, and helped promote the teams with younger fans.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

12 Oct

62fleeratkins

1962 Fleer football card of former defensive back Billy Atkins, who played seven seasons of pro ball, starting in 1958 in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers. He jumped to the fledgling AFL when that league began play in 1960, and was an AFL All Star in ’61 while playing for the Buffalo Bills. After retiring as a player, Atkins became head coach at Troy State, and guided the Trojans to an NAIA national championship in 1968. He is still the second winningest coach in that school’s history.

 

NFL – Throwback Thursday: “Just Give It To ‘Em”

09 Oct

The Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots tangle in an AFC East rivalry game this weekend on the NFL schedule, and that takes our weekly Throwback Thursday feature back to November 29, 1998, to a game with a very controversial ending. The Patriots, guided by Drew Bledsoe, had jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead in the game before the Bills rallied back behind the season’s Comeback Player of The Year, their QB and New England native Doug Flutie, to pull ahead 21-17. This set up a final Patriot drive with just under 2 minutes remaining in the game, and Bledsoe led his team down field with crisp passes, reaching the Bills’ 37 yard line. Buffalo’s defense stiffened, giving up only a single yard on three separate downs to set up a crucial fourth and nine play with only 11 seconds left on the clock. Bledsoe then fired a pass to Shawn Jefferson, who caught the ball at the sideline and was brought down. The Bills disputed that the receiver had first down yardage and was even in bounds, but the officials awarded the Pats a first down. In postgame interviews, both Flutie and receiver Andre Reed, who were standing on the sideline near where the play took place, claimed they overheard the refs say, “just give it to them.” With only six seconds now left, and the ball at Buffalo’s 26, Bledsoe threw to the end zone to Terry Glenn, and the ball bounced out of his hands. However, a controversial interference call was made on Bills’ safety Henry Jones, and with no time left on the clock, New England was awarded one more play at the one yard line. Bledsoe took advantage of the gift and hit his fine tight end, Ben Coates, in the back of the end zone for the winning score. The Bills were so incensed with the game’s ending that coach Wade Phillips took his team off the field and into the locker room prior to the extra point try, so Patriot kicker Adam Vinatieri took the snap directly and ran the ball into the end zone for a two point conversion, giving his club a 25-21 victory that left an extremely bad taste in the mouths of Buffalo players in the locker room. Flutie commented afterwards, “The refs gave them the game, so we decided we might as well give them the extra point.” It was an especially disappointing afternoon for Flutie, who was robbed of what should have been a rousing homecoming comeback win.

The Bills’ cantankerous owner, Ralph Wilson, barbecued the officials in interviews after the game and basically dared commissioner Paul Tagliabue to fine him, which he did. Of his meeting with the commissioner in the league’s New York office to decide his punishment, Wilson proclaimed, “the commissioner lecturing to me as if I were a novice, instead of one who has been involved in football infinitely longer than he has, contends that criticizing a call has ‘destructive and corrosive effects on the game’. What is more destructive and corrosive — errant calls in front of millions of viewers, or my statements of opinion? People all over the country registered shock at the way the officials, however honorable their purpose, took the game away from us. Even the league has admitted to us that the calls near the conclusion of the game were incorrect.”  Wilson added: ”I do know I don’t need pompous lectures from the commissioner and I feel that the $50,000 is not only unwarranted, but punitive in nature. The next time he may ask me to sit in the corner.” To that memory of this Throwback Thursday game, I can only say – God bless you, Mr. Wilson, and rest in peace. As the new Pegula era of Bills’ ownership begins officially this week, that’s a terrific remembrance of ol’ Ralph. He was truly one of a kind.

 

bledsoe

 

Patriots’ QB Drew Bledsoe