The 2015 NFL schedule has now completed the first quarter of the season, and one conclusion can be drawn so far about the Buffalo Bills. They are wildly inconsistent, and have a real problem with undisciplined play. Sunday’s 24-10 loss to the New York Giants was a prime example of the “bad” Bills. Just like the New England game two weeks ago, the Bills were outplayed, outcoached and out of control as they took one personal foul penalty after another. It seems like Buffalo puts together a great game plan, goes out and executes it to near perfection and pulls out an impressive win, then they follow that up with a performance where they appear to have read too many of their press clippings and can just show up and easily defeat their opponent without any effort. And when that opponent, in this week’s case the Giants, takes it to them in the trenches and dominates the game, they respond with childish, macho actions after the whistle and wind up embarrassing themselves. Coach Rex Ryan has to figure out how to get his players focused each and every game so that they put in a consistent effort against every opponent, not just in the games after they’ve been humiliated. This game followed the same blueprint as the Patriots’ contest. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor was under siege early on and the running game produced nothing. It was an abysmal performance by the offensive line. Just like in the New England debacle, Taylor righted himself in the second half and guided the offense to touchdown drives. Unfortunately, two of those scores were nullified by bad penalties, the kind of mistakes players make when they’re not prepared to play. Overall, it just looked like the Giants wanted this win more than the Bills. Were there any positives to come out of this game? Rookie running back Karlos Williams didn’t fare very well in his first opportunity as a feature back with LeSean McCoy sidelined, gaining only 40 yards on 18 carries. He did, however, score a touchdown for the fourth consecutive week by hauling in a nifty 23 yard scoring pass from Taylor. On the drive where the Giants gained most of their yardage through dumb Buffalo penalties, Stephon Gilmore came up with an interception, Mario Williams deposited a Giant runner on his head with an emphatic tackle, and Corey Graham had a solid game at safety with 13 tackles and a sack. None of that could stem the tide of the poor play, bad penalties, missed tackles and general bad execution by the Bills. Next week’s opponent is the Tennessee Titans, led by rookie QB Marcus Mariota, who is enduring typical growing pains while learning on the job and should be an easy mark for the Bills’ defense, which will be in its’ bi-weekly, angry and ready- to- redeem themselves mode.
This is an alternate logo of a team that plays in the National Football League, the Washington Redskins, used from 1960 until 1965. Although the team has been a fairly successful NFL franchise, they did not manage a winning season during this era, and in fact had the worst record in franchise history (1-12-1) in 1961. They also were involved in a controversy involving the integration of the team, as owner George Preston Marshall, an avowed racist, had refused to allow a black player on his roster. Under pressure from the U.S. government, Marshall finally relented in 1962 and traded with the Cleveland Browns for Bobby Mitchell, a halfback who played wide receiver for the ‘Skins and wound up having a Hall of Fame-caliber career.
1964 Topps football card, a feature of the set known as the “team picture” cards, of the Buffalo Bills. The Bills won the American Football League championship in ’64, however, this team photo is actually of the 1963 Bills, who also had a winning season but wound up tied for first place in the Eastern Division with the Boston Patriots. The teams played a playoff game to decide who would play the San Diego Chargers for the AFL title, and the Pats won 26-8. That game is still the only time the two old AFL rivals have ever met in the post-season.
For the third time in the first four weeks of the young NFL season, the 50th Anniversary celebration season of the Super Bowl, our Throwback Thursday feature game is one that has a pair of clubs matching up on the schedule who previously faced each other in the big game. This week it’s the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills, who met in one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever played, Super Bowl XXV. The game was played under heightened security measures with our country engaged in the first Gulf War, and the atmosphere was a patriotic display of flags waving and a stirring rendition of the National Anthem before the game, provided by Whitney Houston.
Whitney Houston sings the Star Spangled Banner
The game featured the Bills and their high-powered “K-Gun” offense, which operated in a hurry-up mode, against coach Bill Parcells’ grind-it-out Giants, who fought their way into the game using a backup quarterback, Jeff Hostetler, and an offensive attack bent on slowing down the game, controlling the ball and minimizing the opponent’s possessions. The Giants had used that tactic to perfection in the NFC Championship game, stifling the high-powered San Francisco 49ers and QB Joe Montana on their way to a 15-13 win. The conservative offensive approach was teamed up with a tough, aggressive defense led by All Pro linebacker Lawrence Taylor. Parcells and defensive coordinator Bill Belichick employed the same tactics against the Bills, sometimes rushing only 2 players and dropping all the other defenders into coverage, daring the Bills to run rather than allowing Buffalo QB Jim Kelly to pick apart the secondary. That strategy allowed Bills’ running back Thurman Thomas to rush for 135 yards on 15 carries, a performance that surely would have won him the game’s Most Valuable Player Award if the Bills had managed to win. Unfortunately for him and the Bills, however, Parcels’ strategy worked, as the Giants controlled the ball for 40 of the game’s 60 minutes, keeping the vaunted Buffalo offense off the field for most of the game. Still, when Thomas ran 31 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, the Bills took a 19-17 lead. New York drove to a Matt Bahr field goal to retake the lead at 20-19, setting up a dramatic game-ending drive by the Bills. Kelly drove his club into position for a 47 yard field goal attempt by Scott Norwood, but the Buffalo kicker was wide right and the Giants escaped with the win by the narrowest of margins. It is still, to this day, the only Super Bowl game to be decided on the game’s final play. What became known as the “Wide Right” game formed Norwood’s lasting legacy, which is really not fair considering he was only a 50/50 proposition from the 47 yard distance on grass for his career, and he had made a lot of kicks during the regular season to help get his team into the big game.
A dejected Scott Norwood leaves the field as Super Bowl XXV ends
Logo of an old team from the National Football League, the Chicago Cardinals, used to commemorate the team’s 1947 championship season along with their Western Division title the following year. Players who starred for the Cardinals in that era include Paul Christman, Charley Trippi, Pat Harder, Red Cochran and Buster Ramsey. Incidentally, 1947 was the last year the Cardinal franchise, which relocated to St. Louis in 1960 and later to Arizona, won an NFL title.
1982 Topps football card of former NFL running back Ottis Anderson, who split a 14 year career between the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Giants. He was named Rookie of The Year with the Cardinals in 1979 and was named to the Pro Bowl twice. Anderson had his greatest success with the Giants, helping them to a pair of Super Bowl titles, including Super Bowl XXV when he was named the game’s MVP. “O.J.” has kept busy in his post-playing days, as a successful entrepreneur and with involvement in many community organizations, including United Way, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
The Buffalo Bills angrily reacted to their embarrassing loss to the New England Patriots last week by collectively stating, from coach Rex Ryan on down to the players, that the sad performance wasn’t indicative of what type of team they were. They backed up that talk on Sunday in Miami, as they rolled over a listless Dolphin squad, 41-14 to regain some of the momentum lost in that Patriot defeat. Tyrod Taylor, who looked squeamish at times trying to figure out Bill Belichick’s defense last week, carved up Miami’s secondary with a 21 of 29, 277 yard, 3 touchdown performance. Taylor spread the ball among his receivers, with Sammy Watkins, Percy Harvin, Robert Woods, Charles Clay, LeSean McCoy and Chris Hogan all making plays. The rushing attack amassed 151 yards, with rookie Karlos Williams, who seems to be on a mission to become a featured back in the attack, leading the way with 110 yards on only 12 carries. He also scored a touchdown for the third consecutive game.
The defense, humbled by Tom Brady the previous week, bounced back with a dominant performance, harassing Miami’s supposed “franchise” quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, all afternoon. Although they had only a pair of sacks, by Stefan Charles and Marcell Dareus, they forced hurried throws all day. Tannehill, who broke Dan Marino’s team record for most consecutive passes thrown without an interception, had that streak emphatically stopped by the Bills, who picked him off 3 times. Linebacker Preston Brown had 2 of the thefts, including a stunning 43 yard pick six return. The stat line showed Jerry Hughes with only a single tackle, but he was a disruptive force all game long.
The Bills return home to face the New York Giants next week, their confidence now restored and their general all-around game now back on track. Hopefully both Ryan and the players have learned to do their talking on the field, rather than during the week leading up to the game, as they did prior to meeting New England.
An alternate logo of a team from the National Football League, the St. Louis Rams. It was first used in 1995, when the franchise moved from Los Angeles to the Gateway City, and included the city’s famous Gateway Arch in the team’s colors. St. Louis had been attempting to reacquire an NFL team since the Cardinals left for Arizona in 1987, and were finally successful in doing so by convincing the Rams’ owner Georgia Frontiere to move.
1954 Bowman football card of former NFL running back Wilford “Whizzer” White, who played 2 seasons in the league for the Chicago Bears until a knee injury ended his career. He is not to be confused with Byron “Whizzer” White, who also had a short stint in the NFL as a running back, and went on to become a Supreme Court Justice. Wilford White’s claim to fame may be that he was the father of former Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Danny White.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and St. Louis Rams clash on this week’s National Football League schedule, which brings back Throwback Thursday memories of a Super Bowl played following the 1979 season between these two franchises. They entered the big game with totally different credentials – the Steelers had already won 3 titles in the decade and were a dominant franchise, while the Rams somehow snuck into the championship game after winning the NFC West title with a mediocre 9-7 record. Their coach, Ray Malavasi, had become the head man almost by accident the previous season when George Allen, who always wanted full control of all football operations but had to share that control with GM Don Klosterman, was abruptly dismissed after balking about the situation. The Steelers entered the game as heavy favorites, having dominated the ’70s with their “Steel Curtain” defense, which was expected to have their way with young L.A. quarterback Vince Ferragamo, who was only in his third season in the NFL and was forced into the starting role early in the season due to an injury to Pat Haden. Ferragamo’s statistics were very pedestrian, as he threw twice as many interceptions (10) as touchdown passes (5) after taking over as starter. Somehow, however, the Rams managed to win 6 of his last 7 starts to reach the Super Bowl. Still, conventional wisdom said he would be no match for Pittsburgh’s Terry Bradshaw, who at that point had 3 Super Bowl wins under his belt. The game didn’t quite go according to plan. The plucky Rams built a surprising 13-10 halftime lead, and the Steeler coaches laid into their players at halftime, feeling they were taking the Rams too lightly. Early in the third quarter, Bradshaw gave a preview of things to come by hooking up with Lynn Swann on a 47 yard scoring pass to give the Steelers the lead. The Rams came right back and scored on a play that was popular in the era – a halfback option pass – from Lawrence McCutcheon to Ron Smith. Pittsburgh then proceeded to move the ball on successive drives into Ram territory, only to have Bradshaw throw interceptions to keep the Rams in the lead. It began to appear as if the impossible were possible, that the overwhelming underdogs from Los Angeles could really win this game. It was then that Bradshaw cemented his legend as a true winner. He had been somewhat of an afterthought in the Steelers’ first 3 Super Bowl wins, as most of the credit for the team’s domination went to the defense. But in this game, despite having thrown 3 picks to this point, the “Blonde Bomber”, even with his star receiver, Swann now sidelined by injury, hooked up with another future Hall of Famer, John Stallworth, on a pair of stunning long passes – the first a 47 yard scoring throw, and the second another long toss to set up a 1 yard TD run by Franco Harris to put the Steelers up 31-19, which would turn out to be the final score. The win, the Steelers’ fourth of the decade, cemented Pittsburgh as the “Team of the 70s”, but it was their last hurrah, at least for this particular group. Players from the dynasty club’s roster began to retire in the next few years, including Rocky Bleier and the guy who was the face of the franchise, “Mean Joe” Greene.
Steeler QB Terry Bradshaw unleashes a bomb
Despite losing, the Rams received a great deal of respect for pushing a club that was an NFL dynasty at the time to the brink of disaster before finally succumbing. The team’s defense matched the Steel Curtain blow for blow for most of the game, led by outstanding, hard-nosed players like linebacker Jack “Hacksaw” Reynolds, defensive end Fred Dryer, safety Nolan Cromwell and especially the other defensive end, Jack Youngblood, who played the game on a broken leg in an effort for the ages. Reaching the Super Bowl was also a career highlight for coach Malavasi, who was fired a few years later and died in 1987 at the age of 57.
The Rams’ Jack Youngblood (85) became a legend in Super Bowl XIV (photo courtesy of Spokeo.com)