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NFL – Throwback Thursday: Birth of The K-Gun Offense

27 Nov

The game from this week’s NFL schedule that we’ll feature in this week’s Throwback Thursday post is a contest between the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills. The game was played in January of 1990 and was an AFC divisional playoff game. It featured a classic shootout between two of that era’s top quarterbacks, Buffalo’s Jim Kelly and the Browns’ Bernie Kosar.  The backdrop to the game was this: the Browns had lost a pair of heartbreaking games to John Elway and the Denver Broncos in the playoffs in previous seasons, and Buffalo, coming off an appearance in the AFC championship game the prior year, had regressed in the 1989 season. They ended the regular season with a couple of losses that almost cost them a playoff berth altogether, and those losses caused some infighting in a very competitive Bills’ locker room that earned the team the nickname “The Bickering Bills”.

The game itself was exciting and included some memorable plays, including a 90 yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Cleveland’s Eric Metcalf and a pass to Buffalo’s Don Beebe in which he was flipped by a Cleveland defender and landed squarely on his head. After falling behind late in the game, Buffalo’s coaches made the decision to go to a fast-paced no-huddle offense to save time, and it turned out to be highly successful. Kelly led his team on a couple of late scoring drives to bring the Bills to within four points at 34-30, hitting Thurman Thomas with a short scoring toss. Unfortunately, Scott Norwood slipped on the icy turf on the extra point attempt and kicked the ball into the backs of his offensive linemen, keeping the score at 34-30 and forcing the Bills to go for a touchdown rather than a tying field goal later on. After that drive, the Bills defense held Kosar to a three-and -out, and after the Browns punted, Kelly proceeded to lead his club downfield with a quick passing attack featuring short throws to his backs, mainly Thomas. The drive included a pair of fourth down conversions, and reached the Cleveland 11 yard line with 14 seconds left. Then came a controversial play in which Kelly found a wide open Ronnie Harmon in the corner of the end zone, and tossed him a pass that he got both hands on, but promptly dropped. There was controversy among fans and in the locker room afterwards about the play, with Harmon claiming the pass was overthrown but fans and some teammates accusing Harmon of having “alligator arms” and not going all out to make the catch. On the next play, Kelly tried to hit Thomas in the end zone but the ball was intercepted by Cleveland linebacker Clay Matthews, father of the current Packer legend.

Despite the loss, some good came out of the game for Buffalo. On the plane ride back home, the coaches, after seeing the success of the fast-paced offensive attack guided by Kelly, decided to make it their base offense the following season, and it was the impetus for the team’s four consecutive trips to the Super Bowl in the early 1990s. Named the “K-Gun” (supposedly after tight end Keith McKeller), it played a major role in making Hall of Famers out of players like Kelly, Thomas, Andre Reed and James Lofton.

 

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Did Bills’ RB Ronnie Harmon have “Alligator Arms” on this potential game-winning pass?

 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

27 Nov

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Logo of a college football program, the William & Mary Tribe, used from 1974 until 2003. The team competes in the Colonial Athletic Conference. Former coaches of the team who have gone on to bigger and better things include Lou Holtz, Mike Tomlin and Marv Levy, while former Tribe players who’ve gone on to play pro football include Dan Darragh, Al Crow, Mark Kelso and Hall of Famer Lou Creekmur.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

27 Nov

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1989 Score football card of former pro football wide receiver Don Beebe, who played nine seasons in the NFL for three different teams. He is still considered one of the fastest players in league history. Beebe holds the distinction of having played in six Super Bowls, including the four consecutive title losses suffered with the Buffalo Bills. He finally won that elusive championship in his first year with the Green Bay Packers in 1996. After retiring in 1998, Beebe founded a company called House of Speed, LLC, that specializes in training athletes to improve their speed and achieve top performance. The company now has franchises located in 11 states.

 

NFL – Bills’ Game Review

25 Nov

The Buffalo Bills have been on a downward slide, losing two games in a row to fall to 5-5 for the season. With their hopes of breaking a 14 year playoff drought slowly slipping away, the Bills had every excuse to fold up their tents and give up on the year after the weather event of this past week put them at a real disadvantage. The heavy snowstorm stranded the players in their homes for days, forcing cancellations of vital practice sessions. It also forced their scheduled Sunday home game against the New York Jets to be moved to Detroit and postponed until Monday night. To make things worse, the Jets were coming off a bye week, so they had two weeks to prepare as opposed to the two days the Bills got. Despite all that, the Bills went to Detroit and played an inspired game, excelling in all three phases to blow out the Jets, 38-3. On offense, quarterback Kyle Orton shook off a pair of subpar performances to play a solid game, highlighted by ending the team’s red zone troubles by tossing a pair of scoring passes, to Robert Woods and Scott Chandler, in the first half. The ground game wasn’t spectacular but did enough to keep the Jets honest, and Fred Jackson and Anthony Dixon scored rushing TDs. Dixon also contributed to a special teams touchdown, blocking a Jet punt that Manny Lawson recovered in the end zone for the score. Special teams also contributed a 53 yard field goal by reliable Dan Carpenter, and kept Percy Harvin in check on kickoff returns. Harvin stubbornly kept attempting to run out kicks from deep in his own end zone, and the Bills on most occasions didn’t allow him to reach the 20 yard line.

It was said before the game that the players, cooped up in their homes all week, were anxious to play the game, and the Bills’ defensive unit played like a bunch of caged tigers who were set free. They dominated the Jets all night, containing New York’s rushing attack and shutting down the passing game with seven sacks and an interception. Mario Williams, who is playing his best football since signing with the Bills, had a pair of sacks and was relentless all night. Jerry Hughes, who some NFL coaches are saying is the most impressive athlete on a talented Buffalo D-line, also had two sacks. It was the Bills’ most dominating defensive performance this season. I haven’t always been very impressed with the job head coach Doug Marrone has done in his two years here, but he deserves credit for focusing his players in very tough circumstances, resulting in a great “team” win. By having the game rescheduled to Monday night, the Bills also are put at a disadvantage again this week, as they now have one less day to prepare for an important conference matchup on Sunday against Cleveland and their old defensive coordinator, Mike Pettine. It has to help that they’ll be back in their friendly confines of Ralph Wilson Stadium, with their home fans and the elements hopefully helping to motivate them.

 
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Classic Team Logo of The Day

25 Nov

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Logo of a pro football team that played in the Canadian Football League for only a single season, the Las Vegas Posse. They were part of a mostly failed experiment by the CFL of adding American expansion teams, and existed for only the 1994 season. Their coach was Ron Meyer, who had previously coached the Colts and Patriots in the NFL. The Posse were a failure on and off the field, as they didn’t win many games and had extremely low attendance, but their roster included a rookie quarterback named Anthony Calvillo, who would go on to become the most prolific passer in CFL history.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

25 Nov

70toppsdarragh

1970 Topps football card of former Buffalo Bills’ quarterback Dan Darragh, who played three seasons with the team. In his rookie season of 1968, he was one of five different quarterbacks to play the position for the Bills, as injuries knocked out Jack Kemp, Tom Flores, Kay Stephenson and “disaster” QB Ed Rutkowski.  By the end of the 1970 season, Darragh was out of the game and on to law school. He is now a practicing attorney in Pittsburgh.

 

NFL – Throwback Thursday: AFL Rivals Join The NFL

20 Nov

The NFL schedule this week includes an AFC West battle between two old enemies, the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs, so a past game between these two clubs will be our Throwback Thursday feature. When the merger took place that joined together the National Football League with the American Football League, it stipulated that the leagues would begin to exist as the “new” NFL beginning in 1970, with the teams divided into the National and American Conferences. Great care was taken to try to preserve the rivalries built up among teams in each league. One of those was the AFL Western Division rivalry between the Raiders and Chiefs. It wasn’t a rivalry that existed when the AFL was founded in 1960 – the Raiders were a bad team with financial problems in the league’s first couple of years, while the Chiefs began their life as the Dallas Texans, one of the league’s better clubs on the field behind the coaching of Hank Stram. Unable to compete with the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, owner Lamar Hunt moved his franchise to K.C. where it enjoyed even more success. When the Raiders hired Al Davis to be their head coach in 1963, they soon shunned their loser label and became an AFL powerhouse. Both clubs developed into flagship franchises for the new league, and being in the same division it was inevitable that they would become bitter rivals. The two teams won 3 of the final 4 AFL titles as the league wound down, and their rivalry continued on into the NFL in the ’70s, and thrives even today. There have been many classics played between these two teams – including an AFL title game in 1969, a season that saw the Raiders sweep the 2 regular season meetings, only to have the underdog Chiefs come into Oakland and upset the Raiders in the title match. The Chiefs had a mascot, a live horse named Warpaint, that would circle the field after every K.C. touchdown. In a 1975 clash, the Chiefs blew out the Raiders 42-10, prompting Oakland coach John Madden to utter: “We couldn’t beat the Chiefs, but we damn near killed their horse!”

The game we highlight for Throwback Thursday is the first encounter they had as members of the NFL, played on November 1 1970. As usual, they were locked in a battle for the division lead, only now it was for the NFL’s AFC West lead, not the AFL Western Division. The Chiefs scored first on a short run by Wendell Hayes, then Raider QB Daryle Lamonica hit his tight end, Raymond Chester, on a pair of short touchdown tosses, to give Oakland a 14-10 lead. Kansas City scored the next 10 points, on a field goal by Jan Stenerud and a TD throw from Len Dawson to his star wideout, Otis Taylor. The Chiefs now led 17-14 and appeared to be on their way to the win, until Taylor became involved in another play. On this play, Dawson scrambled for first down yardage, and on his way down to the ground, got speared in the head by Raider defensive end Ben Davidson. Taylor immediately came to his quarterback’s defense, jumping Davidson and igniting a bench-clearing brawl. Both Davidson and Taylor were ejected but under the rules at the time, Taylor’s penalty nullified the first down and the Chiefs were forced to punt. This allowed Lamonica to drive his team down the field to set up a tying field goal by Oakland’s old reliable, George Blanda. Blanda nailed the kick and the game ended in a 17-17 tie (there was no overtime in the NFL then). That tie eventually cost the Chiefs the division title, as Oakland won the rematch on their home field later in the year to win the head-to-head tiebreaker.

 

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Oakland’s menacing defensive end Ben Davidson 

 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

20 Nov

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Logo of a long-forgotten team that played in the old World League of American Football, the Ohio Glory. The club played only one season in the WLAF (later to be called NFL Europe) and won only one game in that season in 1992. They were coached by former Miami Dolphin Hall of Fame lineman Larry Little, and played their home games at Ohio State University’s stadium. Their roster included a few players who spent time in the NFL, including Babe Laufenberg, George Koonce and punter Tom Rouen.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

20 Nov

66toppsbendavidson

1966 Topps football card of former defensive end Ben Davidson, who played eleven seasons of pro football for three different teams. His career started in 1961 with the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, where he was part of that Packer championship team. He was traded to Washington after that one season and spent 2 years with them before jumping to the American Football League’s Oakland Raiders, where he established himself as one of that league’s fiercest defensive players. An intimidating figure with his hulking physique and trademark handlebar mustache, Davidson epitomized the Raider mystique for the nine years he spent with them. After retiring as a player, he dabbled in acting, and appeared in the famous Miller Lite “tastes great, less filling” ads that also included John Madden and Rodney Dangerfield. Davidson died of prostate cancer in 2012 at the age of 72.

 

NFL – Bills’ Game Review

14 Nov

The Buffalo Bills’ 2014 playoff hopes came crashing down to earth on Thursday night with a demoralizing 22-9 loss to the Dolphins in Miami. The loss left the Bills at 5-5 for the season and, of course, still mathematically alive to qualify for the post-season, but after the listless performance by Kyle Orton and the offensive unit against Miami, there’s no realistic chance that this team will win enough games for the remainder of the year to stay in the race. Orton looks like he has hit the imaginary “wall” that critics said he would after he took over the starting job at quarterback. His play in the last 2 games has been excruciatingly ordinary, and with the defense doing its’ usual job of keeping the team in the game, it was depressing to watch Orton and the offense fail to produce a touchdown, and look lost in the second half as Miami rallied to win. The defense didn’t make stops when they needed to, as usual, but they can’t be faulted for the team’s recent slide.  Although they haven’t been a dominating unit, coordinator Jim Schwartz’s defense has been consistent all season and played well enough to win almost every week. They’ve limited opponents’ rushing attacks for the most part, created turnovers and harassed opposing passers well enough to lead the NFL in sacks. Dolphin QB Ryan Tannehill played a conservative but efficient game and burned the Bills all night with quick throws and timely scrambles, and although the Bills sacked him 5 times, he managed to drive his team to a pair of second half touchdowns, while Orton did virtually nothing. Buffalo defied the odds again – they didn’t turn the ball over, and forced two fumbles, yet still lost. The game also featured a couple of staples of contests involving the Bills – mistakes by the Bills, and ridiculous calls by the officials. An intentional grounding call on Orton that gave Miami a safety was questionable, and an interference call against Stephon Gilmore later in the game was absolutely outrageous.

Coach Doug Marrone now has a decision to make. His team is technically still alive for the playoffs and he is personally fighting for his job, so does he stick with the struggling Orton or throw in the towel and give EJ Manuel another kick at the can, to find out once and for all if the franchise needs to try and find yet another signal-caller in the off-season?

 
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