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NFL – Throwback Thursday: The Blunder Bowl

18 Dec

The Dallas Cowboys and Indianapolis Colts clash in the NFL’s week 16 schedule, and for this week’s Throwback Thursday feature, we’ll encore a post that we published during Super Bowl week in 2011. It was Super Bowl V,  a mistake-filled game played on January 17, 1971, between the Cowboys and Colts (who were based in Baltimore at the time):

 

Super Bowl V may have been the strangest of all of the 44 NFL title games played since the Super Bowl began. It was played following the 1970 season, the first year the NFL and AFL merged into one league with 2 conferences, after Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Baltimore were transferred from the old NFL into the American Conference of the new NFL. After the AFL had established itself as the NFL’s equal with 2 consecutive stunning Super Bowl wins, by the Jets and Chiefs, suddenly the game wound up with 2 old NFL teams playing each other, which took some of the competitiveness out of the game which existed when the young AFL was trying to make a name for itself in earlier years. Both teams entered this game with issues – the Cowboys had gained a reputation for being a good team that “couldn’t win the big one” after failing in the playoffs every year since the early ’60s. The Colts returned to the game where they had suffered the “embarrassment” of being upset by the upstart AFL Jets 2 years earlier, only this time were representing that upstart league as AFC champions. Nonetheless, both teams entered the contest needing to win badly to erase a losing stigma, despite being successful, winning franchises.

The game was an artistic mess, and it looked as if neither team was going to be able to erase that losing stigma, or if either was even capable. The game, which became known as the “Blunder Bowl”, featured 11 combined turnovers, including 7 by the winning team (a record that still stands today), 14 total penalties and a boatload of punts. The Cowboys finished with 113 passing yards, the Colts had 69 yards rushing. All 3 quarterbacks who played in the game, John Unitas and Earl Morrall for Baltimore and Craig Morton for Dallas, completed less than 50% of their pass attempts. A rookie kicker, Jim O’Brien, won the game by kicking a field goal with 5 seconds left, but only after Cowboy RB Dan Reeves let a pass slip through his hands that LB Mike Curtis intercepted, to set it up. Baltimore’s Don McCafferty became the first rookie head coach to win a Super Bowl, but obviously his coaching genius wasn’t much of a factor in the win. For the first and only time in Super Bowl history, a player from the losing team – linebacker Chuck Howley of the Cowboys (pictured below) – was named the game’s MVP. Howley refused to accept the award, saying it was meaningless to him after his team lost. So the Colts, ultimately, erased the stigma of being embarrassed by the Jets in Super Bowl III, but, instead of winning back the glory for the old guard NFL, their win gave the upstart AFL, now the AFC, a 3-2 lead in title games between the leagues. The Cowboys’ story finally got a happy ending also, as they returned to the Super Bowl the next season and soundly defeated Don Shula’s young up-and-coming Miami Dolphin squad in Super Bowl VI to finally give Tom Landry his long-awaited championship. One thing this game accomplished – it firmly established the fact that the old battleground days of the NFL and AFL were over, and that the NFL was now just one big happy family. From this point, the game grew immensely in the 1970s and beyond into the monster it is today.

 

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Dallas Cowboy LB Chuck Howley

 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

18 Dec

FrankfordYellowJackets2

Logo of a long lost National Football League franchise, the Frankford Yellow Jackets, who played in the league from 1924 until 1931. They won the NFL championship in 1926. The team fell on hard times and disbanded operations after the 1931 season. In 1933, the league awarded an expansion franchise to Philadelphia, the Eagles, and that team wore the same powder blue and yellow uniforms that the Yellow Jackets had worn. Two Hall of Famers, Guy Chamberlin and Link Lyman, played for the Frankford franchise.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

18 Dec

69toppscurtis

1969 Topps football card of former pro football middle linebacker Mike Curtis, who played 14 seasons in the NFL for 3 teams. He spent the first 10 of those seasons, his most successful, with the Baltimore Colts. He was a four-time Pro Bowler and helped the Colts win a Super Bowl title in 1971. Curtis was one of the most active linebackers of his era,  finishing his career with 22 sacks and 25 interceptions. He was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Year in 1970.

 

NFL – Bills’ Game Review

14 Dec

If the Buffalo Bills wind up missing the NFL playoffs for the fifteenth consecutive season, it won’t be due to the efforts of their defense. Coordinator Jim Schwartz’s unit put forward their best effort of the season, in a year that has included consistent, if not always dominant, efforts, in being the main reason for a 21-13 upset win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. As with every one of their eight wins on the year, it was a great “team” win by the Bills, but the win wouldn’t have happened without the shutdown performance of the defense. On offense, the Bills were their usual pedestrian selves behind Kyle Orton. They did just enough with the running game, as Fred Jackson, Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown made contributions, and completed a minimal amount of passes, just enough to account for four Dan Carpenter field goals. The special teams had a terrific day, with Carpenter’s field goals, a blocked field goal, some terrific kick return coverage highlighted by Marcus Easley, and a 75 yard punt return touchdown by Marcus Thigpen being among their accomplishments. It was the defense that owned the day, however. After allowing Eddie Lacey to run for 73 yards in the first half, they tightened up and limited him to only 24 in the second. They held Aaron Rodgers, whose trademark is accuracy, to 17 completions in 42 attempts for a paltry 185 yards. It was the second week in a row the Bills’ defense held a future Hall of Fame quarterback in check. Although Buffalo’s vaunted pass rush only had a single sack (it was a strip/sack by Mario Williams that caused a safety and basically ended the game), they kept Rodgers feeling uncomfortable in the pocket most of the day. It was a very un-Rodgers like performance, but credit the defensive effort by the Bills for causing it. Unheralded newcomer Bacarri Rambo, signed less than a month ago and pressed into the lineup due to injuries to safeties Da’Norris Searcy and Duke Williams, picked off a pair of Rodgers passes, and the secondary in general had it’s best day of the year covering receivers – maybe the best in many years in fact.

One thought from the game: Critics of general manager Doug Whaley have to give the guy his due. The Bills still have a fighting chance at a playoff spot because players he plucked off the waiver wire within the last month – Thigpen, Rambo and tight end MarQuies Grey, have stepped in and made significant plays to help the team pick up much-needed wins. Buffalo now finishes up the regular season with road games at Oakland and New England, and must win out and get help from a number of sources to qualify for the post-season. Chances are they won’t make it, but coach Doug Marrone and his staff, especially Schwartz, deserve credit for giving the fans some meaningful late-season games for the first time in a decade.

 
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Classic Team Logo of The Day

14 Dec

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Logo of a small college football program, the Abilene Christian University Wildcats, who play in the Southland Conference. The school first fielded a team in 1919, while this logo was used from 1975 until 2012. Former Wildcats who went on to play in the NFL include Wilbert Montgomery, Clint Longley, Danieal Manning, Johnny Knox and Bernard Scott.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

14 Dec

82toppsbrammer

1982 Topps football card of former Buffalo Bills tight end Mark Brammer, who played five seasons for the team in the 1980s. He was known mostly as a blocker, but totaled 59 receptions and 6 touchdowns in his first 2 pro seasons. Brammer is currently a Western New York resident, and a member of the team’s Alumni Association.

 

 

NFL – Throwback Thursday: The Bounty Bowl

11 Dec

Two long-time NFC East rivals, the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles, will square off this week on the league schedule in a game that will likely decide the division championship. The Throwback Thursday post for the week will feature a game played between these two franchises on Thanksgiving Day in 1989, at the beginning of the Jimmy Johnson era of Dallas football, that would become known as the “Bounty Bowl”. It was Johnson’s first year as Cowboy coach after taking over for the legendary Tom Landry, and the team was enduring a horrific season that would find them finishing with a 1-15 record. The Eagles were coached by Buddy Ryan, considered a defensive “genius” who had earned the Philly head coaching job with his great work as defensive coordinator in the mid-1980s with the Chicago Bears. His Eagle team was a defensive powerhouse, and a heavy favorite to defeat Dallas on this day. The game pretty much followed the script, as the Eagles harassed Dallas’ rookie quarterback, Troy Aikman, all day and crushed the Cowboys 27-0. It was what supposedly happened during the game, however, that had Johnson fuming afterwards. Dallas’ coach accused Ryan of putting up bounties of up to $200 on two Cowboy players – Aikman and placekicker Luis Zendejas, who had been with Philly earlier in the season, was cut, and signed with Dallas. At his post-game press conference, Johnson said this: “I have absolutely no respect for the way they played the game. I would’ve said something to Buddy, but he wouldn’t stand on the field long enough. He put his big, fat rear end into the dressing room.”

For his part, Ryan denied the accusations, saying that his players had no intention of hurting anyone, and even claiming it was in the Eagles’ best interest to keep Zendejas in the game, since he was in a slump. He also joked about Johnson’s comments, saying: “I resent that. I’ve been on a diet. I lost a couple pounds, and I thought I was looking good.” The facts show that Eagle players took numerous cheap shots at both Aikman and Zendejas during the game, and the Mexican-born kicker said afterwards that during his time in Philadelphia, Ryan had paid an unnamed player $100 for each of two hits on an opposing punter. The game caused such a fury that when the two teams played later that year in Philadelphia, the contest was dubbed “Bounty Bowl II” by the media, with CBS Sports doing a pre-game opening that featured wanted posters of the involved players showing bounty amounts. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue attended the second game, and although no incidents occurred on the field, Johnson, some of the referees and television announcers Verne Lundquist and Terry Bradshaw were pelted with snowballs, ice and beer. Even Eagles’ player Jerome Brown was hit with a snowball while standing on the sideline, attempting to get the fans to stop throwing things. Eventually, Johnson got the last laugh, as he built the Cowboys into a dynasty that won a pair of Super Bowls in the early 1990s, while Ryan never reached that level of success as a head coach in stops at Philadelphia and later with the Arizona Cardinals.

 

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Jimmy Johnson complains to the officials as Luis Zendejas (6) is helped by trainers after enduring a hard hit

 

 

 

 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

11 Dec

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Logo of the University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers, a college football team that until recently played in the East Division of Conference USA. However, they recently announced they are disbanding their football program. They began play as a Division III team in 1991, and current Blazer alumni playing in the NFL include Roddy White, Joe Webb and Matt McCants.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

11 Dec

85toppsUSFLZendejas

1985 Topps USFL football card of former pro football placekicker Luis Zendejas, who played eight seasons of pro ball in four different leagues. The Mexican-born kicker started his career in the USFL with the Arizona Outlaws, then landed in the NFL, where he split three years playing for the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys. He was out of the game for two years before joining the Arena League for three years. His final season, in 1995, was split between the Arena League and the Canadian Football League’s Birmingham Barracudas.

 

NFL – Bills’ Game Review

07 Dec

The Buffalo Bills’ 24-17 loss to Denver on Sunday afternoon was a heartbreaking one, as the team fought hard but couldn’t make the plays to pull off an upset over a superior opponent. Their defense put on a valiant effort – they intercepted Peyton Manning twice and snapped the future Hall of Famer’s streak of games throwing at least one touchdown pass at 51. Their vaunted pass rush failed to sack Manning, but they certainly contained him enough to have won the game, had the offense been able to produce something beyond the two late touchdown drives that made the final score close. As in most of their losses this year,  the Bills made too many mistakes, didn’t make enough plays and got just enough questionable officiating calls to keep them from winning. In addition to the pair of picks they got from Manning, the Bills also got a turnover on a fumble recovery near the end of the first half, but they had three turnovers of their own to offset the three their defense came up with. As for the officiating, both of Buffalo’s interceptions, by Corey Graham and Stephon Gilmore, featured long returns which were nullified by questionable penalties. In addition, there was a terrible pass interference call against Nickell Robey that kept a Denver drive alive. Not to beat a dead horse, but Buffalo will continue to be disrespected by the league officials until they fight their way out of the losing stigma they have attached to them. The Bronco defense, of course, deserves credit for playing a terrific game in holding the Bills’ offense in check. Their effort, and a strong rushing attack, led the defending AFC champs to victory on a day when Manning was sub-par.

Among the positives for Buffalo to take from the losing effort – they controlled the clock, outgained the Broncos and never quit, as Orton led them on the two late touchdown drives to keep the score close after they fell into a 24-3 hole. Sammy Watkins re-emerged as a potent passing attack weapon, with 7 catches for 127 yards. The loss left the Bills with a 7-6 record, but their playoff hopes, although slim, remain intact as Miami, Cleveland, San Diego and Kansas City all lost. They’ll continue the late-season gauntlet the NFL schedule-makers stuck them with next week when they play their final home game of 2014 against Green Bay.

 
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