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NFL – Throwback Thursday: The Tuck Rule Game

16 Nov

The Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots meet in Mexico on this week’s NFL schedule, taking this week’s Throwback Thursday feature back to an AFC Divisional playoff game contested on January 19, 2002 between these two clubs. It was a controversial game that, because of a play in the fourth quarter in which an obvious fumble was turned into an incomplete pass due to an obscure rule, went down in NFL lore as the “Tuck Rule Game”. It was one of many controversial and memorable games involving the Raiders over the years, and also served as a springboard for young Patriot quarterback Tom Brady on his journey to 5 Super Bowl titles. It was the final game ever played at old Foxboro Stadium, and was a classic NFL “snow globe” game, as it was played in a heavy snowstorm. The Patriots won in overtime, 16-13, on an Adam Vinatieri field goal. The New England kicker had booted a 45 yard three-pointer with less than a minute left in regulation to tie the game, but it was the controversial play earlier in the drive to set up that score that would become a flashpoint for arguments over the league’s convoluted rules.

Brady was sacked while dropping back to pass by Oakland’s Charles Woodson, forcing what appeared to be a fumble, which the Raiders recovered. In all honesty, for every NFL game played in the history of the league prior to this, and for any gridiron contest played at any level ever, the play would have been ruled as, and was, a fumble. Brady had cocked his arm to pass, then pulled the ball back and attempted to tuck it into his body just as Woodson hit him. However, the officials reviewed the play and invoked the little known “Tuck Rule”, changing the call to an incomplete pass and giving New England the ball back, thus allowing Brady to continue the drive to the tying field goal. An Oakland recovery of the fumble would have basically sealed the victory for them. The wording of the tuck rule left a lot open for interpretation by the officials, as does a lot of current league rules, which leads to those officials often looking like buffoons. It was such a bad rule that the league quietly and quickly got rid of it in the off-season.

Oakland owner Al Davis insisted the call was terrible and was only made because the NFL had it in for his team, due to the court battles he had with the league as a rogue owner. Davis was also furious with his head coach at the time, Jon Gruden, claiming Gruden hadn’t protested the call loudly or persistently enough. Bad blood ensued between the two, and Gruden eventually departed to become head coach in Tampa Bay.

 

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Oakland’s Charles Woodson about to dislodge the ball from Tom Brady on the “Tuck Rule” play

 
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Classic Team Logo of The Day

16 Nov

atlantic schoonersCFL85

Logo of the Atlantic Schooners, a long-forgotten pro football team that never came to be. The team was to be part of a Canadian Football League expansion in 1984. They received conditional approval but the ownership group could not secure the financing and their bid was withdrawn. The team was to be located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and although the CFL has often entertained the idea of expanding into the Maritime Provinces, the idea has never come to fruition.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

16 Nov

98bowmancharleswoodson

1998 Bowman football card of former pro football defensive back Charles Woodson, who played 18 seasons in the NFL for the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers. He was a Heisman Trophy winner in college at Michigan, a nine-time Pro Bowler, was chosen for the NFL’s All Decade team for the 2000s, and is a certain future Pro Football Hall of Famer when he becomes eligible. Woodson helped the Packers win Super Bowl XLV. He currently works as a football analyst for ESPN.

 

NFL – Throwback Thursday: Tittle’s Revenge

10 Nov

Two once-proud NFL franchises who have fallen on hard times this season meet on this week’s schedule. That would be the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers, and our Throwback Thursday feature goes way back, to November 17, 1963, for a game played between them. It was a week prior to the Sunday slate of games that the NFL decided to play after President Kennedy’s assassination, which would turn out to be a controversial decision. This game, although not particularly significant, was the first encounter that Giants’ quarterback Y.A. Tittle had against the team that traded him away – the 49ers. Tittle was part of San Francisco’s vaunted “Million Dollar Backfield” of the 1950s but in 1961 he was dealt to the Giants, a trade he wasn’t thrilled about. If a trade had to happen, he would have preferred to stay on the West coast and be dealt to the Los Angeles Rams. He wasn’t initially received well by the players in New York, who were loyal to their current QB at that time, veteran Charlie Conerly. He eventually won the starting job, won his teammates over and guided the Giants to 3 consecutive NFL title games, although they lost them all.

In this particular game, it was the first chance for the venerable old signal caller to get “revenge” on his former team. Tittle, however, wasn’t really a vindictive person and never really vowed to make the 49ers pay for trading him, like fiery Bobby Layne did when the Detroit Lions dealt him in the ’50s. If Tittle did have any designs on revenge, however, he accomplished them this day. He threw for 284 yards and 4 touchdowns as the Giants won in a rout 48-14. He hit Joe Morrison for a pair of TDs and spread the wealth by hitting Del Shofner and Frank Gifford for a TD each. Morrison also ran for 98 yards while Phil King rushed for over 100. New York called off the dogs and pulled Tittle later in the game, and backup QB Glynn Griffing added another TD toss to Gifford. The Giants wound up amassing 568 yards in total offense, an unheard of amount in those days, in blowing out the lowly Niners.

The assassination of the president 5 days later left this game all but forgotten but it was a milestone in the long and successful career of Tittle, a Hall of Famer and one of the sport’s all-time legends. I have featured Tittle on quite a few Rayonsports blog posts over the years, even though I was a die-hard Cleveland Browns’ fan at the time and the Giants and Browns were bitter rivals. It’s just an example of how a person gains respect for the game’s true warriors as time passes.

 

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Y.A. Tittle rallies the troops beside a 1960s version of the sideline heater

 

 

 

 
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Classic Team Logo of The Day

10 Nov

gasouthern

Logo of a small college football team that plays in the Sun Belt Conference, the Georgia Southern Eagles. The school began play in 1924 and has claimed 6 small college national championships. Former Eagles who have had pro football careers include Rob Bironas, Fred Stokes, Kiwaukee Thomas, J.J. Wilcox and Jerick McKinnon.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

10 Nov

62postjoemorrison

1962 Post Cereal football card of former pro football back Joe Morrison, who played 14 seasons in the NFL, all for the New York Giants. He played halfback, flanker and split end in his career, and his versatility and longevity with the Giants earned him the nickname “Old Dependable”. After retiring as a player, Morrison was a college football head coach for 16 years with 3 different schools – Chattanooga, New Mexico and South Carolina, earning the Walter Camp Coach of The Year Award in 1984.

 

NFL – Throwback Thursday: The Sea of Hands

02 Nov

This week’s Throwback Thursday feature harkens back to a classic playoff game between 2 teams that match up on this week’s NFL schedule, the Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins. Played on December 21, 1974, it went down in football lore as the “Sea of Hands” game because of the way it ended. The Raiders and Dolphins were both NFL powerhouses at the time, and this game figured to be a good one. Oakland was one of pro football’s winningest regular season teams of the era, while the Dolphins were defending champions coming off back-to-back Super Bowl wins and seeking an unprecedented third consecutive title (and fourth consecutive appearance).

The game got off to a great start for Miami as Nat Moore returned the opening kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown. However, it was the only score of the first quarter as the defenses of both clubs dug in. In fact, Oakland scored the only other touchdown of the entire first half as their swashbuckling QB, Ken “The Snake” Stabler, hit Charlie Smith with a 31 yard scoring throw. The Dolphins’ signal caller, Bob Griese, was anything but a swashbuckler. His stat line for the day was very pedestrian, as he threw only 14 passes, completing 7 for a paltry 101 yards. That was Miami coach Don Shula’s standard game plan at the time. The Dolphins routinely won mixing  tough defensive play by their “No-Names” with a bruising running game that on this day accumulated 213 yards. Larry Csonka had a typical day for them, rushing 24 times for 114 yards. Griese did manage to hit his future Hall of Fame wideout Paul Warfield with a 16 yard TD pass as the teams traded third quarter touchdowns. Stabler hooked up with Fred Biletnikoff on a 13 yarder. The offensive fireworks picked up in the final quarter to provide the thrilling ending. Garo Yepremian booted a Miami field goal and Stabler hit speedy Cliff Branch with a 72 yard touchdown pass that was a Raider trademark – the vertical passing game. Shula’s run game produced another six-pointer with Benny Malone scampering 23 yards to give his club a 26-21 lead, setting up Stabler to begin an iconic drive. He methodically guided Oakland down the field to Miami’s 8 yard line. With no timeouts left and a first and goal from the 8, Stabler dropped back, looked for Biletnikoff, who was blanketed by multiple Dolphin defenders. He scrambled back to his left and within milliseconds of being dragged down for a sack, lofted a pass into a crowd of players in the corner of the end zone. Most of the players in that crowd were Miami defenders, but somehow, miraculously, the Raiders’ Clarence Davis clutched the ball, and the game-winning touchdown, out of the “Sea of Hands” of opposing players. Miami had a chance to counter the score as they trailed by 28-26 at that point. Needing only a field goal, Griese started a drive only to have Oakland linebacker Phil Villapiano seal the deal by intercepting him.

NBC’s game announcer, Curt Gowdy, called the contest the “greatest game I ever saw”, and his analyst counterpart, Al De Rogatis, concurred. The Raiders, who had lost only 2 games all year, were pretty confident that they were on their way to their first Super Bowl title, especially after dethroning the two-time champion Dolphins. However, they would be thwarted in that effort the next week by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC title game, beginning the Steelers’ four-time Super Bowl-winning run of the 1970s.

 

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Oakland’s Clarence Davis makes the “Sea of Hands” catch

 
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Classic Team Logo of The Day

02 Nov

ecu8898

Logo of the East Carolina University Pirates, a college football team that plays in the American Conference. The school played its’ first season in 1932 and this logo was used from 1988 until 1998. Former Pirates who have gone on to careers in the pros include David Garrard, Robert Jones, Chris Johnson, Glenn Bass, Jeff Blake, Earnest Byner, Terry Long, Tootie Robbins and Linval Joseph.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

02 Nov

78toppsclarencedavis

1978 Topps football card of former running back Clarence Davis, an underrated player who spent 8 seasons with the Oakland Raiders. He was a clutch player who saved his biggest performances for the biggest games, including rushing for 137 yards on 16 attempts in Super Bowl XI, helping the Raiders defeat the Minnesota Vikings for the franchise’s first NFL title.

 

NFL – Throwback Thursday: The Curse of Bobby Layne

26 Oct

The Detroit Lions face the Pittsburgh Steelers on this week’s NFL schedule, which takes this week’s Throwback Thursday feature back to an obscure game played between these two franchises on November 8, 1959. Both of the clubs were league bottom feeders that year, even though the Lions had been a dominant force in the decade, winning 3 NFL titles. The game was significant, however, in that it was the first time future Hall of Fame quarterback Bobby Layne, who had led the Lions throughout the decade, was to play against the team that traded him prior to the ’59 season. Layne’s old coach in Detroit, Buddy Parker, was now coaching the Steelers and made the trade to try to lift the lowly Pittsburgh club out of their losing doldrums. At the time of the trade, Layne was so upset that he proclaimed that the Lions “wouldn’t win again for the next 50 years!” And of course, Detroit to this day hasn’t won a title and has made only rare playoff appearances. They, along with the Cleveland Browns, are the only non-expansion teams to have never reached a Super bowl in the game’s 51 year existence. Layne’s proclamation has grown into what is now considered a hex on the franchise known as “The curse of Bobby Layne”. While baseball’s Boston Red Sox finally overcame their “curse of Babe Ruth” after trading the legendary slugger, the Lions’ “curse” has now surpassed the 50 years Layne put on them.

As for the actual game, it was pretty non-descript. Only about 24,000 fans were in attendance at old Forbes Field in Pittsburgh to witness the two losing clubs battle to a 10-10 tie. Layne didn’t get revenge on his old club, but he could take solace in the fact that he provided his Steelers with all of their points, tossing a 20 yard scoring pass to Tom Tracy, kicking the extra point and adding a 29 yard field goal. The season rebounded for the Steelers after this game. They won 4 of their last 5 to finish with a 6-5-1 record, the only winning season they would enjoy with Layne calling the signals.

 

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Bobby Layne was prominently featured on the 1959 Steelers/Lions game program 

 
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