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NFL – Throwback Thursday: The Alternating QB Experiment

29 Sep

As the NFL enters week 4 of it’s 2022 schedule, the always entertaining NFC East rivalry between Dallas and Washington is on the menu. For this week’s Throwback Thursday feature we’ll reach way back to November 4, 1962 for a matchup between the 2 clubs. It was week 8 of the season, and both the Cowboys and Redskins were competitive in the NFL’s tough Eastern Division. The New York Giants and Cleveland Browns were dominant forces in the division, and even the lowly Pittsburgh Steelers were playing well that season. Washington came into the contest with only a single defeat at 4-1-2 (ties were common in those days with no overtime) while Dallas was still in it’s infancy, in only their third season under coach Tom Landry. Still, Landry had guided them to a respectable 3-3-1 mark.

Landry, always the innovator, implemented a system on his offense in which he alternated his quarterbacks, something that would be scoffed at in today’s game considering the fragile egos of today’s signal callers. Playing 2 quarterbacks was relatively common in those days, but mostly coaches would make an in-game change solely due to poor performance or injury, since the quarterbacks took brutal beatings back then. Landry took the ploy to extremes as he changed QBs at will regularly during a game. Whether it was a sound strategy or not, it worked out well for the Cowboys on this day. Young Don Meredith got the first kick at the can. After the teams traded first quarter field goals, he connected with Lee Folkins on an 11 yard touchdown pass. Old soldier Eddie LeBaron got his turn next, and he delivered with a 23 yard scoring toss to fullback Amos Marsh. Meredith then took another turn and found J.W. Lockett on a short 4 yard throw to put Dallas in front 24-3. In the final quarter Amos Bullocks scored on a 4 yard run, then LeBaron returned and led a drive culminating in a 14 yard TD toss to Frank Clarke.

Now the rout was on. Redskin coach Bill McPeak then made the move common to the era, replacing the ineffective Norm Snead at quarterback with backup Galen Hall. Hall put together a scoring drive that he finished off himself with a touchdown scamper from a yard out. Marsh was the offensive star for the Cowboys with 10 carries for 109 yards on the ground and 3 receptions for 53 yards and the TD through the air. Dallas left town with an impressive 38-10 victory in tow, but as the season wore on both teams took a nosedive in the standings, finishing fourth and fifth respectively in the 7 team East, each with losing records.

Coach Landry eventually settled on the younger Meredith as the full time starter later in the decade, but he did revert to the alternating tactic again in the early 1970s with Craig Morton and Roger Staubach. The Cowboys finally shed their “can’t win the big one” label in 1971 when he gave Staubach the job full time. They defeated Miami that season for their first Super Bowl title.

 

1960 Cowboy QBs LeBaron, Meredith, Don Heinrich

 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

29 Sep

Used from 1933 until 1936, this is the logo of a franchise from the National Football League’s bygone days, the Boston Redskins. The team entered the NFL in 1932 as the Boston Braves but changed their name the following year. Owner George Preston Marshall moved the team to Washington in 1937 and won the league championship that year. Their first coach, William “Lone Star” Dietz, claimed to be part Sioux. Players on the roster from the Boston years include Turk Edwards, Wayne Millner, Rick Concannon, Jim Musick and Hall of Famer Cliff Battles.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

29 Sep

1963 Topps football card of former pro football fullback Amos Marsh, who played 7 seasons in the National Football League with Dallas and Detroit. He was chosen for the NFL’s All Rookie team in 1961. A powerful runner who earned the nicknames “Moose” and “Forward Marsh”, he also returned kicks for the Cowboys, and his 101 yard kickoff return was a franchise record that stood for 29 years. Marsh died in 1992 after suffering a series of strokes caused by diabetes.

 

NFL – Throwback Thursday: Raiders Complete AFL Dominance

22 Sep

A pair of meandering NFL franchises meets on the league’s week 3 schedule, the Las Vegas Raiders and Tennessee Titans. For this week’s Thursday Throwback feature, we’ll highlight an American Football League championship game played between them on New Year’s Eve, 1967. At the time, the Titans were located in Houston as the Oilers, while the Raiders were still in their original home – Oakland. One of pro football’s most nomadic franchises, the Raiders moved from Oakland down the California coast to Los Angeles, back to Oakland and eventually to their current home in the Nevada desert.

At this point, Al Davis, who temporarily left the franchise to become AFL commissioner during merger talks with the NFL,  had built his team into a dominant force in the AFL. An October loss to Joe Namath and the New York Jets was the only blemish on an otherwise perfect season as Oakland finished 13-1, winning the AFL’s Western Division crown by a whopping 4 games over rival Kansas City. Houston, under coach Wally Lemm, reversed their fortunes from the previous season, turning a 3-11 record into a 9-4-1 mark that proved good enough to win the Eastern Division title and a trip to Oakland for the championship match.

Although Lemm’s club managed to wrestle the crown from three-time East champion Buffalo and the up-and-coming Jets, they proved to be no match for the Raiders in the title game. Oakland’s rugged defense smothered the Oiler attack, holding them to 146 total yards on the day and forcing 4 fumbles and an interception. Offensively, Raider quarterback Daryle Lamonica completed only 10 passes, but 2 of those went for touchdowns, 17 yards to tight end Dave Kocourek and 12 yards to Bill Miller. Oakland’s offense demolished the Oilers with a relentless ground attack, as both Hewritt Dixon (144) and Pete Banaszak (116) ran for over 100 yards. Dixon’s total included a 69 yard scoring run. Lamonica added a 1 yard touchdown run and George Blanda booted 4 field goals to complete the Raiders’ scoring in a 40-7 rout of the Oilers that was never much of a contest. The beleaguered Houston club could only manage a fourth quarter 5 yard TD pass from Pete Beathard to Charley Frazier, avoiding a shutout but not being very satisfied with the result.

Having bulldozed through the AFL in winning 14 of 15 games, the Raiders appeared to have a team capable of competing with the NFL’s juggernaut Green Bay Packers in the second Super Bowl, following a 35-10 thrashing of Kansas City by the Packers the previous season. Vince Lombardi’s troops, after all, had to muster every ounce of fortitude they had to dispatch the Dallas Cowboys in the “Ice Bowl” to make it back to the big game. Alas, Oakland’s lack of experience showed in the game, and mistakes led to another resounding Packer victory, 33-14.

 

 

FB Hewritt Dixon outruns Oiler defenders

 

 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

22 Sep

Logo of the University of California at Santa Barbara Gauchos, a school that has had a football program twice in it’s existence. Although they haven’t fielded a gridiron team since 1969, the Gauchos have had some representation in the pro ranks, as former players Johnny Morris, Dave Chapple, Sam Cathcart and coach Mike Martz have spent time in the NFL.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

22 Sep

1969 Topps football card of former pro football running back Pete Banaszak, a 13 year veteran who played exclusively for the Oakland Raiders in both the AFL and NFL. Nicknamed “Rooster”, he was known as a top short yardage/goal line back with a nose for the end zone. Banaszak helped the Raiders win the Super Bowl in 1976, scoring 2 touchdowns in their win over Minnesota in the game. He was inducted into the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame in 1990. Currently a Florida resident, “Rooster” works on the post game radio show these days for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

 

NFL – Throwback Thursday: Fighting For Their Playoff Lives

15 Sep

It’s week 2 of the NFL season and on this week’s schedule the New York Jets tangle with the Cleveland Browns, leading us at Rayonsports to travel back to December 10, 1978 for a late season meeting between these franchises. Both clubs entered the game on the fringes of the AFC playoff race. The Jets stood at 8-6 and trailed both New England and Miami in the AFC East, while the Browns languished at 7-7, ranking third in the AFC Central. With their faint playoff hopes on the line, the 2 teams battled feverishly to stay alive.

Cleveland jumped out to a 14-0 lead as Calvin Hill ran in from 2 yards out for the only score of the first quarter, and quarterback Brian Sipe hit Greg Pruitt with a 22 yard touchdown pass. The teams traded second quarter field goals, and Matt Robinson, subbing since early in the season for the injured Richard Todd, pulled the Jets to within 17-10 at the half with a short scoring toss to Bruce Harper. Cleveland again took charge in the third stanza as veteran placekicker Don Cockroft added another field goal and Sipe scampered into the end zone from 2 yards out, upping the lead to 27-10. Coach Walt Michaels’ Jets refused to fold, however. Robinson engineered a pair of touchdown drives, finishing them off with TD throws of 4 yards to tight end Mickey Shuler and 20 yards to Harper. After Pat Leahy hit a 39 yard field goal and Kevin Long scored on a 1 yard plunge, the Jets had run off 24 unanswered fourth quarter points and found themselves in the lead at 34-27. Coach Sam Rutigliano’s Browns, who had been dubbed the “Cardiac Kids” for pulling off a series of comebacks and late game heroics, dug down deep and drove downfield with Sipe hitting Hill for an 18 yard touchdown with 14 seconds left to tie the game and force overtime.

Cockroft ruined the day for the Jets by connecting on his third field goal, from 22 yards out, to give Cleveland a 37-34 victory. The hard-fought battle went for naught for both clubs. When Miami and the old Houston Oilers both won to clinch the final AFC wild card spots, both Cleveland and New York were officially eliminated. They each finished the season with mediocre 8-8 records after that, and this game took a toll the following week as both teams appeared deflated. The Jets lost to Dallas 30-7 and the Browns were pummeled by Cincinnati 48-16 in the season’s final games.

 

Sipe and the Browns huddle up

 

 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

15 Sep

Logo of a small college football team that plays in the Sun Belt Conference, the Old Dominion Monarchs. The school began play in 1930 but dropped football and restarted the program in 2009. They also competed in 2 other leagues before joining the Sun Belt Conference in 2022. Former Monarchs who have enjoyed pro football careers include Taylor Heinicke, Travis Fulgham, Zach Pascal and Rick Lovato.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

15 Sep

1980 Topps football card of former pro football running back Calvin Hill, who played 12 seasons in the NFL for 3 teams. The majority of his career was spent in Dallas, where he helped the Cowboys win a Super Bowl and in 1972 became the first player to rush for 1,000 yards for the franchise. He was a four-time All Pro and four-time Pro Bowler for the Cowboys in his 6 years there. His son Grant was a long time basketball star in the NBA. In 2016 Hill received an honorary doctorate degree from his alma mater, Yale University.

 

NFL – Throwback Thursday: A Wild Card Shootout

08 Sep

The 2022 NFL season is upon us, beginning with the league’s Thursday Night opener in Los Angeles. The start of the new season also marks the return of our weekly Throwback Thursday feature, which highlights a game from the past played between 2 teams that are pitted against each other on the schedule that week. The schedule makers have the Detroit Lions meeting the Philadelphia Eagles in week 1 this season, so we’ll travel back to December 30, 1995 for a Wild Card playoff matchup between this pair of old NFL clubs.

The game saw the Eagles’ quarterback, Rodney Peete, matched up against the team he had spent the first 5 years of his career with in the Lions. The teams traded first quarter touchdowns as Charlie Garner scampered 15 yards to paydirt for Philly and Detroit QB Scott Mitchell tossed a 32 yard touchdown pass to David Sloan. The fortunes for the 2 signal callers, Peete and Mitchell, changed drastically after that. Peete guided the Eagles on a scoring rampage that stretched into the third quarter, as Philly racked up 51 unanswered points. Meanwhile, Mitchell’s day went south, as he was sacked twice and threw 4 interceptions before being replaced by Don Majkowski. The Eagles’ scoring onslaught included 3 TD passes from Peete to Fred Barnett, Ricky Watters and Rob Carpenter, a 1 yard touchdown run by Watters and 3 Gary Anderson field goals. The defense also chipped in, as Barry Wilburn returned one of the picks from Mitchell 24 yards for a touchdown.

Now trailing 51-7 in the third quarter, Detroit coach Wayne Fontes inserted Majkowski into the game hoping to at least regain some pride. The “Magic Man”, as Majkowski had been dubbed in earlier years while with Green Bay, lived up to the moniker. He proceeded to lead touchdown drives in the final 2 quarters that ended with 4 touchdown passes, including a 68 yarder to Herman Moore. Unfortunately for the Magic Man, the Philadelphia defense intervened in the comeback and stemmed the tide of Detroit scoring when William Thomas picked off a Majkowski pass and returned it 30 yards for the Eagles’ second pick six of the game. When the dust finally settled, Philly escaped with a 58-37 victory. Despite surrendering the 37 points, the Eagle defense had a stellar day with 6 total interceptions and the 14 point contribution to the scoring. The win was the highlight of the ’95 playoffs for Philadelphia. They were routed by the eventual Super Bowl champions, coach Barry Switzer’s Dallas Cowboys, 30-11 the following week in the divisional round.

 

 

Eagle QB Rodney Peete scans the defense