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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

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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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Classic Team Logo of The Day

14 Nov

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This is the memorial logo being worn by the Buffalo Bills in 2014 in honor of their late founder and owner Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Wilson was one of the original eight owners who founded the American Football League, which began play in 1960. He was the last survivor of that group, known collectively as “The Foolish Club” for having the audacity to challenge the established NFL. He also played an important behind-the-scenes role in helping to bring about the merger between the AFL and NFL which produced the thriving entity the league has become today.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

14 Nov

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1963 Fleer football card of former pro football lineman Ken Rice, who played seven seasons in the American Football League for three different teams. He was an AFL All Star in his rookie season of 1961 with the Buffalo Bills. He moved on to Oakland in 1964, and was left unprotected by the Raiders in the 1966 expansion draft, and was chosen by the Miami Dolphins. Injuries forced him to retire after the 1967 season.

 

NFL – Throwback Thursday: Lombardi Loses

13 Nov

The Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles square off on this week’s NFL schedule, harkening back to another meeting between these two franchises that will be this week’s Throwback Thursday feature. That meeting was the National Football League championship game of the 1960 season, and was historic in the fact that it was the only post-season loss in the head coaching career of Packer legend Vince Lombardi. The decade of the 1950s had been dominated by the likes of the Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Colts, as those three clubs won 7 titles between them. So when the Packers and Eagles qualified for the title game in ’60, it was a matchup of “new blood”. Green Bay hadn’t played for a league title since 1944, while the Eagles were making their first championship appearance since 1949. There were some quirky things about the game – it was played on a Monday – December 26th, because the NFL didn’t want to play on Christmas, and was scheduled for a noon start time, because Philadelphia’s home stadium, Franklin Field, had no lights and the league was concerned that there could be sudden death overtime, which had happened two years previous in 1958. The Packers had been a losing franchise in the ’50s, and Lombardi took over as head coach in 1959 and produced a winning season, then got his club into the title game in 1960. The Packers were an unknown quantity at the time. Bart Starr was on the roster, but he shared quarterback duties with Lamar McHan. In fact, the Packers got to the title game with an 8-4 record, and were 4-0 in McHan’s starts and 4-4 in Starr’s. Other future Packer legends, like Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor and Ray Nitschke, were in the early stages of their careers. The Eagles, on the other hand, were pretty much a one-year wonder. They were led by veteran QB Norm Van Brocklin, who would retire after the title game, and coach Buck Shaw, who turned the Eagles from chronic losers into NFL champs in three seasons. The title game would be Shaw’s last with Philly also. Philadelphia wound up winning the game 17-13, and the game ended with Green Bay driving deep into Eagle territory. With only 22 seconds left and no timeouts, Starr threw a short pass to Taylor and he was tackled at the ten by Philly’s Chuck “Concrete Charlie” Bednarik. The rules were a lot different in that era, and Bednarik, after making the tackle, held Taylor down as the clock wound down. As the final gun sounded, Bednarik snarled “You can get up now, Taylor. This damn game’s over!” Winning the title was a bit of a crowning achievement for players like Bednarik, Van Brocklin and veteran receivers Tommy McDonald and Pete Retzlaff, who all played well. Ted Dean, an Eagle rookie phenom, scored what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown on a five yard run.

For Green Bay and Lombardi, the game was not their greatest moment. Lombardi, in fact, made some tactical mistakes, including going for it on fourth down (and failing) on several occasions deep in Eagle territory. The Packers outgained Philly 401 yards to 296, but couldn’t finish the job. In typical Lombardi fashion, the coach took the brunt of the blame, claiming afterward “When you get down there, you have to come out with something. I lost the game, not my players.” Lombardi also exhorted his players to remember the feeling they were experiencing in that losing locker room, and told them they wouldn’t ever feel it again. His words were prophetic, as the Packers grew into a dynasty that dominated the 1960s, winning the NFL championship 5 of the next 7 seasons, including the first two Super Bowls.

 

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From left, Norm Van Brocklin, coach Buck Shaw and Chuck Bednarik celebrate winning the 1960 NFL title

 

 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

13 Nov

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Logo of a small college football program, the Holy Cross Crusaders, used from 1966 until 1998. The team plays in the Patriot League, a Football Championship Sub-division conference (formerly known as Division I-AA). Former Crusaders who’ve played pro football in either the AFL or NFL include Hall of Famer George Connor, Bob Dee, Doug Cosbie , Vince Promuto and Jon Morris.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

13 Nov

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1962 Post Cereal football card of former NFL halfback Ted Dean. This series was available on the back of boxes of Post cereal products. Dean was a prize rookie on the Philadelphia Eagles’ 1960 championship team, as a runner, kick returner and placekicker. He scored the winning touchdown in that season’s title game. Although considered a rising star, Dean played for the Eagles for only four seasons before injuries curtailed his production, and he was traded to Minnesota prior to the 1964 season. However, he suffered further injuries in an automobile accident and only played in 2 games for the Vikings. He became a teacher in the Philadelphia area after his playing career ended.

 

NFL – Bills’ Game Review

09 Nov

For the second season in a row, the Buffalo Bills outplayed the Kansas City Chiefs for most of the day, then proceeded to hand them a win with what now has to be considered “Buffalo Bills football – 2014 edition” – that is, combining costly mistakes, questionable coaching decisions and breakdowns at the worst possible crucial times to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  The Bills blew a 13-3 lead in the second half and lost 17-13. Buffalo’s offensive effort was average, as they struggled to run the ball at times, but had success running at others. Kyle Orton completed some impressive throws at times, and missed the mark on some others. It could be argued that the Bills played well enough on offense, defense and special teams to win the game, but were done in by the two things that have hampered them in the 1 1/2 year Doug Marrone regime – turnovers and penalties. The two turnovers were game-changers, and underscored why the Bills are still the same old Bills, despite what their players say. Bryce Brown took off on what looked like a sure touchdown run only to have the ball knocked loose at the four yard line. The ball bounced directly into the hands of tight end Scott Chandler, but he lost the handle on it and allowed it to bounce out of the end zone for a touchback. After the Bills’ defense made a stand, Leodis McKelvin wiped out whatever momentum that stand might have given his team by fumbling the Chiefs’ punt. Did the Bills’ supposedly dominant defense stiffen up and bail out McKelvin? No, two plays later, the Chiefs were in the end zone on an eight yard Alex Smith run for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown. It’s tough to assign any blame for the defeat on the defense, since they pressured Smith most of the day, sacking him six times, and contained K.C. back Jamaal Charles for the most part. However, at the most crucial points of the game in the second half, they allowed Charles to run 39 yards for a score on fourth down and one, and allowed an 18 yard scamper by Charles right after McKelvin’s fumble. Again, the Bills played what has become their “signature” game – they played well enough to win but gave the game away. It’s that maddening habit that keeps them from getting any respect from the national media, why they aren’t considered real contenders and why, against the New York Jets in their last game, they became the first team with a winning record in NFL history to be an underdog against a team with one win. Most of the pro football experts know what to expect from this team – that they’ll collapse at critical times during games and at some point every season, and the Bills feed that lack of respect by continually delivering those collapses.

Other than letting a sure win get away, did the Bills accomplish anything positive on Sunday? Absolutely they did. After a slow start, their running game started to click, with Brown and Anthony Dixon grinding out good chunks of yardage. The offensive line had a decent game, blocking well enough for the backs to total 111 yards and allowing only a single sack on Orton. McKelvin, before his disastrous fumble, set up the offense in good field position with some nice punt returns. The defense, other than the pair of breakdowns involving Charles, had another good day, sacking Smith six times, with three coming from Marcell Dareus, who is now establishing himself as a solid Pro Bowl-caliber player.

 
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