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NFL – Throwback Thursday: An AFL Preview

22 Oct

The Los Angeles Rams and Chicago Bears face off on this week’s NFL schedule, which leads us to travel back to November 2, 1958 for this week’s Throwback Thursday feature. It was a wild game in L.A.’s Coliseum between these 2 clubs that saw an offensive explosion that wasn’t a common sight in those days, as the Rams won 41-35. Actually, the Rams were noted for high-flying offense in those days but on this day the usually defensive-minded Bears joined the show too. Chicago’s defense started the scoring onslaught when Erich Barnes intercepted a Bill Wade pass and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown. Wade and the Rams took control from there. The L.A. signal caller led drives that produced 4 touchdowns and a field goal, as he ran 3 yards for one score, hit Tommy Wilson and Leon Clarke with touchdown throws and saw Wilson run 9 yards to the end zone for another six-pointer. Those 4 TDs and a field goal gave the Rams a resounding 31-7 lead, and it looked like they were on there way to a one-sided victory. When Chicago QB Zeke Bratkowski hit Bill McColl from 10 yards out to cut the score to 31-14 at halftime, it was a harbinger of things to come. He hit Willie Galimore for a 12 yard score early in the second half, but the Rams got the momentum back with another Wilson touchdown run and a field goal to finish up the third quarter with what appeared to be a comfortable 41-21 lead. The proud Bears weren’t about to lay down, however. Rick Casares, who had 23 carries for 113 yards on the day, ran in from 5 yards out and Bratkowski found McColl open again for a 25 yard scoring connection. The clock ran out on the visitors from the Windy City from that point and the Rams escaped with the win.

One Ram player who had an outstanding afternoon that day, although he never reached the end zone, was halfback Jon Arnett, who carried the ball, caught passes and returned kicks for a massive 298 total yards from scrimmage. Wade’s performance must have gotten the attention of Chicago owner/coach George “Papa Bear” Halas. He later traded for Wade and was rewarded when the signal caller guided his Bears to the NFL championship in 1963. The offensive display the Rams put on was somewhat of a look into the future. Their coach, future Hall of Famer Sid Gillman, became the first head coach of the fledgling American Football League’s Los Angeles Chargers in 1960, where he was the architect of some unstoppable offensive attacks that were a large part of the high-scoring attraction that the new league’s fans enjoyed. Gillman’s Chargers, who moved to San Diego in 1961, reached the AFL title game 5 times in the league’s first 6 years and won it all in 1963 behind stars like Jack Kemp, John Hadl, Paul Lowe, Keith Lincoln and Lance Alworth.

 

Rams’ Tommy Wilson had a huge day (Daryl Norenberg photo)

 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

22 Oct

Logo of a pro football team with a long history in the National Football League, from their very early years, the Cleveland Rams. The logo is similar to the one the team uses today. The team was located in Cleveland from 1937 until 1945, when they relocated to Los Angeles. The nomadic franchise moved twice since then, to St. Louis and then back to the City of Angels. The club actually was founded in the old AFL in 1936 but moved to the more established NFL in ’37. The Rams won the NFL championship in 1945 and then promptly moved to L.A. the next season. Some notable players from the Cleveland era of the franchise include Fred Gehrke, Ray Hamilton, Riley Matheson, Red Hickey, Jim Benton and Hall of Famer Bob Waterfield.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

22 Oct

1961 Fleer football card of former pro football halfback Willie Galimore, who played 7 seasons in the NFL for the Chicago Bears. Nicknamed “Willie the Wisp”, he was a two-time All Pro and a member of the Bears’ 1963 championship team. His career and life were tragically cut short at age 29 in 1964 when he and teammate Bo Farrington were killed in a car accident near the team’s training camp. A civil rights activist, Galimore made history when, just weeks before his death, he became the first black person to register at the previously all white Ponce de Leon Motor Lodge in his home town of St.Augustine, Florida. His son Ron was the first black U.S. Olympic gymnast.

 

NFL – Throwback Thursday: The “Oilers” Return To Houston

15 Oct

For this week’s NFL Throwback Thursday feature we’ll go back to 2002 for a clash between the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans, who meet on this week’s schedule. Being one of the youngest franchises in the NFL, this is the first time the Texans have been featured in a weekly TBT post here. The importance of the game lies in the fact that the Titans, formerly the Houston Oilers prior to abandoning the city to move to Tennessee, were returning to their old home for the first time since leaving in 1997. The Texans, the newly minted expansion franchise, were closing out their first season against their division rivals and were hungry to give their fans some measure of revenge in the game. The Titans had beaten them earlier in the season at Memphis in a relatively close 17-10 battle, so there was reason for optimism.

As far as how the game went, it was pretty forgettable. The Texans had valiantly played most of their opponents closely all year, an accomplishment for a new team, and also racked up 4 wins along the way. This game was no different, but Houston, led by prize rookie quarterback David Carr, couldn’t muster any kind of offense at all against the tough Tennessee defense. The Texans’ defense played strong also, and the only first half scoring was a pair of Joe Nedney field goals to give the Titans a 6-0 lead. Houston managed a third quarter field goal to pull with 3, but in the final quarter, the only player to have any success for either team, running back Eddie George, scored on a 4 yard touchdown run to give the Titans a 13-3 lead that wound up being the final score. George managed 102 yards rushing on 25 carries on the day.

Because the two clubs were placed in the same division, the AFC South, they had to play each other twice a year. Still, maybe because of the 5 years that Houston went without a team and the rebranding of their old team as the Titans in Tennessee (they remained the “Tennessee Oilers” for 2 seasons), there wasn’t a great deal of hatred generated by the rivals or their fans. Tennessee dominated play for the first 2 seasons, but the Texans finally did capture a measure of pride in the 2004 season by sweeping both games from the Titans.

 

 

Titans’ stars RB Eddie George, QB Steve “Air” McNair

 

 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

15 Oct

Logo of the National Football League’s Houston Texans from their inaugural season of 2002. They entered the NFL as an expansion team, returning pro football to the city that had lost the Oilers to relocation in 1997. Coached by Dom Capers, they pulled off a shocking surprise in their first regular season game by upsetting their state cousins, the Dallas Cowboys, in a Sunday Night Football contest. They came back down to earth after that, however, finishing their first year with a 4-12 won/loss record.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

15 Oct

2005 Topps First Edition 50th Anniversary football card of former NFL quarterback David Carr, who played a total of 11 seasons in the league for 4 different teams. He was the first overall pick of the 2002 draft and also the first pick in the history of the expansion Houston Texans that year. He never quite lived up to the lofty expectations of being a high draft choice, but managed to carve out a long career for himself as a backup QB. Carr also won a Super Bowl ring as Eli Manning’s backup with the New York Giants. His brother Derek is currently the quarterback of the Las Vegas Raiders.

 

NFL – Throwback Thursday: Shocking The Future Champs

08 Oct

The Battle of Pennsylvania takes place on this week’s NFL schedule as the Pittsburgh Steelers face the Philadelphia Eagles. The two clubs also took each other on in the penultimate game of their respective 1960 seasons on December 11th of that year, and that is the contest we feature for this week’s Throwback Thursday post. The Eagles were enjoying one of their best seasons in a long time, while Pittsburgh was slogging along to another in a line of mediocre to bad years. It was unknown at the time of course, but Philly would go on to win the league’s championship later that year as they caught lightning in a bottle behind the quarterback play of aging veteran Norm Van Brocklin. With a 9-1 record they entered Forbes Field on this day as heavy favorites over the Steelers, sporting a losing 4-5-1 mark. In a shocking turn of events, Pittsburgh rode a spectacular performance from future Hall of Fame running back John Henry Johnson to jump out to a 27-0 lead by halftime in the game. Johnson, who rushed for 182 yards on 19 carries on the afternoon, scored on scampers of 7 and 87 yards and added a halfback option touchdown pass of 15 yards to flanker Buddy Dial, all after quarterback Bobby Layne had opened the scoring with a 6 yard rushing touchdown.

The stunned Eagles replaced Van Brocklin with Sonny Jurgensen in the second half and after a scoreless third quarter the young red-headed signal caller restored some pride in his club in the final stanza. He led drives that saw him complete scoring tosses of 53 yards to Timmy Brown and 19 yards to Tommy McDonald, while Brown also ran 7 yards to paydirt to bring Philly to within 27-21. Brown would finish with 3 catches for 112 yards to lead all receivers on the day but the Eagle comeback fell short and the 27-21 score held up. Johnson’s big day was the highlight of the winning effort for the Steelers, but he wasn’t alone in contributing to the win. Tom Tracy added 95 yards on 22 carries and Dial totaled 6 grabs for 85 yards and his TD, while Layne, although he was intercepted 3 times, was responsible for a pair of scores. Van Brocklin would come back to eventually lead the Eagles over Green Bay in the title game, then go out on top as he retired after the season to take the head coaching job of the NFL’s new expansion team, the Minnesota Vikings, in 1961.

 

 Steeler QB Bobby Layne, sans face mask, sails a pass over Eagle defenders (Getty Images/Neil Leifer)

 

 

 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

08 Oct

Logo of a defunct independent small college football team, the St. Mary’s College Gaels, who began play in 1892 and disbanded in 2003 for budgetary reasons. The school actually dropped its’ program in 1950 but revived it as a club sport, then returned to a regular varsity team, in 1970. The most famous Gael alumnus who played pro football is Hall of Famer John Henry Johnson, while other notable former Gaels include Eddie Erdelatz, who coached at Navy and was the first head coach of the AFL’s Oakland Raiders, Dante Magnani, Harry Ebding, Will Sherman and Joe Aguirre.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

08 Oct

1963 Topps football card of former pro football receiver Buddy Dial, who played 9 seasons in the NFL, splitting time between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys. His best years were with the Steelers, as he was a two-time Pro Bowler and an All Pro in 1963 while playing for them. A devout Christian, Dial recorded an album of inspirational songs and also a single that was a regional hit in Dallas while he was with the Cowboys. He died in 2008 of prostate cancer at the age of 71.

 

NFL – Throwback Thursday: The Paul Warfield Curse

01 Oct

The Dallas Cowboys and Cleveland Browns lock horns on this week’s NFL schedule, and we’ll travel back to a game played between these 2 clubs on December 28, 1969 for this week’s Throwback Thursday feature. It was a divisional round playoff game between the Browns, the Century Division champs, and the Capitol Division titlist Cowboys. The NFL, in it’s last couple of seasons prior to the merger with the AFL, was divided into 4 divisions – Century, Capitol, Coastal and Central. Both clubs were perennial winners in the decade of the 1960s, although Dallas was beginning to gain the reputation as a team that “couldn’t win the big one”. Despite being molded into a perennial winning franchise by coach Tom Landry, the Cowboys had suffered crushing defeats in the prior 3 years’ playoffs. Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers beat them twice in the NFL championship game and the Browns upset them in a divisional playoff game in 1968. The rematch in this 1969 clash would be a repeat of the previous season, and a certain nemesis that haunted the Cowboys was to be a major factor again. That nemesis was Browns’ wide receiver Paul Warfield. He had been a thorn in Landry’s side in the clubs’ two prior meetings – catching 7 passes for 170 yards and 2 touchdowns in Cleveland victories. Warfield again burned the Cowboy defense in this game. Although he didn’t reach the end zone, he racked up 99 yards on 8 receptions to lead all receivers in a resounding 38-14 win by the Browns.

Cleveland had control of this contest from the opening whistle as quarterback Bill Nelsen engineered drives that resulted in a pair of short rushing touchdowns from fullback Bo Scott, a scoring throw to tight end Milt Morin and a Don Cockroft field goal as the Cotton Bowl visitors built a 24-0 lead in the third quarter. Craig Morton, battling to get Dallas’ offense moving, finally got his club on the scoreboard with a 2 yard QB sneak, but after Leroy Kelly scored on a short run, his struggles reached the point of no return as Cleveland cornerback Walt Sumner intercepted him and ran it back 88 yards for a gut-punching touchdown to open up a 38-7 Browns’ lead. In what was to become an omen for the future, Landry turned to his backup signal caller, Roger Staubach, to salvage some dignity in the game. Roger the Dodger guided the Cowboys on a scoring drive that culminated with a touchdown pass to Lance Rentzel to complete the game’s scoring.

It took a few years and a couple more cringeworthy postseason losses before Dallas finally overcame the “can’t win the big one” stigma. In Super Bowl VI in 1971, they routed the young Miami Dolphins 24-3 to give Landry his first championship. To finally end their postseason failure string was one thing, but it also came with a cherry on top. Warfield, now a member of the Dolphins, was held to a pedestrian 4 catches for 39 yards in the win.

 

Browns’ QB Bill Nelsen surveys the defense (Getty Images)