NFL – Throwback Thursday: San Diego’s Revenge

15 Nov

Last week’s TBT post featured a game in which the lowly 1968 Buffalo Bills managed a monumental upset victory over that season’s eventual Super Bowl champions, the New York Jets. This week’s story is similar in that it also involves 2 American Football League rivals of the 1960s, this time from the Western Division, the San Diego (now Los Angeles)Chargers and the Denver Broncos. The 2 clubs, both flagship franchises of the AFL, meet on this week’s NFL slate of games. The game we feature this week was played on December 22, 1963 at one of the AFL’s venerable old venues, Balboa Stadium in San Diego. Another similarity to last week’s feature is that the 2 teams were at opposite ends of the spectrum, with the Chargers a dominating force in the league and the Broncos a doormat. Earlier that year, the lowly Broncos had stunned the Chargers by a rousing 50-34 margin in a barn burner of a game that was typical of the AFL in that era. The similarity ends there, however, as, in this rematch, San Diego was able to extract revenge for the embarrassing defeat they suffered in Denver in October of that season.

San Diego’s coach, Sid Gillman, was known as a guru of the modern passing game, as he had orchestrated the offensive juggernaut that was the Los Angeles Rams in the 1950s. Now the head man with the Chargers, Gillman’s club was also known for attacking opponents with the long pass, with quarterbacks Tobin Rote and John Hadl alternating at tossing bombs to prolific receivers like Lance “Bambi” Alworth and Don Norton. The Chargers used their rushing attack, which was also a major strength, to dominate this game, however, as Paul Lowe and Keith Lincoln ran for a combined 249 yards and 3 touchdowns. As far as the passing game, Rote and Hadl each tossed a single touchdown throw to a tight end rather than a wide receiver, Rote hitting Dave Kocourek in the second quarter, and Hadl finding Jacque MacKinnon for the final touchdown in what turned out to be a 58-20 rout. The Chargers, perhaps exacting a final bit of revenge, went for and converted a two-point conversion on MacKinnon’s TD.

The game was the regular season finale for both clubs, with the Broncos finishing in the basement of the Western Division with a 2-11-1 record. The Chargers, finishing 11-3 and atop the division, rode the momentum of the big win to post another one-sided score in the league championship, routing the Boston Patriots 51-10.



Broncos vs. Chargers game program from 12/22/1963



Classic Team Logo of The Day

15 Nov


Logo of the Tennessee State Tigers, a historically black college football team that plays in the Ohio Valley Conference. The program has been in existence since 1912, has won a total of 11 Black College national championships and boast an impressive 8-1-1 bowl record over the years. The list of Tiger Alumni who have gone on to play pro football is long, and includes Claude Humphrey, Richard Dent, Joe Gilliam, Mike Hegman, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Joe “Turkey” Jones, Larry Kinnebrew, Jim Marsalis, Dominique Rogers-Cromartie and Anthony Pleasant.


Classic Sports Card of The Day

15 Nov


1969 Topps football card of former pro football player Jacque MacKinnon, who played 10 seasons in the American Football League, mostly donning the powder blue uniform of the San Diego Chargers. He played both tight end and fullback, and along with Dave Kocourek, was utilized by Charger coach Sid Gillman in what is believed to be pro football’s first double tight end formation. MacKinnon was a two-time AFL All Star and helped the Chargers win the league title in 1963. He died a tragic death in 1975, when he crashed his car, and allegedly drunk and fleeing the scene, jumped a fence and fell 30 feet to his demise into a construction site.


NFL – Throwback Thursday: Tough Day For Broadway Joe

08 Nov

The 1968 American Football League season was a magical one for New York Jets’ future Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath, who led his team to the AFL title with a win over previous champ Oakland, then “guaranteed” that his Jets would beat the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in the Super Bowl. Of course, he delivered on that promise and the rest is not only history, but pro football lore. There was a major speed bump in that ’68 season for Broadway Joe, however, and it came against the AFL’s lowliest of the low, the Buffalo Bills, on September 29 of that year. With the Jets and Bills facing off this week on the NFL schedule, we’ll explore that game for this week’s Throwback Thursday feature.

The Bills’ organization at the time was in total chaos, with their back-to-back AFL championship seasons of the mid-1960s long in the rear view mirror. However, one component of the Bills’ glory years was relatively intact – their proud defensive unit. On this day, that defense rose up to provide a monumental effort against Namath and the Jets. They didn’t, by any means, completely shut down the Jets’ offense. Led by Matt Snell’s 12 carries for 124 yards, the Jets ran the ball effectively, while their passing game wasn’t throttled either, as Namath threw 4 touchdown passes, 2 to George Sauer and one each to Don Maynard and Snell. New York outgained the Bills with 427 yards compared to 197 on the day. The difference? The Jets turned the ball over 6 times, including 5 interceptions by Namath. Buffalo’s old War Memorial Stadium, better known as “The Rockpile”, was never one of Namath’s favorite places to play, but on this September Sunday he couldn’t get out of town fast enough. In between his TD tosses, the Bills turned 3 of their 5 interceptions into pick-sixes. Tom Janik returned his 100 yards for a score in the second quarter, while the Bills’ All-AFL cornerback tandem of Butch Byrd and Booker Edgerson ran back their picks 53 and 45 yards respectively in the fourth quarter to provide the winning margin in a shocking 37-35 upset. The win was Buffalo’s only victory of the ’68 season as they finished 1-12-1, a record that allowed them to draft O.J. Simpson in the college draft. The Jets, meanwhile, as previously noted above, were able to put this nightmare behind them as they went on to capture the AFL’s first Super Bowl triumph to cap off their season.


Byrd races for his pick six

Buffalo’s Butch Byrd heads for the end zone with his pick six


Classic Team Logo of The Day

08 Nov


This is a logo of the New York Jets football team that plays in the National Football League. It was used from 1978 until 1997. The franchise originated in the American Football League in 1960 as the New York Titans, and was renamed the Jets after being purchased by Sonny Werblin in 1963. The name was chosen because the Jets would play their home games at Shea Stadium, near LaGuardia Airport. Werblin also hired a formerly successful NFL coach, Weeb Ewbank, to coach the team, and he held that post for 11 seasons, winning the Super Bowl in 1969. Players in the Hall of Fame who played the majority of their careers with the Jets are few, including Joe Namath, Don Maynard and Curtis Martin.


Classic Sports Card of The Day

08 Nov


1964 Topps football card of former New York Jets’ player Matt Snell, who played 9 seasons for the New York club in their American Football League days into the early 1970s when they were part of the NFL. This is Snell’s “rookie” card, as he was drafted by the Jets in 1964, and despite what the card says, he only played fullback for the team. He was named AFL Rookie of The Year in ’64, was a three-time AFL All Star, and a major contributor to the Jets’ Super Bowl III winning team. Snell currently is a partner in DEFCO Securities, Inc. and owns a restaurant in New York City.


NFL – Throwback Thursday: The Seahawks Break Through

01 Nov

Week nine of the NFL’s 2018 regular season schedule includes a matchup of 2 clubs who at one time were AFC West rivals – the Los Angeles Chargers and Seattle Seahawks. We’ll travel back to November 16, 1981 for this week’s Throwback Thursday feature game, played between these two franchises. It was a Monday night game, and the Chargers, of course, were still based in San Diego. The contest took place at Seattle’s Kingdome, when the Chargers were at the height of their “Air Coryell” era when they dominated opponents with their explosive offensive attack. The Seahawks, meanwhile, were still a relatively young club, having only come into existence as an expansion team in 1976. They were coached by Jack Patera, who was in his sixth year as their  head man, having been hired as their first coach in ’76. Patera, who passed away recently of pancreatic cancer, carried the extra burden into this game of having never beaten the Chargers in 8 previous tries since they entered the league.

The Seahawks finally broke through on this night, winning handily 44-23 as their defense did a reasonably good job of containing San Diego’s vaunted passing attack, which was led by future Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts. Although tight end Kellen Winslow had a terrific night statistically, with 7 catches for 106 yards, Seattle’s secondary basically shut down the Chargers’ vaunted wide receivers, Charlie Joiner and Wes Chandler, holding them to a combined 4 receptions for 61 yards. The bulk of the Charger offense, in fact, came from their rushing attack, with Chuck Muncie grinding out 151 yards on 20 carries. The Seahawks used a balanced attack to engineer the win, as their savvy southpaw signal caller, Jim Zorn, threw for 212 yards and a pair of scores, while running backs Theotis Brown and Dan Doornink led a rushing attack that amassed 156 yards and 3 TDs on the night. Brown and Doornink each scored twice, Brown on short plunges and Doornink on a short run and an 80 yard catch-and-run on a pass from Zorn.



1981 Chargers vs. Seahawks game program

It was a satisfying victory for Patera and the Hawks, one that was a long time coming. It wasn’t really a portent of things to come for either club, however. The Chargers rebounded to finish 10-6 and qualify for the playoffs, where they advanced to the AFC Championship game with a dramatic overtime win in Miami. Seattle didn’t gain a lot of momentum from this Monday night moment, finishing 6-10. Patera survived the season but was fired early on the following year during the 1982 player’s strike.



Seahawks’ QB Jim Zorn barks out signals



Classic Team Logo of The Day

01 Nov


Used from 1997 until 2001, this is an alternate logo for the San Diego Chargers NFL football team. Recent Hall of Fame inductee Bobby Beathard served as the team’s general manager during this era, but they didn’t have much on-field success. It wasn’t due to Beathard not stocking the team with talent, however, as the Chargers’ roster at the time included star players like Stan Humphries, Junior Seau, Rodney Harrison, Eric Metcalf, Drew Brees, Doug Flutie, Ladaimian Tomlinson and Marcellus Wiley.


Classic Sports Card of The Day

01 Nov


1961 Topps football card of former NFL linebacker Jack Patera, who played 7 seasons in the league for 3 different teams. He was a two-way player in his early career, playing both linebacker and guard for the Baltimore Colts. He spent a couple of years with the Chicago Cardinals before being selected in the 1960 expansion draft by the Dallas Cowboys. Patera served an as assistant coach for 3 different NFL clubs after retiring as a player, and became the first head coach for the expansion Seattle Seahawks in 1976. He passed away recently of pancreatic cancer.


NFL – Throwback Thursday: The AFL’s Firewagon Football

25 Oct

The old American Football League, which played for 10 seasons before merging with the NFL, was always known for its’ exciting “firewagon” style of football, featuring lots of big plays that included kick returns, runs and passes which ran up high scores that engaged the fans of the new league. When discussions of the AFL’s exciting style of play happen, the teams usually mentioned are the Houston Oilers, led by George Blanda and the league’s champions in its’ first 2 seasons, and the Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers, coached by passing game guru Sid Gillman. However, it wasn’t just those clubs that put on high-scoring exhibitions in the AFL years, and for this week’s Throwback Thursday feature, we’ll highlight a game played on November 1, 1964 between a pair of old AFL rivals who meet on this week’s NFL slate of games – the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos.

The game was a one-sided affair for most of the first 3 quarters as Chiefs’ quarterback Len Dawson engineered a passing attack that focused on throwing to his pair of outstanding backfield mates – halfback Abner Haynes and fullback Curtis McClinton. The pair combined for 9 receptions totaling 209 yards and 3 touchdowns. In all, Dawson threw for 6 scores, also hooking up with Frank Jackson, Chris Burford and Fred Arbanas for six-pointers as the Chiefs ran up the score to take a 42-10 lead over the hapless Broncos, who entered the game with only a single victory on the season to their credit. Late in the third quarter, however, Denver inserted backup QB Jacky Lee into the game in place of Mickey Slaughter. Lee was an interesting case in that he started his AFL career with the Oilers and was “loaned” by them to the Broncos in ’64, then returned to Houston 2 years later. Upon entering this game, Lee immediately lit a fire under his flailing club, firing long touchdown throws of 62 yards to Hewritt Dixon and  82 yards to Al Denson to close the score to 42-24. The resurrection of the offense also inspired the Bronco defense to rise to the occasion, as Tommy Janik  intercepted Dawson and galloped 22 yards for a score, followed by Ed Cooke’s 42 yard fumble return to the end zone that cut the Chiefs’ lead to 42-39, with momentum clearly favoring the back-from-the-dead Broncos. Kansas City righted the ship, however, putting together a late-game drive culminating in a 7 yard touchdown run by Haynes that put the Chiefs up 49-39, which ended up being the final score. Along with Dawson, Haynes was the star of the day for K.C. as he rang up 261 total yards  to go with a pair of touchdowns.

Denver didn’t have much success as a franchise in any of the 10 years that the AFL played, as they never managed a winning record in any of the years in the decade of the league’s existence. However, they did supply their share of exciting moments that the AFL’s style of play exhibited throughout its’ life in the 1960s, helping expand the popularity of pro football with the public.



Denver Broncos’ “borrowed” QB Jacky Lee