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NFL – Throwback Thursday: The Greatest Game Ever Played

30 Oct

The matchup on this week’s NFL schedule that will give us the Throwback Thursday post is the Monday night game between the New York Giants and Indianapolis Colts. These two franchises played a game on December 28, 1958, that became known as “The Greatest Game Ever Played”. A decade later, the Colts, located in Baltimore back then, would be locked in a historic game with a different New York team, the Jets, and that game changed the course of pro football history as Joe Namath guaranteed a victory for his club and then delivered it. In this Colts-Giants clash in ’58, however, history was also made. It was a game that propelled the sport into the modern era and sent pro football on it’s course to becoming the nation’s most popular sport. It was that season’s NFL championship game, televised across the country on NBC, and turned out to be the first “sudden death” overtime game in league history. Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas became a national hero that day, as he thrilled the TV audience by guiding what today is routinely known as the “two minute” drill, in leading the Colts down the field on a 62 yard drive to set up a game-tying field goal by Steve Myhra to send the game into overtime. Prior to that last drive, the game was actually somewhat sloppy, as both teams turned the ball over multiple times. In all, the teams combined for 7 turnovers, and one Giant touchdown came on a one yard run following a play that saw Kyle Rote fumble, with teammate Alex Webster picking up the ball and running it down to the one yard line. Baltimore defensive back Milt Davis, playing with two broken bones in his right foot, forced a pair of New York fumbles. Colt defensive end Gino Marchetti suffered a broken ankle and refused to be taken to the locker room for treatment. He spent the rest of the game after the injury sitting on a stretcher on the sideline watching the action. Once the game reached overtime, there was a lot of confusion about what to do to begin the extra session, even among the officials. The “sudden death” rule had just been implemented for the game by then-commissioner Bert Bell. They eventually figured it out, and after the Giants went three-and-out on their first drive, Unitas engineered another classic drive down the field, culminating in a one yard scoring plunge by back Alan “The Horse” Ameche, his second TD of the day, to win the game for the Colts. Unitas was brilliant, as was his future Hall of Fame teammate Raymond Berry, who finished the game with 12 receptions for 178 yards and a touchdown. As the Colts drove down the field toward the winning score, there was an incident that delayed the game when a fan ran out on the field. Rumor has it that a television cable had become unplugged causing the game feed to go dead, and an NBC employee was ordered to cause the distraction to buy time to fix the problem. An estimated 45 million people watched the telecast, and that number would have been higher, but the game, played in Yankee Stadium, was blacked out in the New York area. The impact of this game was far-reaching, as pro football became tremendously popular. That spike in popularity is the reason Lamar Hunt and his “Foolish Cub” of fellow owners decided to launch the American Football League in 1960. The game featured 17 people who would go on to become Hall of Famers, including Colt coach Weeb Ewbank, who would also be the winning coach in that Jets-Colts Super Bowl a decade later, and Giant offensive and defensive assistants Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry.

 

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Alan “The Horse” Ameche scores to end “The Greatest Game Ever Played”

 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

30 Oct

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Logo of a college football team, the University of Louisville Cardinals, used from 1980 until 2000. The program has existed since 1912, and currently the team plays in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Although never mentioned as one of the nation’s gridiron powerhouse schools, the Cardinals have sent many players on to the NFL, including John Unitas, Lenny Lyles, Doug Buffone, Tom Jackson, Ted Washington, Joe Jacoby, Otis Wilson, Ernest Givens, Frank Minnifield and Ernie Green. There are many current Louisville alumni in the league also, including Deion Branch, Eric Wood, Preston Brown, Teddy Bridgewater, David Akers, Elvis Dumervil, Harry Douglas and William Gay.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

30 Oct

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1958 Topps football card of former Baltimore Colts’ defensive back Milt Davis, who played five seasons for the club from 1957 until 1961. He was originally drafted in 1954 by Detroit, but was drafted into the Army the same year. After serving 2 years in the Army, Davis attempted to resume his NFL career with the Lions, but was told he wouldn’t be able to play for them because they didn’t have another black player on the team to accompany him on the road. The Colts signed him as a free agent in 1957,and he was a ball hawk for them, intercepting 10 passes in his rookie year. He had a total of 27 picks in his five year career, but, angered by the treatment of black players by the league, retired after the ’61 season to pursue a doctorate in education. Eventually, Davis returned to the NFL, working as a scout for several teams, and when he retired he moved to Oregon and raised cattle, sheep and llama.

 

 

NFL – Bills’ Game Review

26 Oct

The Buffalo Bills went into MetLife Stadium on Sunday, where they’ve never won, and managed to turn their fortunes around in a strange football game in which the final result didn’t match up with the final statistics. The Bills beat the New York Jets rather handily, 43-23, yet only managed 280 total yards of offense. In a game that saw Kyle Orton throw only 17 passes, completing only 10, the Bills’ rushing attack must have been dominant, right? No, they only managed 67 yards on the ground. The difference in the contest was the Bills protecting the ball, avoiding turnovers, while the Jets coughed it up 6 times. Orton’s passes were timely, as 4 of his 10 completions went for touchdowns, to four different receivers. He would have had a fifth if star rookie Sammy Watkins hadn’t been caught from behind while celebrating early on a long throw from Orton. Luckily for Sammy, the Bills scored on the drive on a short run by fullback Frank Summers, and Watkins redeemed himself later in the game by grabbing a short pass from Orton, breaking a tackle and blazing 61 yards for a touchdown. Orton also threw scoring tosses to Robert Woods, Lee Smith and Scott Chandler in directing his team to a third win in four starts since taking over the starting reins from EJ Manuel. Buffalo’s defensive effort was superb, as it’s been in most games this year. They chased Jet QB Geno Smith from the game by intercepting three of his passes in the first quarter. Veteran Mike Vick replaced him but he didn’t protect the ball much better, tossing a fourth pick and losing a pair of fumbles.

All in all, the win was a solid team victory for the Bills, with contributions coming from all over the roster. Running backs Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown, pressed into major duty due to the injuries suffered by Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, didn’t break any long runs but gained just enough yardage on the ground to keep the defense honest and allow Orton to succeed. On defense, the front four recorded 4 sacks and pressured both Smith and Vick into hurried throws all day. The D-line depth showed also, as backups Corbin Bryant and Jarius Wynn got 2 of the sacks, and Stefan Charles had a fumble recovery. The linebackers had a good day, especially rookie Preston Brown, who had 9 tackles and an interception. Stephon Gilmore, Aaron Williams and Da’Norris Searcy also had picks, setting up the offense with good field position all day, which accounts for the Bills racking up a season-high 43 points with such a small total yardage amount. LB Nigel Bradham had a rough day, being called for numerous costly penalties, but he also was a positive contributor, with 11 tackles and a forced fumble. The Bills now go into their bye week with a 5-3 won/loss record and some valuable momentum.

 
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Classic Team Logo of The Day

26 Oct

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This is a logo of a major college football team, the University of Cincinnati Bearcats, used from 1959 until 1968. They play in the American Athletic Conference since last season, after stints as an independent program and in six other conferences over the years, including the Missouri Valley Conference, the Big East and Conference USA. They are one of the oldest programs in the country, having fielded a team since 1885. When they met Miami of Ohio in 1888, it was the first intercollegiate football game held in the state of Ohio. Former Bearcats who went on to play in the NFL include Ron Kostelnik, Brig Owens, Greg Cook and current stars Connor Barwin, Trent Cole and Brent Celek.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

26 Oct

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1966 Topps football card of former Buffalo Bills’ halfback Wray Carlton, who played for the team for eight seasons, starting with their inaugural year in the American Football League in 1960, until 1967. He was a two-time AFL All Star and has the distinction of scoring the first touchdown in team history. Carlton helped the Bills win back-to-back AFL championships in 1964 and ’65, and was the team’s all time leading rusher for their 10 year existence in the AFL.

 

NFL – Throwback Thursday: The Philly Blizzard Game

23 Oct

There is a contest slated this week on the NFL schedule between two of the league’s high-flying “bird” teams in the first half of this season – the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals. For this week’s edition of Throwback Thursday, we travel back a long way in time, further back than any Throwback Thursday post ever – to the 1948 NFL Championship game played between these two franchises. The Cardinals were two cities removed from their current  Glendale, Arizona location. They hadn’t even moved to their St. Louis home yet (they did that in 1960). These Cardinals played in Chicago, while the Eagles, although belonging to the city of Brotherly Love as they do today, played at old Shibe Park. The title game, a rematch of the previous year’s championship matchup, was played on December 19, 1948. There were no “extended” playoffs back then, with wild cards and divisional rounds, just a title game between the Eastern and Western Division champions, and the game was actually played in the same year as the regular season, prior to Christmas even. The Eagles were the home team, and on the morning of the game Philadelphia was hit with a massive snowstorm of blizzard proportions that continued throughout the game. The stadium grounds crew needed help from players from both teams to remove the tarp, buried under the heavy snow, from the field prior to the game. This title game was significant for another reason – it was to be the first NFL Championship game to be televised. ABC Network would broadcast the game, and the broadcasters themselves were important NFL figures – Harry Wismer, who would go on to found and own the New York Titans (later to become the Jets) in the American Football League, and former Chicago Bear standout Red Grange. In those days, “snow” was a problem with all TV broadcasts, but in this case the problem would be real snow threatening to postpone the contest. In fact, league commissioner Bert Bell considered a postponement, but decided to allow the game to go on because both clubs wanted to play it.  A few minutes into the contest, the yard markings on the field disappeared under the heavy cover of snow, and Bell ordered the head referee to make all first down and touchdown calls by his own observation. The Eagles’ star player, halfback Steve Van Buren, almost missed the game. He stayed home thinking it surely would be canceled, and Eagle coach Greasy Neale called him to let him know it was still on. Van Buren had to catch 3 trolleys and walk 6 blocks to reach the stadium in time, and it’s lucky he did, as he scored the game’s only touchdown in the fourth quarter on a five yard run. The blizzard conditions made for a sloppy, scoreless contest through three quarters, and when Chicago fumbled in their own territory in the final stanza, it set up Van Buren for what turned out to be the winning points.  The 7-0 win by the Eagles avenged a 28-21 Cardinal victory in 1947’s title game, and Philly went on to win again in 1949, shutting out the Los Angeles Rams 14-0.

 

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Players help remove tarp during the “Philly Blizzard” 1948 NFL title game

 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

23 Oct

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Logo of a Division III college football program, the Occidental Tigers, who compete in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC). The Tigers have won a pair of Division III national titles, in 2006 and 2008. Former NFL coach Jim Mora is an Occidental graduate, along with former pro football players Vance Mueller and Jack Kemp, who was a long-time Congressman and former candidate for Vice President for the Republican Party.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

23 Oct

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1952 Bowman football card of a National Football League Hall of Fame legend, former Philadelphia Eagle back Steve Van Buren. One of the All Time Eagle players, he was a five-time all pro during his eight year career, was named to the NFL’s All Decade team for the 1940s, and helped Philly win two NFL titles, in 1948 and ’49. Van Buren also led the league in rushing four times in his career. Knee injuries forced him to retire in 1952, and he was elected to Canton in 1965. Van Buren died of pneumonia in 2012.

 

NFL – Bills’ Game Review

19 Oct

At Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday, the Buffalo Bills stole a victory over the visiting Minnesota Vikings in a game they had no business winning. For most of the game, Buffalo continued their maddening habit of shooting themselves in the foot with mistakes, turnovers and penalties – a habit they haven’t been able to break for 14 non-playoff seasons under five different coaches. Bills’ fans have seen this act so often over the years that they show little patience for the current team when they start to exhibit their same story, different day behavior. So for the third time in four home games, the Bills were booed off the field at halftime, this time trailing a very beatable Viking team, 13-10. Neither club did anything in a listless third quarter, and when Orton threw a bad interception in the early portion of the final quarter to set up a Minnesota field goal, the Bills found themselves down 16-10 in a game that they were favored to win. Kyle Orton, the Bills’ QB who had a tough afternoon with six sacks against and another pair of turnovers, pulled his offensive unit together and engineered an 80 yard drive that culminated with a 2  yard touchdown strike to Sammy Watson with one second left on the clock to steal a 17-16 win. Here are some thoughts about things that happened during the game and what they might mean going forward:

* Orton’s performance was typical of his career – he was brutally awful at times, but brilliant on the final drive, which actually was much longer than 80 yards, as the Bills needed to overcome penalties and sacks that caused third and fourth and long situations. Orton hit Scott Chandler and Chris Hogan on key completions before connecting with Watkins for the winning score.

* Watkins had his best game of what has been an uneven rookie year. He’s had some average games also, mostly when he didn’t seem completely recovered from an early season rib injury, but he is without a doubt going to grow into a major weapon for his team’s offense for the remainder of this year and beyond. He is slowly developing some chemistry with Orton and will be scary good when he’s completely on the same page with his veteran signal-caller.

* The Bills’ running game took a major hit looking ahead to the immediate future. Fred Jackson suffered a groin injury and left the game. That meant that C.J. Spiller, who’s struggled all year, was going to get his chance to get multiple carries. Unfortunately, on his first attempt, he went down with a collarbone injury, which happened after he was tackled on a stirring 53 yard scamper. Anthony Dixon did an admirable job finishing the game as the lone back, and in the coming weeks, depending on how long Jackson and Spiller are sidelined, off-season trade acquisition Bryce Brown will get his first chance to contribute after being an inactive healthy scratch all year.

* There were some unsung heroes in the game Sunday, including Leodis McKelvin, who nabbed a pair of interceptions, Dixon with some key runs, the defensive line with four sacks, and linebacker Preston Brown with some impressive tackling.

* The Bills’ offensive line has looked overwhelmed the last 2 weeks, especially the guards, Erik Pears and rookie Cyril Richardson. Why wouldn’t the coaching staff want to take a look at the backups, Chris Hairston and Kraig Urbik, at some point? Urbik was a starter on last year’s line that led the rushing attack to a second-best in the NFL ranking, but supposedly lost his job to Pears, who hasn’t impressed.

 
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