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NFL – Five Super Bowl MVPs That Never Were

30 Jan

Sometimes the choice of a Most Valuable Player in the Super Bowl is an obvious one, like Nick Foles in last year’s game or Terry Bradshaw in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 1970s dynasty’s last win in Super Bowl XIV. More often than not, though, the choice is controversial, a lot of the time with the winning team’s quarterback being picked instead of another player who really deserved it more, as in Super Bowl LI, when New England’s Tom Brady won over his teammate who had a dominating performance, running back James White. There are so many unfair choices over the years that it was hard to pin it down to 5, but here are our choices for the Super Bowl MVPs who never were:

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  1. Max McGee (Super Bowl I) – technically it wasn’t a Super Bowl, it was called the AFL/NFL Championship Game in the beginning, but even in the first one ever played their was a controversial choice. The Packers won over the Kansas City Chiefs handily, 35-10, and the team’s stellar quarterback, Bart Starr, was named MVP. Starr played brilliantly so it wasn’t a bad choice, but McGee may have been even better. He was a little-used past his prime veteran at the time and didn’t expect to play, and was hung over on game day after partying with a couple of stewardesses the night before. McGee was forced into action when Boyd Dowler separated his shoulder early in the game, and wound up catching 7 passes for 138 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the win.

 

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2. Matt Snell (Super Bowl III) – since Joe Namath had guaranteed that his New York Jets would defeat the highly-favored Baltimore Colts and then delivered on his guarantee, there was no way anyone but Broadway Joe was going to win the MVP Award in Super Bowl III. But running back Matt Snell had a strong case to be the game’s top player also. He rushed for 121 yards on 30 carries and his team’s only touchdown as the Jets ran a ball control offense to shock the Colts 16-7.

 

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3. Clarence Davis (Super Bowl XI) – this Super Bowl was a shining moment for the Oakland Raider franchise as they won their first championship after being one of pro football’s most winning teams for a decade, yet failing to “win the big one”. They manhandled the Minnesota Vikings 32-14 to give coach John Madden his first title. Running back Davis could easily have been picked as the game’s MVP. He rushed for 137 yards on 16 carries as the Raiders crushed the aging Vikings with a bruising run game. It wasn’t even a case of Davis being overshadowed by a quarterback. Ken Stabler played a fine game also in leading the Oakland attack but he wasn’t chosen as MVP either. The honor went to wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff, who made a series of key receptions during the game among his 4 for 79 yards, not exactly overwhelming statistics.

 

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4. Thurman Thomas (Super Bowl XXV) – the precedent was set in Super Bowl V, when the Colts defeated the Cowboys but Chuck Howley of the losing team was chosen as the game’s MVP. Super Bowl XXV, between the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills, was one of the most exciting ever played, and Buffalo’s Thurman Thomas, with 135 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries and another 55 yards on 5 pass receptions, was the dominant player in the game. When Scott Norwood’s last second field goal went wide right, giving the Giants a 20-19 victory, MVP voters decided that the Giants’ Ottis Anderson deserved the award instead. Giants’ coach Bill Parcells had employed a grinding rushing attack to eat up time on the clock and keep the Bills’ high-powered offense off the field, and Anderson was the main guy doing the damage, with 102 yards rushing and a TD. Still, Thomas’ performance was dynamic and one for the ages.

 

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5. Dwight Smith (Super Bowl XXXVII) – there’s no question the MVP of this Super Bowl should have been a defensive player. For one thing, the quarterback duel was between a pair of journeymen, Oakland’s Rich Gannon and Tampa Bay’s Brad Johnson, not exactly a marquee matchup. For another, the Buccaneer defense absolutely dominated Gannon and the Raiders, forcing 6 turnovers, with 5 of them being interceptions, in a 48-21 rout. So Tampa safety Dexter Jackson, who had a pair of picks, was named MVP. Deserving, I guess, but not when you consider that his secondary mate, Smith, also had a pair of interceptions, but he returned both of his for touchdowns. The reason for the snub is that the second of Smith’s pick-sixes came with just a few seconds left in the game, when the MVP voting was likely already completed.

 

 

 

NFL – Five Forgotten Super Bowl Winning Coaches

29 Jan

It’s officially Super Bowl week and we here at Rayonsports  wonder, on media day, how many more new questions can reporters have for the New England Patriots after 9 appearances in the Belichick/Brady era? We like to look at different angles having to do with the big game, so for starters we’ll revert to a staple of our site, the “list” post. Here is our list of five head coaches who in the 53 years of the game’s existence, despite winning football’s ultimate prize, have largely been forgotten:

 

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  1. Don McCafferty, Baltimore Colts – the Colts’ loss to the New York Jets in Super Bowl III was so shocking and embarrassing to the old guard NFL that it led to the firing of Don Shula as Colts’ head man. McCafferty, the loyal assistant coach, was promoted into the top job and in his first season rewarded team management with a win over Dallas in Super Bowl V. He guided the Colts to the playoffs again the next year but lost to the Miami Dolphins, coached by Shula, in the conference championship game. His third season started out badly, however, and McCafferty was fired. He had a short stint as coach of the Detroit Lions but passed away of a heart attack in 1974. It was a relatively short head coaching career but one that left him with a shining moment that a lot of successful coaches never achieve-a Super Bowl win.

 

2. Barry Switzer – when Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys and fired legendary coach Tom Landry, there was an uproar among Cowboy fans. That quieted down when Jones’ hand-picked replacement, successful college coach Jimmy Johnson, won a pair of Super Bowls in the early 1990s. Jones and Johnson both had huge egos, however, and the pair clashed to the point where Johnson left to coach the Miami Dolphins. Jones replaced him with another former successful college coach in Switzer, who guided the Cowboys for 4 seasons, including a win in Super Bowl XXX, giving Dallas their third championship of the decade and sealing them as the team of the ’90s. The Dallas dynasty of that decade is largely remembered as a product of Johnson’s “genius”, with Switzer’s success largely forgotten.

 

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3. Brian Billick – after a very successful run as offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings, Billick was hired as the Baltimore Ravens’ head coach in 1999. He lasted 9 seasons and won the franchise a championship in Super Bowl XXXV. The Ravens’ success that season was largely due to their dominating defense, however, and that success landed the team’s defensive coordinator, Marvin Lewis, a head coaching job. Despite being a Super Bowl winning coach, when Billick was eventually fired by the Ravens he never was given another opportunity to coach again in the NFL, even though he interviewed many times for multiple organizations over the years. He works in broadcasting for the NFL Network these days, apparently giving up on trying to coach again.

 

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4. George Seifert – this is a coach that was part of 5 Super Bowl winning teams in San Francisco, including 2 as head coach in 1989 and 1994. It’s hard to imagine a guy who won multiple championships as a forgotten coach, but unfortunately Seifert’s accomplishments are marred by 2 things: 1. He was overshadowed by the genius of his predecessor with the 49ers, Bill Walsh, and even though Seifert won 2 titles, it was largely assumed that he just inherited a team built by Walsh and that anybody could have won with those players. 2. He coached the Carolina Panthers after leaving the Niners and had a mediocre 16-32 record there, including a 1-15 season in 2001.

 

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5. Gary Kubiak – after a successful career as an assistant coach at various stops, Kubiak served as head coach of the Houston Texans in their formative years for 8 seasons, producing mostly mediocre results. He revived his reputation as offensive coordinator in Baltimore after Houston fired him, and that led to his hiring as head coach of the franchise he had spent a large part of his career with, as both a player and assistant coach, the Denver Broncos. He was blessed with the addition of legendary quarterback Peyton Manning to his roster, and guided the Broncos to a Super Bowl win in the game’s 50th anniversary contest in 2015. Health issues forced him to step down as coach after only 2 seasons, however, and although he has returned to the game on a limited consultant basis, he will likely not be able to handle the stress of a head coaching position again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NFL – Throwback Thursday: Rex Upsets The Hoodie

27 Dec

On this, the final week of the National Football League’s regular season, two old rivals who date back to 1960 and the arrival of the American Football League square off – the New York Jets and New England Patriots. Our final Throwback Thursday post goes back to a divisional round playoff game these 2 franchises played on January 16, 2011. It was one of the few postseason setbacks the mighty Patriot dynasty suffered in the last 20 years, as the Jets and their bombastic coach, Rex Ryan, pulled off a 28-21 upset right in the Pats’ backyard at Gillette Stadium, where they’ve been practically unbeatable over the years. It was the game of a lifetime for Jet quarterback Mark Sanchez, at the time a bright, young prospect who was expected to become the team’s savior, the next Joe Namath. He threw for 3 touchdowns – to Ladanian Tomlinson, who was closing in on the end of his Hall of Fame career, to Braylon Edwards, another rising star at the time, and to Santonio Holmes, who would go on to have a memorable Super Bowl moment later in his career with Pittsburgh.

The real story of the game was Ryan’s Jet defense, which shut down the New England ground game and forced Pats’ QB Tom Brady to pass. Although that never turns out to be a negative result for the Patriots, on this day Brady, arguably the greatest signal caller of all time, couldn’t match Sanchez when it counted. New York sacked him 5 times and intercepted him once. Ryan, who had a habit of tweaking his nose at New England coach Bill Belichick, the dreaded evil genius in the hoodie, with lines like “I respect him but I’m not gonna kiss his Super Bowl rings”, was the surprise winner on this day. The Jets couldn’t sustain the success, however. They lost the AFC Championship game to Pittsburgh 24-19 the following week. Also, Sanchez regressed to the point where his Jet career ended with an embarrassing “butt fumble” play in later years, Tomlinson retired and both Holmes and Edwards became divas who were run out of New York for their attitudes, although Holmes, as previously noted, revived his career later on with the Steelers.

 

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Tom Brady wasn’t the GOAT in the AFC Championship game for the 2010 season

(photo from NFL Memes)

 

NFL – Throwback Thursday: Dan Marino’s Demise

20 Dec

The 2018 season is winding down for the National Football League, and on this, the second-last week of that season, a pair of Florida-based teams meet on the schedule, the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars. For this week’s Throwback Thursday feature, we’ll venture back to an AFC playoff game played between these 2 teams on January 15, 2000. This game would turn out to be the final one in the illustrious career of Miami quarterback Dan Marino, but on this day the Jaguars didn’t exactly give him a royal sendoff. Marino retired after this game holding most of the league’s passing records, but he certainly didn’t add anything positive to his resume in this contest. Coach Tom Coughlin’s Jaguars dominated the game from the opening kickoff. Mark Brunell threw a pair of touchdown passes, to Jimmy Smith and Fred Taylor, and Taylor added a 90 yard scoring run. The Jags’ defense got in the act, also, with Tony Brackens returning a fumble 16 yards for a TD. In what amounted to a complete steamroll, Jacksonville piled up a 41-0 first half lead before Marino salvaged a little pride with a touchdown toss to Orande Gadsden to cut the margin to 41-7 at the half.

The Jaguars didn’t let up in the second half, even though they replaced Brunell with backup QB Jay Fiedler. The second-stringer added 2 more touchdown throws and Chris Howard scored on a short run to continue the carnage. Miami coach Jimmy Johnson mercifully pulled Marino from the game in the second half and the Dolphins’ backup, a non-entity named Damon Huard, was subjected to the same abuse as the future Hall of Famer he replaced. After the wreckage was cleared, the result was a monumental one-sided blowout. On offense, the Jags wracked up 520 total yards. Taylor carried the ball 18 times for 135 yards and scored twice, on the long run and a pass. Smith, the team’s top receiver, grabbed 5 catches for 136 yards and 2 scores. The defense dominated also, holding Marino and company to a paltry 131 total yards. They also sacked the Miami QBs 5 times, held the Miami rushing attack to 21 yards on 18 carries, and forced 7 turnovers. The final result on the scoreboard was as bad as the difference in the statistics – Jacksonville 62, Miami 7.

To be fair, for the 1999 season at least, this wasn’t an evenly matched game before it even started. Jacksonville was one of the AFC’s strongest teams, entering this game having amassed a 14-2 regular season record, while Miami limped into the playoffs at 9-7. Still, with a Super Bowl-winning coach in Johnson and an all-time great passer in Marino leading the offense, a defeat this epic in scope was a total shock.

 

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For Dolphin QB Dan Marino, it wasn’t a pleasant goodbye

 

 

 

NFL – Throwback Thursday: Return of The Dutchman

13 Dec

The Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams meet on this week’s NFL schedule, and our Throwback Thursday feature for the week is a game played between these 2 franchises on November 22, 1959. The game is significant in that it was the first and only time that future Hall of Fame quarterback Norm Van Brocklin, a Ram star in the 1950s, played against his former club as a Philadelphia Eagle. He had led a powerful Ram attack for most of the decade, but decided to retire after the 1957 season. He later changed his mind, but the Rams had moved on and instead of bringing him back for the ’58 season, traded him to the Eagles. It wasn’t exactly a “return” for the player nicknamed “The Dutchman”, as the game was played at Philadelphia’s Franklin Field and not in L.A., and it also wasn’t exactly a triumphant display by Van Brocklin in the game either. The Eagles did win, 23-20, to improve their season record to 6-3, but it was a struggle against a Ram club that had won only 2 games all year. The Rams produced more offensive fireworks, as halfback Jon Arnett included an 80 yard run for a touchdown among his 108 yards rushing, while Ram QB Billy Wade fired a TD throw to Red Phillips.

Van Brocklin was efficient enough, completing 19 of 38 passes for 260 yards, spreading the ball around to all his favorite targets – Bobby Walston, Tommy McDonald and Pete Retzlaff among others, but the Eagle TDs came on a 3 yard run by Clarence Peaks and a defensive score on a fumble recovery in the end zone by Jerry Huth. You could actually make the argument that a more important contributor to the Philly win was another ex-Ram who had been exiled and found a home with the Eagles, kicker Paige Cothren, who booted 3 field goals, including a short 14 yarder in the final quarter which proved to be the game-winning points.

The Eagles did go on to finish the ’59 season in second place in the Eastern Division, a vast improvement over a 2 win record in 1958, then won the NFL championship in 1960 in The Dutchman’s final season. The Rams, meanwhile, didn’t win another game, finishing 2-10 after posting an 8-4 mark in ’58. That led to the departure of head coach Sid Gillman, who moved on to the American Football League’s Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers, where he was highly successful.

 

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QB Norm Van Brocklin, “The Dutchman”

 

 

 

NFL – Throwback Thursday: Air Coryell

06 Dec

On this week’s NFL slate of games, the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Chargers meet, both trying to improve their playoff chances. This week’s Throwback Thursday feature harkens back to a game played between these 2 clubs on September 22, 1985 at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. The Chargers, located in San Diego at the time, were in the midst of an offensive era known for explosive plays, drawn up by their coach Don Coryell. Engineered by future Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts and masterminded by the coach, the team’s offense was labeled as “Air Coryell”. Meanwhile, the Bengals were coached by a guy known to be a bit of a mad genius himself – Sam Wyche. This game was an early season matchup, and an important one for both clubs. The perennially contending Chargers had started off the year with a win and a loss, while Cinci had dropped both of their first games, so they were in desperation mode.

In the first half, the Chargers got a couple of short field goals from Bob Thomas and a couple of short touchdown passes from Fouts to one of his tight ends, Eric Sievers. The Bengals countered with a scoring toss from their southpaw signal caller, Boomer Esaison, to Cris Collinsworth and a one yard TD run by James Brooks, leaving San Diego with a 20-13 lead at the half. Knowing he had to match Fouts’ heroics on offense, Esaison put together a solid third quarter, guiding 3 touchdown drives that ended with a Larry Kinnebrew 4 yard TD and passes to paydirt to Collinsworth and Stanford Jennings. Unfortunately for Cincinnati, the Chargers picked up a pair of touchdowns themselves, on a Fouts to Pete Holohan pass and a backbreaking 58 yard Lionel James run, leaving the teams tied at 34-34 entering the final quarter. When Kinnebrew scored again, on an 8 yard run, to open the fourth quarter scoring, the Bengals took a 41-34 lead and were indeed accomplishing their goal of matching the vaunted “Air Coryell” attack score for score. The Charger defense stiffened after that, however, while the offense produced another electrifying touchdown, this time on a Fouts to James 60 yard pass, along with another Thomas field goal to eke out a 44-41 win in a thrilling barnburner of a game.

Collinsworth’s efforts in the game were gallant – he caught 10 passes for 161 yards and the 2 TDs, but it was no match for the heroics of the 5’6″ James. Nicknamed “Little Train”, he rushed for 127 yards on 12 carries and caught 5 passes from Fouts for another 118 yards, racking up the pair of touchdowns. Overall, the 1985 season wasn’t kind to either club. The Chargers went on to record a rare mediocre record of 8-8, while Cincinnati managed only a 7-9 mark. Despite the losing record, Wyche’s Bengals still finished second in the AFC Central Division, with Cleveland taking the division crown at 8-8.

 

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San Diego’s Lionel “Little Train” James

 

NFL – Throwback Thursday: The Sneakers Game

29 Nov

For the second week in a row, our Throwback Thursday feature ventures way back into the NFL’s past, to December 9, 1934, when two teams who meet on this week’s slate of games, the Chicago Bears and New York Giants, faced each other for the league championship. Whereas last week’s post remembered a Thanksgiving clash between the Bears and Detroit Lions from the ’34 season, this week’s covers the plight of the undefeated Chicago club in the title contest that went down in NFL lore as the “Sneakers Game”. The heavily favored Bears were defending league champions and their imposing “Monsters of The Midway” defense, combined with a frozen Polo Grounds field that made traction difficult, helped the Chicago club to build a 13-3 lead after three quarters of play. The Bears were limited on offense also, managing only 2 Jack Manders field goals and a one yard Bronko Nagurski touchdown run up to that point.

At halftime, one of the Giants’ players mentioned to coach Steve Owen that the players could get better footing if they were wearing sneakers, so Owen sent a friend who helped the team on the sideline during games, a tailor named Abe Cohen, to nearby Manhattan College, in search of the sneakers. The school’s athletic director, Brother Jasper, emptied the lockers of the basketball team and gave the players’ sneakers to Cohen, who rushed back to the stadium. He arrived midway through the third quarter with 9 pairs of sneakers, and key players from the New York team donned the footwear for the rest of the game. The result? Quarterback Ed Danowski supplied 2 touchdowns, on a 9 yard run and a 28 yard pass to Ike Frankian, while star halfback Ken Strong rushed for a pair of scores, from 11 and 42 yards out. The increased traction gained by Brother Jasper’s contribution led the Giants to outscore the Bears 27-0 in the final quarter to secure a rousing 30-13 upset of George Halas’ proud, previously unbeaten Bears.

Chicago players were upset but accepted the fact that they’d been had. In a post-game interview, Nagurski admitted, “We knew something was wrong because all of a sudden they had good footing and we didn’t. The sneakers were the difference…they just out-smarted us.” In the NFL’s strange but true department, this scenario repeated itself 22 years later when these same 2 clubs met again for the championship, this time at Yankee Stadium. The Giants wore sneakers again on a frozen field and the advantage in footing led to a 47-7 blowout win over the Bears to win the 1956 title.

 

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Sneaker-clad Giants’ players in the 1934 NFL title game

 

NFL – Throwback Thursday: Thanksgiving Game In Detroit Is Born

22 Nov

The week 12 NFL schedule this week includes the annual Thanksgiving Day games played in Detroit and Dallas, plus the third contest, played at night. This year, the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions meet in an NFC North showdown, which allows this week’s Throwback Thursday feature to travel back in time to the first Turkey Day game played in Detroit. It was played on November 29, 1934 at the University of Detroit Stadium, and both teams were strong contenders in the NFL. In fact coach George Halas’ Bears entered the game undefeated, while the Lions boasted a 9-2 record. Other pro football teams had played on Thanksgiving for years prior to the Motor City’s debut on this day, but the Lions’ owner at the time, George Richards, wanted to start the yearly tradition with his team as a promotion to boost attendance, and he had a major advantage which convinced other NFL owners to allow him to claim the Turkey Day game. He owned a local radio station, WJR, which was a major affiliate of the NBC Radio Network, and was able to secure a deal to get the game broadcast nationally live across the network. The annual game grew into a traditional staple on the NFL schedule. In conjunction, Detroit holds an annual Thanksgiving parade, originally started in 1924 by the J.L. Hudson Department Store, which has been dwarfed over the years by New York’s Macy’s Parade that is nationally televised.

As for the Motor City’s inaugural game, the two strong clubs provided an exciting contest. Passing yardage was at a premium in those old “ground and pound” days, and this game was indicative of the times. Chicago threw for 77 yards while the Bears’ “Monsters of The Midway” defense held the Lions to a meager 37 yards through the air. The hometown Lions kept pace with Halas’ Bears in the first half. In fact, a pair of short touchdown runs by fullback Ace Gutowsky gave Detroit a 16-7 halftime lead. Gutowsky isn’t exactly a household name in pro football history, but he did hold the Lions’ franchise records for single season and career rushing yardage into the 1960s.

The proud Bears battled back in the second half. A pair of third quarter field goals by Jack Manders cut the Lions’ lead to 16-13, and in the final quarter, another Bears’ and NFL legend, Bronko Nagurski, tossed a short scoring pass to Bill Hewitt to give the Bears a hard-fought 19-16 victory. The ’34 season was a bittersweet one for Halas’ Bears. They went on to finish undefeated in the regular season, only to lose 30-13 to the New York Giants in a championship game that became known as the “Sneakers Game”.  The story of that game will surely be the subject of a future TBT post.

 

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Bears and Lions battle on Thanksgiving Day 1934

 

 

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.

 

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

 

 

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.

 

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