NFL – Throwback Thursday: Fergy’s Sore Ankle

26 Nov

One of this week’s matchups on the NFL schedule pits the Buffalo Bills against the Los Angeles Chargers, and for this week’s Throwback Thursday feature we’ll highlight a divisional playoff game played between these 2 teams on January 3, 1981. The game was played at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, where the Chargers were then located, and was a contest between 2 strong division champions. The Chargers were one of the NFL’s most potent offensive machines, with quarterback Dan Fouts guiding coach Don Coryell’s “Air Coryell” attack to the AFC West crown with an 11-5 record. The Bills were in their third season under coach Chuck Knox, who had built them into AFC East champs at 11-5 by making shrewd personnel moves that included trading away an aging O.J. Simpson and prying receiver Frank Lewis away from Pittsburgh.

Rolf Benirschke opened the scoring with a first quarter field goal for the Chargers, but Buffalo’s defense proved to be pretty stingy, as that was the only scoring San Diego could muster in the first half. Meanwhile, Bills’ signal caller Joe Ferguson, playing on an injured ankle, engineered a pair of scoring drives. Fullback Roosevelt Leaks ran in from a yard out for the first score, and Ferguson found Lewis open for a 9 yard touchdown pass. Surprisingly, Buffalo went into the locker room at halftime with a 14-3 lead. The Chargers came to life in the third quarter. Riding the strong running of Chuck Muncie and pinpoint passing by Fouts, they took the second half kickoff and drove for a touchdown to cut the lead to 14-10. Fouts connected with Charlie Joiner for a 45 yard gain, then hit Joiner again from 9 yards out for the score.

Unfortunately, Ferguson’s injured ankle began to stiffen, and his play suffered as he was sacked 3 times and intercepted 3 times on inaccurate throws caused by the bad ankle, which later was determined to be a hairline fracture. Safety Glen Edwards had 2 of the picks. The Charger offense never came close to their usual production, but got another Benirschke field goal and sealed a 20-14 victory when WR Ron Smith got behind the Bills’ secondary and hauled in a 50 yard scoring toss from Fouts. Although he didn’t reach the end zone at all, John Jefferson was the most productive Charger receiver in the game, catching 7 passes for 102 yards. Workhorse back Muncie gained 80 tough yards rushing and added 53 more on 6 receptions.

The win sent San Diego to the AFC Championship game the following week, but their Super Bowl hopes died there as they lost to their AFC West arch-rivals, the Oakland Raiders, who were in the process of making an improbable run as a wild card team to an NFL title.



Chargers’ Chuck Muncie gains some hard-earned yards




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