NFL – Throwback Thursday: Right Player, Wrong Uniform

03 Oct

It’s Throwback Thursday time again as week 5 of the NFL schedule approaches, and the game on this week’s slate that we’ll match up with is a battle between the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings. It’s the second week in a row we highlight a game involving the G-Men, and this one harkens back to September 21, 1969, when the Giants played at Yankee Stadium. It’s important because it’s a Viking contest involving one of the icons of that franchise, quarterback Fran Tarkenton. The thing is, on this day, Tarkenton was the quarterback for the Giants. After being the face of the franchise from the beginning, in 1961, until 1966, he had been traded to the Giants prior to the 1967 season. This game wasn’t the first time he got the chance to face his old club. The two teams met in Minnesota in ’67 and although Tarkenton did yeoman’s work by throwing for 3 touchdowns, the Vikings prevailed 27-24. This time the game looked like it might go the same way. The scrambling Tarkenton threw a 54 yard scoring pass to Homer Jones and led a drive to a field goal, but the Vikings’ QB, Gary Cuozzo, bested that by hooking up with his wide receivers, John Henderson and Gene Washington, on long touchdown passes as the Vikings pulled ahead in the fourth quarter 23-10. Washington had a big day with 7 receptions for 152 yards and the TD.

The determined Tarkenton was never one to give up, though, and on this day, he hunkered down and engineered a pair of scoring drives late in the game. Using his patented scrambling style, some tough running from Tucker Frederickson and pinpoint passing, he hit flanker Don Hermann twice for touchdowns, from 16 and 10 yards out, to pull out a 24-23 win for New York. It was a gratifying season-opening victory for Fran and his team, but wasn’t a harbinger of things to come for either team in the 1969 season. The Giants wound up 6-8 while Minnesota lost only one other game all season on their way to the NFL title, before being upset by the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl. However, they were a strong team for sure. The 24 points they gave up to Tarkenton and the Giants on this day was the most they would surrender in a single game all season. Tarkenton, incidentally, would be traded back to the Vikings after spending 5 seasons in New York and lead them to the Super Bowl 3 times, losing all three.


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Fran Tarkenton with the Giants in 1969, the NFL’s 50th season


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