Archive for the ‘Feature Stories’ Category

NFL – Throwback Thursday: Where Were You?

26 Oct

This week’s Throwback Thursday feature game was played on a Monday night, October 8, 1980 between a pair of clubs who meet on this week’s NFL slate. They are the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins.

If you’re as old as I am, you’ve witnessed a number of “where were you when you heard the news?” moments in your life. The Kennedy assassination, the space shuttle Challenger explosion and of course, the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This week’s feature game was one of those “where were you when you heard the news” moments for a lot of football fans. The game itself was not a very memorable one. The first 3 quarters were a boring field goal fest, with New England’s John Smith hitting a pair of three-pointers in the second quarter, and Miami’s Uwe Von Schamann matching him in the third quarter. Both clubs finally found the end zone in the final quarter. The Patriots took a 13-6 lead when Matt Cavanaugh found tight end Russ Francis open for a 38 yard touchdown pass. Then Dolphin QB David Woodley hooked up with Nat Moore from 8 yards out to tie the game.

The shocking moment then came after the telecast returned from a commercial break, with Smith taking the field to try a winning field goal with 3 seconds left. Then play-by-play man Frank Gifford implored his counterpart, Howard Cosell, that he had to let the viewing public know the news they had just confirmed. Cosell reluctantly agreed:

“Remember, this is just a football game, no matter who wins or loses. An unspeakable tragedy confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City: John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the West Side of New York City — the most famous, perhaps, of all the Beatles — shot twice in the back; rushed to Roosevelt Hospital; dead on arrival. Hard to go back to the game after that news flash, which, in duty bound, we have to take.”

It was a terrible moment that gets permanently etched in your memory. Watching the game myself, I remember my first thought was “why the hell would anyone shoot John Lennon? He was all about peace and love.” Lennon was a friend of the Monday night crew, and especially Cosell, having been present at an earlier game in 1975 where Cosell interviewed him at halftime. It was reported by MNF producers later that the crusty announcer struggled to break the news as he was overcome with emotion.

For the record, Miami blocked Smith’s field goal attempt to send the game to overtime, and Von Schamann eventually won it 16-13 for the Dolphins with, of course, a field goal. John Smith had a 10 year career as the Patriots’ placekicker, but his name will be forever linked in my mind to that tragic announcement on a Monday night in December of 1980.


Howard Cosell interviewing John Lennon on MNF (11/20/75)


NFL – Throwback Thursday: Richter Wins It!

19 Oct

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Los Angeles Rams clash on this week’s NFL schedule, and we’ve chosen a game played between these 2 long-time clubs to feature for this week’s Throwback Thursday post. The contest was played on October 2, 1955 at the L.A. Coliseum. In the ’50s, both teams had reputations. The Rams were known as an offensive powerhouse, led by their future Hall of Fame quarterback Norm Van Brocklin. The Steelers, on the other hand, were an annual bottom feeder but always played tough defensively. Both teams were coming off opening week victories, but the Rams were favored due to a better 1954 finish. After a scoreless first quarter Los Angeles took advantage of their home field to jump out in front 17-0 by halftime. Fullback Deacon Dan Towler ran in from a yard out to open the scoring, then after a Les Richter field goal Van Brocklin connected with Bob Boyd on a 74 yard bomb for another touchdown.

Pittsburgh regrouped in the second half. Lynn Chandnois scampered  into the end zone from 8 yards out, followed by a 1 yard quarterback sneak by Jim Finks . When Chandnois scored again on a 2 yard run, the Steelers took the lead. However, in what would come to haunt them later, they missed both extra points on the last 2 scores, and their lead was only 19-17. Van Brocklin righted the Rams’ ship in the fourth period, finding Tom Fears on a 17 yard touchdown pass to regain the lead at 24-19. The lead didn’t last long, however. On their next possession, Pittsburgh defensive back Richie McCabe, who had intercepted Van Brocklin earlier in the game, scooped up a Ram fumble and raced 50 yards to paydirt and suddenly the Steelers were back in front 26-24 and poised for an upset win.

Los Angeles refused to buckle and drove into position for Richter to kick a game winning 32 yard field goal in the waning seconds to pull out the victory 27-26. Boyd was the offensive catalyst for the Rams with 3 catches for 114 yards and his long touchdown. Obviously the missed extra points were costly for Pittsburgh. The teams’ fortunes went in opposite directions as the season progressed also. The Rams won the Western Division title while Pittsburgh languished to a 4-8 mark and a sixth place finish in the Eastern Division.


Rams’ Bob Boyd hauls in a Van Brocklin pass


NFL – Throwback Thursday: Hadl Heats Up

12 Oct

For this week’s Throwback Thursday feature, we’ll highlight the Dallas Cowboys for the second week in a row, this time with a game played against a team they meet on the week 6 NFL schedule, the Los Angeles Chargers. It was played on November 5, 1972 at the Chargers’ old home in San Diego and was a match between the defending Super Bowl champion Cowboys and the sad sack Chargers, who were 2-5-1 under coach Harland Svare at that point. The new realignment of the merged leagues, the NFL and AFL, was only in it’s third year in ’72, so this was the first ever meeting between the 2 franchises.

There were no surprises for the first 2 1/2 quarters, as the Cowboys scored early. Mike Montgomery scooped up a fumble and returned it 54 yards for the opening touchdown. Then, after a Toni Fritsch field goal, Dallas’ offense took over. Walt Garrison rumbled 9 yards for a score, quarterback Craig Morton found Mike Ditka open from a yard out for another, then, early in the third quarter, Morton scrambled 7 yards to paydirt to give his club a commanding 31-0 lead over the overmatched Chargers.

It was at this point that San Diego signal caller John Hadl, one of the AFL’s top stars in the 1960s, regained some of that old AFL magic. He got his team on the board to wrap up the third quarter scoring with a 46 yard TD pass to Chuck Dicus, and carried that momentum into the final quarter. Hadl and the Chargers mounted a furious comeback as the balding QB fired 3 scoring passes, 42 yards to Gary Garrison, a second one to Dicus from 20 yards out and a 47 yard bomb to Dave Williams. Although the Charger comeback struck a little fear in the Cowboys, they did manage to sneak in another Fritsch field goal among the onslaught, and eventually extinguished the fire to pull out a 34-28 win. Amazingly, Hadl’s 4 scoring passes came on only 11 completions for the day, and he also was victimized for 3 interceptions. The Chargers outgained Dallas in both rushing and passing yards, but 4 turnovers sealed their fate. 1972 would be Hadl’s last year with the Chargers, as they traded him to the Los Angeles Rams prior to the ’73 season. He would earn All Pro honors with the Rams that year.


Walt Garrison churns out yardage (James Flores photo/Getty Images)


NFL – Throwback Thursday: A Cowboy Comeback

05 Oct

Two NFL franchises that have had epic battles over the years meet this week on the league schedule – the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers. We’ll feature them in this week’s Throwback Thursday post, with a divisional playoff game played on December 23, 1972 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Dallas, as defending Super Bowl champs, was favored over the NFC West Division champion 49ers despite being a wild card team. The 49ers used their home field advantage to jump out to an early lead as Vic Washington returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. Dallas settled down and got on the scoreboard as starting quarterback Craig Morton led a drive that resulted in a Toni Fritsch field goal to cut the margin to 7-3. In the second quarter veteran San Fran signal caller John Brodie engineered a pair of scoring drives, both ending in 1 yard Larry Schreiber touchdown runs to put his club up 21-3. Morton, although mostly ineffective,  got Dallas back in the game as he led the Cowboys on another drive that yielded a second Fritsch field goal, then hit Lance Alworth with a 28 yard TD throw to cut the lead to 21-13 at halftime.

Both teams’ defenses tightened in the third stanza with the only scoring coming on another 1 yard Schreiber run. The 49ers now entered the final quarter with a seemingly commanding 28-13 lead, made to look even more insurmountable by how poorly Morton was playing. After seeing his starter complete only 8 of 21 throws for a paltry 96 yards to go with a pair of interceptions, Dallas coach Tom Landry decided to insert Roger Staubach to lead the offense, and Captain Comeback delivered. The Cowboys scored 17 unanswered points in the final quarter, first adding another field goal before Staubach rifled a pair of touchdown passes – to Billy Parks from 20 yards out to bring the score to 28-23, then adding the winning points with a 10 yard toss to Ron Sellers to give the defending champs a 30-28 victory, earning a trip to the conference title game. Parks wound up catching 7 passes for 136 yards and the winning touchdown, but another major contribution to the win came on the ground from Calvin Hill, who provided 125 valuable yards on 18 carries.

Their success for the ’72 season would end on this day, however, as the Cowboys were manhandled the following week in the NFC Championship game by the archrival Washington Redskins, 26-3.That win by Washington’s “Over The Hill Gang” earned them a trip to Super Bowl VII, where they fell to the NFL’s only unbeaten team in history, the Miami Dolphins.


Roger the Dodger leading Cowboy Comeback


Cleveland Guardians’ 2023 Postseason Review

02 Oct

The 2023 baseball season was a major disappointment for the Cleveland Guardians for a couple of reasons:

1) they regressed from 2022, a season in which they won the AL Central crown, won a wild card series and took the mighty New York Yankees to the brink in the divisional round. Instead, they finished 10 games below .500 and in third place in the weakest division in baseball.

2) It marked the end of an era with the retirement of future Hall of Fame manager Terry Francona.


Here is our postseason review, position by position, of the 2023 season and a look at the promise that next season holds:


Front Office/Manager/Coaches


The club’s front office had a dismal record in free agency during the last off-season. Their 2 major acquisitions, catcher Mike Zunino and first baseman /Josh Bell, were utter failures. Zunino was a disaster at the plate and not very good defensively, to the point that he was released. Bell never supplied the power that Mike Chernoff and Chris Antonetti hoped for, and was dealt to Miami at the trade deadline. It was a disappointing finish for Francona but the hand he was dealt, between front office miscues and starting rotation injuries, was too much to overcome. Pitching coach Carl Willis did his usual great job handling the rookie replacement starters, but the bullpen was inconsistent all year long. There was regression among the hitters also, so the status of hitting coach Chris Valaika could be in doubt. Of course, with Francona retiring, the whole coaching staff could be different in 2024 with a new skipper in charge.


Starting Pitchers


Injuries caused the Guardians’ starting rotation to be in flux all season in 2023. Shane Bieber, Triston McKenzie and Cal Quantrill all missed significant time and forced the team to insert a trio of rookies into service as starters before they had expected to. Zach Plesac was a major disappointment also and was eventually farmed out. Then at the trade deadline management dealt the last man standing, Aaron Civale, to Tampa and not coincidentally the season cratered into oblivion from that point on. Of the 3 rookies, Tanner Bibee looks to have some bulldog in him and could be a future ace of the staff. Gavin Williams and southpaw Logan Allen both showed promise and will be contenders to stay in the rotation next season. The one problem with the use of the rookies is that their innings were limited, which led to the bullpen being overtaxed. Blown leads by the bullpen were a major factor in many of the club’s losses. Experiments with veterans Noah Syndergaard and Lucas Giolito also failed, with Syndergaard being DFA’d and Giolito not expected back. Hunter Gaddis and Cody Morris came up from AAA Columbus to provide emergency starts, and although they’re still young, neither raised any eyebrows. The return of McKenzie and Quantrill will bolster the rotation next year, but one major story to watch will be what is done with Bieber. With a year left on his contract, will he return or be traded to obtain a much needed power bat?




Cleveland’s bullpen, considered a strength of the team, was an enigma all year. A good example – closer Emanuel Clase led the major leagues in both saves and blown saves. He was probably overused and given proper usage next year he should return to dominant form. The rest of the bullpen was a roller coaster ride. Eighth inning reliever Trevor Stephan was given a new contract, then proceeded to be a major disappointment and one of the clubhouse leaders in surrendering leads in the late innings. Nervous Nellie James Karinchak imploded to the point where he was sent to AAA Columbus for a stretch. The same fate happened to lefty Tim Herrin. Eli Morgan’s season ranged from great outings to terrible ones, and to a lesser degree the same could be said for Enyel De Los Santos and Nick Sandlin. Michael Kelly and Daniel Norris were stopgap players thrust into action to eat up early to middle innings. There were some bright spots in the pen – southpaw Sam Hentges was lights out all year. Xzavion Curry was a Swiss Army knife, providing good long relief as well as quality spot starts. Reynaldo Lopez, a late season waiver acquisition, was a revelation. An impending free agent, the powers that be should focus on trying to bring him back. All in all, a big project of the front office and new manager will be to sort out all the arms in the pen to piece together a relief staff that once again is a strength of the club.




Until rising star Bo Naylor was called up from Columbus, this position was a disaster. Mike Zunino may have been the worst free agent signing ever. He offered nothing defensively or at the plate. Another vet, Cam Gallagher, was a bit better defensively but anemic with the bat. One player on the roster whose value is high is David Fry. Any time you have a guy who can play multiple positions, and one of those positions is behind the plate, you have to value him highly. Fry also provides some pop with the bat. Naylor is obviously the future starter here, and management will need to decide if Fry alone is enough backup (which frees up roster space for another position) or if another catcher has to be added, assuming Gallagher won’t be back.




The Guardians are solid at the corner infield positions with first baseman Josh Naylor and third sacker Jose Ramirez. Naylor is the best clutch hitter and RBI man on the team, while Ramirez, a Cleveland icon, is one of MLB’s top players. Although he went through an up and down year, second baseman Andres Giminez regained his bearings late in the season and was one of the team’s hottest hitters. He needs to carry that momentum into a big year in 2024. Tyler Freeman is a valuable and versatile piece of the roster. He can play anywhere in the infield and has an uncanny ability to provide some offensive punch when he gets his chances to play. Amed Rosario was the starting shortstop until he was dealt to the Dodgers at the deadline, and his questionable defense should mean that this position is upgraded next year, no matter who wins the job. The Guardians’ organization is loaded with top middle infield prospects, and the players who shared the spot after Rosario departed – Gabriel Arias, Brayan Rocchio and Jose Tena – all showed flashes. Arias is great with the glove and his 10 home runs in limited playing time showed that he can provide some power. Rocchio is still raw but he might be the best all around prospect of the group, while Tena made the jump from AA Akron to the big club, so that has to mean the organization is high on him. There are other top gems lurking at the lower levels, but we’ll discuss them in the “future prospects” section.




Cleveland’s starting outfield trio most of the year was Steven Kwan in left, Myles Straw in center and Will Brennan in right. Kwan and Straw are Gold Glove fielders, and Brennan is right behind them with the glove. However, there is a glaring lack of power in the Tribe’s outfield, and that has to be addressed in 2024. Oscar Gonzalez, a postseason hero in 2022, regressed terribly this year and wound up in Columbus. He was the 2023 version of Bobby Bradley, who looked like a great power hitting first base prospect and is now playing somewhere in an independent minor league. Brennan is pretty good with the bat and looks like he could get stronger and increase his power numbers, but until he actually does it might be a better plan to platoon him. Kwan is a fixture and a great leadoff hitter. One option could be to move him to centerfield and use Straw as a bench player and late inning defensive replacement. Decisions will have to be made on a couple of veterans who were picked up in-season and saw lots of playing time. Ramon Laureano would be a good addition to the bench, while left-hand hitting Kole Calhoun is more suited to being strictly a designated hitter and likely won’t be back.


Future Prospects


There are 3 potential future starting pitchers in Cleveland’s pipeline that might debut in 2024 – Daniel Espino, Tanner Burns and Joey Cantillo. Espino has regularly been rated the club’s top prospect, but injuries have derailed his progress. Burns must overcome control issues if he is to succeed. Cantillo, if and when he arrives, would be a much needed lefthand option to the rotation. The up and coming outfielder in the system who might be a power upgrade is George Valera, who will be given every opportunity to advance to the majors from Columbus next spring.  Johnathan Rodriguez is a power bat who has hit consistently at every level of the minors so far. Further down the pipeline of OF prospects are recent top draft picks Chase Delauter and Jaison Chourio. When Civale was traded, the player obtained was lefthand hitting first baseman/DH Kyle Manzardo. He seems destined to be on the 2024 roster also in some capacity. A plethora of middle infielders dot the minor league pipeline. Juan Brito, obtained from Colorado for Nolan Jones in a controversial deal, appears to be a viable major leaguer. Switch-hitting Angel Martinez is only 21 and a rising star, while Jhonkensy Noel might be the future heir apparent to Ramirez at the hot corner. Khalil Watson was obtained from Miami at the deadline and is also considered a possible future star. This year’s top draftee, Ralphy Velazquez, joins Bryan Lavastida as future catching options.


NFL – Throwback Thursday: Taking Liberties

28 Sep

The Los Angeles Rams tangle with the Indianapolis Colts this week in the NFL, and we decided to take some liberties with the Throwback Thursday post by featuring a game that was played at the L.A. Coliseum on September 28, 1951. That day the Rams took on an NFL club called the New York Yanks. That New York franchise has a sketchy past, and here’s how it played out. After moving from Boston, the team had 2 less than successful seasons in the Big Apple, and in 1951 was sold to a group of Dallas businessmen who moved it to Dallas. That team failed after a single season, and what was left of the franchise was awarded to a group from Baltimore. They then started the Baltimore Colts franchise.  Even though the NFL doesn’t recognize this team as the ancestors of the current Colt team, we will for the sake of being able to feature this memorable game.

It was the opening week of the ’51 season, and in an era of three yards and a cloud of dust football, it turned out to be a record-setting passing day for one Norm Van Brocklin, the Rams’ quarterback. He torched the Yanks’ secondary for 554 yards and 5 touchdowns on 27 of 41 passing, with the yardage mark a record that still stands today, 72 years later. The Rams won the game 54-14, with a dominant display on both sides of the ball. They racked up 735 yards of offense and the 54 points despite turning the ball over 5 times, three times on interceptions to go with 2 lost fumbles. The Los Angeles club, known as an offensive powerhouse in the 1950s, was relentless with their attack all day. Three of their receivers totaled over 100 yards, with Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch leading the way with 9 catches for 173 yards and 4 TDs. Another future Hall of Famer, Tom Fears, grabbed 7 passes for 162 yards, while a guy named Vitamin Smith added some pep to the attack with 2 receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown. The Rams also had a pair of rushing touchdowns on runs from Dick Hoerner and Deacon Dan Towler to round out the scoring.

The L.A. defense actually pitched a shutout in the game also, as the Yanks’ 2 touchdowns came on a 79 yard punt return by Buddy Young and a 30 yard return of a recovered fumble by Art Tait. New York only amassed 166 yards of total offense, and the 569 yard difference between the 2 teams stood as a record yardage spread until 2009, when Tom Brady and the New England Patriots crushed Tennessee 59-0 and piled up 619 more yards than the Titans. The game turned out to be very indicative of the fortunes of the clubs in the 1951 season, as the Rams would go on to defeat Cleveland for the league title, and the Yanks would win only a single game before being sold to the new Dallas owners prior to the ’52 season.


Van Brocklin’s record day memorialized



NFL – Throwback Thursday: Miami Breaks Through

21 Sep

The game we’re highlighting today on Rayonsports for the Throwback Thursday feature is an old American Football League game that took place on October 16, 1966 between the Denver Broncos and Miami Dolphins, who meet on this week’s NFL schedule. 1966 was Miami’s inaugural season in the AFL, and this contest, which was played in week 6 of that year, was significant even though both clubs were league doormats. The Broncos, who never enjoyed a winning season in the 10 year history of the AFL, entered the game at 1-4 while the expansion Dolphins were winless in their first 5 games. Denver’s inept franchise represented Miami’s first real chance of breaking through into the win column, and they were ready for the challenge.

A pair of former Broncos exacted a bit of revenge in the opening quarter for the young Fish. Fullback Billy Joe, a Denver rookie in 1964, took a George Wilson Jr. pass 67 yards to paydirt, followed by a 35 yard field goal from another former Denver standout, Gene Mingo. The Broncos cut the lead to 10-7 on a 5 yard touchdown run by one of the AFL’s early and underrated stars, Abner Haynes. That lead held for the rest of the first half and Miami’s defense took charge in the second. They held Bronco quarterback John McCormick to 90 yards passing on 9 completions in 25 attempts, and intercepted him 4 times. Veteran Tobin Rote replaced McCormick and had no success either as the Dolphins sacked him 4 times.

The Dolphins’ offense, led by the head coach’s son, George Wilson Jr., wasn’t that impressive either, but did manage a short scoring run by halfback Joe Auer in each of the last 2 quarters. The final result was a 24-7 Miami victory, the first in franchise history. The Dolphins would go on to win the following week also, defeating the Houston Oilers, and would manage one more win to finish 3-11 for the year, tied for the basement of the Eastern Division with the Oilers. Denver went 4-10 and finished in their usual spot at the bottom of the Western Division.


Joe Auer takes the handoff from George Wilson Jr.


NFL – Throwback Thursday: Buffalo Stampede

14 Sep

The Buffalo Bills host the Las Vegas Raiders this Sunday as week 2 of the NFL season gets underway, and we’ll feature these 2 clubs for Throwback Thursday this week. Let’s travel back to January 20, 1991, to then Rich Stadium, for the AFC Championship game. Buffalo was attempting to reach the Super Bowl for the first time, while the Raiders, based in Los Angeles then, were looking to spoil that party.

It was never even close to being a contest. Jim Kelly led a drive that ended with a 13 yard touchdown pass to James Lofton to open the scoring, and after a Raider field goal the Bills drove downfield again and scored, this time on a 12 yard run by Thurman Thomas. The defense then got in on the action as linebacker Darryl Talley intercepted a Jay Schroeder pass and returned it 27 yards to the end zone to give his team a 21-3 lead after a quarter. The Bills didn’t let up in the second quarter either. Kenny Davis spelled Thomas at running back and scored twice on short runs, followed by another short Kelly to Lofton TD throw of 8 yards. At some point the beleaguered Raiders called what amounted to a basketball timeout to catch their breath as the vaunted no-huddle K-Gun attack of the Bills overwhelmed them. When the dust settled Buffalo held a commanding 41-3 lead at halftime.

I was in the stadium at that game, and across the field from me some fans were spelling out “Hello Tampa” in the stands. (Where the Super Bowl was to be played the next week) I saw that and immediately thought “Holy s**t, the Bills are going to the Super Bowl!” Later that day at home after the game, they showed earlier clips of workers at Tampa Stadium painting the Bills’ logo in the end zone, at halftime of the game! It was just an incredible experience.


Happy Bills’ fans with a message


Coach Marv Levy called off the dogs somewhat in the second half. The Bills scored only 10 points, on another short Davis run and a Scott Norwood field goal, to account for the final score of 51-3, launching the team to the big game. Kelly wound up throwing for 300 yards and the 2 TDs, while Thomas, although leaving the touchdown runs to Davis, racked up 199 yards of total offense. Lofton’s 2 TDs were among his 5 catches for 133 yards. The beleaguered Shroeder was intercepted 5 times by the Buffalo defense before being replaced by Vince Evans, who threw another pick. Little did the Bills and their fans know that what came next was the ultimate heartbreak of “Wide Right” by Norwood in Super Bowl XXV.


Darryl Talley scores on a pick six


NFL – Throwback Thursday: Ollie Matson Shines

07 Sep

It was a long wait, but the 2023 NFL season is finally upon us, and that also marks the return of our weekly Throwback Thursday feature, in which we travel back in time to highlight a game from the past played between teams who are matched against each other that week on the league slate. For opening week, we chose a matchup of 2 historic franchises, played on October 20, 1957. It pitted the Chicago Cardinals against the Washington Redskins at old Griffith Stadium in Washington. Those teams go head to head on opening day this season, although the Cardinals are based in Arizona and Washington’s club is now known as the Commanders.

Neither of these teams was very good that season, as they finished fourth and last respectively in the Eastern Division standings. The lowly Cardinals, who would only win 3 games all year, did boast one of the league’s most dynamic stars – halfback Ollie Matson. On this day, they rode a dominating performance from their future Hall of Fame back to a rousing 44-14 victory. He wasted no time as he broke off a 56 yard scamper to the end zone to open the scoring. The Cards’ other 2 star offensive weapons on this day, quarterback Lamar McHan and end Woodley Lewis, provided the next points, hooking up on a 39 yard touchdown pass, followed by an 18 yard McHan run to paydirt to put Chicago ahead 21-0. Washington regrouped somewhat and cut the lead to 21-7 when Eddie LeBaron tossed a short TD pass to Ed Podoley, but McHan and Lewis regained the momentum by hooking up for another score. Kicker Pat Summerall, who we all know would go on to become one of the most beloved football broadcasters of all time, added a field goal, and the Cardinals now owned a commanding 31-7 lead at halftime over the future Commanders.

Showing no mercy, McHan struck for the big play again to start the second half scoring when he found Matson open for a 50 yard touchdown. Matson had now showcased his talents as both a runner and receiver. LeBaron engineered another scoring drive for the Redskins before the third quarter ended, but the game was pretty much over by then. In fact, Washington only added to their ineptness when they fumbled on their own goal line in the final quarter. Leo Sugar accepted the gift, recovering the loose ball and traveling the 1 yard into the end zone to finalize the scoring. On a historic note, despite the one-sided nature of the contest, Washington did have a play made from a future Hall of Famer of their own, as McHan’s otherwise perfect game of 8 completions on 13 passes for 182 yards and 3 TDs was spoiled when he threw an interception into the waiting arms of Redskin defensive back Don Shula.

Matson, although today a mostly overlooked star from the NFL’s past, was a much coveted player in his era. In fact, the Cardinals, in 1959, traded him to the Los Angeles Rams for what amounted to 9 players (7 players and 2 top draft picks). That deal was orchestrated by the Rams’ general manager at the time, future NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle.


Ollie Matson (second from left) with his HOF classmates of 1972


NFL – Five Greatest Super Bowl Winning Teams

10 Feb

The last of my daily Super Bowl week features is another “list” post, honoring the 5 teams that I feel are the greatest among the 56 clubs who have won the big game since it’s inception following the 1966 season. In some cases they may not have even been the top team in that particular regular season, but came up huge when it counted the most.



1. 1972 Miami Dolphins – they didn’t have a prolific offense, their smothering defense was nicknamed the “No-Name Defense”, and they won Super Bowl VII by only a 14-7 score, but it’s hard to argue against the only team to complete a season undefeated. They went 17-0 and would regularly beat opponents in lower scoring games by grinding them into oblivion with a powerful rushing attack. They also followed this accomplishment up by winning it all again the next season.



2. 1985 Chicago Bears – a wild group of misfit toys led by the biggest misfit of all, coach Mike Ditka, this team swept through the NFL in ’85 with one of the greatest one-season accomplishments of all time. They had characters like QB Jim McMahon and William “The Refrigerator” Perry, an all-time great in Walter Payton, and recorded a “Super Bowl Shuffle” video before they even qualified for the game. After going 15-1 in the regular season and sweeping through the NFC playoffs with a pair of shutout wins, they dismantled the New England Patriots 46-10 in a Super Bowl XX laugher.



3. 1968 New York Jets – they pulled off the upset of the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, winning 16-7 and giving the AFL its’ first victory. It was considered an epic win made even more amazing because Jets’ quarterback Joe Namath guaranteed his team would win, despite being up to 18 point underdogs. This particular Jets’ team may have not even been the best the AFL had to offer, as they upset the more highly rated Oakland Raiders to get to the big game, but they turned out to be just what the young league needed on Super Bowl Sunday that year.



4. 1984 San Francisco 49ers – coach Bill Walsh’s forces finished 15-1 in the regular season and swept through the NFC playoffs but were up against a major challenge in Super Bowl XIX in facing the prolific offense of the Dan Marino-led Miami Dolphins. Led by the always efficient play of quarterback Joe Montana, the Niners trampled Miami’s “Killer Bees” defense, while their own defense kept Marino under pressure all day enroute to a 38-16 win.



5. 2007 New York Giants – talk about huge upsets. The Giants only qualified for the playoffs as an NFC Wild Card team with a 10-6 record, finishing second in their division, while the New England Patriots were chasing history. They finished a perfect 16-0 in the regular season and with 2 playoff wins were looking to wrap up the NFL’s second unblemished year with a win in Super Bowl XLII against a clearly inferior opponent. The Giants, with the help of the amazing “helmet catch” pictured above, pulled off the huge upset, 17-14. They did it again a few years later when they reached the big game with an even worse record (9-7) and knocked off Tom Brady’s club for the second time.