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


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