The Pi-Rate Ratings

September 12, 2017

PiRate Ratings NFL Forecast For Week 2: September 14-18, 2017

This Week’s PiRate Spreads & Totals

Home Visitor PiRate Mean Bias Total
Cincinnati Houston 3.5 2.9 4.5 31
Jacksonville Tennessee 2.2 1.4 3.1 47
Baltimore Cleveland 11.6 11.5 11.5 40
Carolina Buffalo 7.1 5.1 7.3 50
New Orleans New England -2.6 -4.6 -2.3 55
Indianapolis Arizona -1.5 -1.8 -1.8 53
Kansas City Philadelphia 6.7 8.2 6.1 43
Pittsburgh Minnesota 7.2 7.7 6.4 41
Tampa Bay Chicago 9.3 8.0 9.9 42
LA Chargers Miami 5.4 3.7 6.3 52
Oakland N. Y. Jets 16.0 17.6 15.6 46
LA Rams Washington -4.2 -3.5 -4.7 43
Denver Dallas -1.1 -0.1 -1.0 39
Seattle San Francisco 13.8 14.2 13.6 42
Atlanta Green Bay 4.3 2.5 5.1 62
N. Y. Giants Detroit 3.9 3.0 3.9 35

This Week’s PiRate Ratings

A F C
East PiRate Mean Bias Avg Totals
New England 104.7 105.6 104.5 104.9 22
Miami 98.6 99.3 98.0 98.6 24
Buffalo 97.5 98.4 97.7 97.9 24
N. Y. Jets 92.0 91.3 92.0 91.8 19
           
North PiRate Mean Bias Avg Totals
Pittsburgh 104.4 104.9 104.0 104.5 23
Baltimore 103.2 103.4 103.5 103.3 18
Cincinnati 97.7 97.8 97.9 97.8 16
Cleveland 94.6 94.9 95.0 94.8 22
           
South PiRate Mean Bias Avg Totals
Tennessee 98.6 99.2 97.9 98.6 25
Jacksonville 97.9 97.6 98.0 97.8 22
Houston 97.2 97.9 96.5 97.2 15
Indianapolis 95.6 95.8 95.2 95.5 27
           
West PiRate Mean Bias Avg Totals
Kansas City 105.0 105.3 105.4 105.2 22
Oakland 104.6 105.4 104.1 104.7 27
Denver 101.8 101.3 102.1 101.7 17
LA Chargers 100.5 99.5 100.8 100.3 28
           
N F C
East PiRate Mean Bias Avg Totals
Dallas 105.9 104.4 106.0 105.5 22
N.Y. Giants 101.3 101.4 101.1 101.3 14
Philadelphia 101.4 100.1 102.3 101.3 21
Washington 99.1 98.7 99.5 99.1 25
           
North PiRate Mean Bias Avg Totals
Green Bay 103.8 104.8 103.3 104.0 28
Detroit 100.4 101.4 100.2 100.7 21
Minnesota 100.2 100.2 100.6 100.3 18
Chicago 94.5 95.0 94.3 94.6 20
           
South PiRate Mean Bias Avg Totals
Atlanta 105.0 104.3 105.5 104.9 34
Carolina 101.6 100.5 101.9 101.3 26
Tampa Bay 100.9 99.9 101.3 100.7 22
New Orleans 99.6 98.4 99.7 99.2 33
           
West PiRate Mean Bias Avg Totals
Seattle 102.4 102.5 101.9 102.3 18
Arizona 100.1 100.5 100.0 100.2 26
LA Rams 91.4 91.7 91.3 91.5 18
San Francisco 91.5 91.3 91.3 91.4 24

The Offense Rests
Okay, it has only been one week of the NFL season, and two teams didn’t even play, so we are looking at just 15 games to date. And, after 15 games, the worry going around the NFL is that there is a giant lack of offense. Let’s look into this potential problem to see where the answer(s) might be.

The Average Points Per Game for Week 1 was 20.2 points, which is down a little from the recent trend of about 22.5 to 23.0 points per game. The Average in total yards was 305, which is off by a little more than the recent historical norm of 325 yards.

Have defenses simply just gotten better, and is this trend real? Or, could there be other factors? The professional athlete continues to evolve into a more fit, stronger, quicker, and smarter specimen. This evolution has changed all sports, as NBA basketball has a handful of superstars, and you must have at least one and preferably two to compete for the title. Major League Baseball is all about how hard one can hit the ball and how difficult one can prevent one from hitting the ball. Small Ball is almost extinct, as it is all about OPS and preventing such.

Could it be that football has changed as well, and that the superior athletes of today can close up all the gaps on the field and make it much more difficult to gain yards?

We think not. Let’s look back to the 1960’s, a time when the professional athlete was evolving from a time 10 years earlier when linemen might be 210 pounds and backs 180. In the 1960’s, the trend of 270-pound tackles and 220-pound linebackers led to the fear that the field might become too small. However, the NFL featured all types of scoring. You had teams that scored a lot of points and gave up a goodly amount as well. You had teams that featured defenses that held teams under 10 points per game for an entire season. You had quarterbacks that you knew would lead their teams to the playoffs, while others would not be up to the challenge.

The philosophy of the game was much different. Today, almost every NFL team relies on the short passing game to move the ball, complimented with the power running game. A team is likely to feature 15 to 20 line plunges and 15-20 passes of less than 5 yards through the air. Defenses basically must defend horizontally, and they can get by with 2-deep coverage or man-to-man with a free safety for most of the game. They can bring 7 men into the box on more downs than ever, because today 2nd and 10 is more likely to see the QB throw a short pass of less than 5 yards with the hope that the receiver can run for another 5 after the catch.

Even on 3rd & 10, there is a great chance that the QB will throw a short pass, hoping that the receiver can gain the necessary yards to convert. Defenses can play 2-deep with a nickel or dime package and appear to have all the zones covered in the 10-yard range.

This bunching horizontally has led to an appearance that the running gaps are covered across the field. It is much easier to squeeze in and stuff the inside run, and since there are defenders spread out, the wide runs don’t always work any more, as the art of pulling two guards to lead interference has gone away like the drop kick.

Statistically, quarterbacks today look much better than quarterbacks of 50 years ago, but it is most likely not the case. And, here’s why. Today’s quarterbacks might go 20 of 30 for 185 yards with a TD. A passer from 50 years ago might go 14 of 30 for 185 yards with a TD. The 2017 QB has a higher QB rating (94.5 to 77.8), but how did he perform any better? The 2017 QB most likely threw passes that gained little yardage or even lost yardage. The 1967 QB rarely completed a pass for less than 5 yards. It was unheard of back then, and when it happened, it was almost always from a botched screen pass. In essence, if you look at the 2017 QB, he might have 40% of his completions going for less than 8 yards. The 1967 QB was more likely to have 10% of his completions going for less than 8 yards, and for the most part coming on 3rd and 5, not 3rd and 10.

Let’s look at the breakdown of some of the passing philosophies of today and 50 years ago. First, let us categorize passing plays into screens, short passes thrown no more than 5 yards downfield with some coming behind the line, medium passes in the 6-12 yard range, intermediate passes in the 13-20 yard range, deep passes in the 21-30 yard range, and long passes in the 31+ yard range.
The passer of today might throw 2 screens, 16 short passes, 8 medium passes, 2 intermediate passes, 1 deep pass, and 1 long pass per game. He might complete both screens, 12 of the short passes, 4 of the medium passes, 1 intermediate pass, and 1 of the two deeper throws for 20 completions. This gives him 185 passing yards.

The passer of 50 years ago might have thrown 4 screens (this play was used a lot more then), 3 short passes, 10 medium passes, 5 interemediate passes, 3 deep passes, and 5 long passes for his 30 attempts. He might complete 3 of the 4 screens, 2 of the 3 short passes, 5 of the 10 medium passes, 2 of the 5 intermediate passes, 1 of the 3 deep passes, and 1 of the 5 long passes for 14 completions but also for 185 yards.

So, which is better? We believe the 1967 stats are better, because they are more likely to produce points. It has always been difficult to drive down the field 80 yards in 15 plays for a touchdown. It takes long-gaining plays to win in the NFL, and it always has been the case. There have been teams like the 1960’s Green Bay Packers, and the 1970’s Miami Dolphins that could sustain drive after drive, but these teams also had great defenses, and they could afford to grind it out with 40 running plays and 20 passing plays in a game. Still, when you looked at Bart Starr, his passing feats were usually right there at the top. Starr would set up the longer passes by forcing the defense to stop the Packer running game. The Packers spread the field both horizontally and vertically.

Other quarterbacks like Johnny Unitas, Norm Van Brocklin, Sonny Jurgensen, Roman Gabriel, Don Meredith, George Blanda, Daryle Lamonica, Len Dawson, John Hadl, Joe Namath, Norm Snead, and Frank Ryan rarely threw a short pass. Lamonica is the quintessential passer from the 1960’s. Known as the “Mad Bomber,” he led the Oakland Raiders to a 37-4-1 record from 1967 to 1969. Lamonica threw the ball more than 40 yards downfield about 7 or 8 times a game, usually completing 2 or 3, and usually passing for 2 to 3 touchdowns every week. Having Warren Wells and Fred Biletnikoff running deep routes and having hands like glue meant that defenses had to play 3 and 4 deep on many downs. 2 Deep coverage was rare, because the QBs of the 1960’s would burn it.

The running games had more room in the 1960’s, and with a two-back alignment, the running game was more consistent. Defenses had to play looser against the deep pass and had to worry about which of the two backs would carry the ball. Defenses could not cover all the running gaps, because at least 3 defensive backs had to play off the line of scrimmage far enough back to cover the deep passing routes, and the linebackers had to worry about the intermediate zones of which there was more width than today, as today’s underneath zones usually have 5 defenders, whereas 50 years ago, there were just 4.

There are a few teams that showed us a vertical game this past weekend. Oakland, Minnesota, and Atlanta, showed a vertical passing offense this week, and the three teams combined for 78 points (26.0 ppg). All three won their games.

So, we believe the issue of less offense has more to do with game-planning than with evolution of athletes. Athletes have been evolving continually for years with consistency. Philosophies have changed through the years. As soon as one team succeeds in playing a certain way, 80% of the league tries to copy it. Maybe, when a vertical passing team wins a Super Bowl, within a couple years, the vertical passing game will be the norm once again, like it was in the 1960’s when the NFL and AFL were more exciting than the NFL today. It could also be a factor in the decline of television viewership and the less frequent sellouts in the stadiums.

September 29, 2015

NFL Preview for Week 4: October 1-5, 2015

The Best Ever Debate
Already this season, we have heard the sports pundits ponder whether Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or even Drew Brees is the best quarterback ever to play in the NFL. They cite touchdown passes, completion percentages, lack of interceptions, and a host of other statistics.

We are here to tell you that these pundits are only correct in whatever statistic they use. Aaron Rodgers may be the best QB at avoiding interceptions, while greats from the past, like Johnny Unitas don’t even show up in the top 20. Unitas comes in tied at 135th in this statistic, behind such current star Ryan Pickpatrick, er Fitzpatrick.

Does this mean that the greats from the past, like Unitas, Starr, Namath, Jurgensen, Van Brocklin, and others don’t measure up to today’s quarterbacks? Certainly, this is not the case. The way the game is played today compared to the way it was played 50 years ago is vastly different, and the rules today favor pass blockers compared to the rules of yesteryear. There was a time when blockers could not use any part of their hand to block. Today’s hand pushing would have been holding penalties in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and by the way, holding penalties cost a team 15 yards then.
As for interceptions, of course these numbers are lower today. When you throw half of your passes 7 yards or less downfield, many of them at or behind the line of scrimmage, interception percentages will be much lower than if you throw the ball more than 20 yards down the field.

Today, on 3rd and 20, more times than not if a QB passes the ball it will be a very short pass to a back or tight end hoping to find a hole and run to daylight. In 1965, on 3rd and 20, a QB would most assuredly throw the long bomb. An interception in this case might have actually been preferable to a punt. If a pass is thrown 50 yards downfield and intercepted with no return, it beats almost every punting situation. Rarely does a punt produce a net advantage of 50 yards.

Touchdown percentages are not usable for comparing quarterback talents either. Today, a QB is just as likely to pass at the opponent’s one yard line than for his team to run the ball. In 1965, all NFL teams used a halfback and fullback in the offensive set, and some teams still used a full-house backfield inside the opponent’s five yard line. The better teams, like Unitas’s Colts and Starr’s Packers ran the ball 85-90% of the time in the deep red zone. Of course, these greats from the past threw fewer touchdown passes than today’s QBs.

What about completion percentages? If you look at career rates, you will find Brees at the top. Just behind in the top 10 include Rodgers, Manning, Tony Romo, Phillip Rivers, Matt Ryan, and Ben Roethlisberger. To find a QB that played before 1970, you have to go all the way to 80th place and Jurgensen. Unitas is tied for 124th. Not-so-great QBs ahead of these two Hall-of-Famers include Mark Sanchez and Rex Grossman. And what about Broadway Joe Namath? He comes in at 166th.

So, obviously, current passers like Brees and Rodgers are much better passers than Unitas and Namath, correct? Not on your life, this is totally bunk, and we will show you why.

First, the QBs in the days where offensive linemen could not use their hands, passers had to throw the ball away to avoid a lot more sack opportunities. Teams like the Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, and Oakland Raiders were noted for having top-flight pass rushes, where they averaged 4 to 5 sacks per game. No team today averages 4 sacks per game and few average as much as 3 per game.

Here is the key to these percentages. Let’s say Unitas and Brees both attempt 30 passes in a game. Unitas’s passes come in a 1964 game, whereas Brees’ passes come in a 2015 game. Let’s break down the types of passes each QB throws.

1. Screen passes and other passes thrown short of the line of scrimmage
2. Short passes thrown 0 to 5 yards past the line of scrimmage
3. Medium passes thrown 6 to 12 yards past the line of scrimmage
4. Intermediate passes thrown 13 to 20 yards past the line of scrimmage
5. Longer passes thrown 21 to 30 yards past the line of scrimmage
6. The Bomb thrown 31 to 60 yards past the line of scrimmage

Now, let’s show how a typical QB from 1964 and 2015 might distribute these passes.
1. Screens and other behind the LOS: Unitas 3 Brees 6
2. Short passes: Unitas 2 Brees 10
3. Medium passes: Unitas 4 Brees 8
4. Intermediate passes: Unitas 10 Brees 4
5. Longer passes: Unitas 6 Brees 1
6. The Bomb: Unitas 5 Brees 1

We really need not explain any further. Unitas’s passes might have averaged around 20 yards in length, while Brees’ passes averaged about 8 yards in length. It is quite obvious that it is much easier to complete a pass thrown 8 yards past the line of scrimmage than one thrown 20 yards past the line of scrimmage. Additionally, many of Brees’ shorter passes are 3rd & long dumps to secondary receivers thrown well short of the first down sticks, whereas in the days of Unitas, teams just did not throw short of the sticks on 3rd down.

Unitas may complete just 15 of the 30 passes in this example, while Brees completes 20 of the 30 passes. Yet, both QBs pass for 240 yards. What matters is how many yards per pass attempt each QB gained. In this example, both averaged exactly 8 yards per attempt, the line where everything better is considered exceptional.

Averaging more than 8 yards per pass attempt has been consistently brilliant, whether it took place in 1945, 1955, 1965, 1975, 1985, 1995, 2005, or 2015. Whereas all other statistics have varied over NFL (and AFL) history, this stat has been the one true correlation between success and failure.

Taken to the extreme, a Joe Namath or Daryle Lamonica type passer might complete just 45% of their passes, while a Brees or Rodgers might complete 67.5% of their passes. Namath and Lamonica might go 18 of 40 in a game, while Brees or Rodgers go 27 of 40. Namath and Lamonica might average 17.8 yards per completion thanks to multiple 40-60 yard pass completions (they didn’t call Lamonica the Mad Bomber for nothing). Brees and Rodgers might average 11.9 yards per completion. Guess what? In both instances, the total yardage gained is 320 yards or 8 yards per attempt. If you look at what 8 yards per pass attempt accomplishes throughout history, it is roughly 28 points per game, varying a little with rushing, defense, and special teams.
So, then, who is the best quarterback of all time? You guessed where we are going with this. Who ranks as having the best career yards per pass attempt?

The answer may or may not surprise you, but among the top passers in this category, there are 14 retired QBs eligible for the Hall of Fame, and 10 of these 14 are in the Hall of Fame. Of the other four, two are recently retired, and still might become a HOF member. Only Ed Brown and Earl Morrall rank in the top 20 in yards per attempt and are not in the Hall.

In Morrall’s case, he was frequently a backup to other Hall of Famers, like Y. A. Tittle, Unitas, and Bob Griese. When called on to fill in, he responded with two MVP-award seasons and an incredible won-loss percentage of 63.6%, including an outstanding 33-4-1 record when starting for a Don Shula-coached team (Baltimore and Miami). Morrall might have been a Hall of Famer had he not played behind three greats.

Brown is an interesting case worth researching. He was the quarterback of the 1951 University of San Francisco Dons football team that went 9-0 and was considered the best team on the West Coast with multiple future NFL players. Due to racist issues (USF was an integrated team), and because the available bowls of that time were all in Southern states, USF was not invited to a bowl, while inferior all-white teams received invitations. The Dons dropped football on that undefeated season.

Brown was drafted by the Bears and led Chicago to the Western Division crown one season with multiple second place finishes. He later was traded to Pittsburgh, where he led the Steelers to its best modern day season prior to the arrival of the Steel Curtain defense in the 1970’s. Brown’s career record as a starter was 55-38-5.

Now, just who has the best all-time yards per attempt mark? Did you guess Otto Graham?  Graham left a career mark of 9.0 yards per attempt. And, if you are wondering about the won-lost record for Graham, he is in a league by himself at 104-17-4 in his 10 seasons with the Cleveland Browns. In seven of those 10 seasons, Graham led the Browns to the league championship. In the other three seasons, Cleveland lost in the NFL Championship Game. Cleveland averaged 28.1 points per game in the 10 years Graham led the Browns attack. The year after Graham retired, after leading Cleveland to a 9-2-1 record plus a 38-14 pasting of the Los Angeles Rams in the NFL Championship, Cleveland fell to 5-7-0 without him.

When next you are asked who you believe is the best NFL quarterback of all time, you have your answer. Otto Graham was to football what Babe Ruth was to baseball and Wilt Chamberlain was to basketball.

Here is the entire top 20 list of quarterbacks by career yards per pass attempt.

# Quarterback Yds/Att.
1 Otto Graham 9.0
2 Sid Luckman 8.4
3 Norm Van Brocklin 8.2
4 Aaron Rodgers 8.2
5 Steve Young 8.0
6 Kurt Warner 7.9
7 Ben Roethlisberger 7.9
8 Ed Brown 7.9
9 Tony Romo 7.9
10 Phillip Rivers 7.9
11 Bart Starr 7.8
12 Johnny Unitas 7.8
13 Earl Morrall 7.7
14 Len Dawson 7.7
15 Peyton Manning 7.7
16 Roger Staubach 7.7
17 Dan Fouts 7.7
18 Sonny Jurgensen 7.6
19 Trent Green 7.6
20 Drew Brees 7.6

 

Current NFL PiRate Ratings
N F C
East PiRate Mean Bias Average W-L-T Pts Opp
Dallas 105.8 104.5 106.1 105.5 2-1-0 75 75
Philadelphia 103.2 102.6 103.4 103.1 1-2-0 58 63
N.Y. Giants 99.5 99.4 100.0 99.6 1-2-0 78 72
Washington 94.2 93.7 93.5 93.8 1-2-0 55 59
               
North PiRate Mean Bias Average W-L-T Pts Opp
Green Bay 108.6 107.9 109.0 108.5 3-0-0 96 68
Minnesota 101.2 98.8 102.5 100.8 2-1-0 60 50
Detroit 100.8 99.5 100.3 100.2 0-3-0 56 83
Chicago 92.7 91.7 92.5 92.3 0-3-0 46 105
               
South PiRate Mean Bias Average W-L-T Pts Opp
Carolina 101.1 100.8 101.2 101.0 3-0-0 71 48
Atlanta 99.5 100.0 100.7 100.1 3-0-0 89 72
New Orleans 97.2 93.3 97.3 95.9 0-3-0 60 84
Tampa Bay 91.4 92.3 91.0 91.6 1-2-0 49 80
               
West PiRate Mean Bias Average W-L-T Pts Opp
Seattle 107.1 106.6 107.2 107.0 1-2-0 74 61
Arizona 106.9 106.0 107.6 106.8 3-0-0 126 49
San Francisco 96.9 94.5 96.6 96.0 1-2-0 45 93
St. Louis 95.5 97.1 94.6 95.7 1-2-0 50 67
               
A F C
East PiRate Mean Bias Average W-L-T Pts Opp
New England 109.6 110.0 109.8 109.8 3-0-0 119 70
Buffalo 103.5 104.4 103.6 103.8 2-1-0 100 68
N. Y. Jets 100.6 100.7 100.8 100.7 2-1-0 68 41
Miami 95.6 97.4 94.8 95.9 1-2-0 51 74
               
North PiRate Mean Bias Average W-L-T Pts Opp
Cincinnati 104.1 104.9 104.3 104.4 3-0-0 85 56
Pittsburgh 104.2 104.4 104.4 104.3 2-1-0 76 52
Baltimore 103.7 102.8 104.1 103.5 0-3-0 70 84
Cleveland 93.3 91.8 92.8 92.6 1-2-0 58 72
               
South PiRate Mean Bias Average W-L-T Pts Opp
Indianapolis 101.3 101.7 100.9 101.3 1-2-0 56 80
Houston 97.3 98.6 97.1 97.7 1-2-0 56 60
Tennessee 96.1 95.8 96.8 96.2 1-2-0 89 77
Jacksonville 89.2 93.4 88.0 90.2 1-2-0 49 91
               
West PiRate Mean Bias Average W-L-T Pts Opp
Denver 107.0 106.5 107.0 106.8 3-0-0 74 49
Kansas City 100.3 101.7 100.6 100.9 2-1-0 79 89
San Diego 100.0 100.4 99.8 100.1 1-2-0 66 83
Oakland 92.5 96.7 91.6 93.6 2-1-0 77 86

 

This Week’s Games
         
Week Number: 4      
Date of Games: October 1-5      
         
Home Visitor PiRate Mean Bias
Pittsburgh Baltimore 2.5 3.6 2.3
Miami (N) NY Jets -5.0 -3.3 -6.0
Indianapolis Jacksonville 15.1 11.3 15.9
Buffalo NY Giants 6.0 7.0 5.6
Tampa Bay Carolina -7.2 -6.0 -7.7
Washington Philadelphia -7.0 -6.9 -7.9
Chicago Oakland 3.2 -2.0 3.9
Atlanta Houston 5.2 4.4 6.6
Cincinnati Kansas City 6.8 6.2 6.7
San Diego Cleveland 9.7 11.6 10.0
San Francisco Green Bay -8.7 -10.4 -9.4
Arizona St. Louis 14.4 11.9 16.0
Denver Minnesota 8.8 10.7 7.5
New Orleans Dallas -6.1 -8.7 -6.3
Seattle Detroit 9.3 10.1 9.9
         
(N) Neutral Site Game  in   London      

 

December 10, 2013

PiRate Ratings–NFL for Week 15, December 12-16, 2013

Most Exciting Moments, Part II

Last week, we divulged what we thought were the most exciting moments in each of the AFC teams’ history.  Today, it’s the NFC teams’ turn.  Our selection process can talk about one particular play, one particular game, or even a series of games.

 

NFC East

Dallas: With 32 seconds left in the 1975 opening round playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings, it appeared that Dallas was going to lose, as they trailed 14-10 thanks to a late fourth quarter Vikings’ touchdown.

 

Dallas had the ball at the 50 yard line with time for maybe three or four plays.  Quarterback Roger Staubach dropped back 10 yards and fired deep down the right sideline toward receiver Drew Pearson.  Vikings’ defensive back Nate Wright appeared to have the play well-covered, and Pearson may have pushed off a little.  The ball appeared to have come down on Wright’s leg and carom upward into Pearson’s hands just shy of the 10.  Pearson took the ball in and scampered semi-backwards into the end zone with Wright and Paul Krausse looking on in bewilderment.  The Cowboys won 17-14.  After the game, Staubach admitted that he closed his eyes and said a “Hail Mary” before that play.  Forever, the desperation pass at the end of halves is now called a “Hail Mary.”

 

New York Giants: This was a close one between multiple options, but we chose the 1956 NFL Championship Game.  The Giants had two legendary coaches, but at the time, they were the coordinators.  Vince Lombardi ran the offense for Head Coach Jim Lee Howell, and Tom Landry ran the defense.

 

This Giant team was loaded with stars: quarterback Charlie Conerly, halfbacks Alex Webster and Frank Gifford, fullback Mel Triplett, end Kyle Rote, middle linebacker Sam Huff, defensive tackles Rosey Grier and Dick Modzelewski, defensive end Andy Robustelli, defensive back Emlen Tunnell, and even the best pair of kickers in punter Don Chandler and placekicker Ben Agajanian. 

 

This Giant team was not flashy, and they entered the NFL Championship Game as the underdogs to the Chicago Bears.  The Bears were clearly the best offensive team in the league, highly competent on the ground or through the air. 

 

During the regular season, these teams played to a 17-17 tie.  So, nobody expected the outcome at Yankee Stadium that day.  It was an icy day, and the Giants did something they had made famous more than two decades earlier—they wore sneakers instead of cleats.  It made a big difference.

 

Lombardi’s offense came out running the ball early, establishing Triplett inside the tackles, and the Bears began to think “stop the run,” before it was too late.  Lombardi’s game plans typically followed a familiar script—run the ball and control the clock.

 

Except, Lombardi had a surprise up his sleeve.  He posited that the icy field would make it hard to cover the pass.  Conerly repeatedly found Gifford and Webster out of the backfield for short passes.  A couple of these passes became long gainers when Bears’ defenders could not get proper footing. 

 

The Giants led 13-0 at the end of the first quarter and 34-7 at the half to win going away 47-7.  It was the last championship until Bill Parcells came along.

 

Philadelphia: This one was close, with the most famous fumble return in the history of the game narrowly missing out.  The Eagles have not won the NFL title since 1960, and the play of one person must be considered better than the Herman Edwards fumble return against the Giants. Chuck Bednarik was both a center and a linebacker, the last NFL player to go both ways and play 60 minutes per game.  As a center, he blocked better than most both for the run and to protect quarterback Norm Van Brocklin.  As a linebacker, he was one of the best.  He played ferociously, frightening running backs with hits that were delivered like a Mack Truck.

 

In the 1960 Championship Game, the Eagles led the Green Bay Packers 17-13 with less than a minute in the game, but the Packers were driving for the winning score.  Bart Starr had begun this long march from the Green Bay 35 with less than two minutes to go and had brought the Packers to the Eagles’ 22 yard line.  Out of time outs, Starr dropped back quickly and fired a slant-in pass to fullback Jim Taylor.  Taylor escaped initial contact and cut to the middle of the field inside the 10, looking like he might break free to score.  Bednarik was the last man that could stop Taylor, and the Eagle star came through with the tackle.  He held Taylor down as the gun went off to end the game with the Packers just yards away from winning the game.

 

Washington: This one was rather easy, although there were some days in the 1960’s where Sonny Jurgensen was the equal or superior of Unitas and Starr.  However, John Riggins’ Super Bowl XVII run has to top everything.  Trailing 17-13, the Redskins had the ball at the Miami 43 yard line.  QB Joe Theismann handed the ball to Riggins on an isolation slant to the left.  The Redskins’ offensive line, known then as “The Hogs,” blasted into the Dolphins’ front and created a nice gap.  Riggins ran into Dolphins’ defensive back Don McNeal about three yard past the line of scrimmage, but McNeal could not even slow Riggins down.  He escaped the attempted tackle and scampered down the left sidelines to touchdown, as Washington took a lead it would never relinquish in winning its first Super Bowl.

 

NFC North

Chicago:  The Bears have many highlights, but this one is the most obvious of all 32 teams.  Even though we weren’t around when it happened, this is like the 1927 New York Yankees.  The 1940 Bears played Washington in the NFL Championship Game and won 73-0, the all-time biggest score and margin of victory in NFL history.  In a day where teams used the Single Wing, Double Wing, and Short Punt formations, the Bears were the first pro team to use the Straight-T formation. 

 

Bill Osmanski scampered 68 yards for the first score on the second play of the game.  It was the start of a 382-yard rushing day for the Bears.  Quarterback Sid Luckman attempted just four passes, completing three.  However, the three completions were good for 88 yards and a touchdown, or 22 yards per attempt.

 

Detroit: The Lions were the defending NFL champions in 1953, but the second consecutive championship in December of 1953 trumps the first.  In 1953, the Lions faced overwhelming favorite Cleveland for the NFL title.  The Browns led 16-10 well into the fourth quarter, when quarterback Bobby Layne began firing missiles to receivers Cloyce Box and Jim Doran.  Layne led the Lions on a final drive, hitting Doran for a 33-yard touchdown pass, as the Lions won 17-16. 

 

Layne got all the accolades that day as the best comeback player in NFL history.  Teammate Doak Walker said that “Bobby Layne never lost a game; he just ran out of time.  However, the Detroit defense was the real star that day, holding the great Otto Graham to just three completions.

 

Green Bay:  The Packers have a very rich history with big plays and big games.  The entire 1962 season could be the choice here, as this was the best team to ever take the field.  However, there is one moment that shines above all others—the QB Sneak.

 

In the infamous “Ice Bowl” game of 1967 that decided the NFL Championship and representative in Super Bowl II, Bart Starr snuck it in over Jerry Kramer’s most famous block of all time to put the Packers back in the Super Bowl against Oakland.

 

Minnesota: September 28, 1969, found the Vikings entering the day with a 0-1 record after suffering a surprising upset loss to the New York Giants.  The opponent this day was the defending NFL champion Colts, and an 0-2 start might doom Minnesota’s chances to beat out Detroit for the NFL Central division title.

 

Quarterback Joe Kapp was from the mold of Bobby Layne and Tobin Rote.  He was one tough hombre.  The Vikings’ offense ran through his arm, as the running game had to rely with slow but powerful backs in Dave Osborn and Bill Brown.

 

Kapp tossed two touchdown passes in the first quarter including a long bomb to the one true speedster on the team, Gene Washington, and the Vikings led 14-0.  After a Colts’ drive for a touchdown, Kapp went back to work and led the purple and white on another scoring drive, culminated by a TD pass to backup wide receiver Bob Grim. 

 

Late in the second quarter, Kapp guided the Vikings on a short drive that ended when he spotted tight end Kent Kramer open at the goal line for his fourth TD pass in the half.

 

Kapp did not let up.  Another bomb to Washington made it five TD passes, and then two more to backups gave him seven TD passes on the day as Minnesota blew the Colts away 52-14.

 

NFC South

Atlanta: The 1998 NFC Championship Game’s best highlight was the missed field goal by the other team’s kicker, so we cannot use that as the most exciting highlight.  We are going to go back to 1973, when the Falcons were on Monday Night Football against the 9-0 Vikings.  This Viking team looked capable of matching the undefeated feat pulled off by Miami the year before.  Fran Tarkenton was now quarterback, and he had a serious deep threat in John Gilliam.  The great Chuck Foreman was in the backfield, and opponents could not expect to stop the Vikings’ passing game without worrying about leaving Foreman open to breakaway runs.

 

The Falcons were enjoying their best season ever in their short eight year existence.  They were in contention in the NFC West at 6-3, still within striking distance of the 8-2 Los Angeles Rams and tied with Dallas/Washington for the Wildcard spot.

 

This was Atlanta’s biggest nationally televised game to date, and what better way to appear on the national stage than to have a QB with the official real name of Robert Lee!  Bob Lee had actually been the backup with Minnesota prior to 1973, and he had some payback to give his old team.

 

After a scoreless first quarter, Lee threw two touchdown passes in the second quarter to lead the Falcons to the locker up 17-7.  The game was decided by then as the teams failed to do much in the second half.  Atlanta knocked off the Vikings to move to 7-3, and they would win the next week to improve to 8-3 and take a one-game lead for the Wildcard.

 

Alas, a late-season collapse led to a 9-5 finish, missing out on the playoffs by a game.  To add insult to injury, their star running back Dave Hampton topped the 1,000 rushing mark in the fourth quarter of the final game of the year.  The game was stopped, and Hampton received the ball from the carry that topped 1,000.  On the next play, on a sweep, he lost four yards and fell back to 997.  He did not get another chance to carry the ball and became the only player ever to lose a 1,000 yard season.

 

Carolina: A second year team was not supposed to win its last seven games of the regular season to finish 12-4 and make the NFL playoffs, but the 1996 Panthers did just that.  Now, they were facing the defending Super Bowl champs in the opening round of the playoffs.

 

It was not flashy, but the Panthers’ defense frustrated Dallas all day.  Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio sent the kitchen sink with more than a dozen different blitzes against Dallas QB Troy Aikman.  Aikman was sacked just twice, but he tossed three interceptions and forced several other hurried passes.  Emmitt Smith had one big run in the first half, but after that, he was not a threat.

 

Carolina quarterback Kerry Collins did just enough to lead the Panthers on a couple of extended drives, and kicker John Kasay booted four field goals to put mini-daggers in the backs of the Cowboys.  Carolina upset Dallas to advance to the NFC Championship Game at Green Bay.

 

New Orleans: Obviously, when a team has won just one Super Bowl, that Super Bowl win must be the most exciting, and the excellent surprise onside kick to start the second half has to be the most exciting play in that game.  However, we actually went with another big moment.

 

When a kicker with a club foot and only part of a right arm sets the just broken NFL record with a 63yard field goal to win a game, that too could be the most exciting moment in a team’s history, but still we chose something else.

 

The Saints played their first game in 1967 in a time when expansion teams were not given enough resources and personnel to compete for years.  In fact, New Orleans would go the longest of any expansion team before enjoying a winning season, 21 seasons.

 

In 1967, opening at the old Tulane Stadium, the Saints hosted what would prove to be the best NFL team in the regular season that year—Los Angeles.  The Rams were heavy favorites, expected to win by more than three touchdowns.

 

New Orleans had one really good young player on this team—receiver John Gilliam (see Minnesota above).  The Rams did not know much about this rookie, so it was no big deal for All-pro kicker Bruce Gossett to kick to him.  Gilliam took the kick at the Saints’ six yard line and ran straight up the middle untouched.  When he reached midfield, he faded to the left sideline and continue to run with only Gossett to beat.  Gossett was a non-factor, and Gilliam easily sprinted the rest of the way for a touchdown on the very first play of the Saints’ existence!

 

Tampa Bay: In Super Bowl IIIVII, the Buccaneers were leading the Oakland Raiders 27-3 in the third quarter, when the Raiders started to move the ball.  Raiders QB Rich Gannon attempted a pass over the middle about 15 yards downfield, and defensive back Dwight Smith stepped in front and intercepted the pass.  He took off full speed, and no Raiders could catch him.  The interception put the game out of reach and made the Bucs Super Bowl Champions.  Smith wasn’t finished.  His second interception went 50 yards for a score to cap the scoring, and it came just moments after Derrick Brooks returned an interception 44 yards for a score.  The Tampa Bay defense outscored the Oakland offense 21-15 (The Raiders scored on a blocked punt).

 

NFC West

Arizona: We go back to 1970 when this team was in St. Louis.  The Cardinals appeared to be the class of the NFL for nearly three months.  At 6-2, St. Louis had just pulled off shutout slaughters over the Oilers and Patriots by a combined 75-0.  They held a one game lead over Dallas, and they were set to play the Cowboys in Dallas on Monday Night Football.

 

Dallas was a slight favorite, but this Cardinals’ team was peaking at the right time.  A trio of runners, led by MacArthur Lane led a running game that was averaging close to five yards per attempt.  Young quarterback Jim Hart was beginning to show promise that he would live up to the potential scouts believed he had.  John Gilliam (yes that same one already mentioned in New Orleans and Minnesota) offered a speedy target, while tight end Jackie Smith was the best pass receiver in the league at his position.  Defensively, the Cards had the best ball-hawking secondary in the league.  Roger Werhli and Miller Farr were the best cornerback tandem, and Larry Wilson was the free safety in football, and Jerry Stovall was a bone-crushing strong safety.

 

Dallas coach Tom Landry was trying something new in 1970.  He had time of the top quarterbacks in the league in Craig Morton and Roger Staubach.  Morton had begun the year as the starter, but Staubach was now seeing almost as much time under center.  At one point, Landry alternated quarterbacks on every play.

 

In this nationally televised game, when Howard Cosell wasn’t dominating the action, the Cards were.  They scored in the first quarter when Johnny Roland returned a punt more than 70 yards.  It would prove to be enough, as the St. Louis defense, especially the pass defense, completely shut down the Cowboys’ offense.  It would lead to an unprecedented in modern day NFL football third consecutive shutout.

 

Meanwhile, the Cardinals’ offense got untracked.  It started when Gilliam ran a reverse that fooled Dallas and went for a long touchdown run.  The score was 17-0 at the half, and St. Louis added three long touchdown drives in the second half to win 38-0.

 

The Cardinals improved to 7-2 with their second win of the season over the 5-4 Cowboys.  A 3-2 finish would take the NFC East Division.  The Cardinals faced their in-state rival Chiefs the following Sunday.  Kansas City was holding onto a narrow lead in the AFC West, and the two teams fought to a 6-6 tie, making it six points allowed in four games.  The following week, St. Louis beat Philadelphia to move to 8-2-1 with three games to go.  Dallas had won twice to improve to 7-4.

 

The Cardinals fell apart.  They lost at Detroit, who was contending for a Wildcard spot that they would eventually earn, and fell to 8-3-1, while Dallas won again to improve to 8-4.  They then faced another 8-4 team in the New York Giants.  The winner would own first place in the NFC East.  Fran Tarkenton tore the Cardinals’ defense apart, winning easily.  Dallas won as well, and now St. Louis was a half-game behind both rivals.  Dallas faced a weak Houston team to close out the season, while New York faced a mediocre Rams team.  The Cardinals faced a mediocre Redskins team in DC, needing a win plus losses by both New York and Dallas to win the division.  They also held a slim chance to earn the wildcard, if Detroit lost to the weakest Packer team since before Vince Lombardi took over.

The RFK Stadium scoreboard operator made the scores of those three games as conspicuous as he could.  When both the Lions and Cowboys quickly shot out to big leads, the Cardinals had nothing left to play for, and they lost this one as well to end at 8-5-1.

 

St. Louis:  There have been big moments for this franchise in four different cities—Cleveland, Los Anglese, Anaheim, and St. Louis.  The great defensive stop against the Titans on the last play of the Super Bowl or Kurt Warner’s long bomb completion to Isaac Bruce after Tennessee had come back to tie the game could have been chosen, but we went with another.

 

We could have gone with the greatest offensive team in NFL history, the 1950 Rams, who hold an unbreakable team record of scoring 135 total points in two consecutive games, but we still went with another.

 

We chose the final game of the 1967 regular season as this team’s most exciting moment.  It had been 12 years since the Rams were last in the postseason, and that 1955 game was a losing playoff to break a tie for the Western Conference title.

 

Through 13 games in 1967, the Rams were 10-1-2, including a convincing win over Green Bay.  However, the Rams found themselves in second place in the NFL’s new Coastal Division.  Their rivals, the Baltimore Colts were 11-0-2.  The winner would make the playoffs, while the loser’s season would end.  If for some reason the teams tied, like they had at the start of the season, Baltimore would win the division.

 

This had been a big year for football in Los Angeles.  UCLA quarterback Gary Beban had just won the Heisman Trophy, while USC had been named national champion (awarded before the bowls in those days).  Still, the Rams dominated the sports pages, and this game had a build-up like it was the Super Bowl.

 

Both teams were tight early, and then the Rams benefitted from good field position to get into field goal range.  Their drive stalled at the Baltimore 40, and Coach George Allen sent strong-legged kicker Bruce Gossett into the game to try a 47 yard field goal (goalposts were on the goal line in those days).  Gossett punched the ball forward with his big leg, and the ball cleared the goalpost to give LA a 3-0 lead.

 

The Colts came charging back and legendary QB Johnny Unitas led Baltimore on a nice drive that ended when he spotted Willie Richardson opened in the end zone.  The Colts led 7-3, but that lead would not last long.

 

In the second quarter, Rams QB Roman Gabriel spotted split end Jack Snow opened on the perimeter and gave him just enough lead for Snow to catch the ball at full speed.  Snow sprinted all the way to make it an 80-yard touchdown to put the Rams up 10-7.

 

Now the Rams’ defense began to take control of the game.  The “Fearsome Foursome” front line of tackles Merlin Olsen and Roger Brown and ends Lamar Lundy and Deacon Jones began to push back the Colts’ offensive line.  The running game stalled, and Unitas started to be rushed.  Jones, possibly the best pass rusher in NFL history, started to meet Unitas at the pocket when he dropped back.  Unitas ate turf six times over the next three periods and had to rush several other passes.  Two of those passes ended up in the hands of a Rams’ defender.  Linebacker Jack Pardee returned one a long way to set up a short Rams TD drive.  Los Angeles cruised to a 34-10 slaughter to win the Coastal Division.

 

San Francisco: The 49ers have enjoyed numerous great moments, especially during the 1980’s and 1990’s.  Still, there is one play that stands out above all others and has to rank as one of the five most memorable of all time.

 

In the 1981 NFC Championship Game, there were 58 seconds left in the game, and San Francisco trailed Dallas 27-21.  The 49ers had the ball on the Dallas six yard line after beginning the drive at their own 11 and faced a third down and three yards to go.  Smart money would have bet that San Francisco would have thrown short trying to get the first down and then use their last timeout to give themselves four attempts to score.  49ers coach Bill Walsh had other ideas.

 

The 49ers came out in a twins set to the right and split backs, giving the appearance that they might run a power play to the left side.  Dallas was in its flex defense, appearing to be playing man-to-man in the secondary.

 

Quarterback Joe Montana sprinted to the right perimeter with the backs blocking rather than running a pass pattern.  It looked like Montana was looking for Freddie Solomon coming off a pick route with Dwight Clark.  Montana could not spot an open receiver and had to retreat dangerously close to the sideline as two Cowboys’ defenders closed in.

 

At the last moment before either a sack or the out of bounds line ended the play, Montana launched the ball off his back foot over the outstretched hands of Ed “Too Tall” Jones (6 foot 9) to the back of the end zone; it appeared he was trying to throw it through the end zone to set up a fourth down play.  However, he had practiced a circumstance like this with Clark before.  Clark leapt as high as he possibly could and grabbed onto the ball to score the go ahead touchdown with 51 seconds left and start the 49er dynasty.

 

Seattle: The Seahawks have been to one Super Bowl, but we believe their most exciting moment came in a different playoff game.

 

In 2010, Seattle won the NFC West with a 7-9 record while teams with as many as 10 wins did not qualify for the playoffs.  Because they were a division winner, they benefitted by hosting the best wildcard, which in this case was the defending Super Bowl Champion Saints. 

 

New Orleans entered the game as a double digit favorite and few fans expected Seattle to keep it close.  And, the Saints made the experts look good quickly, taking a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and 17-7 lead midway through the second quarter.

 

Riding the arm of Matt Hasselbeck and the legs of Marshawn Lynch, Seattle fought back and took a 24-20 lead at the half.  The second half was more of the same, as the Seahawk offense continued to move the ball equally well on the ground and through the air.

 

New Orleans did not quit, cutting the lead to 34-30 in the fourth quarter and looking like one more defensive stop would be enough for Drew Brees to lead the Saints on the winning touchdown drive.

 

Seattle looked to be stopped, facing third and eight from their own 33 yard line.  Coach Pete Carroll was more interested in running as much of the clock as he could before punting to New Orleans, and he did not want to risk an incomplete pass or sack, or worst yet, an interception.  He called for a simple I-formation power run by Lynch.

 

Lynch took the handoff and veered slightly to the left between the guard and tackle looking to get through the small opening for maybe a four or five yard gain.  Two pancake blocks brought him into the second wave of Saints defenders at the 39.  Lynch sandwiched them and kept his balance as neither could get a clean hit on him.  Cornerbacks Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter then had clean chances to bring him down, but Lynch could not be brought down.  Tackle Tyler Polumbus had sprinted down the field with Lynch, and he threw the final block on Roman Harper that sprung Lynch into the end zone for the game clinching score.

 

The fans erupted with such applause that it registered on a University of Washington seismograph as an earthquake.  Oddly enough, Seattle fans registered multiple earthquakes two weeks ago in their home game against——New Orleans.

 

This Week’s PiRate Ratings

Current NFL PiRate Ratings

N F C

East

PiRate

Mean

Biased

Philadelphia Eagles

100.6

101.9

101.0

Dallas Cowboys

98.9

99.6

98.4

New York Giants

95.8

95.7

95.2

Washington Redskins

91.6

91.4

90.8

       
North

PiRate

Mean

Biased

Detroit Lions

101.7

102.1

101.5

Chicago Bears

101.4

101.2

100.8

Minnesota Vikings

95.8

95.5

95.4

Green Bay Packers

94.8

93.6

93.8

       
South

PiRate

Mean

Biased

New Orleans Saints

107.2

108.2

108.2

Carolina Panthers

105.7

106.0

106.0

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

97.9

97.6

98.0

Atlanta Falcons

95.3

94.6

94.5

 

 

 

 

West

PiRate

Mean

Biased

Seattle Seahawks

110.2

110.6

110.6

San Francisco 49ers

110.1

110.8

110.6

Arizona Cardinals

102.4

103.6

103.0

St. Louis Rams

99.2

100.0

99.6

       

A F C

East

PiRate

Mean

Biased

New England Patriots

105.4

103.6

105.2

Miami Dolphins

101.0

100.7

101.3

Buffalo Bills

96.0

95.1

95.8

New York Jets

91.5

90.3

91.5

       
North

PiRate

Mean

Biased

Cincinnati Bengals

107.2

107.5

107.5

Baltimore Ravens

102.6

102.1

102.5

Pittsburgh Steelers

98.7

98.5

98.9

Cleveland Browns

95.6

95.2

95.4

       
South

PiRate

Mean

Biased

Indianapolis Colts

100.0

100.0

100.1

Tennessee Titans

97.2

97.3

97.3

Houston Texans

94.2

93.5

94.1

Jacksonville Jaguars

91.4

91.3

91.4

       
West

PiRate

Mean

Biased

Denver Broncos

111.4

111.9

111.9

Kansas City Chiefs

104.3

105.5

104.8

San Diego Chargers

102.1

102.5

102.0

Oakland Raiders

92.8

92.6

92.9

 

This Week’s PiRate Spreads

Home Visitor

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Denver San Diego

12.3

12.4

12.9

Atlanta Washington

6.2

5.7

6.2

Cleveland Chicago

-2.8

-3.0

-2.4

Tennessee Arizona

-2.2

-3.3

-2.7

Indianapolis Houston

8.8

9.5

9.0

St. Louis New Orleans

-5.0

-5.2

-5.6

Miami New England

-1.4

0.1

-0.9

Minnesota Philadelphia

-2.3

-3.9

-3.1

N Y Giants Seattle

-10.9

-11.4

-11.9

Jacksonville Buffalo

-1.6

-0.8

-1.4

Tampa Bay San Francisco

-8.7

-9.7

-9.1

Carolina N Y Jets

17.2

18.7

17.5

Oakland Kansas City

-8.5

-9.9

-8.9

Dallas Green Bay

7.1

9.0

7.6

Pittsburgh Cincinnati

-6.0

-6.5

-6.1

Detroit Baltimore

2.1

3.0

2.0

 

This Week’s PiRate Playoff Projections

AFC

1. Denver

2. Cincinnati

3. New England

4. Indianapolis

5. Kansas City

6. Miami

 

NFC

1. Seattle

2. New Orleans

3. Philadelphia

4. Detroit

5. Carolina

6. San Francisco

 

Wildcard Round

New England over Miami

Kansas City over Indianapolis

Philadelphia over San Francisco

Detroit over Carolina

 

Divisional Round

Denver over Kansas City

Cincinnati over New England

Seattle over Detroit

Philadelphia over New Orleans

 

Conference Championships

Denver over Cincinnati

Seattle over Philadelphia

 

Super Bowl

Seattle over Denver

December 3, 2013

PiRate Ratings: NFL–December 5-9, 2013

Greatest Moments

The finish to the Iron Bowl drew headlines all over the nation, as well as Canada.  Even the network nightly news’ ran the story on Monday.

 

The NFL is jokingly referred to as the “no fun league,” but this is not true.  There are numerous exciting single plays as well as a set of plays for every team in the league.  Here are our selections for the AFC; the NFC comes next week.  Yours may be different, but we are basing most of these on being around when they happened.

 

AFC East

Buffalo: The big hit in the 1964 AFL Championship Game is a close second, but the great comeback in the 1993 NFL Playoffs has to trump it.  The Bills trailed Houston 35-3 into the third quarter, before emergency fill-in QB Frank Reich led the most amazing comeback in NFL history.  The Bills forced OT at 38-38 and then won on a Steve Christie field goal.

 

There were two big plays in this game.  Christie personally recovered his onside kick in the third quarter, which seemed to ignite the spark for the amazing comeback.  In the overtime period, Nate Odomes intercepted a Warren Moon pass to give the Bills excellent field position.

 

Miami: We had to choose between a half dozen excellent options, but we went with the one that preserved the undefeated season of 1972.

 

In the conference championship game on New Year’s Eve, the surprising Pittsburgh Steelers, in their first playoff in years, appeared to have destiny on their side.  They had just knocked off the Raiders in the most incredible play in the NFL in decades (see Steelers’ best moment), and they seemed to have the 15-0 Dolphins on the ropes.

 

Trailing 7-0 and showing nothing on offense against the Steelers’ emerging dominant defense, punter Larry Seiple faked a punt and ran almost 40 yards for a first down.  The Dolphins went on to score a TD to tie the game at 7-7, and the Steel Curtain defense was not the same the rest of the game as Miami went on to win 21-17.

 

New England: The entire 2001 playoffs could qualify for the Patriots.  However, one play stands out above all others.  Adam Vinatieri booted a 45-yard field goal at the end of regulation to force overtime against the Oakland Raiders.  Normally, a 45-yard field goal would not qualify here, but this kick was special—it took place in a driving snowstorm (close to a blizzard) with icy field conditions.

 

New York Jets: Super Bowl III was the greatest game for the Jets, but it was a 60-minute effort.  The 1968 AFL Championship Game produced the biggest play in Jets’ history.  The Jets trailed Oakland 23-20 after a Joe Namath pass attempt to star receiver Don Maynard did not connect.  Star cornerback George Atkinson has read the play and jumped in to pick off the pass and return it to the Jets’ five yard line.

 

Namath did not let the pick deter him.  Immediately on the next possession, he went back to Maynard.  Maynard gave a little fake to the inside and then sprinted deep on a fly pattern.  Namath dropped back and quickly released a long bomb that fell into Maynard’s hands as Maynard and Atkinson fell into the slop at Shea Stadium.  It left the Jets just a few yards from paydirt, and they scored on the next play to go ahead 27-23.  The Jets’ defense and the swirling wind and mud stalled the great Daryle Lamonica, and the Jets were on their way to Super Bowl III.

 

AFC North

Baltimore: In the Ravens’ short history, there are a few exceptional plays, but this one is rather obvious.  Jacoby Jones’ 108-yard kick return to start the second half of the most recent Super Bowl is clearly the best play in Ravens’ history.  The 2000 champs had several excellent defensive stops, but none of them caused a power failure.

 

Cincinnati: We are going with our own trick play here.  The Bengals have a lot of exciting plays and games in their history, including the 1981 AFC Championship Game in weather similar to the Ice Bowl of 1967.  However, we are going with a game that our leader watched by the fireplace in 1969.

 

Many of you reading this may have never heard of Greg Cook.  A local boy, he played college ball at the University of Cincinnati.  In a day when most QBs were 6-0 to 6-2 in height, Cook was 6-04.  He had a rifle arm and could throw the ball accurately 60 yards downfield.  He had a quick, on the mark release, and he could set up in the pocket faster than most of his peers.  Basically, he had all the tools.

 

And, he had Paul Brown as his head coach and Bill Walsh as his teacher.  How good was the rookie?  Walsh calls him the best QB he ever coached, and that includes Joe Montana and Steve Young.  Walsh once described Cook as combining the accuracy, poise, and instincts of Montana with the speed, power, and cockiness of Terry Bradshaw.

 

Cook was perhaps one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, but he never got a chance to show it.  A rookie in 1969, he began his career with impressive victories to send the second year Bengals out to a 2-0 start.  The week two game was no fluke, as the Bengals blew a very talented San Diego Chargers team off the field, as Cook threw for more than 300 yards.  The Bengals would win game three over the Super Bowl Champion-to-be Chiefs, but it would cause them dearly.  Cook had just directed the Bengals on a scoring drive on the previous possession, when he seemed to have Cinti on the move again.  He rolled to his right to attempt a flood pattern pass when he was sacked from his blindside.  He landed on his throwing shoulder and tore his rotator cuff.

 

1969 was five years before Tommy John became the first athlete to undergo the new surgery for torn rotator cuffs, and it was 18-months before John could throw a baseball again.  Cook did not undergo surgery.  In 1969, the protocol was to shoot cortisone into the shoulder.  Cook missed time, but he made a comeback five weeks later against the undefeated Raiders.  The Bengals had lost all four games in his absence, and the Bengals were now in fourth place in the five-team AFL West Division.

 

Cook felt obligated to return, even though his shoulder could take little additional damage.  On this day in question, the Bengals-Raiders’ game was the early AFL game on NBC.  For one half, Cook was able to play near his peak, and the 3-4 Bengals looked to be poised to blow the 7-0 Raiders off the field, leading 17-0 at the half.  Cook’s arm tired quickly in the second half, but by then the Bengals were in control of the game.  They cruised to a 31-3 lead before Oakland scored two TDs in the final two drives to make it 31-17.  It was the last great game Cook ever played, as his arm fell apart and slowly weakened after every pass the rest of the season.  Cook finished out the season with no additional wins.

 

After the season, he underwent multiple operations and tried to return to the game, but his arm was shot.  He served as Ken Anderson’s backup at the start of the 1973 season and saw brief action in the first game, but he never played again. 

 

That game against Oakland in 1969 serves as our most exciting moment in Bengals’ history.

 

Cleveland: Little can be said about the second incarnation of Browns’ history.  The first version produced all the highlights.  For the best moment, it is hard to go against the final game of the 1964 season.  The Browns were 9-3-1, needing to beat the New York Giants in the 14th game to play the overwhelming top team in the league, Baltimore.  A loss would send the St. Louis Cardinals to the championship, as the football Cards had just defeated Philadelphia to finish the season 9-3-2.

 

This Browns team had a dominating offense, but the defense was suspect.  Any attack with the greatest running back in the history of the game and one of the greatest receivers in the history of the game had to be good, even if the rest of the offense was just average.  Cleveland had Jim Brown at fullback, and Brown needed little blocking help to gain five yards up the middle and just one block to turn a short off-tackle play into a 20-30 yard run.

 

Paul Warfield had few peers in the game.  The receiver would later become a star with the Miami Dolphins, but he was already a stud.  Having Gary Collins at the other wide-out spot forced defenses to stop the vertical pass first before concentrating on the running game.

 

Cleveland was only briefly threatened that final day of the 1964 regular season.  The Giants scored a touchdown early to take a lead held for just a few minutes.  Cleveland retaliated with three quick touchdowns to put the game away before halftime.  They added three more TDs in the third quarter and turned the game into a rout.  Quarterback Frank Ryan tossed 5 TD passes on the day as well as long bombs to both Warfield and Collins before sitting out the final quarter.  Cleveland won the game 51-20.  The Giants scored two TDs late, the final coming on the last play of the game.

 

Pittsburgh: There can be just one choice here, and most every serious fan has heard of “The Immaculate Reception.”  In the Steelers’ first playoff game since the 1962 Playoff Bowl (since reclassified as an exhibition game, making it the first since 1947), Pittsburgh looked to be a one and done participant as the Oakland Raiders had the game secured with seconds remaining.  Pittsburgh faced 4th and 10 at their own 40 yard line with time for maybe three more plays, less if the ball did not get out of bounds.  Of course, the Steelers needed 10 yards to maintain possession.

 

Terry Bradshaw took a big drop and then rolled right before taking a step back to the left to avoid the pass rush.  He eyed halfback John “Frenchy” Fuqua over the middle more than 10 yards past the first down marker.  The pass sailed toward Fuqua with Raider defensive back Jack Tatum appearing to have the advantage on the ball.  At the last second, Fuqua made a stab at the ball, but it bounced off Tatum’s shoulder pads and caromed several yards back toward the line of scrimmage.  The Raiders’ pass defense for a brief moment less than one second in length began to celebrate, just as they watched fullback Franco Harris scoop the ball inches before it hit the ground.

 

At this point, Harris’s path to the end zone was anything but clear.  It took a fantastic block from tight end John McMakin on linebacker Phil Villipiano and a strong stiff arm by Harris on safety Jimmy Warren.  The play used up 17 seconds, but it took several minutes for the officials to finally agree that it was a touchdown.  Rumors to this day detail that the head referee went into the PiRates’ baseball dugout to call upstairs to the pressbox to get the head of officiating to look at the instant replay to see if the reception was legal.  In those days, if an offensive player touched the ball first, no other offensive player could make the catch unless it hit a defensive player first. 

 

AFC South

Houston: There is a flat-footed tie here in the youngest team in the NFL.  The Texans first made the playoffs in 2011.  In their first playoff game against Cincinnati, two plays stand out.  Quarterback T.J. Yates threw deep down the left sideline to Andre Johnson, who had escaped double coverage, for the touchdown.  Maybe more momentous, in that same game, J. J. Watt intercepted an Andy Dalton pass and ran it to the house for the touchdown that put Houston ahead.

 

Indianapolis: It was hard picking between two great moments, both when the Colts were in Baltimore.  The “Kick heard ‘round the world” (Jim O’Brien’s game winning FG at the end of Super Bowl V), narrowly missed out to the play that made the NFL what it is today.  In the 1958 NFL Championship Game, the great Johnny Unitas led the Colts on a last-minute drive into field goal range to tie the New York Giants as time ran out, forcing the first overtime in NFL history.  The Giants won the toss and received, but the Colts’ defense held them to three plays and a punt.

 

Enter Unitas one more time.  Unitas was sacked on first down for a huge loss, and two plays later, with Baltimore facing 3rd and 15, he connected with Raymond Berry for a crucial first down, and the Giants seemed in shock.  Unitas directed the offense down the field, where Alan Ameche drove into the end zone from a yard out to end the “Greatest NFL Game of All Time,” at least up until then.

 

Jacksonville: How could a second year team make it to the AFC Championship Game?  With Tom Coughlin at coach and Dick Jauron at defensive coordinator, any team might have a chance to sneak into a playoff hunt, but to then win two playoff games, it is unheard of!

 

The 1996 Jags won six of their final seven regular season games to earn a wildcard spot at 9-7.  Then, the upstart team knocked off a good Buffalo team in the first round of the playoffs to advance to a game against overwhelming favorite Denver.  This was a Broncos team that went 13-3 with one of the losses coming on the final weekend when most of the key players, including John Elway, were rested since Denver had already clinched home field advantage as the top team.

 

The Broncos quickly showed the Jags that they were going to show them no mercy, reaching the end zone twice in the first quarter.  However, the PAT on the first TD was missed, and a two-point conversion attempt following TD number two was unsuccessful, leaving the Jags down 12-0 instead of 14-0.

 

The Jags came to life in the second quarter and went to the half with a 13-12 lead that should have been a 14-13 deficit.  Jacksonville took control in the third quarter and pulled away thanks to the passing of Mark Brunell.  Denver scored twice in the fourth quarter, but it was not enough.

 

Tennessee: There were some fantastic moments when the team was in Houston, such as winning the AFL Championships the first two years in the league existence.  The 1961 Oilers were one of the most exciting teams in pro football history with George Blanda throwing long and longer to Bill Groman and Charley Hennigan.

 

However, there can be but one game and one play that qualifies here—“The Music City Miracle” of 1999.  The Titans looked to be cooked with 16 seconds remaining in an opening round playoff game against Buffalo.  Trailing 16-15 following a Steve Christie field goal, Titans’ Coach Jeff Fisher called for his special trick kick return play.  Expecting a squib kick, he expected star tight end Frank Wycheck to field the ball, take a step or two to one side and then throw a long lateral across the field to Kevin Dyson.

 

Things did not go according to plans.  The Bills did not squib kick; they pooch-kicked the ball high into the air into Loreno Neal’s hands at the Titans’ 24.  Wycheck could not get over in time to make the catch.  Neal took three choppy steps to his right until he could hand the ball over to Wycheck and lead interference for him.  Wycheck took the ball and ran to his right for about a second and a half, turning to throw the ball across the field from the Titans’ 25 yard line.  Wycheck’s front foot toed the 25-yard line when he released the ball with the ball forward of the 25. Dyson’s back foot was clearly behind the 25-yard line when he caught the lateral on line with that back foot, making it a legal lateral.  There were no Bills’ defenders in Dyson’s way, as he sprinted 75 yards to the end zone.

 

AFC West

Denver: The Broncos have had numerous memorable moments, but two stand out above all others.  Both involve John Elway.  “The Drive” in the 1986 season (1987 playoffs) that defeated Cleveland is a close second to our choice.  In the Super Bowl in 1998 (1997 season), the Broncos and Packers were tied at 17-17 well into the third quarter, when Elway pulled off one of the most heroic runs in Super Bowl history.  Dropping back to pass on 3rd & 6 from the Packer 12, he could not find an open receiver as the pass rush closed in.  From the 21 yard line, he knew he would have to run free for about 16 yards, hoping to get to the five yard line.  He ran to his right and saw that he was not going to make it if he slid in a dive.  He needed to get to just shy of the five yard line and was going to take punishment between the six and seven yard line. 

 

Elway refused to slide.  Instead, he tucked the ball in and dove into the air.  Three Packers got a lick, with one of them propelling Elway like a helicopter blade.  When Elway hit the turf, the Broncos had a first and goal. 

 

Kansas City: Here was maybe the hardest team to choose from.  The Chiefs won the Super Bowl as well as two other AFL Championships, one of which came in a long overtime win.  However, we are going to a regular season game in a year where the Chiefs lost a playoff for the AFL West division title.

 

In 1968, Kansas City had the best defense in the league, possibly the best in AFL history.  The offense was not as spectacular as the 1966 Super Bowl I team, but it was adequate thanks to a couple of big play receivers and one of the most accurate passers of the 1960’s.

 

In the final four years of the AFL’s existence, Kansas City and Oakland were like Alabama and Auburn.  Games frequently became wrestling and boxing matches between plays.  NBC Television always reserved this game for its second spot in the doubleheader, and the ratings bonanza led to an excellent Sunday night warm-up for Bonanza, their top show.

 

In the October match against the Raiders at Municipal Stadium in Kansas City, the Chiefs had no healthy wide receivers.  Coach Hank Stram, a great offensive innovator, decided the only way to play this game was to do the opposite of innovate; he went retro.  In secret, the Chiefs practiced from a two tight end full-house T-formation like the Chicago Bears made famous in 1940. 

 

In the first half of the game, the Raiders had no answer for the Chiefs’ ancient offense.  Guard Ed Budde looked like a man among boys in the opening 30 minutes, as he opened holes for backs to run free.  The three Chiefs’ backs, Mike Garrett, Robert Holmes, and Wendell Hayes, ran wild as the Chiefs topped 200 yards on the ground before halftime and led 17-0, before cruising to a 24-10 win.  Dawson attempted just three passes, an NFL modern day record, and he completed two.  All three were play-action passes off fake sweeps, one to Garrett out of the backfield.

 

Oakland: The 1967 Raiders were hands down the best AFL team of all time.  The Raiders dominated the opposition on their way to a 13-1 record.  This team dominated on both sides of the ball.  On offense, “The Mad Bomber,” Daryle Lamonica, was the most exciting quarterback of the time.  He could fire a 40-yard pass on the mark like it was a hitch pattern.  He frequently gave up easy 10-yard passes to throw 25 or more yards down the field.  The Raiders moved the ball with vertical passing setting up power running.  Defensively, the Raiders’ pass rush was scary, especially with Big Ben Davidson leading the way.

 

In the 1967 opener, Oakland held Denver below 0 total yards in the game!  It has not happened since.  Poor Broncos quarterback Steve Tensi frequently met Raider pass rushers in the pocket before he could finish his drop.  He completed just three passes all day, but one of those was to Raider defensive back Warren Powers, who returned it for the final score of the day as Oakland won 51-0.

 

That Raider team won the AFL Championship with ease, knocking Houston off 40-7 in a game that was never in doubt, but for the one game that epitomizes this team, we will select the game against San Diego in the middle of the season.  It was the second game of a nationally televised double header.  San Diego actually held the lead in the AFL West with a 5-0-1 record, while Oakland was 5-1, having lost to Joe Namath and the Jets. 

 

If the Chargers won this game, they would hold a commanding lead.  Quarterback John Hadl had quickly become the elite QB in the NFL with Lance Alworth providing the best target in football.  Diminutive back Dicky Post was a threat to take a simple handoff and turn it into a long gain, thanks to the league’s best tackle, Ron Mix, clearing out defenses.

 

The game was much anticipated all week among the AFL’s renegade fans.  Youngsters, like yours truly, waited all week for this great finish to the weekend. 

 

The scoring started early when the Chargers were backed up inside their one yard line.  A handoff to Post never got out of the end zone, and Oakland led 2-0.  It was a lead they would never relinquish.  Enter the Mad Bomber.  Lamonica faked a handoff to Hewritt Dixon and then dropped back and spotted Clem Daniels deep down the sideline.  He placed the ball into Daniels’ hands, and it was quickly 9-0 Oakland.

 

Following a San Diego field goal early in the second quarter, the Raiders went back on the attack and

Sustained a long drive using many power runs.  Lamonica dropped back to pass from the San Diego three and found a hole wide enough to drive a tractor through.  He quickly ran in for the score to make it 16-3.

 

San Diego was not ready to throw in the towel.  Hadl finally connected with Bambi, and Alworth hauled in a long pass in stride.  Nobody could stop Alworth from behind, and it became a 70+ yard touchdown strike to make it 16-10, where it stood at halftime.

 

The second half was all silver and black.  Lamonica tore the Chargers’ secondary apart leading Oakland on five touchdown drives, highlighted by his bomb to Fred Biletnikoff to put the game out of reach, and Oakland won 51-10.  The Chargers collapsed, and Kansas City never posted a challenge.  Oakland won the West by four games over the Chiefs and four and a half over San Diego.  They met their match in the Super Bowl against the greatest dynasty ever, but Oakland was not 19-points weaker than Green Bay that year.  The Packers played their best game of the season for Vince Lombardi’s finale in Titletown.

 

San Diego:  The AFL first appeared to have become the equal of the NFL during the 1963 season.  Many experts of the time believed the 1963 Chargers were better than the NFL Champion Chicago Bears that year.  They were probably right, because this Chargers’ team was dominating.

 

Quarterback Tobin Rote was a fullback disguised as a quarterback.  He had a strong arm, but his strong legs frequently caused troubles for pass rushes.  Halfback Paul Lowe and fullback Keith Lincoln were the best tandem runners until Mercury Morris and Larry Csonka came along in the following decade.  Both had breakaway speed, great hands to catch passes, and no fear to block blitzing linebackers.

 

When Rote dropped back to pass, he only had the greatest pair of hands in NFL history on the other end of his aerials.  Lance Alworth had no peer at his position.  “Bambi” was agile, quick, intelligent, and when the ball came anywhere near him, he caught it.  Defenses were forced to double team Alworth, which opened up the running game.  Throw in tight end Dave Kocourek, who was a monster over the middle for any safety, and the brilliant play-calling of Coach Sid Gillman, and opposing teams’ coaches spent many a sleepless nights trying to figure out how to slow this team down.

 

The Chargers faced the Boston Patriots for the AFL Championship, a team they had swept during the regular season, but winning by four and one point.  Boston had to defeat Buffalo in a playoff for the East Division title, while San Diego benefitted from having an extra week to recover and prepare.

 

The game figured to be a tight, lower scoring than average contest, much like the two regular season games.  Boston’s defense was more than adequate, but the Patriots were not up to the task that January afternoon.

 

San Diego’s running game was unstoppable from the start.  An inside trap play sprung Lincoln loose on a breakaway until he was brought down inside the Boston five yard line.  Rote snuck into the end zone to begin the onslaught.  On the next Chargers’ possession, Rote tossed a quick pitch to the weak side to Lincoln, and the small but speedy back took off with no defender in his way.  He took it to the house to go over 100 yards rushing in two attempts, and the score was 14-0 quickly.

 

Boston mounted its only touchdown drive of the day on the next possession, but the Chargers were not through in the first quarter.  Rote went back to the quick pitch, this time tossing to Lowe on the strong side.  Lowe evaded a couple tackles and was off to the races for the score.  San Diego had 200 yards rushing at the end of the first quarter and led 21-7.

 

Lincoln and Lowe kept breaking free on runs throughout the day, and San Diego turned the game into a laugher winning 51-10.  Lincoln rushed for more than 200 yards on the day, and the Chargers topped 300 as a team.  Rote did not need to rely on his arm, but he did find Alworth on a long pass that Bambi hauled in for a touchdown.

 

This Week’s PiRate Ratings

N F C

East

PiRate

Mean

Biased

Dallas Cowboys

100.4

101.3

100.0

Philadelphia Eagles

99.2

100.5

99.6

New York Giants

96.9

96.9

96.4

Washington Redskins

94.4

94.2

93.8

       
North

PiRate

Mean

Biased

Detroit Lions

102.7

103.1

102.5

Chicago Bears

100.1

99.7

99.4

Minnesota Vikings

95.0

94.5

94.3

Green Bay Packers

94.9

93.7

93.9

       
South

PiRate

Mean

Biased

Carolina Panthers

107.0

107.3

107.6

New Orleans Saints

105.8

106.8

106.5

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

96.7

96.5

96.8

Atlanta Falcons

95.2

94.5

94.4

 

 

 

 

West

PiRate

Mean

Biased

San Francisco 49ers

110.2

110.9

110.7

Seattle Seahawks

110.1

110.5

110.5

St. Louis Rams

100.7

101.5

101.2

Arizona Cardinals

100.6

101.8

101.1

       

A F C

East

PiRate

Mean

Biased

New England Patriots

106.2

104.5

106.3

Miami Dolphins

100.3

99.9

100.5

Buffalo Bills

97.1

96.1

96.9

New York Jets

90.8

89.2

90.6

       
North

PiRate

Mean

Biased

Cincinnati Bengals

106.7

106.9

106.9

Baltimore Ravens

103.0

102.7

103.2

Pittsburgh Steelers

99.4

99.3

99.7

Cleveland Browns

94.5

94.0

94.0

       
South

PiRate

Mean

Biased

Indianapolis Colts

100.8

100.9

101.0

Tennessee Titans

97.8

97.9

97.9

Houston Texans

95.6

94.9

95.7

Jacksonville Jaguars

90.3

90.2

90.1

       
West

PiRate

Mean

Biased

Denver Broncos

110.8

111.3

111.3

Kansas City Chiefs

102.1

103.3

102.4

San Diego Chargers

100.9

101.2

100.7

Oakland Raiders

93.8

94.0

94.1

 

 

This Week’s PiRate Spreads

Home Visitor

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Jacksonville Houston

-2.8

-2.2

-3.1

Cincinnati Indianapolis

8.4

8.5

8.4

Tampa Bay Buffalo

2.6

3.4

2.9

Washington Kansas City

-4.7

-6.1

-5.6

Baltimore Minnesota

11.0

11.2

11.9

New England Cleveland

14.7

13.5

15.3

New Orleans Carolina

1.8

2.5

1.9

N Y Jets Oakland

0.5

-1.3

0.0

Philadelphia Detroit

-0.5

0.4

0.1

Pittsburgh Miami

2.1

2.4

2.2

Denver Tennessee

16.0

16.4

16.4

San Diego N Y Giants

7.0

7.3

7.3

San Francisco Seattle

3.1

3.4

3.2

Arizona St. Louis

2.9

3.3

2.9

Green Bay Atlanta

2.7

2.2

2.5

Chicago Dallas

2.7

1.4

2.4

 

This Week’s PiRate Playoff Projections

 

AFC

1. Denver

2. Cincinnati

3. New England

4. Indianapolis

5. Kansas City

6. Baltimore

 

NFC

1. Seattle

2. New Orleans

3. Philadelphia

4. Detroit

5. Carolina

6. San Francisco

 

Wildcard Round

New England over Baltimore

Kansas City over Indianapolis

San Francisco over Philadelphia

Carolina over Detroit

 

Divisional Round

Denver over Kansas City

Cincinnati over New England

Seattle over San Francisco

New Orleans over Carolina

 

Conference Championships

Cincinnati over Denver

Seattle over New Orleans

 

Super Bowl

Seattle over Cincinnati

September 5, 2011

1960’s NFL Football Trivia Quiz

1960’s Pro Football Trivia Quiz

 

Okay pro football fans.  See how many of theses dozen trivia questions from the 1960’s you can answer.  This quiz was issued to a Green Bay Packers pre-game gathering, and not one of the 34 “experts” came close to getting all these questions correct.  Of course, they did not have a computer with which to cheat and look up the answers.

 

Some of these questions are tricky, so be on your toes.  It doesn’t hurt to be over 50 and to have remembered this era, but then again, with our aging memories, it may not help either.

 

1. What team handed Vince Lombardi his last NFL postseason loss?

 

2. Who was the American Football League’s passing leader in its first year of existence?

 

3. Who was the first pro player to record 100 receptions in a single season?

 

4. Who was the first kicker to connect on more than 30 field goals in a single season?

 

5. The Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans recycled their nicknames.  Which two pro teams were once the Texans and Titans?

 

6. What NFL team lost only its final regular season game and failed to make the playoffs?

 

7. What NFL team won only one game in the first half of their season and still won their division?

 

8. Besides Jim Brown, which two players won multiple NFL rushing titles in the 1960’s?

 

9. Which TV network televised the first Super Bowl?

 

10. Which team and in what year was the last time an offense ran out of a full-house T formation for an entire game?

 

11. Who was the only player to be a member of both the New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams “Fearsome Foursome” defensive line?

 

12. During the 1960’s, 12 pro teams played their home games for at least one season in a stadium that began as a Major League baseball park and was not constructed for football.  How many can you come up with?

Answers  Below

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. No, it was not the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1960 NFL Championship Game.  The St. Louis Cardinals defeated Green Bay in the 1964 Playoff Bowl at The Orange Bowl in Miami.  Prior to 1970, the runner-up in the Eastern Conference played the runner-up in the Western Conference in Miami for third place in what was called “The Bert Bell Benefit Bowl”, but most media and fans called it “The Playoff Bowl.”  St. Louis, finished runner-up to the Cleveland Browns, while Green Bay finished runner-up to the Baltimore Colts.  The Cardinals defeated Green Bay 24-17.

 

 

 

2. Former member of the US House, presidential and vice-presidential candidate Jack Kemp of the Los Angeles Chargers

 

 

 

3. Lionel Taylor caught 100 passes for the Denver Broncos in 1961.

 

 

 

4. Jim Turner 34 with 1968 Super Bowl Winner New York Jets

 

 

 

5. The New York Titans and Dallas Texans were original members of the American Football League (AFL).  The Titans became the Jets following a change of ownership, while the Texans moved to Kansas City and became the Chiefs.

 

 

 

6. The 1967 Baltimore Colts were 11-0-2 entering their final game against the Los Angeles Rams at the LA Coliseum.  The Rams were 10-1-2 entering this game, having tied the Colts in Baltimore earlier in the season.  Los Angeles beat the Colts to win the NFL Coastal Division title at 11-1-2, and the Colts were done at 11-1-2, which was the second best record in the NFL.  The other three playoff teams (Dallas, Cleveland, and Green Bay) entered with just nine wins each.

 

 

 

7. The 1970 Cincinnati Bengals were 1-6-0 at the halfway point.  After an opening week win over Oakland, the Bengals lost six in a row.  Cleveland led at 4-3-0; Pittsburgh was second at 3-4-0, and Houston was third at 2-4-1.  The Bengals caught fire in the second half using the short passing of quarterback Virgil Carter and the running of Paul Robinson combined with a defense that was tough against the run.  The team won all seven games in the second half to win the AFC Central at 8-6-0, as Cleveland folded and finished 7-7-0.  In the playoffs, the Bengals fell quickly to eventual Super Bowl Champion Baltimore 17-0, when they had no answer for Bubba Smith, Roy Hilton, and Mike Curtis and gained less than 150 total yards.  Johnny Unitas completed two bomb for touchdowns.

 

 

 

8. Gayle Sayers of the Chicago Bears in 1966 & 1969 and Leroy Kelly of the Cleveland Browns 1967-1968

 

 

 

9. TRICK QUESTION: Both NBC and CBS televised Super Bowl I at the Coliseum in Los Angeles.  CBS used Ray Scott and Frank Gifford with Jack Whitaker commentary in the Booth and with Pat Summerall reporting on the sidelines.  NBC used Curt Gowdy and Paul Christman in the booth with Charlie Jones on the Sidelines.

 

 

 

10. On October 20, 1968, the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Oakland Raiders 24-10 using a full-house T-formation offense.  Coach Hank Stram had no healthy wide receivers available for the game.  He took his starting halfback, Mike Garrett, his starting fullback, Robert Holmes, and his backup fullback, Wendell Hayes and placed them in the backfield with Hayes in the middle and Garrett and Holmes to the sides.  Stram also used two tight ends, and quarterback Len Dawson threw just three passes all day, all on play-action. The Chiefs rushed for almost 300 yards on the day.  Oakland could not stop the deceptive quickness to the outside or the power to the inside. 

 

 

 

11. Rosey Grier

 

 

 

12. St. Louis Cardinals in Busch Stadium I (aka Sportsman’s Park)

 

Chicago Bears in Wrigley Field

 

Cincinnati Bengals in Crosley Field

 

Cleveland Browns in Cleveland Municipal Stadium

 

Detroit Lions in Tiger Stadium

 

Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City Municipal Stadium

 

Minnesota Vikings in Metropolitan Stadium

 

Boston Patriots in Fenway Park

 

New York Giants in Yankee Stadium

 

New York Titans in the Polo Grounds

 

Pittsburgh Steelers in Forbes Field

 

Washington Redskins at Griffith Stadium

 

 

 

If you said the Baltimore Colts, you are wrong.  The Colts played at Memorial Stadium before the Orioles moved from St. Louis.  As for other teams, The Oakland Raiders and Atlanta Falcons played in venues that were created as multi-use parks.  The Denver Broncos played in a Minor League baseball park that would one day become a Major League park.

 

 

 

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