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Soul-crushingly bad list, part I

Today, CBS Sports’ website listed the most “soul-crushing” playoff loss for each NFL franchise.

The list is beyond stupid, and incredibly short-sighted.

All of the losses listed occurred in my lifetime, which means the person or people who put it together can’t remember anything beyond 10 minutes ago, the same way people claim Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback (or NFL player) who ever lived and Bill Belichcik is the greatest NFL coach (if not all of professional sports) who ever lived.

Here is the link to the list:

https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/photos/each-nfl-teams-most-soul-crushing-playoff-loss/33/

Here are my BIG problems with the list, starting with five teams:

CHICAGO BEARS

The selection: 2010 NFC championship game vs. Green Bay

How the heck can a playoff game involving JAY CUTLER be a soul-crushing loss? The fact the Bears got to within one win of Super Bowl XLV with Cutler is a miracle in and of itself, just as reaching Super Bowl XLI with Rex (Wrecks) Grossman is just as miraculous.

My choice: 1942 NFL championship. The Bears came in as two-time defending champions. Their opponents, the Washington REDSKINS, lost to Chicago in the previous two NFL championship games by the combined margin of 110-9. The Bears won 73-0 at Washington in 1940 and 37-9 at Wrigley Field one year later.

Instead of a three-peat, the REDSKINS pulled off a 14-6 stunner at Griffith Stadium, Washington’s last championship until John Riggins, Joe Theismann and the Hogs helped Joe Gibbs win the first of his three Super Bowls in 1982.

Losing the 1934 NFL championship game after going undefeated in the regular season hurt. So did losing 47-7 to the Giants in 1956. As for post-George Halas playoff losses, the divisional round flameout in 1986 vs. the Redskins at home one year after rolling through the NFL and squashing the Patriots in Super Bowl XX is a much better choice than 2010.

DALLAS COWBOYS

The selection: 2014 NFC divisional playoff at Green Bay, the game where Dez Bryant apparently caught the game-winning touchdown pass, only to be overruled by replay.

Apparently, the Cowboys’ 29 seasons under Tom Landry never existed, and the Cowboys did not lose three Super Bowls in the 1970s.

In fact, the Cowboys did lose three Super Bowls in the 1970s, and the combined margin of those defeats was ELEVEN points. ELEVEN. To lose games by 3, 4 and 4 points has to be soul-crushing, right? RIGHT?

The Cowboys forced SEVEN turnovers vs. the Colts in Super Bowl V. The Cowboys’ defense was so good that day that linebacker Chuck Howley was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, the ONLY player to ever earn the honor while playing for the LOSING team. Howley intercepted two passes, one of those in the end zone when the Colts were driving for the tying touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

Dallas led 13-6 at halftime after knocking the great Johnny Unitas out of the game with injured ribs, but the Cowboys could not handle success. They fumbled at the Baltimore goal line early in the third quarter, and in the fourth, Craig Morton (Roger Staubach was strictly a spectator) was intercepted twice, once by Rick Volk to set up the tying touchdown, and the second by Mike Curtis which led to Jim O’Brien’s game-winning 32-yard field goal with five seconds left. Soul-crushing? For the time being, it was, but the Cowboys bounced back by demolishing the Dolphins 24-3 in Super Bowl VI.

Super Bowl X was a tough loss for the Cowboys, but I don’t consider it to be soul-crushing. Dallas was a substantial underdog to the defending champion Steelers, and Dallas led most of the game until Pittsburgh dominated the fourth quarter, scoring what turned out to be the winning points on a 64-yard touchdown pass from Terry Bradshaw to Lynn Swann on a play where Dallas defensive tackle Larry Cole gave Bradshaw a concussion. The Cowboys didn’t quit, though, cutting the margin to 21-17 on a touchdown pass from Staubach to Percy Howard (the only catch of his NFL career) and then driving into Steeler territory in the final seconds before Staubach was intercepted by Glen Edwards.

Super Bowl XIII? Soul-crushing to the extreme. Jackie Smith’s dropped pass. The phantom pass interference call against Benny Barnes when Swann was too clumsy to get out of his way. Umpire Art Demmas throwing a block on Charlie Waters which allowed Franco Harris to score a touchdown. Randy White fumbling a botched kickoff and leading to the score which made it 35-17. Dallas scoring twice in the final eight minutes before finally running out of time.

Yet HOW the HELL is the 2014 divisional game vs. Green Bay more soul-crushing that Super Bowls V and XIII, or the 1994 NFC championship game which ended Dallas’ bid for a three-peat?

DENVER BRONCOS

The selection: 2012 AFC divisional playoff loss to the Ravens, after giving up a 70-yard TD pass to Jacoby Jones to tie the game, then losing in double overtime.

Have the Broncos not lost FIVE Super Bowls? Yes, they have. Three of them–XII vs. Dallas, XXI vs. the Giants and XXIV vs. San Francisco–had Denver as huge underdogs. I’ll give the Broncos a pass.

The other two? Not so much.

In Super Bowl XXII, the Broncos were favored over the Redskins, albeit by a field goal or less in most sports books. The teams were thought to be evenly matched, except at quarterback, where Denver had John Elway, who was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1987, while the Redskins had finally settled on Buccaneers and USFL alum Doug Williams in the playoffs after Gibbs vacillated between Williams and Jay Schroeder throughout the 12 games played by union players. (One game was canceled due to a players’ strike, and three others were played using replacement players, although several union players crossed picket lines. Nobody on the Redskins did.)

Although Washington still had several players who were on the Super Bowl XVII winning (and XVIII losing–more on that later) squad, the Redskins’ quarterback quandary led many to believe the third time would be the charm for the Broncos, who were one year removed from a 39-20 pasting by the Giants in the big game.

It started so well for the Broncos, who led 10-0 by the middle of the first quarter. Through the first 21 Super Bowls, no team had overcome a deficit of more than seven points to win.

Then the second quarter arrived, and the Redskins morphed into the greatest offensive juggernaut the NFL has ever seen.

Williams threw FOUR touchdown passes in the period, and Timmy Smith ran for a 58-yard touchdown on his way to a then-Super Bowl record 204 yards rushing. By the end of the onslaught, it was 35-10, and Marion Barry announced the plans for the Redskins’ victory parade later that week during halftime.

Final: 42-10. Denver was crushed even worse in XXIV (55-10), and Elway was branded a loser despite his impressive resume. In the final two years of his career, Elway redeemed himself with victories over the Packers and Falcons in XXXII and XXXIII.

Following the win over Atlanta, Denver didn’t get back to the Super Bowl until it faced Seattle in Super Bowl XLVIII, the first Super Bowl to be played outdoors in a temperate climate, at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

It was expected to be one of the greatest Super Bowls ever, with the Seahawks’ league-leading defense, “The Legion of Boom”, facing Peyton Manning, who came to the Broncos in 2012 following 13 seasons with the Colts. Manning led the Broncos to the highest scoring season in NFL history, threw 55 touchdown passes, and won his fifth NFL MVP award.

On the first play from scrimmage, the expected great game turned into a great stinker, at least as for the Broncos.

That play saw Denver center Manny Ramirez (not the famous baseball player) snap the ball wide of Manning. The pigskin rolled into the end zone, where Knoshon Moreno had to bat it over the end line for a safety to avoid yielding a touchdown.

Manning later threw a pick-six to Malcolm Smith, and Denver looked as outclassed as Elway’s teams were by the Giants, Redskins and 49ers.

Seattle won 43-8. Manning and Denver won Super Bowl 50 two years later, but Broncos fans still cringe when mentioning the Seahawks and that game.

Now tell me how a playoff game in an early round is more soul-crushing than losing two Super Bowls in which the Broncos were favored, or at worst an even-money bet?

DETROIT LIONS

The selection: 2014 NFC wild card game at Dallas, which the Lions lost 24-20. In the game, a defensive pass interfernce penalty was not called against the Cowboys with Detroit leading 20-17. Had the Lions gained the automatic first down, they very well may have run the clock out.

Okay, the Lions have been mostly wretched for the last 60 years. Not much playoff history to go on. But I can cite some games which far outweigh the above:

  • 1970 NFC divisional playoff at Dallas–in the lowest scoring playoff game in professional football history, the Cowboys prevailed 5-0 at the Cotton Bowl. Detroit, which came in riding a five-game winning streak, reached the Dallas 29 in the final minute, but Greg Landry’s last pass was intercepted by Mel Renfro at the 11.
  • 1983 NFC divisional playoff at San Francisco–the Lions had a chance to reach the NFC championship game, but usually reliable kicker Eddie Murray missed a 47-yard field goal in the final minute, allowing the 49ers to escape 24-23.
  • 1991 NFC championship at Washington–the Lions enjoyed a spectacular regular season, thanks to the prolific running of Barry Sanders, but the Redskins rolled 41-10 on their way to crushing the Bills in Super Bowl XXVI.
  • 1993 NFC wild card vs. Green Bay–the Lions lost 28-24 on a last-minute touchdown pass from Brett Favre (WHO?) to Sterling Sharpe. Detroit has not hosted a playoff game since.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

The selection: 2003 NFC divisional playoff at Philadelphia, when the Eagles converted a 4th-and-26 en route to the tying touchdown. Favre threw an interception in overtime, and the Eagles converted it into the game winning field goal.

Right city, wrong year in this case.

Try the 1960 NFL championship game.

In Vince Lombardi’s second season as Packers coach, Green Bay had gone from 1-10-1 in 1958 to 8-4 and the NFL Western Division championship, earning it the right to play the Eagles at Franklin Field for the league title. There was no Super Bowl in this era, so it was all or nothing on the day after Christmas.

The Eagles, led by quarterback Norm Van Brocklin and “Concrete Charlie” Chuck Bednarik, the NFL’s last two-way player (center and middle linebacker), trailed 6-0 early in the second quarter before gaining the lead on a touchdown pass from Van Brocklin to Tommy McDonald. A field goal later in the period sent Philly to the locker room ahead by four.

The score stayed that way until early in the final stanza, when Bart Starr hit Max McGee (already establishing himself as a big-time performer in big-time games) from 7 yards out to make it 13-10 Packers. The Eagles regained the lead with 5:21 to go on a 5-yard run by Ted Dean, leaving Green Bay plenty of time to win.

The Packers reached the Eagle 22 in the final seconds with no timeouts. Starr found Jimmy Taylor on a flare pass, but he was tripped up by rookie Bobby Jackson then pounded to the ground by Bednarik at the 10 as the final seconds bled away. The gun sounded, and Bednarik growled to Taylor, “You can get up now. This game is over!”.

Philadelphia hasn’t won a title since, losing in Super Bowls XV and XXXIX. The Packers would fare much better, winning five NFL championships and Super Bowls I and II under Lombardi. Green Bay added titles in XXXI and XLV later.

Part two includes: someone forgot the Colts once played in Baltimore and a certain guarantee; the longest NFL game ever; and “The Greatest Game Ever Played”.

 

I’m a Jerry’s Kid

I first learned about the Green Bay Packers dynasty of Vince Lombardi in the mid-1980s. I learned the names of the stars of the team which won five NFL championships and two Super Bowls between 1961 and 1967: Starr, Hornung, Taylor (the most important for those growing up in Louisiana), Nitschke, Davis, Adderley, et. al.

And of course, the right guard leading Hornung and Taylor on the power sweep, #64, Jerry Kramer.

Kramer is by far the most famous athletic graduate from the University of Idaho. If you think it’s anywhere near Boise State (or Idaho State for that matter), think again. It’s way, up in Moscow, in the northern panhandle. It’s only 8 miles from Washington State (the university in Pullman). It’s in the Pacific Time Zone for crying out loud.

Kramer played 11 seasons for the Packers. In 1964, he nearly died due to actinomyosis, a bacterial disease which produces large abscesses in the mouth, lungs and intestines, and those abscesses can break open and spill pus filled with bacteria all over the body. He recovered and played four seasons after that, helping Green Bay win the NFL championship in 1965, then Super Bowls I and II the next two seasons.

In 1969, Kramer was voted as one of the guards on the NFL’s 50th anniversary team. He finished his career as a five-time first team All-Pro, and he was a second team All-Pro in 1968, his final season, despite playing on a 6-7-1 Packers team under Phil Bengston, who succeeded Lombardi as coach (Lombardi remained as general manager in Green Bay in 1968 before taking over as Redskins coach in 1969. He would be dead of colon cancer before the 1970 season began.).

Eleven of Kramer’s teammates–Starr, Hornung, Taylor, Nitschke, Adderley, Willie Wood, Jim Ringo, Willie Davis, Henry Jordan, Forrest Gregg and Dave Robinson–are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Why the hell is Gerald Louis Kramer not in the Hall of Fame?

Shame on you, PFHOF voters. You have kept this deserving man out of the hall longer than I have been alive! Kramer’s first year of eligibility was 1974. Okay, maybe he didn’t deserve to be inducted on the first or second ballot, but why was he not in by the late 1970s, by which time Taylor, Gregg and Starr were all inducted? Certainly he should have been in by 1984, the year Gregg succeeded Starr as Packers coach.

The seniors’ committee has been in charge of Kramer’s nomination since 1989. What the hell?

Let’s not forget Kramer was not only the leader of the famed and feared Green Bay Sweep, but he was also an accomplished author, writing Instant Replay, his diary of the 1967 season, and Distant Replay, which was a 1985 update on the Packers who played in Super Bowl I.

Also, Kramer could do more than block on the football field. In the 1962 NFL championship game, Kramer kicked three field goals despite 35-mile per hour winds swirling around Yankee Stadium, which dropped the wind chill to zero. Hornung, the regular kicker, had a sore leg, and Lombardi pressed Kramer into duty. As it turned out, those three field goals were the difference in the Packers’ 16-7 win over the Giants, capping a remarkable season in which Green Bay outscored its foes 431-155 and lost only once–at Detroit on Thanksgiving–in 15 games.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame website lists 44 offensive linemen (tackles, guards and centers) who played in the modern era (post-1950) in the Hall of Fame.

I look at some of the guards on the list, and wonder why the hell Kramer isn’t in, yet they are.

I can live with John Hannah in the Hall. I watched him play late in his career with the Patriots, and he was still as effective as ever. He may be the only one on the list who was better than Kramer.

Gene Upshaw? Didn’t care for him as NFLPA president, but no doubt he was a great one with the Raiders.

Larry Little? If he’s in the Hall, Kramer has to be. He was helped playing next to Hall of Fame center Jim Langer, and another guard who deserves serious consideration, Bob Kuechenberg.

But Joe DeLamielleure in ahead of Kramer? NO. NO. NO. He made his name off of blocking for O.J. Simpson in Buffalo. He blocked for Brian Sipe in Cleveland when he was the NFL’s MVP in 1980, but I can’t really think of much else which distinguishes him ahead of Kramer.

Tom Mack in ahead of Kramer? NO. He was helped playing with a tremendous unit, including Hall of Fame tackle Jackie Slater in the final years of his career with the Rams.

Billy Shaw in ahead of Kramer? PLEASE. Other than the Bills’ back-to-back AFL championships of 1964 and 1965, not much else I can think of which would make him more worthy than Kramer.

Russ Grimm in ahead of Kramer? It’s all because he played for The Hogs, who became notorious for blocking for two of football’s biggest hams, Joe Theismann and John Riggins. Yes, the Redskins won three Super Bowls with Grimm up front, but if Grimm is in, why isn’t left tackle Joe Jacoby?

To me, the Pro Football Hall of Fame is not complete until Mr. Kramer has a bust in Canton. Voters, do it in 2017 so he can enjoy this honor while he’s still alive.

Sunday, silly Sunday

The last Sunday of 2015 is one I won’t soon forget.

I frittered away another eight and a half hours of my life at Buffalo Wild Wings Zona Rosa. Actually, it was very enjoyable. Got to spend the day with some very nice people, as in the employees, as well as my buddies Dawn and Robb Amos, whom I didn’t know last year at this time. If I had to pick two people I’m very glad I met in 2015, they would be at the top of the list. It didn’t start so well, especially my meltdown in April on Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season, but it’s been wonderful since.

There was a couple challenging me at trivia yesterday. At first, they were keeping up in the shortened lunch games, which are seven questions compared to 15 in Countdown. But I posted a perfect score (7,000) in the final lunch game at 1:45, then proceeded to serious ass kicking in Countdown for three games.

With the Chiefs playing at noon and a big game between the Packers and Cardinals at 3:25, it was full. The bar was packed, with no seats available. From noon until a little after 6, a gentleman wearing a Steelers hoodie sat at the barstool to my right. I expressed my sympathy as his team was losing to Pittsburgh’s hated rival, the Baltimore Ravens, who have been a train wreck this season, but somehow beat the Steelers twice. The same Steelers who beat the Cardinals in October.

Except for the guy next to me, nobody in the establishment shed a tear for Ben Roethlisberger and his mates. The Steelers’ loss, combined with the Chiefs’ 17-13 victory over the Browns, meant KC was playoff bound, regardless of what happens next week to the Chiefs at Arrowhead vs. Oakland. Andy Reid’s team can still win the AFC West if Denver loses either to Cincinnati tonight or San Diego next Sunday, and the Chiefs beat the Raiders.

Meanwhile, I got to know Ashley, the girlfriend of Lazlo, one of the employees at Buffalo Wild Wings. She was pulling hard for the Seahawks, who were struggling against the Rams in Seattle. Her family was at the game at CenturyLink Field, and to add insult to injury, it was a typical Seattle day: lots of rain. Ashley was impressed with my trivia knowledge, and she also helped me with a few answers in my friendly battles with Dawn and Robb.

The Cardinals surprised the hell out of me yesterday. I never dreamed they could have beaten Green Bay as badly as they did. With Tyran Matthieu out for the season after tearing knee ligaments last week in Philadelphia, I feared Aaron Rodgers might shred Arizona’s weakened secondary.

Rodgers hardly got to test the secondary. He was sacked eight times and under pressure almost all game. The Cardinals returned two fumbles for touchdowns and had no trouble whatsoever in a 38-8 rout. I’ve been watching the Cardinals for over 30 years, and I’ve never seen them look that impressive against a quality team. The only game which comes close was the 2008 divisional playoff game when they went to Charlotte and shredded the Panthers. If the Cardinals are in Charlotte Jan. 24, it will be for a trip to Santa Clara and Super Bowl 50.

As for the Pittsburgh fan, I’ll say he enjoyed the second half of his stay much more.

The Steelers fan went to the restroom shortly after his team lost. He asked me to guard his beer, which I did. Meanwhile, a fashionably dressed lady walked in and sat down two seats to my right. When the Steelers fan returned to the stool to my right, he and the lady began talking.

They kept talking. By 5:45, it had progressed to kissing and playing footsie.

Nice.

The making out part didn’t throw me–I saw a woman with a hand all over a guy’s privates at the Buffalo Wild Wings in south Overland Park in January–but what did was two married people who didn’t know one another a little under three hours earlier were going at it. And she did not take off her wedding ring.

I felt a bit like a social leper. I guess I’m person repellent. I guess I have something to discuss with Crista at our next session.

On the other hand, I was in my little zone playing trivia, and if it weren’t for Ashley and I striking up a conversation, and Dawn and Robb showing up, I probably would have been in my zone until I left the place at 7:30.

I hated leaving at 7:30. I felt like I abandoned Lindsey, who was behind the bar at 5 after taking over for Seekou, who was fabulous as usual.

I beat the bad weather back to the hotel and enjoyed my strip from Outback Steakhouse. I may be getting intimate with my room at the Courtyard Briarcliff today. The weather looks bad.

I’m glad the last Sunday of 2015 at Buffalo Wild Wings was 1,000,000,000,000% better than the first one (Jan. 4), when was asked to leave after melting down. That’s progress.