Blog Archives

Soul-crushingly bad list, part II

Back to more of CBS Sports’ bad list of the most soul-crushing playoff defeat in each NFL team’s history.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

The selection: Super Bowl XLIV, when Peyton Manning lost to his hometown club, the Saints, led by Drew Brees. New Orleans trailed 10-6 at halftime, but coach Sean Payton’s gamble to start the second half with an onside kick paid off, turning the tide permanently in the Saints’ favor. Tracy Porter’s 74-yard interception return in the fourth quarter sealed New Orleans’ 31-17 victory, the Saints’ first championship.

If that’s the most soul-crushing loss in INDIANAPOLIS Colts history, fine. Okay.

But the Colts played in Baltimore from 1953-83, and had a few decent players. Johnny Unitas? Remember him? What about Gino Marchetti? Art Donovan? Lenny Moore? Raymond Berry? Yeah, they’re all in the Hall of Fame. And there were some darn good players who didn’t make it to Canton during the Baltimore years, including Bubba Smith, Mike Curtis, Bert Jones, Roger Carr, Lydell Mitchell and Joe Ehrmann, among others.

In 1968, the Colts came to training camp angry. Don Shula was entering his sixth season as the team’s coach, and while Baltimore had been a big winner throughout Shula’s tenure, the Colts had come up short when it counted.

Baltimore was waxed 27-0 by Cleveland in the 1964 NFL championship game. The next year, the Colts faced the Packers in an playoff to determine the Western Division champion. Baltimore led 10-0, only to see Green Bay come back, tying the game on a controversial Don Chandler field goal, one which Colts players, coaches and fans swore was no good, but ruled good. The Packers won in overtime, then defeated the Browns for the NFL title in Jim Brown’s last football game.

In 1967, Baltimore won 11 of its first 13 games. It did not lose in that span, tying the Rams and Colts in consecutive games in October. The Colts played the Rams in Los Angeles in the final game of the regular season, needing to win or tie to win the Coastal Division championship.

That season, the NFL expanded to 16 teams when the Saints came into existence. The NFL grouped teams into four four-team divisions, two in the Eastern Conference and two in the Western Conference. The Colts and Rams were in the same division with the Falcons and 49ers (don’t get me started on that–not this time anyway). Unlike previous seaosns, when teams who were tied atop a divsion at the end of the regular season would engage in a playoff to determine the champion, the NFL instituted a series of tiebreakers in 1967 so the playoffs were not delayed. There were now two rounds of playoffs, the conference championship games and the league championship game, prior to what was then the AFL-NFL World Championship Game, of course now the Super Bowl.

Guess what? The Colts were bitten in the butt by the new rules.

The Rams won 34-10, sending Baltimore home at 11-1-2, while 9-5 Cleveland and 9-4-1 Green Bay played on. The Packers beat the Rams to win the Western Conference, beat Dallas in the Ice Bowl for the NFL title, and then rolled over the Raiders in Super Bowl II, Vince Lombardi’s last game as Green Bay’s coach.

The Colts had one slight problem in 1968: the sore right elbow of John Constantine Unitas.

Shula did not believe Unitas was healthy enough to withstand the punishment of a 14-game season, and thus traded with the Giants for journeyman Earl Morrall, who had no chance of starting with some guy named Fran Tarkenton already there.

Morrall had the best year of his career and was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player. The defense, led by Smith and Curtis, was savage. Baltimore went 13-1, losing only to the Browns, now led by Leroy Kelly, in the regular season. Baltimore eased past Minnesota to win the Western Conference, then mauled the Browns 34-0 at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium (aka the Mistake By the Lake) to advance to Super Bowl III.

Waiting for the Colts were the New York Jets, led by their flamboyant quarterback, Joseph William Namath, aka Broadway Joe and Joe Willie. The Jets’ high-flying attack, led by glue-fingered receivers Don Maynard and George Sauer, avenged their loss in the Heidi Game by edging the Raiders 27-23 for the AFL title.

You know the rest of the story.

Oddsmakers establish Colts as favorites anywhere between 18 to 21 points. Namath guarantees a Jet victory the Thursday before the game. Namath delivers on his guarantee, 16-7.

Now how was that not soul-crushing? Lose a game you were expected to win and win easily? A loss so bad the Colts didn’t recover in ’69, going 8-5-1 and prompting Shula to leave Baltimore for the Dolphins?

Fortunately, the Colts only lost the game. Safety Rick Volk was knocked into orbit somewhere between Uranus and Neptune after colliding more than a few times with Jets running back Matt Snell. He had to be rushed to the emergency room of a Miami hospital after going into convulsions. Some feared he might die, but he recovered and made a key interception in Super Bowl V which helped the Colts defeat the Cowboys.

I don’t care if Indianapolis has had its fair share of heartache–the 1995 AFC championship game when Jim Harbaugh’s Hail Mary at PIttsburgh fell off the chest of Aaron Bailey and fell to the turf, Peyton Manning’s playoff struggles vs. the Patriots until the 2006 breakthrough, losing to the Chargers at home in 2007. Super Bowl III trumps all.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

The selection: 1995 AFC divisional playoff at home vs. the Colts, when Lin Elliott missed three field goal attempts in a 10-7 loss.

Most Chiefs fans under 55 forget anything which happened before Marty Schottenheimer’s arrival in 1989. Yes, the Chiefs were pretty bad from 1972-88, playing in ONE playoff game (losing 35-15 to the Jets in 1986), but one game sent Kansas City into its deep, dark depression.

Christmas Day, 1971. Chiefs vs. Dolphins in an AFC divisional playoff, the first home game for a Kansas City team in a professional postseason.

The Chiefs were down to one, possibly two, home games at Municipal Stadium. Arrowhead Stadium would be open in August 1972, giving the Chiefs their own facility for the first time in franchise history after sharing Municipal with the Athletics and Royals from 1963-71 (except 1968, the interregnum between the Athletics moving to Oakland and the Royals coming into existence as an expansion team) and the Cotton Bowl with the Cowboys as the Dallas Texans from 1960-62.

Kansas City won three AFL championships (1962, ’66, ’69) in the league’s ten seasons, but all four playoff games to win those titles were on the road: Houston in ’62, Buffalo in ’66, then Shea Stadium and Oakland in ’69. Of course, both Super Bowls were away from Kansas City, too, with the Chiefs losing the first to Green Bay in Los Angeles, then beating Minnesota in the fourth at New Orleans’ Tulane Stadium.

Finally, playoff football was coming to Missouri (the Cardinals had yet to reach the playoffs since moving to St. Louis in 1960, and never played a home playoff game in 28 seasons in the Gateway City), and the Chiefs had a fine team which went 10-3-1. Many considered this to be Hank Stram’s strongest team, better than the one which won Super bowl IV.

Quarterback Len Dawson had a superb season at age 36. Receiver Otis Taylor was a consensus All-Pro who scared the bejesus out of cornerbacks and safeties. Ed Podolak was a solid running back who was excellent at catching the ball out of the backfield. The offensive line was punishing. The defense, anchored by Hall of Famers Buck Buchanan, Curley Culp, Bobby Bell, Willie Lanier and Emmitt Thomas, was suffocating.

I’m sure Lamar Hunt had many a dream in the fall of 1971 about his Chiefs taking down the Cowboys in New Orleans at Super Bowl VI. Many thought the game would come to pass.

In their second season under Don Shula, the Dolphins unseated the Colts as AFC East champion. Bob Griese was the consensus choice as the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year, and Miami had a powerful one-two running attack of Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick, better known as “Butch and Sundance”, a homage to the western which gave us the iconic song “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”. The Dolphin defense was one of the league’s best, anchored by middle linebacker Nick Buoniconti and featuring standouts such as Manny Fernandez, Bill Stanfill, Dick Anderson and Jake Scott.

Last weekend, Kansas City experienced bitter cold. But on December 25, 1971, it was 62 degrees when the Chiefs and Dolphins got underway.

With the Chiefs already ahead 3-0, Lanier intercepted Griese on Miami’s second drive, and it led to a touchdown on a screen pass from Dawson to Podolak. However, the Dolphins would come back from the 10-0 deficit with 10 points of their own in the second quarter, and this set up quite a slugfest in the second half.

The teams traded touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters. The Chiefs took the lead twice, but each time the Dolphins countered. Following Griese’s strike to Marv Fleming which tied at 24-24 with 1:36 to go, Podolak returned the ensuing kickoff 78 yards to the Miami 22. Three running plays lost three yards, but the Chiefs were in easy field goal range for Jan Stenerud, the man who would become the first pure kicker inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991. However, he missed an earlier attempt from nearly the same distance in the second quarter, and his accuracy was well down from his high standards of the previous four seasons.

Indeed, Stenerud missed the 32-yard attempt. The two misses prompted Hank Stram to decline the opportunity for Stenerud to attempt a 68-yard field goal on a free kick after Dennis Homan fair caught Larry Seiple’s punt on the final play of the fourth quarter.

In overtime, Buoniconti blocked Stenerud’s 42-yard attempt, and Miami’s Garo Yepremian was short on a 52-yard try. The game went into a second overtime, only the second game in professional football history to reach the sixth period.

The Chiefs were also involved in the other double overtime game to that point, winning the 1962 AFL championship as the Dallas Texans over the Houston OIlers. In that game, the Texans’ Abner Haynes erroneously chose to kick off to begin overtime instead of taking the wind as Stram had wanted. The Texans waited out the Oilers long enough to gain the wind in the second overtime, and Tommy Brooker connected on a 25-yard field goal for a 20-17 triumph at Houston’s Jeppesen Stadium, which is now the site of the University of Houston’s TDECU Stadium.

Dawson was intercepted by Scott in the second overtime. Csonka, who had been bottled up by Lanier, Culp, Buchanan and the rest of the Chiefs’ defense, finally busted loose on a trap play. Yepremian nailed a 37-yard field goal, and after 22 minutes, 40 seconds of overtime, the Dolphins were a 27-24 winner.

Miami blanked Baltimore 21-0 at the Orange Bowl for the AFC championship, but were no match for Dallas in Super Bowl VI. The Dolphins were gashed by Duane Thomas and Walt Garrison for 252 yards rushing, and the Cowboys won 24-3. Through the first 51 Super Bowls, the ’71 Dolphins are the only team not to score a touchdown, although other teams (’72 Redskins, ’74 Vikings, 2000 Giants) did not score an offensive touchdown.

The next season, the Dolphins opened in Kansas City at Arrowhead. Miami won 20-10 in a game nowhere near as close as the score–the Chiefs’ only touchdown came with nine seconds left in the game–and the Dolphins did not lose again until September 23, 1973.

Kansas City spent the next 14 seasons in purgatory, failing to reach the playoffs until 1986. Stram was fired after going 5-9 in 1974. He would then coach the Saints in 1976 and ’77, going 7-21, and infamously becoming the first coach to lose to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in December 1977.

And no, I did not give any consideration to today’s meltdown vs. the Titans.

LOS ANGELES RAMS

The selection: Super Bowl XXXVI. The Rams entered as 14-point favorites following a 14-2 regular season which included a 24-17 win over the Patriots at Foxborough. Yet New England won 20-17 on a 48-yard field goal by Adam Viantieri on the game’s final play.  The Patriots’ quarterback, some guy named Tom Brady, was named the game’s MVP. “The Greatest Show on Turf” was denied its second Super Bowl title in three seasons.

Okay, I will go along with that as the most soul-crushing playoff loss in ST. LOUIS Rams history.

There are plenty of candidates as far as the LOS ANGELES Rams go.

Super Bowl XIV? Not close. The Steelers, aiming for their fourth championship in six years, were heavy favorites to beat the 9-7 Rams. However, Los Angeles scrapped and clawed at Pittsburgh throughout before finally succumbing to two Terry Bradshaw-to-John Stallworth bombs in the final period. The 31-19 tally was no indication of how close the game was. It hurt the Rams, but I’m sure most fans were not grieving for long.

The 1967 NFL Western Conference championship? Yes, the Rams came in at 11-1-2 compared to 9-4-1 for the Packers, and Los Angeles beat Green Bay 27-24 at the L.A. Coliseum two weeks prior to this contest. However, the Packers had proven time and time again they were money in the playoffs under Vince Lombardi, the 1960 NFL championship game loss to the Eagles excepted, and this game was in cold, but not frigid, Milwaukee, not Los Angeles.

Losing 51-7 to the Redskins in the 1983 NFC divisional playoff? Nope. The Redskins were too powerful for a Rams team which had been carried to the playoffs by rookie Eric Dickerson, who rushed for 1,808 yards that season.

The award goes to FOUR games with one common denominator.

Chuck Knox was the Rams’ coach in all of them.

1974 NFC championship at Minnesota–this was the expected matchup for the right to go to Super Bowl IX.

The Vikings and Rams both finished the regular season 10-4. In the regular season, the Rams bested the Vikings 20-17 in Los Angeles, but due to the NFL’s method of predetermined playoff sites–one which would be scrapped in 1975 to give home field advantage to the team with the better record–the Rams were forced to venture to the Twin Cities after beating the Redskins 19-10 in the divisional playoffs. The Vikings, who routed the Cardinals 30-14 in the other NFC divisional playoff, were looking to get back to the Super Bowl after their humiliation by Miami in Super Bowl VIII.

The Rams caught a huge break with the weather. It was 31 degrees in Bloomington on December 29, 1974, which prompted some Viking fans to venture to Metropolitan Stadium in shorts. Vikings coach Bud Grant, who did not allow the use of heaters on his team’s sideline, was less than pleased. He was hoping for about 31 degrees colder.

In a defensive struggle, the Vikings led 7-3 at halftime, but in the third quarter, a 73-yard pass from James Harris to Harold Jackson moved the Rams to the Viking 1.

Los Angeles came away with nothing.

Tom Mack, a Rams All-Pro guard who would eventually be enshrined in Canton, was called for a false start, which apparently came after some pointing and screaming from Vikings defensive tackle Alan Page, a future Hall of Famer himself, and not from anything Mack did. Replays showed Mack did not move.

The drive ended when Harris was intercepted in the end zone by Wally Hilgenberg. The Vikings took over at the 20 and drove 80 yards to the touchdown which put the game on ice. The Rams scored a late TD, but it was not enough. Minnesota won 14-10.

1975 NFC championship game at home vs. Cowboys–the Rams went 12-2 in ’75, aided no doubt by a putrid NFC West which saw no other team win more than five games. However, one of Los Angeles’ two defeats was an 18-7 setback on opening day at Texas Stadium to a Cowboys team which went 10-4 and was the wild card to the NFC playoffs, finishing one game behind the division champion Cardinals.

The Rams blasted the Cards 35-23 in the divisional playoffs, which Jack Youngblood returning an intercepted screen pass 47 yards for a touchdown. The Cowboys, meanwhile, shocked the 12-2 Vikings 17-14 in Bloomington on a 50-yard pass from Staubach to Drew Pearson, the pass which would give rise to the term “Hail Mary” in football.

The Rams, led by quarterback Ron Jaworski and running back Lawrence McCutcheon, acted as if they would rather be anywhere but the L.A. Coliseum on the fourth day of 1976. The Cowboys won 37-7.

1976 NFC championship game at Minnesota–the third time is the charm for Knox and the Rams, right?

Nope.

With fourth-and-inches inside the Viking 1 in the first quarter, Knox eschewed going for it and instead sent in Tom Dempsey, he of the deformed right foot and 63-yard field goal in 1970, to convert an 18-yard try. Instead, the Vikings’ Nate Allen blocked the kick, and Bobby Bryant raced 90 yards the other way for a Minnesota touchdown.

The Rams cut a 17-0 halftime deficit to 17-13, but the Vikings put the game away in the fourth quarter on a 12-yard touchdown run by reserve Sammy Lee Johnson. Minnesota was on its way to its fourth Super Bowl loss in eight seasons, a position the Rams would gladly have begged for.

1977 NFC divisional playoff at home vs. Vikings–one year to the day after the 1976 NFC title game loss, the Rams met Minnesota again, this time at the Coliseum.

No bad weather. Sunny and 70, right?

Instead, Mother Nature unleashed her full fury on southern California, unleashing a torrential rainstorm the day after Christmas which turned the grass of the Coliseum into a sea of mud. And certainly a field in Los Angeles did not have the advanced draining of one in Miami, so the Vikings and Rams would be forced to slog through a quagmire to get to Dallas for the NFC championship game.

One advantage Los Angeles held was the Vikings would be without Fran Tarkenton, who was out with injuries which come with being a 37-year old quarterback. Instead, journeyman Bob Lee would start.

The Rams’ starting quarterback was Pat Haden, the ex-USC Trojan and Rhodes Scholar. One of his backups was none other than Joe Namath, the same Broadway Joe I mentioned earlier.

Given the conditions and Tarkenton’s absence, defenses ruled the roost. Through three quarters, the Vikings led 7-0.

The Rams had two chances to score early in the fourth quarter, only to be foiled by an interception and a missed field goal. The Vikings scored on a short field following a punt to make it 14-0, and Los Angeles would not score until the game’s final minute. The Rams recovered an onside kick, but the drive went nowhere and the Rams were done. Again.

Knox’s assistants were begging him to put Namath in the game throughout. They felt Joe Willie still had magic in his arm despite the rest of his body resembling that of a 70-year old with arthritis. Namath never got in the game, and less than three months later, he retired.

Knox was fired soon after this loss and went to Buffalo, where he coached the Bills to two playoff appearances in five seasons. In 1983, Knox went to Seattle, where his nine-year run included three playoff trips, the first in franchise history. He would go back to the Rams in 1992, but suffered through three woeful seasons before getting out of coaching for good.

The good news? The Rams saved themselves the embarrassment of a likely blowout in Dallas the next week. The Cowboys squashed the Vikings 23-6, then battered the Broncos 27-10 in Super Bowl XII.

I lied. I said there were four soul-crushing Rams losses. Turns out there’s a fifth.

1978 NFC championship game at home vs. Dallas–that the Rams went 12-4 after what happened in the offseason was a minor miracle.

The Rams originally hired George Allen, who coached the team from 1966-70, to replace Knox. Allen himself was fired after the 1968 season by the late Dan Reeves, who owned the team from the time it moved from Cleveland to Los Angeles in 1946 through his death in 1971, but a player revolt prompted Reeves to bring Allen back. George lasted two more seasons before going to Washington, where his Over the Hill Gang got the Redskins to Super Bowl VII.

By the end of 1977, Allen wore out his welcome in the nation’s capital, and the Rams, desperate to get over the hump and make the Super Bowl, brought Allen back. But after two exhibition games, Carroll Rosenbloom, who acquired the Rams in 1972 after swapping the Colts with Robert Irsay (talk about a disaster), had enough and sent Allen packing.

Into the breach stepped Ray Malavasi, a longtime Rams assistant. Los Angeles won its sixth consecutive NFC West title in ’78 and crushed the Vikings 34-10 at home in the divisional playoffs.

The defending Super Bowl champion Cowboys started slowly, losing four of their first ten games, including one to the Rams at the Coliseum. However, Dallas righted the ship when it counted, winning its final six regular season games, then overcoming the fiery Falcons 27-20 in the divisional playoffs behind backup quarterback Danny White, who came into the game when Staubach was knocked out on an illegal hit by Atlanta’s Robert Pennywell.

Had it been 2017, Staubach would have been in the NFL’s concussion protocol and might not have played vs. the Rams. However, it was 1978, and Tom Landry declared Staubach good to go in L.A.

It turned out the Rams’ offense was so pitiful, and Tony Dorsett was so wonderful (101 yards, 1 TD), that Landry would have gotten away with sitting Staubach.

Los Angeles turned the ball over five times in the second half. Pat Haden broke his hand with eight minutes remaining, forcing Malavasi to go with Vince Ferragamo. Not surprisingly, the final score came when Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson intercepted Ferragamo and returned it 68 yards for a touchdown to put the exclamation point on Dallas’ 28-0 victory.

Rosenbloom drowned off the coast of Florida in April 1979, leaving the team to his widow, Georgia. Oh boy. That would be a disaster for all except Georgia and the city of St. Louis.

NEW YORK GIANTS

The selection: 1997 NFC wild card playoff at home vs. Vikings, where the Giants blew a 19-3 halftime lead and lost 23-22.

Wow. That’s really stupid. Beyond stupid. Does anyone think the ’97 Giants would have beaten both the 49ers and Packers on the road to reach Super Bowl XXXII? Hell no.

If you want a soul-crushing playoff loss under Jim Fassel, all you have to do is look up Super Bowl XXXV, where New York didn’t score an offensive point in being destroyed by the Ravens, and the 2002 NFC wild card game where the Giants blew a 38-14 third quarter lead and lost 39-38 in San Francisco.

But let’s forget Jim Fassel. To find a soul-crushing Giants playoff loss, you have to go back. Way back. Way, way, way back.

December 28, 1958. Giants vs. Colts at Yankee Stadium for the NFL championship. An emerging Baltimore quarterback named Unitas, aided by stud runner Lenny Moore and wonderful wideout Raymond Berry, against a Giants defense led by Andy Robustelli,  Sam Huff and Emlen Tunnell, all future Hall of Famers. New York’s superstar, Frank Gifford, against Art Donovan, Gino Marchetti and a tough Colts D. Weeb Ewbank coaching the Colts, matching wits with Giant assistants Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry, both of whom won many, many games as head coaches. h

The Yankees may have ruled New York in the 1950s, winning the World Series six times in the decade, led by baseball’s most transcendent talent of the time, Mickey Mantle. Yet the Giants, led by the telegenic Gifford, had closed the gap to the point where the Yankees were 1 and the Giants were 1A.

In 1958, the Yankees and Giants had to massage the city’s wounded sports psyche. The Dodgers and baseball Giants left at the end of 1957 for California. The Knicks were terrible, and the NBA didn’t register a blip on the sports scene outside of New England to begin with. The Rangers were taking nightly beatings from the Canadiens, Red Wings, Black Hawks and Maple Leafs and battling the Bruins to stay out of the NHL’s cellar. The AFL was still more than a year away. The Islanders? Yeah right, they’ll really put a pro team on Long Island.

This game more than any propelled professional football into America’s sports pantheon. Prior to this contest, the professional game lagged far behind the college version, especially in places outside the northeast. There were no NFL teams south of Washington, thanks to Redskins owner George Preston Marshall, who steadfastly refused to allow teams in what he claimed was “his” territory. The only teams west of the Mississippi River were the 49ers and Rams. The Colts were in the WESTERN division despite being east of several teams in the Eastern division, including the Redskins, Steelers, Browns and Cardinals, who were in Chicago in 1958, but would move to St. Louis in 1960.

Texas, despite its rabid high school football fan bases and the presence of the Longhorns, Aggies and Horned Frogs, among others, still didn’t have a pro team. Atlanta could care less about the NFL. Georgia and Georgia Tech were more than enough football. Same in with New Orleans, where most fans were glued to what was happening in Baton Rouge, where LSU went 11-0 and won the national championship in 1958.

The Giants took a 3-0 lead in the first quarter on a 36-yard field goal by Pat Summerall. The Colts dominated the second quarter, scoring on a 2-yard run by Alan Ameche and a 15-yard pass from Unitas to Berry to make it 14-3.

With Baltimore ready to put the game out of reach, New York’s defnese held at its 1, then drove the length of the field the other way for a Mel Triplett touchdown. In the fourth quarter, the Giants regained the lead on Gifford’s 15-yard touchdown reception from Charlie Conerly.

With it fourth and inches on their own 40 later in the game, the Giants opted to punt rather than go for it. Staring from their own 14, the Colts drove to the New York 13, and Steve Myhra kicked a 20-yard field goal with seven seconds left.

In 1958, NFL regular season games which were tied after 60 minutes stayed that way. The first 26 NFL championship games had a clear winner after 60 minutes. What now? Certainly college football did not have overtime in 1958, and many a bowl game had ended deadlocked.

There was a thought the Colts and Giants would have to come back the next Sunday and play it all over again, which was the rule at the time in the “other” football (soccer). Or would the Colts and Giants simply be declared co-champions?

Finally, referee Ron Gibbs ordered Ewbank and Giants coach Jim Lee Howell to send out their captains for another coin toss. It was time for the first sudden death overtime in the history of football at any level. The first team to score would win.

The Giants won the toss, but they went three-and-out. The Colts took over and drove 80 yards on 13 plays. Unitas completed four passes for 59 yards on the march, including receptions of 33 and 12 yards by Berry.

With the Colts on the Giant 8, NBC’s transmission from New York went dead. Television views saw static (except those within 75 miles of New York City, which was blacked out under NFL rules at the time). Someone ran on the field and was chased down by the NYPD, creating enough of a delay for NBC technicians to restore the feed.

Television viewers saw Ameche plunge over from the 1 to give the Colts a 23-17 victory. One month later, Lombardi was named head coach and general manager of the Packers. That turned out pretty well for the New Jersey native and former Block of Granite at Fordham.

The Giants would continue to take punches to the gut in the coming years, losing four more championship games over five seasons.

They lost the next year to the Colts in Baltimore, 31-16. Not long thereafter, Tom Landry was on his way to Dallas to take over the reins of the expansion Cowboys. He did okay, too.

In 1960, the Giants traded for a new quarterback, Y.A. Tittle, who had put up huge numbers in San Francisco. However, New York’s championship hopes died that season when Chuck Bednarik knocked out Frank Gifford on a vicious hit in the Eagles-Giants game at Yankee Stadium. Philadelphia went on to win the NFL championship.

Gifford sat out 1961 due to his injuries, but the Giants bounced back to go 10-3-1 and win the East, only to be destroyed 37-0 by Lomardi’s Packers in Green Bay. The two teams met again in 1962 at Yankee Stadium, with Green Bay winning 16-7 thanks to tough running by Jimmy Taylor and three field goals by Jerry Kramer.

In 1963, the Giants got back to the title game, only to be stymied by the Bears in Wrigley Field 14-10. Nobody knew it at the time, but both teams were in for very, very long dry spells.

The Giants crashed and burned in 1964, going 2-10-2, and they would not return to the playoffs until 1981. The Bears played in two playoff games between 1964 and 1983, losing both, despite having Gale Sayers, Dick Butkus and Walter Payton on the roster at various times.

Thank you for reading my novella. Part three coming tomorrow.

Pushes in the House of the Cards

If you don’t follow the NFL, or you’ve been away from your television, radio or computer since Sunday, the Cardinals and Seahawks played to a 6-6 draw (tie in American parlance) in the Sunday Night Football game at Glendale.

I didn’t watch any of it. I was too afraid the Cardinals would lose. I didn’t watch any of the Cardinals’ game vs. the Jets the previous Monday, either. I wasn’t about to get myself worked up after the egg Arizona laid in the season opener vs. the Patriots, who were without Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski.

It was the first time the Seahawks have played to a draw in franchise history. Seattle came into the NFL in 1976, the third season there was sudden death overtime for regular season games.

Even though there has been overtime in the regular season since ’74, the Cardinals had drawn twice before Sunday since the rule was instituted: 20-20 vs. the Giants in 1983 on Monday Night Football (more on that later), and 10-10 at Philadelphia in 1986.

From 1974-2011, the overtime rules in the regular season were simple: first team to score wins. If the full 15-minute period went without a team scoring, the game ended drawn.

In 2012, the rule was changed–it had been changed for the playoffs in 2010–to where if the team receiving the overtime kickoff scored a field goal, the other team could  (a) match the field goal, at which time it became sudden death; (b) win the game with a touchdown; or (c) lose the game by failing to score or committing a turnover. If the team receiving the overtime kickoff did not score on its first possession, it automatically reverted to sudden death.

The Cards-Seahawks deadlock was the fourth under the new OT rules. It happened to the Rams and 49ers in 2012, Vikings and Packers in 2013, and Panthers and Bengals in 2014.

Prior to Sunday, the last NFL game to end drawn without either team scoring a touchdown occurred November 5, 1972, when the St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles ended 6-6.

There have been three 6-6 draws in the NFL since 1939. All three have involved the Cardinals. The first was November 22, 1970, when St..Louis and the Chiefs deadlocked 6-6 at the old Municipal Stadium in Kansas City.

Jim Bakken was the kicker for the Cardinals from 1962-78. They could have used him Sunday. Chandler Catanzaro missed a 24-yard kick in overtime which would have won the game. Then again, Seattle’s Steven Hauschka missed from 27. OUCH.

Catanzaro and Hauschka reminded me of the 1983 Giants-Cards game which ended tied. It was at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis. Howard Cosell was NOT there, taking time off following the conclusion of the World Series, where he was a broadcaster for ABC, alongside Al Michaels and Earl Weaver. Instead, Orenthal James Simpson was in the booth with Frank Gifford and Don Meredith.

Seven days prior to Giants-Cards, the Redskins and Packers put on one of the most thrilling games in regular season history. Green Bay outlasted defending Super Bowl XVII champion Washington 48-47 when the Redskins’ Mark Moseley, the 1982 NFL Most Valuable Player, missed a field goal on the game’s final play. The Redskins didn’t lose again until Super Bowl XVIII, when they were humbled by the Raiders.

Giants-Cards was 180 degrees from Redskins-Packers.

It has been called the worst game ABC telecast on MNF, and I can see why. Cards kicker Neil O’Donoghue missed THREE field goals in overtime, including a 19-yard gimme, which is the equivalent of an extra point.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why Cards coach Jim Hanifan kept O’Donoghue. Had he cut him after his MNF fiasco, St. Louis might have won the NFC East the next season. An O’Donoghue miss on the final play of the 1984 finale at Washington which allowed the Redskins to win the division and keep the Cards home.

Why did Hanifan not try to score a TD when O’Donoghue missed the 19-yard field goal? He had a damn good running back in Ottis Anderson. He had two outstanding wideouts, Roy Green and Pat Tilley. What the hell? Was he that worried about a fumble? Come on, man. Even if the Cards fumbled that deep in their own territory, they might have won on a safety, given how putrid the Giants’ offense was that night.

Fortunately, the game lasted past midnight in the Central time zone, so most Americans were fast asleep by time it ended.

The New York Times described the game as “poorly played” with “an incredibly bad finish”. Sums it up.

The 1983 Giants were horrible, because the new coach, Duane Charles Parcells, better known as “Bill” or “The Big Tuna”, had the wonderful idea Scott Brunner and Jeff Rutledge were better quarterbacks than Phil Simms.

Smooth move, Ex-Lax.

If Ray Perkins had little or no confidence in Brunner being better than Simms, why should Parcells have? Parcells was on Perkins’ staff for three seasons. What, he didn’t see it in 7-on-7 drills? If Parcells was that enamored with Brunner, he should have just reacquired Joe Piscarcik. .

Parcells was very nearly fired after going 3-12-1. He survived, then thrived, with Big Blue, getting to the playoffs in 1984–the Giants’ first berth since losing the 1963 NFL championship game to the Bears–and winning Super Bowls in 1986 and 1990.

Strangely, the Cards and Seahawks played two overtime games in three seasons in the mid-1990s, long before they became division rivals. Arizona won in 1993 at the Kingdome on a late field goal by Greg Davis, and in 1995, won at Sun Devil Stadium on a 72-yard pick-six by Lorenzo Lynch.

The Cards’ history with Seattle dates to the Seahawks’ very first game, which St. Louis won 30-24 at the Kingdome on Sept. 12, 1976.

The odds the Cards (at Carolina) or Seahawks (at New Orleans) will play to a draw this week are very, very, very slim. Slimmer than Kate Moss. The last time a team played consecutive deadlocks was 1971, when the Raiders did vs. the Chiefs and Saints. Tom Brookshier, the late, great CBS broadcaster, described back-to-back deadlocks as “like kissing your sister when she’s got the mumps”.

New England hasn’t played a tie since October 8, 1967, when it was the BOSTON Patriots. Every other NFL team which was around in ’67 has played to a draw since the merger, as has Cincinnati, which came along in ’68. Expansion teams Tampa Bay, Carolina and the Baltimore Ravens all had prior to Sunday, and now Seattle joined that list.

No team has played more than one draw in a single season since 1973, the year before overtime in the regular season, when the Broncos, Browns, Chiefs and Packers all had two on their ledgers. The Broncos had two in three weeks in ’73; the first was against Oakland on MNF, the game where Don Meredith exclaimed, “We’re in the Mile High City, and so am I!”. One night after the Broncos’ second tie of the sequence, 17-17 at St. Louis, Meredith called President Nixon “Tricky Dick” while he was broadcasting the Redskins-Steelers game in Pittsburgh.

Now I’m droning on about history I’m sure three people might care about other than me. I’ll stop.

 

 

Sean Landeta strikes out

It has not been a good time for the New York Giants and their legions of fans.

The Giants completed their third consecutive losing season Sunday with a 35-30 loss to the Eagles at home, leaving Big Blue 6-10 and losses in four of their final five games. Prior to this season, the G-Men had not experienced three consecutive losing seasons since having EIGHT consecutive losing seasons from 1973 through 1980.

Yesterday, Tom Coughlin, who led the Giants to victories in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI, resigned after 12 seasons. He was the only professional coach Eli Manning had known. Coughlin, who was an assistant to Bill Parcells when the Giants won Super Bowl XXV,

Today is the 30th anniversary of one of the Giants’ lesser moments. It wasn’t funny when it happened, but given what has gone wrong for the franchise recently, it probably would evoke a hearty laugh.

On January 5, 1986, the Giants found themselves as heavy underdogs in an NFC Divisional Playoff game for the second consecutive year.

Their opponent that Sunday would be the mighty Chicago Bears, who had captured the imagination of millions of professional football fans, and millions more who could have cared less about football, throughout a dominating 1985 season.

Save for a 38-24 loss to the Dolphins in week 13 on Monday Night Football, the Bears obliterated everyone in their path en route to a 15-1 regular season.

Even though it wasn’t their largest margin of victory in 1985, the Bears impressed me the most 12 days after the loss in Miami, traveling to New jersey and completely throttling the playoff bound Jets 19-6.  New York’s AFC team had no hope of establishing a running game, despite having perennial Pro Bowl running back Freeman McNeil, and no chance to pass, even though Ken O’Brien had quickly matured into a fine pro quarterback. The Bears weren’t world beaters on offense, but  All-Pro defensive linemen Joe Klecko and Mark Gastineau, half of the famed “New York Sack Exchange”, never got close to McMahon, thanks to solid protection from Jimbo Covert, Jay Hilgenberg and the rest of the offensive line.

In a week eight victory over the Packers, also on Monday Night, the Bears inserted rookie defensive tackle William “The Refrigerator” Perry on offense in goal-line situations at fullback, ostensibly to be a lead blocker from Walter Payton, who set the NFL’s career rushing yardage mark in October 1984.

Instead, Perry took a handoff from McMahon in the fourth quarter vs. Green Bay and scored the final touchdown in the Bears’ 23-7 victory. Perry caught a TD pass from McMahon when the Bears traveled to Green Bay two weeks later.

In 1984, the Giants defeated the Rams in the NFC Wild Card game, then had to go to San Francisco to face the 49ers, who completed the first 15-1 season in NFL history. Only a three-point loss to the Steelers in week seven prevented Bill Walsh’s team from a perfect regular season. New York played hard and pushed the 49ers much more than either the Bears or Dolphins were in the later playoff rounds, but San Francisco won 21-10.

Bill Parcells’ team was given even LESS chance to beat the Bears, even though the Giant defense came to Chicago on the heels of a strong defensive performance in a 17-3 victory over the 49ers in the Wild Card game.

The Los Angeles Rams watched the Giants-Bears game with great anticipation. Following their 20-0 conquest of Dallas the previous day, the Rams would face the Giants or Bears in the NFC Championship game. Of course, the Rams wanted the Giants to win, not only because the Bears had been next to invincible in ’85, but if the Giants won, Parcells would have to take his team across the country to Anaheim for a date with Eric Dickerson, who shredded the Cowboys for 248 yards, an NFL playoff record which still stands.

It didn’t take long to become apparent that John Robinson and his troops would soon be packing their long johns for the trip to the shores of Lake Michigan.

To nobody’s surprise, it was cold and very windy in Chicago on January 5, 1986. The temperature of 19 degrees (minus-7 Celsius) wasn’t that extreme, but a strong wind was gusting off Lake Michigan, extremely problematic at Soldier Field, which sits right on the lake, unlike Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park, the baseball stadia in the Windy City, which are a little further inland.

With the game scoreless and just under six minutes left in the first quarter, the Giants were forced to punt after their second drive went nowhere. Parcells hoped Sean Landeta, one of the best punters in the NFL, could “flip the field” and allow the defense, led by Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson, to stop Payton, McMahon and the Bears and get the ball back in better field position.

Taylor, Carson and the rest of the defense would be on the sidelines for a little bit longer.

The snap to Landeta was perfect, but as the punter dropped the ball towards his foot, a gust of wind caught the ball and blew it right.

Moments later, Sean Landeta became the NFL’s first victim of a swinging strikeout.

He missed the ball completely.

The brown oblate spheroid rolled free at the Giants’ 5-yard line, where Bears safety Shaun Gayle swooped in. He sauntered into the end zone to send Solider Field into a frenzy.

It was only 7-0, but it might as well have been 70-0 as far as the Giants were concerned.

The Giants would muster a meager 181 yards. The Bears won 21-0, and three weeks later, they completed their destiny in New Orleans by mauling the Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl XX.

Landeta didn’t have to live with the infamy very long. The Giants came back the next season to win Super Bowl XXI, and he would still be with the team when they won Super Bowl XXV following the 1990 season.

The Bears’ dynasty never was. They didn’t get back to the Super Bowl until 2006, when they lost to the Colts and Peyton Manning.

Landeta wasn’t the first punter to blame the wind for a mishap.

In the 1962 NFL championship game, the Packers’ Max McGee had a punt blocked in the end zone by the Giants’ Erich Barnes. Jim Collier recovered in the end zone for New York’s only touchdown in a 16-7 loss at Yankee Stadium.

 

McGee contended for the rest of his life the strong winds gusting in The Bronx forced him to drop the ball differently than normal, which allowed Barnes to block the punt.

A few months after the game, McGee feared NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle would use the blocked punt against him as he investigated teammate Paul Hornung, McGee’s best friend on the Packers, and Lions defensive tackle Alex Karras, for gambling. Hornung and Karras were each suspended for the 1963 season, but McGee never was charged.

Tie it on boys!

The only gridiron football league in the United States were ties are permitted saw one occur today in Cincinnati.

The Bengals and Panthers played to a 37-37 sister-kisser. Both teams, first Cincinnati and then Carolina, kicked a field goal on their first possessions of the extra period. The two possessions ate up all but the last two and a half minutes of overtime. The Bengals drove to the Carolina 19 and had a chance to win, but Mike Nugent missed a 36-yard field goal wide right, and thus we had our third deadlock in as many years.

In the old days, the Bengals would have won the game because they took the ball and scored first. However, beginning with the 2010 postseason and 2013 regular season, if a team wins the toss and takes the ball, it must score a touchdown to end the game. If it does not, the other team can possess the ball. If that team scores a field goal, the game then goes into sudden death for the remainder of the period (regular season) or however long it takes (postseason). If the team who has the ball second gave up a field goal but scores a touchdown, the game is over.

Cincinnati is no stranger to ties in tis own stadium. The Bengals and Eagles played to a 13-13 stalemate in 2008. Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia’s star quarterback at the time, didn’t think a game could end in a tie, and he did not show a sense of urgency on the Eagles’ final possession.

The team which has gone the longest without a tie is the Saints. Their last deadlock was in October 1972 vs. the 49ers, two years before the NFL Instituted overtime in the regular season. Three expansion teams who came into the league after 1974, the Seahawks, Jaguars and Texans, have never played to a tie. Today’s was the first for Carolina. The Ravens, who were officially an expansion team after Art Modell moved the original Cleveland Browns in 1996, tied the Eagles 10-10 in 1997.

Ironically, the first NFL regular season game to go to overtime, Steelers at Broncos in September 1974, ended in a 35-35 tie after Denver’s Jim Turner missed two field goal attempts in the fifth quarter.

The first NFL regular season overtime game to produce a winner came in November 1974 when the Jets beat the Giants 26-20 at the Yale Bowl, where the Giants were playing while (a) Giants Staidum in the New Jersey Meadowlands was under construction and (b) Yankee Stadium, Big Blue’s home from 1957 through 1973, was closed due to massive renovations by George Steinbrenner.

The Jets were 1-7 coming into the matchup with the Giants, and trailed 20-13 late in the fourth quarter before tying it up on a 5-yard touchdown run by this guy Joe Namath. Heard of him? Well, for Namath to RUN for a touchdown was nearly impossible, since by 1974, Namath’s knees were shot and he had no cartilage left. Broadway Joe was supposed to hand off to Emerson Boozer on a dive play, but Namath faked the dive and limped around left end. When Namath reached the end zone, numerous bottles came flying from the Yale Bowl stands.

The Giants won the overtime toss and moved into field goal range, but the normally reliable Pete Gogolak hooked a 42-yard attempt to the left. Namath and the Jets took over their own 25 and drove 75 yards to the game-winning touchdown, a 6-yard pass from Namath to Boozer where the Jets’ fullback got open behind Giants’ All-Pro linebacker Brad Van Pelt.

The NFL’s first sudden death overtime game was the epic 1958 championship game between the Colts and Giants. There were three other OT playoff games prior to 1974: 1962 AFL championship (Dallas Texans 20, Houston Oilers 17 in double OT); 1965 NFL Western Division playoff (Packers 13, Colts 10) and the longest NFL game ever played, the 1971 divisonal playoff which turned out to be the last football game at Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium (Dolphins 27, Chiefs 24).

Major college football allowed ties until the 1995 bowl season, and one bowl game, Toledo vs. UNLV, required the extra session. The Rockets, coached at the time by current Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, won 40-37. Overtime was introduced in the regular season for 1996, meaning the Kansas Jayhawks will forever hold the NCAA record for tie games, 57.

I don’t see where ties are the end of the world. It’s a symptom of American culture where every game MUST have a winner. Heck, ties in association football go on all the time. Is that a reason why the game hasn’t caught on in the United States? I hope the 20,000 who go to Sporting Park in KCK and watch Sporting KC know matches can end tied during the regular season. The NHL didn’t have overtime for 40 years and nobody thought less of the game. Ties also throw monkey wrenches into standings, and more often than not, a tie will prevent the use of tiebreakers.

I’m not crying over the tie. In fact, it’s a good day for NFL fans everywhere.

Sunday catchup

I was wiped out last night when I arrived back in Russell last night at 7. I got out of WaKeeney at 5:45 after Russell lost its semifinal match to Stockton in two sets. I was a little disappointed the Broncos didn’t make the final, but they represented well and are on the right path under their new coach, Don Fenwick.

Russell is off until Saturday when they host a round robin with Central Plains of Claflin, Lincoln, Minneapolis, Larned and Hoisington. Hoisington should win all of its matches; the Cardinals always have talent. If Russell can win a couple, then it will be a good day.

My next volleyball is Tuesday at Victoria when the Knights host Smith Center and Ellis. Victoria is 0-9 this season, and it will be very difficult against both opponents. Smith Center is 5-0 and was fourth in Class 2A a year ago, and Ellis is a highly regarded team which lost to Smith Center in the sub-state championship match at Hill City.

I’m sure I’ll be back at Smith Center Friday for football when the Redmen host TMP-Marian. Smith Center should easily win, but that’s why they play the games.

Right now, I’m back at Buffalo Wild Wings in Kansas City, watching the early football games and playing trivia, trying to focus to get some work in.

The Arizona Cardinals are without starting quarterback Carson Palmer, who has a nerve injury in his throwing shoulder. The injury was not reported widely until this morning, and about two hours before kickoff, it was announced he would not play. Drew Stanton, who has not thrown a pass in a regular season game since December 2010, is starting in Palmer’s place. So far, so good, the Cardinals scored on their opening drive at East Rutherford and lead the Giants 7-0.

The Chiefs don’t play until 3:25 when they face the Broncos in Denver. Oh boy.