Tuesday, September 18, 2018

TUESDAY TIDBITS: Lugging the Leather

By TJ Troup
Another terrific week of Pro Football and today's Tuesday Tidbits the topic is running the ball for 100 yards. When the Atlanta Falcons don't have a 100 yard rusher they wins 36% of the time. When they do, they win 71% of the time!

Sunday was a classic example as Tevin Coleman gained 107 yards in the victory over Carolina. This was not the first time a Falcon has gained over 100 against the Panthers; in fact Atlanta's record when having a 100 yard rusher against them is a sterling 11-3!

Next, we are headed out West for the confrontation between San Francisco and Detroit. Now that we have eight divisions there are teams that just don't play as often as they use to. Once upon a time (no, this is not a bedtime story) there was a consistently hard-fought rivalry between Detroit and San Francisco (1950 through 1966).
The 49ers have had many outstanding runners; in fact some Hall of Fame runners thus the title "Lugging the Leather". When the Niners don't have a 100-yard rusher against Detroit their record is 24-25-1, but when they do—a dominating 14-3 record including Matt Breida's powerhouse performance Sunday afternoon in the California sunshine. See ya next week.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Green Bay's High Five Not Enough

By Eric Goska


The Fan broadcasts from the Green Bay Distillery
prior to each Packers home game.

Had Mason Crosby made history, the Packers would have defeated the Vikings.

Had Daniel Carlson not come down with a rare case of errancy, Green Bay would have lost to Minnesota.

Field goal kicking took center stage at Lambeau Field Sunday afternoon. Missed kicks by both players proved costly as Green Bay and Minnesota were forced to settle for a 29-29 tie.

Kickers are unique. For the short amount of time they spend on the field, they often have an inordinate say in the outcome of a game.

Crosby and Carlson had chances to deliver in the clutch. Both missed wide of the mark.

Crosby, of course, is a veteran. Now in his 12th season with the Packers, he’s the team’s all-time leading scorer with 1,368 points.

Carlson, his counterpart on the Vikings, is a rookie with but one field goal on his professional resume. Minnesota thought highly enough of the former Auburn Tiger to draft him in the fifth round of the 2018 draft.

Crosby had the busier day. The 34-year-old attempted six field goals, connecting on his first five which measured 37, 40, 31, 48 and 36 yards.

Carlson had the rougher go of it. The 23-year-old failed to split the uprights in three attempts from 48, 49 and 35 yards away.

Crosby’s chance at history – and the Packers’ chance at victory – came with three seconds left. Cash in on a 52-yarder and the foot-wielding specialist walks off with a sixth field goal – a team record for a single game – and the Packers prevailed 32-29.

The veteran appeared to do just that. From long snapper Hunter Bradley to holder J.K. Scott to the toe of Crosby, the ball was sent sailing over the crossbar.

But a timeout by Minnesota just before that sequence began rendered the play null and void. Green Bay had to try again.

This time, Crosby sent his kick wide left. It was an unfortunate ending to what had been a sterling performance.

Crosby’s miss ushered in overtime. Green Bay got one possession in the extra period and did not come close enough to summon Crosby for a seventh time.

The extra 10 minutes did provide Carlson with two shots at victory. Both times he missed wide right, first from 49 yards and then from 35 yards as time expired.

Add in his failed second-quarter attempt and Carlson finished 0-for-3. The Vikings released the rookie the following day.

That Green Bay didn’t lose to Minnesota is somewhat remarkable. Raise your hand if you recall the last time a kicker endured an oh-fer day (minimum three attempts) against the Packers.

In the last 40 years, just three players had been snake bitten to such an extent. The most recent was Steve Christie of the Giants who failed on all three of his attempts in New York’s 14-7 win over Green Bay on Oct. 3, 2004.

The other two: Eddie Murray (0-for-4) on Sept. 30, 1990 and Neil O’Donoghue (0-for-3) on Sept. 16, 1979.

Though Crosby didn’t come through with a record sixth field goal, he became the first Packers player to kick five in three different games. He had that many in a 22-9 win over the Lions in 2013 and the same number in a 30-13 victory in Minnesota in 2015.

Chris Jacke (twice) and Ryan Longwell (once) are the only other Packers to have kicked five in a game.

Crosby also joins Paul Hornung and Chester Marcol as the only Packers to have attempted six field goals in one game. Hornung was the first in 1960. Marcol (five times) was the busiest.

Last season Crosby’s run of 10 consecutive seasons with 100 or more points came to an end as the Packers struggled to a 7-9 record. Crosby and Jason Elam (12 straight) are the only two players in NFL history to have earned 100 or more points in each of their first 10 seasons.

If Green Bay’s game against the Vikings is any indication, Crosby will again surpass 100 this season. That’s good news for the Packers who tend to do better when they keep their kicker swinging for the uprights.

Extra points
The Packers are 41-1-1 in games in which they score four or more field goals.

Mason Crosby has scored more points against the Vikings (193) than he has against the Bears (172) or the Lions (161).

High Fives
Packers who have kicked five field goals in one game.

Kicker                        Opponent        Date                      Result
Mason Crosby            Vikings             Sept. 16, 2018       tie, 29-29
Mason Crosby             Vikings             Nov. 22, 2015       won, 30-13
Mason Crosby             Lions                Oct. 6, 2013          won, 22-9
Ryan Longwell             Cardinals          Sept. 24, 2000       won, 29-3
Chris Jacke                  49ers                Oct. 14, 1996        won, 23-20
Chris Jacke                  Raiders             Nov. 11, 1990       won, 29-16

Oh-Fers
Players who attempted at least three field goals in a game against the Packers and failed on each attempt.

Kicker                         FG       Team               Date                      Result
Daniel Carlson              0-3       Vikings             Sept. 16, 2018       tie, 29-29
Steve Christie               0-3       Giants               Oct. 3, 2004          won, 14-7
Eddie Murray               0-4       Lions                Sept. 30, 1990       lost, 21-24
Neil O’Donoghue         0-3       Buccaneers       Sept. 16, 1979       won, 21-10
Chris Bahr                    0-4       Bengals            Sept. 26, 1976       won, 28-7
Pete Gogolak               0-3       Giants               Sept. 19, 1971       won, 42-40
Tommy Davis               0-4       49ers                Sept. 28, 1969       lost, 7-14
Tommy Davis               0-3       49ers                Nov. 19, 1967       lost, 0-13
Fred Cox                     0-3       Vikings             Nov. 10, 1963       lost, 7-28
George Blanda             0-3       Bears               Sept. 28, 1958       won, 34-20
George Blanda             0-3       Bears               Sept. 28, 1952       won, 24-14
Bob Waterfield             0-3       Rams                Oct. 21, 1951        won, 28-0
Bill Dudley                    0-4       Lions                Oct. 30, 1949        lost, 14-16
Nick Scollard               0-3       Bulldogs           Oct. 7, 1949          lost, 0-19
George Blanda             0-3       Bears               Sept. 25, 1949       won, 17-0
Dutch Clark                  0-3       Lions                Nov. 25, 1934       lost, 0-3

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Saquon Barkley's 14 Receptions Set New Giant Mark

LOOKING BACK
By John Turney
Barkley's first reception of the night. There would be 13 more.
Saquon Barkley's Sunday Night debut ended in a loss for the Giants but it ended with him holding the single-game record for most receptions in the history of the franchise. He snagged 14 passes for 80 yards bettering Tiki Barber's standard of 13, set in 2000.

Here is a screenshot of the 2018 Giants Media Guide—

Here is a screenshot of the NFLGSIS stat sheet—
We don't suggest how significant it is given the low total of 80 yards and the loss, but as they say records are kept to be broken and when it happens we try to report it.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Which Defensive Linemen Are Going to Advance to Semi-Final List?

LOOKING AHEAD
By John Turney
The Pro Football Hall of Fame released its preliminary list for the Class of 2019. The defensive linemen on the list were La’Roi Glover, Russell Maryland, Leslie O’Neal, Simeon Rice, Richard Seymour, Neil Smith, Bryant Young.

Our favorite defensive end on the list is not one of the edge rushers, it's Richard Seymour. He was an end when the Patriots were in a 3-4 scheme and when they went to a four-man line he was a  tackle, usually a three-technique (a position he once told us was his favorite. These days he would be called a "defensive interior" player. But what he did was not different than what Howie Long did or what JJ Watt does now (though less than earlier in his career) and to a much lesser degree Elvin Bethea.

So whether you call him an end or tackle or interior player, he was a force versus the run and in nickel situations, he could rush well from the inside. Also of note, only Seymour and Ty Law have any serious chance at the Hall of Fame, precious few for a team that won three Super Bowl rings for a team that was known for an excellent defense.

Here is a compilation of his scouting reports coming out of college. Pretty much right on the money by Joel Buchsbaum, Gil Brandt and Ourlads.
In recent years the HOF voting committee has been very kind to edge rushers and maybe that changes this year. We expect Seymour to be on the Final 25 for sure and also we are predicting he will be on the Final 15 as well. We shall see.
O'Neal was a classic edge rusher, he was usually a 4-3 defensive end but he did spend some time as a 3-4 OLBer. He was never All-Pro but was Second-team All-Pro three times and went to six Pro Bowls. When his stuffs are added to his sacks, he totaled over 200, which is a good number for an edge rusher. He had a shot at being on the Semi-Final list of 25.
Neil Smith was a good run defending defensive end, he could get after the passer too. Smith grabbed a pair of Super Bowl rings with the Broncos and like Richard Seymour could get his hands on passes and kicks with 51 passes defensed and 5 blocked kicks. Certainly a very solid player, we are not sure people remember how good he was. We don't expect to see him make the Final 25.
Simeon Rice was a top-flight pass rusher but not known as a good run stuffer. He gets kudos from Warren Sapp as being HOF-worthy, but from few else. he has a chance to make the Final 25 but little chance to advance beyond that, in our view.
La'Roi Glover led the NFL in sacks in 2000 (kind of) and was a fine 3-technique in New Orleans and also played some nose tackle with Dallas in 2005. He was a two-time All-Pro and went to six Pro Bowls. He had 83.5 sacks and 52.5 run/pass stuffs and 16 forced fumbles. We don't see him making the final 25.
 Bryant Young is one of those players who didn't get as many All-Pro honors as he deserved. He was a two-time First-team All-Pro and a four-time Pro Bowler. He ended his career with 89.5 sacks and 76 run/pass stuffs for a total of 165.5 "stacks" (sacks plus stuffs).

 As a comparison, here are Warren Sapp's career stats (he had 162 "stacks"). He was All-Pro and a Pro Bowler in 2001 and 2002 and we are not sure why—other than team success and the fact that there were not others who had better seasons. But you can see that Young's stats, other than the "honors" match up well to Sapp's. Not quite the pass rusher that Sapp was, but more solid versus the run.
Maryland is on the prelim list and we are not sure why. He was mostly a shade tackle (nose) in a 4-3 defense, a run plugger who usually came out of the game in passing situations so guys like Jim Jeffcoat and Leon Lett could come in and get after the passer. He had a slid career but not one you'd expect from a #1 overall pick. He did make one Pro Bowl (in 1993) and likey should have gone in 1997 and he snagged three Super Bowl rings. Again, a nice career, but Hall of Fame? No.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

TUESDAY TIDBITS: A Review of Week One

By TJ Troup
As always, a fascinating opening week in the NFL, and with 16 games there should be some compelling drama/interesting games. Have not done this in the past, so for this year on Tuesday will review some historical/statistical aspect of the weekend. My research almost always deals in winning and losing. When a team returns an interception for a touchdown they win about 79% of the time. When a team has a 100-yard rusher and the opponent does not the team with the 100-yard rusher wins 77% of the time. This covers data from 1934 to the present, and was sent to the distinguished Mr. Steve Sabol years ago.
So what happens when a team has both? A 100 yard rusher, and an interception returned for a score; what is the win%? Steve Sabol and I sure enjoyed have titles put on the work done, and my respect for former great football writers gave me the title of APOCALYPTIC HORSEMEN—for the above achievement. Last night both the Rams and Jets had a 100 yard rusher and an interception return for a score, and they both won. Historically the win percentage is 91%, and usually does not happen often during a season (usually less than 10 times). See ya next week.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Second Helpings Too Much to Bear

By Eric Goska

Claiming one can defeat an opponent with a hand tied behind the back is a boast that usually elicits derision.

Aaron Rodgers, who publicly abstains from such talk, nevertheless demonstrated that victory can be achieved while operating on essentially one good leg.

Half a man. Half a game.

Sunday night it added up to one hell of an opener for the Green Bay Packers and no laughing matter for the Chicago Bears.

The Green and Gold kicked off their 100th season of football with a 24-23 come-from-behind win over their arch nemesis at Lambeau Field. It was the sixth time the Packers have prevailed by a single point in this rivalry that dates to 1921.

The contest was a tale of two halves. In the first, the Packers surrendered yards in bunches while producing few of their own. In the second, the team moved with purpose while slowing the wave of navy blue and orange.

So numerous were the failings of the home team that, six minutes into the third quarter, a 20-point deficit beckoned. The hole was still 17 points deep as the fourth quarter opened.

For Green Bay, the good news was Rodgers’ return. What the 14-year veteran couldn’t accomplish while healthy in the first half he more than made up for while compromised in the second.

Rodgers had a rough start. He threw incomplete on his first three passes. His lone first-quarter completion went for 7 yards to tight end Jimmy Graham on second-and-20.

The second quarter brought more of the same. No. 12 mustered but two completions for a scant six yards.

Then down Rodgers went. The usually elusive quarterback injured his knee after defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris sacked him for a 9-yard loss with just over nine minutes to go before halftime.

Packer Nation held its collective breath. Rodgers was carted to the locker room.

Halftime statistics showed Green Bay with 71 yards and four first downs. The Bears had 160 yards, eight first downs and – more importantly – a 17-0 lead.

Fortunately for the Packers, Rodgers wasn’t finished. He resumed work after Cody Parkey’s 33-yard field goal put Chicago up 20-0.

Unable to scramble and relegated to mostly quick throws, Green Bay’s offensive leader rose to the occasion. He directed four scoring drives capped by a field goal and touchdown passes to Geronimo Allison (39 yards), Davante Adams (12) and Randall Cobb (75).

The Packers’ offensive line, which gave up four sacks in the first half, did not yield any in the second. Defensively, Green Bay permitted Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubiski just 62 passing yards in the final two quarters.

Rodgers’ second-half numbers were far more impressive: 17 completions in 23 attempts for 273 yards. He was particularly effective in the fourth quarter where he threw for 212 yards and three scores.

His second-half passer rating was 152.72, not too far removed from the NFL maximum of 158.33.

Just six players in Packers history have exceeded 150 in a second half. Rodgers’ effort against the Bears was the 25th time it has happened.

Not surprisingly, Rodgers is Green Bay’s all-time leader with 12 second halves of 150 or more. Brett Favre (6) and Bart Starr (4) are the only other Packers players to get there more than once.

Rodgers has topped 150 against the Bears twice before. He compiled a second-half rating of 150.95 in a 38-17 win in 2014 and a mark of 152.08 in a 35-21 triumph on Christmas Day 2011.

Frustrating Chicago has been standard operating procedure for Rodgers. Whether it be a 50-yard TD pass to Greg Jennings in 2009, a 48-yarder to Randall Cobb in 2013 or a six-pack of aerial scores in a 41-point blowout in 2014, Rodgers has engineered 16 wins in 20 starts against the Bears.

But pulling out a victory in the fourth quarter when down 17 might top them all. Certainly, no Packers team had come back when that far gone.

Fifteen points had been the maximum. Bobby Thomason was the triggerman in a 29-27 win over the Yanks in 1951 (down 21-6) and Don Majkowski piloted the team to a 23-21 victory against the Falcons (down 21-6) in 1989.

Rodgers now resides at the head of that list.

Early in his career, Rodgers’ comeback ability was questioned. He was called out for not winning enough close games.

Against the Bears Sunday, Rogers, figuratively speaking of course, came as close as anyone to beating a team with one arm tied behind his back.

Extra Points

·    Green Bay is 24-1 in games in which its passer posts a second-half rating of 150 or more. Its only loss was a 37-34 setback to the Vikings in the 2012 regular-season finale.

·    Rodgers 212 fourth-quarter passing yards came up seven short of Babe Parilli’s team record. Parilli passed for 219 yards in the Packers’ 37-21 loss to the Redskins in 1958.

Chasing Perfection
Packers players with the most second-half passer ratings of 150 or more (minimum 10 attempts). The highest rating allowed is 158.33, sometimes referred to as a perfect rating.

      No. of 150s      No. of 158.33s      Player
             12                        4                 Aaron Rodgers
              6                         3                 Brett Favre
              4                         2                 Bart Starr
              1                         1                 Tobin Rote
              1                         0                 Don Majkowski
              1                         1                 Matt Flynn

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Homages to Franchise History

LOOKING BACK
By John Turney

In the Sunday Night Football game on September 9, 2018, Bears rookie head coach Matt Nagy aligned his team in a T-formation and after the game said he did so as an homage to the Bear franchise.
Nagy's T-Formation Tribute
In 2011 Rob Ryan, then in his first season as the Cowboys defensive coordinator showed a Flex formation as an homage to Tom Landry and the defense he invented in the early 1960s.
Rob Ryan's Flex Homage
Ryan ran his tribute in the first preseason game and Nagy showed respect in the regular season. We compliment both for the efforts, though neither ran it more than one time as far as we know. We'd love to see if the Flex or the full house T-formation could work these days. Maybe next year.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

RIP: Bobby Walden

LOOKING BACK
By John Turney
We were saddened by the passing of Bobby Walden last month. He punted for fourteen seasons in the NFL after three seasons in the CFL. He was a Georgia legend and a very good NFL punter.

We've taken a keen interesting in punters recently, trying to backdate the NFL's punting statistics (with mixed success). Bobby Walden. was one player we were able to get enough to show a net punting total.

The last clear memories of him that we have is in Super Bowl X when he was having a difficult time getting punts off so it wasn't a terrific game (or season, really even though he was a Second-team All-AFC choice). And beginning in 1972 through the end of his career he had five punts blocked after eight seasons of having none blocked.

Though not complete our data shows that if net punting were kept in the time he played (it became an official statistic in 1976) he would have led the NFL in that stat twice— in 1964 and 1970, once with the Vikings and once with the Steelers.
He also had a goodly number of punts that ended up inside the 20 and relatively few that went into the end zone for touchbacks, especially in the first decade of his career.

Perhaps one day we can get more complete records to finish our project but until then we will salute those whose data we have and who have excellent careers. So for now, it's well done Mr. Walden. Well done.

2018 Award Winner Predictions

LOOKING AHEAD
By Nick Webster and John Turney
Here are Nick Webster's predictions for the 2018 NFL Awards—
Offensive Player of the Year: 1) Aaron Rodgers, 2) Antonio Brown
Defensive Player of the Year: 1) Cam Jordan, 2) Khalil Mack
Offensive Rookie of the Year: 1) Barkley, 2) Sam Darnold
Defensive Rookie of the Year: 1) Harold Landry, 2) Denzel Ward
Comeback Player of the Year: 1) JJ Watt, 2) Andrew Luck
Assistant Coach of the Year: 1) John DeFilippo, 2) Wade Phillips
Coach of the Year: 1) Doug Marrone, 2) Bill Belichick
Most Valuable Player: 1) Aaron Rodgers, 2) Russell Wilson

Here are John Turney's guesses for the awards—
Offensive Player of the Year:  Ezekiel Elliott, Dal
Defensive Player of the Year: Khalil Mack, Chi
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Sam Darnold, NYJ
Defensive Rookie of the Year:  PJ Hall, Oak
Comeback Player of the Year: JJ Watt, Hou
Assistant Coach of the Year: Vic Fangio, Chi
Coach of the Year: Kyle Shanahan, SF
Most Valuable Player: Aaron Rodgers, GB

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Dominique Easley's Unprecedented Move From Defensive Tackle to Outside Linebacker

LOOKING BACK
By John Turney
As far as we can find it has never happened—an NFL defensive tackle moving to outside linebacker. Now there is a caveat, in 2014 the Patriots Dominique Easley was listed as a defensive end. However, it is a question as to much time he spent on the edge as a rusher.

That matters because players moving from defensive end to outside linebacker and vice versa is commonplace. Scores of players have made that move, in fact, most played both at the same time being 3-4 outside linebackers in base defense and defensive end in nickel and dime (sub defenses).

Here are some stills from 2014 and we can see he was, at times, a de facto outside linebacker/edge rusher—On the first couple of stills he's in a two-point stance on the inside shoulder of the tight end (7-technique):



Here he's at 5-technique on the left side:

Easley, here, is head up on the center:

Easley here is inside eye of the guard (2i) technique:

Here he is at 3-technique, on the outside shoulder of the guard:


He even played several techniques at once:

Starts off and a 2i, then 3, then 4i, then back to 3, to 2i to 3 back to 2 then finally to 3i

In 2015 Easley may have played some outside but in the film, we watched he was inside most (if not all) of the time—usually at three-technique.

With the Rams in 2016 he was used as a defensive tackle in the sub defenses and to spell Aaron Donald at three-technique and he performed well in those roles.


This preseason Easley played some on the edge in nickel but the Rams played so few starters for so few plays it is impossible to get a gage on what they were going to do in sub defenses when the regular season starts.

So, the question is has anyone who was a defensive tackle ever moved to outside linebacker? Well, again, we cannot find it. Randy White, the Cowboys #1 pick in 1975 was a linebacker in training but when he saw the field it was as a defensive tackle in sub defenses or sometimes as a defensive end in those nickel or dime situations. In 1977 the linebacker experiment was finally called off and he moved to defensive tackle permanently.

Aaron Kampman played some defensive tackle for the Packers, often in sub defenses and in 2009 he was moved to outside linebacker in the base and played his usual defensive end in nickel/dime. So there is that which really doesn't fit the criteria.

In all fairness, we have not done exhaustive research on this topic, we are going by memory and as little as we can summon from our minds we are willing to be corrected, but Easley, even though he did play a little as a linebacker and defensive end as a rookie, is the first to make the jump from inside rusher to base outside linebacker. When he does play he will likely play end/edge in nickel and dime with Donald and Suh inside. But we will have to wait and see since the Rams didn't tip much in preseason.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Seventeen Straight: Buffalo's Outstanding Defense of the Mid-1960s

LOOKING BACK
By Jeffrey Miller

The Buffalo Bills of the 1960s possessed one of the greatest defenses in the entire history of the American Football League, if not all of pro football. The Bills’ defense, which drove the team to three consecutive appearances in the AFL championship game (1964-66) and two league championships (1964-65), was a mishmash of young players, veterans and reclamation projects that worked its magic under the direction of a young genius named Joel Collier.  Aside from its impressive record, the Buffalo defense’s greatest bragging point is the incredible streak of 17 straight games it went without giving up an enemy score on the ground.  This article will discuss Buffalo’s great AFL defense and that streak.
The coach in charge of the defensive side of the ball for the Bills during this era was Joel D. Collier, a soft-spoken, bespectacled sort who looked more the part of a lab assistant than a pro football coach.  Collier, who played offensive end at Northwestern University, was a student of the game, beginning his coaching career in 1957 when he joined Lou Saban’s staff at Western Illinois University.  “That was his first job coaching football,” Saban observed.  “He worked day and night.  He was on that film almost all of the time.  That’s where he learned football.”  Collier spent three seasons as an assistant with the Leathernecks before moving with Saban to the Boston Patriots of the newly-formed American Football League in 1960, assuming the role of defensive backs coach.  When Saban became head coach of the Bills in 1962, he brought much of his staff, including Collier, with him to Buffalo. 
Joe Collier
 
Collier was a mastermind who loved to tinker with formations, blitzes and stunts. The Bills’ defense blossomed under Collier’s watch, and in 1963 it led the team to its first-ever post-season appearance.  By 1964, they were the best in the league. Calling the plays in the defensive huddle was middle linebacker Harry Jacobs, who acted as a coach on the field, or, as he preferred to be called, “the quarterback of the defense.”  Jacobs was a full member of the defensive game-planning team, often studying film alongside Collier and devising schemes that were to be used against upcoming opponents. 
Joe Collier confers with Middle Linebacker
Harry Jacobs prior to the 1965 AFL Title Game.
 
 Joe broke films down,” Jacobs recalled. “He was the first person to my knowledge that really worked at breaking down each of the plays so I could see how first, second, third, every down and position, what they use, and then make a choice in that situation on the field.  In order to do that, I had to know what everybody else did.” This allowed Harry full autonomy in the huddle to make all of the defensive calls without need of consultation with the defensive coordinator prior to every play.  If the Bills' defensive record between 1964 and 1966 is any indication, Jacobs was right a heck of a lot more often than he wasn’t. 

“No one ever agrees with the signal caller,” said linebacker Mike Stratton, “and the signal caller was Harry Jacobs.  He called all of the defenses. He very rarely had any input from the sidelines—he called them all from his own perspective. He did an outstanding job at calling the defenses even though the lineman and defensive backs maybe did not agree with the calls because it put some pressure on them.”
The Bills' basic defensive alignment was the 4-3, with Ron McDole and Tom Day on the ends, Jim Dunaway and Tom Sestak at tackle, Mike Stratton at right linebacker, John Tracey at left linebacker, Harry Jacobs in the middle, Butch Byrd and either Charley Warner or Booker Edgerson at the corners, Gene Sykes or Hagood Clark at left (strong) safety, and George Saimes at right (free) safety. On the field, the formation was called "41 Red," which meant 4 man front with man-to-man coverage.
The Bills aligned in their standard 4-3 defense. 
Versus New York Jets at War Memorial Stadium,
October 24, 1964.
 
 On occasion, the defense would shift into a 3-4 alignment, which they referred to as the “Oklahoma” formation. The Bills were not the only team to use the 3-4, but they tended to go to it more often than other teams of the era (San Diego, for example).  In the Bills’ 3-4, one of the defensive linemen, usually Tom Day but sometimes Ron McDole, would stand up as the fourth linebacker (inside) while Jim Dunaway would move over center.  
Buffalo defense aligned in the 3-4, or "Oklahoma"
defense.  Tom Day (88) has moved to Right Inside
Linebacker, and Jim Dunaway has moved over
Center.  Versus Boston Patriots at War Memorial
Stadium, November 15, 1964.

The Bills in a variation of the 3-4, called
"Oklahoma Inside Up," which featured all
members of the front 7 standing upright at the snap.
Ron McDole (cut off at top) is in at Left
Inside Linebacker.  Versus Miami Dolphins at
War Memorial Stadium, November 10, 1968.
 
On some occasions, one of the linemen would come out of the game and be replaced by a backup linebacker, usually Paul Maguire, and later Marty Schottenheimer.    
The Bills aligned in the 3-4 defense with Paul
Maguire (55) in at Left Inside Linebacker.  Versus
New York Jets at War Memorial Stadium,
 October 24, 1964.

The Bills in the 3-4 alignment with Marty
Schottenheimer (57) in at Right Inside
Linebacker.  Versus Miami Dolphins at War
Memorial Stadium, November 10, 1968
 
There were variations, such as splitting a linebacker out to provide double coverage on a wide receiver to knock him off his route. We had two defenses that Collier had called for,” Jacobs remembered of preparing for the 1965 Title Game rematch with San Diego. “I put two of those defenses together, and Joe said, ‘Go ahead and do that, practice that.’  What we did is we took the two outside linebackers and put them out on the two wide receivers, and that freed the inside up.  And that’s how we shut down Bambi [Lance Alworth].  [The linebackers] didn’t cover him.  They were up there to stop him in his footsteps, so the defensive cornerbacks could cover him real well.  I called that on most third down situations.  And it wasn’t something we’d had before.”
Weak Side Linebacker Mike Stratton split out to
assist with covering enemy Wide Receiver
(Howard Twilley).  Versus Miami Dolphins,
September 18, 1966.
 
A variation on this variation was the “Sloop,” in which a safety moved outside to support a cornerback.

There were “mad dogs” in which the linebackers would shoot a gap in the defensive line, and “fake mad dogs” in which the linebackers lined up as if intending to shoot the gaps but backing off at the snap. 

 

“Exits” were line stunts in which a defensive end would loop around the nearby defensive tackle, who slanted out toward the offensive tackle to occupy his block and potentially confuse the offensive guard.  
Defensive End Ron McDole (72) about to perform
a stunt, or "exit" against the New York Jets, 1965.
(Pt 1)

McDole can be seen looping around Defensive
Tackle Jim Dunaway (78), who is slanting across
the line to occupy the Offensive Tackle. 
(Pt 2)

McDole is partially obscured by John  Tracey
(51) but he is now up against New York Right
Guard, while Dunaway is battling the
Offensive Tackle.  This stunt play resulted in a sack
of Jets Quarterback Joe Namath.  At Shea Stadium,
October 30, 1966.
(Pt 3)
 
One of Jacobs’ favorite calls was the safety blitz, most often performed by George Saimes. When run as planned, the safety blitz is a very disruptive tactic. 
Free Safety George Saimes blitzing New York's
Joe Namath.  At War Memorial Stadium,
November 13, 1966.
 
 
PERSONNEL

Starting at the right defensive end was Tom Day.  Originally drafted by the Bills in 1960 as a guard out of North Carolina A&T, he opted to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals, who had selected him in the NFL draft.  He signed with the Bills as a free agent in 1961 and performed well at the right guard position until Saban moved him to the defensive side in 1964. The move certainly paid off. Tom brought quickness and athleticism to the edge and was known for making tackles on the opposite side of the field because of his speed and hustle. These traits allowed the team’s braintrust to occasionally use Day as a fourth linebacker when the Bills switched to a 3-4 alignment.
Defensive End Tom Day
 
 At right tackle was Tom Sestak, perhaps the defense’s best player. A 17th-round draft pick out of McNeese in 1962, Sestak was a tight end in college. By the time he showed up for his first Bills training camp, Sestak had beefed up so much he was almost unrecognizable to the scouts who recommended him. On a hunch, head coach Lou Saban offered him to Collier, and the rest is history.  Sestak was selected an AFL All-Star in his rookie season and would be named First-team All-AFL three times, and Second-team three others.  To this day, he is still considered by many historians to be the greatest defensive tackle the team has ever had.
Jim Dunaway (Mississippi) was the left defensive tackle. Listed at 290 pounds, Dunaway was huge for his day and combined his girth with tremendous strength. Those traits were put to good use by Collier, who slid Big Jim every once in a while over to nose tackle in the Bills’ 3-4 alignment.  Dunaway earned his first of four AFL All-Star selections in 1965.
At left defensive end was the foreman of the line, 6-foot, 4-inch, 265-pound Ron McDole from the University of Nebraska. McDole was originally drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals of the NFL, where he played one season before going to the Houston Oilers of the AFL. After a single season in Houston, the Bills acquired McDole’s rights and he became a cornerstone player. A real hustler, McDole was at times used as an inside linebacker in the Bills’ 3-4 alignment and was very effective when dropping into coverage.  He is credited with 6 interceptions in his 8 seasons with the Bills, still a club record for defensive linemen.
Defensive End Ron McDole
 
Holding down the left (or strong) side linebacking position was another NFL castoff and former tight end, John Tracey, who set several receiving records while at Texas A&M. The defense’s elder statesman, Tracey began his pro career playing tight end with the Chicago Cardinals in 1959 but was converted to linebacker the following year. After a third NFL season with the Philadelphia in 1961, Tracey joined the Buffalo Bills. He was known for being fast, aggressive and a sure tackler.  He also led the Bills in interceptions in 1963 with 5.   

In the middle was the universally acknowledged “quarterback” of the defense, Harry Jacobs (6-foot, 1-inch, 226 pounds, Bradley University). Jacobs came to Buffalo in 1963 via a trade with the Boston Patriots, where he had played for Saban and Collier in 1960 when they were coaching the Pats.  Often referred to as the Baby-Faced Assassin for his youthful looks, Jacobs pulled a complete Jeckyl-and-Hyde routine once he put his helmet on and entered the playing field.

Middle Linebacker Harry Jacobs
 
The weak-side linebacker was perennial All-League selection Mike Stratton, a rangy 6-foot, 3-inch, 224-pound former tight end out of Tennessee.  Stratton was a consistent performer on the field who possessed great speed and versatility, being equally adept playing against the run or the pass.  He is perhaps best remembered for applying the “Hit Heard ‘Round the World” on Keith Lincoln in the 1964 AFL Title Game.  He played in his first of 6 AFL All-Star games in 1963.

 Linebacker Mike Stratton
 
At right corner was rookie George “Butch” Byrd, a bruising 6-foot, 211-pounder out of Boston University.  Byrd was known for his aggressiveness not only while going after enemy aerials (he led the team in interceptions 3 times and still holds the team record for career interceptions with 40), but also going after enemy receivers.  Byrd was one of the most physical corners in pro football back in the day, enjoying the freedom defensive players were given at the time to slam opposing pass catchers as they came off the line of scrimmage.


The left corner position was shared between Charley Warner and Booker Edgerson.  Warner came to the Bills late in 1964 and filled in well when Edgerson was knocked out of action, including picking off a pass in the 1964 championship game against San Diego.  Lightning fast, Warner’s greatest contribution might have been as the team’s first truly great kick returner.  Edgerson resumed his starting role in 1965.  Originally signed as a free agent when Lou Saban took over as coach in 1962, Booker was well known to Saban and Collier since he had played for them at Western Illinois.  Blessed with speed and smarts, Edgerson is acknowledged by most teammates as having been the best man cover cornerback on the team.

Cornerback Booker Edgerson
 
The strong-side safety position was essentially split between Gene Sykes (1964) and Hagood Clark (1965). Sykes was a 19th-round pick out Louisiana State in 1963. He picked off 2 passes during the Bills’ first championship season.  In 1965, second-year man Clarke (6-foot, 205 pounds, University of Florida) emerged as the starter, and swiped a team-leading 7 passes during the Bills’ successful defense of the AFL crown.
Strong Safety Hagood Clarke
 
George Saimes, a 5-foot, 11-inch, 186-pound former halfback out of Michigan State, was the team’s free safety.  After starting the first couple of games of his rookie season (1963) at halfback, Saimes was permanently converted to safety, where he blossomed into one of the best defensive backs in the league by his second year.  He was a fine open-field tackler and always a threat for a safety blitz, inspiring favorable comparisons to St. Louis Cardinals All-World safety Larry Wilson.  After intercepting 6 enemy aerials in ’64, Saimes was named to his first of 5 AFL All-Star games.


Free Safety George Saimes

THE GAMES
When Mack Lee Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs ripped off a 53-yard scoring run against Buffalo on October 18, 1964, it was indeed a significant moment, since it was destined to be the last rushing TD the Bills surrendered for over a year.  The Bills would not be scored against on the ground for the next 17 consecutive games—16 regular season and 1 postseason.

Game 1 – October 24, 1964, versus New York Jets. Bills win 34-24, allowing the Jets’ leading rusher, Bill Mathis just 34 yards on 12 carries.
Game 2 – November 1, 1964, versus Houston Oilers. Bills win 24-10. The Oilers leading rusher was Charley Tolar, who gained a paltry 32 yards on 13 carries. 

Game 3 – November 8, 1964, at New York Jets.  Bills win, 20-7. The defense is nearly impenetrable in holding Bill Mathis to 16 yards on 7 carries and Matt Snell to 15 yards on 6 carries!  The Jets as a team managed to gain 31 total rushing yards in this contest, the lowest amount given up during the streak.
Game 4 – November 15, 1964, versus Boston Patriots. Bills lose, 36-28, but no one could blame the defense!  Boston rusher were stymied at every turn, with Larry Garron pacing the Pats with 21 yards on 10 rushes.  Despite giving up 240 yards and five touchdowns through the air, the Bills picked off quarterback Babe Parilli 3 times. 

Game 5 – November 26, 1964, at San Diego Chargers.  Bills win 27-24. The Chargers’ top runner was Keith Lincoln with 34 yards on 8 carries.
Game 6 – December 6, 1964, at Oakland Raiders. Raiders win 16-13.  The Bills gave up 56 yards on 13 carries to Clem Daniels, but still did not allow a rusher to reach the end zone.

Game 7 – December 13, 1964, at Denver Broncos. Bills win 30-19. A total domination as the Bills allow Denver fullback a lousy 18 yards on 7 carries. 
Game 8 – December 20, 1964, at Boston Patriots.  Bills win24-14. Boston’s leading rusher was Larry Garron, who managed just 26 yards on 8 attempts.

Game 9 – December 26, 1964, AFL Title Game versus San Diego Chargers. Buffalo wins, 20-7. Bills hold the Chargers to 134 total rushing yards, undeniably attributable to Mike Stratton knocking San Diego's star fullback Keith Lincoln out in the first quarter with the tackle known to history as the “Hit Heard ‘Round the World.”
Mike Stratton takes out San Diego's Keith
Lincoln with the "Hit Heard 'Round the World."
AFL Title Game, War Memorial Stadium,
December 26, 1964.

Game 10 – September 11, 1965, season opener versus Boston Patriots. Buffalo wins 24-7. Boston’s top rusher this day was quarterback Babe Parilli, who managed 71 yards on 7 carries while running for his life.  Jim Nance, the Patriots’ main running threat, picked up just 17 yards on 9 carries! The Bills defense also picked off Parilli 5 times.

Game 11 – September 19, 1965, at Denver Broncos.  Bills win, 30-15.  The tough Buffalo defenders were on a mission, holding former Bills running back Cookie Gilchrist to just 26 yards on 12 carries.  The Broncos were held to a total of 69 yards rushing on the day.
Game 12 – September 26, 1965, versus New York Jets.  Bills win 33-21. The Bills held the Jets to 44 yards on the ground, with Matt Snell leading the Jets charge with 31.

Game 13 – October 3, 1965, versus Oakland Raiders.  Bills win, 17-12. Clem Daniels ekes out 55 yards on 16 carries, but it didn’t matter. In fact, the Raiders managed a meager 159 yards of total offense in this laugher.
Game 14 – October 10, 1965, at San Diego Chargers.  Chargers win 34-3. The Bills were crushed in the rematch of the previous year’s championship game, giving up 369 yards and 3 TDs via the pass.  But the ground defense held firm, a holding the Chargers rushing leaders, Paul Lowe, to just 37 yards on19 carries.

Game 15 – October 17, 1965, at Kansas City Chiefs.  Bills win 23-0. Mack Lee Hill gained just 36 yards on 8 carries while Curtis McClinton gained 28 yards on 10 lugs.
Game 16 – October 24, 1965, versus Denver Broncos.  Bills win 31-13. Cookie Gilchrist made his return to War Memorial Stadium and picked up 87 yards on 21 rushes, but he didn’t find the end zone!
Buffalo's defense extends its unbelievable string
to 16 games at War Memorial Stadium, versus
Denver Broncos, October 24, 1965.  Former Bill
Cookie Gilchrist (2) carries as Buffalo's John
Tracey (51), Hagood Clarke (45) and Ron
McDole (72) close in.
 
Game 17 – October 31, 1965, versus Houston Oilers.  Oilers win, 19-17.  The Oilers churned out 124 yards on the ground—the highest regular-season total the Bills allowed during the streak—but the goal line remained undisturbed. 


The streak came to an end against the Boston Patriots on November 7, 1965, when J.D. Garrett scored from I yard out. The Bills went 13-4 during that span, scored 398 points (23.4 per game) and allowed 285 (16.8 per game). The funny thing is that the team did even better in those two championship seasons in the 13 games before and after the streak. Combined, Buffalo recorded an 11-1-1 mark in the 13 non streak games, averaging 30.2 points per game and giving up just 14.6.
 
The run of 17 straight games without giving up a rushing touchdown is a record (going back to 1940) that still stands. The streak was threatened by the Chicago Bears great defense of 1986-87, but they only managed to get to 16 games.  Long live the Streak!