Friday, April 3, 2015

Best Teams Over a 52-game Span. Part Two

by T.J. Troup

This is the second of a three part series on the best teams over a 52-game span to not win a play-off game.
Johnny Unitas. Credit: Topps
October 4th, 1964, through December 10th, 1967, the Don Shula-led Baltimore Colts won 40 games, lost just 9, and tied 3 games. Defensively, this group of gang tacklers allowed just 97 yards a game rushing in the 40 victories, while allowing 152 a game rushing in the 12 games they did not win.

Though none of the linebackers on this team earned a Pro Bowl berth, Hall of famer Gino Marchetti (his 10th and final), Ordelle Braase, and Fred Miller each earned trips to Los Angeles. When Rick Volk was selected as a rookie in 1967 he became the fourth member of the secondary to earn post season honors, as Lenny Lyles, Jerry Logan, and Bobby Boyd (30 interceptions) had been chosen previously.

Though the Colts did play some man coverage, since they would blitz regularly, they were one of the best zone teams in the league. Their defensive passer rating for the 40 wins was 56.9 as opponent passers just could not solve the rotating coverages devised by Shula, defensive coaches Bill Arnsparger, and Chuck Noll. In the 12 games Baltimore did not win, they were riddled as the pass efficiency rose to 85.2!

The main ingredient though in the land of crab cakes was the man in the hightop black cleats, one Mr. John Unitas. Though he, no doubt, received game plans from Shula; he orchestrated a balanced offense, though none of the runners stood out production-wise. Baltimore averaged 128 yards a game rushing in the 40 victories, and just 97 yards a game in the 12 losses. However, Johnny Hightops would probe, and set-up defenses for the big throw down the field, and the stats bear this out. Colt passers were an efficient 96.6 in victory.The yards per pass was an outstanding 8.87, with just 38 interceptions thrown in the 40 wins, while Colt receivers found the end zone 81 times.
Gino Marchetti. Credit: Topps
Willie Richardson, Jimmy Orr, John Mackey, and Raymond Berry all earned Pro Bowl berths during this time period. On the days when the Baltimore passing game was not efficient (48.4) they could not taste the fruits of victory. A strong offensive line included left tackle Bob Vogel, and in honor of his birthday today guard Jim Parker. They both played in the Pro Bowl and earned All-Pro recognition.

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