By T.J. Troup
Former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski is
now famous for saying the following: "Ultimately, the points come out of the passing game"
There have been games in NFL history where the yards gained passing were almost non-existent. There have been games where one
team, or one passer "bombed" the opposition through the air; while the other team could not.
This essay is about the 27 games before
the 1970 AFL-NFL merger where both teams had big success gaining yardage by passing. The criteria: both teams combined for at least 700 yards passing. After the merger, 700 yards by both teams is not uncommon.
You will notice that there are some teams from
this era not on the list, yet there are teams that have been involved more than once.
October 26th, 1947 (
Bears 56 Redskins20): This is not the last time Sid Luckman faced off against Sammy Baugh, but it is
the last time both rang
up impressive numbers against each other. Luckman completes 22 of 31 for 270 yards, while Baugh completes 17 of 26 for 220 yards. Both teams use other passers in the game as the total yards gained is 731 on 84 attempts.
October 31st, 1948 (
Redskins 59 Yanks 21): Though Tommy Mont throws for 55 yards for Washington, this is again one of those days where Slingin' Sammy Baugh is on the mark. He completes 17 of 24 for 446 yards. Roy Zimmerman of the Yanks gains 224 on
19 of 40. The teams combine for 725 passing yards on 74 attempts.
October 31st, 1948 (
Cardinals 27 Rams 22): Clark Shaughnessy has brought his innovative offense to Los Angeles, and on this day it is Jim Hardy instead of Bob Waterfield who fills the sky with completion after completion. Hardy gains 406 yards on 28 of 54 passing, while Paul Christman's fourth quarter exploits bring the Cardinals a victory under defending league champion coach Jimmy Conzelman. Pitchin
' Paul completes 16 of 32 for 299 yards. The teams combine for 705 yards on a record-setting 86 pass attempts.
December 11th, 1949 (
Bears 52 Cardinals 21): The Bears have caught fire the second half of the year and can win the western conference with a victory and a Ram loss. Johnny Lujack sets the league record for yards passing in a game with 468 as he completes 24 of 41. Jim Hardy is on the bench for the Cardinals now, and Paul Christman is at the helm. He completes 19 of 31 for 280 yards under the guidance of Buddy Parker. The teams set a new standard as they combine to gain 748 yards on 72 attempts.
December 11th, 1949 (
Rams 53 Redskins 27): Clark Shaughnessy must win to stave off the fast closing Bears in the Western Conference, and his tow field generals deliver as Norm Van Brocklin and Bob Waterfield combine for 405 yards on 20 completions, with 6 going for touchdowns. Harry Gilmer for Washington is absolutely pathetic, and is benched after a 1 of 8 performance, and in his last great game Slingin' Sam throws for over 300 yards (
almost all of it in the second half). Film study of this game is
just a feast for those who enjoy passing artistry. The teams combine for 725 yards on a record-setting 88 pass attempts.
December 13th, 1958 (
Steelers 38 Cardinals 21): Buddy Parker won championships in Detroit, and now in his second year in the Steel City acquired
Bobby Layne. On this late season Saturday
afternoon Layne show he still has the old magic in his fluttering spirals as he completes 23 of 49 for 409 yards. A Parker staple is the halfback option pass and Tom "the bomb" Tracy gains 72 for a touchdown on his only completion. Pop Ivy has his Cardinals in the double wing, and today they throw in an attempt to keep pace with the Black & Gold. M.C. Reynolds is the triggerman
today as he gains 235 passing. The teams combine for 733 yards on a record setting 94 pass attempts. This is the only game in the decade on our list.
September 24th, 1960 (
Steelers 35 Cowboys 28): The very first game in Cowboy history and they join this impressive group. Eddie LeBaron gains 345 passing on his 15 completions, while Pittsburgh with Layne doing most of the passing gains 358 on 17 completions. The teams combine for 703 yards on just 56 attempts.
October 13th, 1961 (
Houston 31 Boston 31): Lou Rymkus must win to save his job, and Jacky Lee is dead on target for the Oilers as he completes 27 of 41 for 457 yards. The contending Patriot duo of Parilli & Songin gain 274 in the tie game. The teams combine for 731 yards on 65 attempts.
October 29th, 1961 (
Houston 28 Buffalo 16): M.C. Reynolds is back on our list, but this time as a member of the Bills. He combines with Warren Rabb for 274 yards. Wally Lemm has taken the reins in the Lone Star state and with Blanda back in the saddle throwing deep for 464 yards on just 18 completions the Oilers stay in contention. The teams combine for 738 yards on 83 pass attempts.
October 29th, 1961 (
Eagles 27 Redskins 24): Washington was winless
under new coach Bill McPeak. His rookie quarterback Norm Snead gains 296 yards in the air. Nick Skorich in his maiden voyage for the defending league champions has red hot Sonny Jurgensen filling
the air with spirals as he gains 436 yards including
the winning score on a crossing route to McDonald against "nickel" coverage. The teams combine for 732 yards on 72 pass attempts.
November 19th, 1961 (
Houston 49 Titans 13): The Titans under the tutelage of Sammy Baugh have Al Dorow at the controls today. New York gains 278 yards, but Slingin' Sam watches Blanda
again have a masterful performance as he throws for 7 scores. George gains 427 yards on 38 attempts. The teams combine for 705 yards on 85 attempts. The Houston Oilers are the only team to be part of a 700 yard game three times in a single season as they are on their way to defending their title.
October 28th, 1962 (Giants
49 Washington 34): Norm Snead again has an impressive day for the 'Skins as he gains 346 yards on his 17 completions, but he again has to watch an all-time great scorch the Washington secondary. Y.A. Tittle ties the record for touchdowns in a game with 7 as he gains 505 yards on his 27 completions for the first place Giants. The teams combine for a record setting 851 yards on 79 attempts; with 11 going for scores.
December 8th, 1962 (
Colts 34 Washington 21): Weeb Ewbank's Baltimore Colts have struggled all year, but today Johnny Hightops demonstrates that he too can give young Norm Snead a lesson in passing. The Redskin youngster gains 350 on his 18 completions, but Unitas out duels him as he completes 25 of 36 for 367 yards. The teams combine for 717 yards on 69 attempts.
December 16th, 1962 (
Cardinals 45 Eagles 35): One of the most entertaining games of the decade has Sonny Jurgensen gaining
an impressive 419 yards on just 15 completions. Philadelphia just cannot hold off the Redbirds though as
young Charley Johnson gains 386 on his 17 completions. Johnson gets help from one of the best halfback option passers of his era as John David Crow completes 2 for 29 yards. The teams combine for 834 yards on 69 pass attempts.
September 15th, 1963 (
Raiders 35 Buffalo 17): Lou Saban believes he has a contender as Jack Kemp with help from Daryle Lamonica
and Gilchrist gain 355 yards passing. Al Davis has revitalized the Raiders, and open the season with the combined efforts of Tom Flores & Cotton Davidson puncturing the Bills secondary for 397 yards. The teams combine for 752 yards on 83 attempts.
November 10th, 1963 (
San Francisco 31 Cowboys 24): Tom Landry's pass defense allow
248 yards passing in the loss. Dandy Don Meredith is an impressive 30 of 48 for 460 yards in defeat. Jack Christiansen never saw days like this as an all-pro safety, yet he will gladly take this second victory in the disastrous season. The teams combine for 708 yards on 73 attempts.
December 1st, 1963 (
Colts 36 Washington
20): Again Unitas outduels
Snead. Norm gains 332 on 18 completions, while Johnny under new coach Don Shula completes 25 for 374 yards. The teams combine for 706 yards on 74 attempts.
December 15th, 1963 (
Raiders 52 Houston 49): Pop Ivy has experienced this before. Now as
head coach of the defending eastern conference champion Oilers he knows the feeling of watching an Al Davis pass offense beat his team. Tom Flores completes 17 of 29 for a whopping 407 yards and 6 touchdowns. George Blanda relishes a shoot-out and he gains 342 on 20 completions with 5 going for scores. The teams combine for 749 yards on just 61 attempts, with 11 scores.
October 16th, 1964 (
Raiders 43 Boston 43): The defending eastern conference champion Patriots have a red hot Babe Parilli at the helm. He gains 422 yards on his 25 completions, but it is not enough as the Raiders, with Cotton Davidson under center, match
Boston point for point. Davidson gains 337 yards on his 16 completions under the Friday night lights of Fenway Park. The teams combine for 759 yards on 81 pass attempts.
November 1st, 1964 (
Chiefs 49 Denver 39): Earlier in the year Kansas City lost for the first time ever to the Broncos, but not today as Len Dawson ignites the Chief
attack. He completes 25 for 435 yards and 6 scores. The Denver passers gain 307 on 16 completions. The teams combine for 742 yards on 71 attempts.
November 29th, 1964 (
Boston 34 Houston 17): Sammy Baugh is now the coach in Houston, and Blanda gains 379 on 27 completions for the Oilers. Mike Holovak's Patriots must keep winning
to stay in t
he race with Buffalo as Parilli gains 336 on his 20 completions. The teams combine for 715 yards on 84 attempts.
November 13th, 1966 (
Cowboys 31 Washington 30): Tom Landry and Otto Graham faced each other as players in the '50's when the rivalry between Cleveland and New York was one of the best in the league. Now the future Hall of Famers face
off as coaches in a rivalry that can only become more heated with games like today. Jurgensen stokes the flames of a red hot Redskin passing game as he gains 347 yards on 26 completions. Don Meredith comes out on top as he gains 406 on 21 completions. The teams combine for 753 yards on 76 attempts.
December 17th, 1967 (
Raiders 38 NYJ 29): The Jets are the only team to have beaten the Raiders during the year, but have never won in Oakland. Record setting quarterback Joe Namath is trying to win a division title. Broadway Joe gains 370 yards on 27 completions. The Raiders usually win these shoot-outs
, and do so again today as Lamonica peppers the Jet secondary for 336 yards on 16 completions. The teams combine for 706 yards on 78 attempts.
October 20th, 1968 (
San Diego 55 Denver 24): Lou Saban is now the coach of the Broncos, and during the game puts in rookie Marlin Briscoe. The Denver passers gain 313 yards on 23 completions. Sid Gillman finally joins our list as John Hadl gains 387 yards on just 13 completions. The teams combine for 708 yards on 68 attempts.
November 3rd, 1968 (
Raiders 38 Chiefs 21): Kansas City employed a full house t-formation in beating Oakland earlier in the year with a punishing ground attack, but the teams "aired it out" today as Dawson gained 263 on 15 completions. The duo of Lamonica & Blanda pierced the Chief secondary for 481 yards on 29 completions. The teams combined for 744 yards on 77 attempts.
September 28th, 1969 (
Minnesota 52 Colts 14): Unitas & Morrall gain just 195 yards on 42 attempts for Baltimore. The Norsemen gain 538 yards passing on 36 completions as Joe Kapp ties the league record with 7 touchdown passes. The teams combine for 733 yards on a record setting 98 pass attempts.
|Joe Kapp. Spokeo.|
November 2nd, 1969 (
New Orleans 51 Cardinals 42): Tom Fears was
part of our 700 club as a receiver in the Rams conference clinching victory in 1949, and now he joins as a head coach. Billy Kilmer gains 345 yards on his wobblers
with 6 going for scores. Charley Johnson won one of these shoot-outs
in '62, but comes out on the short end today. Charley kept his team in the game aw
he gained 374 yards on his 20 completions, and he also threw for 6 touchdowns. The teams combined for 719 yards on 71 attempts.
As this saga comes to a close, let's add up the points in these games. There was a total of 1,842 points scored in these 27 games what would work out to be a 35-34 shoot-out per game. Points come out of the passing game.
Good stuff, Coach! Interesting how many shootouts young Norman Snead was involved in while he was still in Washington.