Tuesday, December 29, 2020

TUESDAY TIDBITS: The Final Sunday, and Has "Real" Meaning

  By TJ Troup 

Azeez Al-Shaair

Here we are, and as the above title states this upcoming Sunday has real meaning as to who goes to the playoffs, and who thinks about "coulda, woulda, shoulda". Going to begin with San Francisco linebacker #51 Azeez Al-Shaair who last Saturday in the impressive win over the Cardinals made one of the best "hits" seen in years. Check it out if you can-----my boy Dickie would be proud since Azeez wears his jersey number. Have directed a lot of criticism on the Lions this year, and last weekend was not a high point in their team history. 

Have great respect for Chris Spielman, yet some pundits have stated he should not be involved in the hiring.....could not disagree more. Next topic you ask? How about the standings in the AFC and who stays home? 

Five teams with a record of 10-5, and we all can read and listen about % chances to go to the play-offs, yet how about Herman Edwards terrific quote "You play to win the game", so AFC teams you want to advance how about the simplistic approach— you know outscore your opponent and win the game. Vrabel is aware his boys can go from #4 seed to out of the playoffs by losing, and other teams winning. 

What is a game of the week in the AFC? Miami vs. Buffalo? Pittsburgh vs. Cleveland? Would relish you, folks, letting me know YOUR opinions! At one point in 1979, the Bears were 3-5, but got hot and won seven of the last eight to earn a wildcard berth. 

The moon, stars, and the victory point total over the Cardinals all factored into the equation, and Dallas had to beat Washington, yet did happen. So, is the Bears vs. Packers NFC game of the week? Let me know, or is it the Rams vs. Cardinals(more on those two teams later in this saga).

Not sure of the true definition of analytics, but have my tried and true method of evaluating teams on defense. The 2020 Rams can lead the league in fewest yards allowed, fewest points allowed, and a big pass rush day against the Cardinals they could possibly catch the Steelers for most sacks, and they are second in the defensive passer rating. 

All very impressive, still need that win at home against the Cardinals to earn a playoff berth. The Chicago Cardinals won back to back division titles in 1947 & 48, but Clark Shaughnessy and his sparkling new offensive dynamics coupled with a much-improved defense roared out of the gate to a 6-0 start in '49 (twelve game season). Los Angeles stumbled on the road, came home to beat the NY Bulldogs, and then faced the Cardinals in a thrilling game that they lost 31-27. 

While the win improved the Cardinals record to 6-4-1; the Rams at 7-2-2 would finish ahead of them no matter what happened the final week of the season. Our trip down historical memory lane today returns us to December 27th, 1975. You want background on the '75 Rams? Boy oh boy, that can sure be provided. Lost opening day then proceeded to win 12 of 13, and the loss was by just a point(they lost to San Francisco, somethings just don't change). 

Was able to see them play in person that year(victory over Colts), and many times on tv. For the second year in a row Don Coryell brought home the NFC East title. His reward was a trip back to California to take on the Rams before more than 72,000 in the Coliseum. Game was blacked out, so snacks on the table and the radio blaring away listened. 

The game is detailed in my book This Day in Football on page 161. Lawrence of Los Angeles—McCutcheon to you folks pounded away for 202 yards rushing, and the Ram defense led by Mr. Jack Youngblood made big plays to win 35-23. 

Jack Youngblood with an interception

Enjoy the games this Sunday....should be a dandy day of football for those of us who love this game of passion.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Packerland's Finest: Aaron Rodgers to Davante Adams

 By Eric Goska

(screenshot from NFL Game Pass)

If two of the greatest talents in the game make history and no one documents it at the time it occurs, does that diminish the accomplishment?

Not hardly.

Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams added yet another impressive entry to their considerable resumes as the Packers toppled the Tennessee Titans 40-14 in prime time. That the two are not finished means they will continue to put distance between themselves and those who came before.

Lambeau Field resembled a snow globe Sunday night as Green Bay improved to 12-3. Fluffy white flakes tend to bring out the best in the team that calls the Frozen Tundra home.

Certainly Adams and Rodgers operated at a high level. The two combined 11 times for 142 yards and three touchdowns.

The duo clicked for the game’s first points with just over five minutes elapsed in the first quarter. Adams gathered in a throw from Rodgers behind the line of scrimmage and, when tripped up by cornerback Adoree’ Jackson at the Tennessee 4, launched himself across the goal line.

The two struck paydirt again early in the second and third quarters. The third tally loomed large as it shifted momentum back to Green Bay which went up 26-14.

The trio of scoring plays was replayed and celebrated. The history-making connection between these two passed with no mention of its significance.

The overlooked moment came on the final play of the first half. Aside from it factoring into the career pitch count between Rodgers and Adams, the play could scarcely have been more nondescript.

On first-and-10 from the Green Bay 35, Rodgers dropped back and fired a quick out to Adams. Cornerback Malcolm Butler tackled the receiver in the playing field after a 6-yard gain, and the clock ran out.

The catch was the 487th in the regular season between Rodgers and Adams. With it, the two became the No. 1 quarterback-receiving duo in team annals surpassing the combo of Brett Favre and Donald Driver.

For the record, Adams and Rodgers have now collaborated 492 times for 5,960 yards and 56 touchdowns. Favre and Driver teamed up 486 times for 6,774 yards and 36 scores.

Rodgers and Adams have played in 92 games together. Driver and Favre played in 129.

“We all know that Aaron Rodgers is playing chess, not checkers, right?” game analyst Cris Collinsworth asked rhetorically after Adams snagged his final catch of the night, a 32-yarder on third down that set up Green Bay’s last touchdown. “And you need a mate to do that with. You need somebody that has your level of understanding of the game of football, and we know how smart a football player that Davante Adams is. And the combination of those two together has really turned into something special.”

That’s special with a Superman-like S.

Formed six years ago, the Adams-Rodgers partnership has been nearly unstoppable these past three seasons. After producing 190 catches and 21 TDs from 2014 through 2017, the alliance has accounted for 302 receptions and 35 scores since 2018.

That three-season run ranks among the best in team history. Favre and Sterling Sharpe churned out 300 receptions and 41 TDs from 1992-94.

Rodgers and Adams have removed the novelty that used to accompany double-digit collaborations. They have teamed up 10 or more times in a game on 13 occasions, and that includes five times this season alone.

Packers duos of the past never attained such heights. Favre and Driver hit double digits six times. Favre and Sharpe clocked in with five.

This season, Adams and Rodgers have hooked up 109 times for 1,328 yards and 17 TDs. Impressive numbers, yes, and close to the best in team history.

For now, Favre and Sharpe hold the top spot for receptions (112 in 1993) and touchdowns (18 in 1994), but both marks could fall when Green Bay visits Soldier Field. Less likely to tumble is the 1,519 yards Rodgers and Jordy Nelson combined for in 2014.

Rodgers and Adams can go after another Rodgers-Nelson record, however. They need three more first downs to eclipse the 71 manufactured by Aaron and Jordy six years ago.

That Rodgers and Adams have excelled to this extent this season becomes more remarkable when considering Adams missed two games with an ankle injury. No. 17 did not play in wins over the Saints and Falcons.

And it is injuries, maybe more so than any defense, that have held back this dynamic duo. Rodgers missed nine games in 2017 with a broken collarbone. Adams has only twice (2014, 2016) played all 16 games in a season.

How much longer these two can continue to create magic remains to be seen. Adams turned 28 on Christmas Eve. Rodgers celebrated birthday No. 37 on Dec. 2.

Whatever sand remains in the hourglass, enjoy. Enjoy these two gifted athletes – Rodgers and Adams – so in synch as to be operating almost as one.

Pitchers and Catchers

Green Bay QB-receiver duos that clicked 300 or more times in the regular season.

Tandem                                     No.        Yards        Avg.        LG      TD      G

Rodgers to Davante Adams        492         5,960       12.11      t66      56       92

Favre to Donald Driver                486         6,774       13.94      t85      36      129

Rodgers to Jordy Nelson             469         6,919       14.75      t93      65      119

Rodgers to Randall Cobb             429         5,092       11.87      t75      39       96

Favre to Antonio Freeman          426         6,589       15.47      t84      57      116

Favre to Ahman Green                340         2,654        7.81        48       14       96

Starr to Boyd Dowler                   336         5,151       15.33      t91      28      145

Dickey to James Lofton               325         6,337       19.50      t80      32       86

Rodgers to Greg Jennings           324         4,980       15.37      t86      38       72

Favre to William Henderson      305         2,309        7.57       t38      13      188

Favre to Sterling Sharpe             300         3,696       12.32      t76      41       47

Friday, December 25, 2020

Alvin Kamara Ties Ernie Nevers' 91-year Old Record with Six Rushing Touchdowns in a Single Game

By John Turney

Alvin Kamara

About an hour ago we replied to New Orleans-based writer Jeff Duncan, upon Karara scoring his fourth touchdown, that if he were in the building he should let the sideline know that Kamara was in a position to tie Ernie Nevers' 1929 record (set November 28, 1929) who was playing with the Chicago Cardinals at the time.
Ernie Nevers
Of course, he was also in reach of six total touchdowns achieved by Dub Jones (November 25, 1951) and Gale Sayers (December 12, 1965) who scored their six in a mix of rushing, receiving, and returns. 
Gale Sayers
Only Nevers scored all six on the ground. 

We also noted the career marks Kamara was setting along the way. 

We even mentioned that if Kamara could get a couple of 2-point conversions he could tie the NFL record (held by Nevers) of 40 points in a game. 

Then, with the Saints with a third and one (after Kamara had scored his fifth on the ground) watched Sean Payton pull Kamara, call a timeout, and put Taysom Hill in the game. Stunning.

Fortunately, the Saints got the ball, Drew Brees hit a long pass and Kamara got a second shot, which he converted—Thankfully.

Payton is still kind of a goat because there was a shot Kamara could have set the record outright with seven, but that, of course, is conjecture. So Payton kind of weaseled out of it with the long Brees pass and getting the ball in close range the two-minute warning.

Dub Jones

So, Alvin, welcome to the Ernie, Dub, and Gale six-TD club. Just the four of you with six touchdowns in the game. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Ball Hogs—NFL Quarterbacks Running for More TDs Since the Common Draft

 By John Turney
Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, Cam Newton, all are weapons in the run game, some of them especially are good in goal line situations. 

So far this season quarterbacks have score about a quarter of all rushing touchdowns, the most since the merger, and we suspect the most since the days when the single-wing tailbacks were the passers and the key runners, though we didn't go that far back.

Here is the chart with 1967-70, 1972, 1975, 1980, 1990, 1995, then 2000-2020.
We included 1972 because we knew that there would be a spike that year due to Greg Landry and Bobby Douglass's years we remember off the top of our head. From 1967-69 Roman Gabriel was THE Rams short-yardage and goal line game scoring 15 on the ground, the most of any quarterback in the pro leagues.  

As can be seen, there was a jump in 2011 with the arrival to the NFL of Cam Newton and it has trended up, in general since then, with a dip in 2014.
Josh Allen has 25 the last three seasons, Cam Newton has 69 in his ten seasons in the league, Lamar Jackson has 19 in the last three years. Kyler Murray is not a power guy, but his quickness makes him a scoring threat from any distance. 

Certainly, quarterbacks being multi-dimensional is not new, but it seems to have hit critical mass this year. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

TUESDAY TIDBITS: Finishing Strong

  By TJ Troup

Two weeks left, and so many scenarios concerning playoff berths, and seeding. After the games beginning on Christmas day through next Monday night, just might be able to have a genuine learned opinion on who makes it, and who goes home.  

Before going any further want to address comments from two men that have responded many times to what is in my column...Jim Holtgym & Brian Wolf. Jimmy Orr bounced around from one southern college to another, and being taken late in the draft by the Rams tells you that he just might not be talented or motivated enough to stay in the NFL.

 Imagine for a moment if the Rams receiving corps was Orr, Shofner, Dale, and Phillips! Wade just might have given Johnny Hightops a run for his money as the most productive passer in the league. Though could make the entire column on Orr, and his long career; he was without a doubt a man who gave corners in the league all they could handle. 

He even got a chapter in the Punt, Pass, and Kick Library in Dave Anderson's book Great Receivers of the NFL. Jim, you are most welcome to come to my home in Louisville and watch film. Brian Wolf you mentioned that Orr and Hugh Taylor are two of the most underrated of all-time. While very different size-wise, they both had the ability to get open deep, adjust to the ball in flight, and make the catch. Baugh stated on more than once that Taylor was by far the best he threw to. Brian you also are cordially invited to Louisville to watch film. 

Many teams have begun a season looking like they would be around for the play-offs and fell apart, and then there are the teams that start slow, and come on strong and earn a playoff berth. For today gonna mention two in the later category. 

The Chargers had gone 22-42 the four years previous to the arrival of Bobby Ross. Opening day in '92 and am at the "Murph" to watch a very strong Chiefs team take on the Chargers. The 24-10 Kansas City victory does not tell you how hard fought and close the game was. The Chiefs scored on a punt return by Carter, and a coast-to-coast interception return by Kevin Ross. 

San Diego lost the next three weeks to teams with a combined seasonal record of 29-19. No doubt Charger fans thought that Bobby Ross was in over his head. San Diego was the most improved team in the league by the end of the year and beat the Chiefs in the wild-card round. Bobby Ross and myself communicated for years...the man could just flat coach his style of football. Of all the teams that have ever been given no chance of earning a playoff berth at mid-season the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals still must rank at the top. One note, the Chargers won yesterday. 

Two losing years and a roster that has men who just might not be NFL caliber players...and they are last place with a 1-6 record. The Oilers earned a playoff berth in 1969, the Browns played for the NFL title, and the Steelers are vastly improved. The Bengals proceed to win six straight and have positioned themselves to win the division if they can beat the pathetic Boston Patriots. 

The Bengals have only two men chosen for the Pro Bowl; Bob Trumpy who had his moments when not injured in '70, yet not near the season he had in 1969, and "Leapin' Lamar Parrish" a rookie left corner who made big play after big play all season. This team was the true definition of maximizing what talent they had. Paul Brown still knew how to coach, and on his staff was some guy named Walsh? Joe Kapp is about to play his last game in the NFL and his first pass is pilfered by Ken Riley. 

The Bengals drive 55 yards as Paul Robinson scores. Bengals 7 Patriots 0. Boston punts and accurate yet limited Virgil Carter throws a strike to lanky Chip Myers for 56 yards and a touchdown. During the '69 campaign, Cincinnati had multiple 100-yard receiving games.....NONE in '70. 

Again, Boston punts. Sam Wyche has come in to play quarterback for the Bengals and leads his team 65 yards to the promised land. Wyche tossed a screen pass to Robinson who dashed 23 yards to pay dirt. Cincinnati 21 Boston 0. The Patriots punt yet again, and Wyched mixing his plays well takes his team sixty yards to score. Sam did the honors himself of a short sweep. Bengals 28 Patriots 0. 

We are half-way through the second quarter and the Bengals sure looked poised to win the division, but wait...there keep scoring? Kapp throws another interception to "Rattler" Riley, and Horst Muhlmann splits the uprights Cincinnati 31 Boston 0. Taliaferro cannot move the woebegone Patriots, and Janik punts only to have back-up running back Doug Dressler block the punt setting up Robinson's third first half touchdown. Bengals 38 Patriots 0. 

Boston gained just 24 yards in total offense in the first half, and set a new standard for inept passing...how inept you ask? How about 0 for 10, and one sack for MINUS -10 passing. The Bengals move the chains offense gained 304 total yards. 

The second half the Bengals drive 74 yards with Wyche passing to Thomas for the score. Bengals 45 Patriots 0, with almost an entire half to go. Sam Wyche gained the most yards ever in his short career rushing with 63, had a 110.4 passer rating, and threw the last two touchdown passes of his career. Bengal fans voted Bill Bergey the team MVP, and big Bill had a strong game with nine tackles, and with rookie lightning-quick d-tackle Mike Reid again giving a standout performance the shut-out was earned. The season ended in the first round of the play-offs as the future champion Colts beat them 17-0, yet the 1970 Bengals on December 20th, 1970 took their place in history. 

Already John Turney has listed some of the statements from former players concerning Kevin Greene. Was honored to see him play in person as both a Ram and Steeler and of course many times on television. Going to Ram camp every year you get a real sense of what some of these men are all about. Greene was one "wild man" on the practice field, and also one helluva quality individual.  

RIP Kevin. 

Tributes from Players and Coaches Roll in for Kevin Greene via Twitter

By John Turney

 Kevin Greene was truly beloved. Here is a sampling of the Tweets from NFL players and coaches (and a wrestler) we've found on Twitter so far—