Saddle up, since am gonna start by getting on my soapbox. Not sure what the letters ESPN stand for, but have a new name for them, and yes folks that is the title for my column today. Sunday Diggs of Dallas recorded his 10th interception, and online at ESPN stated "Diggs gets his tenth interception of the season and becomes the first Cowboy since 1969 to have double-digit interceptions in a season since 1969.
This of course is in reference to right safety and future Hall of Famer Mel Renfro who led the league with 10 (he played in 12 games that season). Perplexed? Angry? What the hell? Do the damn research, take a few minutes and look up Dallas Cowboy history as rookie Everson Walls pilfered 11 in 1981, and recorded his 10th in the tenth game of the season against Buffalo.
T.J. Watt is on helluva player, and has demonstrated many times he is a force for the black & gold, and can make the big play when Pittsburgh needs it most. ESPN stated he set the Steeler season sack record with 17. Eugene Lipscomb took down passers 17½ times in 1961...how do I know this? Mr. John Turney and Mr. Nick Webster did the research, and now Pro Football Reference lists his sack totals.
Have one of the research staff at ESPN take a snap from center, and tell the Big Daddy he does not have the record and watch what happens to that staff member. Running for his life? Crying? Geez! Then this morning at the Eternally Stupid Putrid Network Kevin Seifert states that both John Fox and Matt Nagy led the Bears to a playoff berth. Huh? Check the season records...how long is this going to go on? Ok, am getting off my soapbox.
The American Football Conference has five teams with an 8-6 record, and this coming Sunday the Ravens visit the Bengals, and as such the result should add some clarity to the standings. Buffalo travels to Foxboro and the result of this game should also add clarity to the standings.
The National Football Conference does not have the log jam that the AFC does, and the Rams take to a trip to the land of 1000 lakes on Sunday, and boy oh boy for us old-timers Los Angeles at Minnesota was almost always must see viewing...you need an example?
Check the playoff games from 1969 through 1976, and the date of those games. Next week will re-visit those games. Years ago writer Bill Dow contacted Gail Cogdill for me and set up a phone conversation for the talented wide receiver and myself. Have been able to have some insightful, and fun talks over the years with former players, and the one hour with Cogdill remains in my top five.
Questions asked, Cogdill answers with some comedic stories, yet his answers also explained how the game was played in his era. Cogdill starts for Van Brocklin in Atlanta, and his Dutchman stories were just fantastic. A key to playing for Van Brocklin was simple; do not make mental errors.
The Falcons drafted a receiver out of San Diego State in '71, and though he did not have a long career Ken Burrow played his ass off for the Dutchman and the Falcons. Though the Dutchman was an accurate passer who could shred a defense, as a coach he really believed in the running game, and by 1971 the Falcons are actually a decent team that plays physical football.
October 3rd against the Lions Burrow snags six passes for 190 yards, and then on the last day of the year on December 19th against the Saints Burrow grabbed eight passes for 190 yards! How many rookie receivers in history have ever had two games of at least 190 yards receiving? He is the only man to accomplish this feat. Billy Howton in '52 had games of 200 & 162. Harlon Hill in '54 had games of 144 & 214. Bill Groman in 1960 had games of 182 & 171.
Finally, Jimmy Orr in 1958 had games of 205 & 162. As impressive as those games were by the four men listed above, Ken Burrow stands alone. Watching film of Burrow is a real treat. Had excellent speed, yet more important is the fact that he exploded out of his sharp cuts. Burrow had reliable hands, and had the hunger you want in a receiver...Kenny thought he could get to and catch every pass. NFL Films game of the week in 1965 was called "NFL Play by Play Report", and the final regular-season game the Sabol's film crew did takes us to Kezar Stadium. Ready for some background?
Here goes...the 49ers beat Green Bay the first five times they played at Kezar and outscored the Pack 168 to 61. The next ten times they played at Kezar each team won five as the Niners scored 352 points, and the Packers 362 points. The last six of those ten games Green Bay was coached by Vince Lombardi along with his most able assistant, and former 49er line coach Phil Bengston. Green Bay had won four of the six coached by Lombardi, yet this one would determine the Western Conference champion. After six weeks in '65 the Packers were 6-0, while the Colts were 5-1.
A log jam of four teams were tied for third at 3-3. One of those four teams is the suddenly red hot Chicago Bears. Over the next seven weeks, the Packers are 4-3, while the Colts were 4-2-1, but Chicago goes 6-1 and has beaten both Green Bay and Baltimore. The Bears are 9-4 and need both of their rivals to lose and beat the Vikings at Wrigley. The Colts with Matte at quarterback beat the Rams in the Coliseum on a Saturday afternoon to finish 10-3-1 and eliminate the Bears.
Over and over in the broadcast, Jim Gibbons states that a Packer victory gives them the division crown, and a loss would place them second for the third consecutive season...Lombardi in second, and headed back to Miami for the "Hinky Dink" bowl? Can watch this film over and over again; there is so much to savor, and evaluate.
Where to begin? Neither team scores in the first quarter, and that alone is interesting since the 49ers are a powerhouse scoring machine in '65.
Late in the first quarter the Niners began a drive from their own thirteen, and after nine plays it is 4th and eleven on the Packer fourteen. Tommy Davis drills a 21-yard field goal as San Francisco draws first blood. The key play on the drive was Brodie connecting with Dave Parks for 38 yards. Green Bay responds and three plays into the drive are camped on the Niner forty-three. Starr drills Dowler for 43 yards and a touchdown. Later in the second quarter on second and four on the Packer fourteen Brodie pitches out to John David Crow.
Though a complete back Crow over the course of his career can lose the handle on the ball, and does so again. All-Pro right safety Willie Wood is johnny on the spot and grabs the ball on the bounce and dashes the length of the field to score...and 86 yard fumble return for a touchdown! Wait? The officials are huddling, are they discussing which strip club to attend after the game? What pizza to order? Oh, you cannot advance a lateral....and the pitchout from Brodie to Crow is determined to be a lateral. Watching St. Vince march onto the field and berate the Referee is classic.
This is not a chemistry lab seminar, but the score remains 7-3 Packers at the half. Middle of the 3rd quarter and Brodie throws towards the right sideline, but Herb Adderley for the record-setting third time in the season pilfers the pass, and dashes 13 yards to paydirt. Green Bay 14 San Francisco 3. Late in the third quarter Brodie finds Crow open and John David scores on a 32-yard pitch from the 49er passer. John Brodie having the best year of his career so far completed six of seven on the drive for 77 yards! Green Bay goes three and out, and Brodie has the ball again with 1:45 left in the quarter, and again systemically maneuvers his boys from the bay area down the field mixing run and pass.
The ninth play of the drive has San Francisco camped on the Packer twelve-yard line, and Brodie finds Dave Parks open again, and rifles the ball to the determined receiver. Parks has now caught 7 passes for 125 yards in the game. He has aligned split, tight, flanked, and beat both zone and man coverage. No, he is not the first player to gain over 100 receiving against Green Bay in '65.
Four other men have gained over 100; Sayers, Barr, Flatley, and Berry...and all four times the Packers prevailed on the scoreboard. Starr brings the Pack right back down the field after a sparkling 33-yard kick-off return by Adderley. The key play is Bart finding backup receiver Bob Long open and gaining 34 yards to put the ball on the Niner seventeen. Jim Taylor powers off tackle to the left for five yards and now Green Bay leads 21-17. Third down and six on their own twenty-four and Brodie is intercepted by Willie Wood.
This is the only game in their careers together that Wood and Adderley both intercept and recover a fumble in the same game. Don Chandler pumps through a 31-yard field goal with 2 minutes remaining as the green & gold increase their lead to 24-17. The facemask penalty on Green Bay coupled with Kermit Alexander's 25-yard kick-off return has the Niners on their own forty-five. Brodie completes to Parks for 13 and calls time out with 1:38 remaining. Brodie continues his red hot passing with two more completions, and it is now 1st and ten at the Packer twenty-seven.
Brodie is right on the money on a post pattern to back-up receiver Vern Burke for 27 yards. Burke is playing in just his third game, and this is his second catch of the season, and his first touchdown! We are tied at 24, and the question is simple—can Starr again take his boys down the field. After one first down, Starr misfires on three straight, and Chandler punts.
Kermit Alexander began the game at right safety, moved to right corner to replace the "torched" Jerry Mertens, and has had the best game of his career returning punts. Green Bay allowed 290 yards in punt returns all year, and on this day Kermit gains 82 yards on six returns. Alexander fields Chandler's punt on his own sixteen, and darts, dashes, cuts, and twists his way...and eventually gets to the Green Bay forty-six with seven precious James Bond seconds left. Brodie again throws deep to Burke, but is incomplete.
The only time Green Bay and San Francisco tie at Kezar results in a tie for the Western Division crown, and of course the next week will be the dramatic play-off game between Shula and St. Vince at Lambeau.