Sunday, September 24, 2023

Green Bay: A Fourth to be Reckoned With

 By Eric Goska

(photos by Eric Goska)

Better late than never.

Sunday at Lambeau Field, the Packers waited until the fourth quarter to score. Then, in those final 15 minutes, the Green and Gold awakened, rallying past the Saints 18-17 to win their 11th straight home opener while matching the greatest fourth-quarter comeback in franchise history.

Such dramatics would not have been necessary had Green Bay’s offense shown up for 60 minutes. But down four starters – WR Christian Watson (hamstring), RB Aaron Jones (hamstring), T David Bakhtiari (knee) and G Elgton Jenkins (knee) – the Packers managed to do little beyond the 50-yard line in the opening three quarters.

Four of Green Bay’s first eight possessions ended with punts. The other four were derailed by failed fourth-down attempts (two), the end of the first half and quarterback Jordan Love’s first interception of the season.

The Packers moved the ball during those eight advances: 204 yards in 46 plays (4.4 average). But in 15 pokes in New Orleans territory, the team produced just 22 yards and one first down.

Furthermore, not until running back Patrick Taylor gained four yards rushing on the second-to-last play of the third period did Green Bay pierce the Saints’ red zone. And that drive ended two plays later when Love threw incomplete for Taylor on fourth down with the Pack in arrears 17-0.

A week ago in Atlanta, Love and Co. went nowhere in the fourth quarter. At home in front of a partisan crowd, the first-year starter and his mates hit their stride.

Not counting Love’s three kneel-downs to end the game, Green Bay gained 139 yards on 23 plays (6.0 average). The team picked up 78 yards on 17 snaps from beyond the 50.

Love, who was 0-for-6 in the final 15 minutes against the Falcons, hit on 7 of 17 throws for 104 yards and a touchdown against the Saints. His 8-yard scoring strike to Romeo Doubs put Green Bay up 18-17 with 2 minutes, 59 seconds left.

Rookie kicker Blake Grupe then missed wide right on a 46-yard field goal attempt that would have given New Orleans the lead with 1:05 to go.

Going scoreless through three quarters is no way to win. Last season, teams in that position went 0-9.

Similarly, until edging New Orleans, the Packers had been a pitiful 2-59 in regular-season games since 1940 in which all their points had come in the fourth quarter. And those two wins occurred more than 60 years ago.

Down 14-0 in late October 1957, Green Bay outscored Baltimore 24-7 in the fourth quarter to squeeze by the Colts 24-21. In 1959, Vince Lombardi’s club put up nine points in the fourth to down the Bears 9-6 on opening day.

Being down by 17 or more heading into the fourth quarter is no way to win either. Last season, teams that far behind went 2-41-1.

Until Sunday, Green Bay had been 1-113 when trailing by such a large margin in games dating to 1921. That lone victory happened on opening day 2018 when Green Bay fell behind Chicago 20-3 after three quarters and Aaron Rodgers fired three fourth-quarter TD passes in a 24-23 win.

A Show of Fourth

Since 1921, Green Bay is 12-87-11 in regular-season games in which it only scored points in the fourth quarter. Listed below are those victories in which the Packers scored the most points.

Pts.       Date                      Opponent     Score after 3      Result
24           Oct. 27, 1957          Colts                  0-14                       GB won, 24-21
18           Sept. 24, 2023       Saints                0-17                       GB won, 18-17
17           Oct. 19, 1924          Badgers             0-0                         GB won, 17-0
14           Nov. 12, 1922         Marines            0-6                         GB won, 14-6
9             Sept. 27, 1959        Bears                 0-6                         GB won, 9-6

Did the Miami Dolphins Set a New Record for Most Yards Gained in a Single Game? Yes and No.

 By John Turney

What is known for sure is that today the Miami Dolphins rushed for 350 yards and passed for 376 yards for a total of 726 yards. Here is stats from today's gam, a 70-20 demolition of the Denver Broncos—

What is not known is if that should be the NFL record or not. Officially it is not. But is that the right call? 

The issue is that there are two credible totals for the 1951 Los Angeles Rams in a 9/28/1951 game against the New York Yanks. 

One is from The Official NFL Record & Fact Book and the other on Pro Football Reference. The Record and Fact Book shows the Rams gained 735 yards that day and Pro Football Reference shows a net yardage total of 722 yards of offense.

Both have been used on social media and purported to be accurate. Can they both be accurate? The short answer may surprise you. The answer is "yes".

Here are a couple of examples of Tweets (X posts)—
Here is one showing that 726 is a new record—
And here is Mike Klis who covers the Broncos for NBC 9 NEWS in Denver recognizing the problem—
So, what do the two sources say?

Here is the entry from the Record & Fact Book—

And this is a screenshot from Stathead, the search engine for Pro Football Reference's data. It shows 722 yards gained by the Rams on that day.

This is the boxscore from Pro Football Reference that shows 735 total yards but that is without the 13 yards attempting to pass deducted. So, the net is 722. 

This is a shot from the official gamebook from the game, the original "source" if you will—

So, from this, you can see the Rams had 195 yards of rushing gains and 14 yards of losses for a net of 181 yards rushing. 

Norm Van Brocklin passed for 554 yards individually on his 27 completions but he was throw for a 13-yard loss. It is that loss (later called sacks) that is the discrepancy. 

If you deduct that from the team passing total it leaves a net of 541. That plus the net rushing is 722 yards.

But they were not deducted.

The column that reads "TOTAL NET YARDS GAINED-RUSHING & PASSING"  showed 735 and that is still the official total. The gamebook is the source and that is what Elias Sports Bureau and ESPN Stats & Information use to verify records.

Here is the play as listed in the Gamebook—
Here is a clip of the play in question—
Right defensive end Barney Poole gets around the right edge and takes Van Brocklin down for the loss. The Rams are penalized for illegal motion but that play is declined so it stays in the books.

What does all this lead to?

Both yardage totals are technically right. It's like the old accountant joke of asking an accountant what two plus two is. he replies "What do you want it to be?"

Under the rules at the time yards lost attempting to pass didn't count against the rushing or passing totals. They are just lost in limbo. Gone forever. well, unless the statistics are changed at some point.

And there is a case for doing just that and today's confusion proves that point pretty well. Maybe the older records should be made consistent with how things are scored now. 

If official stats people like Elias or others do what Pro Football Reference has already done which is score games as they would be now then the Rams total would be 722, not 735.

Of course, the same would be true for the Yanks in the same game. Their total yards would not be 166 but 111 because they lost 55 yards attempting to pass. 

It would be the same for all NFL games from 1950 and 1951 because beginning in 1952 yards lost attempting to pass became a separate category and began to count against a team's total yardage. 

Here is a shot of how passing yards were kept from 1952 through today with the note that in 1963 the number of times someone was thrown for a loss was added in, not just the yardage—

Prior to 1950, those types of plays were simply scored as running plays—they didn't count against a team's passing yardage total. If a quarterback was trying to pass but got tackled behind the line of scrimmage it was a rushing loss and counted against the rushing total, so the total yardage at least reflected that.

Here is a shot of a 1949 gamebook summary—

But 1950 and 1951 were different. No telling why, they just were. Here is a shot of a 1951 play-by-play summary with the note that reads "Yards lost attempting to pass are not deducted from Rushing or Passing yardage - NFL Ruling"

So, according to the rules at the time the Rams mark of 735 offensive yards gained is accurate. And if you take that play's yardage away, as would be done now -- or even prior to 1950 as a running play -- the Rams' total offensive yardage output would be 722, not 735. And that would be accurate. 

It was simply a quirk in how stats were kept for that two-year period.

So, both are right. The Dolphins set the record. And they didn't.

It depends on how official "official" is. 

Dolphins Hang a Seventy Burger on the Broncos

 By John Turney 
Tyreek Hill scores the first six of the Dolphins' 70 points
The Dolphins had a chance to break the NFL single-game scoring record today but chose to run the clock out rather than attempt a short field goal that would have run the score up to 73-20.

Dolphins' coach Mike McDaniel had his quarterback take a knee instead.

It was the third time in NFL regular-season history a team had scored 70 or more points. The record is held by Washington with 72, set in 1966 against the New York Giants. Los Angeles scored 70 in 1950 against the Baltimore Colts.

Both those teams scored one touchdown on special teams and nine from scrimmage.

Today Miami became the first team to score ten touchdowns from scrimmage in a single game—five rushing and five passing.

In 1966 cornerback Rickie Harris took a punt back for a touchdown and rookie safety Brig Owens had a scoop and score plus a pick-six in the game and the other seven from scrimmage. In 1950 Rams' halfback  Vitamin T. Smith took a kickoff to the house and the rest of the nine touchdowns were runs or passes.

The 1934 Philadelphia Eagles also scored ten touchdowns in a game but one was an interception return according to the Official NFL Record & Fact Book but only scored 64 points in the game because of several failed conversions so again it was nine from scrimmage and one return.

When asked why he didn't kick the field goal McDaniel told the media, "It felt like chasing points, chasing a record is not what we came here to do. Ten times out of ten you concede and kneel down."

Conversely, when Washington scored 72 it did include a late field goal. Leading 69-41 Washington's head coach Otto Graham sent his kicker Charlie Gogolak out with three seconds left on the clock to attempt a 29-yard field goal, which he made, to make the score 72-41.

But it did happen to set the record -- besting the Rams' 1950 mark. Did that have anything to do with the final three points? 

Unknown. But probably. But it also had to do with revenge. 

Hall-of-Fame linebacker Sam Huff claims he sent Gogolak into the game to run the score up. He was bitter about being traded to Washington from the New York Giants two years earlier and wanted to send a message to Allie Sherman, the Giants coach who'd exiled him.

This was his chance to rub it in a little by sending the kicker in to run the score up by three more points. 

"In the final seconds, we were just trying to kill the clock," Huff wrote in his 1988 autobiography Tough Stuff,  "We had a fourth down at the Giants 22 and a timeout was called with seven seconds left. While Otto was talking to Sonny, I took it upon myself to yell for the field goal team to get out there, and before anyone knew what was happening, Gogolak had kicked a 29-yard field goal for a final score of 72-41. After the game, Otto took a lot of heat for kicking the field goal and rubbing it in. But it wasn't Otto's decision, it was all mine."

So payback was the primary motivating factor but it's also likely that the sideline was aware of the 70-point NFL scoring record. 

Either way, Graham took the responsibility in his comments to the sportswriters in the postgame locker room telling the media, "Charlie (Gogolak) had missed a couple of field goals last week against Cleveland and hadn't attempted any today. He needed a shot. The practice."

He didn't happen to mention that Huff had usurped his authority on that final play.

So, the Dolphins didn't get the points record but getting the touchdowns from scrimmage record (if it is even a record) is still a good day's work for the offense.

Additionally, Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders tied Gogolak's record of ten PATs attempted in a game and set the record for most successful PATs in a single game with ten.

There will be other odds and ends in terms of records set and tied but had the Dolphins done what Otto Graham did in 1966 they would have the scoring record but Mike McDaniel chose the higher road. 

Either that or former Broncos linebacker Bradley Chubb isn't as upset about being in Miami as Sam Huff was about being in Washington D.C. because he didn't send the kicker in to break the record.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Giants Linebacker Micah McFadden Joins Elite Group

 By Nick Webster  

At PFJ we track tackles for loss the same way sacks are scored. It is not like the way NFLGIS does it—they only use lead tackles and ignore plays in which there is a forced fumble and it is not how Stats, LLC does it, they do not include pass plays.

That said, I have been working on run/pass stuffs for a couple of decades and have been able to find some excellent performances but it cannot ever be completed because too many gamebooks do not include the needed data and there are too many films that are also not around to fill in the gaps. 

However, there is enough to learn about some great performances going way back and fans of the NFL can appreciate some great names and great performances that otherwise might not be known and that is why I've undertaken this project.

That said, here is a list of players who have had four or more run/pass stuffs that I've been able to uncover.
Thursday night, in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers Micah McFadden of the Giants became the most recent member of the four-plus stuff club. He had two pass stuffs on back-to-back plays in the second quarter and then added a run stuff in the third and fourth quarters.

Micah Parsons had four on Halloween, 2021, three on pass plays, and the most total stuffs since Jadeveon Clowney had four in 2019. In 2015 DeMarcus Lawrence had four the last Cowboy to have four stuffs before Parsons.

The most in a game that has so far been uncovered are Don Blackmon, of the Patriots, and Washington's Neal Olkewicz and Joe Rutgens with five. Certainly, it is possible there are others with five or even someone with six, but if so, that is a treasure I will find in the future, hopefully.

By far the funnest one discovered is Bill Hewitt's four tackles for loss in 1933 against the Packers. I sure wish there were more records available to find missing pre-WWII games with great defensive achievements in them. 
Bill Hewitt
All four of T.J. McDonald's stuffs were on pass plays when he totaled four in 2016 against the 49ers the only player with more than Parsons had on this list. 
Deacon Jones in 1972
Deacon Jones appears twice, once as a Ram and once as a Charger. Junior Seau, J.J. Watt, and Bruce Smith appropriately are on the list with Deacon since they are four that have 100 or more career run/pass stuffs with Junior having the most of that foursome.
J.J. Watt

Of course, I realize that stuffs, like sacks, will have varying value depending on the circumstance of the game and that a stuff is a team effort—and just like all football stats, it skewed in that way.

If a quarterback throws a touchdown it's a team effort—the center snaps, the line blocks, the receivers run routes the quarterback throws, and the receiver catches. We still count all those individual stats, the attempt, the completion, the touchdown pass, the catch, the yards, the touchdown reception and so on. 

As with a sack, a stuff is a group effort but tracking them individually has merit. Again, like with sacks, over time and careers, it seems the good players with the ability to shed blockers and get into the backfield sit atop my stuff lists.

A stuff does, however, have great value in many game situations. On first-and-ten, if a team runs, they want to get at least four yards. If they lost a yard they are five yards behind the sticks. 

If they threw incomplete on first down, often they will run on second down to make third down more manageable. If they lose a yard on second-and-ten, they are in an even longer third down than if they are an incomplete pass. 

If it is short yardage, then a no-gain is usually as good as a loss for the defense, but if it is third and short, and teams going for it so often on fourth down, then a one- or two-yard loss on third down makes fourth down tougher. 

The bottom line is a tackle for a loss is a positive play for the defense and is worthy of being tracked and tallied and we can learn more about the game knowing the numbers as opposed to not knowing them, at least that is my view.

Single-games can be anomalous with some odd names popping up but that is the great part of single-game records the usual names appearing alongside the lesser-known players. Timmie Smith still holds the single-game rushing mark for Super Bowls just ahead of Marcus Allen, who is next. And that is terrific, I think. 

The top three names tied for this unofficial record are not household names but Washington fans will remember them as Patriots fans will with Blackmon and it sheds some light on their careers and now, with Micah Parsons coming within one of tying those three if gives folks a chance to remember some fun names of the past around an interesting but key stat.

Hope you enjoy the chart.

Note: This is an updated post adapted from a previous 2021 post

Hugh "Bones" Taylor — Hot Starting Deep Threat

By John Turney 
Hugh Taylor
he Rams' Puka Nacua set the NFL world on fire in his first two NFL games, breaking a number of individual and team rookie records and becoming the league's first-ever player with 10 catches and 100 yards receiving in each of his first two contests.

A fifth-round draft choice, Nacua holds the rookie mark for most receptions in his first two career games (25), as well as catches in a single game (15), and he ranks third in most yards receiving (266) in his first two games. Only Anquan Boldin (279 in 2003) and Hugh "Bones" Taylor (291 in 1947) had more.

Whoa, wait. "Bones" who? 

"Bones" Taylor, that's who.

He was a 6-foot-4, 194-pound end who finished his collegiate career at Oklahoma City College. You've heard of that school, right? Actually, it was where Taylor hung his hat after his World War II military service. He began college at Tulane but, after his time in the Navy, didn't return to finish college.

So OCC it was.

"Bones" played for Washington, and had eight receptions for 212 yards in first NFL game vs. the Eagles at Philadelphia's Municipal Stadium. The Redskins lost,  45-42, but not after a furious fourth-quarter rally when Hall-of-Famer Sammy Baugh started to pitch the ball to the tall, skinny rookie, connecting for Taylor's second and third touchdowns of the afternoon.

That was 1947. Yet, here we are ... 76 years later ... and Taylor's 212 yards are second only to Boldin's 217 in 2003 as the most by a rookie in his first NFL game. Plus, Taylor had three scores to Boldin's had two.

One weekend later in Washington, Baugh found Taylor three more times for 79 yards ... and the rookie caught his fourth touchdown pass of the season, pushing his two-game total to 11 receptions for 291 yards (26.5 average) and four touchdowns. So, while Nacua obliterated Earl Cooper's 19-catch rookie record for receptions in his first two NFL games, he didn't beat "Bones' " total for yardage and touchdowns.

But Taylor wasn't a two-game wonder. He played eight NFL seasons, and while he didn't catch a lot of passes, he did a lot with them. Fifty-eight of his 272 receptions went for touchdowns. That's a 4.79:1 ratio, and it's noteworthy. For players with 200 or more career receptions, it's the best all-time.

You read that right. His touchdown-to-catch ratio is better than Hall of Famers such as Don Hutson or deep ball threats Paul Warfield and Bob Hayes, and it's higher than modern-era phenoms like Jerry Rice, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens. It's simply higher than everyone.

In a league with its share of touchdown-making receivers, no one was more prolific than Taylor. In fact, in the 10 years after World War II (1945-54), no one caught more touchdown passes -- not even the five Hall-of-Fame ends who were his contemporaries. 

"Bones" Taylor was a touchdown machine on a team that had just two winning seasons during his career. However, he did it catching passes from Baugh, with 1952 -- Baugh's last season when he didn't play much -- the best of Taylor's career. He caught 41 passes for 961 yards and 12 touchdowns that year and had a 23.4 yards-per-catch average. Prorate that to 17 games, and it reads 58 catches for 1,361 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Not bad. 

No, the two-time Pro Bowler never topped 1,000 yards receiving, but remember: He played 12-game seasons, and in three of those years he averaged enough yards per game to reach four digits in a 17-game schedule.

Taylor finished his career with a 19.2 yards-per-catch average, tied for 10th all-time among all players with 200 or more receptions. He was the quintessential deep threat, with the speed and, as a former All-American basketball player, the athleticism to make leaping catches over defenders. 

After retiring, Taylor went into coaching, mostly as an assistant. But he served as a collegiate head coach for a couple of years, too, before becoming head coach of the Houston Oilers in 1965 when he succeeded Baugh and the club was 4-10. In truth, though, he was better suited as a receivers coach -- tutoring young AFL and NFL pass catchers like Don Maynard, Art Powell, Lance Alworth, Charley Hennigan and Roy Jefferson.

Though Taylor never had a 1,000-yard season, look what those guys did when they were associated with him. They combined for seven such seasons, some of them far more than 1,000 yards. 
"Bones" Taylor seems to have been a wide receiver whisperer. 

So here's a shout-out to the man who's withstood 76 years of rookies challenging his two-game yardage total to begin an NFL career. Well done, "Bones" Taylor.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Rosey Grier: Showing Deacon Jones How to Perfect the Headslap

 By John Turney  
Deacon Jones, the Hall-of-Fame defensive end, is often credited for inventing the head slap, a pass rush move that involves using an open hand to hit or slap an offensive lineman's helmet in order, according to Jones, to get him to close his eyes so he could use his quickness to blow by the lineman.

However, Jones learned the finer points from Rosey Grier who the Rams traded for in 1963. He'd been using it for years and the still in this post will illustrate. Jones took a year to watch and study, it seems, then he began to adopt and develop the move, using fakes, double headslaps. 

Prior to Grier's arrival, you can see it every once in a while -- it is on one clip versus the Giants in Yankee Stadium in 1961. However, it was a fake outside then a right-handed blow to the right tackle's head -- it was a headslap but it was not what we became familiar with later on. 

Jones' version of the headslap and the moves worked off of it (slap, dip and rip for example) became so successful that in the late 1960s he was known for it and had scores of defensive linemen copy it, guys like Claude Humphrey, Carl Eller, Rich Jackson, Jack Youngblood and many others. 

Offensive lineman countered by throwing their right hand up to block the hit to their head. Who can blame them?

So, he was not the first, and Grier may not have been. We are not sure anyone knows but from looking at films that are available it seems he used it the most in the early 1960s. 

But it's pretty clear that Grier was doing it before Jones even entered into the league and films show that it wasn't until 1964 that Jones began to use it as a primary move.
Rosey Grier, 1960 vs Dallas, left-handed headslap

These are a couple of shots in 1961—Rosey Grier left-handed slap

A few shots of Grier, in 1962, with his signature pass-rush move

A couple shots of Grier in his first season with the Rams note that
he is the only one using the headslap

In Game One of 1964 Deacon Jones, the left DE, is using the move
and used it more and more over the next decade—making it his signature move

Later in 1964, again, both Jones and Grier slapping lids

In 1964 Deacon Jones used the more often than Grier, and had a lot
of success with it—going to a Pro Bowl for the first time. The eight
shots above illustrate that fairly well.

Here are a few stills of Jones in his later years executing his move—

Tackles started to throw their hands up to block the slap—

Here are a few of the copycats:  Rich Jackson, Carl Eller, Claud Humphrey and Jack Youngblood—

So, Grier doing the move and probably showing the Deac the right way to do it and how to make it work in no way takes anything from Jones' accomplishments. Everyone has to learn from someone.

As we go through older films we will keep an eye out of those who may have preceded Grier. Ernie Stautner would hit guys in the head, as would Big Daddy Lipscomb when he became a Steeler. Stautner in the 1950s seemed, however, to use more of the heel of his hand rather than the pure head slap. It looks more like doling out punishment than trying to get a guy to close his eyes so he could slip by.

But, we'll let you know.