1961` A Pittsburgh Loss Hurt the Eagles

Looking back at the 1961 season, the Eagles did not get much help or luck.  Two pieces of back luck occurred at home and one away. 

–Tom Brookshier’s broken leg vs the Chicago Bears which hurt the Eagles defense the rest of the year,
–The phantom roughing the kicker call
on Leo Sugar with the Giants at Franklin Field, Eagles lost 28 to 24,
–The Browns tying the Giants
at Yankee Stadium. One of the few times I ever rooted for Cleveland and the team could only get tie a 7 to 7 tie.

Had the Cleveland Browns won, there would have been a playoff game at Yankee Stadium.  New York defeated Philadelphia twice.

An even more important game occurred at Pitt Stadium in the second week of the season between the Giants and the Pittsburgh Steelers.  This loss for Pittsburgh really hurt.   Had it been otherwise, the Philadelphia Eagles would have won the conference out right;  10-4 to the Giants 9-4-1.  Both Pittsburgh and the Giants lost their first game.  Pittsburgh scored first on a run from John Henry Johnson to get a 7 to 0 lead.  Then everything went wrong until the fourth quarter.

1. First Flop.  I was all set to go up 14 to 0.  On a fake field goal attempt at the New York 42, holder Tom Tracy had John Henry wide open at the 20.  The play worked perfectly; Tracy hit Johnson between the numbers; nobody was near him; he could have walked in; and Johnson dropped the ball.  On my aching back.
2. Giants Defensive Back Erich Barnes intercepted a pass,
3. Deja Vu number two.  Barnes was a Steeler nemesis in the 60s,
4. Punt Returner Bill Butler fumbled and lost the ball.

Even with these gaffs the Steelers could have won.  Bobby Layne threw a touchdown pass to Buddy Dial to narrow the game, 17 to 14, New York’s favor.  The same combination put the Steelers at the New York 25 with 90 seconds left.  However, the Giants did not their reputation for defense with out just cause.  Defensive End Andy Robustelli rushed Layne causing a fumble. Another great Giant Jim Katcavge recovered

Mistakes and turnovers cost the Steelers in this 17 to 14 loss; and it hurt the Philadelphia Eagles even more.


Ollie Matson

We noted the death in February of Ollie Matson, one of pro football’s all time greats. He was 81.

Several years after the NFL began its specialty tend, Ollie Matson was doing it all for four teams. Only twice in his 16 years did he play on a team with a winning season.  One of them was his last year-the 1966 Philadelphia Eagles.  Through it all, Matson remained a first class gentlemen, even as he overcame racial prejudice from from the bowl officials  while playing at the University of San Francisco.  There Ollie teamed with two other future professionals, Gino Marchetti from the Baltimore Colts and Ed Brown from the Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers. Ollie Matson in total rushed for 5,173 yards and 49 touchdowns; caught 222 passes for 3,285 yards and 23 touchdowns.  Even while starting, his played on special teams, returning six punts and three kickoffs for touchdowns.  Matson also intercepted three passes at defensive back.  He was one of the most versatile players in NFL history and a four time Pro Bowler.

Ollie first played for the Chicago Cardinals for six years and that’s where he made his most significant mark.  In 1956,  he rushed for 924 yards for a 5.4 yard average.  The Cardinals traded him to the Los Angeles Rams for nine players just before the 1959 season.   That was Matson’s  only big year in Los Angeles as he raced for 863 yards, a 5.4 yard average, and caught 18 passes.  He did not play much in 1963, his one year as a Detroit Lion.

For 1964,  Philadelphia Eagles named Joe Kuharich as Head Coach.  He immediately  brought Matson from Detroit.  Kurharich was Matson’s coach in college at San Francisco.  In 1964, Matson played part time.  Nevertheless, he ran for 404 yards and a 4.2 yard average and caught 17 passes.  Ollie Matson had a fitting end to his career.  In 1966, he caught the winning touchdown pass as the Eagles won at San Francisco, 35 to 34.  Very Ironic. This started a four game winning streak and a 9-5 season.  The Eagles were in the Runner Up Bowl in 1966 with their only winning year between 1962 and 1977.

Ollie Matson was a great player who never got the recognition he deserved.  Most good things from the team a player is with. 

John Henry Johnson

Pro Football Fans noticed the death on June 4, 2011 of John Henry Johnson, a great running back and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  There is a section of the sports memorabilia room at Arizona State, his Alma Mater in Tempe.  This is just south of my place in Scottsdale.  There are three coincidences surrounding John Henry in twists of fate.

Johnson came into the NFL as part of the Dream Backfield with the San Francisco Forty-Niners, where he played  from 1954 to 1956.  The other three members of this great combination were Quarterback Y.A. Tittle and Running Backs Hugh McElhenny and Joe “the Jet” Perry.  When John Henry retired in 1966, he was fourth on the all time rushing list with 6,803 yards. The first three were Jim Brown, Jim Taylor, and naturally Joe Perry.  Perry died in late April just six weeks before JHJ.  In addition to running, John Henry Johnson caught 186 passes for 1,479 yards. His unique running style was a combination of grace, power, and speed.  Johnson could zig zag or take defenders straight on, depending on the circumstances.   Add that one thing not measured but very important.  Johnson loved to block and did it better than any other running back in his time.

After three years with Forty Niners, the Detroit Lions acquired him in 1957. He played also three years as a Lion and was their number one runner.  Even so, John Henry seemed to be on the edge of but never achieving greatness. He got in trouble with the coaches and left impression he was dogging it.  Perhaps that was true.  Johnson played five years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, 1960 to 1964; this formed the base for his entrance into the Hall Of Fame.  Consider the following:

1960. Johnson teamed with Tom Tracy to give the Steelers their best rushing duo up till that time.  With Tracy gaining 680 yards and Johnson 612,  Pittsburgh could bank on at least 100 yards on the ground each game.  John Henry ‘s best game was in week 11 at Forbes Field when the Steelers broke Philadelphia’s nine game winning streak, 27 to 21.  Johnson carried 19 times setting two Steeler records; most yards gained in a game, 182, and the longest run from scrimmage 88 yards.  As might be expected, this run was a touchdown and the longest in the NFL for 1960 .

1961.  With Tom Tracey injured, the almost entire ground game rested on Johnson and he responded in two ways.  His 787 yards set a Steeler record for yard gained in season and was John Henry’s best season to date.  In two consecutive games, he ran the opposition ragged. 

Week Seven at Forbes Field vs the San Francisco Forty Niners.  Johnson carried  15 times for 103 yards including a 30 yard touchdown run.  Pittsburgh 20 San Francisco 10.

Week 8 at Cleveland.  While not scoring, John Henry carried 22 times for 105 yards.  His effort established good field position and burned the clock.  The Steelers ended the title hopes of the  Cleveland Browns with a 17 to 13 win. 

1962.  John Henry Johnson became the first Steeler to rush for over 1,000 yards and was the key to the best season for Pittsburgh to date.  They were 9-5 in the Eastern Division, second only to the New York Giants, and went to the Runner up Bowl in January.  Johnson’s 1,141 yards was second to Jimmy Taylor, who had 1,410.  Only in this year did Jimmy Brown not lead the league in rushing.  1962 was the second and last year Brown failed to gain 1,000 yards-he had 996.  JHJ’s best game was 138 yards at St. Louis where the Steelers erupted for a 17 point fourth quarter and 26 to 17 win.

Typically though Johnson saved his best effort for the best teams.  In 1962, John Henry had two splendid games against the New York Giants. 

–Week Three at Pitt Stadium vs the New York Giants.  Johnson carried 20 times for 113 yards and a touchdown.  At the end of both the first half and the game, the Steelers came away with nothing inside the Giant 15.  The scored was tied when Pittsburgh tried a fake field goal in the final play of the first half.  New York’s defensive back, Al Webb,  knocked  Ed Brown’s intended pass for John Powers in the End Zone.   Bobby Layne completed a 30 yard pass to Buddy Dial at the Giants’ 15.  On the next play, long time Steeler nemesis Erich Barnes intercepted a pass under the Giants goal post to cook the game.  The score was 31 to 27 both before and after the interception.  Even though it was game three, this cost the Pittsburgh Steelers the Eastern Division title.

–Week Five at Yankee Stadium.  The Steelers tore apart the Giants defensive line for a 20 to 17 victory.  Johnson carried 22 times for 123 yards.  Defensive back Clendon Thomas intercepted two passes; Pittsburgh’s biggest win of the season. 

1963.  Johnson was injured and missed two consecutive games in October.   Johnson’s injury may have cost Pittsburgh the Eastern Division title.  I won’t go in the games chronologically but have separated them to make my point.

Week Four At Cleveland.  Twice on fourth and goal from the Cleveland one, Pittsburgh had to settle for eight yard field goals.  With John Henry carrying, this would have been a different matter.  Clendon Thomas also was injured and Browns quarterback Frank Ryan had a field day.   Browns 35 Steelers 23.

Week Five at St. Louis.  This arm wrestles in with the Giants at home game the previous year;  to be academic, what was the biggest regular season loss of the Pre-1970 Steelers.  Pittsburgh built 20 to 3 halftime lead, getting some big turnovers.   Without John Henry Johnson, the Steelers could not establish any ground game in the second half.  Rough 24 to 23 loss.  

But there were two great games

Week Two at Pitt Stadium vs. the New York Giants.  John Henry Johnson carried 24 times for 123 yards and a touchdown.  A whitewash and I would like an entire season of games like 31 to 0.

Week Nine at Pitt Stadium vs. the Cleveland Browns.   JHJ ran 27 times for 131 yards, with Pittsburgh winning, 9 to 7.  While this was a thrilling game, it should have been much easier.  Steeler quarterback Ed Brown overthrew receivers all day and Lou Michaels missed five field goals. 

1964. This may have been the most amazing year a running back ever had. Johnson was 35 years old; the team was next to last in passing; and their once good defensive secondary became a sieve.  JHJ gained 1,048 finishing third in the NFL behind Jimmy Brown and Jim Taylor.  As a team, the Steelers were fourth in rushing with the teams listed below.  I am not certain of the order of the first three but the important thing is how each team finished.

Cleveland Browns 10-3-1
Baltimore Colts 12-2    
Green Bay Packers 8-5-1
Pittsburgh Steelers 5-9

Cleveland defeated Baltimore 27 to 0 in the NFL Title Game.  In Johnson’s favor, the Steelers had a both good offensive line and Clarence Peaks, who ran well as the “other back.” As the records show, after John Henry Johnson, very little

Week Five at Cleveland.  JHJ had the best game of any back that year; the best game of career; and set a Pittsburgh record of 200 yards for a game, breaking his own mark of 182 yards set four years earlier.   He scored three  touchdowns on runs of 33, 45 and 4 yards.

Week Eleven at Yankee Stadium.  Johnson carried 25 times for 106 yards and two touchdowns.  Pittsburgh had the third highest score in team history and a personal high for coach Buddy Parker in his eight years in Pittsburgh. Steelers 44 Giants 17.       

1961 Runner Up Bowl Philadelphia Eagles vs the Detroit Lions

The outcome of week 14 of 1961 did went half the Eagles way.  As indicated, Philadelphia won at Detroit in a thriller 27 to 24.   The Browns  only  got a seven all tie at Yankee Stadium.  Philadelphia dropped to second place at 10-4, one half  game behind the Giants.  Both the Lions and the would square off in the second annual Runner Up at the Orange in Miami, a week after the Title.   The Eagles win at Detroit  was too close to consider for the Point Spread.   I though the Philadelphia’s 10-4, 2 1/2 games better than the Lions would spell victory. Oh was  I wrong.

 Jim Ninowski and Earl Morrall alternated in the heroics as the Detroit Lions knocked passing star Sonny Jurgensen out of action Saturday and scored a 38-10 National Football League playoff bowl win over the Philadelphia Eagles.Morrall scored once and he and Ninowski each passed for a pair of touchdowns in a playoff between the N.F.L.’s two runner-up teams which attracted a crowd of 25,612 in 81-degree heat that blanketed the Orange Bowl.It was a satisfying win for Detroit, which avenged a 27-24 defeat at the hands of the Eagles in their final regular season game. And it also was the Lions’ second straight win in this strictly-for-money bowl game inaugurated last year.It also was a costly defeat for the Eagles as Jurgensen, the All-N.F.L. quarterback, suffered a shoulder separation in the second quarter. Team physician Mike Mandarine called it “one of the worst I’ve ever seen, with all the ligaments torn.”He said Jurgensen would be operated on Tuesday in Philadelphia and that he “hoped” the 27-year-old former Duke star would be all right next season. Adding to the Eagles woes, tackle J. D. Smith was taken to the hospital with a twisted knee. Both he and Jurgensen thus were knocked out of the N.F.L. All-Star game at Los Angeles, Jan. 14.

The Lions had a host of stars as they trampled the 2 1/2 point favorites. They held Jurgensen to 8 completions and 62 yards in 17 passes before Wayne Walker threw the block which made Jurgensen’s future a question mark after one year of stardom.Terry Barr scored twice on passes from Ninowski while Pat Studstill and Sam Williams caught scoring tosses by Morrall. Jim Martin kicked an 18-yard field goal and five extra points.

Philadelphia’s lone touchdown came on King Hill’s 9-yard end zone throw to Pete Retzlaff while Bobby Walston booted a 23-yard field goal in addition to the lone Eagles’ extra point.

Detroit left no doubt from the beginning that it was high and ready. Gary Lowe started it off when he intercepted a Jurgensen pass on the Eagles’ 47 and returned it 13 yards to the Philadelphia 34. Fullback Nick Pietrosante carried the load to the 11 and, when the Eagles held, Martin broke the ice with his 18-yard field goal.

Detroit stopped the Eagles cold and then blasted 80 yards in three plays to run up a 10-0 lead. Ninowski hit Pietrosante for 9 yards, the big fullback plunged for 2 and Ninowski hit Barr on a 69-yard touchdown pass.

Jim Carr gave the Eagles momentary hope with a deep second – quarter interception and Philadelphia hammered to the Detroit 10. But that’s where the Lions broke up the Eagles- and Jurgensen.Yale Lary intercepted Jurgensen’s pass and raced 66 yards to the Eagles 19, where Dick Lucas finally hauled him down. Jurgensen was stretched on the turf and had to leave the game.Detroit smashed to the 5 and then Morrall took it around for the score.

Detroit kicked off to the Eagles’ 26 and Hill, Jurgensen’s substitute, fumbled the ball on the first play and Roger Brown recovered for De­troit on the Philadelphia 18. Morrall missed one pass and then hit Studstill in the end zone. Detroit led at halftime 24 to 0.The Eagles tried gamely to get back into the game. After the start of the third quarter, they marched 57 yards for a touchdown. Hill passed to Rctzlaff to the 23, Bill Barnes pow­ered to the 9 and Hill hit Retzlaff for the touchdown.  Given a lift, the Eagles rammed 74 yards to the Detroit 10 the next time they got the ball, but then the Lions stiffened and Walston booted one from the 23.


But Detroit wasn’t finished. The Lions flashed 68 yards off Ninowski’s passes for another touchdown capped by Barr’s catch for another score.They capped this one with a fake field goal from the 19-yard line. Morrall whipping upright and lobbing the ball to Williams who stood alone in the end zone.



Some Side Dishes

–The Philadelphia Eagles are looking at a possible new place kicker.  Players, fans, and coaches all remember the three misses against the Falcons and the two lollypops that closed the book in the playoffs.  David Ackers has been one of the league’s best place kickers and kickoff men since getting the full time job in 2000.  He follows and covers all kickoffs  never shying away from a block or tackle.  During his time, I can only remember only one game he cost the Eagles-the 30 to 27 overtime loss at home to the 49ers in 2003; but the flubs of course get the most attention.

Green Bay showed very bad taste with repeated talks of another dynasty.  As just stated, the Packers did not win the playoff game.  The Eagles lost it.  Two missed field goals, Brent Celek’s running over the end line after the last touchdown, and Vick throwing the interception on the last play spelled success for the Packers.

–Virtually all of the rule changes that have occurred in the NFL favor the offense.  Scores are higher, which was the intent.  Both against the run and passes the defense will take more chances figuring the other guys will move the ball anyway.  The results-more safety blitzes, pass defenders will play the ball rather than the man, and the defense will tackle the ball.  It will become all or nothing which many feel is a good approach.

–All of us want to protect players to the maximum extent possible.  Officials should strictly enforce hits and tackling with the helmet, late or out bounds hits, facemasking, and horse collaring; but do not go overboard.  The phantom roughing the passer call on Trent Cole nearly cost the game against the Colts.  Asante Samuel made a clean hit in the Giants game but officials flagged him.

–Talk is ongoing of a moving a team to Los Angeles.  At first, it seems odd with no team in the country’s  second largest metropolitan area.  The Los Angeles Rams were the first team to get recognition as the NFL hit TV with plenty of big names.  I do not believe either FOX, CBS, or the sponsors are in any hurry.  Los Angeles gets the doubleheader game every week and this will end of course when a team moves there.  The talk is centering around five cities

St Louis Rams-Truth is stranger than fiction
Oakland Raiders-Same comment. The Raiders moved to LA in the mid 80s and back to Oakland 10 years later.
Buffalo Bills
Jacksonville Jaguars
Minnesota Vikings

NFL Title Game Philadelphia Eagles vs Green Bay Packers

Philadelphia vs Green Bay at Franklin Field. Though Green Bay was 8-4 against the Eagles 10-2, the better team did not win. The Packers through offense or turnovers made six trips inside the Eagles 15 yard line but scored only three times. Looking back, it seemed like Green Bay played the entire game in what is now called the “Red Zone.” Packer defensive end Bill Quinlan, who would become an Eagle three year later, intercepted Norm Van Brocklin’s first pass inside the Eagles’ 10. The Eagles fumbled on the next possession and the Packers recovered inside the Eagles 15. The Packers got only a field goal each time.

Norm Van Brocklin burned the Packer secondary with a touchdown pass to Tommy McDonald. After that Bobby Walston kicked a 15 yard field goal. The Packers then executed a beautiful drive which stalled at the Eagles 6. Then came the game’s most critical play-Paul Hornung was not even close on 13 yard field goal attempt on the final play of the first half. Had Hornung made this three pointer, he could have tried another on the game’s final series.

In the second half, Bart Starr capped an another great drive with a touchdown pass to Max Magee, who just died in October. Green Bay 13 Philadelphia 10. Ted Dean, the rookie sensation from Wichita, took the subsequent kickoff to the Packer 36. A few plays later, Dean ran six yards behind great blocking to go ahead.

It was 17 to 13 but the Packers kept coming. From about the Eagles 20, Bart Starr dropped back to pass. As expected, his protection was perfect. The Eagles defensive line never got close to Starr all day. Nevertheless, they did cover the receivers well. Starr through a swing pass and then came one of those “Slamming of the Titans” at a critical times. Jim Taylor caught the pass at the Eagle 10 and Chuck Bednarick wrapped him up and push downward. “Get off of me ” Taylor said. Getting up as the final gun sounded, Bednarick replied “You can run now.” Years later those two at meetings laughed over the incident.

Herbert Hoover and Thomas Jefferson

–both were truly Renaissance Men having expertise in a wide variety of areas. Hoover did not have Jefferson’s interest in music.

–both came from cabinet positions to the Presidency. Jefferson established protocols as our first Secretary of State. Hoover was by far our best Secretary of Commerce bringing the Department into many new fields,

–both were dull monotone speakers appearing awkward before an audience with poor eye contact,

–both men initiated the greatest public works projects in our history which opened up the American West. President Jefferson, in a agreement with Governor Dewitt Clinton of New York, provided funds for the Eire Canal. This reduced the time and cost in traveling from Buffalo to Albany, making New York City the major point of entry. As Secretary of Commerce, Hoover began negotiations with the officials from seven states and Mexico for a huge dam in Boulder Canyon. This dam was the key measure in building the Southwest. President Franklin Roosevelt dedicated the dam in his second term but did not invite Hoover. Though country generally names dams after the President who started them, Roosevelt named it Boulder Dam. He did want his predecessor to receive the proper recognition.

–both men carried on extensive correspondence with another President from a different party. These writings have become a treasured part of American Presidential History. Once friends, then adversaries, then friends again, Jefferson and John Adams wrote to each other in their Post Presidential years. Jefferson from his home Monticello and Adams from Braintree Ma.

–One month after taking office, President Truman invited Herbert Hoover to the White House. The two became fast friends and continually wrote to each other until Hoover’s death in 1944. Truman appointed Hoover to the Conference on the United Nations, NATO, for famine relief in Europe and Africa after World War II, and for the Hoover Commission. The goals of the Commission were to provide much needed services in the most streamlined fashion. Contrary to popular impression, the Hoover Commission was not strictly a budget cutting operation. The final report recommended increased expenditures in many areas. President Truman changed the name of Boulder Dam to Hoover Dam.

–Herbert Hoover chaired a second commission under President Eisenhower.

–as implied, both Thomas Jefferson and Herbert Hoover lived a long while after leaving the White House. Jefferson lived 18 years at Monticello, advising his two protégés-James Madison and James Monroe. Hoover lived for 31 years and virtually invented the former Presidency. As I indicated President Hoover was a close adviser to Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy. Nothing ever approached his friendship with President Truman. One Hoover biographer termed them the odd couple. They were from very different backgrounds.

–Jefferson and Hoover were internationally minded when they assumed the Presidency. They worked in other countries not as tourists but as politicians, diplomats, historians, and geologists. Jefferson’s experience as the Ambassador to France was groundwork for the Louisiana Purchase. Prior to becoming President, Hoover was mining engineer in every continent. I already noted his work in famine relief. President Hoover got the United States involved the World Court, the World Health Association, and in further disarmament.

–Both men are associated with new great universities-Jefferson with the University of Virginia and Hoover with Stanford, which has the Hoover Institute for War, Revolution and Peace.