Coming to mind quickly are three other games where simple, repetitive, and off tackle rushes won the game. There were no fake hand offs, draw plays, or going around end. When the basics work in the ground game, the quarterback has an ideal situation and leaves the field with a clean uniform. Records shown are before the game.
1959 Week 6 Cleveland Browns (3-2) at the Baltimore Colts (4-1)
This was one of the greatest wins in the the Paul Brown era at Cleveland. It matched the running of Jimmy Brown with the passing of John Unitas. Baltimore was on their way to their second consecutive NFL title. I will talk about this great game in more detail later. The Colts defensive line was Gino Marchetti, Eugene Lipscomb, Art Donovan, and Ordell Braase-maybe the best in the league. Jimmy Brown carried 32 times for 178 yards and five touchdowns. Milt Plum for the Browns was 12 for 23 for 200 yards and two interceptions. Jimmy Brown’s running provided 45% of the teams total yardage. Baltimore finished 9-3 while Cleveland was 7-5.
1964 Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers, with a 5-9 record, began their downward plunge and would not have a winning season until 1972. In 1964, Ed Brown floundered at quarterback and Pittsburgh was next to last in passing. The defensive secondary was also bad getting just 12 interceptions and only the Chicago Bears were worse. The consolation was that this team finished fourth in rushing behind the Cleveland Browns, the Green Bay Packers, and the Baltimore Colts. All three passed far better than Pittsburgh, which took pressure off their running backs. In other words, teams facing Pittsburgh concentrated on stopping the run. Given these facts, Pittsburgh’s running game was all the more impressive. The offensive line was solid. The big stars were John Henry Johnson who gained 1,048 yards and Clarence Peaks with 510.
Pittsburgh had a five game losing streak, none of the games were close, the last of the five was a shut out, and 30+ points yielded in every game; but the one game before and breaking the streak proved the power of straight ahead no nonsense running. Ed Brown, a mediocre quarterback, looked like an All Pro.
Game 5 at Cleveland. The Browns were 3-0-1 and Pittsburgh 2-2.
The Steelers on defense confused the Browns by bringing Clendon Thomas between defensive back and linebacker. In the second quarter, John Henry Johnson had touchdown runs of 33 and 45 yards. After receiving the second half kickoff, Pittsburgh burned eight minutes off the clock with an 80 yard drive. Johnson plowed through with a four yard TD run. Pittsburgh was never in trouble, winning 23 to 7.
–John Henry Johnson had best game of his career, the best performance of any running back in 1964, and set a Steeler record-200 yards on 30 carries and three touchdown on runs of 33, 45, and 4 yards.
–Clarence Peaks was great with 96 yards in 21 carries,
–With little need to pass, Ed Brown was 9 for 11 for 126 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions.
Game 11 at New York. The Giants were 2-6-2 and Pittsburgh was 3-7
Pittsburgh had momentum at the start of the game with Johnson and Peaks ripping off yardage. After three quarters, Pittsburgh led 37 to 3. The scored would have been much higher but Steeler coach Buddy Parker put in reserves in the fourth quarter. The Steelers beat the Giants 44 to 17. This was a personal high for Parker at Pittsburgh and came a week after a shut out.
–John Henry Johnson gained 106 yards on 25 carries,
–Clarance Peaks had 97 yards in 15 carries and caught a 41 yard pass,
–Behind perfect pass protection, Ed Brown completed 10 of 13 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns.
Of the total 422 yards in this game Johnson and Peaks gained 48% with ground yardage.
Two Super Bowls with similar techniques will follow.