1967 A Sad Bookends Year in Pittsburgh

1967 was a bad year for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  After a strong finish in 1966, fans’ expectations were high.  What fans got was bookends.  This year also marked the end of CBS using specific announcers for each team.   The network wanted to avoid any biased reporting in an increasing mobile society.  They informed Steeler announcer Joe Tucker that they would no longer need his services.  Mr. Tucker was a fine announcer that the networks never appreciated.

Game 1 at Pittsburgh.

Gale Sayers returned a kickoff 103 yards for one touchdown.  Bears defensive back Roosevelt Taylor recovered a fumble and ran 25 yards for another.  Chicago led 13 to 3 but it was all Pittsburgh after that. Dick Butkus  made an interception and ran 24 yards but Chicago punted on the next series.

For the Steelers, Bill Nelson went 15 for 25 for 223 yards and two touchdowns.  Running back Willie Asbury carried 12 times for 107 yards and two touchdowns.  One run was for a rousing 71 yards.  The Pittsburgh defense recorded  six turnovers,  limited Chicago to just 95 yards of total offense,  and gave up only six first downs.  Final Steelers 41 Bears 13.

Game 14 at Green Bay

The Packers had won the Central Division Crown, were eying the playoffs, and used reserves most of the game..    Even so, they had 309 yards of total offense and held the Steelers to just 194 yards and 10 first downs.  But the Steelers had five turnovers, their longest drive of the season, and excellent play from two defensive lineman-Chuck Hinton and Ben Magee.

First Quarter from the Packer 20.  Hinton blocked a pass from Bart Starr that  Magee caught and run 20 yards for a touchdown.

Second Quarter from the Steeler nine. Quarterback Kent Nix threw a straight forward pass for a 21 yard gain to running back Earl Gros.  The rest of the drive was near perfect.  Nix this time handed off to Gros from Packer 21.  Behind great blocking, Earl Gros went for a touchdown.

Pittsburgh led 14 to 10 at halftime.

Third Quarter which the Steelers dominated.  Defensive back Marv Woodson intercepted a pass.  Mike Clark missed a field goal but the Steelers got the ball back from a fumble by Donnie Anderson at the GB 22.  Linebacker John Campbell recovered it.   Mick Clark this time made good on a field goal for a 17 to 10 lead.  Late in the quarter,  Packer quarterback Zeke Bradkowsi dropped  back to pass.  Ben Magee hit Bradkowski who fumbled.  Chuck Hinton picked it up and ran 27 yards for the touchdown.

The Pittsburgh Steelers led 24 to 10 after three periods.  In fourth quarter,  Travis Williams ran 29 yards for a touchdown narrowing the score to 24 to 17.  Steeler safety Paul Martha intercepted a pass on the last series to hold the 24 to 17 lead, giving Pittsburgh the victory.   For once, Vince Lombardi did not seem angry at a loss.

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Fran Tarkenton and Minnesota-1962

The seventh week of the subject season brought two winless  teams together.  Minnesota came in to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to play the Rams.    Both teams were bad at 0-6.  Nevertheless, for this game and the season, the Minnesota Vikings proved they were the better team.  Fran Tarkenton was 14 for 24 for 216 yards and three touchdowns.  Tommy Mason caught five passes for 74 yards and a touchdown.  One of the Vikings’ four turnovers was a 39 yard return for a touchdown by Defensive Back Bill Butler. Final Vikings 38 Rams 14.

The following week, as previously mentioned, the Vikings at home defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 31 to 21.  This was a measure of revenge for Minnesota’s coach Norm Van Brocklin.  The return game with the Rams in Minnesota was a 24 all tie.  The Vikings fell back by a half a game in 1962 from the initial season in 1961.  Going from 3-11 to 2-11-1.  The Los Angeles Rams were in last place with a 1-12-1 record.

Donovan McNabb-Five TD Passes in One Half

Week 12 of the 2004 season brought the Green Bay Packers, at 7-4,  to Lincoln  Financial Field to play the 11-1 Eagles.  After a 1-4 start, the Packers won six in a row.  Just how they won that secondary I will never know.  This was the most confused defense I have ever seen with trouble even huddling.   In the first half, Donovan McNabb threw touchdown passes of:

–41 yards to Terrell Owens;

–9 yards to Brain Westbrook;

–41 yards to Brian Westbrook;

–6 yards to L.J. Smith and;

–12 yards to Brian Westbrook.

Coach Andy slowed the tempo in the third quarter and David Ackers kicked four field goals.  Donovan spent the fourth quarter on the bench.  I was happy to see him not playing, healthy, and Philadelphia with a big lead.  However, as time passes wish he would have played and thrown three more touchdown passes.  With the smoking hand had he had day, McNabb may have set a record of eight touchdown passes in one game. The current record is seven held by Adrian Burk, George Blanda, Y.A. Tittle, and Joe Kapp.

George Blanda-Five TD Passes in a Half

We are in Houston in  1965 with the Oilers playing the Kansas City Chiefs.  Coach Bones Taylor put George Blanda back in at quarterback after half time.  Blanda had a very sore knee and the coaches wanted to keep him on the bench.  However,  the Oilers fell behind 17 to 0 and second stringer quarterback Don Trull was awful.  38 year old George Blanda in the second  half put on a one man show.  Once again it was a face off between two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks and NFL castoffs- Len Dawson for the Chiefs and George Blanda for the Oilers.

In the third quarter Blanda:

–threw a 64 yard touchdown pass to Charlie Frazier;

–threw a 49 yard touchdown pass to Ode Burrell;

–threw a 17 yard touchdown pass to Willie Frazier;

–threw a 9 yard touchdown pass to Willie Frazier.

The Oilers lead Kansas 28 to 17 after three periods.

Early in the fourth quarter, Chiefs’ kicker Tommy Brooker popped one threw the uprights narrowing Houston’s lead to 28 to 20.

George Blanda capped another drive with his fifth touchdown pass, a nine yard throw to Bob McLeod.  Unfortunately for Houston, their defense was bad.  Len Dawson threw touchdown passes  to Curtis MClinton and Otis Taylor.  This gave the Chiefs a 36 to 35 lead;  but  Blanda was not through yet.  The Houston went on another drive.  Blanda, with his sore knee, could not kick field goals.  Jack Spikes kicked an 18 yard field goal and Houston defeated Kansas City  38 to 36.

George Blanda for this two quarter performance was named AFL Player of the Week.  Donovan McNabb would tie Blanda’s record of five touchdown in one half 29 years later.

Pittsburgh Losing Streaks in the 60

We all remember the great Steeler dynasties in the 1970s.    The decade before was a reflection on the team’s futility for almost 40 years. Each year from 64 to 71 brought an extended losing streak. Pittsburgh was mainly a baseball town.  Pro football was something to keep fans interested in some sport.    Many people regarded those interested in the Steelers as almost eccentric.    30,000 was considered a good turnout.  In 1972, things really changed.  Three Rivers Stadium was always at capacity to watch the Steelers.  The Pittsburgh Pirates also had good to great teams in the 70s.   Nevertheless,   the attendance for baseball was among the lowest in the Major Leagues.

Here are the grim details which Eagle fans can relate to:

1964-Buddy Parker as the Head Coach.   Five game losing streak and the team went from 3-2 to 3-7.  Final record 5-9

1965-Mike Nixon as Head Coach.  Losing streaks of five and seven games.   Final record 2-12.

1966 to 1968 Bill Austin as Head Coach

1966-Five game losing streak;  final record was 5-8-1.  Not good but a 3 1/2 game improvement over 1965.

1967-Five game losing streak; lost three and tied one over another four game span; Final record 4-9-1.

1968-Six and five game losing streaks; Final record 2-11-1.

1969 to 1971 Chuck Noll as Head Coach

1969-After winning the first game, the Steelers lost 13 games. Final record was 1-13.

1970-Pittsburgh lost both the first and last three games. In between, the Steelers played some of their best ball in years; Final record was 5-9.

1971-The team was even at 5-5 after ten games.  Fans thought they might be looking at a playoff team; but Pittsburgh lost three of the last four;  Final record was 6-8.

Philadelphia Eagles in 2011

The firing of Andy Reid  had very little to do with the 2012 season.  I pointed to the four losses in the NFC Title game and playoff losses to New Orleans in 06 and Green Bay in 2010.  The 2011 season also loomed big when we consider the fate of the New York Giants. Tom Coughlin in 2011 was 7-7 after 14 weeks.  The Giants would have fired him if the team had not won the last two games.  NY of course got hot and won the Super Bowl.  The New York Giants with a 9-7 record had the worst regular season of any Super Bowl Champion.  The team broke their record of 10-6 four years earlier.

The Philadelphia Eagles were 4-8 after 12 weeks and we remember easily winning the final four games. The Birds got hot too late.  Of the eight losses only two were lopsided.  Had Philadelphia won just one of those duds, our team would have won  NFC East.  They had a better record within the division.   Maybe that winning streak would have continued a long way in the Post Season.  Allot hangs on every game.  Sometimes a game hangs on one  play.       

Pittsburgh Steelers in 1964-The Second Great Game

The 3-7 Pittsburgh Steelers went to Yankee Stadium to play the 2-6-2 New York Giants.

First Quarter-The Steelers took the opening kickoff and, running alternately with John Henry Johnson and Clarence Peaks, moved to the NY 3.   The drive stalled and Mike Clark kicked a ten yard field goal.   The Giants took the opening kickoff and started a drive of other own, using the passing of Y.A. Tittle and runs by Ernie Wheelwright and Clarence Childs.  The turning point to this game came at the Steeler ten.

–Wheelwright caught a screen pass at the Pittsburgh three;

–Linebacker Myron Pottios jarred the ball lose;

–the ball bounced into the End Zone and Steeler defensive back Dick Haley recovered it for a touchback.

Second Quarter-The Steelers took control.

–Flanker Gary Ballman made a one handed catch for 19 yards.  Ed Brown fired a ten yard touchdown pass to Clendon Thomas.

–On the next series, Brown completed a 41 yard pass to Running Back Clarence Peaks.   John Henry Johnson ran 10 yards for a touchdown.  The blocking was so good that Johnson could have almost walked those 10 yards to pay dirt. At the half,  the Steelers  led 17 to 3.

Third Quarter-The Giants fumbled in their own territory the first three times they had the football.

After each fumble-Brown threw an 18 yard touchdown pass to Gary Ballman; John Henry Johnson ran two yards for a touchdown; and Mike Clark kicked the first of two field goals.  At the start of the  final period, the Steelers led 37 to 3. The last quarter was for reserves and Pittsburgh won 44 to 17.

Notes from the Game

–As in the Cleveland game, the blocking from the offensive line was flawless at day.

–Ed Brown completed 10 of 13 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns.  Brown had all day to throw. The score would have soared had  Buddy Parker not pulled him after three quarters; but reserves need playing time whenever possible.

–John Henry Johnson gained 106 yards on 25 carries and scored two touchdowns;

–Clarence Peaks gained 97 yards on 15 carries and caught the 41 yard pass I mentioned;

–Gary Ballman caught five passes for 117 yards and a touchdown.

The Steelers, running straight ahead,  gashed the NY defense for 238 rushing yards.  The 44 points was the most for Buddy Parker in his eight years as the Coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  It was also the third highest score in team history.