So the end of pro football's longest weekend has come. Here then, are the rankings:
#16. Bills-Colts: BUF in all white, IND in blue/white. The Bills blue pants would have been a big plus for this matchup. Would have given a near perfect balance of blues and whites. But the Bills go all white against the Colts standard blue jersey and white pants. No. Darn. Downgrade.
#14. Broncos-Chiefs: DEN in all white, KC in red/white. No surprises whatsoever here. That doesn't make this a bad matchup, it's not exceptional either. But, that brilliant Chief red jerseys and the Broncos blue trimmed whites is good standard fare.
#13. Panthers-Eagles: CAR in all white, PHI in green/white. This could have been a wild one had the Panthers gone with black pants and/or the Eagles rocked some green trousers. But the two play it close to the vest for a Monday night. While the white pants worn by both sides don't hurt this matchup, it doesn't necessarily help, either.
#12. Vikings-Bears: MIN in all white, CHI in navy/white. Another predictable set-up. Traditional. While white dominates here, the navy, purple, yellow and orange gives a colorful trim to the scene.
#11. Raiders-Bengals: OAK in white/silver, CIN in black/white. I must give the Bengals credit. Could have gone all black and that - I believe - would have been a bad move here. This makes the Raiders silver helmet and pants shine a bit more. Better than I would have expected.
#10. Falcons-Buccaneers: ATL in all white, TB in red/pewter. The Bucs' red jerseys really pumps this one up against the rather blah all whites of the Falcons. I have always liked the Bucs red jerseys, which have basically been unchanged since the Bucs 1997 overhaul. This matchup is where it saves the day.
#9. Seahawks-Dolphins: SEA in navy/gray, MIA in all white. Good on ya, Seahawks! Going with the gray pants actually adds a little spark to this one that not even the sprinklers could dampen. The Seahawks gray pants do appear to be following a pattern of being worn for all the Seahawks road games, while the navy pants are saved for the home games. The Dolphins stay in their all white homes.
#8. 49ers-Saints: SF in white/gold, NO in black/black. Eight games in a row for the Saints in black pants. And this is a good thing. Offsets a gold rush with just that right amount of auric. The Niners red trim adds just the right touch. Nice one.
#7. Texans-Lions: HOU in white/navy, DET in honolulu blue/silver. No Lions throwbacks, and that's probably just as well as the Texans really don't have any. While this was a rather blue encounter, it was a very good blue one. Nice tints of the blue coupled with silver and red accoutrements made this a good prelude to a Thanksgiving feast.
#6. Patriots-Jets: NE in white/navy. NYJ in green/green. While this game turned into a farce, the uni matchup was anything but. For the first (and I hope, not the last) time, the Jets bust out the green pants. This gives this game a much needed boost of color. Looked really sweet from these eyes, and that's all that matters!
#5. Packers-Giants: GB in white/yellow, NYG in blue/gray. The two rivals matchup well with varying colors. Gray, blue, red, green, yellow. One of the better ones for Week 12.
#4. Ravens-Chargers: BAL in white/black, SD in alternate powder blue/white. The Chargers wearin' of the powders always rachets up their game in the rankings. It's just such a good looking outfit in my eyes. Ravens in white jerseys and black pants do add a tad to the proceedings, but it's the Chargers who take center stage here.
#3. Steelers-Browns: PIT in white/yellow, CLE in brown/white. For many years, these rivals played with the Browns normally in all white with the Steelers in black jerseys and yellow pants. But when the role reverses and the Steelers wear white and the Browns wear brown, to me it is very eye appealing. It just opens up an autumnal array of color; black, orange, yellow, brown. Pumpkin pie goes well with this matchup!
#2. Redskins-Cowboys: WSH in white/yellow, DAL in throwback dark blue/white. This is a bit on the splendid side. Redskins whip out the yellow pants and the Cowboys rock their annual ode to the team's origins in blue and white. Because of this, of course, the Cowboys wear dark at home. Always a plus. One of the better matchups for the week.
#1. Rams-Cardinals: STL in white/dark blue, ARZ in red/white. As long as one team went with dark pants, it would be a plus for me. And the Rams obliged. Come to think of it, they were the right team. I have been moaning about the Cardinals not breaking out red pants all season long. Not this time. This is a plus matchup. A perfect blend.
The Falcons and Saints joined the NFL a year apart during the transitional, pre-merger phase of the league. Prior to Atlanta joining in 1966 and New Orleans in 1967, the southernmost team on the coast had been in Washington DC. They became natural rivals, as bus loads of fans venture on seven-hour road trip between the cities when they play one another. A further non-geographic bond is the fact that the franchises share the same all-time leading scorer - Morten Andersen (New Orleans 1982 - 1994, 1,318 points; Atlanta 1995 - 2000, 2006 - 2007; 806 points.)
Although they currently reside in the NFC South Division, the Dixie Rivalry began in the post-merger NFL's NFC West in 1970. They usually battled with one another to stay out of the division's basement, as the Rams and 49'ers more often that not finished at the top. Prior to 1970 the Falcons resided in the NFL Coastal Division while the Saints rotated between the Capital and Century Divisions.
Like most expansion teams, the Falcons and Saints struggled on the field with roster mostly stocked with young players and veteran cast-offs, as there were no quick fixes available via free agency. The first meeting between the teams took place in Week 11 of the 1967 season, where the 1-8-1 Falcons visited the 1-9 Saints in Tulane Stadium. Billy Kilmer lead New Orleans on a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter for a 24-20 win. Two minute drives and comeback victories would become a recurring theme over the years.
That was not the case in 1973 though. In the midst of a nine-game win streak against their Southern rivals, the Falcons set a team record for points in a remarkable one-sided rout. After the end of a 0-0 first quarter, Atlanta went on a scoring rampage that saw them rack up 62 points. The Falcon offense was unstoppable, moving the chains with 32 first downs on the strength of 218 rushing yards, while the Saints offense was error prone, turning the ball over eight times, including five interceptions by Archie Manning.
The balance of the 70's saw the rivalry achieve competitive balance, with many of the signature moments occurring in New Orleans Super Dome. In 1978 Atlanta became the first of the two teams to qualify for the post season, and a signature win over the Saints in November helped them get there. The 5-5 Saints carried a 17-6 late into the fourth quarter against the 6-4 Falcons. Atlanta quarterback Steve Bartkowski lead the Falcons on a touchdown drive that closed the gap to 17-13 with 0:57 on the clock. After recovering the attempted on-sides kick, New Orleans attempted to run out the clock. Coach Dick Nolan elected to run a play on fourth-and-two, but halfback Chuck Muncie was stopped short of the line to gain and the Atlanta offense came back onto the field with 19 seconds left. Bartkowski lined up under center with three receivers split out wide to the right of the formation. The Saints were deployed in a prevent package featuring seven defensive backs. Bartkowski heaved a desperation pass toward the end zone, where his receivers attempted to get under the pass in heavy traffic. At least a dozen hands from both teams reached up to either grab or bat the ball down, but Falcon receiver Alfred Jenkins came away with possession off a tip, avoided several defenders and crossed the goal line for the decisive and dramatic 57-yard score. The "Big Ben" play lead highlight programs across the country and the momentum seizing win not only propelled Atlanta on a playoff run, they produced a win over the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card round before losing to the eventual NFC Champion Dallas Cowboys in the Divisional playoffs.
The schedule makers didn't do the New Orleans faithful any favors by schedule a visit from Atlanta on opening day the following season. The back-and-forth shootout saw the teams combine for over 1,000 yards of offense, with stars from both teams rack up impressive offensive numbers: Muncie and Atlanta rookie William Andrews each eclipsed 160 rushing yards, Jenkins had seven catches and a touchdown for the Falcons, while Wes Chandler produced 205 yards on just six catches, including a 40-yard score on an option pass from Muncie. Late in the game, then into overtime, New Orleans rookie kicker/punter Russel Erxleben experienced the highs and lows of his dual profession. Manning lead the Saints on a late drive that was capped with Erxleben's 38-yard field goal knotting the score at 34-34 with 44 seconds remaining. Midway through the extra period, Erxleben had the ball snapped over his head in the punt formation from the New Orleans 32 yard line. He scooped it up near his own goal line, then hurried a two-handed pass under pressure into the hands of Falcon James Mayberry who scored from six yards out for the stunning 40-34 win. Atlanta finished the 1979 season a disappointing 6-10, while the Saints recovered somewhat, finishing a then franchise best 8-8.
1991 saw a reversal of fortunes in the NFC West. the Saints finished in first place at 11-5 and the Falcons qualified as a Wild Card at 10-6, marking the first time either the 49'ers or Rams were left out of the post season since 1982. Three second half lead changes were capped by Michael Haynes 61-yard touchdown pass from Chris Miller with 2:41 remaining. New Orleans took possession on their own 17, and advanced to Atlanta's 35 with 1:10 to play. Bobby Hebert's pass was intercepted by Tim McKyer, who lateraled the ball to Deion Sanders, who ran around before lateraling to Joe Fishback who finished the play with an apparent touchdown. Following instant replay, it was determined Sander's exchange with Fishback was a forward pass, disqualifying the touchdown but the Falcons retained possession and ran the clock out. The loss was especially tough for New Orleans to take. Having made the post season three of the previous four seasons, each had ended with a one-game exit without a victory. The Falcons lost the following week to the eventual Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins.
Morten Andersen made one of his final game winning kicks for the Saints against his future team in 1994. The offensive game was remarkable in the fact that New Orleans was able to pull off the victory despite turning the ball over five times. the Falcons were unable to capitalize, despite churning out almost 400 yards of offense, they settled for six Norm Johnson field goals. The kicking duel was settled in the final two minutes of the game. Johnson booted a 30-yard field goal to put Atlanta ahead 32-30 with 1:44 remaining, but Andersen's fifth field goal of the day came from 39-yards out and just 0:08 left on the clock decided the outcome, 33-32.
New Orleans probably regretted letting Andersen leave via free agency following the 1994 season, as he signed with the Atlanta and was directly responsible for a Falcon sweep of the Saints in 1995. During his return to the Super Dome in September, Andersen booted four field goals, including a 21-yarder in overtime for the 24-21 Falcon win. In the December meeting at Georgia Dome, Andersen again was the deciding factor for the Falcons offense, but this time from long range. He set an NFL record with three successful attempts from 50 yards out - 51 and 55 twice - as Atlanta won 19-14.
The most poignant meeting, though albeit not the greatest game, was the Saints return to the Super Dome on September 25, 2006. After spending the 2005 season playing their "home" games at the Alamodome in San Antonio, TX and Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, LA in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Saints returned home with a new head coach and quarterback and a 2-0 record. Atlanta was also 2-0, but were unable to match the intensity of the Saints or their fans in the raucous dome. After surrendering a touchdown on a blocked punt, the Falcons managed an Andersen field goal and nothing more. The inspired New Orleans defense dominated, yielding just 10 first downs to Atlanta while holding Michael Vick to 12-31 passing for just 137 yards. Drew Brees' debut in New Orleans was modest statistically, but he was efficient and the Saints went on to a 23-3 win, a 10-6 record and NFC South Title and a trip tot eh NFC Championship game, where they ultimately lost to the Chicago Bears. changes would soon be in store for the Falcons as well, but the groundwork had been prepared for the Saints and Falcons to finally emerge as contenders at the same time.
The meeting at the Super Dome in Week 3 was a key meeting between the two rivals. The 1-1 Saints were defending Super Bowl Champions while the Falcons were coming off the first back-to-back winning seasons in franchise history. The game featured four lead changes as quarterbacks Brees and Matt Ryan moved their respective offenses up and down the field. Lance Moore's 16-yard touchdown reception at the end of the third quarter gave the Saints a 21-17 lead. Ryan responded by leading Atlanta on a 10-play drive that was capped by a 22-yard touchdown pass to Roddy White to regain the lead 24-21. Following an exchange of punts, Brees guided New Orleans to a tying field goal with nine seconds remaining, sending the game into overtime. The Falcons received the kickoff and punted after three plays. Four Brees completions moved New Orleans from their own 32 to the Atlanta 11. Seemingly in safe position, the Saints elected for a 29-yard field goal attempt on first down, but Garret Hartley pulled the ball wide left despite kicking from the right hash mark. Ryan and the Falcons capitalized, methodically advancing the ball from their own 20 to the Saints 23 in 12 plays. Matt Bryant's 46-yard attempt was good for the 27-24 win. Atlanta finished atop the NFC South with a 13-3 record with New Orleans second at 11-5, however both teams lost their first post season contests.
Tonight the Falcons off look to get revenge on the Saints who handed them their first lost three weeks ago, while the Saints try to stay in the playoff hunt after a 0-4 start.
Here I am again, back for the third installment that will determine whether or not we got the 'best looking' game to end the season (because we all know the Pro Bowl doesn't really count for that!)
Today we'll be looking at the next five games starting with...
1976 (XI) - Oakland (AFC) vs. Minnesota (NFC)
Today we'll be looking at the next five games starting with...
1976 (XI) - Oakland (AFC) vs. Minnesota (NFC)
ACTUAL: Very good combo. The look is bolstered by the fact that Oakland won without being in their intimidating black jerseys.
ALTERNATE: To be honest, if this was the match-up we saw, I think the game would have been even more lopsided than it was.
1978 (XIII) - Pittsburgh (AFC) vs. Dallas (NFC)
1979 (XIV) - Los Angeles (NFC) vs. Pittsburgh (AFC)
1980 (XV) - Oakland (AFC) vs. Philadelphia (NFC)
1977 (XII) - Dallas (NFC) vs. Denver (AFC)
ACTUAL: No matter who the home team was, this was the game we were going to see.
ALTERNATE: I like the Dallas blues more than the whites...but not here. The Denver orange drives the Actual's look over this almost total blue vision.
ACTUAL: As with the game three years earlier, no matter who the home team was, we'd see this match-up.
ALTERNATE: Again, this would have made an interesting look in a Preseason affair, but not in a game of this magnitude.
ACTUAL: This is really going to be a tough call. This was actually the first one that I truly remember watching (I was turning 7 two months later) on TV since my Dad was at the game. The way the Steelers played when the sun went down and darkness took over the Rose Bowl just wouldn't have been the same in the Alternate apparel.
ALTERNATE: I'm having a hard time here because I think the Rams in blue would have added more to this game visually than the Steelers in black. The alternating pattern said Pittsburgh was the home team but come on! The game was in Los Angeles for crying out loud! Since we are just going on 'looks,' I have to lean towards this version.
ACTUAL: My parents went to a party the night of this game given by fans of the Eagles and left me home with the babysitter - Keri Ketchell, where are you now? I clearly remember this was the match-up I had wanted to see and I got my wish.
ALTERNATE: There's just too much silver and black and not enough of anything else.
With a second consecutive cluster of games going 4-1 in favor of ACTUAL on my scorecard, the total is now ACTUAL - 10, ALTERNATE - 5. Can ALTERNATE begin to mount a comeback? Or does the GUD community see things differently than I do?
Make sure you cast your votes and tune in next week for the next offering of games.
|Butkus and the Bears captured the 1963 NFL Title, while Marshall and the Vikings|
got theirs in 1969, before losing to the Chiefs in Super Bowl IV.
|Payton carries against|
Minnesota in 1983
|Harbaugh and Ditka get into it in 1992|
|Although most Vikings-Bears meetings were fairly typical uniform-wise, in 2007 in the Metrodome, the Vikings went mono-purple, while the following year they|
went retro and the Bears went mono-white...
|...and in the second game in 2008 in Chicago, the Bears broke out the Orange Alts...|
|...and two years later in November 2010, the Bears went retro themselves, |
while the Vikings donned purple pants
The arrival of head coach Bud Grant from the CFL and the Purple People Eaters front four featuring Alan Page, Carl Eller, Jim Marshall and Gary Larsen turned the tide of the series. From 1969 through 1983 the Vikings record against Chicago was 22-6. This period included 10 Division Titles and many epic playoff contests with the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams. Unfortunately, all four Super Bowl appearances for the Vikings ended with disappointing losses.
In the midst of this Minnesota NFC Central domination, came a record setting performance from a remarkable player. In Week 10 of the 1977 season the 6-3 Vikings visited the 4-5 bears. Halfback Walter Payton was ill with the flu, but coach Jack Pardee knew his star back was Chicago's only chance against Minnesota's strong defensive front. Chicago's first play on the cold, damp, windy afternoon at Soldier Field was an end run where Payton charged ahead for 29 yards. The all rush drive ended in Minnesota territory on a failed fake field goal attempt, but Payton would fin the end zone in the second quarter on a one yard plunge, and a Bob Thomas field goal gave the Bears a 10-0 halftime lead. The weather conditions were so foul that Bears quarterback Bob Avellini attempted just one pass in the half, a six-yard completion to Payton, who had 26 carries for 144 yards - an impressive total for a full game! The first Bears possession of the third quarter resulted in a punt being blocked for a Viking touchdown, cutting the lead to 10-7. Both defenses clamped down and yards were at a premium. When the Bears received the ball at their own 20 yard line with 5:38 Payton had 201 yards on 36 carries. After picking up a first down, Payton gained 58 yards on his 38th carry, being tackled at the Vikings nine-yard line. Two rushes and a sack gave Chicago a fourth-and-goal and coach Pardee did not have confidence in a field goal attempt, even from short range. Payton rushed for six and was tackled at the two, giving him 275 yards, breaking O.J. Simpson's record of 273. The Bears defense held on for the victory, evening Chicago's record at 5-5. Both teams finished the season at 9-5. The Bears qualified for the post season for the first time since 1963 but lost to Dallas in the Wild Card Round. Minnesota won the Central Division, defeated the Rams in the Divisional round but lost to the Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game.
One of the series most unforgettable moments occurred in the fourth quarter of a game at the Metrodome in October 1992 with Chicago nursing what seemed like a comfortable 20-0 lead. Bears quarterback Jim Harbaugh had played well, leading four scoring drives, throwing for a touchdown and running for another. On a first down he called an audible, but telegraphed a pass that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Coach Mike Ditka was apoplectic, and met Harbaugh on the field, screaming, cursing and gesturing wildly. After the game, Ditka did not back down, and told the press, "I'll just say this...if it happens again, there will be changes made and they will be definite and they will be permanent. I'm not going to put 47 players' futures in the hands of one player who thinks he knows more than I do." The sudden change in momentum was palpable. The Chicago offense stagnated, gaining only two first down the rest of the way, while the Minnesota offense capitalized. Quarterback Rich Gannon was a perfect 7-7 in leading two touchdown drives to complete the improbable comeback. This was the beginning of the end for Coach Ditka in Chicago. The Bears struggled to a 5-11 record, their worst in a decade. The Vikings won the NFC Central title with an 11-5 mark but exited the playoffs in the Wild Card round with a loss at home to the Washington Redskins.
Special teams played a pivotal role for the Vikings in the 2008 Soldier Field meeting, but this time it was to the Bears benefit. Chicago scored twice on punt plays, but surprisingly neither involved return ace Hester. With the game tied 7-7 in the first quarter, Chris Kluwe bobbled the snap and had his punt blocked. Kluwe illegally kicked the ball a second time while it was on the ground right to defender Garret Wolfe who returned it 17 yards for a touchdown (second picture above). Midway through the second quarter with the score tied at 17, Viking returner Charles Gorman had the ball bounce off his leg inside his own 10 yard line, which Chicago's Zackary Bowman recovered in the end zone for the touchdown. The back-and-forth scoring continued through the half and third quarters, which included a 51-yard touchdown catch by Marty Booker. After a one-yard rush by Matt Forte opened the lead to 17 points, Minnesota attempted a comeback attempt. Gus Frerotte lead the Vikings to a field goal and touchdown to close the gap to 48-41, but with a chance to tie the game his final pass was intercepted and the Bears ran the clock out. The 41 points were the most Chicago has ever surrendered in a victory.
Last year, the 8-8 Bears swept the 3-13 Vikings, winning in October on Sunday Night Football at Soldier Field and again in Minnesota for the season finale in December. The 2012 Bears are 7-3 and are reeling having lost two straight primetime games with QB Jay Cutler being injured. Cutler should be back today, but the Vikings are revitalized this year behind QB Christian Ponder and at 6-4 are in the thick of the NFC Wild Card race. In just two weeks these two teams will meet again in the Metrodome, possibly with the Division title on the line, although the 7-3 Green Bay Packers also figure to have in say in that as well.
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