Doug Flutie's Drop Kick

Doug Flutie's Drop Kick
by Rob Holecko

from Celebrate Boston:

On January 1, 2006, the New England Patriots were facing the Miami Dolphins. Doug Flutie was in at quarterback while starter Tom Brady was being rested for the playoffs. With 6:10 remaining in the fourth quarter, what looked like a 2-point conversion attempt turned out to be history in the making. As Flutie gathered the snap, he bounced the ball at about the ten yard line, then booted it between the uprights for the extra point. It was the first successfully executed drop kick play in an NFL game since 1941. The January 2, 2006, Boston Globe describes this historic event:

"[It turned] out the Patriots had been practicing it in recent weeks, a result of a conversation among ESPN's Chris Berman, Patriots coach Bill Belichick, and Flutie. Berman remembered seeing Flutie execute a drop kick while playing in the Canadian Football League.

'We had a couple tryouts out there and Doug shanked a couple, but he hit a couple good ones, so I thought if we had an opportunity to do it in one of these last couple of games, we'd give him a shot,' said Belichick, who smiled as Flutie hugged him after the kick. 'I think Doug deserves it. He is a guy that adds a lot to this game of football running, passing, and now kicking. I'm happy for him.'"

Tom Brady, now a legend himself, said about the play, "Doug was so nervous for three weeks because that's been in the plan. I think he was probably more worried about drop kicking than he was about quarterbacking. He was so excited when it went in. I think everyone was. He just adds to his legend."

Although Flutie did not discuss whether 2005 would be his final season, Pats' coach Bill Belichick commented about the drop kick, suggesting that the play was a retirement present of sorts for his veteran quarterback. On May 15, 2006, Doug Flutie announced his retirement from the game at age 43.

Also, "On This Day..", fifty years ago today the AFL played it's first ever Championship as the Los Angeles Chargers played the Houston Oilers.  You can read about this game here in the Pelican Park Eagle blog.

We are proud to add these game to our matchup database, and Happy New Year from the Gridiron Uniform Database.

The Ice Bowl

The Ice Bowl
by Rob Holecko

On This Day... 44 years ago, December 31, 1967, what some would say the greatest game ever (1958 Colts-Giants NFL Championship not withstanding) was played in cold frigid conditions.  The Cowboys and Packers met for the NFL title for the second year in a row, and the second time in the calendar year.  On January 1, they met for the 1966 title at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, and now on the last day of the year they again met for the 1967 title.  This would be the Packers defining moment of their 1960s dynasty.  It would be their fifth NFL title in seven years, and their eleventh overall, having previously won six titles in an earlier era, from 1929 through 1944.

From the Pro Football Hall of Fame's website, here is the write-up of the game:

Pro football fans in Green Bay, Wisconsin have always been recognized as a loyal and hearty bunch. But one wouldn’t have faulted even the most loyal "Packer Backer" if he’d decided not to attend the 1967 NFL Championship game between the Packers and Dallas Cowboys. Played at Lambeau Field on December 31, the temperature at game time registered a frigid 13 degrees below zero. Nonetheless, more than 50,000 parka-clad fans braved the elements that New Year’s Eve and watched in awe as the Packers claimed their third consecutive NFL title, with a 21-17 victory.

From the start, Green Bay fans felt their team had a distinct advantage over the warm-weather Cowboys, After all, the Packers lived and practiced in the cold Wisconsin climate. Green Bay’s early 14-0 lead probably convinced fans that they were right. However, the severe weather affected the Packers too. Dallas scored a touchdown and a field goal after two Packer fumbles and added a second touchdown in the fourth quarter. Suddenly, with 4:50 left in the game the Packers were behind, 17-14.
The Packers literally and figuratively "kept their cool." Behind the leadership of future Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr, they marched down field. With sixteen seconds remaining and the temperature down to eighteen below zero, the Packers found themselves about two feet away from victory. Starr called time out. The field was like a sheet of ice. The two previous running plays had gone nowhere. With no time outs left, a running play seemed totally out of the question. A completed pass surely would win it. Even an incomplete pass would at least stop the clock so the Packers could set up a field goal to tie the game and send it into overtime. After consulting with Packers coach Vince Lombardi, Starr returned to the huddle.
Starr took the snap from center Ken Bowman. Bowman and guard Jerry Kramer combined to take out Dallas tackle Jethro Pugh. With Pugh out of the way, Starr surprised everyone and dove over for the score. "We had run out of ideas," Starr said of the play. However, Lombardi put it another way, "We gambled and we won."

We are proud to add this remarkable game to our database of head-to-head matchups in the Gridiron Uniform Database.  So for the final time in 2011, we at the Gridiron Uniform Database will bid you adieu and look forward to seeing you next year, with more head-to-head matchups, more weekly uniform rankings, more On This Day... and much, much more to be added to the database in 2012.

1962 NFL Championship

The 1962 NFL Championship Game
by Rob Holecko

While many people of course consider the 1967 NFL Championship between the Cowboys and Packers at Lambeau Field the true Ice Bowl, five years earlier another NFL Title game was also played in frigid conditions, this one at Yankee Stadium in New York.  "On This Day..." today brings you from 49 years ago today, the 1962 NFL Championship.

The Giants and Packers met for the second time in a row in the title game, the Packers had won the 1961 Championship 37-0 in Green Bay.  This time the teams met in New York, and the Packers knew how important the game was to head coach Vince Lombardi, who had used to be a Giants' assistant coach.  "It was the coach's backyard and his first time back in the big city in a playoff game. We knew how much it meant to him. There was considerable pressure and we understood it was going to be a substantial battle," said Packer Jerry Kramer.

From Wikipedia:
 The 1962 game was a rematch of the 1961 championship game, won by Green Bay 37–0. The Eastern Conference champions New York Giants (12-2) faced the Western Conference titlist Green Bay Packers (13-1). Green Bay began the season 10–0 including a 49–0 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, where they gained 628 yards to Philadelphia's 54. Before the game, 10,000 fans at a New York Knicks game spontaneously began chanting "Beat Green Bay! Beat Green Bay!", and when the 18,000 tickets available to non season ticket holders went on sale for the game, they sold within three hours. Due to the NFL's blackout policy which aimed to protect gate receipts, until 1973, fans in a team's home market could not watch their team's regular season and playoff games on television, even if they were title games. New York fans made reservations for motels in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Connecticut so they could watch the game out of the 75 mile blackout zone, and even though the game was played in single digit weather with 35–40 mph winds, only 299 of the 65,000+ Giant fans who bought tickets to the sold out game stayed home. Although the weather was temperate the previous day, during the contest it became so cold that a cameraman filming the game suffered frostbite, and television crews used dugout bonfires to thaw out their cameras. Broadcaster Art Rust, Jr. later described the weather as "barbaric". The cold conditions favored the Packers who used a run-oriented offense led by Taylor, while the Giants featured a more pass heavy offense led by quarterback YA Tittle who, coming into the game, had passed for 3,224 yards and 33 touchdowns on the season.

The wind caused the ball to be blown off the tee three times during the opening kickoff, and a Green Bay player had to hold the ball onto the tee so Willie Wood could kick it off.  After a Jerry Kramer field goal made the score 3–0 in favor of Green Bay in the first quarter, the Giants drove to the Green Bay 15 yard line behind short passes from Tittle. Tittle's play action pass to wide open tight end Joe Walton near the goal line was tipped by Nitschke and intercepted by fellow linebacker Dan Currie. During most of the first and second quarter, the teams ran the ball for short gains. The Giants repeatedly hit Taylor hard, and he suffered cuts to his arm and tongue. Near halftime, the Giants Phil King fumbled on their own 28, and Nitchke recovered. Behind a halfback pass from Paul Hornung to flanker Boyd Dowler, the Packers drove to the Giants seven yard line. On the following play Taylor used an outside fake before going back inside to run untouched into the end zone.

The weather worsened by halftime and the wind swirled dust around the stadium, tearing apart the ballpark's United States flag, and knocking over a television camera.  Passing became even more difficult; the longest pass of the day was a 25 yard one from Tittle to Walton. After blocking a Green Bay punt in the end zone and recovering it for a touchdown to pull the game to 10–7 in the third quarter, the Giants defense forced the Packers into a three and out on their next possession. Sam Horner fumbled on a punt return at the Giants 42 yard line however, and Nitschke recovered. Five plays later Kramer kicked a field goal to make the score 13–7. Tittle, with the aid of two Packers penalties, then drove the Giants from their own 20 to the Green Bay 18 on the ensuing drive. New York then incurred two holding penalties, pushing them back to the Packers 40 yard line and ending their drive. Led by Taylor who repeatedly ran for key first downs, the Packers advanced the ball down to the New York end of the field, where they kicked a field goal to make the score 16–7 with 1:50 to play. Green Bay recovered all five of their fumbles during the game, while the Giants lost both of theirs.

 Tomorrow we will look back at the original December 31, 1967 Ice Bowl between the Cowboys and Packers.

Week 16 Uniform Rankings

Week 16 Uniform Rankings
by Tim Brulia

Reviewing Week 16 as the 2011 regular season is rapidly drawing to a close...

Texans-Colts: Texans in white/navy and the Colts in blue/white. Nothing special here. A blue-light special with a hint of red mixed in.

Raiders-Chiefs: A look that stands the test of time. Practically the same in 2011 as it was in 1971, 40 years ago. Raiders in white/silver and the Chiefs rock red/white. Nice colors, as you'd expect.

Jaguars-Titans: Jags go white/black and the Titans go columbia blue/navy blue. Titans apparently finding their formula after an era of mix and match. Thinking the Jags in all white might have brightened things up, but we haven't seen that combo since early in the season when they were in their white at home phase. Not a bad matchup.

Dolphins-Patriots: Dolphins work the white/aqua combo and the Patriots go with standard navy/silver. Decent colors at play here, aqua, navy, silver, white with touches of red and orange. A good matchup.

Cardinals-Bengals: Big Red in white/white and the B's in orange/white. After three straight home games in which the Cardinals went red/red, the Arizona lads go back to an all white look, while the Bengals take the field in alternate orange. A little bit of a twist, but I'm not feeling too fuzzy on this matchup.

Broncos-Bills: Broncs in all white and the Bills in blue/white. A bit more Bronco orange would have been nice, but that couldn't be done here. Still feeling the Bills 2011 blues in a good way, though.

Rams-Steelers: Rams in white/navy and the Steelers in black/yellow. Rams wore the best of the three pairs of pants in their closet (yellow throwbacks are not an option) against the Standard Steeler fare. Actually one of the better uni matchups.

Giants-Jets: Crosstown rivals in standard get ups; NYG in white/gray and NYJ in green/white. Very colorful matchup, believe it or not! Sparkling!

Vikings-Redskins: Vikes in all white and the Skins in burgundy/yellow. Leave it to the Redskins to make me look like a fool when I said last week in this space that the Skins tucked away their yellow trousers for the season! They brought 'em back for this week and they feed very nicely off the Vikes whites.

Buccaneers-Panthers: Bucs go with the white/pewter look with the Panthers in the black/silver. If the Cats could had gone with the carolina blue here, this would have been an ace matchup. It's still nice, but that would have set me off, positively speaking.

Browns-Ravens: Browns going for the full white for the 15th game in a row and the Ravens trot out the magnificent purple/black combo. As a Steeler fan, I'm not supposed to say anything good about either of these teams. But I cannot deny the uni goodness from this encounter, especially the dark birds' combo.

Chargers-Lions: Bolts in white/navy and the Lions in honolulu blue/silver. Hmph, this is really a nice matchup. I just like how this one is pulled off, and I really can't explain why!

Eagles-Cowboys: Birds in green/white and the Cowboys in standard white/silver-green-blue. Have seen this one many a time before and it always plays out well. Top 10 material as always.

49ers-Seahawks: SF in white/gold and Sea in all seahawk blue. The Seahawk blue look, always unique is starting to dull my senses a little. A spark of white pants might have changed my mind, but then again would that be too much white with the Niners white shirts?

Bears-Packers: Bears in white/navy and the Pack in green/yellow. Now you know this show of colors from the traditional rivals is always a peach to this reporter. These teams have great color schemes and they know how to use them. Well done!

Falcons-Saints: Falcs in all white and Saints in all black. I am a rare case, but the all-blacks of the Saints just works for me. I could stand to see just a tad more red on the Falcons, but this is good enough.

So they rank as follows (bottom to the top this week):

16) Jaguars-Titans
15) Texans-Colts
14) 49ers-Seahawks
13) Raiders-Chiefs
12) Broncos-Bills
11) Cardinals-Bengals
10) Buccaneers-Panthers
9) Rams-Steelers
8) Dolphins-Patriots
7) Falcons-Saints
6) Eagles-Cowboys
5) Vikings-Redskins
4) Chargers-Lions
3) Giants-Jets
2) Bears-Packers
1) Browns-Ravens

Catch ya next week with the final regular season installment!

~ ~ ~
"On This Day..."
by Rob Holecko

Four years ago today, the New England Patriots were 15-0 heading into their regular season finale against the New York Giants.  The game was a Saturday Night NFL Network telecast, but with the game being of such significance, the league decided to simulcast it on CBS and NBC as well.  As the Wikipedia article describes it:

The NFL Network had exclusive rights to broadcast the Patriots-Giants game, and in the weeks before the game, the network increasingly promoted the game via television commercials on other stations. It was clear the game was one of the most anticipated of the season, and could therefore serve as an important promotion for the NFL Network, which had tried unsuccessfully over the previous year to expand its viewership by becoming included as an "extended basic service" on the major American cable TV providers such as Comcast and Time Warner.

Political pressure from the Northeast to make the game more widely viewable preceded the decision to simulcast the game on CBS and NBC. Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania senator who was the Republican ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the Committee's head, wrote the league a letter threatening to reconsider the antitrust exemption currently enjoyed by the NFL under United States law. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts had pressured the league and cable companies to settle their dispute so "no die-hard Pats fans will be shut out from watching their team take aim at football history."

In the end, 15.7 million viewers watched the game on CBS, 13.2 million on NBC, 4.5 million on the NFL Network, and 1.2 million on New York, Boston and Manchester, New Hampshire television stations.  The game was the most watched program on television since the 2007 Academy Awards and the most watched regular season NFL game in more than 12 years.
The Patriots won the thrilling game 38-35, and Tom Brady and Randy Moss set records for most touchdowns in a season (passing, Brady, 50 & receiving, Moss, 23) to cap off the first 16-0 undefeated season.  Although the Giants would win the game that really mattered, the rematch in Super Bowl XLII a few weeks later, the Patriots capped off the most successful regular season in league history in this game.

We are proud to add this game to our database.

The Greatest Game Ever Played

On This Day...

Alan Ameche scored this overtime touchdown in the famed 1958 NFL Championship between the Colts and the Giants.  This game really put the NFL on the national landscape as far as being a televised sport and becoming the most popular sport in America that it is today.  In the 1940's and 1950's baseball and boxing were really the biggest sports in America.  Pro Football trailed in popularity to college football.  Then in this championship game Johnny Unitas, trailing 17-14 with under two minutes to play at their own 14 yard line, drove the Colts down the field to set up a game-tying field goal, and for the first time ever, send an NFL game into sudden-death overtime, where the Colts would prevail.  Here's is Wikipedia's summary of the game:
The 1958 National Football League Championship Game was played on December 28, 1958 at Yankee Stadium in New York City. It was the first ever National Football League (NFL) playoff game to go into sudden death overtime. The final score was Baltimore Colts 23, New York Giants 17. The game has since become widely known as "The Greatest Game Ever Played". The game was the 26th annual NFL championship game.
The game marked the beginning of the NFL's popularity surge, and eventual rise to the top of the United States sports market. A major reason was that the game was televised across the nation by NBC. Baltimore receiver Raymond Berry recorded 12 receptions for 178 yards and a touchdown. His 12 receptions are a championship record that stands to this day.
We our proud to add this game to our database of matchups in the Gridiron Uniform Database.

More from Wikipedia on the game:

An estimated 45 million people watched the game on television in the United States. This audience could have been even greater except that because of NFL restrictions, the game was blacked out in the greater New York City area.  Still, the impact from this game is far reaching. One year later, Texas billionaire Lamar Hunt would form the American Football League, which began play with 8 teams in the 1960 season. The growth of the popularity of the sport, through franchise expansion, the eventual merger with the AFL, and popularity on television, is commonly credited to this game, making it a turning point in the history of football.
The game is, to date, the only NFL championship game ever decided in overtime. The drive by Baltimore at the end of regulation, with Unitas leading the team quickly down the field to set up the game-tying field goal, is often cited as the first instance of a "Two Minute Drill", for which Unitas became famous.
The Baltimore head coach was Weeb Ewbank. He would coach Baltimore to a second straight championship game win over New York the next season. Ewbank would eventually be fired from the Colts, and would take the job of head coach for the New York Jets. Ewbank led the Jets to victory over the Colts in Super Bowl III, also considered a monumental victory in the history of pro football.
The Giants head coach was Jim Lee Howell, and he was aided by two coordinators who went on to greatness themselves. The defensive coordinator was Tom Landry, who left the team in 1960 to take over the then-expansion Dallas Cowboys and led them to two Super Bowl championships. The offensive coordinator was Vince Lombardi, who left the team following the game to take the head coaching position with the Green Bay Packers. Lombardi led the Packers to five championships in the 1960s, including the first two Super Bowls, and had the Super Bowl Trophy named after him after his death.
We'll be back tomorrow with another great "On This Day..." game also involving the Giants, as well as Tim's Week 16 uniform breakdown.

Record Setting Night

Record Setting Night
by Rob Holecko

Last night, Saints QB Drew Brees broke Dan Marino's 1984 single-season passing mark of 5,084 yards on his final throw of the night, a touchdown that gave him 5,087 yards for the season, with one more game still to play.  The Saints beat the Falcons and clinched the NFC South title.

Throughout the night, during the telecast they referred to the record, giving a countdown of how many yards Brees needed.  They flashed back to 1984 and the Monday Night game at the end of the year against the Cowboys when Marino set the record.  They talked about the evolution of the record, from Sammy Baugh and John Unitas, and then in 1967, in the AFL, Joe Namath became the first to pass for 4,000 yards in a season.  Dan Fouts broke that record three consecutive years, in 1979, 1980 and 1981, and then Marino in 1984 passed for 5,084, a record that has stood since then.

In 2008, Brees got close to breaking the record a first time, throwing an incomplete pass on the final play of the season against the Carolina Panthers and winding up at 5,069 yards.

But this time he closed the deal, and he'll get to add to it next week, possibly they won't rest their starters in the season finale as the Saints still have a chance at a first-round bye, if they can win although they'll need the 49ers to lose to the Rams, possibly a tall order.

It was an exciting night in the Louisiana Superdome Allstate Car Carriers Big Old Round Building Mercedes Benz Superdome, possibly the biggest since the 2009 Super Bowl run, a with it being a Monday Night against the Falcons, it was reminiscent of the 2006 Week 3 game against the MNF Falcons when the Saints re-opened the dome after losing the 2005 season to Hurricane Katrina.

The Saints that year, after a dismal 2005 season went all the way to the NFC Championship game where they lost to the Bears, and three years later won Super Bowl XLIV.

Tom Brady has 4,897 yards going into his finale against Buffalo, so he also has an outside chance of passing 5,000 yards and Marino's mark.

Next week Brees also has a chance of passing Peyton Manning's record of 450 completions in a season, he finished last night with 440.

~ ~ ~

"On This Day..."

Last week all the talk (in and around New York anyway) was the Giants-Jets game, but today we will look back to another day where the focus of the NFL was all on the New York teams.  On December 27, 1981, the two NFL Wild Card games were played as the Bills and the Jets faced off at Shea stadium in the early AFC game, and the Giants and Eagles faced off in the NFC game in Philadelphia.

Here's a quick summary of this game from Wikipedia:
Bills defensive back Bill Simpson's interception at the Buffalo 1-yard line with 2 seconds left in the game preserved a 31-27 victory and gave Buffalo their first playoff win since 1965.

The Bills jumped to a 24-0 lead by the second quarter. First New York's Bruce Harper fumbled the opening kickoff while being tackled by Ervin Parker, and Charles Romes returned the ball 26-yards to the end zone. Then after a punt, quarterback Joe Ferguson completed a 50-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Frank Lewis, while interceptions by Simpson and linebacker Phil Villapiano led to a 29-yard field goal by Nick Mike-Mayer and a 26-yard scoring reception by Lewis. However, Jets quarterback Richard Todd threw a 30-yard touchdown to tight end Mickey Shuler, and kicker Pat Leahy added two field goals to cut Buffalo's lead, 24-13.
With about 10 minutes left in the game, running back Joe Cribbs ran for a 45-yard touchdown, increasing the Bills lead to 31-13. But Todd then led the Jets 80 yards in 8 plays and completed a 30-yard touchdown to Bobby Jones. Then after forcing a punt, New York drove for another score, aided by a pass interference call against Bills defensive back Mario Clark that nullified an interception. Kevin Long finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to cut the score to 31-27. The Jets got the ball back with 2:36 remaining and then drove 69 yards to the Buffalo 11-yard line, aided by a holding penalty that wiped out an interception by defensive back Steve Freeman. However, Simpson's interception at the 1-yard line halted New York's comeback with 2 seconds left.

Simpson recorded 2 interceptions, while Lewis caught 7 passes for a franchise postseason record 158 yards and 2 touchdowns. Shuler caught 6 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown. Todd threw for 377 yards, while Ferguson threw for 268. Both quarterbacks threw 2 touchdowns and were intercepted four times.
Larry Schmit reports to us in the forum that in this game the Bills' Joe Cribbs wore a gray facemask, while the other Bills wore the correct white facemasks. (see pictures)  Thanks, Larry.

In the other game, the Giants and Eagles faced off.  Here's the Wikipedia run down of that game:
The Giants jumped to a 20-0 lead in the first quarter, but had to withstand an Eagles comeback at the end to hold on to a 27-21 win. In the first quarter, Eagles kick/punt returner Wally Henry fumbled a punt and Beasley Reece recovered the ball at the Philadelphia 26-yard line. A few plays later, quarterback Scott Brunner then threw a 9-yard touchdown to running back Leon Bright (the extra point attempt failed). Later in the first period, Brunner threw a 10-yard touchdown to wide receiver John Mistler, Henry then fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and Mark Haynes recovered the ball in the end zone to give New York a 20-0 lead.

In the second quarter, Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski completed a 15-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Harold Carmichael, but it was countered by Brunner's 22-yard touchdown to wide receiver Tom Mullady to give the Giants a 27-7 halftime lead. However, New York was shut out in the second half, while the Eagles opened the third period by marching 82 yards to score on running back Wilbert Montgomery's 6-yard rushing touchdown. Montgomery added another touchdown with 2:51 left in the game, but the Giants were able to run out the rest of the clock to preserve the victory. It marked the Giants first post season victory since 1956.
The Bills and the Giants both scored their first post-season victories in decades that day, and while they would both go on to lose to the eventual Super Bowl participants, the 49ers and the Bengals, the following week, for one day the New York teams were the center of the football world.

Two Championship Tilts

"On This Day..."
by Rob Holecko

We hope everyone had a good Christmas, a least a better one that the ex-boyfriend of this girl at Lambeau Field last night. (see picture to the right)

Yesterday while discussing the 1971 Christmas Day 'longest game ever' between the Chiefs and the Dolphins, we mentioned that twice previous, the NFL had scheduled NFL Championships for Monday the 26th, rather than play on Christmas Sunday.

Today we will feature those two games, the 1955 and 1960 Championships, for our "On This Day..." feature.

In 1955, the Los Angeles Rams, in coach Sid Gillman's first season, were the Western Division champions at 8-3-1.  They had won the 1945 NFL championship while still in Cleveland, and the next year moved out west to Los Angeles.  Out west they had gone to three straight championship games from 1949 to '51, winning a second championship in '51.  Now under Gillman, with players such as Bob Waterfield and Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch, they were back in the title game, looking for their third title.

Meanwhile the team that replaced them in, or some would say drove them out of, Cleveland, Paul Brown's Browns, the defending champions, were in their sixth consecutive NFL Championship in six years in the league.  After winning all four AAFC titles from 1946 through 1949, the Browns were 1950 and 1954 NFL Champions, and arguably one of the best dynasties of all time, going for their seventh title in nine years.  Led by Otto Graham, Lou Groza and Dante Lavelli, the Browns were 9-2-1 and Eastern Division Champions.

Here is the Wikipedia write-up of the game:

The 1955 National Football League Championship Game was played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum between the Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Browns and the Western Conference champion Los Angeles Rams. The 23rd NFL title game was played on Monday, December 26, 1955 before 87,695, the largest crowd to see an NFL title game to that time. This was the first NFL championship game televised by NBC and the first NFL championship game played on a Monday.

Browns veteran Lou Groza kicked off; Rams rookie halfback Ron Waller returned the kick, and Groza himself made the tackle. A subsequent Rams drive was stopped at the Cleveland 12 when Kenny Konz intercepted a Norm Van Brocklin pass. Browns quarterback Otto Graham, who had announced his retirement at the end of the season, drove Cleveland to the L.A. 26 where Groza's FG gave the Browns a 3-0 first quarter lead. The Browns scored again when DB Don Paul intercepted Van Brocklin's pass on the Browns 30 and raced 70 yards to a touchdown, making the score 10-0. The Rams answered back when Van Brocklin connected with halfback Volney Skeets Quinlan for a 67-yard rouchdown, pulling the Rams to within 3 points, 10-7, and giving the large crowd hopes of an upset. But late in the second period, Van Brocklin threw his third interception of the half; defensive back Tom James, who had been beaten on the Rams' Tom Fears' title-winning touchdown on the same field four years earlier, grabbed the errant pass and took the ball back to midfield with time running out. The next play turned a close game into a rout; Otto Graham found Dante Lavelli with a 50-yard TD pass along the sideline and the Rams, who moments earlier were driving to take the lead, went to the locker room down 17-7.

Graham earned his place as the star of the game. After moving the Browns from the L.A. 46, Graham kept the ball and ran around right end from the 19 and scored to put the Browns ahead 24-7. On Los Angeles's next possession, Sam Palumbo intercepted Van Brocklin at the Ram 36. Graham drove the Browns to the 4, then scored himself on a sneak. Groza's conversion increased Cleveland's lead to 31-7 with two minutes left in the third quarter. In the final period, Graham tossed a 35-yard touchdown pass to Ray Renfro and Groza's kick gave the Browns a 38-7 lead. Late in the game, Waller ran four yards for a touchdown and Les Richter's conversion finished the scoring. In the final minutes coach Brown sent in reserve quarterback George Ratterman and allowed Graham to leave the field to an ovation from the Los Angeles crowd. Cleveland, winning three titles in the first half of the decade and representing the Eastern Conference in the championship game every year since its admission to the NFL, celebrated Graham's farewell, while the Rams' Van Brocklin, who threw six interceptions, would often be quoted that the game was the worst of his Hall of Fame career.
This may have been the pinnacle of the Browns' dynasty, while they would go on to have five more conference titles from 1957 through 1969, including a 1964 NFL Title, their fourth NFL title and 8th overall, after the 1970 merger, the Browns would never see the greatness of the 1940s and 1950s.  After a couple heart-breaking AFC Championship losses to Denver in the 1980s, the Browns' would move to Baltimore after the 1995 season.  Although they would re-born as a 1999 expansion team, the current incarnation of the Browns has only been to the playoffs once, in 2002, and continues to rebuild, ever in search of recapturing they glory days of yesterday, and along with the Detroit Lions, are the only non-expansion teams to have never reached the Super Bowl.
The Rams, like the Browns, have not seen success in recent years like in the olden days.  While they were a perennial playoff team, reaching the postseason 14 out of 17 years from 1973 through 1989, they continuously ran into strong Cowboys and Vikings teams in the 1970s and Bears and 49ers teams in the 1980s and only made it to one Super Bowl, losing XIV to the Steelers after the 1979 season.  Under Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk, they reached two Super Bowls, winning XXXIV after the 1999 season and returning two years later.  They too, have reached bottom again, won only 3, 2 and 1 games from 2007 through 2009, and are currently completing another 2-win season.

The other championship game we are looking back to today is the 1960 championship between the Packers and the Eagles.  The Packers (8-4, Western Conference Champs) were just beginning their 1960s Vince Lombardi years of greatness, while the Eagles (10-2, Eastern Conference Champs) led by Chuck Bednarik were the dominate team in the league that year.  While they would go to two Super Bowls, winning NFC titles in 1980 and 2004, the 1960 squad would be the last Eagle squad to be NFL Champions.  They went to four straight NFC Championships from 2001 to 2004, and again in 2008, but are still looking for that elusive title, having celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 1960 Championship by wearing throwbacks to that year Week 1 2010.

The Packers, of course, were the team of the 1960s, rebounding from this loss to the Eagles to win the 1961 and 1962 titles, and three more from 1965 through 1967, as well as the first two Super Bowls.  After a couple decades of mediocrity, they would win Super Bowl XXXI under Brett Favre, and another one last year under Aaron Rodgers, and are working on a second this year.

We are proud to add these games to Gridiron Uniform Database's collection of randomly added single-game matchups.

You can view other randomly added past games here.

The Longest Game Ever

The Longest Game Ever
by Rob Holecko

While Tim's Christmas Eve post yesterday summed up our feelings around here and gratitude to everyone who has helped us make this website be what it is during this first year, those feelings of gratitude are dwarfed by the excitement that we feel in anticipation for how much this site can and will grow in the next couple years as we see just how little we have on the site as compared with what it will be when complete.

To that end we offer another small Christmas present to our visitors.  We have slightly revamped the navigation for the 'Head-to-Head Matchups.'  You will now see on the front page to the left of the web-visitor counter (which by the way is now at 95,000) links which will help you easily find matchups by week, by team, and by year.  Also there are links to the 'Randomly Added', 'All-Time Post-Season' and 'Historical Head-To-Head' matchups.  When clicking on to these pages, you can see truly how little of the vast collection of complete head-to-head matchups we have done, and how much work there is to go.  But, of course all of the yearly graphics, which are accessible by the year and team links down either side of the webpage, are available, and if there is a particular past head-to-head matchup you would like added to the database, just let us know and we'll add it.

Another new feature, to the right of the web-counter, you will now see links to the most recent blog entries, so you do not have to click into the blog to see if and when it has been updated.  I know at times we have updated daily, while at times during the school year we just haven't had time to update it more than weekly, so now you will know wherever something new is there just by a quick look at the front page.  You can also subscribe to the blog here.

Now onto the main subject of today's Christmas Day blog, the "On This Day..."

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"On This Day..."

In 1971, the Chiefs and Dolphins met in an AFC Divisional Playoff game.  The Chiefs had been to two of the first five Super Bowls, having won Super Bowl IV, while the Dolphins were making their second consecutive playoff appearance, in Don Shula's second year.  Both teams were 10-3-1 and had the two best records in the conference, but under the system then teams in the NFL playoffs were not seeded, but merely rotated among the three division winners and one wild card team.  (The same system, which would the following year see the 15-0 Dolphins play on the road in the AFC Championship game at Pittsburgh, would be abandoned a few years later.)  So the top two seeds met in the divisional playoff round on Christmas Day, while the Central Division champion Browns and wild card Colts would meet in the other divisional playoff, the following day.

What makes this game special is that it was tied at the end of regulation, and after a 15 minute overtime period with no scoring, for the first time ever, an NFL game went to a second overtime.  To this day, only four games have gone into a second overtime, yesterday we told you about the 1977 Oakland-Baltimore game, and a game in 1987 between the Jets and Browns and the Panthers-Rams game a few years ago were the other two.

This exciting game is described as follows in Wikipedia:

In the longest NFL game played to date at 82 minutes, 40 seconds (and the Chiefs' last-ever game at Municipal Stadium), Miami kicker Garo Yepremian kicked the winning 37-yard field goal after 7:40 of double-overtime. The Chiefs jumped to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter with Jan Stenerud's 24-yard field goal and quarterback Len Dawson's 7-yard touchdown pass to Ed Podolak. But the Dolphins tied the game in the second quarter with Yepremian's 14-yard field goal and running back Larry Csonka's 1-yard touchdown run. The teams exchanged touchdowns in the third quarter before Podolak scored on a 3-yard run in the fourth period. But Miami quarterback Bob Griese threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Marv Fleming to tie the game. Podolak returned the ensuing kickoff 78 yards to the Dolphins 22-yard line before being shoved out of bounds by Miami's Curtis Johnson (cornerback), giving Stenerud a chance to win the game for the Chiefs in the final minute of regulation. But he missed the field goal attempt from 31 yards and the game went into overtime.
Kansas City took the opening kickoff of the first overtime period, but Stenerud 42-yard field goal attempt was blocked. Yepremian also attempted a 52-yard field goal later in the period, but missed. Csonka's 29-yard run in the second quarter set up Yepremian's game-winning score.

Podolak's 350 all-purpose yards (8 receptions for 110 yards, 17 carries for 85 yards, 3 kickoff returns for 154 yards, two punt returns for two yards) in this game remain an NFL playoff record, and is still the fourth highest total in NFL history. "I don't think any one player in a big game, a monumental game like that, had a day like Eddie Podolak had," said Chiefs coach Hank Stram after the game.  Dolphins receiver Paul Warfield finished with 7 receptions for a career postseason high 140 yards, while Dolphins linebacker Nick Buonticonti racked up 20 tackles.
The NFL drew criticism for scheduling games for the first time on Christmas.  The Vikings-Cowboys NFC playoff game was first at 1:00 Eastern, and the Dolphins-Chiefs was the late game at 4:00.  The NFL had previously avoided playing on Christmas, moving both the 1955 and 1960 NFL Championships to Monday the 26th, and in most earlier years, the season was over before Christmas.

Since this game ran so long, it went well into Christmas evening.  The following year, 1972, Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday, and the NFL played two divisional playoff games on Christmas Eve.  The next time that Christmas fell on a weekend in 1977, the NFL played the two AFC divisional games on Christmas Eve on Saturday and the two NFC games on Monday the 26th.  

Over the last few decades, as the season has grown longer, and later, and the regular season now stretches into January, the NFL does regularly play games on and around Christmas, but not night games on Christmas Eve, nor a full slate of day games on Christmas Day.  This year, like in 2005, the majority of the day games were moved to early Saturday Christmas Eve starts, with one or two late games on Christmas Day.  

In '05, the Bears played the Packers at 5 PM on Christmas on FOX, followed by the usual ESPN Sunday Night game between Minnesota and Baltimore, and the Packers-Bears will face off again tonight on NBC.  

NFL Network today will be airing a special on this 1971 Dolphins-Chiefs game, sure to be something not to miss.

We are proud to add this game to Gridiron Uniform Database's collection of randomly added single-game matchups.

You can view other randomly added past games here.

A Christmas Message from the Gridiron Uniform Database

A Christmas Message from the Gridiron Uniform Database
by Tim Brulia

This is our first Christmas at the Gridiron Uniform Database.

I have been doing the serious research on NFL Uniforms for nearly 10 years.

Bill Schaefer and I connected in September of 2009.

Rob Holecko made contact with Bill and me on May 14th. So the research man, the graphic artist and the web-meister all came together. And, with Rob working feverishly, we were able to officially launch on June 12th. That is our Christmas gift to all of you, the fans of pro football, history and uniforms.

Since our launch, we have numerous corrections, made even more discoveries, and have put up, literally as they trot on the field, the uniform matchups for the 2011 season.

For 2012, we hope to maintain the same standards that we have set for 2011. We will do all we can to continue to be as accurate as possible on uniform detail.

We want to thank those of you who have made contributions to that accuracy with your finds and discoveries. We may ask some of you to help contribute to our blog in the coming weeks and months. We also wish to thank those of you for simply visiting our site and hope you find it of value and enjoyment.

We also take this time and opportunity to give special thanks to our friends at Uni Watch, namely Paul Lukas and Phil Hecken for their help and support, first to send the word out to help with the graphics in 2009 and then earlier this year for the call to enlist help for the website. It goes without saying that without Bill and Rob answering those "calls," I would still be sitting on a pile of valuable historical information, without anyone to share it with. I owe them every morsel of gratitude.

So, on behalf of Bill and Rob, we'd like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and the Best of the Holiday Season.

Peace on Earth.

The Gridiron Uniform Database

Now here's Rob with today's "On This Day..."

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"On This Day..."
by Rob Holecko

On Christmas Eve 1977, like yesterday's Immaculate Reception game, the Raiders and Colts played another memorable AFC Divisional Playoff game.  This game is fondly remembered as "Ghost To The Post."  In 1977, Christmas fell on Sunday, so the NFL played the two AFC Divisional Playoffs on Christmas Eve, and the two NFC games on Monday.  The Raiders were the defending champions, coming off of  Super Bowl XI victory, and the Colts were an aging team seven years removed from their Super Bowl V victory, and were looking to bring a championship during the Bert Jones years to Baltimore.  The Wikipedia write-up is as follows:

Ghost to the Post is a significant play in NFL history. It refers specifically to a 42-yard pass from Ken Stabler to Dave Casper, nicknamed "The Ghost" after the cartoon character, that set up a game tying field goal in the final seconds of a double-overtime playoff game played between Casper's Oakland Raiders and the then-Baltimore Colts on December 24, 1977. Casper also caught the last pass of the game, a 10-yard touchdown pass. The game is currently the fourth-longest in NFL history, and has become synonymous with the play that made it famous.
To this date, the game is still the fourth-longest in pro football history. The game marked the last playoff appearance for the Baltimore-based Colts. The Raiders would go on to lose the AFC championship game that year to the Broncos 20-17. Hall of Fame coach John Madden has called the moment one of the most memorable of his coaching career. Dave Casper has been named one of the best Tight Ends in NFL History and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and this catch is cited as the most memorable in his career.

The Raiders won the game, but lost the following week in the AFC Championship to Denver.  Ken Stabler would not see another championship, as the Raiders, in the coming years, would go on to win Super Bowl XV and, after moving to Los Angeles, XVIII, but they would be with Jim Plunkett under center.  The Colts would never again play a playoff game or have another winning season in Baltimore, posting records of 5-11 (twice), 2-14 and 0-8-1 in the following years, before leaving in the middle of the night for Indianapolis in 1984.

You can see the NFL Films show on this game on Hulu here.

We are proud to add this game to Gridiron Uniform Database's collection of randomly added single-game matchups.

You can view other randomly added past games here.

The Immaculate Reception

Today for our "On This Day..." feature, we are taking a look back at the December 23, 1972 Immaculate Reception of Franco Harris:

In this memorable game, after forty years of being a perennial loser, the Steelers trailed 7-6 in the final minutes after a Ken Stabler touchdown run.  On fourth-and-ten from their own 35, Terry Bradshaw's pass down the field for Frenchy Fuqua was deflected by either the Raiders' DB Jack Tatum or Fuqua, and it was "caught out of the air" by Harris, who raced down the sideline for the winning score.  (See above video.)  After some debate by the officials, (had the pass only touched Fuqua it would have been a foul, as NFL rules at the time did not permit an offensive player to catch a forward pass that had been touched only by another offensive player.  That rule was rescinded after 1978) the play was ruled a touchdown and Pittsburgh won 13-7.  They went on to lose to the undefeated Miami Dolphins in the AFC Championship Game, but this was the beginning of their dynasty, as they went on to win four of the next seven Super Bowls.

The game was not broadcast in Pittsburgh.  1972 was the last year that all home games were blacked-out in home cities, and since the beginning of the 1973 season, every Steelers game has sold-out and has been televised locally.

The NFL Films footage of the play may have led
to speculation -- was the play legal?
The clip you see above was from when NBC re-aired the original footage at halftime of the 1997 AFC Championship on January 11, 1998.  When they aired this, I believe they promoted this at the time as being the first time that the footage had been aired since the game.  Many people, including Gene Upshaw and John Madden, believed that the play should have been nullifed for being an illegal catch.  The NFL Films version of the highlight (this still to the right is from that footage), which had been seen repeatedly over the previous twenty-five years, did not show the collision, and that may have added fuel to the fire.  This NBC footage, which many people were seeing for the first time in 1998, however, I believe ended the speculation.  It is clear that Tatum must have touched the ball, for I don't see how, with the direction that Fuqua was running, his momentum alone would have caused the ball to ricochet back that far to Harris.  It doesn't matter if Fuqua touched it or not, only that had Tatum not touched it would it have been illegal.  (Unless, of course it was Tatum's momentum into Fuqua that caused Fuqua to hit the ball hard enough.)

The only remaining dispute was whether or not Harris cleanly caught the ball before it touched the ground.  Again the NFL Films version of the replay doesn't show that clearly, either.  But upon viewing the NBC replay, it is fairly clear that the catch was clean as well.

We are proud to add this game to Gridiron Uniform Database's collection of randomly added single-game matchups.

You can view other randomly added past games here.

Week 15 Uniform Rankings

Week 15 Uniform Rankings
by Tim Brulia

Week 15 and we start to separate the men from the boys, on the field and on the body (er, uniform wise!)

Jaguars-Falcons: Jag rock white/black and the Falcs go red/white. Lot of blackness here. Falcons red saves this from being total blah from my standpoint.

Cowboys-Buccaneers: Cowboys in the standard white/green-blue-silver and the Bucs go red-pewter. This may be just a bit of metallic color overload for me. I think had the Bucs worn the white pants here, it would have made the red jerseys pop a little more. But, this is not really all that bad.

Panthers-Texans: Panthers in the white-white get up and the Texans go with navy-white. A lot of white, but the Texans navy jerseys just look good and make this one a pretty good feature.

Redskins-Giants: OK, I accept that the Skins yellow pants are mothballed for 2011. And doing that, I can deal with this matchup well. Much more traditional and a heaping amount of color, with white, blue, burgundy and gray, trimmed with yellow and red. Soothing to the football eyes.

Dolphins-Bills: Dolphins in white/aqua, Bills in blue/white. White helmets aside, I'm not sure why, but whenever the Dolphins rock an aqua jersey or aqua pants, I get fired up. And the Bills in their very sharp blue jerseys, I find myself quite attracted to this matchup. Satisfaction.

Seahawks-Bears: Hawks in all white with the Bears in navy/white. For whatever reason, this matchup appeals to me. Normally I'd hanker for the Seahawks to go white/seahawk blue here, but not now. I'm quite pleased with this on field look.

Saints-Vikings: Saints go white/gold and the Vikes in standard purple/white. Another time where I might said, gee, I wish the Saints would've black pants here. But the gold works, with black as a nice accessory color. Vikes purple goes well with the color mixture. May not be one of the better uni matchups, but not a yucky one, either.

Bengals-Rams: Bengals go white/black and the Rams in their second time in throwback blue/yellow. Oh do I like this one. Color abounds. Orange, black, blue, yellow, white all come together in fine fashion. It's all good in my neighborhood.

Titans-Colts: Titans in white/columbia blue and the (winning!) Colts in blue/white. There once was an instrumental hit (when I was a kid, hundreds of years ago) called "Love Is Blue," and such is the case here. columbia (light) blue, royal blue, navy blue with a wisp of red on the Titans helmet logo. Somehow, this all comes together in fine form.

Packers-Chiefs: Packers in white/yellow with the Chiefs in red/white. A little seasonal as the Packers green trim goes up against Chiefs red. But a little heavy on the white and yellow for it to be truly Christmasy. Traditional looks by these two. But I'm to be Scroogeish and say it's not working for me today.

Lions-Raiders: Lions in white/silver, Raiders in black/silver. "Silver Bells" anyone? Silver helmets and silver pants for both squads. silver on both jerseys, too. Some contrast with the black and honolulu blue, but I'm not feeling it.

Patriots-Broncos: Pats in white/navy and for the third home game in a row, Broncs in all navy. Loads of navy here. Perhaps too much? Remember, while a home team has to let the NFL know by July 1st what color jersey they will wear, they don't have to tell anyone about what color pants they will wear. Perhaps the Broncs on their hot streak with the all blue decided to give one more shot.

Jets-Eagles: Jets in white/green, Eagles in green/white. Much of a role reversal here, from head to foot. Jets white lid, Eagles green lid. Jets white jersey, Eagles green jersey! Jets green pants, Eagles white pants! Jets white socks, Eagles - um - black socks! For that alone, I give this a plus!

Browns-Cardinals: Browns heading for a full season of WAY (white all year). Cardinals, just like the Broncos, with a hat trick of all dark at home, going red/red. This so deep a contrast (all white vs all red) that I happen to dig this, man.

Ravens-Chargers: Ravens in all white and the Chargers with their second showing in powder blue/white. Ravens haven't worn black pants since week 7 and I think they would have played nicely off of the Bolts POWder blues. As always, the Chargers ratchet up the chart whenever they break out these babies. Just a thought...powder blue tops and navy blue bottoms??? Shock factor: HIGH!

Steelers-49ers: Steelers in white/yellow and the Niners in red/gold. Niners are so hot this season that the transformer blew at Candlestick! This is actually a sharp looking matchup here and shows beyond the shadow of a doubt when we talk about the difference between yellow and gold.

Summing up, I think Week 15 was one of the best weeks for uni matchups for 2011, even if all 16 games featured all dark at home.

Here's the hit parade:

1) Bengals-Rams
2) Browns-Cardinals
3) Dolphins-Bills
4) Ravens-Chargers
5) Steelers-49ers
6) Jets-Eagles
7) Patriots-Broncos
8) Titans-Colts
9) Saints-Vikings
10) Redskins-Giants
11) Packers-Chiefs
12) Panthers-Texans
13) Seahawks-Bears
14) Cowboys-Buccaneers
15) Lions-Raiders
16) Jaguars-Falcons

Check in next week for further review!

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Thanks, Tim.  And now for our new regular feature, "On This Day..."

On December 21, 1974, thirty-seven years ago yesterday, the two time defending Super Bowl Champion Miami Dolphins played an AFC Divisional Playoff Game in Oakland, losing on the final play, a miraculous pass from Ken Stabler to Clarence Davis.  

We are proud to add this game to Gridiron Uniform Database's collection of randomly added single-game matchups.

You can view other randomly added past games here.

According to Wikipedia:
With 24 seconds left in the game, Raiders RB Clarence Davis somehow caught the game-winning touchdown pass among "the sea of hands" of three Dolphins defenders. This game eliminated Miami from the playoffs after they had made it to the Super Bowl in each of the last 3 seasons. Also known as the "Lost Game" due to both NBC and NFL Films losing their English copies of the broadcast. It was thought until recently that the only remaining copy was NBC's Spanish version, when NFL Films found their copy buried deep in storage, which they thought was lost in a move in the early 80's.


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