May 31, 2015

1992: Surge Edge Dragons in WLAF Playoff Game

The World League of American Football Semifinal playoff game in Sacramento on May 31, 1992 featured the Sacramento Surge, 8-2 winners of the North American West Division, and the Barcelona Dragons, who went 5-5 in placing first in the European Division.

The Surge were coached by Kay Stephenson and featured the WLAF’s Offensive Player of the Year in QB David Archer, a 30-year-old NFL journeyman.  RB Mike Pringle, who had been on Atlanta’s practice squad and would go on to a Hall of Fame career in Canada, and WR Eddie Brown from the CFL were the other key offensive stars. Future Seattle Seahawks star DE Michael Sinclair recorded 10 sacks on defense.

Barcelona had made it to the WLAF Championship game, the World Bowl, in ’91 but, after starting strong in 1992, lost five straight games to close out the regular season, although it didn’t cost the Dragons their division title. Former Boston College coach Jack Bicknell was the team’s head coach while QB Scott Erney (pictured above) directed the offense and WR Thomas Woods was the top receiver.

There were 23,640 fans in attendance on a hot midafternoon at Sacramento State’s Hornet Stadium. The first quarter was scoreless, with Barcelona’s defense effectively shutting down Sacramento’s attack, but less than three minutes into the second quarter the Surge took the lead on a 12-yard interception return by CB Louis Riddick. Cary Blanchard added the extra point.

That was it until the closing seconds of the half when Teddy Garcia kicked a 35-yard field goal for Barcelona that made the halftime score 7-3 in favor of Sacramento.

Early in the third quarter the Surge scored again (and again not on offense) when Eddie Brown returned a punt 86 yards for a TD. Blanchard successfully converted. Down by 14-3, the Dragons began to mount a comeback that started with a big play of their own. Scott Erney completed a pass to WR Dempsey Norman for a 90-yard touchdown. The try for a two-point conversion failed, but the Surge’s lead was narrowed to 14-9.

Late in the period, Erney threw another scoring pass, this time to TE Demetrius Davis from nine yards out. Again the attempt to add two points failed, but Barcelona now was ahead by 15-14.

Barcelona failed to add points when Garcia was wide on a 43-yard field goal try with 7:43 left to play. In response, the offensively-stymied Surge put together their best series of the game and Blanchard kicked a 46-yard field goal that just made it over the crossbar with 3:54 remaining on the clock.

The Dragons still had an opportunity to pull the game out, but an apparent 60-yard touchdown on a pass from Erney to Thomas Wood was nullified by an illegal motion penalty on Davis. Sacramento held on to win by a 17-15 score.

Barcelona significantly outgained the Surge, 341 yards to 82, had 18 first downs to Sacramento’s eight, and dominated time of possession by 40:17 to 19:43. Each team had a turnover, but the Dragons were hurt by nine penalties, at a cost of 75 yards, to four flags thrown on the Surge.

David Archer completed only 9 of 26 passes for 76 yards and gave up an interception. RB Tony Burse was Sacramento’s top receiver, hauling in four catches for 34 yards. Eddie Brown, the Surge’s most productive receiver during the regular season, failed to catch any passes although he had the long punt return for a score. Mike Pringle led the equally anemic running attack with 18 yards on 7 carries.

For the Dragons, Scott Erney was successful on 24 of 45 throws for 271 yards and two touchdowns, giving up one interception. He also rushed for 27 yards on five carries while RB Joe Mickles led the club with 43 yards on 10 attempts. Thomas Woods and WR Tony Moss each had 6 pass receptions, for 44 and 26 yards, respectively, while Dempsey Norman, thanks to the long scoring catch, gained 104 yards on his three receptions.

Sacramento advanced to the World Bowl and defeated the Orlando Thunder for the WLAF Championship. It was the end for the two-year-old franchise, as the developmental league went on hiatus and, when it returned in 1995, was a strictly European circuit. The Dragons were part of that revamped NFL Europe, appearing in three World Bowls and winning one of them, until folding following the 2003 season.

May 30, 2015

Highlighted Year: Jake Delhomme, 2005

Quarterback, Carolina Panthers


Age: 30
7th season in pro football (5th active), 3rd with Panthers
College: Louisiana - Lafayette
Height: 6’2”   Weight: 215

Prelude:
Delhomme passed for 9216 yards and 64 TDs in college but went undrafted by the NFL in 1997. He was signed as a free agent by the New Orleans Saints and spent his first two seasons on the practice squad while being farmed out to the WLAF. He backed up Kurt Warner with the Amsterdam Admirals in 1998 and split the starting job with Pat Barnes for the Frankfurt Galaxy in ’99, passing for 1410 yards and 12 touchdowns with only five interceptions. Delhomme continued to be a backup with the Saints, seeing limited action, before moving on to Carolina as a free agent in 2003 where he became the starter and had surprising success. He passed for 3219 yards and 19 TDs and did remarkably well under pressure, engineering eight come-from-behind wins. The Panthers won the NFC Championship and narrowly lost to the Patriots in the Super Bowl, with Delhomme performing capably. He followed up by passing for 3886 yards and 29 TDs in ’04, which was otherwise a down year for the team. Lacking mobility and a strong arm, Delhomme made up for it by being intelligent and a good leader, well-suited to Carolina’s conservative offense.

2005 Season Summary
Appeared and started in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Passing
Attempts – 435 [15]
Most attempts, game – 38 at Chicago 11/20
Completions – 262 [13, tied with Mark Brunell]
Most completions, game – 22 at Chicago 11/20
Yards – 3421 [11]
Most yards, game – 341 vs. Minnesota 10/30
Completion percentage – 60.2
Yards per attempt – 7.9 [4]
TD passes – 24 [4, tied with Matt Hasselbeck, Drew Brees & Eli Manning, 1st in NFC]
Most TD passes, game – 3 at Miami 9/25, vs. Minnesota 10/30
Interceptions – 16 [5]
Most interceptions, game – 3 at Detroit 10/16
Passer rating – 88.1 [12]
300-yard passing games – 1
200-yard passing games – 10

Rushing
Attempts – 24
Most attempts, game – 4 (for 1 yd.) vs. Atlanta 12/4
Yards – 31
Most yards, game – 17 yards (on 2 carries) vs. New Orleans 9/11
Average gain – 1.3
TDs – 1

Scoring
TDs – 1
Points – 6

Postseason: 3 G
Pass attempts – 90
Most pass attempts, game – 35 at Seattle, NFC Championship
Pass completions – 54
Most pass completions, game – 24 at Chicago, NFC Divisional playoff
Passing yardage – 655
Most passing yards, game – 319 at Chicago, NFC Divisional playoff
TD passes – 5
Most TD passes, game – 3 at Chicago, NFC Divisional playoff
Interceptions – 4
Most interceptions, game – 3 at Seattle, NFC Championship

Rushing attempts – 5
Most rushing attempts, game – 3 at Seattle, NFC Championship
Rushing yards – 24
Most rushing yards, game – 15 at Seattle, NFC Championship
Average gain rushing – 4.8
Rushing TDs – 0

Awards & Honors:
Pro Bowl

Panthers went 11-5 to finish second in the NFC South while qualifying for the postseason as a Wild Card entry. Won NFC Wild Card playoff over New York Giants (23-0) and NFC Divisional playoff over Chicago Bears (29-21). Lost NFC Championship to Seattle Seahawks (34-14).

Aftermath:
Delhomme suffered through an inconsistent year in 2006, with a thumb injury causing him to miss three late-season games, and he was limited to three games in ’07 due to an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. He came back strong in 2008 to pass for 3288 yards and 15 touchdowns as the team improved to 12-4, but faltered badly in a five-interception loss to the Cardinals in the postseason. A poor 2009 season brought an end to Delhomme’s tenure with the Panthers and he finished up with the Browns and Texans, who signed him during the 2011 season after injuries depleted the quarterback corps. Overall, Delhomme threw for 20,975 yards and 126 TDs in the NFL, with 19,258 of those yards and 120 touchdowns coming with Carolina.

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Highlighted Years features players who were consensus first-team All-League* selections or league* or conference** leaders in the following statistical categories:

Rushing: Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Passing: Yards, Completion Pct., Yards per Attempt, TDs, Rating
Receiving: Catches, Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Scoring: TDs, Points, Field Goals (min. 5)
All-Purpose: Total Yards
Defense: Interceptions, Sacks
Kickoff Returns: Average
Punt Returns: Average
Punting: Average

*Leagues include NFL (1920 to date), AFL (1926), AFL (1936-37), AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974-75), USFL (1983-85)

**NFC/AFC since 1970

May 28, 2015

Highlighted Year: Cornelius Bennett, 1988

Linebacker, Buffalo Bills




Age:  23
2nd season in pro football & with Bills
College: Alabama
Height: 6’2”   Weight: 235

Prelude:
Bennett won the Lombardi Trophy as college football’s top lineman as a senior in 1986 and was the SEC Player of the Year in addition to being a consensus first-team All-American. He was chosen by the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the 1987 NFL draft (second overall), but the Colts were unable to sign him and traded his rights to Buffalo as part of a large three-team deal that also sent star RB Eric Dickerson from the Rams to Indianapolis. Bennett stepped into the starting lineup at outside linebacker for the last seven games of the strike-interrupted season and recorded 8.5 sacks. With his excellent speed and ability, he quickly established himself as a top player at his position.

1988 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Sacks – 9.5 [14, tied with Dan Hampton & Jim Skow]
Most sacks, game – 2.5 vs. Green Bay 10/30
Multi-sack games – 1
Interceptions – 2
Most interceptions, game – 1 vs. Minnesota 9/4, at Miami 11/14
Int. return yards – 30
Most int. return yards, game – 30 (on 1 int.) at Miami 11/14
Int. TDs – 0
Fumble recoveries – 3
Fumble recovery TDs – 0
Forced fumbles – 3
Tackles – 103

Postseason: 2 G
Sacks – 0
Interceptions – 0
TD – 0

Awards & Honors:
1st team All-NFL: AP, PFWA, NEA, Pro Football Weekly, Sporting News
1st team All-AFC: UPI, Pro Football Weekly
Pro Bowl

Bills went 12-4 to finish first in the AFC East while leading the conference in sacks (46), fewest yards allowed (4578), and fewest points allowed (237). Won AFC Divisional playoff over Houston Oilers (17-10). Lost AFC Championship to Cincinnati Bengals (21-10).

Aftermath:
Bennett was hampered by a knee injury in 1989 and had a lesser performance, but bounced back to gain selection to four straight Pro Bowls in the ensuing seasons. Versatile and capable of dominating play, he was part of an excellent corps of linebackers for a club that won AFC Championships from 1990 through ’93. Bennett remained with Buffalo through 1995 before moving on to Atlanta as a free agent in ’96. He provided leadership as well as good play, despite some problems with injuries and declining skills, and in 1998 again started for a team that reached the Super Bowl. Bennett spent his last two seasons with the club that originally drafted him, the Colts, in 1999 and 2000. Overall, he played in 206 regular season game over 14 seasons, 129 of those games coming in nine years with Buffalo. Bennett recorded 71.5 sacks and over a thousand tackles, recovered 27 fumbles, and received first-team All-NFL honors after two seasons, at least some All-AFC honors after three others, and was named to five Pro Bowls. He was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame.

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Highlighted Years features players who were consensus first-team All-League* selections or league* or conference** leaders in the following statistical categories:

Rushing: Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Passing: Yards, Completion Pct., Yards per Attempt, TDs, Rating
Receiving: Catches, Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Scoring: TDs, Points, Field Goals (min. 5)
All-Purpose: Total Yards
Defense: Interceptions, Sacks
Kickoff Returns: Average
Punt Returns: Average
Punting: Average

*Leagues include NFL (1920 to date), AFL (1926), AFL (1936-37), AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974-75), USFL (1983-85)

**NFC/AFC since 1970

May 26, 2015

1984: Late Scores Propel Express Past Wranglers


Two teams struggling to remain in contention in the Pacific Division of the United States Football League met in a Saturday contest on May 26, 1984. The visiting Arizona Wranglers and the hosts, the Los Angeles Express, each came into the contest with 6-7 records that put them one behind the division-leading Denver Gold.

Arizona was having trouble with consistency despite being a veteran-dominated club coached by George Allen. The Wranglers were coming off a big win against Denver the previous week, but had yet to win consecutive games. 16-year veteran QB Greg Landry led the ball control offense that also featured WR Trumaine Johnson and the running back combination of Tim Spencer and Kevin Long. DE John Lee was leading the USFL in sacks and the defense was stingy. But the team tended to hurt itself with penalties and turnovers.

The Express was a young club, coached by John Hadl. High-priced rookie QB Steve Young provided a huge lift once he joined the team in the sixth week with his passing and mobility.  WR JoJo Townsell led the receiving corps and there was a good group of young running backs, although injuries were giving rookie Kevin Mack an opportunity to start.

There was a typically sparse crowd of 11,702 fans in attendance for the Memorial Day weekend game at the Memorial Coliseum. Following a punt by the Express, the Wranglers drove 67 yards in nine plays on their first possession, concluding with a five-yard touchdown carry by Tim Spencer. Frank Corral added the extra point.

Los Angeles responded by advancing into Arizona territory with Steve Young passing effectively and running for a first down on a third-and-short play.  A 15-yard carry by JoJo Townsell got the ball to the five yard line and, from there, Young ran for a TD. Tony Zendejas tied the score at 7-7 with the successful conversion.

The Express nearly scored on the ensuing kickoff when it was mishandled, but the ball went out of bounds for a touchback. The game remained tied as the contest headed into the second quarter. A promising LA possession ended with CB Carl Allen intercepting a Young throw at the Arizona 12. Following an exchange of punts, the Wranglers moved into LA territory thanks to a Greg Landry pass to Kevin Long for 27 yards in a third-and-three situation. Completions to Trumaine Johnson and WR Lenny Willis got the ball to the 15 but a sack by DE Fletcher Jenkins backed the visitors up and they settled for a 34-yard Corral field goal with 20 seconds remaining in the first half. Arizona took a 10-7 lead into halftime.

The teams exchanged punts to start the third quarter before the Wranglers, taking advantage of good field position, drove 55 yards in ten plays with Spencer bulling three yards for a touchdown. Corral’s extra point made it a ten-point advantage for Arizona. The Express came back on a series highlighted by Young throws to RB Tony Boddie for 32 yards and 20 yards to Townsell and completed by Mack running for a nine-yard TD on a third down draw play. It was the rookie’s first pro touchdown and, with Zendejas converting, the score was 17-14 heading into the final period.

The teams traded punts and a time-consuming drive by the Wranglers had them in Los Angeles territory, but Spencer fumbled the ball away at the 24. Young immediately fired to TE Darren Long for 36 yards and the Express tied the score with a 43-yard field goal by Zendejas.

Arizona had the ball back with two minutes remaining in regulation and, facing third-and-13, took advantage of back-to-back penalties to maintain possession and get to near midfield. However, in the key play of the game, a Landry pass was intercepted by DB Troy West, who sped down the sideline for 58 yards to the three yard line. RB Kevin Nelson, entering the game late due to a broken rib, took a pitchout and gained the last three yards for the touchdown. Zendejas booted the point after and the Express came away with a 24-17 win.

The Wranglers had the edge in total yards (355 to 282) and first downs (25 to 15). But the two late turnovers proved to be their undoing, to one suffered by the Express, and Arizona was also hurt by nine penalties to four called on LA. The Express accumulated four sacks, to two by the Wranglers.

Steve Young did not have an impressive completion percentage, hitting on 11 of 23 passes, but they were good for 184 yards with one interception. The nimble Young also ran the ball four times for 23 yards (and avoided several near-sacks) and scored one touchdown. Kevin Mack led the LA runners with 44 yards on 14 carries. JoJo Townsell had three catches for 38 yards and Darren Long gained 55 yards on his two receptions.



For the Wranglers, Greg Landry was successful on 19 of 37 throws for 232 yards and gave up the one big interception. Trumaine Johnson caught 12 of those passes for 145 yards and Tim Spencer rushed for 81 yards on 15 attempts, scoring two TDs although also making a costly fumble.

The win put the Express alone in second place and had Arizona in jeopardy of both not making the playoffs and becoming the first George Allen-coached team to finish with a losing record. LA won its next two games while the Wranglers finally caught fire and won three straight, leading to a final-week rematch that Arizona won. Both teams ended up at 10-8, with tiebreakers giving the Express the division title and the Wranglers second place and a Wild Card playoff slot (Denver collapsed, meanwhile, falling to third place at 9-9). The Express won in dramatic fashion over the Michigan Panthers in the first postseason round, prevailing in the third overtime period. Arizona edged the Houston Gamblers, and that set up a third meeting between Los Angeles and the Wranglers for the Western Conference Championship. Arizona won to advance to the USFL Championship game, falling to the Philadelphia Stars.

May 23, 2015

Highlighted Year: Jermaine Lewis, 1997

Wide Receiver, Baltimore Ravens





Age: 23 (Oct. 16)
2nd season in pro football & with Ravens
College: Maryland
Height: 5’7”   Weight: 172

Prelude:
Lewis starred in track as well as football in college, where he caught 193 passes, returned 24 punts for a 12.0-yard average and two touchdowns and averaged 24.0 yards on 22 kickoff returns. He was chosen by the Ravens in the fifth round of the 1996 NFL draft and was used almost exclusively as a kick returner during his rookie year. Small but very fast, he averaged 21.5 yards on 41 kickoff returns and 9.4 yards on 36 punt returns.

1997 Season Summary
Appeared in 14 of 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 42      
Most receptions, game – 8 (for 124 yds.) at Tennessee 9/21
Yards – 648
Most yards, game – 124 (on 8 catches) at Tennessee 9/21
Average gain – 15.4 [17]
TDs – 6 [20, tied with twelve others]
100-yard receiving games – 2

Rushing
Attempts – 3
Yards – 35
Average gain – 11.7
TDs – 0

Kickoff Returns
Returns – 41 [16]
Yards – 905 [17]
Most yards, game – 140 (on 6 ret.) vs. Pittsburgh 10/5
Average per return – 22.1
TDs – 0
Longest return – 51 yards

Punt Returns
Returns – 28 [20]
Yards – 437 [12]
Most yards, game – 184 (on 5 ret., 2 TDs) vs. Seattle 12/7
Average per return – 15.6 [1]
TDs – 2 [3]
Longest return – 89 yards

All-Purpose yards – 2025 [5]

Scoring
TDs – 8
Points – 48

Ravens went 6-9-1 to finish fifth in the AFC Central.  

Aftermath:
Lewis followed up in 1998 by receiving consensus first-team All-NFL and Pro Bowl honors. Used less on kickoffs, he returned 32 punts for a 12.7-yard average and two TDs and also caught 41 passes for 784 yards (19.1 avg.) and six touchdowns. His numbers dropped in ’99, with 25 pass receptions and a 7.9-yard punt return average, but he bounced back in 2000 to average 16.1 yards and score two TDs on 36 punt returns and added an 84-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the Super Bowl win over the Giants. Lewis topped the NFL in punt returns (42) and punt return yards (519) while averaging 12.4 yards in 2001 and was chosen for the Pro Bowl. Left unprotected in the expansion draft, he was taken by the Houston Texans in ’02 and had a lesser performance, dropping to 7.8 yards on punt returns and 20.9 yards on kickoffs. Lewis moved on to the Jacksonville Jaguars and went down with a major knee injury two games into the 2003 season. He came back in ’04 to average 9.9 yards on 23 punt returns and 18.4 yards on 21 kickoffs in what was his final season. Overall, Lewis ran back 295 punts for an 11.1-yard average and six touchdowns, 212 kickoffs for a 21.8-yard average, and caught 143 passes for 2129 yards (14.9 avg.) and 17 TDs. He received first-team All-NFL honors following two seasons and was selected to as many Pro Bowls.

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Highlighted Years features players who were consensus first-team All-League* selections or league* or conference** leaders in the following statistical categories:

Rushing: Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Passing: Yards, Completion Pct., Yards per Attempt, TDs, Rating
Receiving: Catches, Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Scoring: TDs, Points, Field Goals (min. 5)
All-Purpose: Total Yards
Defense: Interceptions, Sacks
Kickoff Returns: Average
Punt Returns: Average
Punting: Average

*Leagues include NFL (1920 to date), AFL (1926), AFL (1936-37), AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974-75), USFL (1983-85)

**NFC/AFC since 1970

May 21, 2015

Highlighted Year: William Andrews, 1981

Fullback, Atlanta Falcons




Age: 26 (Dec. 25)
3rd season in pro football & with Falcons
College: Auburn
Height: 6’0”   Weight: 200

Prelude:
Part of a group of running backs at Auburn that included future pro stars James Brooks and Joe Cribbs, Andrews was chosen by the Falcons in the third round of the 1979 NFL draft. He had an outstanding rookie year, rushing for 1023 yards and catching 39 passes for another 309. Andrews improved to 1308 rushing yards and 456 yards on 51 pass receptions in 1980 to earn selection to the Pro Bowl as well as second-team All-NFC honors from UPI.

1981 Season Summary
Appeared and started in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Rushing
Attempts – 289 [7]
Most attempts, game – 25 (for 101 yds.) at Houston 11/29
Yards – 1301 [7]
Most yards, game – 119 yards (on 21 carries) vs. LA Rams 10/11
Average gain – 4.5 [12]
TDs – 10 [7, tied with Earl Campbell, Ron Springs & Billy Jackson]
100-yard rushing games – 3

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 81 [4]
Most receptions, game – 15 (for 124 yds.) vs. Pittsburgh 11/15
Yards – 735
Most yards, game – 132 (on 8 catches) vs. St. Louis 10/18
Average gain – 9.1
TDs – 2
100-yard receiving games – 2

All-Purpose yards – 2036 [2, 1st in NFC]

Scoring
TDs – 12 [9, tied with Ron Springs]
Points – 72

Awards & Honors:
2nd team All-NFL: AP
2nd team All-NFC: UPI
Pro Bowl

Falcons went 7-9 to finish second in the NFC West while leading the conference in touchdowns (52) and scoring (426 points).

Aftermath:
Andrews continued to be one of the league’s most productive all-purpose backs, leading the team in rushing (503 yards) and pass receptions (42) during the strike-shortened 1982 season and achieving career highs in rushing (1567 yards) and total yards (2176) in ’83. He was chosen to the Pro Bowl after each season and was a first-team All-NFC choice of UPI in ’82 and a first-team All-NFL selection by NEA and The Sporting News in 1983. However, a devastating knee injury suffered during training camp in ‘84 cost him that year and the next. He made a modest comeback in 1986, rushing for 214 yards and catching five passes in his last season. Overall, Andrews rushed for 5986 yards on 1315 carries (4.6 avg.) and caught 277 passes for 2647 yards (9.6 avg.). He twice went over two thousand total yards on his way to gaining 8633 yards from scrimmage and scored a total of 41 touchdowns. He was named to four consecutive Pro Bowls and received at least some first or second-team All-NFL honors after three seasons in a fine career cut short by injury. 

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Highlighted Years features players who were consensus first-team All-League* selections or league* or conference** leaders in the following statistical categories:

Rushing: Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Passing: Yards, Completion Pct., Yards per Attempt, TDs, Rating
Receiving: Catches, Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Scoring: TDs, Points, Field Goals (min. 5)
All-Purpose: Total Yards
Defense: Interceptions, Sacks
Kickoff Returns: Average
Punt Returns: Average
Punting: Average

*Leagues include NFL (1920 to date), AFL (1926), AFL (1936-37), AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974-75), USFL (1983-85)

**NFC/AFC since 1970

May 19, 2015

1985: Outlaws Control the Ball to Defeat Breakers, End Losing Streak


The Arizona Outlaws had lost six straight games as they traveled to Portland to take on the Breakers, losers of their last five contests, in a United States Football League game on May 19, 1985. A combination of 1984’s Oklahoma Outlaws and Arizona Wranglers, the team was coached by Frank Kush, formerly of Arizona State, and had an established veteran in QB Doug Williams (pictured above) to direct the offense. But after getting off to a 4-2 start, which included a win over Portland in the opener, the losing streak had them struggling at 4-8.

The Breakers were also at 4-8 after having lost their last two games by a combined score of 59-7. Coached by Dick Coury, the club was not as proficient on offense as it had been in Boston and New Orleans, its previous locations. The Breakers missed the retired John Walton at quarterback and the situation was not helped by the loss of promising RB Marcus Dupree with a knee injury in the opening week.

There were 15,275 fans in attendance at Civic Stadium. The Breakers had the game’s first possession and drove down the field, but an apparent nine-yard touchdown run by RB Buford Jordan was nullified by a holding penalty and the Breakers came up empty when Tim Mazzetti was unsuccessful on a 49-yard field goal attempt.

On Portland’s next series, Jordan fumbled the ball away at his 22 yard line. Arizona took advantage as RB Reggie Brown ran for a 13-yard TD with four minutes remaining in the first quarter and Luis Zendejas added the extra point.

As the contest entered the second quarter, the Outlaws added to the lead on their next series that culminated in Doug Williams tossing a pass to WR Greg Anderson for a 12-yard TD. Zendejas again successfully converted to increase the margin to 14-0. Before the first half was over, Zendejas added two field goals, from 22 and 26 yards, which boosted the visitors to a 20-0 lead at the intermission.

Portland QB Matt Robinson suffered an elbow injury during the first half and didn’t come back for the second half. Meanwhile, Arizona started the third quarter with a 68-yard drive and Williams threw to TE Ron Wheeler for a four-yard touchdown.

Ahead by 27-0, Arizona had to endure a strong comeback by the Breakers with backup QB Kevin Starkey directing the offense. Starkey, who had been signed as a free agent a few weeks earlier, was seeing his first action of the season.

The Outlaws reached paydirt on a Starkey pass to WR Ron Johnson that covered 35 yards for a TD late in the third quarter. The try for extra point failed. Now in the final period, Starkey struck again, throwing over the middle to Jordan on a touchdown play that covered 80 yards. This time Mazzetti added the point after and, with 12:36 remaining, the Arizona lead was cut to 27-13.

Needing to keep the ball away from Starkey and the suddenly hot Breakers, the Outlaws helped themselves with a long, ten-minute drive that ended with a 33-yard Zendejas field goal, which in essence clinched the win. Starkey came back to complete a TD pass covering 13 yards to RB Dwight Beverly, but there were only 53 seconds left on the clock. Arizona came away the winner by a final score of 30-21.

The Outlaws dominated in time of possession (41:44 to 18:16) and that translated into a lead in total yards of 348 to 256 plus a 21 to 14 edge in first downs. Arizona recorded five sacks, to one by the Breakers, and Portland suffered the game’s only turnover. However, the Outlaws also were penalized seven times while just two flags were thrown on the Breakers.

Doug Williams completed 17 of 28 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns while giving up no interceptions. RB Mack Boatner led Arizona’s effective ground game with 86 yards on 17 carries and Reggie Brown contributed 63 yards on 15 attempts. Greg Anderson had five pass receptions for 83 yards.

For the Breakers, Kevin Starkey was successful on 7 of 12 throws for 187 yards and three TDs with no pickoffs after relieving Matt Robinson, who was six-of-10 for 67 yards. Ron Johnson topped the club with three catches for 76 yards and a score while WR Marion Brown and RB Louis Jackson also had three receptions apiece, for 41 and 22 yards, respectively. Buford Jordan rushed for 35 yards on 9 attempts.

“Our main philosophy is to keep control of the ball, and that’s just what we did,” explained Coach Kush of Arizona.

The Outlaws lost badly to the Houston Gamblers the next week but then reeled off three straight wins on the way to an 8-10 record and fourth place finish in the Western Conference. Portland won its next game and ended up at 6-12 and fifth in the conference.

The 1985 season was the last for Kevin Starkey, who spent most of his brief pro career in the Canadian Football League. His performance against the Outlaws was the highlight of the year as he completed 16 of 33 passes for 287 yards overall. The three TD passes were his entire output and he gave up two interceptions.

May 18, 2015

Highlighted Year: Bertrand Berry, 2004

Defensive End, Arizona Cardinals




Age: 29
8th season in pro football, 7th in NFL & 1st with Cardinals
College: Notre Dame
Height: 6’3”   Weight: 250

Prelude:
Primarily known for his pass rushing ability in college, Berry was chosen by the Indianapolis Colts in the third round of the 1997 NFL draft. He had an undistinguished first three seasons with the Colts, starting 13 games at defensive end and also playing linebacker while recording five sacks. Berry moved on to the Rams in 2000 but was cut during training camp and saw action in the CFL with the Edmonton Eskimos. He joined the Denver Broncos in 2001 and was a reserve for two seasons before breaking into the starting lineup in ’03 and recording 11.5 sacks. A fine pass rusher who was less adept against the run, Berry signed with the Cardinals as a free agent for the 2004 season.

2004 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Sacks – 14.5 [2, 1st in NFC]
Most sacks, game – 4 vs. NY Giants 11/14
Multi-sack games – 3
Interceptions – 0
Fumble recoveries – 2
Fumble recovery TDs – 0
Forced fumbles – 4
Tackles – 39
Assists – 10

Awards & Honors:
2nd team All-NFL: AP
1st team All-NFC: Pro Football Weekly
Pro Bowl

Cardinals went 6-10 to finish third in the NFC West.

Aftermath:
A torn pectoral muscle limited Berry to eight games in 2005 and injuries remained an issue in ’06 and ’07 as he appeared in a combined 19 games. Still effective as a rusher from the edge who lined up more often as an outside linebacker, Berry played with the Cards until 2009, staying healthier in his last two years in which the team made it to the playoffs, after which he retired. Overall, Berry accumulated 65 sacks in the NFL, with 40 of them coming during his six years with Arizona. He had four more during the postseason.

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Highlighted Years features players who were consensus first-team All-League* selections or league* or conference** leaders in the following statistical categories:

Rushing: Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Passing: Yards, Completion Pct., Yards per Attempt, TDs, Rating
Receiving: Catches, Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Scoring: TDs, Points, Field Goals (min. 5)
All-Purpose: Total Yards
Defense: Interceptions, Sacks
Kickoff Returns: Average
Punt Returns: Average
Punting: Average

*Leagues include NFL (1920 to date), AFL (1926), AFL (1936-37), AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974-75), USFL (1983-85)

**NFC/AFC since 1970

May 16, 2015

Highlighted Year: Luther Bradley, 1983

Safety, Chicago Blitz




Age: 28 (May 7)
5th season in pro football, 1st in USFL & with Blitz
College: Notre Dame
Height: 6’2”   Weight: 196

Prelude:
Bradley intercepted 17 passes in college, one of which he returned for a 99-yard touchdown, and was a consensus All-American selection in 1977. He was chosen by the Detroit Lions in the first round of the 1978 NFL draft (11th overall) and moved directly into the starting lineup at cornerback. Bradley started every game in his first two seasons and intercepted a total of seven passes for 96 yards and a TD. A knee injury limited Bradley to eight games in 1980 and he was a backup in ’81. He was traded to the Houston Oilers, who released him just prior to the 1982 season, and he signed with the Blitz of the new USFL. Head Coach George Allen shifted Bradley to free safety.

1983 Season Summary
Appeared in 17 of 18 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Interceptions – 12 [1]
Most interceptions, game – 6 at Tampa Bay 4/2
Int. return yards – 167 [2]
Most int. return yards, game – 127 (on 6 int.) at Tampa Bay 4/2
Int. TDs – 1 [1, tied with eight others]
Fumble recoveries – 1

Postseason: 1 G (USFL Semifinal playoff at Philadelphia)
Interceptions – 1
Int. return yards – 10
TDs – 0

Awards & Honors:
1st team All-USFL: League, College & Pro Football Newsweekly, Pro Football Weekly

Blitz went 12-6 to finish second in the USFL Central Division and qualify for the postseason as a Wild Card entry while leading the league in interceptions (37). Lost USFL Semifinal playoff to Philadelphia Stars (44-38).

Aftermath:
Due to an exchange of franchises, Bradley became part of the Arizona Wranglers in 1984 and intercepted four passes. He was left unprotected in the merger of the Wranglers and Oklahoma Outlaws in ‘85 and joined the Houston Gamblers, where he once again intercepted 12 passes and received first-team all-league honors from College & Pro Football Newsweekly. The end of the USFL marked the end of Bradley’s pro career. In three USFL seasons, he intercepted 28 passes, the most in the league’s brief history, with the six-interception game against the Bandits the highlight.

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Highlighted Years features players who were consensus first-team All-League* selections or league* or conference** leaders in the following statistical categories:

Rushing: Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Passing: Yards, Completion Pct., Yards per Attempt, TDs, Rating
Receiving: Catches, Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Scoring: TDs, Points, Field Goals (min. 5)
All-Purpose: Total Yards
Defense: Interceptions, Sacks
Kickoff Returns: Average
Punt Returns: Average
Punting: Average

*Leagues include NFL (1920 to date), AFL (1926), AFL (1936-37), AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974-75), USFL (1983-85)

**NFC/AFC since 1970

May 14, 2015

1965: Cowboys Deal Tommy McDonald to Rams for Danny Villanueva


On May 14, 1965 the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams swung a trade in which Dallas sent flanker Tommy McDonald to the Rams for kicker Danny Villanueva.

The 30-year-old McDonald (he turned 31 prior to the ’65 season) ranked fourth among active NFL receivers with 333 catches and first in touchdown receptions with 68. A halfback at Oklahoma on Head Coach Bud Wilkinson’s national championship teams in 1955 and ‘56, he was chosen by the Philadelphia Eagles in the third round of the 1957 NFL draft and spent his first seven seasons with them. Converted to flanker, he was selected to five straight Pro Bowls and led the league with 1144 pass receiving yards in 1961. He reached double figures in receiving TDs four straight times, set a franchise record with 237 yards in a game against the Giants in ’61, and was a key performer on the 1960 NFL Championship club. Generally considered to be the smallest player in the league at 5’9” and 172 pounds, McDonald, who typically disdained wearing a facemask, played with great enthusiasm as well as skill and was a fan favorite with his acrobatic catches. It thus came as a shock when he was dealt to Dallas for the 1964 season as part of new Head Coach/GM Joe Kuharich’s housecleaning in Philadelphia.

McDonald was moved to split end and had a lesser year with the Cowboys, catching 46 passes for 612 yards, for an uncharacteristically low 13.3-yard average, and scored only two touchdowns. He had wanted a trade and there were concerns as to his commitment to playing.

The Cowboys had sorely missed Sam Baker, the combination placekicker/punter who was traded to Philadelphia in the McDonald deal. Dick Van Raaphorst was successful on just 14 of 29 field goal attempts and punter Billy Lothridge injured his knee in training camp and was inconsistent.

Danny Villanueva was 27 and had come to the Rams as an undrafted free agent out of New Mexico State. He kicked the longest field goal in team history up to that time (51 yards) and also held the club record with a 45.5 punting average in 1962. In five years in LA, Villanueva kicked 44 field goals in 83 attempts (53.0 percent) and was successful on 111 of 113 tries for extra point while averaging 44.3 yards on 296 punts. The development of Bruce Gossett as a placekicker caused him to be used exclusively as a punter in ‘64.

Los Angeles was in need of help at wide receiver, having traded split end Jim Phillips to the Vikings and flanker Carroll Dale to Green Bay, and McDonald resolved any concerns about decline or desire to play by moving into the lineup at flanker and catching a career-high 67 passes for 1036 yards (15.5 avg.) and nine touchdowns. In tandem with rookie split end Jack Snow, he worked well with young quarterbacks Roman Gabriel and Bill Munson and had four hundred-yard receiving games, including one of 200 yards on six catches that included three TDs in a late-season contest against Cleveland. McDonald received Pro Bowl honors, although the team finished in last place in the Western Conference with a 4-10 record.

McDonald played one more season for the Rams, adding 55 catches for 714 yards to his career totals, before being dealt to Atlanta just prior to the 1967 season, his next-to-last. He proved to be a productive addition to the Los Angeles offense in his two years with the team, pulling in 122 passes for 1750 yards (14.3 avg.) and 11 touchdowns, on the way to a career total of 495 receptions for 8410 yards (17.0 avg.) and 84 TDs, all totals that ranked high on the NFL’s career lists at the time. McDonald was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998.




Villanueva (pictured at left) was effective for the 7-7 Cowboys in 1965, connecting on 16 of 27 field goal attempts, 37 of 38 tries for extra point, and averaging 41.8 yards on 60 punts. He lasted another two seasons in his dual kicking role, leading the NFL by hitting on all 56 of his extra point attempts in 1966, on his way to a club-record 100 straight. His field goal percentage dropped off, and he was good on only 8 of 19 attempts in ’67, but he remained an overall well-regarded kicker while Dallas reached the NFL Championship game in each of his last two years. Villanueva retired following the 1967 season and became a broadcaster, and later was part-owner of the Spanish language television network now known as Univision. For his NFL career, he kicked 85 field goals out of 160 attempts (41 of 77 with Dallas), was successful on 236 of 241 extra points, and had a 42.8-yard average on 488 punts.

May 12, 2015

Highlighted Year: Anthony Davis, 1975

Halfback, Southern California Sun


Age: 23 (Sept. 8)
1st season in pro football
College: Southern California
Height: 5’9”   Weight: 187

Prelude:
Davis, who also excelled at baseball, starred at tailback in college, rushing for 3724 yards and 44 touchdowns for USC. He averaged 42.5 yards on kickoff returns as a senior in 1974, to go along with 1517 yards from scrimmage and finished second in voting for the Heisman Trophy. Davis was chosen by the New York Jets in the second round of the 1975 NFL draft but signed with the Sun of the WFL instead and was the highest-profile rookie of the league’s second season.

1975 Season Summary
Appeared in all 12 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Rushing
Attempts – 239 [1]
Most attempts, game – 25 (for 139 yds.) vs. Shreveport 10/12
Yards – 1200 [1]
Most yards, game – 141 yards (on 17 carries) vs. Charlotte 9/14
Average gain – 5.0 [4]
TDs – 16 [1]
100-yard rushing games – 8

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 40 [4] 
Most receptions, game – 9 (for 75 yds.) at Memphis 10/5
Yards – 381 [19]
Most yards, game – 109 (on 7 catches) at Charlotte 9/27
Average gain – 9.5
TDs – 1
100-yard receiving games – 1

Passing
Attempts – 11
Completions – 4
Completion percentage – 36.4
Yards – 120
TDs – 1
Interceptions – 0

Kickoff Returns
Returns – 9 [17]
Yards – 235 [15]
Average per return – 26.1
TDs – 1
Longest return – 84 yards

Scoring
TDs – 18 [1]
Action Points – 7 [1]
Points – 133 [1]

Sun went 7-5 and were first in the WFL Western Division when the league folded. They led the league in touchdowns (45, tied with San Antonio) and were second in rushing yards (2047), passing yards (2431), and scoring (354 points).

Aftermath:
Davis’ abbreviated rookie season turned out to easily be his best as a pro. With the demise of the WFL, he signed a large contract with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL in 1976 and had a disappointing season, clashing with his coaches and rushing for just 417 yards, catching 37 passes for 408 yards, and averaging 26.0 yards on 27 kickoff returns. Davis was released and joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL in ’77, reuniting with his college coach, John McKay, but he had even less success, gaining 297 yards on the ground and catching eight passes. He was traded to Houston and, due to injuries, saw action in two games for the Oilers before departing for the Los Angeles Rams, where he was a little-used backup. His career ended at that point, but he did briefly return to pro football in 1983 with the Los Angeles Express of the USFL and gained 32 yards on 12 carries. Overall after departing the WFL, Davis ran for a total of 753 yards, caught 45 passes for 499 yards (11.1 avg.), returned 49 kickoffs for a 22.9-yard average, and scored five touchdowns.

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Highlighted Years features players who were consensus first-team All-League* selections or league* or conference** leaders in the following statistical categories:

Rushing: Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Passing: Yards, Completion Pct., Yards per Attempt, TDs, Rating
Receiving: Catches, Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Scoring: TDs, Points, Field Goals (min. 5)
All-Purpose: Total Yards
Defense: Interceptions, Sacks
Kickoff Returns: Average
Punt Returns: Average
Punting: Average

*Leagues include NFL (1920 to date), AFL (1926), AFL (1936-37), AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974-75), USFL (1983-85)

**NFC/AFC since 1970

May 10, 2015

Highlighted Year: Rex Grossman, 1948

Fullback/Linebacker/Placekicker, Baltimore Colts




Age: 24
1st season in pro football
College: Indiana
Height: 6’1”   Weight: 215

Prelude:
Grossman’s college years, which started in 1942, were interrupted by three years of military service in World War II, after which he returned to play fullback, linebacker and kicker in 1946 and quarterback in ‘47. He chose to give up his final year of eligibility and turned pro. The Philadelphia Eagles picked him in the 29th round of the NFL draft, but he signed with the Colts of the AAFC.

1948 Season Summary
Appeared in all 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Kicking
Field goals – 10 [1]
Most field goals, game – 2 at New York 9/16, at Los Angeles 10/15
Field goal attempts – 18 [2]
Field goal percentage – 55.6 [1]
PATs – 43 [3]
PAT attempts – 43 [3]
Longest field goal – 51 yards vs. New York 9/5

Rushing
Attempts – 8
Yards – -3
Average gain – -0.4
TDs – 0

Interceptions
Interceptions – 2
Int. return yards – 13
Int. TDs – 0

Scoring
Field Goals – 10
PATs – 43
Points – 73 [6]

Postseason: 1 G (AAFC Eastern Division Playoff at Buffalo)
Field goals – 1
Field goal attempts – 2
PATs – 2
PAT attempts – 2
Longest field goal – 16 yards

Colts went 7-7 to tie for first in the AAFC Eastern Division while leading the league in passing yards (2899) and field goals (10). Lost Divisional playoff to Buffalo Bills (28-17).

Aftermath:
Grossman followed up in 1949 by hitting on six of 11 field goal attempts as well as all 19 tries for extra point and also punted 28 times for a 38.8-yard average. He moved on to the NFL along with the Colts in ’50 and was dealt to Detroit during the season. Traded to the Cleveland Browns in 1951, he chose to retire instead. Overall, Grossman kicked 16 field goals in 32 attempts plus 78 extra points, for a total of 126 points. He was inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame. His grandson of the same name has played quarterback in the NFL, primarily with the Bears and Redskins.

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Highlighted Years features players who were consensus first-team All-League* selections or league* or conference** leaders in the following statistical categories:

Rushing: Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Passing: Yards, Completion Pct., Yards per Attempt, TDs, Rating
Receiving: Catches, Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Scoring: TDs, Points, Field Goals (min. 5)
All-Purpose: Total Yards
Defense: Interceptions, Sacks
Kickoff Returns: Average
Punt Returns: Average
Punting: Average

*Leagues include NFL (1920 to date), AFL (1926), AFL (1936-37), AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974-75), USFL (1983-85)

**NFC/AFC since 1970