The following is not a summary of historical events, but rather the results of my computer football replay of the 1968 NFL and AFL seasons using Second and Ten football.
Two weeks ago, the Cleveland Browns replaced their starting quarterback and the dreams of championship football reappeared in the rafters of Municipal Stadium. After a loss to the Rams two weeks ago, Bill Nelsen, acquired from Pittsburgh in May, took over for Frank Ryan, the longtime starter who led the Browns to a NFL championship four years ago. What followed bore no resemblance to the Browns team that took the field in the first three weeks. Nelsen led Cleveland to a 44-16 rout over his former team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, in his first start. Nelsen followed that performance yesterday with a 45-3 thrashing of the St. Louis Cardinals. In his two starts, Nelsen has seven touchdown passes with no interceptions, and surpassed Ryan’s yardage total in three starts, 564 yards to 539, in ten fewer completions and twenty-four fewer attempts. Leroy Kelly rushed for 121 yards and 3 touchdowns in the Cardinal win. Nelsen and the Browns will travel to undefeated Baltimore next week for the first true test if championship football has in fact returned to Cleveland.
In other NFL action, the Colts and the Dallas Cowboys remained undefeated with victories over San Francisco and Philadelphia respectively. Baltimore QB Earl Morrall struggled (9-22; 128 yards) but Tom Matte helped the Colts control the ground with 90 yards rushing in the 30-16 victory. Preston Pearson put the game out of reach with a 90 yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter. In Dallas, tight end Pettis Norman caught a pair of touchdown passes in the first quarter as the Cowboys cruised to a 28-3 win. The New York Giants survived a scare down South as they rallied to defeat the Atlanta Falcons, 20-17. Ernie Koy scored the winning touchdown with 1:46 remaining in the game. The winning touchdown was the result of an 11-play 78-yard drive. Atlanta fumbled away a chance to tie when Cannonball Butler fumbled at the Giant 39 with less than a minute left.
In Chicago, the Bears blanked the Detroit Lions 16-0 for their first victory of the season. The Los Angeles Rams put the Green Bay Packers in the loss column for the first time this season with a 20-14 win at Lambeau Field. The Saints tied the Minnesota Vikings, 20-20. It was a bitter pill for the visiting Vikings as Bill Brown fumbled at the Saints 18 yard line with 1:03 remaining. Washington destroyed the hapless Steelers, 52-31, as Sonny Jurgensen threw for 417 yards and 5 touchdown passes.
In AFL action, the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders tied at 23. The Raiders appeared to be the victors after Hewritt Dixon scampered for a 6 yard touchdown run with 58 seconds remaining, but John Hadl captained a furious drive down field to set up Dennis Partee’s game-tying 36 yard field goal as the final seconds ticked off the clock. The field goal left the Chargers as the only undefeated team in the AFL. Kansas City and Oakland are one game back in the AFL Western Division. The Chiefs averted early disaster with a 22-21 squeaker past the expansion Cincinnati Bengals. Jan Stenerud kicked the Chiefs on top with a 20 yard field goal with 2:05 left. Joe Namath threw for 341 yards and a pair of touchdown passes as the Jets breezed past the Broncos in Denver. 36-13. Buffalo stomped the Miami Dolphins at the Orange Bowl, 33-14, as Max Anderson rushed for 130 yards and a touchdown. In Fenway Park, the Patriots kept last year’s Eastern champion Houston Oilers winless with a 24-3 victory. Jim Nance rushed for 89 yards for Boston.