The following is not a summary of historical events, but rather the results of my computer football replay of the 1968 AFL and NFL seasons using Second and Ten football. In reality on December 14, 1968, the Cardinals did defeat the Browns by the score of 27-16, but the Browns won the Century division, eventually losing to Baltimore in the NFL Championship Game.
St. Louis, December 14 – The St. Louis Cardinals captured the NFL Century Division title with a 31-17 victory over the second-place Cleveland Browns before a capacity of 58,800 at Busch Stadium. The football Cardinals will face the defending champion Dallas Cowboys in the division playoffs riding a four-game winning streak.
A few weeks ago, Cleveland seemed a lock for the title after Bill Nielsen took over as quarterback and guided the Browns to an eight-game unbeaten streak. At the end of November, Cleveland annihilated Philadelphia, 52-0, and had outscored its’ last three opponents by the score of 134-6. But on December 1, the tide turned quickly against Cleveland as they dropped their final home game, 21-16 to the Giants, on a last minute touchdown run by Bobby Duhon. The following week, the Cardinals edged those same Giants at Yankee Stadium, 39-38, to set up this final showdown for the division title.
The clubs took a 10-10 tie into halftime as the Cardinals looked to avenge a 45-3 drubbing by the Browns at Cleveland in Week 5. After an exchange of punts to open the second half, the Cardinals were set up in excellent field position after a personal foul penalty after the punt return. St. Louis marched downfield on the legs of ex-Mizzou Tiger Johnny Roland who rolled up 25 yards. The touchdown drive was completed with a two-yard plunge by fullback Cid Edwards. One possession later, the Cardinals were pinned back at their own seven yard line. The Cardinals’ ground game chewed up the Browns defense with a triple headed attack of Roland, Roy Shivers and Willis Crenshaw who led all rushers with 120 yards. The drive was aided by a pass interference call on third down, and tight end Jackie Smith finished the 93-yard drive with a 21 yard run on an end around.
Down by two touchdowns, Nelsen responded quickly as the league’s leading passing attack drove 67 yards. Nelsen was perfect on all six of his pass attempts. Leroy Kelly scored on a one-yard run for a touchdown. But with only 3:13 remaining, the Cleveland defense could not stop the Cardinals’ ground game. Crenshaw chewed up the clock with five rushes until Roland broke through with a 41 yard scamper that sealed the division title for St. Louis.
The Cardinals will travel to Dallas for one of the divisional playoff match-ups. Green Bay will travel to Baltimore for the other contest. In the AFL, the New York Jets will host the Oakland Raiders who won five straight games after a wild 31-19 loss to New York. The Raiders captured the AFL Western Division title with a 30-12 victory in San Diego on the season’s final week.