Dolphins, Broncos Pull Off Stunning Upsets

Denver DE Rich Jackson closes on Kansas City QB Len Dawson in the Broncos' 20-14 victory in Kansas City.
Denver DE Rich Jackson closes on Kansas City QB Len Dawson in the Broncos’ 20-14 victory in Kansas City.

The following is not a summary of historical events,but rather the results of my computer football replay of the 1968 AFL season using Second and Ten football.

These days, the younger generation is challenging the Establishment, and this weekend in the American Football League, it did not matter if you were the established champions for only one year. The last two AFL champions, Oakland and Kansas City, fell from the ranks of the undefeated. On Saturday, the second-year Miami Dolphins floored the defending champion Raiders, 45-24, in an aerial display witnessed by 70,873 at the Orange Bowl. On Sunday, the Denver Broncos revived under second year coach Lou Saban pulled off the weekend’s second upset, a 20-14 defeat of the Kansas City Chiefs on their home turf.

In Miami, the air was filled with footballs as Bob Griese and Daryle Lamonica nearly combined for 800 passing yards. The Dolphins tied the game at 17 with a little over a minute remaining in the first half when Griese found Karl Noonan, the AFL’s leading receiver after three weeks of play, for a 19 yard touchdown pass. Though Miami received the second half kickoff, the anticipation in the press box was these young Dolphins would wilt amidst the hot sun and Raider defense. However, Griese marched the Dolphins to a touchdown with receiver Howard Twilley and fullback Larry Csonka compiling most of the yards. A flagrant face mask penalty helped advance the Dolphins on the drive. On the Raiders next possession, Lamonica threw a deep bomb intended for Fred Biletnikoff that was tipped and fell into the hands of LB John Bramlett who was trailing on the play. Bramlett bulled his way to the Oakland 35 which set up another Dolphin touchdown, Griese’s one yard toss to RB Jim Kiick.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Lamonica closed the Raiders to within a touchdown on a seven yard toss to Hewritt Dixon, but Griese and the Dolphins responded with another Griese-to-Kiick touchdown pass that put the game out of reach with 4:45 left to play. But Lamonica refused to accept that conclusion as he hurled the Raiders down the field with deep passes, but Dick Anderson picked Lamonica off at the three yard line. The Dolphins ran the ball and the clock forcing the Raiders to use their timeouts. Punter Larry Seiple pinned the Raiders at their own one-yard line with 2:24 left. Down by two touchdowns, Lamonica remained undeterred, but again Dick Anderson stepped in front of a Lamonica pass and this time returned it 12 yards for the final dagger in the Raiders’ heart, 45-24.

In Kansas City, the vaunted Chiefs offense failed to gain any traction against the Broncos defense which ranked last in the league in 1967. Denver out-gained the Chiefs, 402 to 130 total yards, but it was a fourth-quarter 25 yard touchdown pass by John Leclair to Billy Van Heusen that proved to be the narrow difference on the scoreboard. Denver rolled to a 13-0 lead in the first half, and appeared to have the game in control until, with under two minutes to go in the half, Leclair was intercepted by Jim Lynch who nearly returned the ball for a touchdown. Lynch was pushed out of bounds at the two, and former Bronco running back Wendell Hayes plunged ahead on the next play for a touchdown. Quarterback Len Dawson took control on the opening possession of the second half by guiding the Chiefs 80 yards for a go-ahead touchdown, a nine-yard pass to Otis Taylor. But the Broncos offense was able to run the ball and the clock, despite a Chiefs interception stopping a third-quarter drive. The Bronco pass rush broke through to apply pressure on Dawson and came up with two key second-half sacks. Dawson finished with eight completions on nineteen attempts and a mere seventy-four passing yards.

In other AFL action, the Buffalo Bills held off the expansion Cincinnati Bengals, 23-20. Paul Robinson rushed for 113 yards and is the league’s leading rusher by one yard over Denver’s Floyd Little. The New York Jets had no trouble disposing of the Boston Patriots, 35-3, at Fenway Park.

Go to 1968 AFL Replay Home Page

Browns Stunned By Saints in Opener, 17-13

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The following is not a summary of historical events,but rather the results of my computer football replay of the 1968 NFL season using Second and Ten football.

The Cleveland Browns dropped their fifth straight game dating back to November 26, 1967 with a demoralizing 17-13 loss the second-year New Orleans Saints in the opening game for both clubs played at Tulane Stadium. Cleveland jumped to a 13 point lead at the half. But the Browns literally handed the game off to the Saints in the second half as marched back with 17 unanswered points. A fumble by tight end Milt Morin on the Browns’ opening possession of the second half marked the beginning of the Saints’ rally. Saints QB Billy Kilmer tossed a 46 yard touchdown pass to Jim Hester for the home team’s opening score. Leroy Kelly fumbled on the Browns’ next possession which turned into a 31 yard Charlie Durkee field goal to close the Cleveland lead to three points. On the Saints’ following possession, Dave Parks broke loose on an end around 46 yards to set up a Tony Lorick touchdown plunge for the lead. The Browns failed to mount any significant comeback by continuing to shoot themselves in the foot. Cleveland turned the ball over three more times before the final whistle blew. The task of regaining their winning ways gets no easier as the Browns travel to Dallas to play the World Champion Cowboys next week.

The Saints win was not the only upset on Opening weekend. The Atlanta Falcons traveled to Minnesota on Saturday and upended the Vikings in the rain, 24-10. On Monday, the Cardinals defeated the Rams, 27-14, as Jim Hart threw a pair of touchdown passes for St. Louis. Other teams tabbed as favorites waltzed through the first week of the season. Dallas hammered Detroit, 52-0. Don Meredith threw five touchdown passes for the Cowboys. Baltimore pinned a 44-10 pasting on San Francisco as Earl Morrall, subbing for the injured Johnny Unitas, threw four touchdown passes. Morrall was acquired from the Giants August 25 and became the Colts’ signal caller by virtue of Unitas’ arm injury suffered against the Cowboys in the final exhibition game. Donny Anderson rushed for 141 yards in the Packers’ 41-10 dismantling of the Eagles. Chicago’s Gale Sayers compiled the highest rushing total for the week with 164 yards in a 21-20 loss to Washington. Earl Gros rushed for 121 for the Steelers, but it wasn’t enough as Fran Tarkenton and the Giants triumphed, 20-17.

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Blocked Field Goal Return Wins Game for Dolphins

Larry Csnoka, the Dolphins' first round pick from Syracuse, had an impressive professional debut with 75 yards rushing in the Dolphins' 14-7 upset of the Houston Oilers.
Larry Csnoka, the Dolphins’ first round pick from Syracuse, had an impressive professional debut with 75 yards rushing in the Dolphins’ 14-7 upset of the Houston Oilers.

The following is not a summary of historical events,but rather the results of my computer football replay of the 1968 AFL season using Second and Ten football.

Miami – The Miami Dolphins blocked a field goal attempt in the closing seconds of the first half and John Bramlett returned it 71 yards for a go-ahead touchdown for a tight 14-7 victory over the defending AFL Eastern Champion Houston Oilers in their opening game of the 1968 season. Rookie Larry Csonka led the Dolphins with 75 yards rushing. The first round pick out of Syracuse helped Miami drown out the clock in the second game as the game was played in a rain storm. Bob Griese completed 12 of 24 passing attempts for a 102 yards including a first quarter touchdown pass to Karl Noonan who led all receivers with eight catches.

Houston tied the game in the second quarter with a 69 yard scoring drive capped by Woody Campbell’s four yard touchdown run. Campbell led Houston with 58 yards on the ground. The Oilers In the final minute of the first half, the Dolphins attempted a fake punt and punter Larry Sieple was intercepted by Miller Farr who returned the ball to midfield. In five plays, Pete Beathard drove his team to the Dolphin six yard line with five seconds remaining. Kicker John Wittenborn’s 23 yard attempt was blocked and Bramlett scooped up the ball and hit paydirt as the clock rattled off the final seconds of the half. The Oilers were unable to recover from the sudden ten point turn-around.

Houston committed three turnovers in the second half, the most costly being a Dick Westmoreland interception at the Dolphin ten yard line in the opening moments of the final stanza. Csonka and the Dolphins ground game chewed up seven minutes off the clock before Beathard would be granted another chance. But the Dolphin defense held the Oilers on downs with 2:51 left as Alvin Reed was stopped a yard short of a first down on a fourth down reception. The Oilers held the Dolphins but Sieple pinned Houston deep at their three yard line with 1:22 remaining. Hoyle Granger, who finished with 117 receiving yards, rescued the Oilers from their deep hole with a 34 yard reception, but again the Dolphins defense held their ground stopping the Oilers thirty yards from a game-tying touchdown.

The Dolphins will next host the AFL Champion Oakland Raiders as the Oilers (0-2) head west to face the San Diego Chargers next Saturday.

Go to 1968 AFL Replay Home Page

Chiefs Roll Oilers in AFL Opening Week

Kansas City's Otis Taylor scores on a seven yard end around in the second half of the Chiefs' 34-16 humiliation of the defending Eastern Champion Houston Oilers in their new home, the Astrodome.
Kansas City’s Otis Taylor scores on a seven yard end around in the second half of the Chiefs’ 34-16 humiliation of the defending Eastern Champion Houston Oilers in their new home, the Astrodome.

The following is not a summary of historical events,but rather the results of my computer football replay of the 1968 AFL season using Second and Ten football.

Before a sellout crowd in Houston’s Astrodome, the Kansas City Chiefs reclaimed their position among the league elite with a 34-16 dismantling of the defending Eastern Division champion Oilers. The game began well enough for the home club as Larry Carwell intercepted Kansas City’s Len Dawson within the first minute of the game. Carwell returned the ball 42 yards to the Chiefs 11 yard line. Houston QB and former Chief Pete Beathard quickly converted the turnover into six points with a touchdown toss to Mac Haik on the Oilers’ first play from scrimmage in the new season. After the teams traded interceptions, Houston punter J.C. Norton pinned the visitors deep in their own territory, and Chiefs RB Bert Coan was stuffed in the end zone for a safety.

But the game went downhill from there for the Houstonians. Carwell fumbled the free kick following the safety, and Dawson found TE Fred Arbanas open up the middle for a 33 yard touchdown pass. However Beathard continued to turn the ball over, and in the dying moments of the first half, Beathard’s fourth of an eventual five interceptions found the arms of Johnny Robinson in the Oiler end zone. The Chiefs held a 17-9 halftime advantage, and Robinson interception denied Houston a chance to close within a point at halftime. The Oilers looked like a defeated club as they walked off the field. Kansas City took the opening kickoff of the second half and drove for another touchdown, a 7 yard end around by WR Otis Taylor. Dawson found Taylor for another score in the opening stages of the fourth quarter to provide Kansas City with 34 unanswered points. Don Trull took over for Beathard, and drove Houston 92 yards for the game’s final score – a 1 yard plunge by Hoyle Granger as time expired.

In other games, the San Diego Chargers proved rude hosts for the Cincinnati Bengals’ inaugural game with a 30-3 demolition and Boston defeated the Bills in Buffalo, 20-6.
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1968 NFL Replay Preview – Green Bay Packers

Packers running back Donny Anderson (44) in action in a re-match of last year's NFL Championship Game on August 24, 1968. The Packers defeated the Cowboys, 31-27, in the exhibition game played in Dallas. CREDIT: Walter Iooss, Jr. (Photo by Walter Iooss, Jr. / Sports Illustrated)
Packers running back Donny Anderson (44) in action in a re-match of last year’s NFL Championship Game on August 24, 1968. The Packers defeated the Cowboys, 31-27, in the exhibition game played in Dallas. CREDIT: Walter Iooss, Jr. (Photo by Walter Iooss, Jr. / Sports Illustrated)

When Vincent Lombardi, having achieved all that any professional football coach could hope to achieve, decided to leave the field for the front office after the Super Bowl, he said, seriously, “The greatness of this team lies ahead of it.”

On Thursday afternoons early in the training season this year, Lombardi played golf; when he came out to practice to watch Phil Bengtson drive the club as hard as he himself did, he sat on a special bench in the sun and acquired a tan, biting his tongue. He did not interfere with Bengtson, who spent nine years as his assistant and who has not varied the Lombardi routine. Lombardi appropriated a green park bench for his own and asked equipment man Bob Noel, “Where’s my bench?” whenever he appeared. Once, when he had taken off his shirt only to see a cloud hide the sun, he demanded, “Where’s my sun?” No one doubts that it reappeared at once.

The team Bengtson inherited may be the best of the long series of exemplary Packer clubs. It is essentially the same as the 1967 version and, given only a normal run of injuries, it should be much better. Last season Bart Starr, playing with a swollen thumb and rib injuries in the early games, threw nine interceptions in the first two, or three times as many as he did in all of 1966. Healed, he settled down to his usual pace and threw only tweleve¬† more in the next 12 games. The Pack lost its two starting running backs during the course of the season when Elijah Pitts and Jim Grabowski each missed significant time with injury. Travis Williams, who returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, got a late start because of tonsilitis, but he is recovered now and with a year’s experience should have a strong season. Herb Adderley played defensive halfback for most of last season with a separated bicep in his right arm. Minus such injuries, the Packers figure to improve on their 1967 performance. And there are other significant pluses.

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1968 AFL Replay Preview – Houston Oilers

Oilers rookie split end Jim Beirne from Purdue hauls in a Pete Beathard pass in pre-season action against Dallas at the Astrodome.
Oilers rookie split end Jim Beirne from Purdue hauls in a Pete Beathard pass in pre-season action against Dallas at the Astrodome.

A year ago the Houston Oilers startled even themselves. They moved into a new training camp in the wooded hills of Kerrville, Texas, established a new sense of discipline, congratulated themselves on a fine gathering of rookies and then began to speculate on how well they might do. The 1966 season had started off gloriously but had wound up a disaster. Oiler Coach Wally Lemm thought his team would be better in 1967, but he was unsure how much better. “I knew we’d had a good training camp and were in good condition, but we had so many rookies I figured if we finished 7-7 we would have had a fine year,” says Lemm.

Instead, the Oilers had a 9-5 record, one and a half games ahead of the New York Jets, and won the Eastern Division championship. They won it with a fine defense, with a powerful running game, with excellent play from their special teams and with luck on injuries. Only one starter, Offensive Guard Sonny Bishop, was hurt seriously, and that was by falling off a hay wagon and getting run over. For most of the season the Oilers had a passing offense that could most kindly be described as poor. They had a quarterback who joined them after the season had begun and who had to call the offense by rote. Their leading receiver was their fullback, who caught 48 passes to rank 10th in the league. Their best outside receiver caught 25 passes. But the Oilers took the division championship nevertheless, and this year they show every indication of being a vastly improved team.

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1968 NFL Replay Preview – Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys' Don Perkins was named Super Bowl MVP for his role in the overtime win against Oakland. Perkins and the Cowboys will be the team to beat in the NFL this season. Playoff rival New York moves into their division.
Cowboys’ Don Perkins was named Super Bowl MVP for his role in the overtime win against Oakland. Perkins and the Cowboys will be the team to beat in the NFL this season. Playoff rival New York moves into their division.

The Dallas Cowboys finally reached the glory and the money, shaking a possible bridesmaid title with their overtime victory against Oakland in last year’s Super Bowl. “We’re either going to be a lot better or we are really going to slip,” says Tom Landry, the scholarly, quiet man who has done the best job ever done with an expansion team, bringing the Cowboys to two division titles in seven years. “The attitude of this training camp has indicated we’re going to be better.”

The Cowboys won their conference title last year with Don Meredith, their quarterback, suffering a variety of injuries during most of the season. He appeared healthy when he reported to the Thousand Oaks ( Calif.) training camp, although it was rumored that he was one of the two Cowboys who failed to finish the mile under the six minutes required for backs.

Meredith, at his best, is one of the four or five championship quarterbacks in pro football. He has a strong arm and he is able to hit the square-out patterns which test accuracy, as well as the long shots which test timing. He is an intelligent signal caller and has, in full measure, the charisma which a quarterback needs to lead a team. He has been well battered in previous years and has shown he can take the punishment without letting it affect his poise.

They should not have too much trouble reaching the championship game even if Meredith happens to get hurt. Craig Morton and Jerry Rhome constitute the deepest reserve of quality quarterbacks in football. As if this were not enough, the sensation of the early weeks in Thousand Oaks was Roger Staubach, the old Navy All-America who belongs to the Cowboys and will be available next year. Staubach was superb.
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1968 AFL Replay Preview – Oakland Raiders

Daryle Lamonica and the Oakland Raiders look to overcome the disappointing overtime loss to Dallas in last year's Super Bowl.
Daryle Lamonica and the Oakland Raiders look to overcome the disappointing overtime loss to Dallas in last year's Super Bowl.

If it is credible to say that a team with the best record in the AFL had any very serious weaknesses – other than the inability to beat Dallas in the Super Bowl – then let it be said that the only thing Oakland really lacked was an outside pass receiver with exceptional speed. A good team these days can hardly get by without one, although the Raiders managed to do so by establishing a sound running game, completing 52 passes to the fullback and playing defense in a style that caused that unit to be called The Eleven Angry Men. This year the Raiders may have cured themselves. In fact, they may have become fairly wealthy in outside receivers with speed, even though one of the two candidates has been around for several seasons and the other would rather not be an outside receiver at all.

Warren Wells signed with Detroit in 1964, did two years in the military, was released by Detroit, picked up by Kansas City, was quickly sold by the Chiefs to the speed-hungry Raiders. He played very little for Oakland, catching only 13 passes. But when he did get his hands on the ball he was a marvel. Of his 13 catches, four went for touchdowns and the average distance per reception was an astounding 27.9 yards. Oakland coach John Rauch had a close look at Wells this preseason, and Wells has had some brilliant performances. However much Rauch might be counting on Wells, there is at least equal dependence on a rookie who was Oakland’s No. 1 draft choice, Eldridge Dickey. He was a quarterback at Tennessee State, and many scouts believe he might become the first black quarterback to play as a regular in professional football. Rauch already has three quarterbacks – with veterans Cotton Davidson and George Blanda backing up the young Daryle Lamonica – and has used Dickey as a flanker. “I realize it takes a long time to become a good pro quarterback,” says Dickey. “I’m willing to play flanker if I can help the club, but I want a tryout at quarterback, too.”

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Cowboys Earn a Super Victory.

Miami, Jan. 14, 1968 – Nine seasons ago, a nationally televised NFL Championship Game carried into overtime and lifted professional football into the national spotlight. The championship game between the NFL Champion Dallas Cowboys and AFL Champion Oakland Raiders has similarly lifted this “Super Bowl” into equal prominence overnight. The Cowboys defeated the Raiders, 16-10, in sudden death overtime for the World’s Championship. The clubs played like freshman at the senior prom. Each had opportunities to seize control of the game, but instead the game played out as a marathon walk on a tightrope.

Oakland made the first mistake as Cowboy LB Lee Roy Jordan intercepted Daryle Lamonica’s pass intended for Fred Biletnikoff. Jordan rumbled 31 yards down the sideline to set up Don Meredith’s troops at the Oakland 41. After two ineffective gadget plays, Meredith found Lance Rentzel downfield for a completion to the Oakland 9. The Raider defense pushed the Cowboys backward from there, and forced Dallas to settle for a 23 yard field goal attempt by Danny Villanueva. The butterflies were evident as Villanueva missed the attempt. However, Mike Johnson picked off another Lamonica pass on the subsequent drive, and Villanueva converted a 27 yard attempt for the game’s initial score.

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