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Cowboys and Steelers on Par with Dominant Eras; Meet Again in 2016 0

Posted on November 13, 2016 by Chris Kent

As two of the National Football League’s iconic franchises, the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers evoke legacies and memories that date back to the 1970’s. That is where the two franchises forged their reputations as being elite. The two teams met in a pair of Super Bowls and combined to play in seven during the decade. With wins over the Cowboys in Super Bowls X and XIII,

Chuck Noll coached the Steelers to a 4-0 mark in the Super Bowl in the 1970's.

Chuck Noll coached the Steelers to a 4-0 mark in the Super Bowl in the 1970′s.

the Steelers gained the upper hand in the matchup in the 1970’s during which they went 4-0 in Super Bowls and claimed the status as the team of the decade. The two Super Bowl matchups between them in the 1970’s were classics. Pittsburgh claimed a pair of four-point victories with a 21-17 win in Super Bowl X and a 35-31 victory in Super Bowl XIII.

While both franchises fell off the very top of the NFL pedestal in the 1980’s, they came back to prominence in the 1990’s during which they met in a third Super Bowl, that being Super Bowl XXX in 1996 which Dallas won 27-17. It was the third Super Bowl title in a four-year span for the Cowboys who were the team of the decade. Dallas was lead throughout the 1990’s by Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin, who collectively were known as, “The Triplets.” They combined with a mammoth offensive line that featured multiple pro bowlers and a pro football hall-of-famer in guard/tackle Larry Allen that dominated opponents. Meanwhile, the Steelers had emerged as a contender with back-to-back trips to the AFC Championship game in 1994-95. Pro football hall-of-famers Rod Woodson and Kevin Greene were part of those Pittsburgh teams and soon to join in 1996 would be another eventual hall-of-famer in Jerome Bettis.

The mere mention of the Cowboys and Steelers dueling on the gridiron is enough to get any football fan’s attention. The names on each side represent a hall-of-fame roll call of players and coaches. For Pittsburgh it is the dominant era of “The Steel Curtain” defense in the 1970’s that took the league by storm. That defense was made famous by the likes of “Mean” Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, and Mel Blount who are all in the pro football hall of fame. L.C. Greenwood was also part of the Steel Curtain and was named to the NFL’s 1970’s All-Decade Team. Leading those great Steelers’ teams was the late Chuck Noll who was 4-0 in Super Bowls, the only coach in the Super Bowl era besides Bill Belichick to win four. Those Pittsburgh team’s of the 1970’s also had firepower on offense behind the likes of Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, and Mike Webster who are all in the pro football hall of fame. Read the rest of this entry →

Romo Endures for Dallas Despite Injuries 10

Posted on September 06, 2016 by Chris Kent

Tony Romo has been beaten and battered throughout his career with injuries. At 36, the veteran quarterback is in the twilight of his playing career. The 2016 season – which kicks off Sept. 8 – will be Romo’s 14th season in the league and his 10th full season as the starter for the Dallas Cowboys.

Romo is tackled by Seattle's Cliff Avril during a preseason game on Aug. 25. Romo suffered a compression fracture of his L1 vertebra on the play.

Romo is tackled by Seattle’s Cliff Avril during a preseason game on Aug. 25. Romo suffered a compression fracture of his L1 vertebra on the play.

Romo suffered a compression fracture of the L1 vertebra in a preseason loss at Seattle on Aug. 25 when he was tackled from behind by the Seahawks’ Cliff Avril as he was going into a slide. Romo stayed down and immediately reached for his back before walking off the field on his own power after trainers attended to him on the field. This was the worst thing that could of happened to Romo and the Cowboys as Romo – although tough and still a very capable player – is fragile. This is the product of many injuries that the four-time pro bowler has been victimized by during a career full of injuries.

Specifically, the injuries and re-injuries to both his back and left clavicle have caused him to miss 24 games over the last six seasons during which Dallas has gone 6-18. Since 2010, Romo has suffered four back injuries and three fractures of his left (non-throwing shoulder) clavicle. This has left him more vulnerable to open hits by unblocked defenders and blitzing linebackers. Romo’s first back surgery was in April of 2013 to remove a cyst. He had another back surgery that December to repair a herniated disk that he suffered in a game where he lead the Cowboys to a come-from-behind win at Washington.

Romo goes down during a game in 2010 against the New York Giants with what was the first break of his left collarbone.

Romo goes down during a game in 2010 against the New York Giants with what was the first break of his left collarbone.

Back in 2010, Romo broke his left clavicle for the first time in a home loss to the New York Giants on Monday Night Football on Oct. 25, the team’s sixth game of the season. He missed the rest of that season as Dallas was 1-7 at midseason, fell out of the playoff race in early December, and finished just 6-10. Read the rest of this entry →

Worst Injuries in Football History 4

Posted on March 04, 2016 by Scott Huntington

NFL football is the most popular sport in the United States, which comes as little surprise to most Americans. From opening day to the Super Bowl, football is a weekly phenomenon. However, between all the dazzling Odell Beckham Jr. one-handed grabs and Aaron Rodgers successful Hail Marys, there’s an unsettling truth lurking: Football is – by far – the most dangerous popular sport.

In 2013, more than 4,500 NFL players reached a $765 million settlement with the league after being diagnosed with and/or suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain disease often caused by a severe blow to the head. CTE is impossible to diagnose until death, but many players report the symptoms, which begin to show around 8-10 years after the infliction. CTE sufferers can experience dizziness, headaches and disorientation, in addition to memory loss, poor judgment and erratic behavior.

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While a big tackle isn’t necessarily going to inflict future CTE among the player being hit every time, there’s no arguing that the potential for CTE is a growing concern every time players take the field. It’s a sad reality that, when you turn on a professional football game, it’s extremely likely that players you’re watching will develop CTE symptoms down the line, purely because how the game is played. No other sport involves as much contact or bang-bang tackles. Football leads significantly as the sport with the most head injuries.

When looking at the types of injuries that are fairly commonplace in the sport, certain gruesome injuries come to mind that effectively demonstrate the sport’s high-risk nature, even beyond the brain:

Mike Utley’s Vertebrae Injury

Mike Utley, a former Lions offensive lineman, suffered perhaps the sport’s more gruesome injury when he severely injured his sixth and seventh vertebrae against the LA Rams on Nov. 17, 1991. Although he gave the crowd a thumbs-up as he was removed from the field, his spinal cord injuries made him a paraplegic. Although his career was finished by the injury, Utley has turned it into a positive, starting the Mike Utley Foundation, which supports treatment for spinal cord injuries.

Read the rest of this entry →

Manning and Brady to Duel Again with Super Bowl Berth at Stake 0

Posted on January 24, 2016 by Chris Kent

It’s late January and the NFL playoffs are in high gear. While the NFC Championship Game matches upstarts from Carolina and Arizona, the AFC Championship Game has the usual combatants in New England and Denver facing off. While the NFC Championship Game features a first-ever matchup of teams, the AFC Championship Game is the second matchup of these AFC heavyweights in the last three years with the Patriots and Broncos battling at Sports Authority Field in the Mile High city of Denver. The winner punches its’ ticket to Super Bowl L.

That can only mean one thing. Another chapter to be written in the storied saga of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady dueling with playoff lore and supremacy on the line, not to mention a trip to the Super Bowl at stake. While it will more importantly be the Broncos and the Patriots competing against each other that will impact the outcome, the competitiveness of these two future hall-of-fame quarterbacks cannot be underestimated. It is also highly likely that how Brady and Manning perform will go a long ways in determining who wins. That is the way it goes when you play quarterback. Perhaps no one other position in all of sports has more responsibility and glamour tied to it.

Entering Sunday’s game, Manning and Brady have met 16 total times during their NFL careers with Brady holding an 11-5 edge. This season’s AFC Championship Game will be the fifth time they have met in the playoffs where they are 2-2. Sunday’s game also is the fourth time the two have met in the AFC Championship Game with Manning holding a 2-1 edge. Manning led the Indianapolis Colts to the 2006 AFC Championship over Brady and New England en route to his only Super Bowl victory and also beat Brady and the Patriots in the 2013 AFC Championship game in Denver. Brady’s lone win against Manning and his team in the AFC Championship Game came in the 2003 game with a 24-14 victory over the Colts en route to a win over Carolina in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Furthermore, the winner of their head-to-head playoff matchups has gone on to win that season’s Super Bowl three out of four times. The only time it did not happen was in 2013 when Manning and the Broncos won 26-16 to advance to Super Bowl XLVIII where they got routed by Seattle 43-8.

Peyton Manning can recall a lot of big games against the Patriots during his time as a Colt.

Peyton Manning can recall a lot of big games against the Patriots during his time as an Indianapolis Colt.

So what is it that has made Brady and Manning not only stand out but remain so good for so long? In a league where it is possible for a team to go from worst to first in a year within a division and turn the fortunes of their franchise around in just two or three years, it seems as though father time would of caught up with them and the core of their respective teams by now or maybe earlier in their careers. While both have showed signs of slowing down, it appears that they each still have something left in the tank.

While Manning, drafted number one overall in 1998, missed all or parts of six games due to injury in 2015, he still has immense wisdom from 18 years of experience which includes three trips to the Super Bowl. Brady, selected in the sixth round with the 199th overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft, is 4-2 in six Super Bowl appearances. Outside of the 2008 season, which he missed due to a knee injury he suffered in the season opener, Brady has been a constant presence for New England. Brady has started 223 out of 225 games he has played in during his regular season career. Furthermore, Brady has defied any kind of skill erosion with age by logging 13 seasons in which he has started all 16 regular season games, including the last seven straight. Brady continues to play at a high level and has been able to avoid injury while playing through the typical strains and sprains encountered in playing professional football.

What is more impressive about Brady is that he has played with different players at the offensive skill positions and still performed at a high caliber level for so long while attaining both individual and team success. Between 2001 and 2004, when the Patriots won three Super Bowls in a four-year span, Brady was throwing to players like wide receivers David Patten and Troy Brown while handing off to running back Antowain Smith. Brady also had a great multi-purpose player in Kevin Faulk that was a threat as a runner or a receiver and he had Jermaine Wiggins at tight end. As the decade moved on, Brady had players like Corey Dillon at running back along with Deion Branch at wide receiver. Branch was the most valuable player of Super Bowl XXXIX, won by New England. Brady also looked to tight ends Ben Watson, Christian Fauria, and Daniel Graham. Read the rest of this entry →

Remembering College Football’s “Galloping Ghost” Red Grange 2

Posted on September 21, 2015 by Mike Raffone

MIKE Comic 72 Galloping GhostToday’s Sports Then and Now blog features an incomparable college football player with the unforgettable nickname – The Galloping Ghost.

In 2008, ESPN.com called this electrifying running back and kick returner the greatest college football player ever.

However, nearly 90 years earlier it was Chicago sportswriter Warren Brown who attributed The Galloping Ghost name to Harold Edward “Red” Grange.

Grange earned the moniker because of his race horse speed and quick, ghostlike movements that avoided tacklers in the open field.

Tackling Grange was like trying to lasso a fast moving cloud driven by a strong wind in a large open field. Few defenders ever succeeded.

A three-time All American at the University of Illinois, the 5’11″ and 175 lb. Grange led the Illini to an undefeated season and college football’s national championship in 1923.

The Galloping Ghost’s best college game was against Michigan on October 18, 1924. Most college football fans called it the greatest individual performance in the history of college football.

Against the Illini’s fiercest rival, Grange spooked the Wolverine defense by racing the game’s opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. He scored three more times on runs of 67, 56 and 44 yards – all within the first 12 minutes of the game.

There was no television or internet back in The Galloping Ghost’s era. Instead, TIME Magazine highlighted Grange’s amazing college career by including The Galloping Ghost on the cover of its October 1925 issue. It was a huge national honor.

An original member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame, Grange signed with the Chicago Bears immediately after college. Grange is also a history maker for the professional sport of football. Back in the 1920s, professional football was only beginning to form nationally, and Grange became instrumental in its initial success.

Grange participated in a 67 day, 19 game cross-country series of exhibition games. For his efforts, The Galloping Ghost pocketed an incredible $100,000 for his role. The other players were paid only $100 per game.

Chicago Bears Hall of Fame owner George Halas called Grange the greatest running back he had ever seen. Unfortunately, The Galloping Ghost suffered a terrible knee injury in 1927 that inevitably shortened his professionally career.

The highlight of #77′s NFL career came in 1933. Grange made a heroic game saving play on defense in the closing seconds of the NFL’s first ever Championship Game held at Wrigley Field.

The spirit of this Galloping Ghost will always live on. And, today’s Sports Then and Now’s blog rekindles the fiery spirit of this amazing college football player.

Red Grange passed away in 1991, but today let’s remember the elusive, fast gridiron great whom ESPN.com recognized as the best college football player of all time.

MIKE on sports!

 

Ultimate Stakes on Table Again for Giants and Cowboys 29

Posted on January 01, 2012 by Chris Kent

The Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants have experienced this before. Playing each other in New York in the regular season finale with the winner claiming the NFC East Championship. Almost 18 years ago to the day, the two teams played arguably the most significant game in the longtime series between the two bitter division rivals.

On Jan. 2, 1994, the teams met in the old Meadowlands stadium in New York

 in the 1993 regular season finale with the division title on the line. While the stature of that game was a bit bigger than what is on the line tonight in New York when the two teams meet to decide the division title in the regular season finale, tonight’s battle is easily the biggest game between the two teams since that fabled game in 1994. Back then, Dallas was the defending Super Bowl champions with “The Triplets” – Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman, and Emmitt Smith – all of who would later be enshrined in the pro football hall of fame. New York had Giants all time greats in Phil Simms and Lawrence Taylor.

Those marquee players are replaced by names today like Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Dez Bryant, DeMarcus Ware, and Jay Ratliff for the Cowboys. New York offers Eli Manning, Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw, Justin Tuck, and Osi Umenyiora. All good players, some even great. Overall, a notch below the cast for each team a generation ago and not a sure fire hall of famer among them.

While the stakes are high tonight with a division title and along with it the NFC’s final playoff berth on the line, there was even more at stake 18 years ago, at least for Dallas. A win meant home field advantage, a week off, and the top seed in the NFC playoffs. Both teams also entered the 1994 game at 11-4 while tonight’s game features teams stuck in mediocrity with identical 8-7 records. Still, a huge game is a huge game.

Emmitt Smith, who suffered a separated right shoulder just before halftime

Emmitt Smith sustained a separated right shoulder on this play after being tackled by the Giants' Greg Jackson (47) just before halftime on Jan. 2, 1994.

 in the 1994 game, played through it finishing with 168 yards on 32 carries. Smith also had 61 yards on 10 catches as the Cowboys won 16-13 in overtime following Eddie Murray’s 41-yard field goal. The game is memorable at least in Dallas lore as Smith cemented his legendary status as a warrior who could play with the burden of a significant injury and will his team to victory. To this day it is remembered as one of the top displays of courage and toughness in the history of sports.

Injury is also on the table again for the Cowboys in tonight’s game, this time entering it. Romo has a bruised right throwing hand which he suffered in last week’s 20-7 home loss to Philadelphia. While he has been dealing with swelling in the hand all week, he is scheduled to start Sunday night’s showdown. He will likely be wearing a protective wrap on his hand that leaves his fingers exposed to ensure a sure grip on the ball.

Playing hurt is nothing new to Romo who has displayed his own brand of toughness and courage this season. Next to Smith’s performance with his separated shoulder, Romo arguably comes up next in courageous performances while playing injured in Dallas annals.

Playing with a broken rib and a punctured lung suffered during the first half at San Francisco back in September this season, Romo returned to the game to lead the Cowboys to a 27-24 overtime win over the 49ers. Romo’s 77-yard connection to Jesse Holley in overtime set up a 19-yard field goal by rookie Dan Bailey to clinch it. Romo finished 20-for-33 for 345 yards and two touchdowns while compiling a 116.4 quarterback rating. One of the most clutch performances of his career, all while enduring severe pain that at times tested his ability to call out signals and after the game made it hard to talk during the postgame interview where he needed help to get up and off the podium.

Dallas tight end Jason Witten tries to escape Giants linebacker Michael Boley during the team's first meeting in Dallas back on Dec. 11 (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images).

Romo continued to play, starting each and every game this season as trainers nursed his way back to health. It would be about midseason before both the rib and lung were totally healed.

By then Dallas was on a roll, playing its’ best ball of the season. A 34-7 loss at Philadelphia on Oct. 30 was followed by a four-game winning streak that put the Cowboys at 7-4 and in first place in the division. During that same time, the Giants were fading. Following a big 24-20 win at New England, New York was 6-2 at midseason. Four straight losses followed, three coming to 2011 division champions in San Francisco, New Orleans, and Green Bay. That put them at 6-6 heading into the first Dallas game.

Trailing by 12 points with 5:41 to play, the Giants scored 15 straight points to post a come-from behind win which saved their season. It was secured when New York’s Jason Pierre-Paul blocked Bailey’s potential game-tying field goal after a successful attempt just seconds earlier was nullified by an icing timeout called by Giants coach Tom Coughlin in the 37-34 win.

Since logging its’ fourth straight win with a 20-19 overtime win over Miami on Thanksgiving Day, the Cowboys have gone 1-3, the only win coming at Tampa Bay on Dec. 17. The loss to New York in the first meeting was significant for both teams as it tightened the race for the division title.

The outcome left both teams at 7-6 overall and 2-2 in the division. Each

Brandon Jacobs runs for a touchdown during the first half of the Giants' win in Dallas back in December (AP Photo/Sharon Ellman).

 team had three games to play with both facing two division opponents. However at the time, the Giants had the division lead by virtue of its’ head to head win over Dallas. It looked as if things would still come down to the final regular season game when the two met in New York.

That is exactly what has happened. There is no tomorrow. The winner wins the division and goes to the playoffs. The loser goes home and has a long offseason.

The only question is how will this game stack up to that memorable game from 1994? If history is any indication, it should be a dogfight. All the marbles are on the table and it is for anyone’s taking.

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