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Sports Then and Now



NFL Classic Rewind: 49ers Escape Lions Upset Bid in NFC Playoffs 20

Posted on October 14, 2011 by A.J. Foss

During the 1950s, the Detroit Lions were the elite team in the National Football League as they won three NFL championships between the years 1952 and 1957.

But following their 1957 NFL title, the Lions traded quarterback Bobby Layne to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who was so angry about the transaction that he allegedly said that the Lions would not win for 50 years.

For the next 25 years, the Lions did not win as they made the playoffs only twice in 1970 and 1982, with the latter coming because the NFL expanded the playoffs to 16 teams following the strike-shortened season.

But in 1983, Detroit fans were hopeful as the Lions won their first division title since the 1957 season as they won the NFC Central Division title despite a 9-7 record.

The Lions were coached by Monte Clark, who was in his sixth season as the Detroit head coach, after a seven-year stint as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers in which the team won three NFC West titles.

Detroit won the NFC Central in 1983 because of their stingy defense which allowed the second fewest points during the regular season and all-pro running back Billy Sims, who had gained over 1,000 yards for the third time since he was taken as the #1 overall pick of the 1980 Draft.

The Lions’ opponent in their 1983 NFC Divisional Playoff would be the San Francisco 49ers, who were two years removed from their Super Bowl championship season.

The 49ers struggled in their defense of their Super Bowl title as they went 3-6 in the 1982 season and failed to make the expanded playoffs because of their 28th ranked rushing offense.

Needing to bolster the running game to help quarterback Joe Montana, the 49ers used their first round pick in the NFL Draft to select Nebraska’s Roger Craig and acquired Wendell Tyler from the Los Angeles Rams. Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Larry “The Zonk” Csonka
      January 29, 2022 | 4:43 pm
      Larry Csonka

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was the leader of a running attack that was the cornerstone of two Super Bowl Championship teams, including the only undefeated squad in NFL history.

      With his distinctive headgear and a body suited for punishing contact, Larry Csonka looked the part of a fullback and for 11 NFL seasons delivered and took regular punishment on his way to the Hall of Fame.

      Following in the great tradition of Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Jim Nance and Floyd Little, Csonka earned All-American honors at Syracuse while rushing for 2,934 yards.  He began earning a name for himself as the Most Valuable Player of the East–West Shrine Game, the Hula Bowl, and the College All-Star Game.

      Read more »

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