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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

    • Drew Pearson: Mr. Clutch
      August 7, 2021 | 6:59 pm

      Drew Pearson

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a former NFL wide receiver know as “Mr. Clutch” for his penchant for making big receptions at crucial moments of the game. After waiting for more than 30 years, he is finally earning his rightful place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the 2021 Hall of Fame Class.

      During his decade with the Dallas Cowboys, Drew Pearson had a habit of making the big catch at the right moment to help the Cowboys time and again snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

      The favorite target of Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, Pearson was widely recognized as one of the great receivers of his era. Though at the time of his retirement many expected Pearson to easily breeze into the Hall of Fame, his enshrinement was derailed by changes to the game which artificially inflated receiver stats and made the numbers he produced during a time when wide receivers weren’t catching 100 passes a season seem inferior.

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