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Sports Then and Now



NFL Classic Rewind: Jets’ Furious Rally is Stopped by Last-Second Interception 60

Posted on November 03, 2011 by A.J. Foss

The decade of the 1970s were not kind to the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets as the two teams combined for just one playoff appearance between them.

When the 1980s came around, things began to look up for Buffalo as they went 11-5 and won the AFC East division title during the 1980 season.

Though they lost to the San Diego Chargers in the AFC Divisional Playoffs, the Buffalo Bills headed into the 1981 season with renewed confidence under head coach Chuck Knox.

Led by veteran quarterback Joe Ferguson and 1,000 yard rusher Joe Cribbs, the Bills returned to the playoffs with a 10-6 record.

While the Bills were turning the page on a lost decade, the Jets seemed to continue their woes from the 70s as they entered the 1980s.

The Jets went 4-12 in the 1980 season, which included a loss to the 1-15 Saints, and started the 1981 season by dropping their first three games.

New York fans and media members were calling for head coach Walt Michaels, who had been the head coach since 1977, to be replaced.

But under Michaels’ leadership, the Jets won 10 of their last 13 games to finish with a 10-5-1 record and clinch the team’s first playoff berth since 1969.

The Jets’ turnaround was keyed by the defensive line of Mark Gastineau, Joe Klecko, Marty Lyons, and Abdul Salaam, which unofficially accounted for 66 sacks during the 1981 season and came to be known as the “New York Sack Exchange”.

On a cold, rainy afternoon, New York fans traveled to Shea Stadium to see their beloved Jets host their first playoff game in 12 years as the Jets faced off with the Buffalo Bills in the 1981 AFC Wild Card Game.

The Jets won the coin toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff, with Bruce Harper taking the kick and returning it to the New York 25, where he was met by Bills linebacker Ervin Palmer

Palmer stripped the ball from Harper and was caught on a bounce by Palmer’s teammate, Charles Romes who ran in untouched for a 26-yard touchdown in the second quickest score in NFL playoff history to give Buffalo a 7-0 lead just 16 seconds into the game.

The Jets seemed to shake off the shocking fumble on the opening kick on their second offensive series as they drove from their own 30-yard-line to the Buffalo 30, where they had a 1st-and-10.

That is when quarterback Richard Todd dropped back and fired a pass for Wesley Walker, who was wide open at the goal line, only to have Walker drop the pass and sure touchdown. Read the rest of this entry →

Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions Take the NFL Back to 1980 14

Posted on September 25, 2011 by Dean Hybl

With a 3-0 start, the Buffalo Bills seem to be pointing in the right direction to start the 2011 season.

Considering that each team has posted only one winning season since 2000, dual 3-0 starts by the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions has the NFL turned upside down and fans in both cities celebrating like it is 1980 all over again.

Indeed, it was 31 years ago that both franchises started the season with perfect records during the first month of the season to become the darlings of the NFL.

The NFL was a little different back in 1980 as both teams relied on rookie running backs to spark their team. The Bills featured former Auburn Tiger Joe Cribbs while the Lions had a budding star in former Heisman Trophy winner Billy Simms.

Of course as we fast forward to 2011 the focus is no longer on the running game, though solid runners have helped both teams to their early starts.

The focus in today’s NFL is on the passing game and the Bills and Lions rely on Ryan Fitzpatrick and Matt Stafford much more than the 1980 squads relied on their starting quarterbacks Joe Ferguson and Gary Danielson.

Entering the 1980 season, both the Lions and Bills were coming off four straight losing seasons.

Following a 2-14 campaign in 1979, the Lions drafted Sims with the first pick in the NFL draft. Under third year head coach Monte Clark, the team won their first four games in dominating fashion. They outscored the Los Angeles Rams 41-20 and then combined an explosive offense with a dominating defense to allow their opponents seven points each in the next three games as they outscored the Packers, Cardinals and Vikings 76-21.

Unfortunately, the Lions couldn’t maintain the momentum and finished just out of the playoffs with a 9-7 record. However, the winning season was their first since 1972 and started a four year stretch in which the Lions posted a 30-27 record and twice advanced to the playoffs. 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.

      Read more »

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