Three points on a very busy football Tuesday: the Rams legitimately turning it around, the Patriots going back to the future, and why you should care about the legacy of
What's happening is
Give an assist to Bradford, too, for moving the chains enough to win. In the past two weeks, he's led the Rams to 50 points, with scoring drives of 85, 82, 79 and 60 yards. But Sunday, he was thinking more about the plays he didn't make against Seattle. Offensive coordinator
"I'm right with you,'' Bradford said he told Shurmur. "I know I can play better, and I will.'' For now, the Rams will take the bad Bradford (six interceptions through four games) with the good Bradford (he has the Rams competitive again) and know a guy as accurate as Bradford will keep them in games better than any quarterback they've had since
Last night, it was an undrafted running back,
I was 13 in 1970, growing up in Connecticut, and the NFL was in its first year of the merger. The AFL teams had been folded into the AFC, and their games were on NBC mostly, many of which were the late games on Sunday afternoons on the East Coast. I loved watching the Raiders, Chargers and Chiefs in those days (say, from around 1968 to 1975), because they were daring and fun and often played in wide-open games coached by imaginative coaches.
When former players and coach die, I don't always wax for paragraphs about their importance to history. But I believe George Blanda, who died last week, is a more important figure in pro football history than he's given credit for, and I'll tell you why. In 1970, the most amazing five-game stretch by a player that I've seen watching football happened. And the impact of Blanda's five-game stretch, I believe, helped grow the game in so many ways -- on TV, in the broader culture, and among women. Let me explain.
Blanda was a 43-year-old backup quarterback and kicker for the Raiders, near the end of a long and checkered career that started, incredibly, playing for
Blanda used to tell Madden he knew his role, and knew he was the reliever. "But if I'm going to have to come in and clean up the mess,'' he told Madden, "don't make the mess so bad that it can't be cleaned up.''
TV viewers all over the East Coast loved the Raiders. We got a lot of their games. They made for great TV. And a 13-year-old kid in Connecticut, and his dad, watched a lot of the Raiders in those days, and I remember the 1970 season well.
Oakland lost only one game in 1969, but the Raiders were off to a 2-2-1 start in 1970, and Lamonica was not playing well. Into a 7-7 game with Pittsburgh came Blanda, and he threw two touchdown passes to spur a 31-14 rout of the Steelers. The next week, at Kansas City, the Chiefs were up 17-14 late and the game should have ended there, when the Raiders'
Number three: With four minutes left and trailing Cleveland 20-13, Blanda, in relief, led the Raiders to the Cleveland 14 and came to the sidelines for a timeout. Madden wanted to run the ball. Blanda said: "I'll tell you what, John. You give me four chances to throw slants here, and I guarantee you we'll score.'' Madden told him he didn't have a guaranteed touchdown play in his playbook, so if he felt that strongly about it, go for it. Blanda hit
"I started getting letters from women,'' Madden told me. "They'd say, 'I love George Blanda! My husband tells me he's too old to paint the house to mow the lawn, and all I have to do is tell him there's a 43-year-old quarterback winning games for the Raiders.' I'm serious about this -- there got to be so much interest about George across the board, that it increased TV ratings. With women, especially.''
At Denver the next week, Blanda relieved again, and late in the game the Raiders trailed 19-17. With 90 seconds left, Blanda threw the winning touchdown pass to
Week 5: Chargers and Raiders tied, 17-17. Four seconds left. In came Blanda for a 16-yard field goal. Was there any doubt? Of course not. Raiders win.
"There was something about living through that that I'll never forget,'' Madden said. "What an interesting time it was. The attitude around the country was that George was a miracle-worker. No one had seen anything like it, especially at his age. Nobody played that well to that age. I think it started a lot of women looking at football and captured the imagination of the country.''
In 2008, Blanda saw Madden at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They both have busts there. At the time, there was a lot of debate about whether
I just remember thinking how amazing pro football was back then. In those days, baseball was much bigger than football, but guys like George Blanda, and periods like that amazing five-week span, helped football become the dominant game in our culture.
Now for your e-mail:
NO ONE WILL ARGUE WITH YOU HERE.
Preach it, with an asterisk. All I would say is there was enough time left, and because Atlanta had three timeouts remaining, San Francisco would have been smart to try to advance the ball at least to field-goal range and either score or get the Falcons to burn their timeouts. So I don't think Clements should have simply fallen there. I think he should have advanced the ball with two hands on it and gripped tightly to his body, knowing full well the Falcons would be trying to strip it from him. The 49ers should have tried to advance the ball at least into field-goal range and gotten a four-point lead so the Falcons, whenever they would have gotten it back (with no timeouts left), would have had to go the length of the field and score a touchdown to win.
I AM ONLY ONE PERSON -- I BELIEVE.
It's a good thought, Drew. I should probably consider that. I'll ask my editors what they think, and if they want me to do that, I will. I've been doing it one way for a long time, so we'll see.
THE FORMER REDSKINS PR MAN ADMIRES MCNABB.
Thanks, Zack. [To the readers: Bolno was the Redskins' PR man dismissed by the team just before opening day.] Good to hear McNabb made a strong impression on you in your time together.
WHY, THANK YOU.
Well, blind squirrels find acorns sometimes. I make enough bad picks that it's nice to make a good one every now and then. I liked that matchup, because the Browns are better than people think and can do enough on offense and in the secondary to be competitive.
GOOD POINTS, AND I OWE THE BRONCOS A MEA CULPA.
I regret writing what I wrote in that sentence in the Cutler-Orton comparison, because as you accurately point out, it was wrong. The reason I wrote it was I had it in my head that the lost