Preventing Perfection

By Lawrence Vos (@F10YRetro and @NFLFANINENGLAND

Back in the 1980s the NFC conference dominated the NFL landscape, winning eight of ten Super Bowls, with only the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders twice wrestling away the Vince Lombardi Trophy from the decade’s superior half of the league. 

During the 80s two NFC teams achieved a feat that has to this day never been equalled. The achievement was combining for 15 regular season wins and winning a Super Bowl. 

Remarkably the other four teams to have won 15 regular season games in a 16 game schedule (introduced out of interest as late as 1978) failed to win, and in some cases even reach the big dance.

Picture credit: stmedia.startribune.com

They were as follows: 

  • 1998 Minnesota Vikings (lost NFC championship to the Atlanta Falcons) 
  • 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers (lost AFC championship to the New England Patriots)
  • 2011 Green Bay Packers (lost NFC Divisional playoff to the New York Giants)
  • 2015 Carolina Panthers (lost Super Bowl to Denver Broncos) 

Before anyone throws their arms up and says what about the 2007 Patriots and the 1972 Dolphins (both who went undefeated in the regular season) please note the small print in this piece, as neither team won 15 regular season games or went on to win the Super Bowl.

We all know the 1972 Miami Dolphins remain the only team to stay undefeated in an entire NFL regular and post-season, but they won a combined 17 games, not 19, and the 2007 New England Patriots indeed went 18-0 (16-0 in the regular season) but came unstuck against Eli Manning in the Super Bowl as the Giants came away with all the marbles. 

Now I’m not going to explore the triumphs of the 49ers in Super Bowl XIX (1984 season) or Da Bearz in Super Bowl XX (1985 season), instead it’s time to turn the tables and dig a little deeper into the two games that prevented perfection for these two mid-80s powerhouses. 


1984  


Picture credit: history.wordpress.com

For a world yet to be saturated with mobile/cell phones it was somewhat ironic that Stevie Wonder’s classic ‘I just called to say I love you’ was atop the U.S. billboard charts in the middle of October 1984. Over in blighty the chart topping song was Freedom by Wham, and American football coverage was in it’s infancy on Channel 4. 

The reigning NFL champions, the Los Angeles Raiders, fresh from their second Super Bowl win in four seasons, were lighting up the 1984 season early on going 4-0. That streak came to a grinding halt in Week 5 as a 4 yard third period rushing td from Denver Broncos running back Gerald Willhite was the gamebreaker in a 13-16 loss. 

Over in the NFC the San Francisco 49ers were drawing the attention of West Coast reporters, but maybe not the rest of the NFLs journalists quite yet. 

After four weeks the Niners were undefeated, the first time the franchise had gone 4-0 since 1952, and it was their defense that was garnishing all of the headlines as they streaked to 6-0. In fact between weeks 4-6 the Gold Rush defense, led by punishing defensive back Ronnie Lott, the team allowed a measly 24 points. 

This was a team nobly led by Joe Montana, but when he was injured prior to a week 4 contest against the Eagles in Philly it was up to backup Matt Cavanaugh to come in and guide the team to a statement 21-9 victory. Cavanaugh threw three touchdown passes on the day, one to RB Roger Craig. 

With the Niners at 6-0 and cruising they started to smell the polish on the Lombardi Trophy, and facing a mediocre 3-3 Pittsburgh Steelers team at home was not an opponent the team feared. Arguably the 49ers were looking to a Week 9 road game in L.A. as their next quality rival.

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The 1984 Steelers were not a special team if you used the regular season as a metric to judge their success. They finished 9-7, barely winning the AFC Central over the 8-8 Cincinnati Bengals. 

They did astonish the heavily favourited Denver Broncos in the Divisional playoffs before getting punched, kicked and knocked out by the Miami Dolphins in the AFC championship. 

Coming from Pennsylvania to California in October would likely have been welcomed by Steelers players and fans alike, but their expectations would not have matched their optimism for some sunshine. 

Playing a 6-0 team that won a Super Bowl just three seasons before would not have been welcomed, and the Steelers were a completely different team from the one that dominated the previous decade and won four Vince Lombardi trophies.  


Dateline – October 14 1984, Candlestick Park, California. 


Picture credit: steelers gab.com

Having come back from a one week sojourn on the injury list 49ers QB Joe Montana tossed five td’s and zero interceptions in Week 5 and 6 wins, the game against Pittsburgh was seen as a tough but imminently winnable game. 

With an average roster the Steelers were remaining competitive in the main because of the winning mentality of their head coach Chuck Knoll, in his 16th consecutive year at the helm. Knoll had gained four Super Bowl wins in the 70s and would go on to coach the Steelers all the way until 1991. 

To the shock of home fans the Steelers took a 10-0 lead, behind a first quarter Rich Erenberg 2 yard run and a Gary Anderson field goal. (Side note: It was the very same Gary Anderson that missed a game-winning field goal in the 1998 NFC championship for the 16-1 Vikings.) 

Much like he did in Super Bowl XVI, 49ers QB Joe Montana opened his team’s scoring with a 7-yard run to bring the deficit down to three at half-time. 

The third quarter was a 0 point slugfest, and it was the 49ers who took the lead in the fourth quarter courtesy of a Wendell Tyler run. Ray Wersching booted the extra-point. Tyler certainly enjoyed 1984 as he made his only Pro-Bowl appearance in 10 seasons as a pro. 

The lead wasn’t held for long by the home team as the erratic Steelers QB Mark Malone connected with veteran WR John Stallworth on a six yard pass with under three and a half minutes left. Anderson added the point after.

Unable to counter the 49ers gave the ball back to Pittsburgh and Gary Anderson converted his second field-goal of the game – a dinky 21 yard attempt, that turned out to be the winning score for the black and gold. 

Frank Pollard – Picture credit: Rick Stewart/Getty Images

The tale of the tape revealed that it was the Steelers running game that was the difference, holding the ball for almost 35 minutes thanks to 47 attempts. 11th round 1980 draft pick Frank Pollard led the team with 105 yards on 24 carries. QB Mark Malone was a paltry 11-18 for 156 yards, but his touchdown pass was the only aerial td on the day. Joe Montana had 241 yards in the air and 29 on the ground in the defeat. 

The three-point loss turned out to be the 49ers single blemish on a remarkable season. The following week, a 34-21 win over the Houston Oilers, was the only other time in the whole season the Niners allowed over 17 points in regular or post-season. 

Joe Montana went on to lift the Super Bowl and become the game’s MVP, beating the NFL’s Most Valuable Player, Miami Dolphins QB Dan Marino. Steelers QB Mark Malone, who prior to the 1984 season hadn’t registered a single victory, finished his career with 23 wins, and one playoff victory (in 1984) over John Elway’s Broncos. 


1985


Picture credit: edible ink.wordpress.com

Saying out loud or even typing the words ‘the 1985 Bears’ conjures up an almost mythical sense of nostalgia, evoking memories of Fridge-Mania, Walter Payton and Jim McMahon baring his pasty white posterior to a flying television crew. 

Arguably the ultimate defense to ever be assembled, and without doubt the single greatest group of personalities ever to be grouped together on an NFL roster, the Chicago Bears, led by the combination of the outlandish head coach Mike Ditka and the defensive savant Buddy Ryan, began the season hotter than an exploding volcano in a heatwave. 

From September until the end of November the team reeled off twelve consecutive wins, few being solid, but most being spectacular displays of defensive prowess, including weeks 7 to 12 where they allowed just 29 points in six games. Just absorb that – 29 points in six games – that’s under 5 points a game in that stretch. 


Dateline – Monday December 2 1985,  Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida.


Picture caption: hardwoodandfields.blogspot.com

Travelling east to Miami was not a common occurrence for the Bears, who were making only their fourth trip to play the Dolphins in their rich history. It was a fixture they had never previously won.

The Dolphins boasted a respectable 8-4 record after 12 weeks, and an unblemished 5-0 home record in the tropical Florida sunshine, the four losses coming on their travels to Texas, New York, Michigan and Massachusetts.

In a year that saw the cinematic release of ‘Rambo: First Blood Part II’ it was the Dolphins that drew the red stuff first, making the initial cut into the thigh of the Bears, Dan Marino hitting WR Nat Moore on a 33 yard passing score to set an early tone. The score, on the Dolphins first offensive possession saw Marino exploit Bears safety Gary Fencik.

The Bears, led by QB Steve Fuller, starting in place of an injured Jim McMahon, replied straight away, a bomb to Willie Gault helped move downfield quickly, and Fuller carried the rock himself on a 1 yard dive to tie up the game. 

Still in the first quarter the Dolphins got to double digits, kicker Fuad Reveiz blasting a 47 yard field goal. With the wind in Miami’s sails they opened up the second quarter scoring with a rushing score from 6thround rookie Ron Daventport. The drive again aided by Nat Moore, who was lining up all over the field, including reps at tight-end. 

Bears kicker Kevin Butler got the deficit down to 7, before Miami’s death by a thousand cuts offense, led by the arm of Dan Marino, the coaching guile of Don Shula and the outstanding blocking of the Dolphins offensive line, produced two late second period scores. 

Nat Moore – Picture credit: pinterest.com

Before blinking the Bears found themselves down by 21 at the half as Miami completed a 21 point quarter. Davenport breaking the plane for his second one yard score, and WR Nat Moore capping off one of the single greatest halves of football in his career with a 6-yard TD grab. 

Chicago fought back in the third quarter, backup QB Steve Fuller scoring twice in the third quarter, either side of Dan Marino’s third TD pass, a 43-yard laser caught by Mark Clayton, but that was all the Monsters of the Midway could muster. 

A scoreless fourth quarter gave Bears fans time to realise that the team that had gone undefeated in the same regular and post-season had just prevented Chicago from pursuing perfection. 

Everything that could go wrong in the game did for Chicago, including a blocked punt,  a muffed kick-off and a pass deflected by DE Dan Hampton that ended up landing in a Dolphins players hands for a score. 

Much like the 1984 49ers, the lone defeat was enough of a splash of icy water on the faces of the Bears players and coaches alike to refocus the team, as Chicago went on to crush their next six opponents, including the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX. 

The Bears and Dolphins were clear favourites to reach the Super Bowl in 1985, but it was division rivals the New England Patriots, who finished third in the AFC East that season but still scraped into the playoffs, who became the AFC representatives. 

In the AFC championship the Patriots held the ball just under 40 minutes, rushing for 255 yards, and effectively keeping Dan Marion on the side-lines. Marino’s stat line was an ugly 41% completion rate. 

Super Bowl XX was a dominating display by the Bears, but even Mike Ditka regrets not having Hall of Fame RB Walter Payton score on the day, in the 46-10 mauling. 


Conclusion 


Picture credit: vsaauctions.com

Going 15-1 in the regular season is absolutely no guarantee of winning a Super Bowl. Only one in three teams who complete a 16 game regular season with one cross in their schedule have ended up winning the big dance. 

The 1984 49ers and the 1985 Chicago Bears are historically great teams, the Bears dominating in terms of popularity and misty-eyed greatness.

Both teams played each other in 1984 and 1985, the team that won the Super Bowl winning beating their fellow NFC foe on the way to victory. 

The best 15-1 Super Bowl winners? I’ll be controversial here and give the overall nod to the 84 49ers, simply because they were the first to go 15-1 and win a Super Bowl in the same season. The team they beat in the NFC Championship to get to Super Bowl – none other than the Chicago Bears! 

Follow me at @F10YRetro for more blasts from NFL past.

Taking it all the way back to 1980 (Part 1)

by Lawrence Vos (@F10YRetro @NFLFANINENGLAND)

When you are as old as I am (45) and you fell in love with the NFL in the mid-1980s then you will always have fond memories of a time that was dominated by Joe Montana, Da Bearz, and the likes of the outstanding Cleveland Browns secondary, consisting of Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield (below).

Photo credit: Cleveland Browns YouTube

Back then NFL highlights were on Channel 4, and merchandise was everywhere in England, from replica shirts (I owned an Art Monk #81 burgundy one) to plenty of different books, and even NFL Films special programmes such as ‘Football Follies’ on VHS video tape.

With time on our hands caused by the Coronavirus pandemic I wanted to take a deep dive into the decade that gave birth to a sporting phenomenon in the UK, changing the  lives of thousands of impressionable fans. 

I play a game called Action PC Football, which is visually about as much fun as watching some eggshell matt paint dry, but as in-depth tactically and statistically and as having a January Saturday night dinner with Bill Belichick. 

Having loved the 1980s more than any other decade (nothing to do with my team winning two Super Bowls) I decided to try and get 15 more retro NFL addicts together to each draft an entire franchise (50 players), and then replay the entire decade, season by season. 

I was fortunate to find some committed 80s super fans from around the globe (well Scotland, Wales, Italy, England, USA and Canada) and we set about each drafting 50 players from the entire database of everyone who played in the NFL in 1980 (or before if injured for all of 1980). 

Using random.org we set a draft order that was then reversed every even round (a snake draft) and off we went, drafting the cream of the start of the 1980s. Don’t forget this is not fantasy as such, this was building and entire team, offense, defense, special teams, ensuring all positions are filled to a minimum and maximum requirement. For instance you cannot have more than three quarterbacks and you need at least four outside linebackers. 

Rules and ratings

To give a further bit of context it’s worth explaining how the players are rated in the game. 

The obvious ones such as quarterbacks, running backs, wideouts are governed by their real life stats such as attempts, rushes, catches etc.. The likes of fullbacks and tight-ends have an additional blocking rating (ranging from 2 up to 7). 

Offensive and defensive linemen are rated out of a total of 10 (min 3 max 10) and the absolute superstars may have a ‘+’ added so they are rated 10+. The overall rating is broken down to run and pass blocking for offensive linemen and run defending, pass defending and pass rush for all defensive players. 

All defensive players also have all their real life stats used, so their tackles, sacks, interceptions, passes defended etc are included. Special teams is the same so kickers, punters, and anyone who returns punts or kicks has their real life stats used. 

If you are still with me there are a few more factors that the GMs needed to factor in, namely durability, usage, and who you will be keeping for the following seasons as we replay all 10 1980s seasons up to 1989.

All players have a real life durability rating, so if you pick someone who in 1980 played all 16 regular season games they have a 10 durability rating. They play only 8 regular season contests their durability rating is 5 (out of 10). 

Many leagues that folks set up where they replay seasons or decades they have a salary cap (all players have a salary in the game) but I did not want this level of complexity with just 16 teams picking. Instead I set a rule that you can only keep a player for the next season if you use him for 50% of his real stats. So, for instance if you pick a player who had 50 catches in 1980 he would need to have 25 catches in 1980 to be kept on the roster for the 1981 season.

Picture credit: Gloriousa.com

The final rule for all teams is that you have to cut 10 (20%) of your roster at the end of each season to then be able to draft either rookies for the next season or any remaining veteran free agents. For anyone who remembers, the absolute monster rookie in 1981 was Lawrence Taylor (above), the once in a lifetime pass-rushing sensation, and star in both the Blind Side (real life) and Any Given Sunday (fiction). 

So with all teams named, mine being the Four Oaks Krakens, named after the mythical sea beast that Perseus has to defeat in Greek mythology, we hunkered down in our war rooms, got out the giant white-boards and bag of magnetised players names and began a 50-day draft, which was somewhat of a reassuring daily ritual during peak global lockdown. 

I bet you are wondering now who went first, and how the first few rounds played out, as teams grabbed their franchise studs for the decade, and revealed glimpses of how they would be building their team – an offensive masterclass? A defensive dynasty or a balanced team with no real weaknesses? 

The 1980 Draft – Round 1 to 5

Without further delay here is the results of Round 1: 

Picture credit: Cleatgeeks.com

ROUND 1 Results 
1.1 Boston Tea Baggers – Walter ‘Sweetness’ Payton RB
1.2 Pine City Dragons – Joe ‘Joe Cool’ Montana QB
1.3 Washington Huskies- Earl Campbell RB
1.4 Detroit Silver-Rush- Tony Dorsett RB
1.5 Four Oaks Krakens – Art Monk WR
1.6 Conroe Crushers – Anthony Muñoz T 
1.7 Mount Dora Hurricanes – James Lofton WR
1.8 Sierra Madre Axemen – Steve Largent WR
1.9 Kutztown Golden-Bears – Dwight Clark WR
1.10 West Whiteland Wyrm- Randy White DT
1.11 Da Bru Cru – Lester Hayes CB
1.12 Dashwood Freeze – Dan Fouts QB
1.13 St Louis Honey-Badgers – Kellen Winslow TE
1.14 Wales Whales – Otis (OJ) Anderson RB
1.15 Montreal Alouettes – Danny White QB
1.16 Yakima Yaks – Mike Webster C

Round 1 Analysis

Nobody can deny running back Walter ‘Sweetness’ Payton going number one, but it was a small surprise for those who expected quarterback Joe Montana (the person who this league is named after) to be the very first pick. 

Of all available RBs in 1980 Payton ended the decade with the most rushing yards (9800) and only trailed Eric Dickerson (11,226) in terms of all running backs in the entire 1980s. 

It took until pick 10 before a defensive player was selected, in the form of beastly DT Randy White who went to six consecutive Pro-Bowls and was named All-pro five times in the 80s. 

Art Monk – Photo credit: RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

My own pick (1.5) was a tough call between two players – a head v heart decision. As a lifelong Redskins fan I wanted the person that led the entire decade in catches or the best offensive tackle of the 80s. I went heart as Art Monk’s 662 catches in the 80s were simply going to be more fun to replay on my team than the dominant blocking of Anthony Munoz, who as it turned out was selected with the very next pick. 

14 of 16 picks were on offense in Round 1 but just three quarterbacks.

Round 2 Results

2.1 Yakima Yaks – Fred Smerlas DT
2.2 Montreal Alouettes – Billy Sims RB
2.3 Wales Whales – John Hannah G
2.4 St Louis Honey-Badgers – Joe Theismann QB
2.5 Dashwood Freeze – William Andrews RB
2.6 Da Bru Cru – Dan Hampton DE
2.7 West Whiteland Wyrm – Mike Kenn OT
2.8 Kutztown Golden-Bears – Jack Lambert ILB
2.9 Sierra Madre Axemen – Ozzie Newsome TE
2.10 Mount Dora Hurricanes – Wes Chandler WR
2.11 Conroe Crushers – Gary Johnson DT
2.12 Four Oaks Krakens – Mark Gastineau DE
2.13 Detroit Silver-Rush – Jackie Slater G/T
2.14 Washington Huskies – Pat Thomas CB
2.15 Pine City Dragons – Randy Cross G 
2.16 Boston Tea Baggers – Mike Haynes CB

Round 2 Analysis

A lot more of a balanced round with seven defensive players, four offensive linemen and just one quarterback selected. 

I had a huge amount of choice, and like 75% of the league I realised I could wait a little bit longer before grabbing my franchise signal-caller. I decided to go defense, and by the time I picked it was going to be a big named defensive lineman or cornerback. Mark Gastineau was part of the ‘New York Sack Exchange’ of the early to mid 80s and his mullet and #99 shirt number are too hard to resist. Gastineau was in fact married to Brigette Nielsen. 

Picture credit: Independent.co.uk

Half of Round 2 was an offensive or defensive lineman, proving that the owners in large part know that if you are to build a quality team you have to have rock solid line play. Already you can see that this is not like a standard fantasy draft, this tests all your GM muscles more than a Joe Wicks workout on a wet Tuesday morning. 

The first member of the Bears famed 1985 ‘4T6’ defense went this round as Dan Hampton the DE became the first edge rusher to get picked in the draft. 

ROUND 3 Results
3.1 Boston Tea Baggers – Kent Hill G
3.2 Pine City Dragons – Jacob Green DE
3.3 Washington Huskies- Nolan Cromwell S
3.4 Detroit Silver-Rush- Al Baker DE
3.5 Four Oaks Krakens – Ron ‘Jaws’ Jaworski QB
3.6 Conroe Crushers – Gary Green CB
3.7 Mount Dora Hurricanes – Lynn Dickey QB
3.8 Sierra Madre Axemen – Dave Krieg QB
3.9 Kutztown Golden-Bears – Joe Cribbs RB
3.10 West Whiteland Wyrm – Steve Bartkowski QB
3.11 Da Bru Cru – Donnie Shell S
3.12 Dashwood Freeze – Mike Pruitt RB
3.13 St Louis Honey-Badgers – Pat Tilley WR
3.14 Wales Whales – Marvin Powell T
3.15 Montreal Alouettes – Stanley Morgan WR
3.16 Yakima Yaks – Clay Matthews OLB 

Round 3 Analysis

Round 3 and a quarter of teams decided enough was enough and grabbed a quarterback, myself included. Half the league have QBs by now and half are still hanging on for a bargain.

Many of you may know the rather chipmunk looking Ron ‘Jaws’ Jaworski as a member of the NFL media collective, who worked for many years on ESPN in various guises. Jaworski remains in the top 10 all-time for consecutive starts. His 116 game streak is the ninth most by a QB in NFL history, so you can see why I made the pick. For the first half of the decade I would not have to think about QB in a big way. 

Picture credit: Owen C, Shaw/Getty Images

You may have spotted Clay Matthews (above) went at pick 3.16. Yes this is the father of Clay Matthews Jr, who is still playing in the NFL today. 

Nolan Cromwell, a hard hitting quality tackling Rams veteran became the first safety to come off the board. Remember Ronnie Lott did not join the NFL until 1981. 

ROUND 4 Results
4.1 Yakima Yaks – Raymond Clayborn CB
4.2 Montreal Alouettes – Ted ‘Mad Stork’ Hendricks OLB
4.3 Wales Whales – Dwight Stephenson C
4.4 St Louis Honey-Badgers – Louis Wright CB
4.5 Dashwood Freeze – Alfred Jenkins WR
4.6 Da Bru Cru – Herbert Scott G
4.7 West Whiteland Wyrm – LeRoy Selmon DE
4.8 Kutztown Golden-Bears – Joe Ferguson QB
4.9 Sierra Madre Axemen – Tony Hill WR
4.10 Mount Dora Hurricanes – Ted Brown RB
4.11 Conroe Crushers – Charlie Joiner WR
4.12 Four Oaks Krakens – Harry Carson ILB
4.13 Detroit Silver-Rush – Ray Donaldson C/G
4.14 Washington Huskies -Brian Sipe QB
4.15 Pine City Dragons – Ed ‘Too Tall’ Jones DE
4.16 Boston Tea Baggers – Gary Fencik S

Round 4 Analysis

Some delightfully named defenders went in Round 4, from the ‘Mad Stork’ to Ed ‘Too Tall’ Jones (below), who stood at a towering 6ft 9 (206cm). 

Photo credit: Theundefeated.com

I wanted to keep my balanced approach and draft another defensive player here, one that would serve me well throughout the decade, with maximum games played at a high level from 1980-89. There were higher rated players to draft in 1980 but few had the complete decade consistency of inside linebacker Harry Carson, who went on to win a Super Bowl ring for the Giants. What you ay not know is that Carson was one of the inaugural ‘Gatorade shower’ instigators, having dumped the sticky stuff on head coach Bill Parcells.

The selection of Centre Dwight Stephenson was done with the future in mind. As a rookie Stephenson was rated just 4 (out of 10) but he goes on to play in 5 Pro Bowls and was an All Pro from 1984 to 1987. 

A second member of the 85 Bears went here with S Gary Fencik getting selected at 4.16. 

ROUND 5 Results
5.1 Boston Tea Baggers – Joe Klecko DT
5.2 Pine City Dragons – Rod Martin OLB
5.3 Washington Huskies- Lemar Parrish CB
5.4 Detroit Silver-Rush- Terry Bradshaw QB
5.5 Four Oaks Krakens – Ed Newman G
5.6 Conroe Crushers – Curtis Dickey RB
5.7 Mount Dora Hurricanes – Art Still DE
5.8 Sierra Madre Axemen – Rulon Jones DE
5.9 Kutztown Golden-Bears – Gary Barbaro S
5.10 West Whiteland Wyrm -Randy Gradishar ILB
5.11 Da Bru Cru – Robert Brazile OLB
5.12 Dashwood Freeze – Charlie Johnson DT
5.13 St Louis Honey-Badgers – Bob Baumhower DT
5.14 Wales Whales – Chuck Muncie RB
5.15 Montreal Alouettes – Matt Blair OLB
5.16 Yakima Yaks – Scott Studwell ILB

Round 5 Analysis 

12 defensive players go in Round 5, including 5 linebackers. One of those, Rod Martin (#53 below), had an incredible 3 interceptions in Super Bowl XV in 1981. 

Picture credit: Tony Tomsic via AP

Quarterback Terry Bradshaw, who won four Super Bowls in the 1970s went at pick 5.4. Bradshaw, who many of you will know from Fox TV’s NFL coverage, played 39 games in the 1980s but never replicated his monumental success from the Seventies.

I decided to start building my offensive line, grabbing former Dolphins G Ed Newman. Newman was a Pro-Bowler from 1981-84 and blocked for Dan Marino in his only Super Bowl appearance in early 1985. 

As you can see the league owners were all looking to build solid teams, with five more defensive linemen selected, including another member of the ‘New York Sack Exchange’ Dan Klecko. 

If people like this I will continue to analyse the top 20 rounds of the draft? 

Hit me up at @F10YRetro

Full10Yards – 54 facts for Super Bowl LIV

by Lawrence Vos (@F10YRetro and @NFLFANINENGLAND)

Some known, some unknown and some complete random facts for you to consume during Super Bowl weekend.

The 49ers and Chiefs have met only 13 times. The 49ers lead the series 7-6, but they have only won one of the last four meetings. 

The teams last met in Week 3 of the 2018 season, the Chiefs winning 38-27. Mahomes and Garoppolo combined for 5 TD passes, 0 ints and 565 passing yards. 

In 2006 the Chiefs beat the 49ers 41-0, the only time either team was shutout in a H2H matchup. The 49ers leading rusher that day was Frank Gore, who is still active with the Buffalo Bills. 

Picture credit: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

#54 for the San Francisco 49ers is LB Fred Warner who had 89 regular season tackles, 3 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and a pick. 

#54 for the Kansas City Chiefs is LB Damien Wilson who had 7 tackles in the AFC Championship win over the Tennessee Titans.

The 54th ranked all-time passing yard record holder is Brad Johnson with 29,054 yards. Johnson won Super Bowl XXXVII with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, on the day he passed for 215 yards and two TDs. 

Green Bay Packers legendary QB opened up the scoring in Super Bowl XXXI with a 54 yard bomb to WR Andre ‘Bad Moon’ Rison. 

The first Super Bowl MVP to wear the #54 shirt was the Dallas Cowboys LB Chuck Howley, winning Super Bowl V to conclude the 1970 season.

The only other Super Bowl MVP to wear #54 was another Cowboys defended DT Randy White. White was also the only joint MVP winner, sharing the honours with DE Harvey Martin in Super Bowl XII

Photo credit: Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Two teams with predominantly red uniforms have never faced each other in the Super Bowl. The 49ers will wear white on Sunday and the Chiefs keep their Pantone PMS 186C red shirts on. 

In the past 15 Super Bowls the team wearing the white jerseys has won 13 times. The only exceptions have been the 2018 Eagles (green) and the 2011 Packers (also green). 

Exactly 11 players in NFL history have scored exactly 54 touchdowns. Active players with this number are WRs DeAndre ‘Nuke’ Hopkins and Michael Crabtree. Crabtree had 109 yards receiving and a score for the 49ers the last time they went to the Super Bowl (in 2013).

Super Bowl XIX was won by the 49ers over the Dan Marino led Miami Dolphins. The total amount of points scored…….54. 

The Philadelphia Eagles shocked the New England Patriots to win Super Bowl LII. The two teams combined for a record number of first downs….yes you guessed it 54. 

54 seasons ago The Kansas City Chiefs lost to the Green Bay Packers in the first ever Super Bowl. They scored only 10 points. The lone field goal they scored was with 0:54 seconds left in the first half. They were shutout in the second half. 

Picture credit: Chiefs.com

The greatest Chiefs player to wear the #54 jersey was OG Brian Waters, who played between 2000 and 2010. The undrafted free agent earned 5 Pro Bowl nods and two All-Pro selections. 

The greatest 49ers player to wear #54 was LB Lee Woodall who won Super Bowl XXIX, was selected to two Pro Bowls and had 88 career starts.

Whilst he spent the majority of his career in Oakland winning two Super Bowls, LB Matt Millen won a third ring for the San Francisco 49ers (XXIV) wearing the #54 shirt. 

In a Super Bowl XXXVIII loss to the Dallas Cowboys the Buffalo Bills K Steve Christie kicked the longest big game field goal – 54 yards. It is still the record for a Super Bowl game.

Picture credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In the 2018 AFC Championship Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins burned the New England Patriots All-Pro CB Stefon Gilmore for a……54 yard catch. The Chiefs lost the game. 

1973 was the 54th NFL season. O.J. Simpson (the 1969 number one draft pick) became the first 2,000 yard rusher that season. 

Chariots of Fire won the Best Picture Oscar at the 54th Academy Awards. It is a sports film based on two highly skilled athletes competing against each other to become a world champion. 

The 54th largest country in the world is Cameroon. Former Eagles linebacker Moise Fokou was born in Cameron. 

If you are in Miami for the Super Bowl you can head to 54th Street for some tasty Haitian food at Chex Le Bebe. 

Picture credit: Michael Reaves / Getty Images

The Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (right) led all TE in catches and yards in 2019 – 97-1229. His 49ers rival TE George Kittle (left) was one of only two other TE to go over 1k (1,053). Both TE had 5 TDs a piece

The 49ers have 5 Super Bowl wins, and a win on Sunday will see them join the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots with six Vince Lombardi trophies. They would become the first NFC team with six Super Bowls. 

The largest gap between playing in two Super Bowls is 50 years – held by the Chiefs, who’s last appearance was in Super Bowl IV. 

In their only Super Bowl win the Kansas City Chiefs QB Len Dawson completed just 12 of 17 passes for 142 yards and one 46 yard 3rd quarter touchdown. 

Joe Montana won four Super Bowls as the starting quarterback for the 49ers. In all four games, four wins, he did not throw a single interception. 

Montana in fact went on to end his career with the Kansas City Chiefs, losing the 1993 AFC Championship agains the Buffalo Bills. Montana suffered a concussion in the game and was replaced by Dave Krieg. 

Picture credit: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

If Patrick Mahomes leads the Chiefs to a Super Bowl win he would be the second youngest winner in 54 seasons, only trailing ‘Big’ Ben Roethlisberger who won SB XL aged just 23. 

The most passing yards in a players first 8 career games is 2,507 by Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes. Surprisingly the fourth all time yardage is 2,277 by 49ers current backup QB Nick Mullens. Mullens 2019 stats – just 3 rushes for -3 yards. 

Chiefs backup QB Matt Moore wen 1-1 in relief of Patrick Mahomes in 2019. Moore has made one playoff start for the Miami Dolphins, an 18 point loss to the Steelers, in January 2017. 

Chiefs late 2019 acquisition EDGE Terrell Suggs and P Dustin Colquitt, along with 49ers K Robbie Gould are the oldest players to enter Super Bowl LIV – All aged 37. 

For Chiefs P Dustin Colquitt, in his 15th season as a Chiefs starter, it will be a chance to emulate the achievement of his father Craig, who won two rings punting for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The youngest player at Super Bowl LIV will be rookie WR and return ace Mecole Hardman who will not be 22 until March 12. He is the only 21 yard old playing in Miami. 

The Chiefs name came from a public naming competition, set by owner Lamar Hunt after he moved the team from Dallas where they we know as the Texans. 

The 49ers, named after the West Coast 1849 gold rush, were the first professional sports franchise to be based in San Francisco. They began life in 1947 in the new All-America Football Conference (AAFC). 

The 49ers have 27 players, coaches or officials in the Hall of Fame. The Chiefs have 22. 

The Chiefs have had one NFL MVP in their history, Patrick Mahomes in 2018. The 49ers have had five winners, split between three QBs – John Brodie (1970), Joe Montana (1989 and 1990) and Steve Young (1992 and 1994). 

Super Bowl 54 will be the 10th Super Bowl hosted by Miami. Five took place in the Orange Bowl and the more recent five in the stadium that has changed its name 4 times. 

On Sunday Katie Sowers becomes the first woman to coach in a Super Bowl. Katie, an offensive assistant for the 49ers, is already a world champion having lifted the IFAF Women’s World Championship in 2013 as a player. 

Picture credit: Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid delivered the best quote of the Super Bowl week when asked about his relationship with his nine grandchildren. He said “They keep you young and at the same time make you feel old. It’s kind of like sweet and sour pork.”

Only one player has ever won three consecutive Super Bowls. That honour goes to LB Ken Norton Jr, who won his third ring with the 49ers in 1995 after gaining two with the Dallas Cowboys. 

The most Super Bowl TD passes scored in a half is 4. The record is held by the Redskins Doug Williams and the 49ers Steve Young.

The most career Super Bowl receptions (33) and yards (589) is held by 49ers legend Jerry Rice. Rice played in 3 finals for San Fran and one for the Oakland Raiders. 

With only two previous visits the Chiefs own very few individual Super Bowl player records. One they do hold is punting average, set by P Jerrel Wilson, standing at 46.5 a boot in 11 kicks

The 49ers have allowed the Super Bowl’s longest ever scoring play, a 108 yard kickoff return by the Ravens Jacoby Jones in SB XLVII. 

In fact the 49ers have allowed three kickoff return touchdowns in Super Bowls (Andre Coleman, Jacoby Jones and Stanford Jennings). 

Photo credit: Mike Powell

The most combined points in a Super Bowl is 75, as the 49ers put up seven touchdowns in a ’49’ 26 win against the San Diego Chargers. Steve Young threw six touchdown passes.

The most converted field goals in a Super Bowl is 4. This has been done twice, once by Ray Wersching for the 49ers in SBXVI and once by the Packers Don Chandler in SBII. 

Before their Super Bowl loss to the Ravens the 49ers owned the lowest Super Bowl win streak with 5 consecutive victories. 

The 1989 49ers set the Super Bowl record for points with 55. They scored 13, 14,14,14 by quarter. The game featured six future Hall of Famers, five on the 49ers roster. 

In the Chiefs only Super Bowl win they did not allow any first half or fourth quarter points. The team they beat, the Minnesota Vikings totalled 67 rushing yards. 

F10Y Retro – The 1981 49ers – The season that launched a dynasty

by Lawrence Vos (@F10YRetro and @NFLFANINENGLAND)

Sometimes legacies begin with a big bang, sometimes however they start without even a fizzle. 

Back in the Spring of 1977 Eddie De Bartolo Sr bought a present for his 31 year old son of the same name. It wasn’t a car or even a house, it was an NFL franchise – the San Francisco 49ers team in fact. 

From 1977 to 1979 the 49ers won just 9 of 46 games as they went through four different head coaches, finally settling on former Stanford College coach Bill Walsh. 

James Lofton in Canton – Picture credit: Raiders.com

Walsh was given the opportunity with the 49ers in part for his outstanding job nurturing offensive talent at Stanford including future 10-year pro RB Darrin Nelson and future Hall of Famer WR James Lofton, who caught two TD passes for the Cardinals in their 1977 Sun Bowl victory over LSU. 

The 1977 49ers started their season 0-5 and finished 5-9 with QB Jim Plunkett, a 1976 trade acquisition from the New England Patriots. Plunkett would go on to be released by the Niners in the 1978 preseason, before being picked up as a backup by the Oakland Raiders. Plunkett would go on to win not one but two Super Bowl rings as the Raiders starter in the early 1980s. 

San Francisco 49ers Jim Plunkett (16) right, and O. J. Simpson (32) Photo credit: AP

After jettisoning Plunkett, San Francisco made the bold move to sign the 70s biggest named running back, none other than O.J. Simpson, a West Coast native. The Simpson move was a disaster as he only scored one rushing TD in 1978 and he had his career low YPC of 3.7. The team set a then record of 63 turnovers in a season, not surprisingly a record that still stands today. 

In 1979 the 49ers repeated their paltry 2-14 record as they had achieved the season before, but there were good signs, as the team set an NFL record as the only team to lost 12 games in a season where they had the lead. Somehow the incredible patience the 49ers owner Eddie De Bartolo Jr showed, by keeping head coach Bill Walsh with the team, was soon to be rewarded.  

1979 was also the year the 49ers took a QB in the 3rd round of the draft to back up their starter. After trading their 1st round pick to Buffalo for O.J. Simpson, a pick that turned out to be the #1 overall pick, they went with Cowboys 1977 10th round pick Steve DeBerg as their starter, and he ended up leading the league in attempts and completions. Like Plunkett, DeBerg would go on to complete a prolific NFL career, passing for over 34,000 yards, playing his last game aged 44 for the Atlanta Falcons. 

DeBerg (17) and Montana (16) in 1979 – Pic credit: Pinterst

The rookie QB drafted by Walsh in 1979 made one start as a rookie, in a Week 14 loss to the St Louis Cardinals. He would go on to wrestle the seating job away from DeBerg in the middle of his second season in 1980. The QBs name – Joseph Clifford Montana Jr. 

Montana started 7 games in 1980, winning only 2 games, but his cool play, and high completion rate was enough to convince Coach Walsh that he had a future star commanding his teams huddle. A 64.5% completion rate 40 years ago was quite remarkable. 

After improving to 6-10 in 1980 and beginning to play a new breed of short passing possession sustaining football opposing teams got a taste of the next decade but no-one was prepared for what was to happen just one season later. 

Picture credit: Newsmax.com

With Joe Montana installed as the starter from Week 1 the 1981 49ers looked to be reverting to type, losing two of their first three games, including defeats on the road to the Lions and the Falcons. The Niners then tore off a 7 game win streak to enter Week 11 at 8-2. 

A 15-12 Week 11 defeat to the Cleveland Browns, where the 49ers failed to score a touchdown, turned out to be their last defeat of the entire season. 

The 49ers, led by a fresh but impactful rookie secondary of Ronnie Lott, Eric Wright and Carlton Willamson, went on the rampage to finish off the regular season 13-3, forcing a season high 6 turnovers agains the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 14.

In the divisional playoffs Montana and Co. beat a New York Giants team led by the lesser known QB Scott Brunner, in what turned out to be Brunner’s second and last post-season game of his career. 

A second home playoff game ensued, the NFC Championship against the Dallas Cowboys, made remarkable by the fact it was the the first time in franchise history they hosted two consecutive playoff contests.

The game itself is part of NFL folklore as it featured ‘The Catch’, a Joe Montana touchdown hookup to fellow 1979 draftee WR Dwight Clark to tie up the game in the final period. The Ray Wersching extra point making the ultimate difference in a 28-27 thriller. 

Two weeks later the 49ers met up for a second time with the Cincinnati Bengals, as both teams, playing in their inaugural NFL title game met in Super Bowl XVI in the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit. 

Personifying the West Coast ‘1,000 paper cuts’ offense Montana remained patient after leading the Niners to a first quarter 7-0 lead, capped by his 1 yard rushing score. In the second Montana found prolific pass catching full back Earl Mitchell for an 11 yard score. Two more Wersching field goals later and San Francisco had a commanding 20-0 half-time lead. 

The Bengals fought back to 20-14 behind Ken Anderson’s rushing score and 4 yard hookup to TE Dan Ross in the early stages of the fourth quarter, but the 49ers offensive machine went back to work and Wersching kicked his third and fourth field goals, before Anderson found Ross to bring the game within 5, but it was in vain, as the 49ers took the victory and began a dynasty that would dominate the 1980s. 

Picture caption: 49ers.com

Montana won the MVP, courtesy of his 157 passing yards, one rushing score and zero interceptions. Ken Anderson for the Bengals almost doubled Joe’s passing output and threw one more score, but he was picked off twice, once by rookie Eric Wright and once by 4th year safety Dwight Hicks. 

In a strike shortened 1982 season the 49ers went 3-6, but they more than made up for it by the end of the decade, winning a further three Vince Lombardi trophies, all with Joe Montana at QB. 

In an era where teams can transform their fortunes in a 12 month period it was the 49ers who showed that with patience, precision passing and some exquisite drafting anything is possible. 

Fast forward 40 seasons, from when Montana was drafted, and the 49ers are back for their seventh crack at a Super Bowl title. 

Can the 49ers strike gold and join the Steelers and Patriots on Sunday as the only teams to start their Super Bowl ring collection on a second hand? Can’t wait to find out. 

F10Y Retro Recap – 1987 Divisional Playoffs Vikings @ 49ers

by Lawrence Vos (@F10YRetro & @NFLFANINENGLAND)

With just hours to go before the first of four fascinating NFL Divisional Playoff games its time to turn back the clock and take a visit to Candlestick Park and a truly memorable contest between the two teams that open up this weekend’s four game slate……

January 9, 1988.

The 1987 NFL season was a strange one, a player strike meant one game (Week 3) was lost from the 16 game regular season schedule, and Weeks 4-6 were played by a vast majority of unknowns and ‘scabs’ – starters who crossed the picket lines. 

Photo credit: AP

One of the biggest names to cross the picket line was San Francisco 49ers QB Joe Montana, who played in and won two strike games. 

The 49ers finished the regular season with the NFLs best record winning 13 of 15 contests, earning the NFC #1 seed and a home Divisional Playoff game. 

Their playoff opponent the Minnesota Vikings limped into the post-season as the #5 seed Wild Card team with an 8-7 record, having lost three of their last four regular season contests. 

The Vikings travelled to New Orleans for their Wild Card game, facing a team that finished 12-3 courtesy of Coach of the Year Jim Mora. Heavy underdogs the Vikings came away with an epic 44-10 upset win, in what was the first Saints playoff game in their 21 year history. 

The win set up a second road playoff game for the 50-1 outsiders all the way across the country, in California, against a team that featured four All Pro’s (QB Joe Montana, WR Jerry Rice, DT Michael Carter and S Ronnie Lott). 

Ronnie Lott – Photo credit: Chatsports.com

The game started slowly as both teams exchanged first quarter field goals. Both teams defences were enjoying the soggy conditions as drives stalled. 

It was the Vikings who scored the first touchdown, set up by a huge Wade Wilson scramble that put Minnesota at the 49ers 7 yard line. On first and goal Wilson found TE Carl Hilton a yard outside the end zone as he beat Ronnie Lott to get the score. Hilton was double happy as he dropped a potential score on the opening drive of the game for Minnesota.

The Vikings extended the lead to 10 with a second Chuck Nelson FG, having had a first and goal drive stall after three consecutive runs. 

Just under a minute later the relentless Vikings pass rush was rewarded when Joe Montana was intercepted on a medium depth pass to WR Dwight Clark by Georgia Tech rookie safety Reggie Rutland (who subsequently changed his name to Najee Mustafaa), who took the ball 45 yards to pay-dirt and a 20-3 half-time lead. 

Roger Craig dropped a late first half touchdown catch and 49ers K Ray Wersching missed a 26 yard field goal as momentum had completely disappeared from the heavily favoured home team.

The 49ers did manage to exact some early revenge in the second minute of the second half, defensive back Jeff Fuller picking off Wade Wilson and returning it 48 yards for San Francisco’s first TD of the game. Fuller would go on to suffer a career ending spinal injury in 1989, after picking up his second Super Bowl winners ring. 

Any thoughts of a comeback were quickly quashed as Wade Wilson recovered his composure to lead a touchdown scoring drive to #84 WR Hassan Jones, completing a 5 yard pass on 3rd and goal in the red painted end zone. The TD was the first that 49ers CB Don Griffin had allowed all season. 

Down by 17 49ers head coach Bill Walsh made the bold decision to bench Montana and bring in backup Steve Young to try and find a spark. 

Photo credit: nfllistsblog.wordpress.com

With excellent starting field position Young hit RB Roger Craig on his first pass for 30 yards. On second and goal Young’s 10 yard rushing score was called back for holding. Following a 7 yard completion Young scrambled left on a deliberate run play and dived into the left corner of the end zone for the score. 

The Vikings were clearly unfazed as they extended their lead late in the 3rd and early in the fourth with two additional field goals. 

Young gave hope to the 49ers fans with a drive that ended in a hair-raising 16 yard touchdown pass to TE John Frank. (Frank went on to become an otolaryngologist, a head and neck surgery specialist. Frank has performed over 2,000 hair transplant operations and opened a hair clinic in New York in 2006.)

In the final minute Nelson kicked his fifth successful field goal and that was it, an earth shattering 36-24 upset win for the Minnesota Vikings. 

Minnesota travelled to Washington, their third consecutive road playoff game, for the NFC Championship. Redskins CB Darrell Green broke up a Vikings pass in the end zone on the final play of the game to prevent the Vikings from tying up the game, as Minnesota fell 17-10. 

Fast forward to 2020 and we have history repeating itself as the lowest seeded NFC team the Minnesota Vikings, fresh off an upset Wild Card win against none other than the New Orleans Saints, face the #1 NFC seed San Francisco 49ers. 

Photo credit: Sportingnews.com

For Kirk Cousins and the Vikings fans they will certainly ‘like that’ history is clearly on their side. 

Enjoy the game tonight – and if the Vikings get the upset victory you read it here first on the Full 10 Yards.