Archive | January, 2010

Super Bowl V: A Personal and Historical Memoir-part 3: Blunder Bowl or Hard Hitting Defense

17 Jan

Chuck Howly is the only Super Bowl MVP from a losing team. He intercepted Morrall in the endzone early in the fourth quarter

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Larry Cole attempts to swat an Earl Morrall pass in Super Bowl V

While Super Bowl V was a great memory for me personally as a Colts fan, the game itself was not seen in the same light among football historians and media people who covered it at the time. Sports Illustrated dubbed the game, “The Blunder Bowl.”

I can certainly understand why because in that game both teams combined to commit 11 turnovers. The Colts committed seven of them—which is still a Super Bowl record for  turnovers by a winning team. The Cowboys committed 10 penalties for 133 yards. It was a game that probably set offense back about 10,000t years.

That’s because both teams were among the top 10 in the NFL in defense-the Cowboys had the NFL’s fourth rated defense and had future Hall of Famers like cornerback Mel Renfro, Herb Adderly and defensive tackle Bob Lilly. The Colts, who sported the NFL’s ninth ranked defense, had guys like defensive end Bubba Smith, middle linebacker Mike Curtis (who I think should be a Hall of Famer) and the man known as the “Mad Stork” linebacker Ted Hendricks.

Cowboys middle linebacker Chuck Howly was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. He is the only player from a losing team to be the MVP of the Super Bowl. He reportedly refused to accept the award because his team didn’t win the game.

According to people like Jim O’Brien and the late Cowboys head coach Tom Landry, the game on the field was extremely phyiscal. Said Landry of that game:

“I haven’t been around many games where the players hit harder. Sometimes people watch a game and see turnovers and they talk about how sloppy the play was. The mistakes in that game weren’t invented, at least not by the people who made them. Most were forced.”

Oddly enough, the players from that 1970 Colts team did not view their victory over Dallas as something that made up for losing Super Bowl III to the New York Jets. Bubba Smith reportedly said he doesn’t wear his Super Bowl Ring because it was such a sloppy game. The Colts from that team, especially those who played against the Jets, saw the win over Dallas as a bittersweet win because the game was sloppy.

Guys like Mike Curtis and Bubba Smith say they still feel the sting of that Super Bowl III loss and not even the win in Super Bowl V was enough to ease that pain. A lot of Colts fans (myself included) have never quite gotten over that game.

NFL films guru Steve Sabol once told the story about Colts head coach Don McCafferty who was  being asked about what he wanted on the Colts Super Bowl ring. Names like excellence, pride or poise were thrown out there. However, McCafferty, the man known as Easy Rider, preferred a more truthful, honest inscription: “Thank God!”

On the other side, there were some interesting firsts in that game. It was the first Super Bowl played on artificial turf and it was the first year that Vince Lombardi’s name was inscribed on the Super Bowl trophy. It was the first time the winner of the Super Bowl did not score first. It was the slimmest margin of victory for the winning team at that time. It is one of six of the 43 Super Bowls that was decided by three points or less. You had what was then the longest touchdown pass in Super Bowl history—Unitas’s tip drill pass to tight end  John Mackey that went for 75 yards.

And last, but not least it was the first Super Bowl to end on a last-second field—something that would not happen again in a Super Bowl for 20 years in Super Bowl 25 when Buffalo’s Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal to give the New York Giants a one-point win.

Super Bowl V-A Personal and Historical Memoir Part 2: 1970 Colts and Cowboys defined by Sixties Playoff Frustration

17 Jan

Jim O’Brien celebrates after kicking winning field goal to beat Dallas in Super Bowl V

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

What makes Super Bowl V interesting to me from a purely historical and somewhat metaphysical viewpoint, the destinies of the Colts and Cowboys are bizarrely intertwined with one another based on their experiences in the 1960s. Both teams during that decade had a penchant for coming up spectacularly short in the big game—they both shared the same nemesis—the Green Bay Packers and the Cleveland Browns.

As ironic as their paths were in the 1960s, it should be noted that the Colts were originally the Dallas Texans franchise (1950) that relocated to Baltimore in 1953.

Baltimore’s journey of postseason futility in the 1960s began on the cold field of Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium. Winners of the NFL’s Western Conference, the Colts came in with a 12-2 record and the Browns won the Eastern Conference with a 10-3-1.

The Colts were a seven-point favorite over a Browns team with was reportedly a suspect defense. Sports Illustrated was so sure the Colts would win that they had planned to put Johnny Unitas on the cover. But the Browns came away with a shocking 27-0 upset. They broke open a scoreless game in the second half. Browns quarterback Frank Ryan hit wide receiver Gary Collins for three touchdown passes. Unitas was held to 95 yards passing.

In 1965, the Colts and the Packers finished in a tie for the Western Conference title. In the playoff game at the Lambeau Field, Baltimore, playing without an injured Unitas and backup quarterback Gary Cuozzo, started running back Tom Matte at the quarterback who had the plays taped to his wristband. He completed just five passes

The game ended in a controversial 13-10 overtime win for Green Bay. Trailing 10-7 late in the game, Packers kicker Don Chandler tied the game on a 22-yard field goal that appeared to be wide right. Photographs of the kick confirmed it. There was an Associated Press picture showing Chandler shaking his head in disapppointment, thinking he missed it.

Though the NFL would raise the uprights an additional 20 feet, it was no solace for a Colts team who saw their hopes for a title stymied again. In 1966, Green Bay won the West again and clinched the title on a muddy day in Baltimore on a play that became known as the “Million-Dollar Fumble.”

After the Packers had taken a 14-10 lead late in the game, Unitas drove Colts to the Packer 15, but fumbled the ball to Green Bay defensive end Willie Davis. The Packers went on to win the game, the division, the NFL Championship and the first Super Bowl.

The years 1967 and 1968 would be even more painful for Baltimore’s championship hopes. In what was a realignment of the NFL’s Eastern and Western Conferences because of expansion franchises the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints, the Colts were in first place in the Coastal Division of the Western Conference coming into the final game of the regular season. They were unbeaten with 11 wins and two ties. The Los Angeles Rams were on the Colts heels at 10 wins, one loss and two ties.

When the two teams met in the regular-season finale at the L.A. Coliseum,  the Rams came away with a resounding 34-10 win and won the Coastal Division title because they scored more points in the two games they playe against each other. The Colts, 11-1-2, saw another great season come to a disappointing end.

And then there was 1968, the Colts steamrolled to a 13-1 record without the services of an injured Unitas and on the wings of a little-known backup quarterback named Earl Morrall, who was the NFL’s Most Valuable Player. They easily beat the Vikings in the Western Conference playoff and exacted some vengeance from 1964 on the Cleveland Browns with a 34-0 shutout in the NFL Championship game.

Hailed at that time as one of the greatest teams in NFL history, the heavily favored Colts were foiled again as the American Football League Champion New York Jets pulled off a shocking 16-7 upset in Super Bowl III.

The Colts, experiencing the hangover of their Super Bowl loss, ended the sixties with a 8-5-1 record and a second place finish in the Coastal Division of the Western Conference.

Born of expansion in 1960, the Dallas Cowboys didn’t experience their first taste of postseason until 1965—when they finished in second place in the Eastern Conference with a 7-7 record. They played in what was the Playoff Bowl, a consolation game between the two second place teams that was played at the Orange Bowl Stadium in Miami from 1960-1969.

The Playoff Bowl was then Commissioner Pete Rozelle’s way of promoting the NFL in the face of competition from the American Football League prior to the 1966 merger between the two leagues. The Cowboys lost the Playoff Bowl to the Colts of all teams in a 35-3 rout.

Though the Playoff Bowl was an exhibition game and not included in any NFL postseason records, it is a fascinating piece of irony that the Colts and Cowboys met each other in a game for second place teams considering their collective playoff fates during the latter half of the 1960s when both teams were known for being next year’s champions.

In 1966, the Cowboys won the Eastern Conference with a 10-3-1 record and took on the Green Bay Packers for the NFL Championship and a trip to Super Bowl I. A close game ended with a 34-27 Packers win at the Cotton Bowl, then the Cowboys homefield in Dallas.

The ending of the game was even more painful for Cowboys fans. The Cowboys, looking to send the game into overtime, had driven to the Green Bay two-yard line, but got penalized for a false start, but took three downs to move the ball back to the two. On fourth down, Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith with Packers linebacker Dave Robinson hanging on his back was intercepted in the end zone by Green Bay safety Tom Brown.

In 1967, the Cowboys would play Green Bay for the NFL Championship for the second straight year, but this time it would be at frigid Lambeau Field in Green Bay. In Arctic-like conditions, the game we all know as the “Ice Bowl” ended with another Packers win in the closing seconds with Bart Starr’s one-yard plunge.

The Cleveland Browns would victimize the Cowboys in the Eastern Conference Playoffs in 1968 and 1969 with a pair of convincing wins. The final game of the 1960s for the Cowboys was in the last Playoff Bowl, a humiliating 31-0 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

Something had to Give

And of course, there was Super Bowl V. The two teams that suffered through the sixties with painful postseason losses would meet in a Super Bowl where they something had to give. In the end, Dallas would suffer another heartbreaking defeat in the final seconds of a championship game on Jim O’Brien’s late field goal.

A pair of lasting images from the ending of that game for the Cowboys was seeing Mel Renfro throw his head into his hands in frustration and Bob Lilly tossing his helmet across the field.

In a crazy game of turnovers and penalties, Cowboys players from that team maintain the turning point of the game was Duane Thomas’ fumble into the end zone on the Cowboys first drive of the second half after recovering a Baltimore fumble on the kickoff to open the third quarter.

Or was it a fumble? When the officials uncovered all the bodies, Cowboys center Dave Manders came up with the ball. Accounts of the game credited the fumble to Colts cornerback Jim Duncan, who fumbled on the second half kickoff.  The Cowboys protested, but to no avail.

 If Thomas scores on that play, the Cowboys are up 20-6 and it would have been difficult for the Colts to get back in it. As Lilly said afterward: “And there was no way if we go up two touchdowns they were going to get two touchdowns off us.” The Cowboys never came that close to scoring for the rest of the second half.

For the Colts everything seemed to go right and wrong at same time. After falling down 6-0 on a pair of Mike Clark field goals, the Colts scored the game’s first touchdown on a 75-yard touchdown pass from John Unitas to John Mackey.

The play itself was a series of lucky bounces. Unitas was trying to pass to Ed Hinton, but the ball bounced off his hands and then it caromed off Mel Renfro’s hands. From there it went into the arms of John Mackey, who raced into the endzone for the score. Dallas maintained that Renfro never touched the ball.

In those days, the rules stated that two receivers from the same team could not tip the ball to one another. But the officials ruled that Renfro touched the ball before it landed in Mackey’s hand. NFL Films Super Bowl highlight footage also confirmed the official’s ruling—noting that the spin of football accelerated after  it grazed Renfro’s hands.

But then O’Brien missed the extra point and the game was tied. After the rest of the half was a comedy of errors, injuries and blown scoring opportunities. Trailing 13-6 late in the second half, the Colts, with Morrall subbing for Unitas after he was knocked out of the game by George Andrie, moved the ball to the Dallas two, but the Colts turned the ball over on downs to end the half after the Cowboys stopped running back Norm Bulaich on three straight runs.

In the fourth quarter, the Colts drove the ball deep into Cowboys, but turned the ball over twice- an interception by Dallas middle linebacker Chuck Howley and fumble by Hinton that rolled into the end zone for a touchback.

Baltimore’s final 10 points were set up by interceptions by Rick Volk, which set up the game-tying score and a pick by Mike Curtis that set up the winning 32-yard field goal. The Colts survived a season’s worth of mistakes—they committed seven turnovers– and were lucky to win.

While his some of his teammates didn’t feel Super Bowl V made up for the loss in  Super Bowl III, Colts offensive lineman Bob Vogel said he didn’t care if people thought the Colts were lucky, especially considering all the team’s near misses during the 1960s: “So what? I’ve had luck decided against us so many times I’m sick of it. I quit being proud when we lost games we should have won. The way I look at it is we’re going to get the Super Bowl ring because we won games that counted this year. We deserve it.”

Given the frustration of the mid-to late sixties for the Colts, Vogel was right because things finally went Baltimore’s way on that Sunday afternoon in Miami after so many near misses in the sixties. Meanwhile, the Cowboys would have to wait for Super Bowl VI to exorcise the demons of their playoff past.  In that game, Dallas left no room for doubt or last second field goals  and crushed the Miami Dolphins 24-3 for their first Super Bowl title .

The perennial  bridesmaids of the 1960s–the Baltimore Colts and the Dallas Cowboys-were the first two champions of the 1970s.

Super Bowl V: A Personal and Historical Memoir of the Colts Last Championship in Baltimore Part I

16 Jan

The 1970 Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Colts--It would be another 30 years before Baltimore would experience a Super Bowl title.

The last headline of a Colts Championship in Baltimore

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

For all the sporting events that I have watched since I was six-years-old or better yet, the last 42 years, there’s two dates that I will always remember for both good and bad reasons. Starting with the bad—January 12, 1969—that, of course, was the day my beloved Baltimore Colts were upset by the New York Jets.

It was a bitterly disappointing end to their very first time I followed football as a six-year-old football fan. I thought the Colts of those days were unstoppable, especially after the 34-0 butt-whuppin they had put on the Cleveland Browns in the NFL Championship game. At a very young age,  it was my first taste of how your home town can break your heart.

But the other date that I will always remember as a sports fan for happier reasons is January 17, 1971. That was the day the Colts defeated the Dallas Cowboys 16-13 in Super Bowl V. Like Super Bowl III, I remember that game like it was yesterday. I remember watching the replays of John Mackey’s touchdown that came on a tip by Cowboys cornerback Mel Renfro. I can recall agonizing over Johnny Unitas fumbling and getting knocked out of the game by Cowboys lineman George Andrie.

In many ways it was a gut-renching game for me as a fan because the Colts trailed for a good portion of that game and seemed to be doing everything to give the Cowboys the game. After the Colts committed two turnovers early in the fourth quarterback—an interception of an Earl Morrall pass in the end zone by Cowboys middle linebacker Chuck Howly and a fumble into the end zone by Colts wide receiver of a Eddie Hinton, who had the ball at the 10-yard line and was about to score, but was stripped by Cowboys defensive back Cornell Green and the ball rolled out of the end zone for a touchback.

It was after that play when my mother saw the look of worry on my face and said to me, “Uh oh the Colts are losing, hope you’re not going to start crying,” referring to the tears I shed when the Jets took a 16-0 lead in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl III.

I’m not gonna cry this time, I’m little older now and besides I’m in third grade now, I thought back then. But I ain’t gonna lie, I was thinking the Colts were on the verge of losing the Super Bowl, especially after Hinton fumbled the ball in the end zone. And soon as my mother said that Colts safety Rick Volk intercepted Craig Morton and returned it to the Dallas 3. A seldom used Colts fullback Tom Nowatzke scored the game-tying touchdown on the next play.

When Jim O’Brien kicked the winning field with five seconds, I remember jumping up and down in my mother’s room where our relatively new Panasonic black and white TV was located at the time. “The Colts are the World Champs,” I screamed. To me, it made up for losing to those daggone New York Jets. I thought it was the happiest day of my life as a football fan.

I couldn’t get enough of the highlights. I watched the locker room celebration and interviews with all the players. I saw the trophy presentation with Pete Rozelle and the wife of Vince Lombardi presenting the first Lombardi Super Bowl Trophy to then-Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom and head coach Don McCafferty.

I remember my mother smirking and shaking her head disapprovingly when NBC interviewed the white wife of Colts receiver Ed Hinton. To my mother, seeing Hinton’s white wife hit her personally because my father’s new girlfriend was white. Interracial dating and marriages were still a big taboo even in those days. It was a grim reminder to me of my parents pending divorce and the fact that I hadn’t seen my father since the summer time. He wasn’t there with me to share that moment.

I was ecstatic that day and like I said earlier I couldn’t get enough of the Colts winning the Super Bowl. My mother even allowed me to stay up and watch the highlights on the 11 o’clock news. Since the game was on WBAL Channell 11, the NBC affiliate—I listened to Vince Bagli and caught the highlights againg. I flicked the channel to Channel 2 to see what WMAR sports anchor Jack Dawson had to say and then I turned it to Channel 13, my father’s former employer to see what John Kennelly had to say and see more highlights.

At Lady of Lourdes School the next day, it was a day of I-told-you sos to all my friends who thought the Colts wouldn’t win. I couldn’t concentrate in school because all I thought about was getting back home and waiting for the paper boy to deliver the Baltimore Evening Sun, so I could see all the photos.

This was one day that I didn’t want  to hang around after school with my friends, I wanted to jet on home to get the newspaper. I was planning to cut out the pictures and post them on my bedroom wall. On the way home, I ran into this older dude from my block  named Barry, who used to tease me by always saying that the Colts are sorry.

As I was rolling up the block, I yelled over to Barry, “Colts are the World champs, they ain’t so sorry now, huh?” Barry muttered something like, “Ahh, they got lucky.”

When I got home sometime around 3:30, I kept looking outside of our living room window for the paper boy to deliver the newspaper. In those days, we were living in Northwest Baltimore at 3809 Fernhill Avenue right near the newly-built Calloway Elementary School (at that time). My mother Carolyn was working for the Department of Social Services. I had an older brother, Ralph, who was two years older than me, my sister Melissa, who was six, and my baby sister Melanee, who was one and a half going on 25.

It was about 4:30 and close to getting dark when the paper boy finally came to our house with the Evening Sun. News of the Colts win was on the front page, but all the photos were in the sports section. I spent hours with that section, reading the stories looking at the photos.

I had absolutely no idea (no one else in Baltimore did either for that matter) that it would be the last Super Bowl title for the team we knew as the Baltimore Colts. It would be another 30 years and a new team before the city of Baltimore’s name would be inscribed on the Tiffany silver Super Bowl Trophy.

In that span of time, I would attend three high schools, three colleges, earn two degrees, experience the death of my father, get married, get divorced, win my first journalism award and see the day the Colts would no longer call Baltimore their home.

I have found over the last 40 years of my life since that game that very few, if any of my friends my age from Baltimore really remember or experienced the joy I felt watching the Colts win that game. For most of my friends born between 1960 and 1964, their remembrances of the Baltimore Colts are of the Bert Jones and Lydell Mitchell teams from about 1975 to up until the time they shipped out to Indianapolis in 1984.

The one thing that will always bother me about the Colts leaving for Indianapolis is not so much that they left, but they took the name, the history and the records. I didn’t like the idea of Art Modell taking the Browns out of Cleveland to move to Baltimore. But the one redeeming thing about Modell was that he had the decency to leave the Browns name, record and history with Cleveland.

That didn’t happen with Baltimore. Robert Irsay just took everything, except the memories. At least for some of us.

Whenever I’ve brought up Super Bowl V or even Super Bowl III to Baltimore sports fans who are the same age as me, the response is always, “man, I can’t even remember that far back.” Then there’s the classic, “aw, man you’re showing your age.”Only my friend from my college days at Maryland the late Jon Chambers (who was born in 1961) could remember both Colts Super Bowls and talk about it in the way that I could.

Over the years, I’ve haven’t said much about Super Bowl V or my memories of the last Colts championship in Baltimore for a variety reasons. I guess not many people have my long memory or have the same passion for sports as I do.

I can understand that while most six year-olds, seven-year-olds and eight year-olds back from 1968 to 1970 were into coloring books, comic books and , my super heroes were Johnny Unitas, John Mackey, Tom Matte, Bubba Smith and Mike Curtis. In baseball, there was Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson and Paul Blair.

And the thing is I did all those things that normal young kids do when they’re seven and eight-years-old. I played outside-sports and non-sports like any normal kid. I wasn’t a stay-in-the -house bookworm of a kid.  Over the years, whenever I mentioned that I can remember sporting events from that far back, people have always said well you must not have gotten out much.

My love for the Colts of those days comes from my father Ralph Murray, who was working as a TV reporter for WBAL and later WJZ between 1967 and 1970. Even before my father was working in TV, he watched a lot of football and the game was always on in my house—whether it’s on the radio or TV.  Hearing then Colts play-by-play announcer Chuck Thompson’s voice blaring over the radio or TV was a regular occurence

Not only did my father love the game, but my grandfather was a big Colts fan. I remember in the basement or the living room of my grandfather’s home on Chelsea Terrace in Northwest Baltimore, seeing a framed Baltimore Sun headline of the Colts winning the 1958 Championship.

I remember the first time I saw a football game in color was in 1968 on my grandfather’s TV when the Colts played the 49ers at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco. Preston Pearson returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown in that game for the Colts.

The one time  I mentioned  Super Bowl V in any conversation of my adult years was at a Final Four party I attended in the D.C. area in 1992. The University of Cincinnati was playing Michigan in one half of the national semifinal.  Someone at the party asked who were some famous pro athletes outside Oscar Robertson that attended Cincinnati. There’s was only one that I could recall off the top of my head—Jim O’Brien of the Colts went to Cincinnati. He played wide receiver and kicker.

I mentioned his name and supposedly, according to one of my friends who was there, folks looked at me as if I was the “dork” of the week. Hey,someone asked, I gave the answer. But in my apparent lack of being cool and being hip, my proper social response should have been, “I don’t know.” Of course, I say that with complete, unapologetic sarcasm.

The Baltimore Ravens winning the Super Bowl in 2000 brought back that feeling that I had back in 1970 when the Colts made their run to the Super Bowl. People in my hometown were finally experiencing what I felt back then. I just hope that 30 years from now that kids in Baltimore who were as young as me back in 1970 will remember Ray Lewis and Trent Dilfer with the same fondness the way I remember Johnny U, Bubba Smith, Mike Curtis, and the 1970 Baltimore Colts.

Seeing O’Brien’s kick splitting the uprights to help the Colts to win Super Bowl V is as fresh and as exhilarating a memory for me as seeing Jamaal Lewis cross the goal line to put away the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV.