Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

After Don Coryell left the NFL Cardinals, he appeared in St. Louis one time as an opposing head coach. It was an experience he could have done without.

On Nov. 20, 1983, Coryell brought the San Diego Chargers to Busch Stadium to play the Cardinals.

This was no tender homecoming. Too much weird mojo, and too many factors Coryell couldn’t control, not the least of which was an injured quarterback.

Air Coryell

In five seasons with Coryell as their head coach, the Cardinals were 42-27-1 and reached the playoffs twice. “We weren’t the best football team when Don was here,” his quarterback, Jim Hart, said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “but we were the most exciting. We did the unexpected.”

Coryell departed following the 1977 season after a falling out with club owner Bill Bidwill. Subsequently, the Cardinals had four consecutive losing seasons before going 5-4 in strike-shortened 1982.

The Chargers had winning records in Coryell’s first five seasons as their head coach, leading the NFL in passing each of those years. In the words of Sports Illustrated, Coryell masterminded “revolutionary game plans, new formations every week and unrelenting air attacks,” building a resume that earned him election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Chargers challenges

A torn muscle in the right shoulder of Dan Fouts, the quarterback who put the air in Air Coryell, changed the course of the Chargers’ season in October 1983. His replacement, Ed Luther, was in his fourth season with the Chargers but never had started a NFL game.

After Luther took over, the Chargers lost three of his four starts before heading to St. Louis. Fouts remained unavailable, and the Chargers also were without another injured player, James Brooks, a multiple threat as a rusher, receiver and kick returner.

The Chargers still had running back Chuck Muncie, receivers Wes Chandler and Charlie Joiner, and tight end Kellen Winslow, a St. Louis native who was raised in East St. Louis, Ill., and attended the University of Missouri.

With that talent, coached by Coryell, the Chargers were formidable. “He instills pride in all of us,” Muncie told The Sporting News. “We don’t ever think about not winning. He won’t let us.”

Friends and enemies

Jim Hanifan was head coach of the 1983 Cardinals. He and Coryell first met in 1956 at Fort Ord in California. Coryell coached the football team on the Army post and Hanifan was a player.

They became friends and colleagues. Hanifan was an assistant coach for Coryell with San Diego State in 1972 and in all five seasons Coryell was in St. Louis. He also was Coryell’s assistant with the 1979 Chargers before becoming Cardinals head coach in 1980.

Coryell had no desire to coach against him. “Jim Hanifan and I are buddies,” Coryell told the Post-Dispatch. “I’d rather play against somebody I hate.”

On the eve of his return to St. Louis, Coryell said to the Los Angeles Times, “I don’t like this game at all. I am coaching against Jim Hanifan, a good friend, and this is where I started coaching in the pros. I have a lot of emotional ties in St. Louis. Heck, I even love that emblem they have with the little ornery bird on the helmet. He sort of has that mean look in his eye, and I think he’s kind of cute. I would just much rather be playing somebody else.”

Hanifan told the Times, “As a coach you try to go into a ballgame like always. When you know the guy across the field is a dear friend, it does make it difficult. I imagine it will be a weird feeling with him coming back to St. Louis and looking at him across the field.”

Told that Coryell said, “I have nothing but warm, wonderful feelings of St. Louis,” Bidwill replied to the Post-Dispatch, “I guess he doesn’t remember the snowstorms.”

Hostile territory

Most of the 40,644 spectators booed the mention of Coryell’s name in pregame introductions, the Times reported. Then the Chargers imploded. They committed six turnovers, four in the second quarter, and the relentless Cardinals cruised to a 37-0 lead. “A nightmare,” Luther told The Sporting News.

Ahead, 10-0, Hanifan called for an onside kick and the Cardinals recovered, surprising the Chargers and sending them reeling. “It was a great call,” Coryell told the Los Angeles Times.

The Cardinals sacked Luther six times and intercepted three of his passes. David Galloway and Curtis Greer had two sacks each. Bubba Baker had an interception and recovered a fumble.

Cardinals quarterback Neil Lomax threw for two touchdowns and ran for two touchdowns. Ottis Anderson rushed for 113 yards and a score.

The final was 44-14. “San Diego is still a fine team,” Hanifan told the Times, “but it is not the same without Fouts.” Game stats and Video

Coryell “looked as if he were in shock, although it might be argued that is his usual appearance,” Post-Dispatch columnist Kevin Horrigan wrote.

Denver Broncos head coach Dan Reeves told The Sporting News, “Don Coryell must be dying inside. He’s such a competitive person.”

In remarks to the Post-Dispatch, Coryell congratulated the Cardinals, then added, “We should have made a better game of it.”

The Los Angeles Times called the rout “the club’s low point under Coryell.”

The loss dropped the Chargers’ record to 4-8. They finished 6-10, Coryell’s first losing season since his first year with St. Louis in 1973.

The Cardinals improved to 5-6-1 and jump-started their season. They won three of their last four, finishing 8-7-1, their most wins since Coryell’s 1976 team had 10.

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From his first regular-season game as a head coach in the NFL with the St. Louis Cardinals, Don Coryell showed signs of being special. He got the Cardinals to play with confidence and collective pride.

When he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Feb. 9, 2023, Coryell correctly was hailed as an innovator whose offenses with the Cardinals, and later the San Diego Chargers, were thrilling to watch and nerve-wracking to defend.

Those progressive schemes were just part of his skillset. Coryell also was an effective leader who got players to buy into his philosophies and to execute consistently within a framework of selfless collaboration.

Meet the new boss

The season opener between the Cardinals and Eagles on Sept. 16, 1973, at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia marked the NFL head coaching debuts of Coryell and Mike McCormack.

Coryell came to the Cardinals from the college coaching ranks. In 15 years as a college head coach, Coryell never had a losing season. His record was 127-24-3, including 104-19-2 in 12 seasons at San Diego State.

Like Coryell, McCormack would be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but, unlike Coryell, he got in as a player, not as a coach. An exceptionally quick and strong right tackle on the Cleveland Browns’ offensive line, McCormack protected quarterback Otto Graham and blocked for running back Jim Brown. In his autobiography, Browns head coach Paul Brown said, “I consider McCormack the finest offensive tackle who ever played pro football.”

(Paul Brown told the story of how another Browns quarterback, Milt Plum, had trouble staying in the pocket before releasing the ball. At practice one day, a frustrated McCormack picked up Plum by the neck, shook him, cursed him and put him back down. After that, “our passing game improved considerably,” Brown told The Sporting News.)

McCormack had been an assistant coach for seven seasons with the Washington Redskins, but never a head coach.

The 1973 opener also was the Eagles debut of quarterback Roman Gabriel, 33, who got traded to Philadelphia after 11 seasons with the Los Angeles Rams.

(Gabriel, a glamour boy in Los Angeles, still was effective. He would lead the NFL in passing yards, completions and touchdown passes as an Eagle in 1973.)

During training camp, Coryell made a favorable impression as a coach of “unquenchable spirit and unflagging energy.” The Sporting News reported. Cardinals director of operations Joe Sullivan told the publication, “He’s one of the best teachers I’ve ever seen.”

On the eve of the season opener, Coryell said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “I think we’ll be pretty darn potent this season. We’ll have the capability of breaking things open.”

Will to win

The fired-up Cardinals charged out to a 21-0 lead in Coryell’s debut. Jim Hart threw touchdown passes to Donny Anderson and Mel Gray, and Anderson also rushed for a score.

“The Eagles came after Hart with a vengeance, and the veteran quarterback proceeded to waste them with draws and screens,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Cardinals turnovers (two fumbles and an intercepted pass) helped the Eagles rally. They got within a point, 24-23, in the fourth quarter.

Recent Cardinals clubs might have panicked, but the Coryell Cardinals kept their poise. Hart moved them into position for a Jim Bakken 20-yard field goal, extending the lead to 27-23 with 1:10 to play. When the Eagles’ Tom Sullivan fumbled the ensuing kickoff, the Cardinals recovered. Anderson capped a 34-23 victory with another scoring run, his third touchdown of the game.

Though describing the Eagles as “a poor team,” the Post-Dispatch noted that the Cardinals “showed the ability to move under pressure, to capitalize on opposition mistakes and to make the big offensive play, three areas sadly lacking for them in recent years.”

Anderson, the former Green Bay Packer acquired in a trade for MacArthur Lane, had 66 yards receiving, 58 yards rushing and also was praised by Coryell for his blocking. “He has such a great understanding and concept of our offense,” Coryell told the Post-Dispatch.

Terry Metcalf, a third-round draft choice making his NFL debut, rushed for 133 yards and added another 25 yards with a catch. Plus, “he was blocking on me all afternoon,” Eagles linebacker Dick Cunningham told the Inquirer. “He will stick his head into you.” Video

Coryell said to the Philadelphia Daily News that Metcalf “is quick, tough, agile and has a heart as big as a lion.” Game stats and Game video

In a “rah-rah-sis-boom-bah” locker room celebration after the victory, the Inquirer reported, tight end Jackie Smith presented Coryell with the game ball and said, “This is for the man with the most enthusiasm.”

High praise

After the Cardinals scored 34 points again in winning their home opener against the Redskins, defensive tackle Bob Rowe said to the Post-Dispatch, “We have a confidence in ourselves, a confidence that Coach Coryell built. He has made us believe we’re football players. He has made us respect one another.”

Recalling his days playing for Packers head coach Vince Lombardi, Donny Anderson told Rich Koster of The Sporting News, Lombardi “was more than a coach. He was a man who taught you to become a man. You seemed to grow up faster and accept the responsibilities that you have as a player. In Coach Coryell, I think we have a man who in many respects is like Lombardi. Both loved people, and that’s the biggest thing in relating to players.”

Though the Cardinals faded, finishing 4-9-1 in Coryell’s first season, the players recognized he had changed the clubhouse culture for the better.

“We’ve got great life on our team, as opposed to what it used to be,” linebacker Jamie Rivers said to The Sporting News.

Jim Hart told the publication, Coryell “is a great man. He won’t pull any punches with you privately, but he’ll defend you to the letter publicly.”

In five seasons with Coryell, the Cardinals posted a 42-27-1 record and twice qualified for the playoffs. Those were the Cardinals’ first playoff berths since 1948 and their first division titles since moving from Chicago to St. Louis in 1960.

Coryell continued to have success with the Chargers in San Diego. His overall record as a NFL head coach is 115-89-1. According to the College Football Hall of Fame, Coryell was the first head coach to win 100 games at both the college and pro levels.

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(Updated June 12, 2022)

Erich Barnes was a formidable foe of the St. Louis football Cardinals. He was an intimidating, savvy defensive back who played 14 seasons in the NFL. In seven games against the Cardinals, he intercepted six passes.

Two of Barnes’ most significant clashes with the Cardinals occurred in consecutive seasons (1966 and 1967) at St. Louis. The first illustrated his fiery intensity. The second showed his smarts.

An all-pro, Barnes totaled 45 interceptions with the Chicago Bears (1958-60), New York Giants (1961-64) and Cleveland Browns (1965-71).

Rough stuff

Barnes played college football at Purdue and earned a bachelor’s degree. The Bears selected him in the fourth round of the 1958 NFL draft.

In January 1961, the Bears sent Barnes to the Los Angeles Rams for quarterback Billy Wade. The Rams then flipped Barnes to the Giants for defensive back Lindon Crow, a former Chicago Cardinal who had threatened to retire unless the Giants traded him to a team near his California home.

“We gave up a class A player in Barnes,” Bears head coach George Halas told the Chicago Tribune, “but you must give up a class A player to get one in return.”

“Often matched against the league’s best wide receivers,” the New York Times noted, Barnes helped the Giants reach the NFL title game in three consecutive seasons (1961-63).

Bobby Mitchell of the Washington Redskins said of Barnes, “When a man can hold me down playing man-to-man defense, he’s doing a tremendous job.”

Barnes developed a reputation for making hard hits “with an exuberance that drew penalties or warnings,” the Associated Press reported. In a 1963 game against the Bears, he was assessed a penalty for roughing another tough guy, tight end Mike Ditka.

“Throughout Barnes’ career, his method of operation was simple: You come across the middle, you get busted in your chops,” the Akron Beacon Journal observed.

Barnes displayed an uncanny knack for arriving at the same time a pass reached a receiver, and then whacking the ball from the recipient’s arms with a motion similar to a butcher wielding a cleaver.

“He was very intense on the field,” Barnes’ teammate, Giants offensive lineman Roosevelt Brown, told the Akron newspaper. “Off the field, he was very laid back. That’s when you wanted to meet him. You didn’t want to meet up with him on the football field.”

Barnes had 18 interceptions in four seasons with the Giants. 

Like the Bears four years earlier, the Giants were in desperate need of an experienced quarterback in August 1965, and Barnes had trade value. The Giants sent Barnes to the Browns for linebacker Mike Lucci, then swapped Lucci and guard Darrell Dess to the Detroit Lions for quarterback Earl Morrall.

Danger zone

On Dec. 17, 1966, the Browns and Cardinals played at Busch Memorial Stadium. Late in the fourth quarter, with the Browns ahead by 28, backup quarterback Jim Ninowski threw a sideline pass to pint-sized Walter “The Flea” Roberts. The pass was incomplete, but Cardinals rookie defensive back Bobby Williams followed Roberts out of bounds and knocked him toward the Browns’ bench.

Roberts got up and “wanted to fight,” Williams said to the Associated Press. “He jumped on me. Then Barnes came over. Then it seemed like the whole Browns team was around me.”

Barnes told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “I guess I was the first one to reach Williams, and I gave him a shove.”

Barnes then kicked, or attempted to kick, Williams while he was down, witnesses told United Press International.

“I swung my foot, but I’m not even sure I touched him,” Barnes said to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “It was more of a chastising gesture. I had no intention of hurting him.” Video courtesy of Cardinals football historian Bob Underwood

Emotions were raw. Some spectators left their seats, gathered on top of a dugout and shouted at the Browns players on the sidelines.

“Ushers were unable to control the unruly bunch,” the Jacksonville (Ill.) Daily Journal reported, “and policemen with nightsticks were rushed to the scene.”

Bruce Alford, a line judge on the officiating crew, feared the mob would storm the field. “I thought there might not be enough policemen when the trouble started,” Alford told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

During a timeout, a spectator broke loose, approached Barnes from behind and struck him in the back of the head, knocking him to the ground.

“The first thing I know, I’m flat on my back,” Barnes recalled to the Post-Dispatch, “and I see our other players pushing some fan away from me.”

The assailant was handcuffed by police and taken away. Game stats

Two plainclothes police officers were assigned to escort Barnes from the locker room to the team bus, according to the Post-Dispatch.

After reviewing film, NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle fined Barnes $250 for making “a major contribution to an inflammatory sideline incident.”

Experience matters

A year later, when the Browns returned to Busch Memorial Stadium on Dec. 10, 1967, “Barnes was booed vociferously when he was introduced” before the game, the Dayton Daily News reported.

Unfazed, Barnes responded with an outstanding performance. “Can’t play this game to win popularity contests,” Barnes told the Dayton newspaper.

In the third quarter, with the Browns ahead, 10-9, Cardinals tight end Jackie Smith took a handoff from Jim Hart on an end-around play.

“We’d studied films of that play all week,” Barnes told the Post-Dispatch.

When Barnes saw Smith take the ball, it was his responsibility to leave the receiver he was covering, Bobby Joe Conrad, and advance toward Smith, but Barnes’ instincts told him something was amiss.

“I say to myself, ‘Why is Bobby Joe Conrad running by me so hard?’ ” Barnes told the Post-Dispatch. “Most pass receivers don’t really run unless they think they’re going to get the ball.

“I say, ‘Erich, ain’t no pass receiver going to run that hard on a fake.’ That’s how I guessed Jackie Smith might plan to throw on that end-around. So I stay with Conrad.”

Sure enough, Smith stopped, looked downfield and tossed a pass toward Conrad. It was the first pass Smith attempted in a NFL game. Barnes intercepted it and ran 40 yards to the Cardinals’ 21. A few minutes later, Lou Groza kicked a field goal for a 13-9 Browns lead. Video courtesy of Cardinals football historian Bob Underwood

Barnes’ pickoff and return “put the Cardinals in a hole for the entire third quarter,” the Post-Dispatch reported. “The play served to turn the game in Cleveland’s direction.”

Barnes came up big again on the last play of the game.

With the Browns ahead, 20-16, Hart connected with Smith on a pass to the Cleveland 18. Six seconds remained when Smith caught the ball. Barnes blocked Smith’s path to the sideline so that he couldn’t get out of bounds and stop the clock. Forced to run down the field, Smith was tackled by middle linebacker Dale Lindsey as time expired. Game stats

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Undrafted, Garland Boyette overcame the odds, earning a roster spot at a position he’d never played and becoming a starting linebacker for the NFL St. Louis Cardinals in 1962.

Two years later, the Cardinals cut him, but that wasn’t the only insult he endured. Philadelphia Chewing Gum Corporation produced a football card of Boyette that year, but fumbled the assignment. The name on the card was Garland Boyette, but the photo was of Don Gillis, a former Cardinals center who no longer was in the league. Boyette was black and Gillis was white.

Boyette went to Canada, revived his career and returned to the United States, launching a successful stint as a two-time Pro Bowl selection at linebacker with the Houston Oilers.

Awesome athlete

Boyette played college football at Grambling and primarily was a defensive lineman. His teammates included other future NFL players such as Buck Buchanan, Willie Brown, Ernie Ladd and Roosevelt Taylor. Ladd, 6 feet 9 and about 320 pounds, was Boyette’s nephew. Ladd’s mother was Boyette’s sister.

Boyette, 6 feet 1 and about 220 pounds, also was a standout track and field athlete who excelled in the decathlon.

After his senior football season at Grambling in 1961, Boyette wasn’t selected in either the AFL or NFL draft. The Cardinals signed him in February 1962 and invited him to training camp.

Ernie Ladd, who made his pro football debut with the San Diego Chargers in 1961, and a friend, Len Burnett, a defensive back for the 1961 Pittsburgh Steelers, worked out with Boyette and offered him advice before he joined the Cardinals.

“They suggested that with my speed and agility I ought to be able to play cornerback in pro football, or with more weight, maybe linebacker,” Boyette told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Ernie told me to get on the weights and get my weight up, so I did.”

Boyette firmed up to about 235 pounds, and, though he never had played linebacker in college, he “landed in an outside linebacker spot, playing behind the Cardinals’ ace outside linebacker, Bill Koman,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

On-the-job training

With the Cardinals loaded with veteran linebackers, Boyette, 22, didn’t play much early in the 1962 season. “I found it discouraging,” Boyette told the Post-Dispatch. “I’d always played first string in college, but it gave me time to learn.”

When several linebackers, including Ted Bates, Ed Henke, Dale Meinert and Marion Rushing _ “All of whom figured to give the Cardinals a tremendous ground defense and a big rush,” The Pittsburgh Press noted _ got sidelined because of injuries, Boyette got his chance.

Against the San Francisco 49ers on Nov. 25, Boyette played at left linebacker, with Koman moving to the right side, and “did a commendable job,” Cardinals head coach Wally Lemm told the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

Boyette started at left side linebacker in the Dec. 7 game against the Steelers and played well, sacking Ed Brown for a 15-yard loss.

“I told Bill Koman I’d learned more in that one game at Pittsburgh than I’d learned in five years of football earlier,” Boyette said to the Post-Dispatch. “I’m learning more by getting to play. I’ve found nobody ever relaxes in this game.”

After the Cardinals completed the 1962 season, the Globe-Democrat declared, “Boyette came along so well.”

On the move

The Cardinals went into their 1963 exhibition game opener with Boyette, Koman and Meinert as the starting linebackers, but, a couple of weeks later, rookie Larry Stallings was named a starter, replacing Boyette, according to the Post-Dispatch.

In October, Boyette tore ligaments in a knee. He came back in late November and made a key play in a game against the New York Giants, setting up the winning touchdown by recovering Eddie Dove’s fumble on the New York 20-yard line.

As for that football card snafu, Don Gillis wore No. 50 when he played for the Cardinals from 1958-61, and Boyette wore the same uniform number for the Cardinals in 1962 and 1963.

“The card companies would ask the team who wears what numbers,” Boyette told the Monroe (La.) News-Star, “but how the hell do you get that screwed up?”

With Koman, Meinert and Stallings returning in 1964, and Dave Meggyesy pushing for playing time as well, the Cardinals deemed Boyette expendable and placed him on waivers on Sept. 2, according to the Post-Dispatch.

A few days later, Boyette was signed by the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League. Montreal’s head coach was Jim Trimble. Cardinals defensive coordinator Chuck Drulis had been an assistant on Trimble’s staff when Trimble was head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1954 and 1955.

Boyette played two seasons (1964-65) with the Alouettes and made a favorable impression. “He is the best athlete on my team,” Trimble told the Montreal Star. “Garland is one of the finest athletes I’ve ever known.”

After Trimble departed, Boyette signed with the AFL’s Houston Oilers, who’d hired Wally Lemm to be their head coach in 1966.

“The only reason he was cut by the Cardinals was he made too many mistakes,” Lemm told The Sporting News. “We are hoping now that he is older, and with two years of Canadian ball behind him, he will have matured.”

In 1967, Boyette became the Oilers’ middle linebacker. That same season, rookie Willie Lanier started at middle linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs. According to the Houston Chronicle, Boyette and Lanier were the first black starting middle linebackers in pro football in the U.S.

A year later, Sports Illustrated described Boyette as “an exceptional athlete who can be one of the great middle linebackers.”

Boyette was named to the Pro Bowl in 1968 and 1969, and played with the Oilers until 1972.

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Wide receiver Charley Taylor and quarterback Sonny Jurgensen were in sync, able to connect in a city often associated with disconnection. So when they botched a play in a key game against the St. Louis Cardinals, it was unusual and costly.

With the Washington Redskins, Taylor was “the man who had given more headaches to cornerbacks than any pass catcher to play the game,” according to the Washington Post.

His ability to consistently rack up receptions made him one of the franchise’s most popular players. As Sports Illustrated noted, “It would have surprised hardly anyone at a Georgetown dinner party to hear Henry Kissinger, with his mouth full of caviar canapes, discoursing about the grace of Charley Taylor.”

A player who held the NFL record for career receptions (649) when he retired after the 1977 season, Taylor competed in 22 games versus the Cardinals. He caught 78 passes against them, but it was one he didn’t catch that became perhaps the most noteworthy.

Multiple skills

Charley Taylor was born and raised in Grand Prairie, Texas, an aircraft manufacturing hub located 14 miles west of Dallas. His mother, Myrtle, was a chef, butcher and restaurant owner and his stepfather, James, built airplane parts, according to the New York Times.

A local grocer, R.B. Clarke, who had connections to Arizona State University, arranged for Taylor to meet the school’s football coach, Frank Kush, who offered a scholarship.

Taylor excelled as a running back at Arizona State and hoped to be drafted by the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys so he could play near home. When a college roommate informed him he was taken by Washington with the third overall pick in the first round of the 1964 draft, “I actually rolled over in bed and started crying because I wanted to go to Dallas so bad,” Taylor told the Associated Press.

Swift and sure-handed, Taylor excelled at running back for Washington his rookie season in 1964, rushing for 755 yards, catching 53 passes and scoring 10 touchdowns in 14 games.

About midway through the season in 1966, coach Otto Graham moved Taylor from running back to wide receiver. Taylor initially resisted the move but discovered the position change “gives me the opportunity to do what I do best _ catch the ball and run with it,” Taylor told the Associated Press.

Taylor and Bobby Mitchell gave Washington a pair of elite receivers as targets for quarterback Sonny Jurgensen. All three were destined for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Taylor said Mitchell and assistant coach Ray Renfro, a Browns receiver when Graham quarterbacked them, were influential in his transformation.

“They knew I had the knack for catching the ball,” Taylor said to the Associated Press. “What they had to teach me was to run patterns. That’s the difficult thing _ reading defenses and running good patterns.”

Taylor led the NFL in receptions in 1966 (72) and 1967 (70).

Mitchell, who also had started his NFL career as a running back before shifting to receiver, told Sports Illustrated, “Charley would always get the double coverage. I had some big days because people said Charley Taylor wasn’t going to beat them.”

All mixed up

Taylor, 33, and Jurgensen, 40, were in their 11th season together when Washington (4-2) faced the Cardinals (6-0) on Oct. 27, 1974, at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis.

Though the Cardinals defeated Washington in the second week of the season and were atop the NFC East Division, Taylor said, “We still feel Dallas is the team we have to beat.”

Pinned to a bulletin board in the Cardinals’ locker room, Taylor’s quote was viewed as “an affront to our pride,” Cardinals defensive tackle Bob Rowe told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Taylor was matched in the game against cornerback Roger Wehrli, another future Pro Football Hall of Famer. When the Cardinals drafted Wehrli out of Missouri in the first round in 1969, it was partly because it was thought he had the speed to cover receivers such as Taylor.

On the game’s opening drive, Washington advanced to the Cardinals’ 48-yard line before Jurgensen attempted a pass. On first-and-10, he called for Taylor to run an out pattern to the sideline.

Taylor ran the route correctly, but Wehrli had him covered. Taylor adjusted, turning up field, but Jurgensen didn’t adjust his pass. He threw before Taylor broke free of Wehrli.

“I was throwing the ball away,” Jurgensen told the Post-Dispatch.

Instead, he threw it into the hands of Wehrli, who moved forward, rather than follow Taylor, when he saw Jurgensen release the ball. “I just kept coming and there was no one there but me,” Wehrli told the Post-Dispatch.

Wehrli streaked 53 yards down the sideline, converting an interception into a touchdown for the first time in his NFL career. His only other interception return for a touchdown was in 1979 against Tommy Kramer of the Minnesota Vikings. Wehrli totaled 40 interceptions, all for the Cardinals.

St. Louis won the game, 23-20, improving to 7-0 and moving three games ahead of Washington in the division standings. Video and Game Stats

“The Cardinals made the big plays,” Jurgensen said to the Post-Dispatch. “Now they’re in the driver’s seat. It was a key game. We had to have it, and they got it.”

St. Louis and Washington each finished 10-4 in the regular season and each lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Taylor remains the Washington franchise leader in career touchdowns scored (90) _ 11 rushing and 79 receiving.

Of his 79 touchdown catches, 53 came on throws from Jurgensen, 21 from Billy Kilmer, two each from Randy Johnson and Jim Ninowski and one from Joe Theismann. The touchdown pass to Taylor was the first of Theismann’s NFL career.

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(Updated May 1, 2022)

The punishing rushes of Green Bay Packers fullback Jim Taylor shredded a daring defense of the St. Louis football Cardinals.

Taylor was a bruising rusher for the championship Packers teams of the 1960s. Paired in a backfield with “Golden Boy” halfback Paul Hornung, Taylor was a powerful force who twice led the NFL in rushing touchdowns and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In 1962, Taylor topped the NFL in rushing yards with 1,474 in 14 games. He faced the St. Louis Cardinals for the first time that season and his rushing and pass-catching skills were key to enabling the Packers to overcome a challenging defensive scheme.

Game plan

The Cardinals and Packers each had 1-0 records entering their game on Sept. 23, 1962, at Milwaukee County Stadium. The Packers were the reigning NFL champions and the Cardinals were looking to establish themselves as contenders.

Cardinals head coach Wally Lemm and his staff devised a plan to apply pressure on Packers quarterback Bart Starr by having St. Louis defensive players use stunting maneuvers and blitzing schemes.

The stunting meant two or more Cardinals defenders would alter their usual paths to the quarterback in an effort to confuse the Packers’ offensive linemen.

The blitzing freed a defensive back or linebacker to leave his usual post and become an extra pass rusher. New York Giants linebacker Donald “Red Dog” Ettinger is credited with being the first to use the technique from 1948-50 and blitzes came to be known as “red dogging.” In 1960, Cardinals assistant coach Chuck Drulis designed a blitz using safety Larry Wilson and named it “wildcat.”

Pressuring Pack

The blitzing and stunting of Cardinals defenders confused the Packers in the first half of their 1962 game. Starr “was under considerable pressure from the Cardinals’ determined rush, including red-dogging defensive halfbacks,” the Green Bay Press-Gazette reported.

Packers offensive tackle Forrest Gregg said the Cardinals “were doing a lot of jumping around in there and we weren’t picking them up.”

Said Packers coach Vince Lombardi: “Their defense upset us in the beginning. We had a hell of a time trying to find them. They did a lot of stunting in there … It was new to us. We hadn’t seen it before this year.”

Lombardi and his staff tried to make adjustments during the first half, but were unsuccessful in communicating effectively during the helter-skelter pace of the game. The best the Packers could do was hold on until they could regroup in the locker room at halftime. “We had to put it on the (chalk) board,” Lombardi said.

The Packers’ defense, led by linemen Willie Davis and Henry Jordan, stopped the Cardinals, and Green Bay led, 3-0, at halftime on Hornung’s field goal.

Fast learners

Using the chalkboard to illustrate what needed to be done to counter the Cardinals’ aggressive blitzing and stunting, Lombardi and his staff instructed their offensive linemen to block in assigned areas rather than man against man, and they told Starr to turn Taylor loose to rumble and mix in short passes to Taylor and tight end Ron Kramer.

The adjustments worked. Taylor, 6 feet and 215 pounds, pounded the Cardinals with runs up the middle and put the Packers in position to score a pair of touchdowns.

“In three years, nobody has run through our middle as the Packers did,” defensive tackle Frank Fuller, who played for the Cardinals from 1960-62, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Taylor “turned the tide with his powerful smashes in the second half,” the Green Bay Press-Gazette reported. Taylor “punished the Cardinals’ defense with his hard hitting … His thrusts up the middle helped the (Packers) loosen up the Cardinals’ defense and thus make their passing work.”

Taylor finished with 122 yards rushing on 23 carries and also had four catches for 40 yards. Hornung had a three-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, Starr connected with Max McGee on a 19-yard scoring strike in the fourth quarter and the Packers won, 17-0. Boxscore

“We adjusted between halves,” Lombardi said. “In the second half, we zone blocked and area blocked. The boys picked them up real well.”

Said Taylor: “We just got to zone blocking in the second half and they changed their defense. They weren’t red-dogging so much and the red dogs were not real hard to pick up.”

One of a kind

Lemm praised the Packers as “the best-balanced team in football. Father Time is the only thing that’s going to beat the Packers.”

Regarding Taylor, Lemm said to the Post-Dispatch, “He has a great ability to slide out and get moving. He takes a pitchout quick with that sliding ability.”

Lemm added, “The blocks Hornung throws for Taylor are really something.”

The Cardinals totaled 16 yards rushing and their top receiver, Sonny Randle, had one catch for five yards. Halfback John David Crow had nine yards on nine carries.

“We don’t have a Taylor,” Lemm lamented.

The 1962 Packers repeated as NFL champions and Taylor also played for league champions in 1965 and 1966. The Cardinals finished 4-9-1 in 1962.

Taylor played two more regular-season games against the Cardinals in his career. On Oct. 20, 1963, he rushed for 67 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-7 Packers victory. On Dec. 12, 1967, in his final NFL season with the Saints, the former Louisiana State standout had 34 yards rushing in a game the Cardinals won, 31-20.

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