WhatIfSports Duel to the Death Season: Week 2 (Part 1)

The second week’s games for the WhatIfSports Greatest of All Time season are already upon us – this week, we’ll go over half the games today and the other half on Friday. This makes each result a little easier to digest and doubles as not one but TWO easy blog posts for me. OH YEAH. Last week, we already had some surprising upsets, as the ’72 Dolphins, ’89 49ers, ’98 Broncos and ’69 Chiefs all fell short of their Super Bowl-winning pedigree. But it’s a new week! With new games! And new simulated action! In today’s batch of games, will the ’86 Giants rebound from their tough defeat against the ’92 Cowboys last week and defeat the ’62 Packers? And will the ’64 Browns avoid embarrassment when they go up against the ’90 Bills? Only one way of finding out: scrolling down slightly towards the bottom of this post…

2000 Tennessee Titans (2-0) 34, 2012 Atlanta Falcons (0-2) 13

The Titans scored 24 unanswered points in the second half to turn a 13-10 halftime deficit into a 34-13 rout over the Falcons and run their record to 2-0. Steve McNair was brilliant, going 19-of-26 for 254 yards and two touchdowns and Eddie George continued his hot start from Week 1, rushing for 122 yards and two touchdowns. Matt Ryan hit Julio Jones for a 90-yard touchdown in the second quarter and wound up with 334 yards on 36 attempts but two costly interceptions (and Tramon Williams wasn’t even involved in the game. Huh).

1990 Buffalo Bills (2-0) 20, 1964 Cleveland Browns (0-2) 14

Jim Kelly was the model of efficiency, going 12-of-16 for 193 yards and three touchdowns and the Bills survived an incredible 20-play drive from the Browns to thwart Frank Ryan’s 4th-and-goal pass as time expired. Jim Brown went over 100 yards rushing for the first time in the season, but it took him 27 carries to do so. Still, Scott Norwood’s missed extra point in the second quarter (blocked at the line, for the record) gave the Browns a chance to win their home opener when they got the ball back on their own twenty with 3:14 remaining. From there, Frank Ryan led an agonizing drive, converting three third downs and one fourth down on the way to a first-and-goal at the Buffalo 8 with 20 seconds remaining. From there, though, the Bills defense stiffened and held the Browns to three rushing yards and two incomplete passes.

2005 Carolina Panthers (1-1) 33, 2009 New Orleans Saints (0-2) 20

The Panthers pounded out 258 yards on the ground and possessed the ball for more than forty minutes as they won their home opener and sent the Super Bowl champion Saints to a surprising 0-2 start. DeShaun Foster picked 113 of those yards (47 of them coming on one run) and Stephen Davis added 88 more and a touchdown. Steve Smith also caught six passes for 117 yards and a score. Reggie Bush scored on a 48-yard touchdown run for the Saints, but Drew Brees was ineffective, going 13-of-24 for 158 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs. And as in last week’s ’08 Cardinals-’05 Seahawks game, we witnessed an Eff-You field goal at the end of the game, as John Kasay kicked a 31-yard field goal with no time remaining to change the final margin of victory from 10 to 13. Does WhatIfSports know that this isn’t the BCS circa 2001?

1962 Green Bay Packers (2-0) 20, 1986 New York Giants (0-2) 10

Three costly Phil Simms interceptions plus a questionable coaching decision by Bill Parcells at the end of the game ruined the Giants’ home opener and gave the Packers back-to-back wins over Super Bowl-winning NFC East teams. Jim Taylor had two rushing touchdowns in the second quarter that proved to be insurmountable, but the Giants’ defense held the Packers sweep in check for the most part. Simms couldn’t get much going in the air for the G-Men, however, and Parcells made a questionable decision to go for it on 4th-and-goal from the Packers’ four-yard-line down by ten with two minutes left and two timeouts remaining. Ray Nitschke intercepted Simms’ resulting pass, effectively sealing the victory.

2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0) 15, 1999 Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) 10

Brad Johnson hit Ken Dilger with a 28-yard touchdown pass with 11:05 remaining in the game and the Buccaneers held the Jaguars to 228 yards of total offense as they improved to 2-0. Johnson was erratic but hit some big plays, going 15-of-33 for 248 yards, the touchdown throw to Dilger and one interception. A Michael Pittman fumble at the Buccaneers’ 28-yard line with a little over five minutes left gave the Jaguars a golden opportunity to escape with a victory, but quizzically they handed the ball off three times for a combined loss of two yards and Mike Hollis missed a 47-yard field goal. From there, Brad Johnson hit Keyshawn Johnson for a 25-yard pass that allowed the Buccaneers to run the clock out (and yet also try a 46-yard Martin Gramatica field goal as time expired. Alas, it was no good).

1989 San Francisco 49ers (0-1-1) 24, 2005 Seattle Seahawks (0-1-1) 24 (OT)

A tie? A TIE?!?!?! That’s right. Apparently trying to tap into the spirit of this year’s 49ers-Rams divisional rivalry, the 49ers and Seahawks played an exciting game for four quarters but then played not to lose in overtime and…well, accomplished that goal nicely. But they didn’t win, either. Joe Montana hit Jerry Rice with the game-tying touchdown from 10 yards away with 28 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter; Montana finished with 364 yards and three touchdowns on 38 attempts, Rice had 150 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches. Shaun Alexander’s 42-yard touchdown run had put the Seahawks up 24-17 with 11:05 remaining in the fourth quarter; Alexander ended up with 136 yards on 25 carries. And yet, despite 844 yards of combined offense, the only real scoring threat in overtime came on Mike Cofer’s 48-yard field goal attempt for the 49ers with 59 seconds left. Obviously, given the final score, it was no good and the 49ers cemented an incredibly disappointing start to their first two home games of the year.

1991 Houston Oilers (2-0) 41, 2006 Indianapolis Colts (0-2) 16

For the second week in a row, the Colts couldn’t stop ANYBODY from running on them and Peyton Manning played more like Ricky Manning Jr. as the Oilers demolished Indianapolis in their home opener. Houston uncharacteristically pounded the ball down their opponents’ throats and gained 262 rushing yards – three different Oiler running backs gained at least 70 yards. Warren Moon added 234 yards and two touchdowns on 24 attempts as the Oilers led by scores of 20-0, 27-7 and 34-10 on their way to a 41-16 victory. Peyton Manning threw for only 155 yards and one touchdown on 23 attempts.

1958 Baltimore Colts (1-1) 21, 1981 Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) 14

Meanwhile, the Baltimore Colts survived shaky field goal kicking from Steve Myhra for the second week in a row and earned a road victory in Cincinnati behind 250 rushing yards and three forced turnovers. Lenny Moore ran for 118 yards on only ten carries (setting two touchdown runs by Alan Ameche and one by L.G. Dupre)  and added 46 receiving yards on three catches. Johnny Unitas threw for 150 yards on 20 attempts, but the Bengals remained in the game because of two more missed field goals from Myhra, who missed all four of his attempts last week against the ’75 Steelers. Ken Anderson overthrew Charles Alexander on a pivotal 4th-and-goal play with 2:25 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Colts survived.

Tomorrow: We finish up Week 2’s action with the ’92 Cowboys visiting the Joe Namath-led ’68 Jets, the ’07 Patriots heading into Pittsburgh to face the ’75 Steelers, and two teams with one real-life loss between them (the ’76 Raiders and ’72 Dolphins) both trying to avoid 0-2 starts.

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