WhatIfSports Duel to the Death Season: Week 5 (Part 1)

Only three undefeated teams remain after the first four weeks of the Greatest of All Time season and two of those three are in action today as Week 5 gets virtually underway. The ’07 Patriots take their undefeated record back in time to 1986, where they meet a young Darth Hoodie who is only just beginning to learn about the efficacy of videotaping other teams. The other undefeated team remaining from the AFC, the ’00 Titans, travel to Denver to take on the 3-1 Broncos. How high is the virtual bounty that Gregg Williams put on Terrell Davis and will it be enough incentive for his Titans to wreck a MVP running back’s knees? All those questions and more will be answered in this week’s edition of the WhatIfSports Duel to the Death season!

Bye teams: 1958 Colts, 1991 Redskins, 1973 Vikings, 1979 Chargers

1952 Detroit Lions (2-3) 37, 1960 Philadelphia Eagles (0-4) 3

The decision to include the 1960 Eagles over the 1980 squad or one of the early ’00s teams keeps looking dumber and dumber, as the Lions ran all over the Eagles for 312 yards and five touchdowns and dropped Philadelphia to 0-4. Bob Hoernschemeyer ran for 174 yards and three of those five touchdowns and achieved all that on only fifteen attempts. Bobby Layne only threw for 63 yards on twelve attempts but rushed for 57 yards and a touchdown on nine attempts. The Eagles were a miserable 6-for-21 on combined third and fourth down attempts.

1972 Miami Dolphins (1-4) 14, 1981 Cincinnati Bengals (2-3) 7

Larry Csonka ran for the go-ahead touchdown from four yards away with 7:10 remaining and the ’72 Dolphins finally picked up their first win of the season at the hands of the Bengals. In traditional Dolphin style, the Miami running game dominated the game, with Mercury Morris rushing for 114 yards and a touchdown and Csonka adding 77 more yards. The Bengals held a 7-0 halftime lead thanks to Pete Johnson’s 11-yard run with 25 seconds left in the first half, but Ken Anderson’s struggles (14-of-26, 125 yards and an interception) impeded Cincinnati’s further attempts at scoring.

1999 St. Louis Rams (4-1) 55, 1964 Cleveland Browns (0-5) 28

The Rams picked up 535 yards of offense and scored 31 points in the second half to blow out the ’64 Browns in Cleveland and improve to 4-1. As you might expect, there were stars aplenty on the St. Louis offense. Kurt Warner went 19-of-26 for 284 yards and four touchdowns (112 of those yards and two of the touchdowns going to Isaac Bruce) and Marshall Faulk added 193 yards and three rushing touchdowns on just 17 attempts. Jim Brown’s surprisingly mediocre season continued, as he was held to 82 yards and a touchdown on 21 attempts (he did add 48 yards on four catches). Ernie Green was the lone bright spot for the Browns, scoring two touchdowns and gaining 131 combined rushing and receiving yards on only eleven touches.

1989 San Francisco 49ers (2-2-1) 30, 2008 Arizona Cardinals (3-2) 27

Seldom-used fourth-string wide receiver Terry Greer caught a 47-yard Hail Mary pass from Joe Montana with no time remaining and the 49ers used the final of their three fourth quarter touchdowns to escape from another great performance by Kurt Warner and get back to .500. Warner went 18-of-26 for 290 yards and two touchdowns and when Edgerrin James scored from eight yards away early in the third quarter, the Cardinals had a 20-7 lead. The 49ers went on to score 17 unanswered points, however, capped when Terrence Flagler ran the ball in from eight yards out with 4:40 left in the game. Still, it appeared that an Arizona victory was still IN THE CARDS (hahaha…what a joke, Nathaniel!) when Warner capped a five-play, 89-yard drive with a 48-yard touchdown throw to Jerheme Urban with 36 seconds remaining. Of course, Joe Montana (18-of-27, 260 yards, three touchdowns) is pretty clutch himself…

2000 Tennessee Titans (4-0) 16, 1998 Denver Broncos (3-2) 9

Steve McNair threw a go-ahead touchdown to Chris Sanders from 41 yards away with 7:39 remaining and the Titans’ defense limited the Broncos to just 181 yards of offense in Denver. Eddie George had a rough game on the ground, gaining only 61 yards on 21 carries but had a 56-yard catch and wound up with 144 combined rushing and receiving yards. The Broncos were handed a golden opportunity with five minutes remaining when McNair threw an interception to Neil Smith (who presumably did his baseball swing dance afterwards) that gave Denver the ball at the Tennessee 29. The Titans went on to stop the Broncos on four straight running plays, though, and improve to 4-0.

2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-1) 20, 2009 New Orleans Saints (1-3) 6

Brad Johnson was an efficient 16-for-21 for 157 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions and the Buccaneers shook off their first loss of the season with a road win in New Orleans. Keenan McCardell and Keyshawn Johnson were the recipients of Johnson’s touchdown throws and, defensively, Ellis Wyms sacked Drew Brees three times. The high-powered Saints offense, which scored over 500 points in 2009, could only manage 161 total yards against the fearsome Bucs defense.

2007 New England Patriots (5-0) 31, 1986 New York Giants (1-4) 10

Tom Brady threw four touchdown passes and the Patriots became the first team to get to five wins as they blew out the Giants in New Jersey. Brady’s overall stats were relatively unimpressive (11-of-21, 138 yards), but Laurence Maroney added 75 yards on the ground and Wes Welker caught two touchdown passes as the Patriots scored the first 21 points of the game and were in firm control the entire way. Meanwhile, Giants defensive coordinator Bill Belichick did a decent job keeping the Patriots’ record-breaking offense in check (Lawrence Taylor had a hand in that, picking up two sacks on Brady), but Phil Simms’ struggles continued as he went only 12-of-28 for 178 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.

Tomorrow: Peyton Manning and the ’06 Colts try to pick up their first victory of the season when they play the 2012 Falcons; the ’90 Bills try to prove they belong on the same field as the ’92 Cowboys; and the ’85 Bears and ’62 Packers meet at Lambeau for one of the best rivalry games of the year.

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