WhatIfSports Duel to the Death Season: Week 6 (Part 1)

We’re already a third of the way through the Greatest of All Time season that we’re running through WhatIfSports’ sim engine and thus far, it’s safe to say that the ’08 Cardinals, ’91 Oilers, and ’00 Titans are all faring dramatically better than anticipated while the ’89 49ers, the ’76 Raiders and (especially) the ’72 Dolphins are all underachieving juuuussssttt a smidge. Of course, it’s a new virtual week – and a new virtual chance for all these virtual teams to change their virtual destinies for the better. VIRTUAL. This week, we’ve got six teams on byes: the ’52 Lions, the ’90 Bills, the ’69 Chiefs, the ’91 Oilers, the ’64 Browns, and ’05 Seahawks. For how everybody else fared this week, read on…

1975 Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2) 34, 1989 San Francisco 49ers (2-3-1) 31

Terry Bradshaw threw a ten-yard touchdown pass to Larry Brown with fifteen seconds left and the Steelers survived a late 49er rally with a closing minute comeback of their own to improve to 4-2. The 49ers had just taken their first lead of the game after Roger Craig scored on a three-yard touchdown run with 1:45 remaining, capping a 48-yard drive that started when Terry Bradshaw was intercepted by Johnnie Jackson. Craig’s score – his second of the game – threatened to overshadow a great performance by Franco Harris, who scored on touchdown runs of 11, 32, and 60 yards. But Bradshaw led a nine-play, 67-yard drive that included a huge 26-yard pass play to Frank Lewis to set up the game-winning pass to Brown. The 49ers still got into position for a Hail Mary, but Joe Montana (23-of-32 for 251 yards and a touchdown) couldn’t replicate last week’s game-ending heroics and the pass fell incomplete.

1962 Green Bay Packers (5-1) 57, 1960 Philadelphia Eagles (0-5) 3

Perhaps doubly angry over their home loss to the Bears last week and their real-life loss to the Eagles in the 1960 NFL Championship Game – the only playoff loss of Vince Lombardi’s career – the Packers took no prisoners and gave Jim Taylor enough holes to run through to become the first player in NFL history to run for over 300 yards in a single game. Taylor rushed for 316 yards and five touchdowns (tying an NFL record shared by nine other players) – or, in other words, 124 more yards and five more touchdowns than the Philadelphia offense had in total – on, incredibly, only 24 attempts. Scoring on rushes from 57, 10, 5, 6 and 80 yards away, Taylor also added a single receiving yard on one catch. THAT’S THE REAL STORY HERE. In other news: the Packers were ahead 44-3 at halftime and kicked an eff-you field goal with no time remaining to boost the final margin to 54. That’s right – they were angry. Also, the 0-16 watch for the ’60 Eagles officially begins now.

1998 Denver Broncos (4-2) 24, 1958 Baltimore Colts (2-3) 14

By comparison to Taylor, Terrell Davis’s stat line of 24 rushes for 236 yards and three touchdowns seems positively maudlin. But it WAS good enough to lead the Broncos past the Colts at Mile High Stadium and to a 4-2 record. Davis scored from 8, 50, and 2 yards away and also had a 62-yard run along the way. Raymond Berry had six catches for 126 yards and a touchdown for the Colts, but Johnny Unitas was inconsistent, going 9-of-18 for 154 yards while also getting sacked three times. Steve Myhra didn’t help the Baltimore cause, either, missing two chip shot field goals from 28 and 34 yards away.

1991 Washington Redskins (4-1) 20, 2007 New England Patriots (5-1) 14

Ricky Ervins rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown on only 11 attempts and Fred Stokes sacked Tom Brady on the final play of the game to stave off a late Patriots drive and hand the ’07 Pats their first regular-season loss ever. Earnest Byner added 85 yards rushing for the Redskins and Mark Rypien was an efficient 11-for-18 for 160 yards and a score. The Patriots, meanwhile, were denied on two different trips to the Washington red zone inside the last three minutes of the game. The first time, Wilber Marshall’s 4th-down sack of Brady (22-of-27 for 299 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions) wiped out what had been a 78-yard drive by New England and sent the ball back over on down to Washington. Then after a Washington punt, Brady led the Patriots back to the Redskins ten-yard line with nine seconds remaining but Stokes’ sack left the timeout-less Patriots with no chance to get another play off.

2006 Indianapolis Colts (2-3) 21, 2005 Carolina Panthers (2-4) 20

For the second week in a row, the Panthers found one of the most excruciating ways possible to lose as DeShaun Foster fumbled with fifteen seconds left at his own six-yard line, giving Peyton Manning one more chance to hit Marvin Harrison with a game-winning touchdown and send the Panthers to 2-4. The Panthers had just stymied the Colts from scoring on a sixteen-play drive when they held Reggie Wayne to a one-yard loss on a 4th-and-goal pass from Manning (24-of-37, 248 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT) from the four-yard line. With fifteen seconds remaining, the Colts had one timeout remaining but all the Panthers should have had to do was kneel the ball and walk out with a victory. For some reason, however, they chose to run the ball with Foster, who coughed it up and gave Manning a second chance he would take advantage of.

1981 Cincinnati Bengals (3-3) 26, 1968 New York Jets (2-4) 14

Ken Anderson was sublime, going 19-of-23 for 337 yards and three touchdowns and Pete Johnson gained 163 combined rushing and receiving yards on 21 touches as the Bengals comfortably sailed past the Jets, handing New York its fourth straight loss in the process. 74 of Johnson’s yards came on a touchdown catch from Anderson on the first play of the fourth quarter that gave the Bengals a two-score advantage and Anderson would tack on a three-yard touchdown throw to Steve Kreider later in the period to safely put the game away. Joe Namath hit some big plays in the passing game, throwing for 260 yards on 36 attempts but completed less than 50 percent of his passes and was sacked three times.

Tomorrow: The Purple People Eaters go up against the Monsters of the Midway; the No-Name Defense tries to slow down the Cowboy Triplets; and the nickname-less ’00 Titans try to remain the last unbeaten team in the league in a divisional clash against the equally nickname-less ’99 Jaguars.

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