Five weeks remain in the Greatest of All Time season and let’s just say that the virtual heat is being turned up a notch. Actually, on second thought, let’s not say that, that’s a really dumb turn of phrase. Anyway, the battle for playoff positioning is in the throes of passion right now and there’s only so much time left for fringe teams to make a run. Thus, these simulated and completely fictional games carry ENORMOUS WEIGHT this week. Let’s begin.
1992 Dallas Cowboys (9-3) 16, 1962 Green Bay Packers (9-3) 10 (OT)
Emmitt Smith’s 21-yard run capped a nine-play, 89-yard drive at the beginning of overtime to give the Cowboys a huge home win against one of their main competitors for home-field advantage in the NFC. The touchdown was Smith’s second of the game – he finished with 125 yards on 28 carries and Troy Aikman threw for 249 yards on just 23 attempts. The Packers offense essentially consisted of Jim Taylor – he ran for 169 yards and a touchdown on just 19 carries. Other than that, Green Bay only gained 91 yards on offense, including just 84 through the air on 21 attempts.
1973 Minnesota Vikings (4-8) 14, 1952 Detroit Lions (2-10) 6
Fran Tarkenton threw for 239 yards and two touchdowns on 27 attempts and the Vikings denied Detroit on a last-ditch 21-play drive at the end of the game to advance to 4-8. The Lions got the ball at their own two-yard line with a little over six minutes left after a masterful coffin-corner punt and proceeded to convert two third downs and two fourth downs to advance as far as the Viking 20-yard line. But from there, the Minnesota defense stiffened and Bobby Layne’s Hail Mary at the end of the game fell incomplete.
2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-4) 16, 2005 Seattle Seahawks (4-7-1) 13
Martin Gramatica kicked a 40-yard field goal with 21 seconds left and the Buccaneers maintained sole possession of first place in the NFC South by surviving the Seahawks’ upset bid. Shaun Alexander’s 63-yard touchdown run gave Seattle a 13-10 lead with 3:47 remaining in the fourth quarter. But a great kick return by [UNKNOWN PLAYER] gave the Buccaneers the ball at the Seattle 5…where they proceeded to throw three incomplete passes and kick a field goal to tie. After the Seahawks went three-and-out, Tampa Bay then drove 34 yards to put Gramatica in position to win the game.
1990 Buffalo Bills (6-6) 54, 1960 Philadelphia Eagles (1-11) 0
Perhaps a touch frustrated over losing five out of six, the Bills unleashed a fury often seen against the Eagles this season, rushing for an unbelievable 409 yards and scoring more points on defense than the Eagles…well, scored. Thurman Thomas rushed for 204 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries, Kenneth Davis scored on touchdown runs of 23 and 63 yards on his way to 114 yards on just six attempts…heck, even Andre Reed had a 53-yard run. Once again, I apologize to all Philadelphia citizens for not putting the 1980 team in this league.
1999 Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4) 42, 2006 Indianapolis Colts (2-10) 24
Fred Taylor rushed for 219 yards on only 14 carries, Mark Brunell threw for 154 yards and three touchdowns on only 13 attempts and the Jaguars racked up 35 first-half points on their way to another thrashing of the surprisingly poor and hapless Colts. Taylor scored on runs of 46 and 84 yards, the latter of which came with only 15 seconds remaining in the first half and gave the Jaguars a 35-17 lead going into halftime. Joseph Addai rushed for 145 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries for Indianapolis in a losing effort.
2000 Tennessee Titans (11-1) 28, 1991 Houston Oilers (6-6) 7
Steve McNair threw for 269 yards and two touchdowns on 28 attempts and added a rushing touchdown as the Titans finished the season sweep of their previous incarnation and moved to 11-1. Eddie George rushed for 104 yards on 30 carries and Denard Walker picked off Warren Moon twice (Moon threw three total interceptions). In the bad news department, however, the highly touted Del Greco vs. Del Greco heavyweight fight never materialized as ’00 Al Del Greco missed two field goals and ’91 Al Del Greco missed one. A shame. A real shame.
1991 Washington Redskins (8-4) 34, 1999 St. Louis Rams (9-3) 24
Mark Rypien threw for 168 yards and two touchdowns on just 16 attempts and Andre Collins added a pick-six of Kurt Warner as the Redskins led by as many as 21 and broke the Rams’ long winning streak. Earnest Byner added 145 combined rushing and receiving yards on 23 touches and the Redskins defense held Kurt Warner and the Rams’ passing game to 159 yards on 39 dropbacks. Marshall Faulk was splendid as always, anyway, gaining 114 rushing yards on 15 attempts.
1998 Denver Broncos (6-6) 16, 1976 Oakland Raiders (2-10) 13 (OT)
Jason Elam’s 21-yard field goal with 46 seconds remaining in the extra period gave the Broncos a home victory over their fiercest rival and moved them back to .500. Truthfully, Denver probably shouldn’t have needed overtime to get the win – they outgained Oakland 460-279 in total yards but turned the ball over three times, the last of which actually gave the Raiders a chance to win the game with a 51-yard field goal on the last play of regulation. Fred Steinfort’s attempt went awry, however, and the Broncos lived to fight in overtime, where they eventually took care of business. John Elway threw for 350 yards on 36 attempts but did have two interceptions; Ed McCaffrey, Rod Smith and Shannon Sharpe all had over 100 yards receiving. Ken Stabler threw two interceptions of his own but did tie the game with 25 seconds left in regulation with a six-yard touchdown pass to Ted Kwalick.
Tomorrow: The ’79 Chargers try to keep pace with the ’00 Titans in the race for home-field advantage in the AFC when they host the red-hot Chiefs; the ’86 Giants try to force themselves into the NFC wild-card discussion when they face the struggling ’85 Bears in Chicago; and the ’72 Dolphins try to make it six in a row when they travel to Pittsburgh to play the ’75 Steelers.