It's been since April that I have had a free moment, so I apologize for the delay in getting back to this. For those that don't know, during March and April, I embarked on a non-sensical journey of playing a tournament using the What If Sports website, between the best teams that failed to win a Super Bowl. Here are the previous results:
the opening round results
the first round results from the Tampa/New Orleans regions
the first round results from the Los Angeles/Houston regions.
the second round results from the Tampa/New Orleans regions
the second round results from the Los Angeles/Houston regions
the regional semis and finals from the Tampa/New Orleans regions
the regional semis and finals from the Los Angeles/Houston regions
Today, we pick up with the Final Four teams: 1997 Green Bay Packers, 1967 Los Angeles Rams, 1968 Baltimore Colts, and the 1970 Minnesota Vikings. I wrote a little something about the Fearsome Foursome and its origins as it relates to the 1967 Rams, so I'll give a brief recap of the other teams before we put a bow on this series.
1997 Green Bay Packers: The only defending Super Bowl Champion to make the Final Four, the Packers finished in a tie in the NFC with San Fransisco 49ers at 13-3, and went on the road to win the conference championship at San Fransisco. They then lost to Denver in the Super Bowl, becoming the first NFC team to lose in that game since the 1983 Redskins. The Packers most infamously lost a game to 3-13 Indianapolis in which they surrendered a season high 467 yards, but that game awoke them, as they won their next seven games to reach the Super Bowl. Brett Favre was selected as AP MVP for the third consecutive year.
1968 Baltimore Colts: Johnny Unitas suffered an arm injury in the preseason, and veteran journeyman Earl Morrall led the Baltimore Colts to one of the greatest NFL regular seasons. The Colts' only loss came against the Browns in a game in which Unitas tried to come back and threw 3 interceptions on 11 passes. Playing in the tougher NFL Western Division, the Colts outscored their opponents by 258 points and avenged their only loss with a 34-0 drubbing of Cleveland in the championship game. Earl Morrall's Cinderalla season as NFL MVP came to a crashing end in the Super Bowl III defeat against the Jets.
1970 Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings followed up a dominant 1969 season in which they lost to Kansas City in the Super Bowl with an equally dominant 1970 season, when they lost to San Fransisco in a game in which the offense, and particular the passing game, let them down. The Purple People Eaters were at their peak in 1970, and Alan Page would win his AP MVP selection the following season.
Now, to the matchups. The first semifinal features the 1997 Green Bay Packers against the 1967 Los Angeles Rams. Here is the path that each took to the Final Four.
1997 Green Bay
Defeated 1976 Los Angeles 34-12
Defeated 2005 Indianapolis 26-13
Defeated 1996 Denver 28-26
Defeated 2007 New England 28-21
1967 Los Angeles
Defeated 2000 New York Giants 10-3
Defeated 1984 Miami 27-21
Defeated 2000 Tennessee 13-10
Defeated 1976 Pittsburgh 24-10
FIRST QUARTER: both teams exchange punts throughout the quarter, as the defenses dominate early. The quarter closes with the Rams facing 3rd and goal after taking possession in Packer territory. Tied 0-0.
SECOND QUARTER: Reggie White sacks Gabriel on the first play of the quarter to hold the Rams to a field goal. Later, the Packers go for it at the Rams' 35, but Favre is sacked, and the Rams get another field goal on the ensuing possession. The Packers manage to put together an extended drive right before the half, and get a field goal. Los Angeles 6, Green Bay 3.
THIRD QUARTER: The defenses dominate the third, as the Packers come up with a goal line stand inside the five to keep the game in range. The Packers take that momentum swing and move into Rams territory as the quarter ends. Los Angeles 6, Green Bay 3.
FOURTH QUARTER: Dorsey Levens scores the first touchdown at the start of the fourth. The Rams then go three and out and look to be in trouble, but a fumble gives Los Angeles hope. The Rams go on a lengthy drive, capped by Les Josephson's touchdown run with just under 3 minutes left. Favre is sacked on back to back plays, including fourth down, and the Rams add an insurance touchdown inside the two minute warning. The Packers add a late touchdown, but the onside kick is unsuccessful. Los Angeles 20, Green Bay 17. Full Boxscore
The second semifinal features two powers from the late 1960's and early 1970's. Here were their roads to Miami.
Defeated 1995 Pittsburgh 20-0
Defeated 1997 Kansas City 21-7
Defeated 1991 Buffalo 40-17
Defeated 1967 Oakland 20-12
Defeated 1980 Atlanta 28-6
Defeated 2005 Seattle 24-17
Defeated 1973 Los Angeles 15-7
Defeated 2001 Saint Louis 20-0
FIRST QUARTER: The Colts take the opening kickoff and put together an efficient drive, ending with a Jimmy Orr touchdown catch. The Vikings punt right away, and the Colts go on another long drive, ending with a field goal. The following kickoff is returned deep into Colts territory, giving the Vikings their first scoring chance as the quarter ends. Baltimore 10, Minnesota 0
SECOND QUARTER: The Vikings score on the second play of the quarter, then the defenses bear down and force several punts. Right before the end of the half, the Vikings tie the score with a field goal from Fred Cox. Tied at 10-10
THIRD QUARTER: Cuozzo throws an early interception, and neither team comes close to threatening after that, and the score remains the same.Tied at 10-10
FOURTH QUARTER: Neither team can do much offensively, but when Cuozzo throws his second interception at midfield with a minute left, the Colts move into scoring range. Lou Michaels attempts a 48 yard field goal, but it goes wide and the game goes to overtime. Tied at 10-10
OVERTIME: The Colts win the toss, but do nothing. The Vikings return the favor. On third down of the second possession, Morrall hits a big pass to Richardson that puts it across midfield, then Tom Matte breaks through the line on the next play to get inside the Minnesota 20.
The Colts center the ball, and the field goal attempt is good. Baltimore 13, Minnesota 10.
THE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
The final game features an old division rivalry. In fact, it was Los Angeles that knocked the undefeated Colts out of the playoffs in 1967 with their final week victory.
FIRST QUARTER: Morrall throws an interception on his first pass of the game, and the Rams immediately turn it into a field goal. When Morrall throws his second interception one series later, the Baltimore fans collectively groan and begin to have visions of Super Bowl III. Los Angeles 3, Baltimore 0
SECOND QUARTER: The Los Angeles offense does nothing, but the Fearsome Foursome hold firm. With Baltimore threatening right before halftime, Morrall throws his third interception. Los Angeles 3, Baltimore 0
THIRD QUARTER: The Rams squandered chances to extend the lead, and Gossett's missed field goal keeps Baltimore within range. As the quarter closes, the Rams face a crucial third down at the Baltimore 36. Los Angeles 3, Baltimore 0
FOURTH QUARTER: Gabriel hits Jack Snow on the first play of the fourth for a touchdown on third down. Baltimore then finally puts a drive together, but in a move that sends stat guys reeling, Shula opts for a 33 yard field goal on fourth and one at the 16, trailing by 10 with 10 minutes left. Michaels misses it, and Baltimore is in trouble. The Colts do get the ball back a few minutes later, and aided by a personal foul and a Jimmy Orr catch, get into the end zone with 5:39 left. The Rams punt it back to the Colts inside the two minute warning, and it is downed at the 3. The Colts cannot get out of their end zone, and the Rams add a late field goal to seal the victory. Los Angeles 13, Baltimore 7
Congratulations to the 1967 Rams, and Rest in Peace, Merlin Olsen.