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NFL History

Belichick, Patriots again stalk history

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TOFN “5 Games” podcast: QB Ken Anderson recalls life with the Bengals, Paul Brown & Bill Walsh

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The all-time Michigan State NFL team

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Steve Atwater explains on Talk of Fame Networks’ “5 Games” podcast the impct he made as a rookie in Denver and how Wade Phillips’ use of him made it happen.

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The New England Patriots have a chance this season to achieve one of the few milestones that has eluded them in the Bill Belichick era – a third consecutive AFC championship, a third consecutive Super Bowl appearance.

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Anderson wound up passing for more yards (32,838) and more touchdowns (197) than any quarterback in his 1971 draft class. He won four NFL passing titles, two in the 1970s and two more in the 1980s, and was the NFL MVP in 1981 when he took the Bengals to their first Super Bowl.

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Bill Bates and Steve Tasker were two of the greatest special-teams aces in NFL history. Both retired in 1998. I asked them then what the toughest part of their job was and both gave me the same answer – convincing a new group of teammates each year that what they do on special teams is important.

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Steve Tasker was drafted by the Houston Oilers and spent a season and a half there before being waived. He was claimed by Buffalo where coach Marv Levy, one of the NFL’s original special teams coaches, had a plan for Tasker.

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By 1990, Mark Bavaro’s body was broken and the New York Giants were falling apart. But together they found a way to beat the highest scoring team in football and win a Super Bowl championship.

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Suepr Bowl XXI was the New York Giants first NFL championship game victory in 30 years. Mark Bavaro played a key role in making it possible with a TD catch but mostly with some crushing blocks that exposed the Broncos’ defense.

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The Spartans have produced two NFL receiving champions, Dick Gordon in 1970 and Muhsin Muhammad in 2000. Both Muhammad and Derrick Mason crafted 100-catch NFL seasons. Muhammad, Mason and Andre Rison all caught in excess of 10,000 yards in career passes.

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Fred Miller went to three Pro Bowls and started two Super Bowls for the Baltimore Colts. He was a seventh-round pick out of LSU in 1962. Leonard Marshall went to two Pro Bowls and helped the New York Giants win two Super Bowls. He was a second-round pick out of LSU in 1983.

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NFL historian John Turney of Pro Football Journal says the L.A. Rams might have the best defensive line interior today but they’ll have to go far to become the best ever.

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Penn State has had 23 linebackers selected in the first three rounds of NFL drafts – four in the first, nine in the second and 10 in the third. Nine of those linebackers became Pro Bowlers and two, Jack Ham and Dave Robinson, became Hall of Famers.

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Oklahoma also has produced 43 first-round NFL draft picks, including 14 Top 5 picks. The Sooners have had three players selected first overall in NFL drafts – defensive end Lee Roy Selmon in 1976, halfback Billy Sims in 1980 and quarterback Sam Bradford in 2010.

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Three times in his career Jimmy Orr led the NFL with his average per catch – 27.6 yards in 1958, 25.6 yards in 1968 and 21.7 yards in 1964. The NFL leader in 2017 was Detroit’s Marvin Jones at 18.1 yards per catch. Orr’s career average of 19.8 yards per catch is eighth best in NFL history.

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Rick Casares started the parade in the 1950s. Emmitt Smith, Neal Anderson, John L. Williams and Fred Taylor followed. Add James Jones, Errict Rhett, Lorenzo Hampton and, more recently, Mike Gillislee – and the University of Florida has become one-stop shopping for running backs by NFL teams.

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No one produces safeties like the University of Texas. Elliott is the sixth All-America safety from the school, following in the footsteps of Jerry Gray, Lance Gunn, Earl Thomas and Kenny Vaccaro. And the Longhorns have already produced six first-round picks at the position – Gray, Thomas, Vaccaro, Michael Griffin, Michael Huff and Stanley Richard.

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