Mythical Super Bowl I – Defensive Players & Analysis

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Earlier this year we ran a series of “Pre-Super Bowl” articles which discussed the mythical matchups of AFL vs. NFL champions from 1960-1965.  In the midst of that run, guest blogger and author, Dave Steidel, volunteered to run simulations of some of those games, and then offered to expand his findings into a series of posts for Tales from the American Football League.  The result of Dave’s efforts are an in-depth look at Pre-Super Bowl I, or as Dave calls is, Mythical Super Bowl I 1960.  The week will begin with some background on the two teams, the Houston Oilers and Philadelphia Eagles, and transcend into play-by-play of the game and ultimately, the final statistics.  So get ready to enjoy the game that should have been played some 53 years ago!

EAGLES: Finished 7th overall in the NFL (13 teams) – 4 against the pass, giving up 152 yards through the air and 12th (out of 13) against the run, allowing 183 yards gained per game on the ground.

FRONT FOURTackles: Jess Richardson, still plays in the trenches without a face mask.  He is no nonsense, but only average against the run and lower against the pass.  Riley Gunnells is not as good as Richardson.  Don Owens and John Wilcox back them up.

ENDS: Joe Robb, is the Eagles strongest defender against the run and adequate as a pass rusher.  “The Swamp Fox” Marion Campbell, another average defender fills the other DE spot and 31 is the oldest on this line.  Youngsters Ed Kayat and Gene Gossage bring energy to the rush.  This unit is not the strongest part of the Eagle defense.

LINEBACKERS: Maxie Baughan, Chuck Weber and team leader Chuck Bednarik are all good defenders against the run but give up a lot of speed on pass coverage.  Bob Pelligrini and John Nocera are good back-ups against the run and pass.  This group’s main focus all year was to plug the line against the run.  With the NFL’s focus on running, Shaw built them to defend against it.  Of which they do a decent job.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Don Burroughs is the strongest pass defender of the lot.  He is often under-rated by the press but not opposing teams.  He had 9 interceptions on the year, which is more than twice that of the leading Oiler defender. Tom Brookshier is also an excellent pass defender who hits as hard as he covers. Bob Freeman and Gene Johnson are pretty much interchangeable.  Both are good defenders and capable tacklers.  Jimmy Carr is the strongest tackler of the lot, which says a lot because this group likes contact.  Carr is an above average defender.  This is the Eagles strength. By allowing only 152 yard per game they appear capable of neutralizing the Houston pass catchers.  But if the Oilers decide to attack on the ground Cannon, Smith and Tolar could be looking at a fulfilling afternoon.

OILERS: Finished 2nd overall in the AFL (8 teams) – 2nd against the run, allowing only 98 per game, but dead last in pass defensive, giving up 251 yards passing per game.

FRONT FOUR – Tackles: Orville Trask is a huge and imposing figure against the run but a bit slow getting to the quarterback, although he did register 8 sacks, tying him with Allen and Dan Lanphear for the most on the team.  George Shirkey, although not as big, is also a tough defender against the run.

ENDS: Don Floyd can close off end runs as well as anyone, he charges better than Shirkey but won’t hurry Van Brocklin that often.  Dalva Allen is as good as Floyd against the run and easily the strongest pass rusher on this front four.  Look for Dan Lanphear to see a lot of action in obvious pass situations as he is the best pass rusher after Allen.

The Oilers strength up front is against the run, and with the Eagles show little, if any running game, this strength may go wasted.  A strong pass rush is what Houston needs to take Van Brocklin and the Eagles off their game.

LINEBACKERS – Dennit Morris plays the inside position.  He has average speed and toughness but may be challenged against the Eagle passing game.  Mike Dukes on the outside is the same as Morris.  Not deficient, but not striking fear in Van Brocklin.  Doug Cline is one of a few Houston two-way players, he is adequate on defense. Hugh Pitts is another average defender against the run and pass.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Julian Spence is a good defender who can cover short and deep.  He is probably the best pass defender on the team and led the team with 4 interceptions.  Charlie Kendall is another good defender.  Mark Johnston is the best of the lot when taking the whole game into account.  Johnston is a strong tackler and spreads himself all over the field.  He’s a good pass defender who will be counted on to make the big hits beyond the line.  Jim Norton, Tony Banfield and Bob Gordon are all decent but sub-par when compared to the other three and not too strong against the run.  Individually this groups is good, but they allowed AFL teams a lot of passing yardage this year and the Eagles like to pass, pass, pass.   How well they adjust will be a key to containing the Philadelphia offense.


What is interesting about these defenses is that Houston’s defensive strength is pitted against Philadelphia weakest offense area, running.  And Houston’s weak defensive area is pitted against the Eagles strongest asset, the pass.  On the other hand, Philadelphia is strongest on defending the pass, which is Houston’s bread-and-butter, and an average Eagle defensive line goes against the Houston above average running game.  How well they are able to hold the Oilers in check on the ground could very well be the tell-tale story line of the game.

FRONT FOUR: The Eagles pass rush comes primarily from the outside with Robb and Campbell.  Houston’s strength on the offensive line is their head-up competition with Michael and Jamison.  The Oiler big boys should be able to handle the Birds.  Trask, Allen and Lanphear will bring the heat on McCusker, Smith et al.  But the Eagles have protected Van Brocklin well all year while being average line.  Could be they’d rather fight off opposing pass rusher than feel the rath from “Dutch”.  Against the run the Oilers are strong and should lock down Philadelphia’s runners fairly easily.  The Eagles front line has not been dependable against the run and will need a big game from Bednarik, Baughn and Weber behind the line to stop Houston’s backs.

EDGE – FRONT FOUR – HOUSTON, should control the Eagles average offensive line

LINEBACKERS – Bednarik is scary from the middle linebacker position and is flanked by Weber and Baughan who are both very good on the outside.  Pellegrini spells all three better than most so Philadelphia will need this group to step their game and help out the front four if they are to be successful at stopping the Oiler runners.  Houston’s backers small and slow, so if the Eagles do slip by the front four it could be trouble.

EDGE – LINEBACKERS – PHILADELPHIA is strong enough to jam up the Houston middle

DEFENSIVE BACKS – Eagles Burroughs, Brookshier, Freeman and Carr are good against the run and pass and could close down one or two receivers with strong coverage help.  Oilers Norton, Spence, Johnston and Kendall are not as experienced and have shown little ability to stop the better AFL passing teams giving up nearly 4000 yards and 28 TD’s through air.  Philadelphia would be an elite AFL passing team so this will be a key matchup for both teams.  Baughan and Weber are both good at help on double-teams so this could also help the Eagles cause in stopping the Oilers pass receivers. The Houston db’s will need to play a near perfect game to keep the Eagles receivers in check and cannot expect to get much help from backers Dukes, Cline and Pitts.

EDGE – DEFENSIVE BACKS – PHILADELPHIA, at the very least this is a standoff with the dangerous Houston receivers.  Again, the linebackers play for both teams will be key.

OVERALL DEFENSIVE EDGE – linebacking and defending the pass will determine the outcome of the game, in that regard PHILADELPHIA is better.

Todd Tobias (790 Posts)

Todd Tobias's interest in the American Football League began in 1998, when he wrote my master's thesis about Sid Gillman. He created this site to educate and entertain football fans with the stories of the American Football League, 1960-1969. You can follow Todd and get more AFL history on Twitter @TalesfromtheAFL.

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10 Responses to Mythical Super Bowl I – Defensive Players & Analysis

  1. 1967 says:

    Another intangible: any team that can beat the (nascent) Lombardi Packers in a Championship game gets my respect; was only one ever did – Philadelphia Eagles.
    By 1962 the Eagles were in a free fall but they had a nice little two-year run 1960-61.

    • Howard says:

      I watched a video about Lombardi. In it he said that sometimes a loss isn’t the worst thing. He told the Packers after the game that this would be the one and only time they would lose a Championship. They used that loss to measure what was needed to win.

  2. How are the simulations being run? Computer or board game? In the game APBA, the available pre-Super Bowl AFL sets (1962, ’64 and ’65) are heavily weighted toward the NFL and don’t really lend themselves to head-to-head games. That is, unless you allow that the AFL probably might not have been much more competitive than the Chiefs and Raiders in I and II. I can’t, for example, imagine the ’65 Bills giving the Packers a serious threat.

    • Tom says:

      You write you can’t imagine the 1965 Bills a serious threat to the Packers, I couldn’t imagine the 1968 Jets a serious threat to the Colts.
      After taking the helm in 1958 Buck Shaw revamped both the OL and DL and the addition of Baughn and Burroughs also lifted the the defense, with the Eagles going from 2-9-1 to NFL champs in 1960.

    • Dave Steidel says:

      Dave koch Sports – ACTION PC FOOTBALL is what I use. They actually do a pretty fair job of rating players, not leagues. I played ABPA table version for years and was always annoyed with their lopsided ratings of players. it seemed like back-up linemen in the NFL were rated higher than the better AFL ones.

  3. Paul Beaver says:

    Philly would be the favorite, but in the 1960 season they played in 9 (of 12) games decided by 10 points or less, and six were decided by 7 point or less.

    So, for Houston to win…they must stay close going late into the 4th Qtr, with George “Old Bones” Blanda, cranking up a final drive with him kicking a 33 yard field goal to win the game as the clock runs out.

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