Don’t Forget Sam “the Bam”

I’m growing weary of TV broadcasters comparing LeGarrette Blount to Corey Dillon and the 2004 Patriots.

That’s fine for young dudes, like my 20/30 something sons and nephews.

I loved Corey too, and the likenesses are fair-but-when I see this 2013 Patriots team, I can’t help but dream  (a haunt really) of the ’76 Pats, with the big fella out of USC, Sam “the Bam” Cunningham, sharing duties with another amazing runner–Don Calhoun…(played by Stevan Ridley).

That was the year Howard Cosell picked the Pats to go all the way at the start of the playoffs.

I know because I was an avid follower of his radio program “Howard Cosell Speaking of Sports.”

It aired every morning on WBEC, as I washed up for school. (Taconic High ’77)

Sadly for our boys, they ran into bad officiating in their opening round against the Oakland Raiders.

Here’s the Wikipedia version of that nightmare.

The 1976 AFC Divisional Playoffs. This would become the infamous “Ben Dreith Game” as officiating became a major controversy with numerous questionable penalties. Bill Lenkaitis had not been flagged for holding all season yet was flagged three times in this game. No penalty was called when George Atkinson of the Raiders hammered Russ Francis in the facemask and broke his nose; Steve Zabel popped Francis’ nose back into place. There was also controversy over a Sam Cunningham run in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter where he went out of bounds; John Hannah claimed the sideline official moved the first down marker just before Cunningham went out of bounds, denying him a first down.[5] On the play following this Cunningham run, on 3rd and 1 at the Raiders 28-yard line, Steve Grogan changed the snap count to draw the Raiders offsides, but instead Hannah, Leon Gray, and Pete Brock all jumped offsides (“I should have known better,” Grogan said afterward). On the next play (3rd and 6) Grogan threw to Russ Francis but Francis could not raise his arms because of holding by the Raiders Phil Villapiano, holding so blatant that according to Francis, “(he left) bruise marks on my arm….when I saw Phil at the Pro Bowl that year, he came right out and told me he had done it.”[6] The Patriots missed the ensuing field goal attempt and the Raiders took possession. In the final minute of the fourth quarter Raymond Hamilton of the Patriots was flagged for roughing the passer against Ken Stabler of the Raiders on a 3rd-and-18 play, even though replays showed no roughing; Dreith said the call was made because Hamilton had hit Stabler’s helmet, but replays showed Stabler ducking away from Hamilton. Despite Patriot protests (Hamilton was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for his protests) the call stood. The Patriots stopped the Raiders on 3rd and 1 near the goal line but another personal foul penalty extended the Raiders drive, and on second and goal at the Patriot 1-yard line Stabler ran in the game-winning touchdown with ten seconds left in a 24–21 Raiders win. Patriot protests over Dreith’s call were such that Dreith was not assigned to work any games involving the Patriots until 1987.

What’s my point today?

I have no idea.

I just had to get it off my chest.

Go Pats!

Psst…check out number ’73 in this photo…if the O-line can stay nasty, like John Hannah always did, LeGarrette just might duplicate last night’s performance, twice more…and you know what that means…Howard called it.

Cunningham

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