Tag Archives: Ben Dreith

Patriots History: Happy Birthday Richard Bishop, Sammy Morris

John Morgan
March 23, 2017 at 12:00 pm ET

Today’s installment of the history of the New England Patriot franchise includes seven birthdays. Most notable among this group for their play on the field are defensive lineman Richard Bishop and running back Sammy Morris. First though we begin with an original Boston Patriot who lived long enough to see the Pats win a Superbowl unfortunately did not quite live long enough to see the Pats win a Super Bowl.

 

Abe Cohen (3/23/1933-3/8/2001)
Uniform #62
Cohen attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, competing on the Mocs’ football and wrestling teams. In 1954 he won his conference’s weight class as a wrestler. A year later Cohen was drafted late (26th round, 306th overall) by the New York Giants, but never played for them. After two years of military service Cohen spent two seasons with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Canadian Football League.

In 1960 Cohen joined the fledgling American Football League with the Boston Patriots under head coach Lou Saban. Though not a starter Cohen appeared in all 14 games for the Pats that year, backing up Charley Leo and Jack Davis at guard. Cohen was inducted in to the UT-Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame in 1990 and to his native Luzerne County (PA) Sports Hall of Fame in 1992.

Chattanooga Football Media Guide

Bolling Air Base Wins 1957 Shrimp Bowl

Jews In Sports – Abe Cohen

Abe Cohen Obituary

Luzerne County Sports Hall of Fame

 

Richard Bishop (3/23/1950-9/2/2016)
Uniform #64
After high school Bishop spent two years in junior college before transferring to Louisville. He was selected in the 5th round of the 1974 draft by Cincinnati but never played for the Bengals. Bishop spent two seasons in the Canadian Football League with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Ottawa Rough Riders before finally signing with the Patriots as a free agent at the age of 26 in 1976.

Bishop was an impact player as a rookie, helping the Pats make the playoffs for the first time in thirteen years. He played a major role in one of the most famous (or more appropriately, infamous) plays in franchise history. That ’76 team was a juggernaut, finishing the season on a six-game winning streak. The offense averaged 27 points per game and 5.0 yards per carry and the defense was equally productive, forcing 50 turnovers. The Patriots won the division made the playoffs as an 11-3 wild card team, and met Oakland in the playoffs; the Pats had pummeled the Raiders earlier in the year, 48-17.

The officiating in the game was a travesty. Oakland was permitted to get away with one non-call after another. All world tight end Russ Francis was the primary target for the Raiders. On one play George Atkinson broke Francis’ nose with no flag thrown, and on another key play he was so blatantly held by Phil Villapiano that he could not raise either arm – again with no penalty called.

The non-call led to a long missed field goal with the Patriots up by four with four minutes remaining. Oakland drove but after a Mel Lunsford sack and two incompletions the Raiders were faced with a 3rd-and-18. The defensive play call was for a stunt with Bishop drawing defenders and leaving an open lane for Ray Hamilton. Ken Stabler got the pass off just as he was about to be sacked, but Ben Dreith flagged Hamilton for roughing the passer even though replays showed that was the incorrect call.

Back to Richard Bishop. He was a very solid player for the Pats, appearing in 86 games with 50 starts from 1976-81. While he is not a member of the Patriots All-Decade Team of the 1970’s, to me he was good enough to earn at least an honorable mention.

In 2014 Bishop was one of fifteen players to file a federal lawsuit against the NFL for negligence and purposeful concealment of knowledge that a direct relationship existed between concussions and the development of brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, dementia and ALS. Richard Bishop passed away six months ago at the age of 66.

 

Mark Buben, 60 (3/23/1957)
Uniform #63
After an outstanding collegiate career at Tufts, the Auburn MA native remained local and joined the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 1979. He made the roster his rookie season as a backup defensive end and special teams player, appearing in all sixteen games. After spending all of 1980 on Injured Reserve Buben again appeared in all 16 games, this time with four starts. His 49 yard interception return was a key play in New England’s week 5 victory over the Chiefs, one of the few bright spots of that disappointing season for the Patriots.

Buben signed with the Browns in 1982 and then played in the USFL for four years. He still holds school records at Tufts for sacks in a single season and career.

 

Jason Staurovsky, 54 (3/23/1963)
Uniform #4
Staurovsky’s path to becoming a kicker was unique. At the University of Tulsa he went from team manager to kicker, and he eventually set a school record with 53 field goals. Like many kickers he was not drafted and had tryouts with multiple teams. In 1987 he was signed for two games with the Cardinals as a replacement player, and a year later he was in Boston to try out for the New England Steamrollers of the Arena Football League. While there he asked for, and received a workout for the Patriots. The Pats had drafted Teddy Garcia in the fourth round but up to that point he had been awful. Raymond Berry liked what he saw – Staurovsky made 22 of his 23 attempts – but was not yet ready to pull the plug. Soon after Berry could not take any more of Garcia (he finished the season making just six out of 13 field goal attempts) and signed Staurovsky.

Greg Davis replaced Staurovsky as the kicker in 1989 but when he came down with food poisoning Staurovsky was re-signed for the last half of the season, making 14 of 17 kicks. In 1990 he finally remained on the roster for the full season – remaining upbeat despite what was happening around him – and was the sole kicker in training camp in 1991. Late in the season he pulled his quad muscle and was placed on IR. New England signed Charlie Baumann and stuck with him the following year, and Staurovsky’s career with the Pats was over. In 40 games with the Patriots he kicked 50 field goals, which at that time was fourth most in team history. A 1990 50-yard field goal was the longest in franchise history at the time; that record stood for twelve years before Adam Vinatieri booted a 57-yarder in 2002.

 

Scott Lockwood, 49 (3/23/1968)
Uniform #40
The running back was an 8th round pick (204th overall) in 1992, which was Dick MacPherson’s final year as head coach. He was mostly used on special teams, but did have 35 rushes for 162 yards (4.6 yards per carry). He appeared in two games for Bill Parcells in ’93 and also spent time in NFL Europe.

For more on Lockwood, including his days at USC and his post-football career, check out this article. As is often the case with bottom of the roster players Lockwood bounced around quite a bit.

Where are they now – Scott Lockwood

“Drafted by New England in the eighth round (when they had eight rounds) after the 1991 season,” Lockwood answers, “then traded to Detroit, then they waived me, picked up again by New England, then moved on to Seattle before being injured and going on IR,” Lockwood says.

Wow, lots of back and forth over your career?

“That was the first eight weeks,” Lockwood says with a laugh. Yes, his NFL career was an interesting, and something of a whirlwind time for the 196-pound running back and special teams guy who could fly. His best times were a 10.54 100 meters and a 4.34 in the 40.

“We could all run on those USC teams.”

 

Sammy Morris, 40 (3/23/1977)
Uniform #34
Morris joined the Patriots in 2007 at age 30 after four years in Buffalo and three in Miami. The running back teamed with Laurence Maroney and Kevin Faulk in the Pats backfield but appeared in only six games, landing on IR with a chest injury. The following year he led the Pats in rushing yardage (727 yards) and rushing touchdowns (7), averaging a healthy 4.7 yards per carry. In 2009 Maroney received the most playing time and Morris’ playing time dwindled as he had only 92 touches, gaining 499 yards from scrimmage. The following season he saw even less playing time with the additions of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead. Although he appeared in all 16 games Morris had noticeably slowed down and he had just 20 carries in his final year with the Patriots.

Sammy Morris finished with 1,486 yards rushing for the Patriots, which ranks 22nd in team history. Morris also ran for 12 touchdowns, which ranks 23rd in New England history. Over his 12-year NFL career he totaled 4,311 yards from scrimmage and 27 touchdowns. Since hanging up his cleats he has worked as a comedy writer and joined the coaching staff at Attleboro High School as the Special Teams Coordinator and Running Backs Coach.

 

I could find only one March 24 Patriot birthday, so I will insert it here.

Don McComb, 83 (3/24/1934)
Uniform #85
Unfortunately I found very little information on McComb other than a single line in some old newspaper clippings from his college days. At 6’4″ and 240 lbs he was big for his time, but his pro career consisted of one game at defensive end in 1960 for the Patriots. Prior to that he attended Villanova and he was drafted by the Giants in the 21st round (249th overall) of the 1956 NFL draft.

 

Last but not least it is worth noting that on March 22, 1971 the team officially became known as the New England Patriots. For a brief period of time Billy Sullivan declared the team would be known as the Bay State Patriots, a jab at the City of Boston over failed negotiations to build a football stadium there. Problem was that Sullivan had not considered the initials of the team would be the BS Patriots, and thankfully the NFL rejected the name change. A month later the club was renamed the New England Patriots.

Making A Case for Chuck Fairbanks for the Patriots Hall

Steve Balestrieri
April 5, 2016 at 6:00 am ET

 

Fairbanks built strong Patriots teams thru the Draft and is Worthy

The Nomination Committee for the Patriots Hall of Fame will meet on Wednesday and begin deliberations for the final three names for the fans to vote on for the next member of the Hall.

With the early 2000’s Super Bowl teams’ members now retired and eligible, there will be plenty of names to pick thru and all of them are deserving. This piece is being written because while most of the fans who will vote are too young to remember anything but success, the Patriots had some very dark years and those of us who lived thru them know and appreciate the teams of today.

But there was a brief lull in the doldrums of the mid-to-late 60’s and before the Super Bowl team of 1985 and that was during the tenure of Chuck Fairbanks. Fairbanks was lured away from Oklahoma where the Sooners had become a national power under his watch to take over the worst team in football. While at Norman, Fairbanks’ teams were 52-15-1 and had a couple of powerhouse teams that won back-to-back Sugar Bowls in 1971-72 before leaving for Foxboro. He coached Heisman Trophy winner Steve Owens during his tenure.

His 1971 team went 11-1 and ended up losing the “Game of the Century” to Nebraska. But that team rushed for 5196 yards and averaged a ridiculous 472.4 yards per game.

Changes Coming in New England: The first thing he did was fix a Patriots draft system that was pretty much broken at that time. In his first draft Fairbanks landed HOF OL John Hannah, RB Sam Cunningham, WR Darryl Stingley as well as NT ‘Sugar Bear’ Ray Hamilton. A year later he brought in LB Steve Nelson, RB Andy Johnson and LB Sam Hunt. The core of his teams in New England was being put together. Russ Francis and Steve Grogan joined the team in 1975.

His first season 1973, the Patriots were still playing with a majority of players from the old regime that had gone 22-61-1 in the previous six seasons. Fairbanks’ team started slowly at 2-7 before finishing in third place with a 5-9 record. But the culture was changing and Fairbanks was building a solid team.

He changed the Patriots defense to a 3-4 that was still used by Bill Belichick in his Super Bowl winning years. In an interview with Steve Nelson a few years ago, he said that the calls for that Fairbanks 3-4 defense were still relevant to what the Patriots were doing in the early 2000s.

The 1974 season started off with the Patriots on fire leaping out to a 6-1 record before a rash of injuries decimated the team. The highlight of that season found the Pats on the road at 5-1 facing a 5-1 Vikings team.

Fran Tarkenton scrambled for a late touchdown giving the Vikings the lead. He then tripped over a television cable, thinking he was tripped by Pats CB Ron Bolton. Tarkenton turned and fired the ball into the face of Bolton igniting a brawl. But Jim Plunkett led the Patriots to a game-winning drive, connecting with TE Bob Windsor who broke numerous tackles getting into the end zone. Windsor blew out his knee on the game winning play setting the tone for the rest of the season.

Fairbanks team limped to a 1-6 finish to end the season 7-7, their highest win total since the 1966 season. The following year injuries and poor play rocked the team and they fell back to 3-11 season. But that wasn’t to last. The ’76 draft added Pete Brock, Mike Haynes, Tim Fox and Ike Forte.

Running Juggernaut: Plunkett was replaced at QB by Grogan, Fairbanks installed a punishing running game that average 210 yards per game and 5.0 yards per rush. The Patriots offense was the 2nd highest scoring team in the league averaging 27 points per game. In back-to-back games they beat Pittsburgh on the road, then annihilated the Raiders 48-17 in Foxboro. The team was now one of the AFC’s best.

For the divisional round of the playoffs, the 11-3 Patriots had to go on the road against the 13-1 Raiders. This was the infamous ‘Ben Dreith’ game. There was (among others), the phantom ‘roughing the passer’ penalty on Ray Hamilton that wouldn’t even be a penalty in today’s NFL never mind 1976, which set the Raiders up for a winning Kenny Stabler touchdown.

That Patriots team was primed to win the Super Bowl. The Steelers were badly beat up and a shell of themselves where Oakland dispatched them easily enroute to a SB win over Minnesota. Oakland rushed for 266 yards in that SB without nearly the running game New England had that season.

Ownership Breaks with the Coach: The Patriots were no longer a joke of a franchise without a permanent home and a losing attitude. The 1977 draft saw Fairbanks bring in Raymond Clayborn, Stanley Morgan, Horace Ivory and Don Hasselback. Fairbanks was building a winner and instead of embracing his ways, the ownership cut him off at the knees.

Fairbanks promised John Hannah and Leon Gray new deals in 1977 as they were the anchors of the offensive line that keyed the running game. But the Sullivans nixed the deals. For Fairbanks, it was an omen that this relationship wasn’t going to end well.

The 1978 Patriots once again were one of the top teams in the AFC. They rushed 3165 yards and 30 TDs which is still an NFL record and averaged 4.7 yards per rush. They were the 4th team in scoring in the NFL with 358 points and the 1st in yards with 5965. It was arguably their best team, and yet the relationship between Fairbanks and ownership was hopelessly fractured.

After starting 11-4, Fairbanks accepted the Head Coaching job at Colorado. Billy Sullivan fired him and Ron Erhardt coached the team in the season finale, a loss to Miami. Then Sullivan brought Fairbanks back for the playoffs, with a home game against the Houston Oilers. Any chance the Patriots had at going deep in the playoffs was gone. They came out flat and uninspired and Earl Campbell ran roughshod over them enroute to a 31-14 thumping in the franchise’s first home playoff game.

Fairbank’s career with New England was over way too quickly, a mistake on the part of ownership to trust in his system that was working, especially with his drafting.

After he left New England, he coached at Colorado for three years, did one season as the Coach/GM of the New Jersey Generals and was fired by Donald Trump. He then retired to Texas where he occasionally was the guest of then Cowboy’s coach Bill Parcells as a consultant with the draft and during training camp. He died of cancer in 2013.

The chances of Fairbanks getting one of the three slots by the nomination committee are slim. The Super Bowl teams from the 2000s beckon and the voters, the fans, most of whom weren’t even born during that era will give zero chance of Fairbanks being selected. They should.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

New England Patriots Playbook – Sean Glennon, A Great Look at Pats History

Steve Balestrieri
October 17, 2015 at 9:50 am ET

Inside the Huddle for the Greatest Plays in Patriots History should be required reading

Patriots playbook

There are a couple of super new books that will be of great interest for Patriots fans out there and as we get a chance we’ll review them, we will get the word out for some of the best and entertaining reads.

One of the books we’ve been waiting for is Sean Glennon’s newest work, “The New England Patriots Playbook: Inside the Huddle for the Greatest Plays in Patriots History” put out by Triumph Books.

Glennon should be well known to Patriots fans; this is his fourth book on the Patriots and his last one, Tom Brady vs the NFL, The Case for Football’s Greatest Quarterback was an outstanding effort. Glennon is also very active on Twitter and has been quite visible during the latest Brady vs the NFL goings on with the Deflategate fiasco.

Glennon’s latest work takes one on journey back to some of the most memorable plays, both good and bad in Patriots history. It is started off with a forward from Patriots Hall of Fame linebacker Steve Nelson. Nellie recounts some of his biggest memories including the infamous phantom roughing the passer penalty in the 1976 playoff game against the Oakland Raiders, the “Ben Dreith Game”.

Of course everyone knows the Malcolm Butler interception against the Seahawks in last season’s Super Bowl but more youthful Pats fans may not remember Jim Nance’s 65-yard touchdown run against the Bills in 1966 or when the Patriots shocked the back-to-back Super Bowl Champion Dolphins on the opening weekend of 1974 behind 5’5, 170 pound Mack, “Mini-Mack” Herron.

Of course there are numerous plays that take place in the Patriots dynasty of the Bill Belichick era including perhaps the most clutch kick in NFL history, Adam Vinatieri’s 45 yard field goal in a blizzard in the old stadium in January 2002 that tied the game and sent it into overtime. Of course Vinatieri had his memorable kick in the Super Bowl against the Rams that upset the “Greatest Show on Turf”.

Tom Brady’s overtime pass to Troy Brown for an 82-yard touchdown in 2003 put the Patriots in the divisional driver’s seat that they haven’t  vacated over a decade later.  Brown also had the fumble strip of Marlon McCree after McCree’s interception of Tom Brady that led to an improbable Patriots playoff victory over the San Diego Chargers in 2006.

That game led to a wild Patriots celebration at midfield that incensed Bolts running back LaDanian Tomlinson. The Patriots mimicked Shawne Merriman’s “Lights Out” sack dance following the victory. Tomlinson took great exception saying the Patriots “showed no class…maybe it comes from their head coach.” It is fitting that he bandied about the class word…since the Patriots taunted the Bolts with a dance, that San Diego taunted its opponents with all season….hello pot, meet kettle.

Rodney Harrison’s interception to seal the Super Bowl against the Eagles in the Patriots third championship in three years is a personal favorite. Harrison was an integral part of the Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX and brought a level of toughness to the Patriots secondary.

Of course no book on the Patriots successes is complete without a bunch of references to destroying the Colts Super Bowl dreams time after time. The Tom Brady – Peyton Manning rivalry has been notoriously one-sided, even after his move to Denver. But the Colts stories have a nice lead-in to this week’s game in Indy.

There’s even a chapter at the end of the book with all of the heartbreakers that the team has suffered in its 55-year history….and there are many. David Tyree’s Velcro helmet catch, the blowout in the 1985 Super Bowl to the Bears, the infamous 4th & 2 call against the Colts….they’re all here.

There are just too many stories here to list all of them, but die-hard Patriots fans will love this book, it is a guaranteed great gift for the football fan and one that will be thumbed through every time a discussion begins on, “Hey, do you remember when…”

Glennon’s latest book is another touchdown for him as he sets the bar even higher for his next work…it can be found in major bookstores or ordered on-line from Amazon.com here:

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.