Alex Smith follows Bob Windsor
Lost in all the hoopla surrounding the Bucs historic comeback at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday afternoon was the courageous catch made by Alex Smith on the game-tying two-point conversion.
In a game that saw the longest kickoff return in team history, Antonio Bryant making clutch catches, Earnest Graham throwing a touchdown pass and the Buccaneer defense shutting out the Chiefs consistently with the game on the line, it was Alex Smith’s catch that will be most memorable for me.
When Smith caught the ball he ended up being doubled over by a Chief defender, bending his leg at an awkward angle. Ignoring the pain, Smith was still able to focus on keeping the ball in his possession long enough for the officials to rule the two-point conversion successful. I have to admit I found the play impressive as if my leg bent at that angle I would probably swallow my tongue much less hold on to a game-tying pass.
Smith’s heroics were Tampa Bay’s answer to Bob Windsor. “Who in the heck is Bob Windsor?” you may rightfully ask.
Bob Windsor was a tight end for San Francisco and New England from the late 60’s to 1975. For the most part he was an average tight end, but he lasted for a decade playing one of the game’s most demanding positions. The reason why Windsor is remembered by Boston-area fans (and amateur NFL historians who spend entirely too much time reading old newspapers) is because he executed possibly the gutsiest game-winning play in NFL history.
In 1974 the Patriots were playing the Minnesota Vikings in a game at old Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington. Late in the fourth quarter the Patriots were trailing 14-10 when Windsor caught a short pass from quarterback Jim Plunkett.
As Windsor ran to the goal line seemingly the entire Minnesota defense stood in his path. Windsor plowed through the defenders, breaking several tackles and being bounced around like a pinball. At some point during the play Windsor felt a loud pop in his leg as it shattered. In extreme pain, Windsor gritted his teeth and kept plowing forward ultimately collapsing in the end zone with the winning points.
Sadly, Windsor couldn’t celebrate with his teammates and had to be carted off the field. In my memory I can’t recall another player scoring the deciding points in an NFL game with an injury that ended their season.
Fortunately, Alex Smith was able to make it to the sidelines and didn’t require the use of a cart. He got to see the end of the game from the sideline and not from a stretcher as Windsor did. Now Smith didn’t have to run on a bad leg or break any tackles like Windsor, but for my money the Buccaneer tight end cemented him status as one of the toughest players in team history with that catch.
Thirty-four years after the game against the Vikings, fans in the Boston area still know of Bob Windsor because of that play. I have a feeling in another thirty-four fans in Tampa will remember Alex Smith just as much.