It Took 44 Years to Flip Benton : Pro football: Record withstood the test of some big-name receivers before Anderson shattered it.
When Flipper Anderson broke the NFL single-game record for receiving yardage with 336 yards Sunday night during the Rams’ 20-17 overtime victory in New Orleans, it was obviously a club record as well.
However, it wasn’t an easy one to break. Tom Fears couldn’t do it, and neither could Elroy Hirsch, Del Shofner, Jim Phillips, Jack Snow, Harold Jackson, Henry Ellard or any other accomplished Ram receiver over the last 44 years.
Anderson’s feat only magnified what a rather slow but gifted receiver did on a November day in Detroit in 1945.
Jim Benton, known as the Arkansas Traveler, gained 303 yards on pass receptions from Bob Waterfield, a rookie quarterback who would later be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
It was the year before the Rams made their move from Cleveland to Los Angeles, the first major league sports franchise to be established in the West.
Benton’s day was likewise historic. Consider:
--He broke the existing NFL single-game receiving yardage record held by Green Bay’s Don Hutson by 66 yards.
--He got his 303 yards with only 10 catches, compared to 15 for Anderson. Waterfield threw only 21 passes that day, completing 12, compared to Jim Everett’s 29 completions in 51 attempts.
--More mind-boggling is that Benton’s NFL record lasted 40 years before Stephone Paige of the Kansas City Chiefs broke it with 309 yards in 1985.
--Benton’s big performance came in a big game as the Rams clinched the Western Division title by beating the Lions, 28-21, on their way to the franchise’s first NFL championship.
An All-American at Arkansas, Benton began his pro career with the Cleveland Rams in 1938.
He was a contemporary of Hutson, a Hall of Fame end who is still regarded by many as the greatest pass receiver in NFL history.
Moreover, Benton and Hutson each grew up in nearby towns in Arkansas, Benton in Fordyce and Hutson in Pine Bluff.
Hutson went on to play for Alabama and gain fame in a Rose Bowl game against Stanford in 1935. Benton set a collegiate record in 1937 at Arkansas with 47 catches for 754 yards.
Their pro careers were intertwined. In 1945, Benton became only the second 1,000-yard receiver for a season in NFL history with 1,067 yards, an average of 23.7 a catch. Hutson was the first with 1,211 yards in 1942.
The Waterfield-Benton passing combination flourished in Los Angeles. Benton led the league in receiving in 1946 with 63 catches for 981 yards and six touchdowns. He retired after the 1947 season at 31.
At 6-feet-3 and 206 pounds, Benton was regarded as a tall end in his time.
Benton preferred to give the credit to Waterfield, once saying: “Bob can put ‘em anywhere with handles on ‘em. Why, whatever I do to get open at the last second, when I do, there comes the ball right where I need it.”
After leaving pro football, Benton coached for a while at Arkansas A&M.; He later owned some bowling alleys and then went into the oil business.
Now 73, he is retired in Pine Bluff but is still active as a dedicated walker and golfer.
The Rams have almost cornered the market on passing-related records.
Norm Van Brocklin still holds the league record for most passing yardage in a game with 554 yards against the New York Yankees in 1951. Fears is the NFL record-holder with 18 receptions in a game against Green Bay in 1950. And Dick (Night Train) Lane is the league record-holder with 14 interceptions for a season in 1952.
Now Anderson has joined such select company. To do it, though, he had to beat a club record that, in context, was way ahead of its time.