1964 Buffalo Bills – As the Cookie Crumbles – Controversy and a Championship
Bills 34, Chiefs 17
The Buffalo Bills opened their season hosting the Kansas City Chiefs. What was billed as an early season test for both teams turned into a rout of historic proportions. Buffalo was also concerned about getting the season off to a good start. In their four previous seasons, their September record was a dismal 2-12-1
Pete Gogolak drew the season’s first blood 5:25 into the game. Buffalo drove to the Chief’s 3-yard line with their opening drive only to have the drive stall out. Gogolak nailed the 13 yard kick to give Buffalo the early 3-0 lead. The Buffalo defense shut down the Chiefs on the next drive, a theme to be repeated all day. The Chiefs ground attack , led by Abner Haynes and Curtis McClinton were stuffed in their tracks. Buffalo QB Jack Kemp moved the team deep into Kansas City territory. WR Glen Bass hauled in Kemp’s 10 yard pass to push the lead to 10-0 with 4:57 left in the 1st.
The Bills defense again did their job giving Kemp another opportunity. The Bills exploded for 3 touchdowns within 56 seconds. Kemp capped a drive hitting Elbert “Golden Wheels” Dubenion for a 6 yard score pushing the lead to 17-0. The ensuing Gogolak kickoff was muffed and fumbled by KC’s Charley Warner. Rookie Hatch Rosdahl, a two way player who backed up both offensive and defensive line positions jumped on the loose ball at the 18 yard line. After Cookie Gilchrist was stopped for a single yard, Kemp had his third TD pass of the day hitting Glen Bass again- this time from 17 yards. The streaking Bass eluded his coverage and was hit in stride as he cut across the field. 46 seconds after Dubenion scored, Bass’ tally made the score 24-0.
Pinned deep on their own 15 after the kickoff, Veteran Len Dawson made a huge mistake. Trying to get anything going, Dawson tried to unload a screen pass to his RB, Jack Spikes. Bills DE Ton Sestak immediately read the play and timed his move. Stepping in front of Spikes just as Dawson let it go in the flat, he snatched the ball and ran untouched 15 yards to the endzone. In the first 12:36 of playing time, the Bills had a 31-0 lead and had set the team record (which still stands) for points in a quarter.
The Buffalo front seven made life very difficult for Dawson and his running backs. The Buffalo offense put it in cruise control, even getting a bit sloppy as Kemp tossed 3 meaningless interceptions in the second half. After completing 7-12 passes in the first quarter for 150 yards, Kemp would finish the game with a lackluster 15-34 218 yard performance on the day. Cookie Gilchrist gained 54 yards on 14 carries. Dawson did manage a pair of 3rd quarter TD passes, but the game was over. Gogolak finished the game as he started it, nailing his second 13 yard FG of the game, and providing the final 34-17 score.
Bills 30, Broncos 13
Both teams defenses held each other in check with Denver’s Gene Mingo and Buffalo’s Pete Gogolak trading field goals- with Mingo nailing it from over the midfield stripe- a distance of 51 yards. Late in the first the opportunistic Bills defense struck. Safety George Saimes intercepted a Denver QB Jacky Lee setting the Bills up at the 49. The Bills then turned the offense over to FB Cookie Gilchrist. The drive ended with a bruising 15 yard Gilchrist TD run to make the score 10-3 on the first play of the 2nd quarter. Midway through the 2nd quarter QB Jack Kemp engineered another scoring drive. Elbert “Golden Wheels” Dubenion caught a 29-yard pass from Kemp, followed up with TE Ernie Warlick’s 20-yard reception. The drive would stall at the Denver 13 necessitating a 21 –yard Gogolak kick.
Denver jumped back into the game on a fluke play. Late in the half Denver’s special teams came through. Charlie Mitchell broke loose with a 55-yard return on a Paul McGuire punt setting up the Broncos on the Buffalo 15. On second and 11 from the 16, Jacky Lee looked for his future AFL Hall of Fame WR Lionel Taylor in the end zone. Under pressure from the intense Bills defensive pressure, his pass was well off the mark. Buffalo CB Butch Byrd tried to make a play on the ball for the drive-killing interception- but the ball bounced off of him and fortuitously to Taylor, who hauled in the lucky bounce for the TD. With 2:06 in the half the Broncos were right back in the thick of things at 13-10, despite a lack of any real offense.
Three plays into the third quarter, Lionel Taylor beat Byrd when he and Lee hooked up with a 49-yard reception. The Buffalo defense came through again and stopped the Broncos in their tracks, forcing another Gene Mingo long range FG from 49 yards to tie the game at 13.
Meanwhile, Kemp continued to struggle. After his 4th interception in a little over 2 quarters (and 7th of the short season) Bills head coach Lou Saban benched his starter for second year QB Daryle “Mad Bomber” Lamonica. Lamonica was given simple instructions- give it to Cookie. Gilchrist ground out yard after yard in the second half wearing out the Broncos defense and protecting the ball. Lamonica would only complete 2 passes on the day, but one for 39 yards to Dubenion set up the go-ahead score. Buffalo took the lead 17-13 on Gilchrist’s second TD of the game with 1:52 left in the 3rd- a 1 yard plunge.
In the final quarter, Denver could not run the ball, or stop the run either. Through the air, the Rookie CB found his footing and recovered from his early misfortunes with Lionel Taylor. After giving up the TD on the deflection and the early 2nd half bomb, Butch Byrd shut down Taylor- holding him to only 1 catch the rest of the way for 10 yards. Mingo missed a 36 yard FG attempt and that would be the last Bronco threat.
Bills RB Joe Auer broke free for a 21-yard run, then Lamonica completed a 20-yard screen pass to Gilchrist. The drive would stall, forcing a Gogolak FG. Buffalo’s defense led by Byrd’s smothering coverage came up big again and forced a 3 and out for Denver. The Bills then ground out one more score. Lamonica scrambled in from 8 yards out to score his first TD of he season to give the Bills the final margin of victory, 30-13. Gilchrist finished the day as the leading rusher with 20 carries for 92 yards, and the Bills as a team finished with 230 yards on the ground.
Bills 30, Chargers 3
The battle would pit the league’s most explosive offense against the stingiest defense. In Buffalo’s favor the Chargers were hurting- future NFL Hall of Fame WR Lance Allworth and the Charger’s leading rusher- RB Paul Lowe, were sidelined with injuries. But the Chargers were still the defending champions, and they were still dangerous. Rookie RB Joe Auer would start at halfback for the Bills- as Wray Carlton would also miss the game with an injury.
Charger QB Tobin Rote managed to move the Chargers well on the first drive of the game. RB Keith Lincoln, filling in for Paul Lowe, helped moved the chains for San Diego. Well into Buffalo territory, Bill’s rookie sensation CB Butch Byrd struck the first blow. Rote fired a short sideline pass that Byrd read perfectly. Byrd snatched the ball and ran unmolested 75 yards for the first score of the game 5:45 into the contest.
Buffalo then returned the favor in the second quarter for San Diego’s first score. Rookie Joe Auer coughed up the ball setting up a Charger Field goal. With Kemp again inconsistent – the Bills offense could not get any momentum. The Buffalo defense made it tough on Charger QBs as well. Rote was hounded and pressured by the Bill’s front four. Up 7-3 just before the half, the Bills again received a big play from another one of their defensive back rookies- this time from Hawgood Clarke. Clarke hauled in a punt near midfield and broke it 53 total yards for a 14-3 Bills lead.
John Hadl came in to replace Rote – and suffered the same fate. The two QBs combined to get sacked a total of 7 times for losses totaling 69 yards. They combined for a total of 13 completions on 33 attempts , 2 interceptions, for a net gain of a mere 118 yards. The Bills defense came and made a statement heard the rest of the season. The Bills offense wasn’t much better. Gilchrist churned out yardage, but by the 4th quarter Kemp struggled – going 8-19, 1 interception and garnering only 95 yards.
To start the 4th quarter, head coach Lou Saban called on Daryle Lamonica again to spark the offense. Immediately he paid dividends. While completing only two passes for the game, he connected with Elbert Dubenion twice – for 28 and 40 yards. The 28 yard completion set up Auer’s first career TD- a 2 yard run. The 40 yard completion to Dubenion with 24 seconds left in the game closed out the scoring at 30-3 Bills. Dubenion finished as the game’s top offensive star, with 5 catches for 123 yards and a score. Gilchrist had another workman-like day getting 84 yards on 21 carries. Buffalo’s defense finished the game with 7 sacks, they held the Chargers to 246 yards, and generated 3 turnovers.
Bills 23, Raiders 20
The Bills methodically moved the ball downfield on their first possession, but the drive ended with another untimely Kemp interception. Raider DB Tommy Morrow stepped in front of the Kemp pass at the 7 and raced 77 yards to the Buffalo 16. The vaunted Bills defense took over, albeit with some luck. One Oakland TD was called back due to a penalty, and another Easy TD reception was dropped by WR Billy Cannon. The Raiders had to settle for a 3-0 lead.
In the second quarter, Bills CB Booker Edgerson intercepted Raider’s QB Cotton Davidson thwarting another Raider threat at the Bills 27. Jack Kemp directed a 73 yard drive for a score just before the Half. Kemp tucked the ball away and ran it in himself from 9 yards out to give Buffalo their first lead of the game.
In the 3rd, the underdog Raiders took the lead again after a Cotton Davis 4th and goal 4 yard TD. It capped an 85 yard scoring drive that consumed 6:23. The Impatient Bills coach, Lou Saban, then substituted Daryle Lamonica for Kemp for the third consecutive game. The second year QB ignited the Bills offense on the ensuing drive. Lamonica gave the Bills a 14-10 lead on a 1 yard QB plunge capping off an 80 yard drive.
The 4th quarter saw a tough Oakland club refusing to go without a fight. The Raiders closed to within a point at 14-13 with a Mike Mercer FG. But Lamonica, building a reputation that would soon earn him the nickname “The Mad Bomber” struck on the ensuing drive. He would hit a streaking Elbert Dubenion with what would prove to be a back-breaker- a 44 yard TD strike. Then it was the Bills defense, which held Oakland to 250 yards that afternoon, who would salt the game away. On the ensuing drive, Ron McDole sacked Cotton Davidson in the endzone for a Safety, and a 23-13 lead.
The Raiders made the game close in the final 2:37. Buffalo Kicker Pete Gogolak’s 45 yard attempt was blocked by Raider DE Big Ben Davidson setting up a 4 yard TD reception by Jan Barrett. Oakland’s defense forced a Buffalo punt in the dying minute of the game. The Raiders would reach the Buffalo 37 but without time outs left, were unable to set up the tying FG by Mercer. Buiffalo would hang on for the 23-20 win.
Cookie Gilchrist was the Bills workhorse in the game, Gaining 178 total yards, 91 on the ground and 87 through the air. Kemp and Lamonica would combine for 299 yards passing.
Bills 48, Oilers 17
If there was an opportunity for a breakout game for Kemp, this would be it. The 2-3 Houston Oilers came into the game with 3 rookies patrolling their secondary- Ben Nelson, W.K. Hicks, and Pete Jaquess. The Bills had the perfect game plan. Saban wanted to pass, pass, and pass again. The result would be a career game for Kemp, and the Bills breaking a franchise record for total yards with 565 on 58 offensive plays.
Elbert Dubenion got the ball rolling with a 55 yard reception on the game’s second play. The result was a 1 yard TD plunge by Cookie Gilchrist. A fumble by Jack Kemp set up a Sid Blanks TD run by the Oilers to tie the game 9:11 into the first. Bills WR Glenn Bass, sparingly used since his big opening day on the season, had a breakout game. On the ensuing drive, Kemp hit Dubenion again with another long pass, this time for 45 yards. Just 1:46 after the Oilers had tied the game, Bass hauled in a 9 yard TD- his 3rd on the season giving the Bills a 14-7 lead.
In the second, Kemp’s hot start seemed to die off. Two interceptions halted Bills scoring drives. But the Bills defense got it back. Harassing QB George Blanda all game, they forced him to throw an interception to Booker Edgerson. Set up at the Oiler 19, Kemp struck paydirt hitting Dubenion on the next play for a 21-7 Bills lead. Blanda responded with a FG with 2:24 remaining in the half, but the Bills were far from done.
Ed Rutkowski of the Bills fumbled the ensuing kickoff falling on the ball at his own 4 yard line. Following a safe 1 yard run by Gilchrist, Kemp unloaded a bomb to the speedy Glen Bass who hauled in the over-the-shoulder pass and streaked for the longest scoring play in Bills history- a 94 yard bomb with 1:13 in the half. The Bills defense and special teams provided one last score. After a three-and-out by the Oilers, LB John Tracey cruised in unmolested on Oiler punter Jim Norton and blocked the kick- setting up a quick Pete Gogolak FG to close the half out with a huge 31-10 Bills lead.
Blanda tried to ignite the Oilers with a 53 yard bomb to Charlie Hennigan on the second play of the second half. But it was too little too late. Buffalo would score 17 more points in garbage time to close out the game 48-17. The offensive numbers were staggering. Kemp had a career high 378 yards on only 14 completions (a 27 yard per reception average) on 26 attempts, and 3 interceptions to go with 3 TD passes. Glen Bass finished with 5 receptions for 147 yards and a pair of TDs, while Dubenion finished with 5 receptions for 183 yards and a score. Cookie Gilchrist had 140 total yards- 92 yards on the ground to go with another 48 through the air and 2 rushing TDs. The Oilers would be held to a mere 137 total yards of offense.
Bills 35, Chiefs 22
The Chiefs defense was determined to corral the methodical and punishing Buffalo ground attack led by FB Cookie Gilchrist. Who had 404 yards and 4 TDs on the ground in the young season. Their hopes rested on forcing the inconsistent Kemp to beat them, and failing that, trying to get to Coach Lou Saban’s reliable reliever, 2nd year QB Daryle Lamonica to make mistakes. Plan A, stopping the run, worked. Gilchrist would be frustrated all day with his worst rushing total on the year. However, Plan B- stopping Kemp early, failed. The veteran signal caller led the Bills 80 yards on a long march, capping the drive with a 1 yard Kemp QB keeper to put Buffalo up 7-0 midway through the first quarter.
Buffalo’s staunch defense gave Kansas City and QB Len Dawson fits the entire first half. Nursing sore ribs coming into the contest, Dawson was harassed by the Bill’s front line of Sestak, McDole, Day, and Dunaway much like they did in the Bill’s home opener. Dawson’s day would end in the second quarter, driven to the bench and replaced by backup Eddie Wilson by Hank Stram .
Forcing the Chiefs to punt following the Bills first score, Kansas City’s punter Jerrol Wilson shanked the kick, setting up Kemp and Company again in excellent field position. On the second play of the second quarter, Kemp fired a 55 yard TD pass to Elbert “Golden Wheels” Dubenion giving the Bills a 14-0 advantage. Following a Kansas City failed 28-yard FG attempt, Kemp drove the Bills to yet another TD. Speedy WR Glenn Bass capped the drive with a 9 yard scoring reception sending the Bills into the half with a 21-0 lead. Kemp finished the half 10 of 12 for 195 yards, 2 TD passes, and a TD run.
Buffalo’s special teams came up big again to start the second half. Center Al Bemiller forced a KC fumble covering a punt putting the Bills on the Chiefs 22. One play later, Dubenion hauled in TD catch #2 on the day – and barely 2 minutes into the third the Bills looked to be cruising again with a 28-0 lead.
Hank Stram’s Chiefs refused to fold. On the ensuing drive, Kansas City RB Mack Lee Hill broke loose with a 53 yard run to put them on the scoreboard- but they failed to convert the 2-point conversion. Cookie Gilchrist’s tough afternoon got worse when he coughed up the ball on the very next play. Chief’s linebacker great Bobby Bell scooped up the gift and ran it in for another quick score- the Chief’s second in :13, bringing them back into the contest and breathing life back into the previously lethargic Chief’s home crowd. The Bills defense again held on the 2-point conversion, but the Chiefs had narrowed the gap to 28-12.
Six minutes later, backup QB Eddie Wilson hit KC RB Curtis McClinton with a 55 yard pass, following it up with another 25-yard completion to TE Fred Arbanas. The resurgent Chiefs drew closer when Wilson kept it himself on a 1-yard QB sneak closing the gap again to 28-19. Jack Kemp- who was brilliant in the first half, threw his third interception of the second half on the very next drive setting up yet another KC opportunity. Since hitting Dubenion for the 4th Buffalo score, he was 3-10 for 39 yards and 3 interceptions. The Bills defense held their ground, forcing a Kansas City FG. But Lou Saban had seen enough, and summoned Lamonica out of the bullpen again.
Trailing 28-22 with 7:34 remaining, Hank Stram had a tough decision to make. He was facing 4th and inches on his own 35. With a second string QB at the helm, and facing the stingy Bills defense, he rolled the dice and chose to go for it instead of punt. Stram called a QB option, rolling Wilson to the right giving him the option to keep it on the bootleg, or dump it off. Bills Safety George Saimes and CB Gene Sykes sniffed the play out perfectly catching Wilson alone in the backfield, dumping him for a loss. The Bills defense forced the turnover on downs. Three minutes later, Lamonica sealed the victory with an insurance scoring drive. Rookie RB Bobby Smith capped off the drive with a 4 yard run, making the final score 35-22.
Bills 34, Jets 24
Before 39,621 the Buffalo Bills actually got off to a slow start in the game for the first time all season. Early on, the Jet’s special teams struck first. Getting a piece of a Paul Maguire punt, the Jets began deep in Buffalo territory. DB Butch Byrd was then flagged for pass interference, giving the Jets first down at the 11. Jets QB Dick Wood drew first blood hitting WR Bake Turner with a 7 yard score 9:42 into the game.
Buffalo continued to have troubles with the Jet’s special teams. The Bills drove deep into Jet’s territory late in the first, only to have a FG attempt blocked by the Jets’ LB Wahoo McDaniel (Yes- the famous “Chief” Wahoo McDaniel- who went on to pro wrestling fame if the late 60’s, 70’s and 80’s). Bad luck continued for the Bills as Gene Syke’s 72 yard fumble return for a score was wiped out and called back due to a penalty.
On the next play, Jack Kemp and Elbert “Golden Wheels” Dubenion struck back for the Bills. Dubenion was having the best season of any WR in football in 1964- after 6 games he had 26 receptions for 678 yards for a stunning 26 yard average- and a TD catch in 5 of the 6 games played. He was saving the best performance to date for today. Kemp hooked up with Dubenion for a 72 yard reception. Unfortunately for the Bills, Dubenion was caught from behind and dropped at the Jet 5 yard line. Another untimely penalty stalled the drive as the Bills settled for a 12 yard Pete Gogolak field goal.
With 3:26 left before the half, the Jets took a 14-3 lead when the Woods to Turner connection hooked up again, this time for 12 yards. Kemp responded by leading the Bills down field in the 2-minute drill. The Bills took possession at their own 22. Three times Kemp tucked the ball away attempting to pass and scrambled for positive yardage- 34 total. At the Jet 44, Kemp again hit pay dirt with Dubenion- this time for 44 yards and Dubenion’s 6th TD on the year.
On the opening drive of the third quarter, Kemp’s first interception of the game gave the Jets a great drive start inside the Bills 30 yard line. Dick Woods found WR Don Maynard for a 15 yard score for a quick 21-10 lead. As head coach Lou Saban had shown all season, he was quick with the hook on his starting QB. However, back-up Daryle Lamonica suffered a similar fate on the next drive. The turnover led to Jim Turner’s FG midway through the 3rd, giving the Jets a 24-10 lead. It was the biggest deficit the Bills faced all season.
Kemp wasn’t the only Bills offensive weapon having a tough day. Cookie Gilchrist was shut down effectively by the Jet’s defense. He would finish the day with only 27 yards and a 1.8 YPC average. Rookie Bobby Smith picked up the slack in the second half sparking the Bills ground game. Lamonica connected with Dubenion for 24 yards and Ernie Warlick for 30. On the last play of the quarter, Smith burst up the middle and scored from 13 yards out to cut the deficit in half, 24-17.
Midway through the 4th quarter, Dubenion continued to torch the Jets secondary. Lamonica connected with him for a 56 yard TD that tied the game with 7:44 remaining. The Bills defense stuffed the Jets again. Holding the Jets to 245 yards on the day (and a mere 66 on the ground) , the Bills forced a 3-and-out and a Jets’ punt. Gilchrist, negated as a rushing threat, was still a threat as a receiver out of the backfield. With 5 receptions for 218 yards and 2 scores, the New York defense was trying desperately to keep Dubenion under wraps, leaving Gilchrist open out of the backfield. Gilchrist would finish with three key receptions for 59 yards. On the Jet’s 3 with 4:19 remaining, Lamonica kept the ball and ran it in himself putting the Bills ahead for the first time in the game, 31-24. A Pete Gogolak FG with :23 left in the game sealed the 34-24 win.
Bobby Smith finished with 98 yards on 12 carries. The Bills as a team finished 180 yards rushing despite Gilchrist’s struggles- and 526 total yards in offense. It was the second time in 3 games the Bills finished with 500+ yards on offense.
Bills 24, Oilers 10
On offense, the Oilers came out gunning. Houston was determined to attack the AFL’s top defense with an all-out passing attack that would rival their run-and-shoot offense 3 decades later. Oilers QB George Blanda would have his own record setting performance- shattering the AFL (and NFL record for that matter) with 37 completions on 68 attempts. Amazingly, with 93 plays and a total of 428 yards in offense, the Oilers could only manage 10 points on the stingy Bills defense.
The game opened with an Oiler drive into Bills territory. When the drive stalled, George Blanda attempted a FG. Bills DE Ron McDole came up with a big special teams play, blocking the kick. However, RB Bobby Smith gave the ball back with a fumble on the 35 yard line. Blanda capitalized on the rookie’s mistake by hitting TE Willard Dewveall for an 11 yard score 9 minutes into the game.
The Bills responded on their drive which consisted of healthy doses of FB Cookie Gilchrist and RB Bobby Smith. With the Oilers preoccupied with the defense of the Bills passing attack, the two backs seemed to grab yards in chunks 5 or 6 yards per carry. The Bills offensive line, spearheaded by future hall of fame guard Billy Shaw, Al Bemiller, Walt Cudzik, and Stew Barber opened up wide gaps in the overmatched Oiler defensive line. Smith capped the drive breaking a 37 yard run to the end zone to tie the score.
Blanda cranked up his offense again, spreading the wealth between WRs Charlie Hennigan, Dewveall, Charlie Frazier, and Charlie Tovar. Just 1:08 after the Smith TD, Blanda maneuvered the Oilers into Buffalo territory for a FG. It was the last points the Oilers would muster. However, they would move the ball on The Bills all day, squandering 6 scoring threats deep in Buffalo territory. In a scoreless second and third quarters, Blanda would miss 2 field goals and have Buffalo safety George Saims force 2 more turnovers. Saimes intercepted Blanda at the 5 yard line to kill one drive, and forced a fumble and recovered for another turnover at the Buffalo 3 yard line.
The Bills were content to keep things conservative to try and grind the clock down amidst the Oiler aerial assault. Jack Kemp would be forced from the game in the second quarter due to a back injury. Saban again tapped Lamonica, who had seen action in every game the Bills played to date, either in a mop up role or to spark the team.
Early in the fourth, Bobby Smith capped an 80 yard scoring drive with his second score of the game, from 3 yards out. AFL leading WR Elbert Dubenion had his only reception on the day to sustain the drive, a 15 yard grab. The relentless Oiler passing attack again drove deep into Buffalo territory. Trailing 14-10, Oiler coach Sammy Baugh chose to go for it on 4th down from the Bills 26. Blanda found an open Dewveall at the Bills goal line, but the steady TE had the sure score bounce off his hands. A disappointed Blanda threw his helmet off in disgust.
Then Gilchrist drove home the stake through the Oiler heart. On the next series, he followed a devastating Walt Cudzik block and cut inside. With backfield mate Bobby Smith running escort a few strides ahead, Cookie rambled 60 yards for the insurance score. The final Oiler attempt to get back into the game ended at the hands of Booker Edgerson. Edgerson stepped in front of Blanda’s pass at the goal line and rambled 91 yards to the 8. With :23 left in the game, Pete Gogolak nailed a 17 yard kick to make the final score 24-10.
Gilchrist finished the game with his best effort of the season, 139 yards on only 15 carries. Bobby Smith added 88 yards on only 14 attempts- with Kemp and Lamonica combining for another 48. As a team, the Bills finished with 290 on the day.
The 8-0 Bills were comfortably ahead of the 5-2-1 Patriots by 2.5 games for the division lead. However, the Bills would have to play 5 of their remaining 6 games on the road, and two vs. the second place Patriots.
Bills 20, Jets 7
This game was also a test for the American Football League as well. Normally, the AFL tried to avoid scheduling conflicts between the AFL Jets with the NFL Giants. But on this day, it would pit both New York teams against each other at home on the same day. The AFL passed muster- drawing the largest crowd ever to see an AFL game- 60,300. The Giants also drew a sellout crowd, as 63,0321 came out to see them lose to thew Dallas Cowboys. This attendance breakthrough gave Jets owner Sonny Werblin the impetus to take the next steps in bringing about more direct competition with the NFL. The Following year he would sign Rookie Joe Namath.
The previous encounter two weeks previous turned into the Elbert Dubenion show. Dubenion owned the Jets to the tune of 5 receptions for 218 yards. The Jets had plans this time around to stifle the AFL’s top receiver. What they failed to account for was Dubenion’s partner- WR Glenn Bass.
Jack Kemp was still suffering after effects of a back injury from the previous week and did not get off to a good start. The Bills drove into Jets territory only to see Kemp get intercepted at the 29. On the next play, QB Dick Wood hit WR Bake Turner with a 71 yard strike and a 7-0 first quarter lead. In a half reminiscent of last week’s game against the Oilers, the Jets practically gave up trying to run against the league’s best defense and chose to take the aerial route. Like last week, the results were similar. The Jets were able to move the ball between the 20 yard lines, but like the Oilers last week they were unable to score. Booker Edgerson and Butch Byrd each had interceptions stopping Jet drives in the shadow of their own goalposts. RB Matt Snell dropped a sure TD catch on the third Jet attempt to score. Buffalo blocked the ensuing FG attempt to keep the score 7-0.
After the blocked kick, Daryle Lamonica replaced Kemp. On the first play from scrimmage, he hit Glenn Bass with an 80-yard TD pass turning the tide in the Bills’ favor with only 1:27 left in the half.
Lamonica and Bass continued to torch the Jets in the second half. Bass would eclipse Dubenion’s efforts from 2 weeks ago, with a club record 231 yards on 8 receptions. A 27 yard completion to Ed Rutkowski set up the go ahead FG by Pete Gogolak. Lamonica’s 52 yard completion to Bass set up another FG early in the 4th. With under a minute left, and nursing a 13-7 lead, the Bills were trying to kill the clock. Cookie Gilchrist exploded for a 67 yard run to salt away the game. The run gave Gilchrist 99 on the day on only 9 attempts.
It was another impressive defensive effort. The Bills front line held the Jets to a mere 30 yards on 13 rushing attempts the entire game.
Patriots 36, Bills 28
WR Glenn Bass opened the scoring midway through the first with a 29-yard TD catch from Jack Kemp. Pete Gogolak pushed the Buffalo lead to 10-0 with a 41 yard FG. In the second quarter, Boston answered the call. TE Tony Romeo caught Babe Parilli’s 15-yard TD pass to notch the Patriot’s first score. After a Buffalo turnover set the Patriots up with great field position, Parilli wasted no time in connecting with RB Gino Cappelletti on a 35 yard TD strike that put the visitors ahead. Buffalo managed a Gogolak FG late in the half to pull within a single point, 14-13.
Then the bomb went off. To kill the clock at the end of the half, FB Cookie Gilchrist refused to take the field with 24 seconds remaining. Gilchrist was adamant that Kemp and Saban would not run him enough, and took his frustrations (along with himself) out of the game. Buffalo came out of the half with momentum and quickly scored again to regain the lead. WR Bill Groman, signed to the active roster earlier in the week to fill in for Dubenion, made a 22-yard TD catch 3:07 into the third. Daryle Lamonica then executed a fake extra point to perfection for a 2point conversion and a 21-14 lead. Twelve seconds later, DB Hawgoode Clarke forced a fumble on the ensuing kick return. Joe Auer picked up the loose ball and ran it in from 18 yards out and a 28-14 Bills lead. But Buffalo’s luck would not last.
Kemp was under constant pressure all day from an outstanding front four of Houston Antwine, Bob Dee, Ron Hall & Jim Hunt. All but Hunt would represent the club in the AFL all star game at the end of the season. They would pummel Buffalo QB’s to the tune of 7 sacks and countless hurries. They would also force untimely turnovers that would unravel the game and perfect Buffalo record.
After the bills and Pats traded interceptions, Lou Saban pulled the plug on a beat up Kemp in the third. Usually Saban’s QB switches paid dividends for the Bills all season. This time it would backfire. Lamonica turned the ball over immediately at his own 5, and the Patriots’ Cappelletti would score his second TD of the game on the next snap.
Midway through the 4th, Parilli took advantage of Buffalo Rookie CB Oliver Dobbins, subbing for a shaken up Booker Edgerson. Parilli found Larry Garron for a 6-yard TD reception with 7:32 remaining. With no overtime in AFL play, and a tie virtually eliminating the Patriots from playoff contention, they chose to go for 2. Gino Cappelletti converted for a 29-28 lead on the pass from Parilli.
Kemp went back into the game to replace Lamonica but again turned the ball over on a fumble. It was the 6th turnover on the afternoon. Just 1:10 after their go ahead score- Cappelletti scored his 3rd TD on the day with a 34 yard TD pass. It was Babe Parilli’s 5th TD pass on the usually stingy Bills defense.
The QB carousel continued, with Lamonica mounting one final desperate drive. Without Dubenion, a sulking Gilchrist, and now with Glen Bass knocked out of the game (after a 6 catch 141 yard effort) the Bills bench was called to task. Backup QB/RB/KR/WR Ed Rutkowski came in and provided a spark. With under a minute remaining and trailing 36-28, Rutkowski hauled in 3 passes for 64 yards to move the Bills to the Patriot 16. The drive was killed and the game sealed when defensive lineman Ron Hall caught a deflected pass for the interception.
The victory moved the Patriots to within 1Ѕ games with 4 to play. 9-1 Buffalo was the last unbeaten team in pro football and prepared to face a 4 game season-ending road trip.
The loss was costly to the Bills on a number of fronts. Their WR corpse was banged up, their QB position remained unsettled- and their star FB in Cookie Gilchrist was staging his own mutiny. Lou Saban chose to cut the troubled Gilchrist the next day, citing not only the refusal to play, but numerous scrapes with the law, management, and fellow players. The Buffalo Bills had to be the most unsettling 9-1 team in all of professional sports.
Bills 27, Chargers 24
One week after the Boston Patriots inflicted Buffalo’s first loss of the season, the Bills were in more disarray than any other 9-1 team in pro football history. They had the league’s stingiest defense, and the top WR in Elbert Dubenion. But they also had a raging QB controversy. Neither Jack Kemp nor Daryle Lamonica registered a complete game all season. .Another plus in the Bills favor and one of the most feared fullbacks in the game in Cookie Gilchrist. Well, at least until the following morning. Gilchrist took himself out of the game against the Patriots in protest of how Kemp was using him. For head coach Lou Saban, it was another brick in the load and he had enough. After 2Ѕ stormy but productive seasons he waived his star player.
Teams lined up to put claims in. Oakland had waiver priority, and Raider’s GM Al Davis was salivating over the prospect of getting him for nothing more than a waiver fee. While struggling on the field at times during the year, Jack Kemp proved to all why he was one of the most valuable players the Bills had. Despite fielding the harshest of criticisms from Cookie Gilchrist himself- he rallied players and turned what was disgust of their team mate into a reconciliation. He convinced Gilchrist to apologize to the fans, team, and coaches. He convinced his team mates that their run to the championship would be dealt a serious blow without Cookie. And most of all, he convinced the authoritarian Lou Saban to bring back the enigmatic fullback because the team needed him. Saban was convinced, and withdrew the waiver request. Kemp showed his brilliant ability to bring all sides together- a flair for politics he rode into congress a decade later.
Fortunately for the Bills, their road trip to San Diego took the team as far from the local press and turmoil as possible. The game was to be played on Thanksgiving day- which gave them an extra 4 days to heal the team wounds.
The Chargers got off to a 10-0 first quarter lead. Up 3-0, Gilchrist fumbled the ball on the Charger 5 –yard line as the Bills threatened. John Hadl made the Bills pay, hooking up with a 64-yard bomb to take the lead. Late into the first half, the Buffalo defense stepped up and put thee Bills right back into the game. John Tracey intercepted a pass at the Charger 15. RB Joe Auer took advantage with a 1-yard TD run to draw the bills within 3. On the ensuing drive, Gene Sykes again picked off backup QB Tobin Rote returning it to the Charger goal line. Kemp kept it himself on the sneak giving the Bills a 14-10 lead at the half.
With Hadl back in the game, the Chargers reclaimed the lead with the only score of the third quarter. WR Don Norton hauled in a 17-yard TD pass at 13:06. The Chargers quickly got the ball back, and struck again. HB Keith Lincoln hit WR Lance Allworth for a 54-yard pass off of the halfback option play for Allworth’s second long TD of the day. “Bambi” would finish the day with 4 receptions for a staggering 185 yards- a 46 yards per-catch average! The score gave the home team a 24-14 edge.
With 6:50 remaining in the game, the Bills looked defeated. Kemp led the team on a long drive that was stuffed on the 2 yard line with a turnover on downs. However, the Buffalo defense came up huge again. LB Mike Stratton caught Hadl flatfooted in the endzone for a safety. Not only did the Bills cut the lead to 8, but they received possession of the ball on the ensuing free kick. Reserve Charlie Warner then broke the free kick return wide open, getting tackled after bringing the ball back to the San Diego 18. In a blink of an eye the Bills were right back into the game.
Lamonica came in to lead yet another Buffalo comeback. The Bills caught a big break when the Chargers were flagged for interference on TE Ernie Warlick, giving the Bills the spot at the 5. Lamonica capped the drive with a 1 yard score. Lamonica was foiled on the 2 point conversion for the tie- but another Charger penalty gave the Bills a second chance. Lamonica kept it himself and plowed in from the 1.
Fittingly, the Buffalo defense set up the winning score just as they had given the Bills offense gifts all day. John Hadl tried to move the Chargers into FG position to win it. At midfield DE Tom Day made a great play. Shedding his block, he managed to get into Hadl’s face and get a hand on his pass. Mike Stratton was the hero on the spot again picking off the deflected pass. From the 44 Gilchrist then ripped of an 18 yard and an 11 yard run to put the Bills in easy FG position. Pete Gogolak won it with a 33-yard FG with 3 seconds remaining to push the Bills to a 10-1 record.
Raiders 16, Bills 13
Apparently Buffalo was looking past the Raiders for this contest. Sloppy play and an impotent offense plagued the Bills. After a lackluster first quarter, Daryle Lamonica replaced Jack Kemp at quarterback. Lamonica uncorked one of his trademark bombs and apparently found Elbert Dubenion wide open- only to have the sure-handed speedster drop the ball that would have been an easy touchdown. It would set the tone for the Bills all day- RB Bobby Smith dropped his own TD pass and had another TD called back on a penalty.
Oakland would capitalize- they responded with a 74-yard drive of their own. Tom Flores hit Oakland WR Clem Daniels with a 35 yard TD strike with 1:35 left in the half. Oakland would take a 7-0 lead into the locker room.
Oakland came out of the half and scored again quickly. Mike Mercer nailed a 40-yard FG to put the Raiders up 10-0. The Bills continued to struggle, but finally scored with 44 seconds left in the third. Dubenion atoned for an earlier dropped score by hauling in Lamonica’s 38 yard pass to close the gap to 10-7.
A wild final five minutes closed the game out. Lamonica led the team deep into Raider territory when Bobby Smith appeared to put the Bills up 14-10 with a 2-yard TD run. But a penalty nullified the score and with 4:42 remaining Pete Gogolak tied it 10-10 with a chip shot 12 yard FG. After a flat 55 minutes, Buffalo tried to seize momentum by recovering an onside kick. But again the Bills were thwarted- as Warren Powers stepped in front of a Lamonica pass for an interception at the Raider 6 yard line. The Bills defense held- forcing a punt. Cookie Gilchrist was a victim of a late hit following a 19-yard reception, tacking on an additional 15 yards. The drive would stall at the Raider 17 and Gogolak would put Buffalo on top 13-10 with a subsequent 24-yard FG with 2:20 remaining.
Tom Flores then pieced together an 11-play , 75 yard drive. With just seconds remaining at the 29, Bills cornerback Charley Warner was flagged for interfering Raider WR Bo Roberson –giving Oakland a final chance to win it from the 1. Flores then found Art Powell as time expired in the corner of the end zone. Powell hauled in the winner despite Bills DB Butch Byrd covering him like a blanket.
The 16-13 loss dropped the Bills into a virtual tie with the Patriots, Buffalo at 10-2 and the Patriots at 10-2-1. Regardless of the outcome of Buffalo’s next contest in Denver- the stage was set for a de-facto divisional championship game in the season-ending game between these two clubs scheduled in 2 weeks.
Bills 30 Denver 19
Head coach Lou Saban, recognizing the entire Patriot team was resting, chose to treat his game like a glorified preseason game. Wide receivers Glenn Bass and Elbert Dubenion- coming off injury- would see little time on the field Ed Rutkowski would get the start. . Cookie Gilchrist saw limited action and soon gave way to Wray Carlton- back after missing most of the year. The biggest name regulated to clipboard duty was QB Jack Kemp. Daryle Lamonica- who had relieved Kemp all season long- won his first opportunity to start.
With nothing on the line, the Bills managed to rout the Broncos while still mailing it in. Buffalo struck on their first possession- as Lamonica completed a 46 –yard bomb for a TD with his former college team mate from Notre Dame- Ed Rutkowski. Later in the first, a perfect punt by Paul MaGuire pinned the Broncos on their 1 yard line. Ron McDole nailed Bronco FB Billy Joe for a loss and the safety.
After the Broncos responded with a field goal, the Bills put the game out of reach before the half. Ron McDole again was the catalyst- forcing a Denver fumble deep in their own end. Wray Carlton shook of 3 months worth of rust with a 5-yard TD run. Buffalo would enter the half with a 23-3 lead on Lamonica’s scrambling 23 yard TD run. Gilchrist set up the drive with a pair of punishing runs, and Dubenion had his only reception on the afternoon putting the ball at the Bronco 23. Lamonica ran away from a blitz and found the endzone.
Denver came out of the half not ready to quit- and aided buy both a conservative and sloppy Bills offense in the 3rd quarter- the Broncos managed to claw back. Lionel Taylor grabbed a 30 yard Jacky Lee strike. Capitalizing on turnovers, backup QB Mickey Slaughter hooked up with Bob Scarpitto for 37 yards and another TD, but a blocked extra point left Buffalo on top 23-16. Denver drew within 4 with under 8 minutes in the game as Dick Gussman hit from 45 yards out.
The Bills then ran off 9 consecutive running plays with Carlton and Gilchrist pounding the Denver defense. On the 10th play of the drive, Lamonica called his own number and plunged in from the one. The game ended 30-19 in favor of the Bills. For Lamonica, it was a lackluster performance despite the two rushing TDs. He fumbled 3 times and pitched an interception as the Bills offense turned the ball over 7 times. While the Bills offense managed a mere 64 net yards passing, Gilchrist and Carlton led the Bills to 154 rushing yards. The big story of the game was the Buffalo defense- as the Broncos could only cobble together 117 total yards of offense.
Bills 24, Patriots 14
The final game of the season pitted the 11-2 Buffalo Bills and the 10-2-1 Boston Patriots at a snow covered Fenway Park. 2,500 hearty Bills fans made the trek to Boston to root on the Bills. They were a small part of the record Fenway crowd of 38,421.
The winter weather the Bills fans brought with them gave Buffalo a decided advantage in this game. Boston’s strength was their aggressive defense that would live or die via the blitz. With slick conditions, and two battle tanks in the Bills backfield in the form of Cookie Gilchrist and the now-healthy Wray Carlton, the Bills game plan was to batter the Patriots relentlessly. The experienced QB Jack Kemp would return as the Bill starter, and he would exploit the Bills ground success with big plays off the play-action.
In the first drive, Coach Lou Saban put the plan to work. On the first play, Cookie Gilchrist ripped off 9 yards. Patriot’s DB Chuck Shonta made the stop, but was shaken up on the play. He would return to the field later in the drive, and the veteran Kemp took advantage. Shonta was burned by Elbert Dubenion deep on a 43 yard TD pass from Kemp as the Bills jumped out to an early 7-0 lead.
On the ensuing Patriot’s drive, Boston responded. Babe Parilli led a 72-yard march capping it off with a long scoring strike of his own. Parilli found TE Tony Romeo for 37 yards. But inexplicably, Pats head coach Mike Holovak chose to go for the 2-point conversion, and it was costly. For an instant, the gamble looked like a worthy one as Parilli found RB Gino Cappelletti wide open in the end zone. However he slipped and fell on the treacherous turf and the conversion failed. Buffalo held a 7-6 lead.
On the ensuing drive, Kemp and Dubenion again took advantage of the slick conditions connecting for a 52-yard completion. From the 20, the patriots stiffened and forced a turnover. Ron Hall picked off Jack Kemp in the endzone to kill the threat. Buffalo’s defense- the backbone of the team all season long- managed to keep the Patriots pinned down to force a punt. With great field position early in the second quarter Kem went right back to work. TE Ernie Warlick connected on a 44 yard pass from Kemp giving the Bills the ball on the Boston 8 yard line. Gilchrist rumbled for 5 yards. Jack Kemp kept it himself on the final two plays of the drive, diving in from 1 yard out to take a 14-6 lead.
Late in the second quarter, starting from their own 30, Kemp directed another scoring drive. It was WR Glenn Bass’ turn to get into the action with a big play- as he and Kemp combined for a 33 yard reception. The drive would stall deep into Boston territory at the 5 yard line. Pete Gogolak’s 12 –yard FG was good with :24 seconds before the half. Buffalo headed to the locker room sporting a 17-6 lead.
In the second half the Bills defense stifled the Boston ground game, limiting the Pats to only 11 carries. . The Patriots did have a measure of success passing the ball, but much of it was inflated with their desperate attempts to get back into the game. Both teams slogged through a scoreless third quarter as field conditions worsened. A the opening of the 4th, Bills DB Charlie Warner stepped in front of Babe Parilli’s pass at midfield and returned it 38 yards to the Patriot 17. Facing 3rd and 8, Wray Carlton put the final nails in the coffin when he hammered out a 14 yard run to the Patriot 1. Kemp pulled his second QB sneak for the score in the game and the Bills held a commanding 24-6 lead with just over 10 minutes left.
Babe Parilli managed a late score with a 15 yard TD pass to Tony Romeo. But it was too little, too late. The Buffalo Bills were going home with a league best 12 wins to face the Chargers in the championship game. The victory was doubly sweet, as one year ago the Patriots ousted the Bills in a special playoff game in a snow covered War Memorial stadium in similar fashion. For the fist time since the season opening blowout against the Chiefs, Kemp controlled the helm of the Bills offense from start to finish. The Bills proved that that the monkey was off their backs, and that this team could finally win “The Big One”, especially against their chief rival Boston.
Bills 20, Chargers 7
The Chargers stunned the Bills on their first drive, cutting through the league’s top rated defense like a hot knife through butter. RB Keith Lincoln broke off a 38-yard run on the game’s first play. By the 5th play of the drive, the Chargers were on the board with a 7-0 lead. QB Tobin Rote hit TE Dave Kocourek for 26 yards with only 3:11 expired from the game.
On San Diego’s second possession following a Buffalo punt, the tide dramatically turned. Tobin Rote floated a swing pass to Keith Lincoln, who turned and stretched out to try and haul in the catch. With a hit that will live in the annals of professional football history, Bills LB Mike Stratton hit Lincoln with such force every fan in the stands could here the impact. Lincoln was obliterated on the play, folding into a crumpled heap on the field- with a number of broken ribs. The Charger offense- which struck for 80 yards on the first five plays- would gain a mere 179 the rest of the game.
Kemp took the reigns of the offense at the Buffalo 36. He pushed the team to the Charger 3 yard line. Charger DE Ernie Ladd was hit with a 15-yard face mask penalty helping the drive. Kemp also found Glenn Bass open for a 20 yard completion, followed up with an 11-yard strike to TE Ernie Warlick. The Chargers stiffened their resistance at the 3, forcing Pete Gogolak to hit a 12-yard FG.
The Chargers Leslie Duncan took the ensuing kickoff 5yards deep from his endzone and put together an electrifying 70-yard return. The Chargers wasted this opportunity to seize a commanding lead. Bills CB Charley Warner came up with another big interception on the season, picking off Tobin Rote in the endzone killing the drive. Buffalo would also squander a scoring opportunity of their own. Cookie Gilchrist broke a 32-yard run behind a Billy Shaw block. The Drive again would stall in the Charger red zone. Due to the deafening crowd noise, a miscommunication between place-kick holder Daryle Lamonica and his team mates. Key players Ernie Warlick and John Tracey failed to pick up the audible, so when Lamonica picked up the snap- he had no one to throw to. He was tackled just short of a first down on the broken play. The first quarter would end with a 7-3 Charger advantage.
Buffalo’s defense answered the call in the second. They forced the Charger offense to punt and the Bills offense took control of the game. With great field position at their own 44, the Bills would put together an 8-play drive capped off with a Wray Carlton 4 yard TD run. The drive was aided by Kemp’s 18-yard completion to Elbert Dubenion, and an incredible 15-yard completion to Carlton while Kemp was wrapped up for a near-sack. Carlton stretched the Ball over from 3 yards out to give the Bills a 10-7 lead that they would not relinquish.
Buffalo would put up another score just before the half. Cookie Gilchrist had another monster gain of 39 yards as he rumbled through the Charger defense. Kemp added a 12 –yard scramble to the San Diego 3. On third and goal, Kemp was a victim of the slick field conditions and slipped to the turf back at the 10. Pete Gogolak nailed the FG and gave the Bills a 13-7 lead. Mike Stratton again came up with a big play to end the half. A scrambling Tobin Rote tried to toss a pass out of bounds while under pressure, but Stratton came up with a big interception to end the half.
The third quarter was a showcase for the Bills defense, holding the Chargers without scoring. Gilchrist and Carlton spent the second half pounding the Charger defense wearing them down with a conservative ball-control approach. Between the two, they would combine for 34 attempts and amass 192 total yards. Gilchrist was forced from the game at the end of the thirsd nursing some bruised ribs of his own after his contribution of 122 carries on 16 attempts.
When the Charger defense would hold their ground and force a Buffalo punt, another former Charger castoff would kill them. Punter Paul MaGuire had a career game, averaging almost 47 yards on 5 punts, coffin-cornering 2 of them inside the San Diego 10 yard line. For the entire second half, they were pinned down with awful field position.
Early in the 4th, and sitting on only a 7 point lead, Kemp broke the game open with a perfectly executed play-action pass. On the first play from the Buffalo 48, he found the speedy Glenn Bass on a 15 yard slant. Catching the ball at the 35, he broke the grasp of a Charger defender and burst down to the one yard line. Jack Kemp kept it himself 2 lays later and pushed the Bills ahead with the insurance score.
The Chargers refused to go quietly. Les Duncan had his second big kick return on the day, with a 49 yard return to mid-field. With John Hadl at the controls the Chargers fought all the way to the Buffalo 5 yard line. But San Diego was denied without scoring. The Bills went on to kill the clock and claim their first championship.
For Gilchrist, it was his last game in a Buffalo uniform. While his final performance was one of his best all season, the damage was done with his antics during the November game against Boston in which he sat out the second half. Outspoken to the point of causing friction between himself, the coaching staff, ownership, and even other players- he would be shipped out 5 weeks later to the Denver Broncos in exchange for FB Billy Joe, the 1963 AFL Rookie of the Year. For the rest of the team, it was just the beginning.
Cookie Gilchrist again led the AFL in rushing with 230 carries and 981 yards. Glen Bass out dueled Elbert Dubenion for most receptions on the team with 43 for 897 yards, 7 TDs and an eye popping 21 yard average. While losing out to Bass by one catch, Dubenion’s 42 receptions were good for 1,139yards, 10 TDs and a mind blowing 27 yard per catch average- still a Bills record to this day. The two headed QB attack by Kemp and Lamonica was good for a combined 3,422 yards passing, 19 TDs passing, and an additional 11 TDs via the ground. However the Bills were terrible at protecting the Ball giving up 34 interceptions.
The defense did their share in shutting down opposing teams and creating their own turnovers. Rookie Butch Byrd led the defense with 7 interceptions followed by George Saimes with 6. Paul Maguire finished with a 42.7 yard average punting. Pete Gogolak, pro football’s first soccer style kicker, revolutionized the position with his approach to the ball. He led the AFL in points (102) and FG % hitting 66%. His effectiveness signaled the end of using position players as place kickers.
The Bills celebrated their championship season by sending a team record 9 players to the AFL All-Star game. On offense, FB Cookie Gilchrist, QB Jack Kemp, G Billy Shaw, and TE Ernie Warlick all made it 3 appearances in a row. WR Elbert Dubenion joined them for his only All Star game appearance and T Stew Barber made it his second. On Defense, DE Tom Sestak made his 3rd straight game, LB Mike Stratton his second, and DB Butch Byrd his first.