1967 Buffalo Bills – Fall from Grace
Another deal saw the arrival of former Charger’s star RB Keith Lincoln. It was Lincoln who was devastated by the Mike Stratton hit in the 1964 AFL title game. The 1967 draft was another disappointment. 1st Rd pick DB John Pitts, and 4th rd G Gary Bugenhagen were the only players of note.
Murphy’s law struck the Bills early. After dealing their safety net at QB, Jack Kemp suffered one of his worst seasons as a pro. Nagging injuries set back Kemp, and again depleted his receiving corps. Dubenion and Powell were not nearly the threats they were in the past. Last season’s rookie sensation at WR, Bobby Crockett, missed the entire season with a knee injury. AFL Rookie of the year Bobby Burnett also lost significant time with injuries.
The Bills opened the season with 4 straight home games and 6 of the first 8 in the Rockpile. After an opening 20-17 victory against the up and coming New York Jets, the season went down hill quickly. The anemic offense could only manage 20 points over the next 12 quarters as they lost to Houston, Boston, and San Diego by a combined score of 80-20. Week 5 saw the Bills get a small measure of revenge, as they traveled to Denver and beat the Broncos 17-16. The Broncos were lead by coach Lou Saban, who had departed Buffalo following their second AFL Championship 2 seasons prior.
While Joe Collier’s defense managed to stiffen for the rest of the season, it was the Bills offense that wilted. The Bills lost 6 of the next 7 games, with the lone victory a drubbing of the Miami Dolphins 33-14 their only solace. LB Harry Jacobs went down in week 7 and did not return. WR Art Powell missed half the season with a Knee injury as well.
Late in December, the Bills again met up with their former nemesis the Boston Patriots. This time, both clubs were locked in a battle again- to stay out of the division cellar. Both teams had fallen on hard times and were a shell of their former championship selves. On this cold December day the Bills pummeled their former tormentors 44-13 in front of a sparse Boston crowd.
The Bills managed third in the division with a woeful 4-10 record, ahead only of the second year Miami Dolphins and the Boston Patriots.
Keith Lincoln was the lone shining star on the offense, gaining 1,159 total yards on offense, 601 on the ground and 558 through the air for a team leading 9 TDs. He led the team in rushing and receiving with 41 grabs. TE Paul Costa was second,
with 39 receptions for 726 yards.
Tom Janik had an exceptional year in the Bills secondary. His 10 interceptions led the AFL. Butch Byrd was steady again, with another 5 picks. Second year LB Marty Schottenheimer pitched in with 3, one being returned for a score.
The Bills sent 8 players to the AFL All Star game- RB Keith Lincoln, and stellar G Billy shaw and T Stew Barber represented the offense. On Defense, DE Ron McDole, DT Jim Dunaway, S Tom Janik, and S George Saimes received honors. Kicker Mike Mercer also made the trip.