November 27, 2009

1966: Redskins Defeat Giants 72-41 in Highest Scoring NFL Game

The New York Giants team that played the Washington Redskins at DC Stadium on November 27, 1966 was far below the caliber of the Giants teams that had won three consecutive Eastern Conference titles from 1961-63. For that matter, it was far less impressive than the squad that finished 7-7 in 1965.

The Giants, under Head Coach Allie Sherman, stood at 1-8-1 coming into the game, with the only win having come over the Redskins at Yankee Stadium five weeks earlier. Washington was 5-6 after having lost the last three contests under first year Head Coach Otto Graham, the Hall of Fame quarterback.

What transpired was a thoroughly wild game, filled with turnovers and big plays. The final score was 72-41, the highest total in NFL history at 113 points. Redskins HB A.D. Whitfield had three touchdowns on the day, leading all players, including a 63-yard run in the first quarter plus a one-yard run and five-yard pass reception from QB Sonny Jurgensen that started the scoring onslaught. Rookie safety Brig Owens scored two TDs for Washington, on a 62-yard fumble recovery in the second quarter and 60-yard interception return in the fourth quarter. Split end Charley Taylor also added two TDs to the Redskins total, on passes covering 32 and 74 yards from Jurgensen. The special teams contributed a touchdown as DB Rickie Harris ran a punt back 52 yards in the fourth quarter.

31-year-old flanker Bobby Mitchell, who hadn’t played running back since leaving Cleveland for Washington after the 1961 season, got in on the action when Coach Graham told him to play halfback (against his wishes). The second time he carried the ball, he ran 45 yards for a score.

The team statistics were surprisingly even. In fact, the Giants outgained the Redskins (389 total yards to 341) and had more first downs (25-16). Washington led 34-14 at the half, and yet had -5 net passing yards (at that point Jurgensen had completed just four of nine passes for a mere five yards). But turnovers continually put the Giants in a hole. They turned the ball over six times, five of them by interceptions, with the fumble recovery and one of the interceptions by Owens (he had three) directly leading to scores and three of the pickoffs giving the offense good field position for short scoring drives.

All in all, Jurgensen recovered from the poor first half to put up respectable numbers, if rather ordinary (for him), completing 10 of 16 passes for 145 yards with three TDs and no interceptions (backup Dick Shiner had his lone pass picked off). Whitfield, not surprisingly, was the top rusher with 74 yards on just six carries. Mitchell was second with 54 yards on his two rushes. The eccentric HB Joe Don Looney had the most carries, 10, and gained 46 yards, including a nine-yard score. Charley Taylor accounted for most of the pass receiving offense, with six catches for 124 yards and the two TDs.

As for the Giants, Gary Wood and Tom Kennedy split the quarterback duties. Kennedy completed 13 of 21 passes for 165 yards with a TD and three interceptions, while Wood was successful on 7 of 12 passes for 146 yards with two touchdowns and two picked off. Wood’s two TD passes provided the big plays for New York; they covered 41 yards to HB Joe Morrison and 50 yards to the speedy split end, Homer Jones. Three Giants had over 80 yards receiving – Morrison, with 98 on four catches; Jones, who had 85 yards on a team-leading 6 receptions; and TE Aaron Thomas, who accumulated 82 yards on 4 catches including a touchdown.

Washington placekicker Charlie Gogolak (pictured) tied a record with nine extra points (he missed one), while his brother Pete, kicking for the Giants, added another five. He also topped off the scoring with a controversial 29-yard field goal with the Redskins leading 69-41 with seven seconds left in the game.

The Giants surrendered the ball on their own 23 yard line after QB Kennedy threw the ball away on a fourth down pass, having lost track of the downs (not that it mattered at that point). LB Sam Huff, the Redskins defensive captain, shouted for the field goal team to go in (guard Vince Promuto also claimed to have done likewise). Huff still harbored bad feelings toward the Giants for the trade that sent him to Washington after the 1963 season, while Promuto, a native New Yorker who had been with the Redskins since 1960, had endured too many games early in his career when the Giants, in their contending years, had run up big scores. It was payback time, and there were Washington players who wanted to exact every bit of revenge that they could. Regardless of who called for the coup-de-grace field goal, it allowed the Redskins to pass the 70 points scored by the Rams in a 1950 game and lay claim to the highest total in a regular season contest.

It was the ultimate humiliation for the Giants, who were on the way to the bottom of the Eastern Conference in ’66, finishing with a franchise-worst 1-12-1 record. Washington concluded the season at 7-7, putting them in fifth place in the East.

While this was not one of his better passing days, Sonny Jurgensen ended up leading the NFL in passing attempts (436) and completions (254) as well as yards (3209). Charley Taylor led the league in pass receptions for the first of two consecutive years with 72. Charlie Gogolak went over the 100-yard scoring mark, ranking third in the NFL with 105 points and 22 field goals. Homer Jones of the Giants had an outstanding season for a terrible team, catching 48 passes for 1044 yards (an average gain of 21.8) with 8 TDs.