October 24, 2011

1964: Bills Surge from Behind in Fourth Quarter to Beat Jets

The Buffalo Bills were undefeated at 6-0 as they hosted the New York Jets in an American Football League game on October 24, 1964. In their third season under Head Coach Lou Saban, Buffalo had a ball-control offense featuring the running of FB Cookie Gilchrist and the passing of QB Jack Kemp, who was frequently relieved by second-year backup Daryle Lamonica (pictured above) if the offense was bogging down or needed a change of pace. Another weapon, rookie Pete Gogolak, added to the team’s scoring potential with his then-unique soccer-style placekicking. The defense was the league’s best across the board.

The Jets were in their second season under the guidance of Head Coach Weeb Ewbank. The refurbished club was benefiting at the gate, having moved into the new Shea Stadium at Flushing Meadows. Rookie FB Matt Snell was Gilchrist’s rival for the AFL rushing title and there were outstanding receivers for strong-armed but immobile QB Dick Wood to throw to in flanker Don Maynard and split end Bake Turner. New York had played one less game than the Bills thus far and brought a 3-1-1 record into the game.

There were 39,621 fans present at War Memorial Stadium for the Saturday night contest. They saw the visitors score first as Wood threw to Turner for a seven-yard touchdown. Gogolak cut that to 7-3 in the second quarter with a 12-yard field goal, but New York responded with another TD, again on a pass by Wood - this time to Maynard from 12 yards out. The Bills cut New York’s lead with less than two minutes remaining in the half as Kemp connected with fleet flanker Elbert “Golden Wheels” Dubenion on a 44-yard touchdown play. The score was 14-10 in favor of the Jets at halftime.

Less than two minutes into the third quarter, the Jets extended their margin when Wood threw to Maynard for a 15-yard TD. Six minutes later, Jim Turner added another three points with a nine-yard field goal, and it seemed as though an upset was in the making with New York ahead by a 24-10 score.

Lamonica came on in relief of Kemp and led the Bills on an 80-yard drive in six plays. On the final play of the third quarter, rookie HB Bobby Smith finished off the possession when he ran off tackle for a 13-yard touchdown. With the successful extra point, the tally stood at 24-17 entering the fourth quarter.

It was all Buffalo in the final period. The Bills defense completely shut down New York’s attack. Lamonica threw to Dubenion for a 44-yard TD that, with Gogolak’s successful conversion, evened the score at 24-24 with 7:44 to go. The Bills went ahead to stay less than four minutes later as Lamonica dove into the end zone to finish off a three-yard run. Gogolak concluded the scoring with a 31-yard field goal and the Bills came away with a 34-24 win to keep their record perfect for another week.

Buffalo outgained the Jets (527 yards to 245) and had more first downs (20 to 15). However, the Bills also turned the ball over three times, to none by New York. The Jets averaged just 2.3 yards per carry on the ground (66 yards on 29 attempts) while Buffalo gained 180 on 37 rushes (4.9 avg.). In the anticipated showdown between the AFL’s top two rushers, neither Cookie Gilchrist (15 carries for 27 yards) nor Matt Snell (28 yards on 12 attempts) was a factor.

Bobby Smith was the rushing star for Buffalo, gaining 98 yards on 12 carries with a TD, and was especially effective during the second-half comeback. Elbert Dubenion (pictured below) had a huge performance with 5 catches for 218 yards and two touchdowns. Jack Kemp completed 8 of 16 passes for 220 yards with a touchdown and an interception while Daryle Lamonica was successful on 4 of 11 throws for 127 yards, also with a TD and one picked off, in his fourth successful relief effort of the year.

For the Jets, Dick Wood went to the air 40 times and completed 16 for 183 yards with three touchdowns and none intercepted. While Matt Snell didn’t accomplish much running the ball, he caught a team-leading 6 passes, for 48 yards. Bake Turner gained 74 yards on his 5 pass receptions and Don Maynard added four for 53 yards and two scores. HB Bill Mathis topped the running game, such as it was, with 34 yards on 12 attempts.

The Bills ran their record to 9-0 before being beaten by the Patriots; as it was, they finished first in the Eastern Division with a 12-2 tally and defeated San Diego for the AFL Championship. The Jets, after the promising start, won the next week against the Patriots but then lost six of their last seven games (including the rematch with Buffalo at Shea Stadium) as injuries accrued (especially in the defensive backfield) to end up at 5-8-1 and third in the division.

The quarterback combination continued to be productive for the Bills. Jack Kemp led the AFL in yards per attempt (8.5) and yards per completion (19.2 – a full three yards better than runner-up Cotton Davidson of the Raiders). The savvy 29-year-old veteran threw for 2285 yards and 13 touchdowns, as well as 26 interceptions, and was named to the league’s All-Star Game. Daryle Lamonica completed 55 of 128 throws (43.0 %) for 1137 yards with six TDs against eight interceptions. He also ran for 289 yards and six touchdowns (Kemp, also mobile, gained 124 yards and scored five times).

Elbert Dubenion caught 42 passes for 1139 yards (a gaudy 27.1 average) and 10 touchdowns. Like Kemp, he was named an AFL All-Star. While Cookie Gilchrist was the league’s leading rusher (981 yards), Bobby Smith, as he showed against the Jets, was an able change-of-pace runner and averaged 4.9 yards-per-carry (306 yards on 62 attempts). Pete Gogolak paved the way for more soccer-style kickers as he booted 19 field goals in 29 attempts and placed second in scoring with 102 points.


(NOTE TO READERS: Today's post marks the second anniversary of the launch of Today in Pro Football History. For regular readers, thank you, as always I hope you have enjoyed it and will continue to do so. For newcomers, I encourage you to take a look at the archived material. Feedback and suggestions are always welcome - there is an email link on my profile page.)

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