October 19, 2013

1962: Patriots Overcome 17-Point Deficit to Defeat Chargers

The Boston Patriots were 3-2 and trying to keep pace with the Oilers in the American Football League’s Eastern Division as they hosted the San Diego Chargers on October 19, 1962. Coached by Mike Holovak, the Patriots were a well-balanced offensive club with 32-year-old QB Babe Parilli directing an attack that featured HB Ron Burton, flanker Jim Colclough, and split end Gino Cappelletti, a slow-but-dependable receiver who was an equally dependable placekicker. The defense had some stars in DE Bob Dee, DT Houston Antwine, OLB Tom Addison, and up-and-coming rookie MLB Nick Buoniconti. However, the one problem area was that they were weak against the pass.

The Chargers, under the direction of Head Coach Sid Gillman, had won the Western Division in each of the AFL’s first two seasons, but they were 3-3 and experiencing problems. Those problems had started with the loss of star HB Paul Lowe for the year with a broken arm during the preseason and got worse when QB Jack Kemp suffered a hand injury that caused the team to place him on waivers, with the intent of bringing him back, but ended up with his being awarded to Buffalo. Rookie QB John Hadl was not yet ready to start and Dick Wood, older at age 26 but hardly more experienced, was behind center for the game at Boston.

The Patriots were favored coming into the Friday night contest at Nickerson Field and attendance was 20,888 at the small facility. Following a three-and-out possession by the Chargers, Boston went 57 yards in eight plays highlighted by Babe Parilli connecting with FB Jim Crawford on a 42-yard pass play to the San Diego seven yard line. The drive bogged down, but Gino Cappelletti kicked a 13-yard field goal to give the home team an early 3-0 lead.

The Chargers came right back as Dick Wood completed passes to end Don Norton for 18 and 16 yards. The series ended with Wood throwing to TE Dave Kocurek for a 36-yard touchdown and George Blair added the extra point to make it 7-3 in favor of San Diego.

A short Boston series ended with a punt and the Chargers moved well as Wood threw to HB Keith Lincoln for 23 yards. However, on a third-and-six play Wood was sacked for a 15-yard loss by DT Jess Richardson, although they put three more points on the board thanks to a 43-yard field goal by Blair.

The opening period ended with Parilli being intercepted by CB Claude Gibson, but the Chargers, after reaching the Boston 13, came up empty when Wood was picked off by Tom Addison. The Patriots again had to punt and the visitors struck quickly when Wood threw to Norton for a 49-yard gain to the Boston three. Two plays later, the Chargers scored a touchdown on a two-yard carry by FB Bobby Jackson and, with Blair’s successful conversion, San Diego was up by 17-3.

The Patriots still were struggling on offense and had to punt following the next possession. Lincoln reeled off 14 yards on two carries, but after reaching Boston territory Addison intercepted a pass. The teams traded punts until San Diego CB Dick Harris intercepted a Parilli throw to give the Chargers possession at the Boston 23. It led to Blair kicking a 27-yard field goal.

With time running out in the first half, Parilli completed three passes as the Patriots advanced to the San Diego 24, but a 31-yard field goal try by Cappelletti sailed wide. The Chargers took a comfortable 20-3 lead into halftime and the disgruntled home fans jeered their team’s disappointing performance as the players headed for the locker room.

The momentum shifted decisively in the second half. On their second series of the third quarter, the Patriots put together a nine-play, 56-yard series. Parilli threw to Ron Burton (pictured at left) for 20 yards and gained 16 yards on two carries himself before finishing the drive on a third-and-four play with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Jim Colclough. Cappelletti’s extra point try sailed under the crossbar, but the San Diego margin was narrowed to 20-9.

After a short series by the Chargers, Boston took over at its 30 and again moved the ball effectively. Parilli threw to Colclough for another TD, this time from 25 yards out, and then tossed a pass to Crawford for a two-point conversion that made it a three-point game.

End Jerry Robinson returned the ensuing kickoff 57 yards for the Chargers to give them outstanding field position at the Boston 33, but it was all for naught two plays later when Nick Buoniconti intercepted a pass by Wood. As the period wound down, the Patriots once again moved well on offense with Burton and Crawford running effectively and Parilli throwing for 10 yards. Three plays into the fourth quarter, Crawford, on his third straight carry, ran three yards for a touchdown to cap the 10-play, 68-yard series. Cappelletti added the extra point and the Patriots were now on top by four points.

With Wood shaken up, John Hadl entered the game at quarterback for the Chargers and they moved 26 yards before having to punt from their own 46. Boston went three-and-out and punted the ball back, but after Hadl threw to Kocurek for 18 yards, he was sacked on consecutive plays for losses totaling 21 yards. The visitors again had to kick the ball away.

While the Patriots had short possessions, the Chargers had the ball twice more, the first a three-and-out series and the second ending with Wood, now back behind center, being intercepted by safety Ross O’Hanley to effectively end the contest. Boston came away with a 24-20 win.

The Patriots outgained the Chargers (312 yards to 260) and had more first downs (20 to 11). They were especially productive on the ground, with 175 rushing yards to San Diego’s 90. San Diego turned the ball over four times, to two turnovers suffered by Boston, and was penalized 7 times at a cost of 55 yards, to three flags thrown on the Patriots.

Babe Parilli completed 14 of 26 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns with two intercepted. Jim Crawford ran for 61 yards and a TD on 11 carries and also had 5 catches for 53 yards. Ron Burton ran for 32 yards on 11 attempts and was also productive as a receiver out of the backfield with 5 receptions for a team-leading 54 yards. Jim Colclough had two pass receptions for 34 yards, both of which were touchdowns.

For the Chargers, Dick Wood was successful on just 8 of 23 throws for 162 yards and a TD while also tossing three interceptions. John Hadl went four-of-eight for 44 yards and was picked off once. Don Norton (pictured at right) had four catches for 107 yards and Dave Kocurek also pulled in four passes, for 65 yards and a score. Keith Lincoln topped the running game with 48 yards on 12 carries.

The Patriots continued to play well, even after losing Parilli to a broken collarbone for the last month of the season. They still remained in contention until the final week and finished second in the Eastern Division with a 9-4-1 record. Meanwhile, the injury-riddled Chargers lost their next four games and won only once more the rest of the way, primarily with Hadl at quarterback, to end up third in the Western Division at 4-10.

Playing in ten games, Babe Parilli was the league’s second-ranked passer as he threw for 1988 yards with 18 touchdowns as opposed to 8 interceptions. Ron Burton ran the ball 134 times for 548 yards and caught 40 passes for 461 more yards while scoring seven touchdowns. Jim Colclough led the team with 10 TDs on his 40 pass receptions for 868 yards (21.7 avg.). He was named to the AFL All-Star Game. Gino Cappelletti scored 128 points, putting him in a tie for second with Buffalo’s Cookie Gilchrist behind Gene Mingo of the Broncos.