Pre-Super Bowl VI

buffalo bills championship ring

Much has been said (especially since my recent photo postings) about Super Bowls I-IV.  They are fantastic subjects for debate, individually or collectively.  Great players, hall of fame coaches, big plays and ultimately, a 2-2 record between the leagues.

Not nearly as much is said about the world championship games that would have been played if the two leagues had arranged postseason contests beginning in 1960.  1960 Oilers vs. Eagles?  1963 Chargers vs. Bears?  Which AFL team would have been the first to knock off an NFL champion?  Or was the AFL simply not up to the NFL standard early on, as so many NFL enthusiasts like to shout from the rooftops?

Over the next several days we will run through the AFL-NFL Championships that never were, or as I am calling them, the Pre-Super Bowls.  I will post the vital stats, and you all provide the commentary.  Let’s see who most people think would be the first AFL team to be crowned, “World Champions.”

The last in this series of stories, Pre-Super Bowl VI pits the 1965 Buffalo Bills against the Green Bay Packers.

1965 Green Bay Packers – (10-3-1)

The Packers’ roster changed a bit during their brief hiatus from NFL championships.  Still, their re-tooling mostly added new strength at old positions.  Starr, Hornung and Taylor, a bit more long in the tooth, still made up the Packers HoF backfield, and were complimented by the receiving corps of Carroll Dale, Boyd Dowler and Marv Fleming.  The offense was not as dominating as it had been, ranking eighth in the NFL in points and 12th in yards gained.  What they lacked in points scored, the Green Bay defense made up for in points allowed.  Now with six future HoF on the defensive side of the ball, and no slouches amongst the others, the Packers led the NFL in fewest points allowed, and ranked third in yards allowed.  The pass rush consisted of Willie Davis, Ron Kostelnik, Henry Jordan and Lionel Aldridge.  You would be hard-pressed to find a better linebacking unit than Dave Robinson, Ray Nitschke and Lee Roy Caffey, and Herb Adderly, Bob Jeter, Willie Wood and Tom Brown started in the backfield.  Green Bay was +24 in turnover differential, and allowed opponents an average of just 16 points-per-game.

1965 Buffalo Bills – (10-3-1)

Buffalo was again strong in 1965, despite some important changes in their offensive lineup.  Gone was the enigmatic Cookie Gilchrist, replaced by 1963 AFL Rookie of the Year, Billy Joe.  The receiving corps of Elbert Dubenion, Glenn Bass and Ernie Warlick was not intact in ’65, and was replced mostly by Bo Roberson, Ed Rutkowski and Paul Costa.  The Bills were still blessed with Jack Kemp (and still with the league’s greatest backup, Daryle Lamonica, waiting in the wings), and despite the upheaval, Buffalo averaged 22.4 points-per-game.  There was very little change to the defense between 1964 & 1965 – in fact the lone change was replacing Gene Sykes with Hagood Clarke in the secondary.   As expected, Buffalo had a smothering defense again in 1965, and ranked #1 in points allowed (16.1)

I don’t think this game would have been as exciting as the year previous.  Green Bay had an incredible defense that I don’t think Buffalo would have been able to conquer.  There were just too many horses in Lombardi’s stable.  The Bills defense might have fared pretty well with the Packers offense, but I don’t see it being enough.

 

Todd Tobias (790 Posts)

Todd Tobias's interest in the American Football League began in 1998, when he wrote my master's thesis about Sid Gillman. He created this site to educate and entertain football fans with the stories of the American Football League, 1960-1969. You can follow Todd and get more AFL history on Twitter @TalesfromtheAFL.


7 Responses to Pre-Super Bowl VI

  1. 1967 says:

    1965, final year of the contest of contests, AFL vs NFL. True to form theirs, the best team/s football ever produced, GB Packers, won another Championship, if a fictional one this time:

    GB 3 BUF 0 in triple overtime, Don Chandler’s chip shot ending the longest game in history, a battle that depending on perspective, highlighted either superior defenses or inept offenses…it was possibly the greatest game never played, so I will not even attempt to review it in great detail.

    Notable too that year 1965 as the one in which a missed field goal (this even according the man who kicked it) allowed the GB Packers to even reach the NFL Championship vs the CLEV Browns. Don Chandler’s 22 yard phantom kick (that he himself believes he missed) won it for GB vs BALT, and allowed the Packers to play & beat the ’64 NFL Champ Browns, who were trying to make it two in a row.

    Below is the video from 1965, go to the 4:52 minute mark to watch Don Chandler miss? / make it?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEqRPQBO7Vk

    Whether Packer greatness, mystique and/or equal portions good fortune, they remain the best that I’ve ever seen (yup, I think they could have played in the AFL/would have been worthy 🙂

    Final score AFL vs NFL Superbowl that never were series: NFL 4 AFL 2. Adding in the real ones 1966-’69, NFL wins 6 & the AFL 4, which is probably a pretty fair guess at how the 10 years/games worth of battle might have tallied. Goes without saying still – long live the AFL! – the league that brought to / made the NFL take a knee.

  2. billd says:

    Probably a low scoring game. Both teams had very good defenses. Bills lost Dubenion and Bass during the year, and the offensive line suffered injuries both before and during the championship game with the Chargers. The Bills went with a double tight end set (Costa and Warlick) in the championship game. Packers rightfully favored.

  3. Jeff says:

    Hate to say it, Packers win.

  4. Howard says:

    The 1965 Packers were the least interesting Green Bay champion. They did not possess the strong running game of 1961-1962. And they were not the passing team of 1966 and 1967. In fact they were a weak running team.

    How did they win? They played a very solid defensive game. They allowed the fewest points, had the most interceptions, and allowed the fewest yards. Their offense was average.

    I believe the 1965 season was the greatest coaching performance of Vince Lombardi’s legendary career. He was angry that the 1963 team which had better statistics lost to the Bears in the NFL Western Conference. And while the Colts had a great season in 1964, the Packers started off poorly, but won or tied six of the last seven games. He felt that they underperformed in 1964. So, 1965 was a year when Lombardi pushed the team to perform to it’s capabilities.

    In any event, Green Bay was lucky to get to the NFL Championship game. They won a controversial playoff game against the Colts. The Packers played a brilliant game against the Browns in the Championship game. Taylor and Hornung were awesome. Jim Brown was held to 50 yards rushing, as Cleveland was shut out in the second half.

    In a match up against the Bills, it would be two teams that played solid fundamental football. However, no team was better coached or executed in as precise a manner as the 1965 Packers. I think the first half would have been close, perhaps 14-7 Green Bay. But, I think the Packers in the second half, Green Bay would have scored two more touchdowns, and held the Bills to a field goal. Final Score: Green Bay 28- Buffalo 10.

    • Tom says:

      The 1965 Packers D was much improved with second year players Dave Robinson, Lionel Aldridge, Bob Jeter and Leroy Caffey, it was also the year of the Colts Tom Matte wrist band, which I believe is on display in Canton, I can recall the days leading up to the Rams Colts late season game and reading in the local papers about Matte forced into the QB role when Unitas and then Cuozzo went down to season ending injuries and having to wear a wrist band to call the plays.

      It was at the time a novel idea as Matte had not played QB since his Ohio State days under the famed four yards and a cloud of dust coach Woody Hayes, who said three things can happen when you pass and two are bad so he rarely did.
      I remember thinking great there is no way the Rams can lose, a third string QB, really a running back who doesn’t know the plays, Colts 20 Rams 17.

      The Unitas injury most likely cost the Colts a chance to revenge their loss in 64 to the Browns, as without a passing game they went down to defeat in OT 13-10 to Green Bay in the playoff game.

  5. Mike says:

    The 65 Bills, despite their good won-loss record was a beat-up team. As previously noted, the Bills lost their deep threats Dubenion and Bass on consecutive weekends early in the season. Dubenion was lost being tackled on a TD reception, Bass taken out by, of all things, a television cable that he stepped on after going out-of-bounds on a sideline reception. The Bills did acquire Bo Roberson in a trade with Oakland, I believe, to help out, but the deep threat wasn’t the same. Warlick was being eased out with the arrival of Costa who played a solid and at times spectacular game, but Billy Joe was mostly a bust trying to replace the irreplaceable Cookie Gilchrist. Wray Carlton became the workhorse back later in the year.

    It was the Bills’ monster defense that came through again and again to stop opposing offenses to provide opportunities for scoring, much of it from Pete Gogolak’s instep.

    That being said, I don’t think the Bills, as beat up as they were, would have been able to come up victorious against the Packers. I think the result would have been much the same as the next year in Super Bowl I with a close first half with Green Bay pulling ahead in the second half.

  6. Those two 1965 Packer games were among the first games I read about as a kid in the late ’70’s: 13-10 over the Colts in the mud, and 23-12 over the Browns on a field powdered with snow.

    Howard did a great job describing the ’65 Packers and what made them tick. For a long-time NFL fan to call the ’65 season “the greatest coaching performance of Vince Lombardi’s legendary career” is quite a testimony.

    While I’d take the Bills over the Browns in ’64, I’m going with the Packers over the Bills in ’65.

    Based on everything I’ve read and heard, the ’64 Bills were better than the ’65 Bills. The injury issues of the ’65 team have been well-documented by billd and Mike, and on top of that, the ’65 Bills lost something major when Cookie Gilchrist was traded to the Broncos.

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