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.