Golden Football Magazine
AFL Championship Games
1963: Boston Patriots @ San Diego Chargers
This series covers the history of the AFL through the prism of its yearly championship games.
Note: The gray boxes contain asides that provide interesting material but could be skipped
without losing the continuity of the article.

Sid Gillman

Paul Maguire

Tobin Rote

Alvin Roy

Walt Sweeney, O-line coach Joe Madro, Ron Mix

Lance Alworth

Al Davis

Sonny Werblin and Weeb Ewbank

Babe Parilli

Nick Buoniconti

Larry Eisenhauer

Mike Holovak

Chargers coach Sid Gillman described himself thus: I collect ideas.
  • He was definitely in the market for some fresh ideas when his club, after playing in the first two AFL championship games, fell to 4-10 in 1962.
  • Injuries played a major part in the disastrous season.

Gillman developed a multi-part plan to make his club competitive again in '63.

  • Emulating what Bear Bryant did with his "Junction Boys" at Texas A&M in 1954, Sid found an abandoned dude ranch named Rough Acres in the middle of nowhere in the high desert country 60 miles east of San Diego. He decided to conduct his preseason camp there to get his men away from the temptations of the big city.
    Fifty years later, Jerry Magee of the San Diego Union-Tribune still had not-so-fond recollections of the place.
    There can't ever have been a training camp like this one. One day, a bell rang in the camp's main building, and Paul Maguire cried, "Stage is in!"
    Guys probably believed him. We're talking Wild West. They never were able to grow grass on what passed as the football field. At first, Gillman could not get a chef to stick around for more than a day or two.
    Players would wander about naked and no one would be offended; there wasn't a woman anywhere near. There were some horses, but they moved slowly, as if they had been stunned by the desert heat.
    In the little cabins where the players were housed, there was some furniture, but its only finish was the dust that would gather on it. The shower area had no roof. In the camp, there was one telephone that hung outside the main building. One link to civilization.
    Two rooms in the main lodge were air-conditioned. Gillman occupied one. The other he deeded to Tobin Rote after the veteran quarterback was injured. Rote would shake his head. He never had experienced anything like this, he would say.
    Walt Sweeney, having participated in the College All-Star Game, showed up after the other rookies and immediately threatened to leave.
    Creepy-crawly things were everywhere. One evening,
    (DT Ernie) Ladd was playing ping-pong outside the main building and the ball rolled into a hole in the structure. When Ladd reached into the hole, out came a snake. I'm not sure if Ernie played ping-pong again.
  • Before they departed for the camp, players received a letter from Gillman explaining that they would be lifting weights. The program was supervised by a 5'6" Louisiana man named Alvin Roy, who had worked with the U.S. Olympic team. By instituting Roy's program, Sid was once again going against conventional wisdom, which said that weightlifting would make players "muscle bound" and hamper, not enhance, their play.
  • The daily regimen also included taking Dianabol pills, which Roy claimed would help their bodies assimilate protein. Dianabol, an artificial form of testosterone, was designed to promote healing and strength in patients. It was legal and not banned by any athletic association.
  • Sure enough, as they endured the twice a day workouts in the heat, players who took the pills noticed an increase in strength and stamina.
  • Players were expected to take Dianabol with every meal although some, primarily players at the "skill" (non-linemen) positions who also didn't lift, claim they didn't take the pills at all or at least not as often as suggested.
  • When training camp ended just before the regular season, one player learned from his personal physician about the side effects of Dianabol. That led captain Ron Mix, an offensive tackle, to ask for a meeting with the coaches, who disputed the doctor's warning. Nevertheless, the team no longer required anyone to take the pills.
    Years later, Mix recalled: The weight training is what really improved us as a team, that combined with great individual talent. He also expressed doubts that anyone continued to use Dianabol once training camp ended. Read Mix's training camp diary from the 9/16/63 issue of Sports Illlustrated.

Whether it was the weight lifting, the pills, or a talented team bonding together in their determination to return to the top, the Chargers won the Western Division with an 11-3 record, one game better than the Oakland Raiders.

  • Using Gillman's pioneering passing philosophy, San Diego scored 399 points, 36 more than the Raiders, coached by Gillman's former assistant Al Davis. The Chargers also topped the league in total yardage, 5145 - 632 more than second-place Oakland.
    Basing his scheme on exhaustive film study of opponents, Gillman offense incorporated these features:
    1. Timing routes that had the QB throwing to a spot the receiver is supposed to reach at a specific point in his route. Sid used the width of the field in a "horizontal passing game" as well as the vertical.
    2. Using a relatively small number of plays but running them from as many as ten different formations with plenty of motion thrown in.
    Gillman: We'd take a dozen plays and run two dozen formations. That helped us by cutting down practice times and not have to work on so many different thoughts. No matter how smart or great a player or team is, you don't want to load them down with too much.
    3. Creating mismatches such as forcing a safety who normally covered TEs to cover a WR.
    4. Instructing QBs to "bounce" on their feet while scanning the field for an open receiver.
  • Retroactive calculation of modern statistics reveals that Tobin Rote led the league in Passer Rating (86.7) and Yards/Pass Attempt (8.8). At age 35, Rote, who had played the previous three seasons in the CFL, threw for 2510y, the most of his career.
  • It helped that he had an outstanding receiving corps led by Lance Alworth (61/1205) and two excellent backs in HB Paul Lowe (1010y rushing) and FB Keith Lincoln (826y).
    Alworth explained how he got the nickname "Bambi": My first day in training camp in San Diego, Charlie Flowers ... saw me after practice when I walked in, and I had a flat-top haircut and big brown eyes. And I lifted my knees high when I ran. He said something about all that and, "You run like a deer, and we're going to call you Bambi." And it stuck.
  • The Chargers also deployed an outstanding defense that gave up the fewest points in the league (255). The unit's core was a massive front four: LE Earl Faison (6'5" 270), LT Ernie Ladd (6'9" 290), RT George Gross (6'3" 270), and RE Bob Petrich (6'4" 252). San Diego's offensive line felt they benefitted from going against their defensive counterparts every day in practice.

    Chargers defensive line
The mediocre Eastern Divison ended in a tie.
  • A new owner, Sonny Werblin, greatly aided the league when he took over the woeful, floundering New York Titans from Harry Wismer and turned them into the Jets. The club finished last at 5-8-1, but attendance almost tripled from 5,166 per game in '63 to 14,793. AFL fans in the Big Apple had every reason to hope that new coach Weeb Ewbank, backed by Werblin's deep pockets, would finally make their team competitive.
  • The Boston Patriots and Buffalo Bills both finished 7-6-1 while the Houston Oilers, who had worn the division crown the first three years of the AFL, faded to 6-8.
  • The championship game was postponed a week so that the Patriots and Bills could meet in Buffalo to determine the East's representative. The Patriots won 26-8 in a wind chill of 9°.
  • Like the Chargers, the Pats were led by a veteran QB - 33-year-old Babe Parilli, who also threw for over 2,000y (2345 to be exact). With no one of Alworth's caliber to throw to, Babe spread his passes aroud. FL Jim Colclough led the team with 42 receptions followed by SE Gino Cappelletti with 34 and TE Tony Romeo with 32.
  • The defense ranked higher than the offense - 2nd in points against (257) as opposed to 4th in points for (327).
  • The undisputed leader of the defense was 5'11" 220 lb MLB Nick Buoniconti. His unit was particularly tough against the rush, surrendering only 1108y, the least in the league. All-Pro DE Larry Eisenhauer was known as "Wild Man."
    Eisenhauer: I was always known as a guy that got himself very emotionally motivated before games. I was always able to get that adrenalin flowing and fired up. I had a reputation of just coming all the time, never stopping.

The betting line stayed steady with the Chargers 6 to 6.5-point favorites.

  • A poll of the league coaches also revealed a majority in favor of San Diego.
  • The Chargers defeated the Patriots in both their regular season meetings by a combined five points, 17-13 in San Diego September 14 and 7-6 on a muddy field at Fenway Park November 10.
  • The Boston players, to a man, insisted that the pressure was on San Diego.
  • QB Babe Parilli expressed optimism. We're in top physical shape for Sunday's big game. We have added new plays to our offense that the San Diego scouts haven't seen. Don't let the odds fool you. We were on the short end at Buffalo too.
  • Babe also looked forward to having injured HB Ron Burton back after injury, although Ron was far from 100%. Burton gives me an added receiver and a top breakaway runner. The Chargers can't key on (FB Larry) Garron like the other clubs have done. If they do, Burton can be shaken loose. Burton can be the difference.
  • On the negative side, both DTs, Jess Richardson and Houston Antwine, would be playing on nerve alone.
  • Coach Mike Holovak was concerned about the heat taking a toll on his club as the afternoon wore on. He had brought his team to the coast a few days early to get acclimated to the time zone and the weather. They practiced at the marine base field before a light final drill Saturday at Balboa Stadium.
    A defensive-mind coach, Holovak was one of the nicest gentlemen in the coaching profession. But he wanted his defense to play aggressively with numerous blitzes.
  • The game would be the first one in a month that the Patriots wore regular cleats after plalying in sneakers on frozen fields for three weeks.

However, giving Sid Gillman two weeks to prepare for a game was almost unfair.

  • After being stymied by the Oilers' tough defenses in the 1960 and '61 title games, the Chargers coach decided on a different approach for his third championship game appearance.
  • Studying film of the two regular season clashes with Boston, Sid noticed that they blitzed frequently to combat the Chargers' deep-passing game and also blunt the running attack.
  • So Gillman devised a game plan that flipped the offensive philosophy of the previous two meetings. He replaced deep routes to Alworth with swing passes to Lincoln and Lowe. Noting that Boston held the great Cookie Gilchrist to just 7y in the playoff with Buffalo, he substituted draws and misdirection plays for power runs behind Mix. Lowe would primarily serve as a decoy for Lincoln.
  • He labeled the plan "Feast or Famine" because it would either work spectacularly or fall flat on its face.
1963 Boston Patriots
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
14 Tom Yewcic QB 5-11 185 Michigan State 3
15 Babe Parilli QB 6-1 195 Kentucky 12
20 Gino Cappeletti E-K 6-0 190 Minnesota 4
21 Bob Suci DB 5-10 185 Michigan State 2
22 Ron Burton HB 5-10 190 Northwestern 4
23 Ron Hall DB 6-0 190 Missouri Valley 5
24 Dick Felt DB 6-1 185 Brigham Young 4
25 Ross O'Hanley DB 6-0 185 Boston College 4
30 Jim Crawford HB 6-1 205 Wisconsin 4
31 Harry Crump FB 6-1 205 Boston College 1
32 Billy Lott HB 6-0 205 Mississippi 6
34 Chuck Shonta DB 6-0 200 Eastern Michigan 4
36 Tom Neumann HB 5-11 205 Wisconsin, N. Michigan 1
40 Larry Garron FB 6-0 195 Western Illinois 4
50 Bob Yates C-T 6-1 240 Syracuse 3
51 Don McKinnon LB 6-3 230 Dartmouth 1
53 Tom Addison LB 6-2 230 South Carolina 4
54 Walt Cudzik C 6-2 230 Purdue 10
62 Dave Watson G 6-1 245 Georgia Tech 1
65 Houston Antwine DT 6-0 270 Southern Illinois 3
70 Milt Graham T 6-6 235 Colgate 3
71 Don Oakes T 6-4 255 Virginia Tech 3
72 Larry Eisenhauer DE 6-2 255 Michigan State 3
73 Billy Neighbors G 6-0 250 Alabama 2
75 Jess Richardson DT 6-2 260 Alabama 11
76 Charley Long G 6-4 260 Tenn-Chattanooga 3
79 Jim Lee Hunt DE 5-11 255 Prairie View 4
80 Jack Rudolph LB 6-3 225 Georgia Tech 4
81 Jim Colclough E 6-0 185 Boston College 4
84 Art Graham E 6-1 205 Boston College 1
85 Nick Buoniconti LB 5-11 220 Notre Dame 2
86 Tony Romeo E 6-3 230 Florida State 3
89 Bob Dee DE 6-3 250 Holy Cross 7
1963 San Diego Chargers
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
18 Tobin Rote QB 6-3 211 Rice 14
19 Lance Alworth E 6-0 185 Arkansas 2
20 Gerry McDougall FB 6-3 225 UCLA 2
21 John Hadl QB 6-1 215 Kansas 2
22 Keith Lincoln FB 6-1 215 Washington State 3
23 Paul Lowe HB 6-0 205 Oregon State 4
25 Dick Westmoreland DB 6-1 190 North Carolina A&T 1
29 Jerry Robinson E 5-11 190 Grambling State 2
36 Dick Harris DB 5-11 185 McNeese State 4
38 Jacque MacKinnon E 6-4 235 Colgate 3
39 George Blair K-DB 5-11 195 Mississippi 3
40 Bobby Jackson FB 6-3 240 New Mexico State 2
43 Gary Glick DB 6-2 195 Colorado State 8
47 Bud Whitehead DB 6-0 185 Florida State 3
50 Chuck Allen LB 6-1 225 Washington 3
52 Don Rogers C 6-2 240 South Carolina 4
56 Emil Karas LB 6-3 230 Dayton 5
57 Bobby Lane LB 6-2 220 Baylor 1
60 Sam Deluca G 6-2 250 South Carolina 4
61 Ernie Park G 6-3 255 McMurry 1
64 Pat Shea G 6-1 250 USC 3
74 Ron Mix T 6-4 250 USC 4
75 Ernie Wright T 6-4 270 Ohio State 4
76 Henry Schmidt DT 6-4 255 USC, Trinity (TX) 5
77 Ernie Ladd DT 6-9 290 Grambling State 3
78 Walt Sweeney G 6-4 255 Syracuse 1
79 George Gross DT 6-3 270 Auburn 1
82 Bob Mitinger LB 6-2 230 Penn State 2
83 Dave Kocourek TE 6-5 240 Wisconsin 4
84 Paul Maguire P-LB 6-0 230 Citadel 4
85 Bob Petrich DE 6-4 250 West Texas A&M 1
86 Earl Faison DE 6-5 270 Indiana 3
88 Don Norton E 6-1 190 Iowa 4

Balboa Stadium

Keith Lincoln

Keith Lincoln starts 56y scamper to 4.

Dave Kocourek

Dick Felt

Tom Yewcic

Jack Rudolph

Sam DeLuca

Ernie Wright

Harry Crump fights for Q1 yardage.

Larry Garron plunges over for Patriots' TD.

Lincoln breaks through on quick opener in Q1.

Jacque MacKinnon

Ernie Ladd smothers Babe Parilli.

Tobin Rote calls signals in Q2.

Lowe eludes Ron Hall.

Bob Suci

Don Norton

Art Graham

John Hadl

ABC televised the game with Curt Gowdy and Paul Christman at the microphones. Jack Buck and George Ratterman handled the national radio broadcast.
  • The league decided to change its policy and allow the telecast to be seen in the host city despite the fact that the game was not a sellout.
  • Since the players' shares were based on tickets sold, San Diego player representative Ron Mix met with his counterpart for the Patriots, Tom Addison. They talked to their teammate about going on strike even though there was as yet no formal players union. A compromise was reached the Friday before the game when the league agreed to pay shares based on what the receipts would have been if Balboa Stadium had sold out.
  • Sure enough, attendance fell 5000 short of capacity.
    Keith Lincoln, the centerpiece of Gillman's offensive game plan, wasn't feeling well the morning of the game. He recalled: I drove to the game with my wife and told her I was feeling flu-ish. I felt a little bit off and was concerned whether I'd have enough stamina to play the whole game. The game wouldn't progress very far before it was the Patriot defense that was feeling sick.
30,127 basking in the sunshine saw the home team get off to a fast start and never let up.
  • Quarter 1
    San Diego went straight down the field with the opening kickoff, 72y in just four plays. After Lance Alworth ran back the kick to the 28, the Chargers lined up with HB Paul Lowe and FB Keith Lincoln split in the backfield. TE Dave Kocourek lined up next to LT Ernie Wright. SE Don Norton occupied the slot with FL Alworth to the outside. This rare alignment in 1963 forced S Ron Hall to cover a speedy receiver like Alworth or Norton instead of his usual TE assignment. Convinced the Chargers would pass from that formation, the Patriots sent seven when Tobin Rote took the snap. Despite the pressure, he faked a toss to Lincoln and an inside trap to Lowe before tossing a swing pass to Lincoln in the right flat. Keith busted a tackle at the line of scrimmage and gained 12y. On the next play, Rote deployed the same formation but also sent Lowe in motion to the side of the two WRs - something the Chargers had not done in either of the previous meetings earlier in the season. Boston went one better than on the first play, sending the front four, all three LBs, plus S Hall. They were so anxious that two linemen beat the snap by a split second to draw an offside flag that did not stop the play. This time, Rote handed the ball to Lincoln on an inside trip. Known for his quick start, the FB raced up the middle past the blitzing LBs for 56y to the 4, where DB Dick Felt tackled him from behind. After Lowe, "a splindly-legged halfback with fantastic acceleration," swept for 2, Rote went over LG across the goal. Chargers 7 Patriots 0 (13:31)
    Lincoln: Having our backs in motion was a new look for them. I think it really confused their LBs. It gave us just a split-second where they'd freeze and gave us the opportunity to hit them quick.
    The Pats first offensive series showed little. An incompletion, Ron Burton's 1y run, and a sack led to a punt. Hurried, Tom Yewcic kicked out on the SD 41.
    San Diego bested their first possession by scoring in just two snaps. First, LB Jack Rudolph, lined up with his hand on the ground, blitzed past TE Kocourek as part of a six-man rush and sacked Rote on the 33. But the Patriots would not enjoy their success for long. On 2nd down with the ball in the middle of the field, Lowe faked an inside trap. MLB Buoniconti ignored Lowe and blitzed but ran into LG Sam DeLuca. In the meantime, Lincoln, spread wider that usual, took Rote's pitchout and ran around LE behind LT Ernie Wright. Big Ernie, 6'4" 270 lbs, cleared Rudolph with a block as Keith feinted past a blitzing LB, then leaped over a fallen tackler. Meanwhile, Wright got a second block, leveling Felt to give Lincoln a clear field to run untouched to pay dirt. That gave Keith 123y on just two carries. Chargers 14 Patriots 0 (10:48)
    Eisenhauer recalled Wright as one of the toughest offensive linemen he faced. The two best tackles I went up against in the AFL were Jim Tyrer[Chiefs] and Winston Hill [Jets] because they had quick feet. But Ernie was just as fast as they were. He could lead the sweep as well as a guard.
    Lincoln was still feeling sluggish and below par either from the flu or from pent-up emotion. I felt like I would have trouble beating Ernie Ladd in a 100-yard dash. I believe I would have done a lot better if I had felt better.
    The Patriots got back into the game by traveling 67y in seven plays. Runs by Larry Garron, Ron Burton, and Harry Crump netted a 1st down on the Boston 45. On the next snap, Parilli wound up and threw deep to Gino Cappelletti who was behind the secondary. But the pass was a bit short, and Cap had to wait to catch it on the 20. That allowed DB Dick Westmoreland to catch him at the 10. FB Larry Garron took over from there, jamming ahead for 3, then going through a big hole up the middle from the final 7. Chargers 14 Patriots 7
    But right back came San Diego with another quick drive, taking four plays again to traverse 73y. Lowe returned the kickoff 22y to the 26. The Pats held for two plays to put the Chargers in their first 3rd down situation with 6 to go. Guessing correctly that Boston would blitz, Gillman put Lowe in motion with Rudolph running with him on the other side of the line. Lincoln ran the inside trap behind G Pat Shea, who sealed off Eisenhauer. Keith wiggled loose through the area Rudolph vacated to the 42 for the 1st down at the left hash mark. From there, Rote called "Toss 78 Y-Man 0," the same type of pitchout which sprung Lincoln but to Lowe this time to the opposite side. Pulling RT Mix, the "Intellectual Assassin," knocked CB Bob Suci almost 10y down the field while Norton took care of Addison to allow Lowe to turn the corner. The Patriots seemed to have Paul trapped against the sideline, but with Mix blocking Suci a second time, the slippery HB managed to break into the clear and sprint to the EZ. In ten offensive plays, only three of which were passes, San Diego had three TDs. Chargers 21 Patriots 7 (3:34)

    Paul Lowe, hemmed in on sidelines as Mix blocks Suci, breaks free for TD.
    Ron Mix would become the first AFL lineman inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Gillman: If you couldn't lead our toss, you couldn't play for us. Nobody could lead that play better than Mix.
    Joe Madro followed Sid everywhere he went as his O-line coach. Tom Bass, who would become a Chargers assistant in 1964, recalled: The two of them devised at least three different ways to attack every hole in the line. Ace, deuce, trey, jack, queen, and king were the names Sid and Joe used. The beauty of it was that all of those methods were interchangeable in that you could run the same base plays - which Sid referred to as his Dirty Dozen - but none of them ever looked the same.
    Boston's offense continued to sputter and left the field after three futile plays.
    Continuing to blitz because they didn't know any other way to play, the Pats finally stopped the Chargers thanks in part to an offside penalty that nullified a 40y option pass from Lowe to Alworth.
    End of Q1: Chargers 21 Patriots 7
    Boston D-coordinator Marion Campbell later admitted: What had worked for us against them in the regular season sure wasn't working in the championship. When you blitz, the other team can beat you for a touchdown on a single play, where against a more sound defense, you can keep their gains manageable.
  • Quarter 2
    The Patriots managed one first down before having to punt again.
    San Diego's next possession started promisingly when Lincoln completed a 40y pass to TE Jacque MacKinnon. But a 15y penalty took the steam out of the march.
    Parilli hit Garron with a look-in pass for 5, then shot another quickie to Burton for a first down at the 46. But 300 lbs of Ernie Ladd buried Babe for an 11y loss. Then Earl Faison took a turn sacking Parilli to force a punt. Yewcic boomed one to the 26.
    After an 8y pass to Alworth on a curl route, the home team looked primed for another TD when Lincoln burst through a big hole at LT on a quick opener for 44y to the 21. The play began with a split-back formation and a quick snap before Boston could get settled.
    Eisenhauer recalled: We made Lincoln look like Superman. But it wasn't just him. He had a great line blocking for him. Inside, outside - they were running us to death. They weren't passing that much, and we were baffled. What's going on here? This wasn't what we had prepared for. I still have visions of all those thunderbolts flying by me: over, around, all over the joint. It was embarrassing.
    On the next play, Lincoln lined up in the slot in a three-wide set, and Lowe went in motion to the wide side with LB Addison following him. So Keith went into the vacated area to take a strike from Rote for 10 more. When the drive bogged down on the 4, SD settled for an 11y FG by George Blair. Chargers 24 Patriots 7

    Rote hands off to Lowe.
    On the kickoff, San Diego's Walt Sweeney rocked Garron, causing a slight concussion. Boston's best runner didn't return to the field until midway through Q3 and then only briefly. Without him, the Patriots matched the Chargers' FG with one of their own by Cappelletti from the 15. Parilli mixed passing and running on the 11-play march. The biggest gain was Cappelletti's slick sideline grab for a 23y to the 23. Without Garron, Boston huffed and puffed to the 8 before running into a stonewall and decided that 3 was better than 0. Chargers 24 Patriots 10 (2:41)
    Rote & Company matched that bid and raised it four points. Lincoln's 24y scamper with a flare pass after a fake to Lowe over T - the same play that had opened the game - and a pass interference call on DB Bob Suci put the pigskin on the 14. From there, Tobin called a play the Chargers had not run all season. From a two TE balanced set, Tobin faked a swing pass to Lincoln heading to the right. Overreacting to fakes as they been doing throughout the half, four defenders headed that way. Then Rote whirled and threw to Don Norton on a TE screen. Don ran through the outnumbered defense to the EZ. Chargers 31 Patriots 10
    The Chargers tried what appeared to be an offside kick, but Bob Yates grabbed it on his 36.
    After the game, Gillman denied he was trying to run up the score by calling for an onside kick. No, we were just trying to kick a knuckleball. We wanted the ball to bounce down the field, but it didn't work.
    LB Bob Mitinger stepped in front of a Parilli pass and returned to the 40 with just 10 seconds on the clock. Blair tried a 49y FG that was blocked as time expired.
    Halftime score: Chargers 31 Patriots 10
    Rote had thrown only 11 passes. Yet San Diego had 328 total yards. The Patriots had blitzed on 14 of the 26 plays and allowed 200y on those 14 snaps, an average of 14.6 yards per play.

The Patriots played more competitively the second half.

  • Quarter 3
    Suci replaced Garron as the kick returner, gaining 14 to start the possession on the 28. But the Pats were unable to move, and Yewcic punted to the SD 36.
    Boston got their first break of the game when Lowe fumbled, and Eisenhauer recovered on the SD 40.
    Parilli tried to go to the air immediately but was hit with such force that the ball popped loose. But the Pats recovered on the 45. When two passes failed, Yewcic punted into the EZ. Two straight three-and-outs, the second one after a turnover in enemy territory, is not a good way to get back into the game.
    On 3rd-and-7 from the 24 after Rudolph and Eisenhauer combined for a sack, Gillman did something he liked to do - go back to a successful play again and again. Rote tossed another flare pass, this time to the short side, to Lincoln who followed Wright down the left sideline to the Boston 45. After a loss of 3 on one of the few times that a Boston blitz stopped a run, the old pro QB lobbed long and deep to Lance on a go route, but Suci knocked the ball away. So Gillman came right back with the very same play. Buoniconti roared past Wright but, fortunately, Gillman had kept both backs in, and Lincoln floored the MLB. However, the pressure caused Rote to underthrow the ball. Not fooled but put on an island with no safety help by the formation and motion, Suci was in position to intercept on the 15, but Bambi outleaped him, snatched the ball away, and spun loose to the EZ. Gillman gave Rote the rest of the afternoon off. Chargers 38 Patriots 10

    Lance Alworth outleaps Bob Suci for TD pass.
    Ahead by 28, San Diego played loose in anticipation of Parilli filling the air with footballs. Knowing that, Babe gave the ball repeatedly to HB Billy Lott, who gained 26y to midfield. Finally, the Kentucky veteran tried the airwaves to no avail. So Yewcic kicked out on the 30.
    Two straight Lincoln runs gained 18. Then Rote sneaked for another 1st down. But an offside halted the advance, and P Paul Maguire came on for the second time. He punted out on the 2.
    Parilli, 1-for-8 in the half, missed twice more as the period came to a halt.

    Paul Lowe stiffarms Ron Hall.
  • Quarter 4
    E Art Graham took Parilli's pass in stride and continued all the way to the 48. Then the other E, Jim Colclough, snagged two throws to move to the 25. But Parilli was dropped for a 5y loss, setting up a failed 4th down play to turn the ball over on the 30.
    John Hadl took over at QB and directed a 70y advance. After a run gained 3, the Chargers came out in the standard formation of the day for the first time - two split backs, TE next to the RT, and two wide receivers. But Norton lined up 5y outside the yard numbers to spread the field more than most teams did. Like Rote, Hadl called a quick count to negate any presnap movement by the defense, took a five-step drop, waited for Norton to come clear on a slant-in for a pass-run to the Boston 33. After three plays netted 8, SD went for it. Out of a two TE formation but with Alworth one of the two and Norton again outside the numbers, Hadl faked to Lowe which held Buoniconti for a moment, then lobbed to Lincoln wide open over the middle for not just the 1st down but a TD. Rote came in again to hold for the PAT but had to pass when the snap went awry. Incomplete. Chargers 44 Patriots 10
    Yewcic succeeded Parilli under C and took off for 14 on the first play after the kickoff. Tom followed that with a completion to Lott to the SD 46. But the march went no further, and Yewcic punted into the EZ.
    The Chargers added another 80y to their fantastic output. Lincoln gained 8 on the first play, then took a toss to the right and lofted an option pass to reserve TE MacKinnon who made a fine catch for 24y. Gillman then sent in Gerry McDougall to replace Lincoln so the crowd could show their appreciation. As he left the field, the PA announcer told the crowd that, surprise, surprise, Lincoln had been voted MVP of the game. After Felt knocked down two consecutive passes to Alworth, Gillman sent MacKinnon on a crossing pattern. Hadl hit him for a 33y gain. Four straight passing plays put the ball inside the 1, from where John dove over on the 11th play. Chargers 51 Patriots 10 (1:19)
    Yewcic got a few more snaps before the game mercifully came to a close.
    FINAL SCORE: Chargers 51 Patriots 10

Gillman walks off with game ball.

Heisman Trophy winner turned broadcaster
Tom Harmon interviews Keith Lincoln.
After piling up 349y of total offense, Keith Lincoln received 38 of the 39 reporters' votes for the game's outstanding player.

Final statistics:

  • First downs: Chargers 21 Patriots 14
  • Rushing: Chargers 32-318 Patriots 16-75
  • Passing: Chargers 26-17-0/292 Patriots 37-17-2/186
  • Return yardage: Chargers 5-85 Patriots 9-122
  • Fumbles-Lost: Chargers 1-1 Patriots 1-0
  • Penalties: Chargers 6-30 Patriots 1-18
  • Punting average: Chargers 2-43.5 Patriots 7-46.9

The television revenue made up partly for the 8,000 fewer attendees than the year before in Houston.

  • The Chargers earned $2500 apiece.
  • Each Patriot pocketed $1900.

San Diego Locker Room

  • Long-stemmed glasses filled with champagne awaited the Chargers when they reached their dressing room. Gillman had a football in one hand and a glass in the other as he met the press. A reporter asked him if it was the game ball. No. We'll look at the game movies and then give the ball to somebody. But he praised the player the press had overwhelmingly voted best in the game, calling him the second best FB in the pro game, behind only the great Jim Brown of Cleveland. Lincoln is the best all-around back we've had on the squad. He can run, he can catch the ball and pass it, and when you ask him to block someone, he kills them. ... And that Tobin Rote called a great game. I didn't call any of the plays. Rote calls plays better than I could ever hope to call them. A scribe noted the Chargers caught the Patriots with their flanks exposed when they tried to red-dog early in the game. We hoped to catch them that way. We figured we might throw some tosses to the outside and get around their blitz. ... This was a fine defensive team we faced today. We have a lot of respect for their two ends, Bob Dee and Larry Eisenhauer, and we thought they would be a real test for Keith. But he handled, them, didn't he?
    Years later, Gillman reflected on the game that produced the most yardage ever gained by one of his teams. No game plan works that well. I think it was just one of those days more than anything else.
  • MVP Lincoln insisted he was not a FB. This doesn't change anything. I'm still too light (215 pounds) to be blocking 270-pound ends and tackles, but I'll play FB if that's where they want me. Keith revealed that he felt sluggish at the outset of the game. I felt like I would have trouble beating Ernie Ladd in a 100-yard dash. I believe I would have done a lot better if I had felt stronger. But everything we did was right today. I had been a little disappointed personally with the way I played this year, and it feels great to come back and have a game like this.
  • Rote had now directed Detroit's 59-14 title romp over the Browns in 1957, won two CFL titles with Toronto, and engineered this 41-point whipping. This championship makes me just as happy as the first one did. I had my sights on this when I first came here this year, and it gives me a lot of satisfaction. I feel like I had my best year throwing, and I felt great until bursitis began bothering me about a month ago. I know coach Gillman won't agree, but I think the arm trouble developed because I threw too much in practice. ... I've got another year on my contract, though, and I'll be back. Don't misunderstand - I want to be back. Our offense is as good as any I've ever played on. The 1957 Detroit team had more depth, but it didn't have the receivers and the fast backs this team has. I'm proud to be a part of this club.
  • Paul Lowe, who rushed for 84y after gaining nothing in the second regular season game, explained the difference. Back in Boston, the field was too slippery and muddy. It was in bad shape. We had great footing today. That made the difference. It was a good game, but I was a little disappointed in my personal performance.
  • San Diego owner Barron Hilton called the lopsided triumph the greatest performance I've ever seen.
  • Oakland coach Al Davis came in and congratulated Lincoln. You let me down out there today, kidded Al as he tossled Keith's hair. I don't know why, but you just couldn't get going. Then Al told the press, Nobody can stop Lincoln and Lowe. They're the greatest pair of backs in the game. I said early in the week that Boston couldn't handle Lincoln and Lowe, and I also said it might be a runaway if they got a fast start.

  • L: Chargers toast their championship; R: Alworth guzzles champagne.
    Mix recalled the elation in the locker room. I don't know if I ever felt younger, stronger, or faster than that day. If you do your job right, you should feel tired after the game. I don't remember ever feeling fatigue. The whole experience was invigorating - as if a shot of adrenaline came into your body every time one of our players did something spectacular. It was thrilling to be a part of it. Anybody who plays in any sport, no matter the level, will at some point do something perfect. In our case, it happened to us as a team. Everybody had the game of their lives.
Boston Locker Room
  • Holovak: We have no excuses. Absolutely none. We just got the blazes beaten out of us. It's as simple as that. They left nothing untouched. They were a great football club today, that's all. They were better prepared. Give them all the credit in the world and give me hell for not getting 'em ready. I thought we were ready. I thought we played fairly well in the second half. But it was everything. Their running, passing - they were better in every department. They were much more hungry. They wanted it more. They deserved it. I don't know how any team could have been much better than they were today. It wasn't that they showed us anything new particularly; we had plans for that man in motion and FB counter. It was just that they performed every fact of their game so well. Often we covered them perfectly on pass plays, for instance, and they completed them anyway. But let's stand up and face it. We just weren't very good today.
  • Ron Burton: It was embarrassing, but we shouldn't feel too bad. We played a good ball club. They could beat anybody today - I mean anybody.
  • DE Bob Dee praised the MVP. Lincoln is the best back in the league - bar none. About five of us hit him and none of us could bring him down.
    The torching by the Chargers changed D-coordinator Campbell's approach to defense. I realized that this much blitzing can't be your whole system. It totally changed my philosophy. It's easy to just let 'er rip with the blitz, but we got hurt badly with that. If it fails, like it did against the Chargers, you've got nothing to fall back on. From then on, I only coached a controlled system where the other team was going to have to earn every score on its own.
    But Marion added: San Diego didn't put up those kind of numbers simply because we blitzed so much. A lot of it had to do with their speed and personnel. In the end, good players are going to win for you. But here's where you really have to give Sid credit. Some coaches have good material but don't know what to do with it. Sid really knew how to get the best out of all those great players.

Boston Traveler cartoon day after game

Sid Gillman called his Chargers "the universal champions" after they won the AFL title.

  • If anyone wants to dispute that claim, just let them play us, he said.
  • Someone asked, Do you think it would be a contest if you played the National League champion? Sid replied, I definitely think it would be a contest. We have some great teams in this league, and they have some great teams in theirs.
  • So Sid challenged the Bears to one more game to see who has the best football team in the world. George Halas, of course, declined.
  • So Gillman instructed the jeweler making the Chargers' championship rings to engrave "1963 AFL and World Champions" on each. He figured the Bears had forfeited by not accepting the challenge.
  • The day after the title game, Gillman wrote a letter to NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle pro­posing a "World Series of pro football." Rozelle had been Sid's GM with the Rams 1955-59. The Jewish coach referred to the Second Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church then taking place in Rome and Pope John XXIII's outreach to reverse centuries of bitterness between Catholicism and Judaism. Pope John was a great man because he recognized the "other league. Rozelle sent Sid a telegram with this reply: Yes. But it took a thousand years.
  • However, some owners in both leagues as well as TV executives began pondering the idea of a game between the AFL and NFL champions. The seed was planted that produced the Super Bowl three years later.
1963 AFL Champion San Diego Chargers

References: The Little League That Could: A History of the American Football League, Ken Rappoport (2010)
"Pumped-up Pioneers: the '63 Chargers", T. J. Quinn, (2/1/2009)
"Camping out with the Chargers: Rough Acres Ranch in Boulevard stands out above all else in long journey," Jerry Magee, San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/20/2003
The Games That Changed the Game: The Evolution of the NFL in Seven Sundays,
Ron Jaworski with Greg Cosell and David Plaut (2010)
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