Pivotal Pro Football Moments
pivotal NFL postseason moment: A decision by a coach or an action by a player that establishes or changes the momentum of a playoff game.
1962: Texans Bail Out Haynes
AFL Championship Game: Dallas Texans @ Houston Oilers
Despite having their third coach in three years, the Houston Oilers again won the East­ern Division crown. The coach was Lee "Pop" Ivy, who had compiled a 15-31 record with the Chicago/St. Louis Cardinals from 1958-61. Again led by ageless QB George Blanda, a 13-year pro veteran, the offense led the league in yardage with 4,971. George had plenty of weapons to choose from. Star RB Billy Cannon gained almost as many yards receiving (451) as rushing (474) in the double wing formation that Ivy installed. 5'6" FB Charley Tolar, AKA "the Human Bowling Ball," led the club in rushing with 1,012y. Charley Hen­nigan again topped the receivers with 54 catches for 867y.
The Western Division race produced a new champion. After the Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers took the first two titles, the Dallas Texans jumped to the top rung. Hank Stram's outfit, the youngest in the league with an average age of 23, reversed the Oilers' finishes in yardage, topping the league in defense (3,951y allowed) and finishing second in offense (4,862y). The key to Dallas's offensive success was new QB Lenny Dawson, whom Stram had coached at Purdue. Len led the AFL in completion percentage (61.0), touchdown passes (29), and yards per attempt (8.9 - a stat computed retro­actively). HB Abner Haynes joined Dawson on the All-AFL first team after gaining a combined 1,622y rushing and receiving.
The two Lone Star State teams met twice during the regular season. The Texans humili­ated the Oilers on a dark, rainy October 28 in Houston, 31-7. Dallas accounted for six of Blanda's record 42 interceptions for the season and also recovered three fumbles. But Houston gained revenge the next Sunday in the Cotton Bowl, 14-6. Run­ning the ball twice as many times as the week before, they won the turnover battle 3-1. Would the Oilers maintain that approach in the championship tiff?
In a title clash billed as "the well-balanced Dallas Texans" against the "pass-minded Houston Oilers," the Oilers were favored by 6 1/2 points.
Hank Stram didn't like the weather as the busses took his team to the stadium. Blustery winds off the Gulf of Mexico would make passing hard and kicking, a Texans' weakness, even more difficult. As he walked around the turf while the teams warmed up, he said, "I hate this field. Look at it ... mostly mud. But underneath it's concrete. Poorly laid concrete. That gives the pass receivers a big advantage. The defense has to play them loose."
Pop Ivy had many of the same thoughts. "If the wind bothers Blanda, we'll be in a load of trouble." But George had assured him that the wind wasn't as bad as it might seem.
A drizzle fell during warmups but stopped before kickoff.

L-R: Pop Ivy, George Blanda, Hank Stram, Len Dawson
Texans Repel Early Thrust
Houston's first possession started from their 44 and continued to the Texans 12. Blan­da faked to Tolar and handed to Cannon, who again turned the right corner before DT Jer­ry Mays knocked him out of bounds at the five. But the Texans rose up and blunted the mo­mentum. Mays and MLB E. J. Holub wrapped up Cannon at the four. Blanda turned and lateralled to Cannon around left end. But another former LSU player, DE Mel Branch, and DB Dave Grayson fired through and dropped the runner for a 4y loss. Will Blanda pass now? Yes, but he was hit just as he threw. The ball sailed be­hind Tolar into the hands of Holub under the crossbar. The 235 lb freight train ran out to the 48 to not only end the threat but give the Texans excel­lent field position.

L: Charlie Tolar. R: Cannon runs behind John Frongillo's block on E. J. Holub.
Texans' Field Goal
Dallas took advantage of the field position to put the first points on the scoreboard. After rookie FB Curtis McClinton gained seven, Dawson threw to his fellow All-Pro, HB Abner Haynes, who caught the low pass while on the ground at the 36 for a first down. On 3rd-and-three, Lenny rolled right in Stram's innovative "moving pocket" and hit FB Jack Spikes at the 15 to move the chains again. But the drive bogged down. So rookie E-K Tommy Brooker booted a 16y field goal. Dallas 3 Houston 0 (4:30)
Dallas Dominates Second Quarter
The Texans outscored Houston 14-0 in the second period. The first touchdown culmina­ted the first three plays of the quarter. First, FB Jack Spikes bolted 33y down left sideline to the Oiler 45. 15 more was tacked on for a face mask violation. Dawson scrambled to 28, then rolled right and threw on the run to Haynes who took it in stride just beyond DB Tony Ban­field's reach and raced down the sideline into the end zone. That climaxed a drive that covered 80y in just four plays. Dallas 10 Houston 0

L: Abner Haynes rambles. R: Haynes pulls in pass and runs into end zone.
The second score resulted from a turnover. On 2nd down, in what appeared to be a mix­up between Blanda and WR Hennigan, DB Dave Grayson stepped in front of a Blanda pass on the midfield stripe and returned to the 29. McClinton and Haynes alternated carrying the ball until Abner slashed into the end zone through the left side from the two.
17 Houston 0
Houston's Defense Rises Up
The weather changed during the second half. The temperature dropped 25° and the wind picked up even more.
Blanda had proven he could lead his team from behind. Three times during the season, he had been removed from the game because of poor play only to return and lead a come­back.
The Oilers moved 67y against the wind in six plays: (1) Blanda over the middle to E Willard Dewveall to the Dallas 43. (2) Tolar on an inside handoff to the 39. (3) Char­lie up the middle from the other wing for 13. (4) Blanda to Dewveall to the 15. (5) Holub al­most intercepted the next pass, which fell incomplete. (6) Dewveall fell into the end zone as he caught the ball. Dallas 17 Houston 7
Stram: "George Blanda came out in the third quarter behind a slot double-wing. We were playing it safe, trying to protect our big lead with zone coverage, and old George just picked at the soft spots, patiently taking short yardage we were conceding."
The rest of the quarter was scoreless. Houston had an excellent chance when LE Gary Cutsinger got his paw on Haynes' arm just as he took the handoff. That caused a bobble that DT Ed Husmann covered at the 20. But on second down, S Johnny Robinson snag­ged Blanda's pass headed toward an open Dewveall and raced from the goal line all the way to the 37.
Houston Field Goal
The Oilers began the final period with 2nd and 10 on their 43. Blanda fired to his favo­rite receiver of the afternoon, Dewveall, for nine. Cannon ran around the left side for five. Then Blanda threw down the middle to TE Bob McLeod at the 15. Amid shouts of "Go, go!" Blanda tried the same play but misfired. Then came a strange play that took the steam out of the drive. Blanda's pass was bat­ted by a charging lineman into the hands of OT Walt Suggs, who lateralled back to Blanda. But Walt would have been better off drop­ping the deflection since George was dropped for an 8y loss. Undaunted, George saw Cannon in the end zone, but Robinson made another great play, hitting his old LSU teammate as the ball arrived. So Blanda booted a field goal from the 31.
17 Houston 10 (11:00)

L: Johnny Robinson; R: Blanda boots field goal out of Bill Groman's hold.
Houston Ties the Game
The Houston D-line continued its domination of the Texans' O-line. When three plays gained little, Wilson punted into the wind to the Dallas 49. The Oilers took advantage of the short field to tie the game.
Blanda threw a quick look-in to Cannon to the 33. Facing 3rd-and-three, George found Billy again. He was downed immediately at the 10. The Old Man rolled right and hit Hen­nigan sliding down at the one. Tolar pushed over right tackle to pay dirt. Blanda booted the tying point. Dallas 17 Houston 17 (5:58)

L: Cannon catches as Walt Corey comes over.
R: Willard Dewveall falls into end zone with TD pass.
Stram: "We got a little rain, and the field grew progressively worse. Like some thoroughbreds, however, George Blanda was a great mudder and was just enjoying himself no end as he marched his guys deep into our territory ..."
The closest either team got to scoring the remainder of regulation was Blanda's field goal attempt that was blocked.
Haynes' Faux Pas
Next came the most famous coin toss in football history. As the visitors, the Texans would call the toss.
Stram: "Our offense had produced zero points for two quarters, and our punting wasn't the world's best, so I decided that if we won the toss, we would elect to kick and defend with the wind at our backs." During the three-minute break, Hank instructed his captain, Haynes, on what he wanted to do. "If we win the toss, we don't want to receive. We want the wind. If they win the toss, we want to kick to the clock" [with the wind].
One of the officials, Bob Finley, interrupted the discussion. "We're ready for the toss." Haynes said, "Okay, but coach wants to talk for a second." Finley: "Ab­ner, get your butt out here or it's fifteen yards."

Abner Haynes calls the coin toss.
Haynes and Oilers captain Al Jamison shook hands. With broadcaster Jack Buck holding a field mike close so that the entire nation could hear the dialog, Referee Harold Bourne flipped the coin as Haynes yelled "Heads." "Heads it is," said Bourne. "We'll kick to the clock," blurted Abner. Bourne explained that Dallas had the option to receive or defend. "We'll kick," Haynes repeated. Since he didn't take a goal, he gave Houston that choice. Jamison wasted no time in saying, "We'll take the wind."
The Dallas bench went wild. Not only would the Texans have to kickoff, but they'd have to do it against the wind.
Stram recalled: "Abner just said it wrong. As soon as he said the word 'kick,' the Oilers automatically had their choice of which side of the field they wanted. It was a mistake you don't like to make. But what can you do after it's made. ... The tension level in the stands and on the field was tremendous; the play­ers were exhausted and fired up at the same time. 'Abner,' I said, 'listen. Forget about it. Everybody, forget about it. It's ancient history. We still got to win the game. That's the only thing that's important. Win the game!'"
First Overtime
Neither team got close enough to try a field goal until the 15th minute. Throwing pass after pass, Blanda guided the Oilers to the Dallas 35. That nudged the Oilers into field goal range, but the quarter was about to end! Blanda had made field goals of 42 and 54y during the season. And he would have a 15mph wind at his back.
Cannon: "In the huddle, I told George, 'Kick the ball through there, and let's get this thing over with and go home.' But he said, 'No, I want to run this play first.'"
"This play" called for a fake to Cannon off-tackle and a rollout to the right. Blanda threw a pass that was intercepted by 6'7" rookie DE Bill Hull on the 26. The former basketball player at Wake Forest ran the ball back to midfield with one minute to go before the change of directions.
Hull: "We were rushing only three guys against their spread, so I dropped off to become a fourth linebacker - kind of a strange position for me, a little uncom­fortable, but [Stram] would do things like that, and they worked. George Blanda threw the ball right to me; he had no idea I was there. It surprised me, but I wasn't about to drop it."
Second Overtime
The game now went where no game had ever gone before - a 6th period. Who would be the hero? Would it be someone you'd expect like Blanda or Cannon or Dawson or Haynes? Or would it be an unexpected individual? It turned out to be the latter.
The Texans now had the wind at their backs. Facing 3rd-and-seven, Dawson flipped to Spikes at the 45, and he hustled to the 38 to earn the first down. It was Dallas's deepest penetration since the first half. Then Jack cut through left tackle, veered outside, and sprinted all the way to the 19.
Dawson: "Their blitz had been coming from alternate sides all game. This time they guessed wrong. They came from the right, and we ran to the left." Spikes: "It was an off-tackle play. McClinton kicked their linebacker out. Arbanas blocked down on their end and Al Reynolds knocked down their safety. The rest was easy."
Although in field goal range already, Dawson decided to stay with the player with the hot hand. Determined to avoid a sack at all costs, Lenny somehow elu­ded the rush and threw to Spikes who was open at the five. But Jack tripped as he pivoted to grab the ball, and it fell incomplete. McClinton came back in but was hit low as soon as he took the handoff for no gain. Then Dawson sneaked forward and slightly to the right to put the ball in the cen­ter of the field at the 17. Len called timeout and went over to consult with Stram.
Stram: "We weren't much better at kicking field goals than we were at punting. Our kicker, Tommy Brooker, didn't have great range or much consistency. We always held our breath on field goals that year. Especially this one. ... The field was sloppy, and I was wor­ried about how well Tom Brooker might do, kicking on that muddy surface. 'Tommy,' I said on the sideline, 'make sure you keep your head down and still and kick it through.' 'Don't worry, Coach,' he shot back. 'I'll kick that sucker right through there.'"
The Oilers called timeout to "ice the kicker" as we say today. Ivy ordered an 11-man rush. Brooker returned to the field and tried to clean the mud out of the cleats on his kicking shoe. Teammates tried to relax Brooker in the huddle. But the product of Bear Bryant's Alabama program exuded confidence. "Boys, it's over. We've got it."
Dawson knelt at the 24 and placed the ball for the rookie kicker, who calmly booted the pigskin through the uprights. The clock stopped with 12:06 showing. The game had lasted 77 minutes and 54 seconds. FINAL SCORE: DALLAS 20 HOUSTON 17

Brooker boots winning field goal and gets carried off by teammates.
Both Stram and Brooker were hoisted onto the shoulders of jubilant Texans.
The Outstanding Player Award went to Jack Spikes, who gained 77y on 11 carries and another 24 on two receptions. Above all, he accounted for 29y on the winning drive.