Pivotal Pro Football Moments
pivotal NFL postseason moment: A decision by a coach or an action by a player that changes the momentum of a playoff game.
1965: Bills Shut down Overconfident Chargers
1965 AFL Championship Game: Buffalo Bills@San Diego Chargers
The AFL had repeat champions in both divisions. The Chargers won their third straight West crown and fifth in the six seasons of the upstart league's existence. Think of Sid Gill­man's club and offense comes to mind. After all, they led the league in passing offense, rushing offense, and total offense. But they also topped the circuit in passing and rushing defense and therefore total defense (as well as penalties). Hugely disappointed that his team dropped the title game in '64 in Buffalo, Sid vowed to regain the championship in '64.
The defending AFL champion Bills amassed the best record in the league, 10-3-1, al­though they feasted on the weaker East Division in which they were the only team over .500.
San Diego was favored by 6.5 points on their home field. Buffalo coach Lou Saban dis­regarded the odds makers. "For a game like this, you throw away the book and go out and have one heckuva football game." Gillman expected the same. "Buffalo is a fine team, and this should be a great football game, unless crazy things happen, as they frequently do. It is going to take everything we own to do the job."
That may have been Sid's public stance on the game. But privately he was so confident that he predicted a blowout and told columnist Larry Felser of the Buffalo Evening News before the game, "You know, there is no way we can lose this game." When asked why, Sid explained, "Because of Jack Kemp. We're going to win this game because Kemp has the maturity of a 10-year-old girl."
According to Felser, Gillman made his boast after he had been drinking. "The teams had met a month before, and (star RB) Keith Lincoln barely played. He had a beef with Sid. It was probably over money. ... I knew Lincoln and talked to him after that game. As we fin­ished, I said, 'You'd always be welcomed in Buffalo.' He said, 'I'd love to play in Buffalo.' So I wrote it."

L-R: Sid Gillman, Lou Saban, Jack Kemp and Wray Carlton, Paul Costa
The teams met twice in the regular season. The Chargers clobbered the crip­pled Bills in Buffalo October 34-3 in a revenge game for the whipping they en­dured on that same field in the '64 championship game. But the Bills kicked a field goal in the last minute to gain a 20-20 tie when they visited the West Coast on Thanksgiving. Buffalo netted only 104y rushing in the two games combined.
The Chargers were quite confident about the outcome of the game. Buffalo TE Paul Costa recalled: "In San Diego, we were out every night, drinking beer, having a good time. Not staying out late. We were going to the same places as the San Diego players. And they were giving us the business: 'We're gonna kill you guys. We're gonna mop you up.' But it was friendly stuff. And that whole week, we took it from them."
Buffalo CB Butch Byrd: "The night before the game, (P-LB) Paul Maguire and several other Bills were out at a party, and Don Norton, one of the Chargers' receivers, told Paul what he was going to do to me the next day. I was incensed. Norton never had a good day against me. And Paul told Joe Collier, the defensive backs coach at the time. Before the game, Joe called me in for a special one-on-one and said, 'I don't want you to get too exci­ted out there. I want you to play your game.' I said words to the effect of: 'Not a thing to worry about.'"
Receiving the kickoff, the Bills implemented their plan of running the ball from a double tight end formation to control the clock. But after two first downs, the drive ended when CB Jimmy Warren intercepted QB Jack Kemp's pass.

Jack Kemp throws touchdown pass to Ernie Warlick (84).
The Bills surprised the Chargers with a "3-4" defense, although it wasn't called that at the time. They deployed three defensive linemen and four linebackers. Still, the Chargers moved into Buffalo territory before punting to the nine.
Neither team came close to scoring in the first period, but the visitors had to consider the opening period a victory since they held the potent Chargers offense scoreless.
With their special teams soundly outplaying the San Diego units, Buffalo gradually gained better field position until they started a possession at their 40. Continuing to run straight at the defense with a pass mixed in here and there, the Bills moved to the day's first score. Two Wray Carlton runs moved the chains to the Chargers 44. Kemp then rolled right and lobbed a pass to Costa. The big, agile tight end took it over his shoulder and stepped out of bounds at the 22. After two runs gained four, Jack found the other tight end, Ernie Warlick, under the goal posts. Gogolak con­verted. Buffalo 7 San Diego 0 (4:59)
Afterward, Warlick explained the touchdown play. "I just fake out, then head for the goal posts. It worked fine. I suspect (DB Speedy) Duncan wasn't accustomed to my move be­cause we hadn't played with two tight ends before."
The Chargers moved to their 45 before George Saimes came around the edge on a safety blitz and, with MLB Harry Jacobs, sacked Hadl at the 34. Hadl got off another good kick, but the high spiral turned into a disaster when Byrd took the ball at his 26, delayed a second as if expecting to be tackled, then burst past the first wave of coverage, and ran down the right sideline past the Chargers bench to pay dirt, pausing only to let a blocker take out the last defender, Hadl. The 74y return set an AFL championship game record. Buffalo 14 San Diego 0
The Chargers dodged a bullet in the last two minutes of the half when Duncan got a hand on Gogolak's 24y field goal. Going to his hurry-up offense, Hadl passed and ran his unit to the Buffalo 26. Then he inexplicably handed off Lincoln, who gained two as the clock ticked under 10 seconds. The field goal unit hurried out, but Herb Travenio's kick sailed wide left to end a frustrating first half for the Chargers .

L-R: Speedy Duncan; Butch Byrd; John Hadl enveloped by Bills;
If Charger fans expected their idols to show a rejuvenated offense after receiving the kickoff, they were sadly disappointed. The home team needed to score first in the second half, but that didn't happen.
After the Chargers went nowhere on their first possession, Kemp threw long down the right sideline to FL Bo Roberson, who took the ball in stride over his shoulder just beyond CB Jimmy Warren and step­ped out at the SD 24. Two runs by Carlton and a quick pass to Warlick moved the chains to the 12. But three more runs fell 1y short of another first down. So Go­golak kicked an 11y field goal. Buffalo 17 San Diego 0

Pete Gogolak boots the first of his three field goals for the day.
The Chargers had some success on their possession. Sparked by Duncan's 49y kickoff return to the Buffalo 48, Hadl & Company moved to the 28 where they faced fourth down and a half yard to go. But the backfield had another mixup as Hadl turned but found no one there for the handoff and was dropped for a 2y loss.
The Bills overcame a holding penalty on Kemp's 37y pass to Roberson to the 48. But the Chargers held, and Maguire kicked a nine iron shot that was downed at the one.
Going for broke, Hadl threw long from the end zone on the first play, but Byrd inter­cepted at the 45 and returned to the 23. That led to another Gogolak field goal that ex­tended the lead to 20-0.
The only question was whether the Chargers would ever score. The answer was no. In­stead the Bills added another field goal. That came after the Chargers went for it on 4th-and-two from their 28. HB Paul Lowe, the AFL Player of the Year, started wide left and, with blockers in front of him, appeared to have a chance to make the 1st down. But he slipped as he cut in to fall 1/2y short.
Already in field goal range, the Bills ran three plays and brought out Gogolak for a 32y three-pointer to make the final score 23-0.
The Bills didn't have a decided advantage in total yardage, 260-223, but they made 23 first downs to the Chargers' 12.
Coach Saban: "This was the only club we didn't beat this year, and we wanted this one. We whipped them in the trenches where we knew we would have to do it. We didn't use much new stuff and double covered their receivers by rotation. Our pass rushing was great."
The Chargers were shocked and dismayed. Gillman kept newsmen out of the dressing room for a few minutes before facing the music. "We just got beat. We lost to a fine football team. The Bills have excellent personnel and coaching. What else is there to say?"
Hadl: "I don't know what happened. I really don't. We were outplayed. They kicked the devil out of us. We keep trying—what else can you do"
Star WR Lance Alworth summed up the game as well as anybody. "We didn't play the way we're capable of playing for some reason. They really got ready; they were fired up. We thought we were, but evidently we weren't. It was just like the rest of the day, my getting hurt near the end. It feels like I have a broken rib. We couldn't get anything going, and they played like champs."