The following is not a summary of historical events,but rather the results of my computer football replay of the 1968 AFL season using Second and Ten football.
These days, the younger generation is challenging the Establishment, and this weekend in the American Football League, it did not matter if you were the established champions for only one year. The last two AFL champions, Oakland and Kansas City, fell from the ranks of the undefeated. On Saturday, the second-year Miami Dolphins floored the defending champion Raiders, 45-24, in an aerial display witnessed by 70,873 at the Orange Bowl. On Sunday, the Denver Broncos revived under second year coach Lou Saban pulled off the weekend’s second upset, a 20-14 defeat of the Kansas City Chiefs on their home turf.
In Miami, the air was filled with footballs as Bob Griese and Daryle Lamonica nearly combined for 800 passing yards. The Dolphins tied the game at 17 with a little over a minute remaining in the first half when Griese found Karl Noonan, the AFL’s leading receiver after three weeks of play, for a 19 yard touchdown pass. Though Miami received the second half kickoff, the anticipation in the press box was these young Dolphins would wilt amidst the hot sun and Raider defense. However, Griese marched the Dolphins to a touchdown with receiver Howard Twilley and fullback Larry Csonka compiling most of the yards. A flagrant face mask penalty helped advance the Dolphins on the drive. On the Raiders next possession, Lamonica threw a deep bomb intended for Fred Biletnikoff that was tipped and fell into the hands of LB John Bramlett who was trailing on the play. Bramlett bulled his way to the Oakland 35 which set up another Dolphin touchdown, Griese’s one yard toss to RB Jim Kiick.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Lamonica closed the Raiders to within a touchdown on a seven yard toss to Hewritt Dixon, but Griese and the Dolphins responded with another Griese-to-Kiick touchdown pass that put the game out of reach with 4:45 left to play. But Lamonica refused to accept that conclusion as he hurled the Raiders down the field with deep passes, but Dick Anderson picked Lamonica off at the three yard line. The Dolphins ran the ball and the clock forcing the Raiders to use their timeouts. Punter Larry Seiple pinned the Raiders at their own one-yard line with 2:24 left. Down by two touchdowns, Lamonica remained undeterred, but again Dick Anderson stepped in front of a Lamonica pass and this time returned it 12 yards for the final dagger in the Raiders’ heart, 45-24.
In Kansas City, the vaunted Chiefs offense failed to gain any traction against the Broncos defense which ranked last in the league in 1967. Denver out-gained the Chiefs, 402 to 130 total yards, but it was a fourth-quarter 25 yard touchdown pass by John Leclair to Billy Van Heusen that proved to be the narrow difference on the scoreboard. Denver rolled to a 13-0 lead in the first half, and appeared to have the game in control until, with under two minutes to go in the half, Leclair was intercepted by Jim Lynch who nearly returned the ball for a touchdown. Lynch was pushed out of bounds at the two, and former Bronco running back Wendell Hayes plunged ahead on the next play for a touchdown. Quarterback Len Dawson took control on the opening possession of the second half by guiding the Chiefs 80 yards for a go-ahead touchdown, a nine-yard pass to Otis Taylor. But the Broncos offense was able to run the ball and the clock, despite a Chiefs interception stopping a third-quarter drive. The Bronco pass rush broke through to apply pressure on Dawson and came up with two key second-half sacks. Dawson finished with eight completions on nineteen attempts and a mere seventy-four passing yards.
In other AFL action, the Buffalo Bills held off the expansion Cincinnati Bengals, 23-20. Paul Robinson rushed for 113 yards and is the league’s leading rusher by one yard over Denver’s Floyd Little. The New York Jets had no trouble disposing of the Boston Patriots, 35-3, at Fenway Park.