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Stats Wizard: 1960s Bills quick-hitters, including a crazy nugget about Billy Atkins

This week we have reeled off some numbers from the Panthers game and taken a look at the defense's impressive start for the Bills, so let's have a little fun today and step back into the 1960s for some quick-hitters:

  • In 1960, Buffalo’s first pro football season — excluding the AAFC Buffalo Bills of 1947-49 — the Bills had what still stands as a franchise record: five different players with at least four interceptions. The record was tied in 1965. In 2013, the Bills had four different players with at least four picks, the only time they have had four since that 1965 season.
  • In 1961, Billy Atkins led the AFL with 10 interceptions. However, he did not return any for a touchdown, with his longest return going 29 yards. Here is where it gets fun: He had a 39-yard field goal that year, as well as a 56-yard rushing touchdown — the only touchdown of his career. Yet, he had more interceptions than he had rushing attempts (2) that season.
  • In 1962, Cookie Gilchrist became the only player in AFL/NFL history with at least 1,000 yards rushing and multiple field goals made in a single season. He led the league with both 1,096 yards rushing and 13 rushing touchdowns, adding eight field goals — including a long of 42 yards, just shy of his season-long rush of 44 yards — and was the 1962 AFL Player of the Year.
  • In 1963, on Dec. 8, Gilchrist rushed for 243 yards, breaking Jim Brown’s single-game AFL/NFL record of 237 yards. That record was then broken by O.J. Simpson on Sept. 16, 1973, when he rushed for 250 yards. The Juice would break his own record, picking up 273 yards on the ground, on Nov. 25, 1976. Adrian Peterson is the current record-holder with a 296-yard game.
  • In 1964, Elbert Dubenion had 1,139 receiving yards on 42 receptions. To this day, Dubenion’s 1964 average of 27.12 yards per reception stands as an AFL/NFL single-season record among receivers with at least 1,000 yards receiving.
  • In 1965, Charley Warner had a receiving touchdown, two kick return touchdowns, and an interception returned for a touchdown. He is the last AFL/NFL player with a receiving touchdown, return touchdown, and a pick-six in the same season, the only player to do so since 1948.

Did you know? Gilchrist, who rushed for 709 yards on 105 carries (6.8 yards per carry) in 1961 with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League, was actually the Bills' backup plan for the 1962 season, as their first-round draft pick opted to play in the NFL. That draft pick: Ernie Davis, the “Elmira Express,” was the 1961 Heisman Trophy winner out of Syracuse University — the first African-American recipient of the award. Sadly, Davis never played a down in the NFL, dying of leukemia on May 18, 1963.

On this date: In 1992, the Bills had their largest victory in a home shutout in franchise history, beating the Colts, 38-0, to improve to 3-0 on the season. Henry Jones returned two interceptions for touchdowns — and is one of just 22 players to do so in a game during the Super Bowl era. Bruce Smith added three sacks, and Jim Kelly was 17 of 27 for 211 yards and two touchdown passes.


Ryan Spaeder is a statistician, analyst and writer, whose work up until now has focused primarily on baseball. Spaeder is also a contributor to The Sporting News and co-authored Incredible Baseball Stats: The Coolest, Strangest Stats and Facts in Baseball History. Follow him on Twitter @theaceofspaeder.

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