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Stats Wizard: Bills had Joe Namath's number before Jets' well-known Super Bowl win in 1968

Last week, we looked at some quick-hitting, fun numbers from the early 1960s Bills. Let’s pick up where we left off and relive the Buffalo’s early history, vicariously, through some early Bills and their stats to round out the 1960s:

  • The Bills lost the 1966 AFL Championship Game — played Jan. 1, 1967 — to the Kansas City Chiefs, 31-7. Buffalo’s starting quarterback, Jack Kemp, had just a 59.6 passer rating in the game, but his rating in the game was actually higher than his rating during the 1966 season, 56.2. That bested his rating in each of his previous two seasons, when he helped lead the Bills to AFL titles. The league average passer rating was just 60.6 in the AFL in 1966, and 64.2 in the NFL — compared to the 87.6 average rating of 2016.
  • In 1967, Bills safety Tom Janik had 10 interceptions — tied for the league lead — including two returned for touchdowns. His 10 interceptions are tied with Billy Atkins (1961) for most by a Bills player in a single season. Just as it got strange for Atkins that year — if you recall, he added a rushing touchdown and two field goals to his 10 picks — it was similarly odd for Janik. In Janik's final three seasons, from 1969 to '71, he was a full-time punter. The final interception of his career came in 1969, as he became one of the last full-time punters with an interception in a season. The Philadelphia Eagles' Bill Bradley was the last, as he had a league-leading nine interceptions along with 56 punts in 1972.
  • In 1968, the Bills were an abysmal 1-12-1. Their lone win came Sept. 29 against the New York Jets. Buffalo topped Joe Namath and the Jets in a 37-35 slugfest, during which the Bills had five interceptions off the future Hall of Famer. Three of those interceptions were returned for touchdowns: Butch Byrd returned one for 53 yards, Booker Edgerson brought one back from 45 yards out, and, naturally, the longest pick-six of the day was a 100-yard return by Janik. The '68 Jets would win Super Bowl III that season, the game in which Namath guaranteed victory over the Baltimore Colts, delivering with a 16-7 upset.
  • In 1969, following that 1-12-1 season, the Bills found themselves with the first overall pick, selecting 1968 Heisman Trophy winner out of USC, O.J. Simpson. Upon being drafted, Simpson took a page out of the book of Cookie Gilchrist, and demanded the biggest contract in the history of professional sports: $650,000 over five years, plus a $500,000 loan for investment purposes. Eventually, Bills owner Ralph Wilson paid Simpson. The Juice was selected to the Pro Bowl in his rookie season, with 1,040 total yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns. Buffalo finished just 4-10 that season. Not quite bad enough, as the first overall pick went to the 1-13 Steelers, who selected Terry Bradshaw, as well as the only other future Hall of Famer taken in the 1970 NFL Draft, Mel Blount, 53rd overall.

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

Did you know? When Simpson won the Heisman Trophy in 1968, he rushed for 1,880 yards on 383 carries — 4.9 yards per rush — with 23 rushing touchdowns. The year prior, he finished second, but may have actually been a more efficient running back, rushing for 5.3 yards per carry — 1,543 yards on 291 attempts — with 13 rushing scores.

The 1967 Heisman winner was UCLA’s Gary Beban, who threw for 1,359 yards with eight touchdowns — just five more passing touchdowns than Simpson had that season — and seven interceptions. Beban also had 11 rushing touchdowns.

Simpson and Beban squared off Nov. 18, 1967, in what is now known as the "Game of the Century," a game in which USC topped UCLA, 21-20. Simpson rushed for 177 yards on 30 carries with two touchdowns, including the 64-yard game-winner.

Beban would go on to play just five career games in the NFL. He was 0 for 1 in passing attempts, had 18 rushing yards on five carries, and one catch for 12 yards receiving. In fact, Simpson had more career passing touchdowns (1) than Beban had completions.

On this date: In 1969, Simpson rushed for 110 yards on 24 carries as the Bills beat the Broncos, 41-28. This was the first of 42 100-yard rushing games in his career. Upon his retirement in 1978, only Jim Brown, the man whom Simpson was sometimes compared to before that 1969 NFL draft, had more with 58.

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