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Stats Wizard: Oct. 17, 1965, George Saimes picks up struggling offense on defense

Oct. 17, 1965 – The Bills entered the day with a 4-1 record, set to take on the Chiefs at Kansas City Municipal Stadium.

This contest, unlike the other nostalgic game pieces I have written, such as their 38-31 victory over the Baltimore Colts on Oct. 12, 1975, did not feature a dominant, high-powered offense. Instead, it was emphasized by a strong, gritty defensive performance and a rather pedestrian offensive effort – in fact, historically so, on both sides of the ball.

The scoring began with an 18-yard pass from future Hall of Famer, Class of 1987, Len Dawson to Fred Arbanas, and after a Tommy Brooker extra-point kick, Kansas City led 7-0.

Stats Wizard: Fred Arbanas, drafted 22nd overall by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1961 NFL Draft and 54th overall by the Dallas Texans in the AFL Draft. The Texans moved to Kansas City and became the Chiefs in 1963, the year after winning the AFL Championship. Arbanas had just 20 receptions for 371 yards with five touchdowns in three years at Michigan State. He bested those totals in each of his first three professional seasons, playing in just over half as many games. He was a five-time AFL All-Star and is a member of the Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame.

The Bills answered with a 14-yard field goal by Pete Gogolak in the second, making the score Kansas City 7, Buffalo 3. That was all the scoring in the second quarter and both teams were silent in the third.

Buffalo managed to tally 20 points in the fourth quarter. First, on a 30-yard pass from Daryle Lamonica to Charley Ferguson, then on an 18-yard defensive fumble return by George Saimes, both supplemented by Gogolak extra-point kicks. Gogolak would add the final six points on a pair of field goals, from 13 yards and 34 yards out, respectively.

Stats Wizard: George Saimes played college ball with Fred Arbanas at Michigan State in 1960, and was set to play alongside him in Kansas City, drafted by the Chiefs 48th overall in the 1963 AFL Draft, but he was traded to the Bills for a future draft pick before ever suiting up for Kansas City.

Saimes, a fullback and safety in college, carried the ball all of 12 times in his career – finishing with 10 more interceptions than rushes – 10 of those carries came in his first career game, as he replaced an injured Cookie Gilchrist in Week One of the 1963 season, rushing for 40 yards. He started on offense the following week, but by Week Three, fittingly against the Chiefs, he found a permanent home at safety with his first career interception, thrown by Len Dawson. The Bills and the Chiefs tied that day, 27-27. Arbanas contributed six points to Kansas City on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Dawson.

Saimes, like his former college teammate Arbanas, was a five-time AFL All-Star. He was inducted to the Bills’ Wall of Fame in 2000.

The final in this one: Buffalo 23, Kansas City 7. The Bills’ defense was stellar as they allowed just 231 total yards, forcing nine turnovers – tying a franchise record, also accomplished on Nov. 19, 1961. But as good as the team was defensively, that is how poorly they played on offense. Buffalo had four turnovers of their own and totaled just 127 yards on offense, which stands as their fewest ever in a victory – 40 yards fewer than their second-least offensive win, as they topped the Panthers, 20-9, on Oct. 25, 2009.

Buffalo improved to 5-1 after this one, their lone loss to that point came the week prior, a 34-3 loss to the San Diego Chargers, a game in which Buffalo scored first, on a 38-yard field goal off the foot of Pete Gogolak, before allowing 34 unanswered points. Oddly enough, the Bills still managed 23 more yards total offense against San Diego than they did in their victory over Kansas City.

The Bills would play the Chargers twice more that season, a 20-20 tie on Nov. 25 and then, on Dec. 26, the Bills, 6.5-point underdogs, upset the Chargers at Balboa Stadium in San Diego, shutting them out 23-0 in the AFL Championship.

This, of course, marks Buffalo’s last major championship victory … 18,923 days and counting.

 Many of the stats in this article made possible by the Pro Football Reference Play Index

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