NFL – Throwback Thursday: A Classic AFL Shootout

23 Sep

Week 3 of the NFL season is upon us, and one of the matchups features the Denver Broncos and New York Jets. For our Throwback Thursday feature of the week we’ll revisit an old-fashioned American Football League shootout played on November 22, 1962 between these 2 original AFL franchises. It was played at an old minor league baseball park in Denver, Bears Stadium, and the New York club was still known as the Titans. Denver came into the game with a winning record at 7-4, a rarity for that team in the AFL days, and was favored at home in this contest. It turned out to be the crowning moment in the career of Titan quarterback Johnny Green, who had been acquired from Buffalo after languishing with the Bills in the first 2 seasons of the league’s existence. Coach Bulldog Turner’s New York team jumped out to a surprising 17-0 lead on a short touchdown run by Bill Mathis, a Green scoring toss to Dick Christy and a Bill Shockley field goal. Denver finally broke the ice as Frank Tripucka found Bob Scarpitto open for a 35 yard touchdown, but Green matched that by hitting Art Powell, one of the AFL’s first stars, from 4 yards out for a touchdown. Denver ended the half with a pair of field goals from Gene Mingo to cut the Titans’ lead to 24-13, and the Broncos rode that momentum and came out storming in the second half. First their defense struck, as Bud McFadin scooped a fumble and rambled 69 yards for a score, followed by an offensive strike, as the other Bronco signal called, George Shaw, threw a 6 yard touchdown pass to Scarpitto to give his team a 27-24 lead. Now the shootout was on.

When Shaw fell on his own fumble in his own end zone to give New York a safety, he didn’t know at the time that he was providing the Titans with their margin of victory. Denver’s lead was now down to a single point, and that evaporated when Green hit future Hall of Famer Don Maynard for a 35 yard touchdown. New York missed their extra point attempt, and when Shaw found Lionel Taylor with a short scoring pass to open up the final quarter, Denver took advantage of an AFL rule that didn’t exist in the NFL at the time – the 2-point conversion – to take a 35-32 lead. The Broncos then took command. First Jim McMillin picked off a Green pass and returned it 59 yards for a score, then Mingo added a field goal to give Denver a sizable 45-32 lead. In the old wild and wooly AFL, however, no lead was safe. Green redeemed himself for the pick six by engineering scoring drives that ended in his 4th and 5th touchdown passes of the day, both short tosses to Christy and Powell, and the Titans left the Mile High city with a hard-earned 46-45 win.


Dejected Denver coaches Mac Speedie, Jack Faulkner after loss to the NY Titans


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