NFL – Throwback Thursday: The Original 12th Man?

14 Dec

This week’s Throwback Thursday post features a game played between 2 old American Football League rivals who meet on the schedule for week 15, the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs. It was played on November 3, 1961 in the fledgling league’s second year of existence, when they were still mocked by the established NFL as a “Mickey Mouse” league. This game probably helped that reputation along, based on an incident that took place. The New England team was still known as the Boston Patriots at the time, and the Chiefs were still the Dallas Texans, 2 years removed from their eventual relocation to Kansas City.

The contest was played at the Patriots’ home field at the time, Nickerson Field. For some reason it was a common practice for teams to switch quarterbacks within games back then, and that strategy worked out for Boston in this contest. In the opening quarter Butch Songin found Jim Colclough from 14 yards out for a touchdown, then Babe Parilli came into the game and threw a 7 yarder for a score to Gino Cappelletti and the Patriots were off and running with a 14-0 lead. The Texans found an answer before the first stanza ended as their signal caller, Cotton Davidson, tossed a 42 yard touchdown pass to Chris Burford, who finished the game with 7 receptions for 137 yards, to cut the lead to 14-7. The only scoring in the second quarter also came from the Texans, as early AFL star Abner Haynes scored from 3 yards out to tie the game.

Boston got a bit of luck to regain the lead in the third quarter. They drove down into Dallas territory but fumbled the ball at the goal line. Parilli smartly picked up the loose ball and carried it the last yard into the end zone to put his club ahead 21-14. Davidson answered with a 40 yard bomb to Bo Dickinson for the tying score, but the draw didn’t last long as Ron Burton returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown to put the Pats back ahead 28-21. The third quarter now ended, and there was to be no more points for either team in the final quarter. Davidson did drive his team to the Boston goal line in an attempt to gain a tie, but that’s when the infamous play documented in the video below took place. On the game’s last play, a fan, who would become known as “Trench Coat Man, entered the playing field and unbeknownst to the officials, helped break up a pass into the end zone. So I guess in retrospect the AFL introduced more than just the innovations of a wide open passing game, player names on the back of jerseys and the 2 point conversion. They also were the first to have the “12th Man”, in this case literally helping the team win.



The “12th man” makes a play for the Patriots’ defense


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