1965 - Bills Repeat as AFL Champs
10-3-1 record, first place of four in AFL East, first of eight in AFL
Arguably the most valuable player in Bills history to this point was Gilchrist. Prior to the 1965 season, Gilchrist was traded to the Broncos for fullback Billy Joe due to salary concerns and a rift with coach Saban. To replace Gilchrist, the Bills used halfback Wray Carlton, who had been with the team since its inaugural season and scored the first Bills touchdown, and Joe.
In the 1965 Draft, the stage was set for the merger when Joe Namath was selected and signed by the New York Jets. It turned the AFL from a second-tier league who couldn't attract the top talent to an equal that could play with the big boys of the NFL. The Bills added future NFL coach and linebacker Marty Schottenheimer in the draft that year, while still dealing with the dual draft where players could choose which league (and by extension which team) to sign and play for.
The defense continued their dominance, extending a string from 1964 of seventeen straight games without allowing a rushing touchdown. They allowed the fewest points, the fewest rushing touchdowns, and fewest yards per rushing attempt of any team in the AFL. The offense was third in the league in scoring, but came in seventh in yards gained and passing yards, and sixth in team rushing yards. They made up for it with a +19 turnover differential, which helped put the offense in great position more often than not.
The Bills began the year hot, winning four straight to open the season and spreading losses and a tie throughout the year to finish 10-3-1, good enough to win the AFL East and another trip to the AFL Championship game. The Bills would meet a familiar foe for the title in the Chargers. San Diego had improved since the year before, and beat the Bills in their first meeting 34-3. In their second meeting of the year, the two teams played to a tie at the end of November. To make matters worse, the Bills would travel to San Diego and play in front of a hostile crowd. Just as they had during the regular season, the defense put the team on its back and took over the game. Cornerback Butch Byrd took a punt return back 74 yards for a score while the Bills registered five quarterback sacks and picked off two passes en route to a 23-0 shutout of the Chargers. The Bills repeat as AFL Champions!
Both of Gilchrist's replacements, Carlton and Joe, joined him on the AFL All-Star team. Jack Kemp made his fifth straight All-Star Game while garnering All-AFL honors and was joined by split end Ed Rutkowski, as well as two Bills tight ends (Paul Costa and Charley Ferguson). The entire Bills offensive line was selected to the All-Star game as well - tackles Stew Barber and Dick Hudson, guards Billy Shaw and Al Bemiller, and center Dave Behrman. The entire Bills defense joined them on the All-Star team. The entire starting defense. Defensive ends Ron McDole and Tom Day and defensive tackles Tom Sestak and Jim Dunaway; all three starting linebackers, John Tracey, Harry Jacobs, and Mike Stratton; cornerbacks Booker Edgerson and Butch Byrd; and safeties Hagood Clark and George Saimes.