Each week, Buffalo Rumblings will prepare you for the Buffalo Bills' upcoming opponent by looking back into the history of the series to find a memorable game or moment. The Bills and San Diego Chargers have a long history dating back to the beginning of the American Football League and both of Buffalo's AFL Championships were victories over the Chargers.
The 1964 Buffalo Bills were led former Chargers quarterback Jack Kemp and bruising runner Cookie Gilchrist. The team won their first nine games of the year, but had to win in their final regular season game to clinch the AFL East division title. The offense was a juggernaut, leading the league in points, yards, and yards per play as Gilchrist pounded the defense while Kemp and receiver Elbert Dubenion lit up opposing secondaries. The defense was also stout, pacing the league in points and yards allowed, as well as rushing defense.
The Chargers ran away with the AFL West division title with a just an 8-5-1 record, clinching the spot in the title game with two full weeks left in the year. Lance Alworth was the Chargers' primary threat, gaining over 1,200 receiving yards during the season. Two passers, Tobin Rote and John Hadl, combined for over 3,300 passing yards and threw 27 touchdown passes during the regular season.
When these two teams got together in Buffalo on December 26, people were expecting an exciting game. The Chargers raced out to an early 7-0 lead thanks to a Rote scoring pass following a Keith Lincoln 38-yard run. Just over two minutes into the championship game, Buffalo was already in a hole.
On San Diego's next possession, however, the Bills' defense changed the complexion of the game. When his downfield receivers were covered, Rote looked to the left flat to find Lincoln to get rid of the ball. As the ball arrived, Bills linebacker Mike Stratton hit Lincoln so hard, it knocked the fullback from the game and came to be known as the "hit heard 'round the world". Lincoln's hands were up to catch the pass and took Stratton's shoulder directly into his rib cage. | See video of the hit here
San Diego's offense never recovered after the hit, and it sent a jolt of electricity through the Bills bench. With Alworth already unable to suit up for the game, the Chargers wouldn't score another point.
The Bills scored on a pair of Pete Gogolak field goals sandwiched around a Wray Carlton run. Kemp added an insurance touchdown in the fourth quarter, and Buffalo won 20-7. Fans stormed the field before the final gun had even sounded and tore down the goalposts.
To read a full account of the game, click on the link. The Bills and Chargers met the following year for the AFL Championship, as well, though this time the Bills beat the Chargers in San Diego. They stand as the only two major pro sports championships in the history of the city of Buffalo.