September 17, 1961: New York Titans vs. Buffalo Bills
Historical Game of the Week
By Ken Crippen
- Professional Football Researchers Association
Published: October 27th, 2008
Let’s take some time to focus on the New York Titans, who became the New York Jets in 1963. Buffalo lost both games to the Titans in 1960 and had a dismal 5-8-1 record for the season. The 1961 campaign started in the same fashion, with Buffalo dropping a home game to the Denver Broncos 22-10. Bills owner Ralph Wilson commented, “I have no thoughts at this time of making a coaching change. However, if we don’t start playing the football this team is capable of playing, there will be changes in the future.” This did not bode well for coach Buster Ramsey and the pressure was on. The Titans won a close game, 21-20, over the Boston Patriots to start the season. Their 1960 season ended with seven wins and seven losses. The win over the Patriots would be their first step towards having their first winning season.
The New York Titans went up 17-0 on Buffalo before the Bills got their offense on track. Fred Brown faked a reverse to Elbert Dubenion on the kickoff and ran 93 yards for the score. At that point, Buffalo gained momentum and scored three times in the second period to take a 28-24 lead into the half. The Bills continued scoring in the second half, with Dubenion catching a 33-yard pass from Richie Lucas to put the Bills up 35-24. Two field goals by Joe Hergert sealed the 41-31 victory and the Bills won their first game of the season.
Coach Buster Ramsey commented, “Our defense was a little jittery at the start, but settled down and gave Mr. Dorow a busy afternoon.” After the initial seventeen points in the first quarter, the Buffalo defense stiffened to only allow two touchdowns the remainder of the game. The Buffalo offense also stood tall, generating a whopping twenty-one points in the second quarter. The additional ten points scored in the third quarter put the game out of reach for the visitors and Buffalo took their first victory over the Titans in their short existence. This was even more impressive, knowing that Buffalo was able to generate the scoring on a mere nine first downs. The 93-yard run by Brown, coupled with a 72-yard run by Dubenion helped the cause.
This evened Buffalo’s season record at 1-1 and did the same for the Titans. Buffalo would go on to finish the season 6-8-0; one game behind the Titans in the divisional standings. This last place divisional finish sealed Ramsey’s fate and Wilson kept his promise. In January of 1962, Ramsey was fired and Lou Saban was hired as his replacement.