1964 San Diego Chargers season
OwnerBarron Hilton
Head coachSid Gillman
General managerSid Gillman
Home fieldBalboa Stadium
Results
Record8–5–1
Division place1st Western Division
Playoff finishLost AFL Championship (at Bills) 7–20
All-AFL
AFL All-Stars
Linebacker Frank Buncom made his first All-Star game in 1964.
Linebacker Frank Buncom made his first All-Star game in 1964.

The 1964 Season was the 5th season for the San Diego Chargers as a professional AFL franchise; the team failed to repeat as AFL champions after winning it in 1963 with a record of 11–3, and finished at 8–5–1. San Diego struggled at the start and finish of the season, but a six-game winning streak in the middle proved to be enough to win the AFL West, in a league where the two strongest teams were in the Eastern division.

Veteran quarterback Tobin Rote was phased out as the team's starter during the course of the season, replaced by third-year John Hadl. Meanwhile, former Charger quarterback Jack Kemp featured on a Buffalo Bills that defeated San Diego three times, including a 20–7 scoreline in the AFL title game. Star receiver Lance Alworth missed the season finale through injury, and running back Keith Lincoln was knocked out of the game by Mike Stratton's famous "Hit Heard ‘Round the World".[3]

Offseason

AFL draft

Main article: 1964 American Football League draft

The 1964 AFL Draft took place on November 30, 1963, late in the previous season;[4] the Chargers had 28 picks across 26 rounds.[5] Two days later, the rival NFL conducted their own draft.[6]

San Diego were one of several AFL teams who had trouble signing their top picks.[7] Of their first eleven choices, they signed only one, offensive lineman Gary Kirner,[8] while nine spent 1964 with various NFL clubs. These included the Chargers' first four picks, who had all signed for the other league by mid-January.[9] One of these, receiver Dave Parks, made the next three Pro Bowls for San Francisco.[10]

Kirner went on to spend his entire six-year career in San Diego, though he only started 29 games in that time.[11] The Chargers had a significant pick in the 13th round with safety Kenny Graham, who they signed in May.[12] He started 11 games as a rookie and 75 in six years with the Chargers, being voted to four AFL All-Star games and one AP All-league team. He was also named to the AFL All-time second team in 1970.[13][14]

1964 San Diego Chargers draft
Round Pick Player Position College Notes
1 8 Ted Davis Linebacker Georgia Tech 50th pick in NFL draft; signed by Baltimore Colts
2 16 John Kirby Linebacker Nebraska 62nd pick in NFL draft; signed by Minnesota Vikings
3 24 Perry Lee Dunn Running back Mississippi 45th pick in NFL draft; signed by Dallas Cowboys
4 32 Dave Parks * Split end Texas Tech 1st pick in NFL draft; signed by San Francisco 49ers
5 36 Pete Goimarac Center West Virginia 86th pick in NFL draft
5 40 Gary Kirner Guard USC
6 48 Willie Brown Wide receiver USC 32nd pick in NFL draft; signed by Los Angeles Rams
7 51 Roger Anderson Defensive tackle Virginia Union 96th pick in NFL draft; signed by New York Giants
8 56 Pat Batten Fullback Hardin-Simmons 30th pick in NFL draft; signed by Detroit Lions
8 64 George Seals Guard Missouri 52nd pick in NFL draft; signed by Washington Redskins
10 74 Bob Long Split end Wichita State 44th pick in NFL draft; signed by Green Bay Packers
10 80 Dick Bowman End Syracuse 80th pick in NFL draft; signed by Hartford Charter Oaks (ACFL)
11 88 Bob Horton Linebacker Boston University 168th pick in NFL draft
12 96 Ron Carpenter Linebacker Texas A&M
13 104 Kenny Graham * Defensive back Washington State 162nd pick in NFL draft
14 112 Howard Kindig Defensive end Los Angeles State 170th pick in NFL draft
15 120 Ed Mitchell Guard Southern 166th pick in NFL draft
16 128 Bob Daugherty Halfback Tulsa 99th pick in NFL draft; signed by 1966 San Francisco 49ers
17 136 John Farris Guard San Diego State 147th pick in NFL draft
18 144 Bob Robinson Guard Mississippi 135th pick in NFL draft
19 152 Paul Cercel Center Pittsburgh 213th pick in NFL draft; signed by 1965 Philadelphia Bulldogs (COFL)
20 160 Dick Klein Tackle Wichita State 67th pick in NFL draft
21 168 Allen Robinson Halfback BYU 216th pick in NFL draft
22 176 Chuck Hinton Center Mississippi 208th pick in NFL draft; signed by New York Giants
23 184 Ron Smith Quarterback Richmond 131st pick in NFL draft; signed by 1965 Los Angeles Rams
24 192 Bill Van Burkleo Halfback Tulsa Signed by 1966 Toronto Argonauts
25 200 Tommy Lucas Guard Mississippi 268th pick in NFL draft
26 208 Frank Kinard Fullback Mississippi 264th pick in NFL draft
      Made roster     *   Made at least one AFL All-Star game or NFL Pro Bowl during career         Played in the NFL in 1964  

[5]

Departures and arrivals

Guard Sam DeLuca, who had returned from retirement the previous season,[15] was sold to the Jets on July 9 for an undisclosed sum.[16] Paul Maguire was placed on waivers later in July.[17] Maguire, who had doubled as a linebacker and punter since the Chargers' inaugural 1960 campaign, was claimed by the Bills.[18] In August, fullback Bobby Jackson, who had scored nine touchdowns over the past two seasons, was sent to Oakland on a loan deal of unknown duration. In the event, he never returned to the Chargers.[19][20]

George Blair, a defensive back who had led the league in field goal percentage the past two seasons, sustained a knee injury early in the season; this proved to be career-ending.[21][22] Herb Travenio was brought in as a replacement, but was released after only three games. He would return the following season with more success.[23][24] He was replaced by 45-year old Ben Agajanian, back with the team after four years.[25] Agajanian, too, picked up a career-ending injury, and Keith Lincoln handled the kicking duties for the rest of the season.[26]

Personnel

Staff

1964 San Diego Chargers staff
Front office

Head coaches

  • Head coach – Sid Gillman

Offensive coaches

Defensive coaches


Strength and conditioning

  • Strength coach - Alvin Roy

[27][28][29]

Roster

1964 San Diego Chargers final roster
Quarterbacks

Running backs

Wide receivers

Tight ends

Offensive linemen

Defensive linemen

Linebackers

Defensive backs

Special teams


Reserve lists

[30]


Practice squad

[31]


Rookies in italics

[32]

Preseason

Keith Lincoln, who had ended the previous season as MVP of the AFL Championship Game, began the new one by scoring the first two Chargers touchdowns of their exhibition schedule. He opened the scoring against Denver with a 13-yard catch from Tobin Rote, then put San Diego ahead to stay with a 45-yard run; Lance Alworth and Keith Kinderman added further touchdowns in a 34–20 win.[33] The Chargers followed this with a high-scoring win over the Oilers, played on neutral ground in Little Rock, Arkansas. San Diego trailed 10–0 before Lincoln's touchdown pass to Dave Kocourek sparked a run of 30 consecutive points, with John Hadl throwing three touchdown passes. Houston came back with 21 unanswered points to lead again, and later responded after Lincoln had scored from a yard out, going ahead 38–37. Late in the game, Earl Faison recovered a fumble, and Hadl completed three pass to Alworth on a 12-play, 62-yard drive that culminated in Kinderman's game-winning 3-yard run, 72 seconds from time.[34]

Lincoln scored again at Kansas City, but the Chargers trailed 14–12 at halftime. Rote and Don Norton combined on touchdown passes of 90 and 18 yards in the second half, giving San Diego their third consecutive win.[35] The run came to an end in their fourth game, Paul Lowe scoring their lone touchdown in a 34–6 loss to the Jets, a game played before a sparse crowd in Atlanta. Former Charger Dick Wood threw three touchdown passes for New York.[36] Finally, the Chargers returned home and defeated their Californian rivals Oakland 24–10. Rote and Norton once again connected for two touchdowns, either side of a Gerry McDougall run.[37]

Week Date Opponent Result Record Venue Attendance
1 August 8 Denver Broncos W 34–20 1–0 Balboa Stadium 26,293
2 August 15 vs. Houston Oilers W 44–38 2–0 War Memorial Stadium 27,000
3 August 22 at Kansas City Chiefs W 26–14 3–0 Municipal Stadium 28,653
4 August 29 vs. New York Jets L 6–34 3–1 Cheney Stadium, (Atlanta) 8,200
5 September 5 Oakland Raiders W 24–10 4–1 Balboa Stadium 16,746

[38]

Regular Season

Summary

Tobin Rote and John Hadl split time at the quarterback position, as they had done the previous year - this time, however, the younger Hadl started eight out of fourteen games, having been exclusively a replacement in 1963.[39] Hadl finished with 2,157 yards to Rote's 1,156, and threw twice as many touchdowns (18 to 9) against the same number of interceptions (15), while posting a 6–2 record as a starter.[40] Lance Alworth was again the leading receiver, ranking third in the league for yardage with 1,235, and first for touchdowns (13).[41] He also rushed for a pair of touchdowns, and averaged 10.5 yards per punt return, second best in the league.[42] End Don Norton and tight end Dave Kocourek added 669 and 593 receiving yards respectively.[40] The ground attack was weakened by an early-season injury to Paul Lowe, who missed two games and finished with only 496 yards on the season.[43] Keith Lincoln became the leading rusher with 632 yards, but his average yards per carry slipped from 6.5 a year earlier to 4.1 in 1964.[44]

The defense continued to be one of the league's better units, ranking 1st against the pass and 4th against the run.[40] Defensive end Earl Faison had a team-high 7+12 sacks and was a first-team All-Pro, while linebackers Chuck Allen and Frank Buncom were both voted to the AFL All-Star game,[45] and second-year cornerback Dick Westmoreland led the team with six interceptions. The kicking game was unreliable after George Blair was injured early in the season.[46] Herb Travenio and Ben Agajanian played in three games each before Lincoln was given the duties in mid-November. Collectively, the team made 12 of 26 field goal attempts, going just 5 of 17 from distances of 20 yards or more.[40] John Hadl doubled as the punter - his average of 39.5 yards per kick put him 7th out of 8 in the league.[47]

Schedule

Week Date Opponent Result Record Venue Attendance Recap
1 September 12 Houston Oilers W 27–21 1–0 Balboa Stadium 22,632 Recap
2 September 20 Boston Patriots L 28–33 1–1 Balboa Stadium 20,568 Recap
3 September 26 at Buffalo Bills L 3–30 1–2 War Memorial Stadium 40,167 Recap
4 October 3 at New York Jets T 17–17 1–2–1 Shea Stadium 46,828 Recap
5 October 9 at Boston Patriots W 26–17 2–2–1 Fenway Park 35,095 Recap
6 October 18 Denver Broncos W 42–14 3–2–1 Balboa Stadium 23,332 Recap
7 October 25 at Houston Oilers W 20–17 4–2–1 Jeppesen Stadium 21,671 Recap
8 November 1 Oakland Raiders W 31–17 5–2–1 Balboa Stadium 25,557 Recap
9 November 8 at Denver Broncos W 31–20 6–2–1 Bears Stadium 19,670 Recap
10 November 15 at Kansas City Chiefs W 28–14 7–2–1 Municipal Stadium 19,792 Recap
11 Bye
12 November 26 Buffalo Bills L 24–27 7–3–1 Balboa Stadium 34,865 Recap
13 December 6 New York Jets W 38–3 8–3–1 Balboa Stadium 25,753 Recap
14 December 13 Kansas City Chiefs L 6–49 8–4–1 Balboa Stadium 26,562 Recap
15 December 20 at Oakland Raiders L 20–21 8–5–1 Frank Youell Field 20,124 Recap

Note: Intra-division opponents are in bold text.

Game summaries

Week 1: vs. Houston Oilers

Week One: Houston Oilers at San Diego Chargers – Game summary
1 2 34Total
Oilers 0 7 7721
Chargers 7 0 14627

at Balboa Stadium, San Diego, California

  • Date: September 12
  • Game weather: 69 °F (20.6 °C), relative humidity 81%, wind 8 mph
  • Game attendance: 22,632
  • Box score

Tobin Rote threw three touchdowns as San Diego began their title defense with a win. Houston had the first scoring chance - they opted to fake a 33-yard field goal, but George Blanda was brought down by Dick Westmoreland and Emil Karas for a loss of 14 yards. The Chargers responded by driving 60 yards in five plays, with Lance Alworth catching a 31-yard pass and Rote finding Dave Kocourek for the opening score from a yard out. Blanda responded with a touchdown pass on 4th and goal, George Blair missed a 31-yard kick for San Diego, and it was 7–7 at halftime.

The first three drives of the second half resulted in touchdowns. San Diego went 66 yards in 8 plays, with Gerry MacDougall scoring from close range. After another Blanda touchdown pass, the Chargers drove 80 yards in 7 plays, with Alworth picking up two first downs, and Don Norton scoring with a 19-yard catch. After forcing a punt, the Chargers had a 5-play, 64-yard drive, Alworth scoring this time, from 27 yards out. The next two Oiler drives ended with Westmoreland blocking a field goal and the San Diego defensive line stuffing a 4th and 1 attempt. By the time former Charger Bobby Jackson scored from inches out, there were only two seconds left.

Rote finished 15 of 26 for 235 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Alworth had 6 catches for 119 yards and a touchdown.[48]

Week 2: vs. Boston Patriots

Week Two: Boston Patriots at San Diego Chargers – Game summary
1 2 34Total
Patriots 10 3 101033
Chargers 0 10 01828

at Balboa Stadium, San Diego, California

  • Date: September 20
  • Game weather: 65 °F (18.3 °C), relative humidity 82%, wind 9 mph
  • Game attendance: 20,568
  • Box score

Five turnovers proved too much for the Chargers to overcome in their home opener. The first significant takeaway was by the Charger defense - down 10–0 in the 2nd quarter, the pass rush of Emil Karas forced a fumble from Babe Parilli, which Frank Buncom recovered at the Patriot 8 yard line. John Hadl, on for a struggling Rote, hit Alworth for a touchdown on the next play. The Patriots added a field goal 44 seconds before halftime, but two 20+ yard completions by Hadl moved San Diego into Blair's field goal range; his 30-yarder pulled it back to 13–10 at the break.

Boston added another field goal at the start of the second half. Hadl then fumbled while being sacked, and Parilli threw his second touchdown of the game. After a Charger punt, Karas again forced a fumble from Parilli, this time making the recovery himself on the Patriot 16. Jerry MacDougall converted a 4th and 1 before scoring from a yard out, leaving the score at 23–17. After a further Patriot field goal (Gino Cappelletti hit 4 of 7 on the day), Rote returned to the game and was immediately intercepted in his own territory. Boston did nothing with that opportunity, but Alworth fumbled on the next Charger play from scrimmage, and Parilli's third touchdown made it 33–17.

Hadl was again inserted at quarterback; he threw nine times on the ensuing drive, completing five for 80 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown to Don Norton; he also found MacDougall for a two-point conversion, reducing the deficit to eight points. Boston went three-and-out, and Alworth's 42-yard punt return had San Diego starting out only six yards from a potential tie. After three plays netted only two yards, head coach Sid Gillman opted to take the short field goal with 2:47 to play. Blair converted to pull his team with five points. His onside kick was then covered by the Patriots, but Boston again went three-and-out. Starting from his own 20 with 1:14 left to play, Hadl hit Alworth for 14 yards and MacDougall for 24, advancing to the Boston 42. His next pass went deep, but Patriot defensive back Ron Hall secured victory with his third interception of the day, at his own 17 yard line.

The game was a rematch of the previous season's title game, won easily by San Diego. With Paul Lowe out injured,[49] the Charger running game could muster only 84 yards.[50]

Week 3: at Buffalo Bills

Week Three: San Diego Chargers at Buffalo Bills – Game summary
1 2 34Total
Chargers 0 3 003
Bills 7 7 31330

at War Memorial Stadium, Buffalo, New York

  • Date: September 26
  • Game weather: 59 °F (15.0 °C), relative humidity 63%, wind 13 mph
  • Game attendance: 40,167
  • Box score

A pair of return touchdowns sparked a one-sided game. After receiving the opening kickoff, San Diego advanced steadily from their own 20 to a 3rd and 3 at the Buffalo 27, whereupon Butch Byrd cut in front of a quick sideline pass and went 75 yards the other way for a touchdown. Norton later fumbled at the end of a 42-yard gain, and Buffalo recovered. A Schmidt fumble recovery gave the Chargers a second chance, and Blair kicked their only points of the game from 12 yards out. After the Bills missed a field goal, Rote led San Diego from their own 20 to a 4th and 1 at the Buffalo 26, from where Lincoln was stopped short of a first down.

San Diego found themselves backed up near their goal line the next time they had the ball. Hadl's punt was fielded by Hagood Clarke at his own 47 - he broke through two tackles en route to a game-breaking touchdown. The Chargers failed to enter the opposing red zone in the second half, while Buffalo added 16 further points.

With Lowe still out injured, Keith Lincoln rushed 21 times for 94 yards. Norton caught 4 passes for 112 yards.[51]

Week 4: at New York Jets

Week Four: San Diego Chargers at New York Jets – Game summary
1 2 34Total
Chargers 3 7 0717
Jets 0 3 7717

at Shea Stadium, New York, New York

  • Date: October 3
  • Game weather: 63 °F (17.2 °C), relative humidity 61%, wind 13 mph
  • Game attendance: 46,828
  • Box score

Keith Lincoln's late field goal attempt was blocked as San Diego played out the first tie in franchise history.[52] Lincoln, who had been handed the placekicking duties on account of Blair's injury, had opened the scoring with a 47-yard kick, tying Ben Agajanian's club record set in 1960.[53] The running back also played a role in San Diego's first touchdown, taking a pass in the flat from an under-pressure Rote and skipping out of two tackles in the backfield en route to a 32-yard gain. That led to a 30-yard touchdown for Kocourek, who fought through a last-ditch tackle inside the five.

After former Charger Dick Wood had tied the game with a 3rd-quarter touchdown pass, Lowe's 17-yard reception restored the lead. Rookie cornerback Jimmy Warren was then beaten on a deep throw from Wood to Don Maynard, whose 68-yard touchdown provided the game's final points. Lincoln's late chance came from 40 yards out, but Wahoo McDaniel made his second block of the game with 23 seconds to play.

Rote finished on 15 of 29 for 225 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Lowe gained 64 yards on the ground and 31 through the air on his return to action, as well as scoring a touchdown; Lincoln had 26 yards on the ground and 94 through the air. The attendance of nearly 47,000 set a new AFL record.[54]

Week 5: at Boston Patriots

Week Five: San Diego Chargers at Boston Patriots – Game summary
1 2 34Total
Chargers 0 10 13326
Patriots 3 0 7717

at Fenway Park, Boston, Massachusetts

  • Date: October 9
  • Game weather: 50 °F (10.0 °C), relative humidity 97%, wind 9 mph
  • Game attendance: 35,095
  • Box score

John Hadl came off the bench to lead San Diego past the previously-undefeated Patriots. Hadl was introduced after Rote's 1st quarter interception led to a Boston field goal; on his first drive, the Chargers went 62 yards before settling for a field goal by new kicker Herb Travenio. Hadl gained 22 yards on a QB keeper early in the next drive, then completed passes of 11, 17 and 16 yards, before finding Alworth in the back of the end zone on 3rd and goal from the 2. Dick Westmoreland thwarted the Patriots with an end zone interception, and it remained 10–3 at halftime.

Despite kicking off, San Diego extended their lead three plays into the second half: Chuck Allen recovered a fumble on the Boston 27, Lowe shaped to pass before cutting up the middle for 12 yards, and Norton pulled in a 15-yard touchdown. Travenio missed the extra point, and Boston converted three third downs while responding with a 13-play, 68-yard touchdown drive. Later, San Diego went 93 yards in 9 plays to extend their lead - Lowe had an 18-yard reception and a 23-yard carry on consecutive plays, before Alworth took a quick pass in the right flat, wrong-footed his marker and scored from 13 yards out. The Patriots again responded with a touchdown, reducing their deficit to six points with 12:45 still to play.

Following an exchange of punts, San Diego ran the clock down on a 12-play drive from their own 17 to the Boston 14, but Lowe fumbled the ball and the Patriots recovered. Charlie McNeil's interception and 13-yard return gave his offense another chance, and Travenio kicked the clincher from 17 yards out with only 71 seconds to play.

Hadl was 17 of 29 for 228 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, and Alworth caught 8 passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns.[55]

Week 6: vs. Denver Broncos

Week Six: Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers – Game summary
1 2 34Total
Broncos 7 0 0714
Chargers 7 14 14742

at Balboa Stadium, San Diego, California

  • Date: October 18
  • Game weather: 67 °F (19.4 °C), relative humidity 77%, wind 8 mph
  • Game attendance: 23,332
  • Box score

San Diego thrashed Denver in John Hadl's first start since the 1962 finale.[56] Denver scored first, taking the opening kickoff and going 80 yards in 17 plays, scoring a touchdown while running over nine minutes off the clock. Keith Lincoln led the Charger response, gaining 22 yards around left end and later scoring untouched from five yards out. In the 2nd quarter, a 42-yard gain by Kocourek led to a juggling 4-yard touchdown catch by Alworth, and Lincoln's second touchdown made it 21–7.

The Chargers continued to pull away in the second half, with Kocourek scoring after less than three minutes; the tight end took Hadl's pass at the Denver 32 and shrugged off a weak tackle before completing a 46-yard touchdown. Hadl scored the fifth Charger touchdown himself on an 18-yard keeper and, following a consolation score for the Broncos, Jacque MacKinnon went 48 yards on a draw play before scoring from a yard out on the next play.

Hadl finished 18 of 28 for 216 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions, while Kocourek caught 4 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown. The Chargers had combined rushing stats of 39 carries for 272 yards, with 4 touchdowns. San Diego outgained an opponent by 300 yards for the first time in a regular season game, with a 486–186 advantage.[57][58]

Week 7: at Houston Oilers

Week Seven: San Diego Chargers at Houston Oilers – Game summary
1 2 34Total
Chargers 0 20 0020
Oilers 7 10 0017

at Jeppesen Stadium, Houston, Texas

  • Date: October 25
  • Game weather: 62 °F (16.7 °C), relative humidity 84%, wind 7 mph
  • Game attendance: 21,671
  • Box score

Three 2nd quarter touchdowns in the span of 7:25 proved to be just enough to carry the Chargers past Houston. In the opening quarter, Allen's tackle stopped the Oilers on a 4th and 1, Travenio missed from 42 yards out, and rookie Oilers halfback Sid Blanks capped an 80-yard drive with a touchdown pass to Charley Hennigan. Hadl, who had a string of 13 consecutive completions in the first half, led a 72-yard drive and found Kocourek in the front of the end zone to tie the score. Following a Houston three-and-out, Alworth had receptions of 14 and 11 yards before scoring untouched on a 35-yard reverse. Houston responded by driving into Charger territory, but Earl Faison hit George Blanda as he attempted to pass, and the ball fluttered straight to Hank Schmidt, whose 58-yard scoring return made it 20–7. Blanda responded with a touchdown pass to Hennigan and, after Lincoln had a field goal try blocked, Blanda made a kick of his own as time expired in the half.

There were no points scored in a rain-soaked second half, though both teams had chances. In the 3rd quarter, Travenio missed a 21-yard kick and Jimmy Warren picked off Blanda's long pass in the end zone (Warren's first career interception).[59] Blanda missed a 26-yard field goal on the first play of the final quarter. Hadl was intercepted twice as the period wore on, the second of these on the Houston two yard line. The Oilers drove all the way to the Charger 14 inside the final two minutes, before a pair of penalties prompted Blanda to again attempt a game-tying field goal. His kick from 27 yards out was wide right, and San Diego hung on for their third straight win.

Alworth had 5 catches for 76 yards, to go with his first career rushing touchdown.[60] Ernie Ladd was ejected from the game after tearing the helmet from a Houston lineman and striking him on the head with it.[61] He was later fined $500 for the incident.[62]

Week 8: vs. Oakland Raiders

Week Eight: Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers – Game summary
1 2 34Total
Raiders 3 7 0717
Chargers 14 0 31431

at Balboa Stadium, San Diego, California

  • Date: November 1
  • Game weather: 64 °F (17.8 °C), relative humidity 78%, wind 7 mph
  • Game attendance: 25,557
  • Box score

The Charger defense intercepted Cotton Davidson six times, and Lance Alworth had his third career 200-yard game as San Diego defeated the Raiders.[63] John Hadl threw the game's first interception, leading to a Raider field goal, but his next pass was a 76-yard touchdown, Lance Alworth sprinting up the right sideline and pulling in the ball at the Oakland 30 en route to the end zone. Oakland responded with a drive into Charger territory, but Kenny Graham intercepted Davidson in the end zone. Kocourek's 49-yard catch was the biggest play on the ensuing drive, which ended with Lincoln's 9-yard touchdown run through the left guard area. Further interceptions by Allen and Harris gave San Diego openings in opposition territory, but Ben Agajanian missed a field goal, and Alworth later fumbled after making a catch. When Davidson found Art Powell for a touchdown, and the halftime score was 14–10.

In the 3rd quarter, Westmoreland intercepted an overthrown ball and ran it back 38 yards to the Oakland 24, setting up a 32-yard Agajanian kick. Next, Lincoln doubled the Charger lead with a 12-yard run up the middle. Oakland pulled back within seven after Davidson's second touchdown pass of the day, but Alworth had the final score, making a juggling, one-handed catch of a deep ball from Rote while fending off a defensive back. Dick Harris intercepted Davidson in the end zone the end the final Raider threat.

Harris and Westmoreland each had two interceptions. Alworth caught 8 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns. Davidson was the first quarterback to throw six interceptions in a game against the Chargers - the next was Peyton Manning, 43 years later, during the 2007 season.[64][65]

Week 9: at Denver Broncos

Week Nine: San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos – Game summary
1 2 34Total
Chargers 7 3 71431
Broncos 0 9 11020

at Bears Stadium, Denver, Colorado

  • Date: November 8
  • Game weather: 51 °F (10.6 °C), relative humidity 25%, wind 10 mph
  • Game attendance: 19,670
  • Box score

San Diego scored the final 21 points to win a seesaw game. The Broncos received the opening kickoff, and drove into Charger territory before Faison deflected a pass and Harris intercepted it. San Diego then drove 65 yards the other way, and Alworth's catch on a 5-yard out route gave them the lead. Agajanian added a short field goal early in the 2nd quarter, but the next four scores were all by Denver. Firstly, quarterback Jacky Lee broke the grasp of Faison and scrambled for a touchdown from eight yards out. The lead was cut to a single point at the break when Hadl was unable to get his punt away after a high snap, and was downed in the end zone for a safety. There were further long snapping issues shortly after halftime - this time, Hadl couldn't handle a low snap, and the ball was knocked into San Diego's end zone where Denver recovered it, before adding a two-point conversion on a fake kick. A Bronco field goal made it 20–10 with 8:20 to play in the third quarter.

After the Chargers were forced to punt on their next possession, the struggling Hadl was removed from the game and replaced by Tobin Rote; he came in with a golden chance to score after Lee's ill-advised lateral was recovered by Allen on the Denver 11. Rote was sacked to push the Chargers back to a 3rd and 19 from the 20 yard line, but he responded by finding Norton for a touchdown on the next play. Late in the game, Frank Buncom intercepted a deflected screen pass, and San Diego took over at the Denver 15. Norton kept the offense on the field with a 15-yard catch on 3rd and 15, before Lincoln caught the go-ahead score from two yards out, with 3:11 to play. Bob Petrich intercepted Lee's next pass (the defensive end's lone career interception)[66] and Mackinnon ran in an insurance touchdown two plays later. Bud Whitehead's fumble recovery stopped the final Bronco drive.

Lincoln rushed 20 times for 100 yards. It was the only 100-yard game by a Chargers runner all season.[67][68]

Week 10: at Kansas City Chiefs

Week Ten: San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs – Game summary
1 2 34Total
Chargers 0 28 0028
Chiefs 0 7 0714

at Municipal Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri

  • Date: November 15
  • Game weather: 67 °F (19.4 °C), relative humidity 76%, wind 11 mph
  • Game attendance: 19,792
  • Box score

A 28-point 2nd quarter gave San Diego victory over their closest challengers in the AFL West. Lowe opened the scoring when he swept right, slipped a tackler and capitalised on an upfield block by Walt Sweeney to compete a 50-yard touchdown. Lincoln then surprised the Chiefs with an onside kick, recovered by rookie Speedy Duncan in Kansas City territory. Three plays later, Hadl hit Kocourek deep over the middle, the tight end pulling the ball in as he crossed the goal line for a 38-yard touchdown. A Buncom fumble recovery stopped the next Chief drive; Kansas City tried a fake punt on their following possession, but another fumble spoiled the play, and San Diego took over on the opposing 47 yard line. Hadl immediately went long for Alworth, who had outpaced his marker and scored easily.

That touchdown came with 1:21 to play in the first half, which proved to be time enough for two further scores. Emil Karas recovered a fumbled snap on the next play from scrimmage, and Alworth scored on a 19-yard reverse. Kansas City responded with an unusual touchdown, as Dick Westmoreland intercepted Len Dawson's long pass at the 5 yard line, only to fumble into the end zone where the Chiefs recovered.

A further fumbled snap foiled the best Chiefs opening of the 3rd quarter, with Faison recovering. Len Dawson did manage to finish a drive off early in the final quarter, sneaking the ball home himself from a yard out, but couldn't lead his team back into the red zone.

In a Kansas rainstorm, it was the Chiefs who struggled most visibly with the conditions, fumbling nine times and losing three of them; the Charger offense committed no turnovers at all. Hadl was 11 of 19 for 238 yards and two touchdowns, while Alworth caught 5 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown. Emil Karas sustained a broken leg, and missed the rest of the season.[69]

Week 12: vs. Buffalo Bills

Week Twelve: Buffalo Bills at San Diego Chargers – Game summary
1 2 34Total
Bills 0 14 01327
Chargers 10 0 7724

at Balboa Stadium, San Diego, California

  • Date: November 26
  • Game weather: 58 °F (14.4 °C), relative humidity 93%, wind 9 mph
  • Game attendance: 34,865
  • Box score

A late collapse cost the Chargers victory in a battle of division leaders. Early on, ex-Charger Jack Kemp was stopped a foot short on 4th and 1 at the San Diego 39, and Lincoln caught a 25-yard pass to set up his own field goal. On the next Charger possession, Hadl found Alworth behind a pair of defenders en route to a 63-yard touchdown, and it was 10–0. Hadl was intercepted in his own territory the next time tried to pass, but Faison forced Cookie Gilchrist to fumble, and Kenny Graham recovered to end the threat. There was no such let-off the next time Hadl was intercepted, as Buffalo drove 16 yards for a touchdown. Rote entered the game, but was promptly picked off too - this time, the Bills had to drive only a single yard to take the lead. Rote threw a further interception before the half ended.

The turnovers continued in the second half - Warren intercepted Kemp, but Lincoln fumbled the ball back on the next play. Following a Bills punt, Hadl (reinstated at quarterback), made two big throws on a 63-yard touchdown drive, finding Alworth for 23-yards on 3rd and 2 before hitting Norton in the front of the end zone on 3rd and 10 from the 17. Daryle Lamonica entered the game, but was swarmed by three Chargers and sacked for a ten-yard loss on third down. After the Bills punted, San Diego needed only two plays to extend their lead, Lincoln taking a pitchout and throwing to a wide open Alworth for an easy 53-yard touchdown and a 24–14 lead, a play into the final quarter. Alworth's fumbled punt return gave the Bills a chance to close the gap, but the Charger defense made a goal line stand after facing a first down at the four yard line, with Allen making a pair of tackles before Lamonica was stopped two yards short on 4th down.

Hadl was caught in the end zone for a safety by Mike Stratton on the next play, and the game began to turn. Buffalo drove back to the goal line, where they again faced fourth down - this time, Lamonica dove over from the one. The Buffalo QB was stopped short on a two-point try, but San Diego had committed a defensive hold - given another chance from the one, Lamonica again successfully dove through the middle, and the scores were tied with 3:24 to play. Warren's 54-yard kickoff return gave the Chargers excellent starting field position, but a Hadl pass was deflected and intercepted, before Buffalo drove into range for the game-winner, a 33-yard kick by Pete Gogolak with three seconds to play.

In total, San Diego committed a season-high seven turnovers.[40] Alworth had 185 yards and two touchdowns from only four receptions. It was the first time San Diego played on Thanksgiving, or any Thursday. The attendance was a Charger record, and represented the first sell-out in club history.[70]

Week 13: vs. New York Jets

Week Thirteen: New York Jets at San Diego Chargers – Game summary
1 2 34Total
Jets 0 3 003
Chargers 10 14 7738

at Balboa Stadium, San Diego, California

  • Date: December 6
  • Game weather: 55 °F (12.8 °C), relative humidity 56%, wind 7 mph
  • Game attendance: 25,753
  • Box score

San Diego thrashed the Jets on the day they clinched their fourth AFL West title. The Chargers took the opening kickoff and put together a 14-play, 77-yard drive that ended with Norton scoring on a quick out pattern. George Gross recovered Dick Wood's fumble on the next possession, and Lincoln took a screen pass 37 yards before eventually adding a field goal. The Chargers went 85 yards on 9 plays on their next drive, with MacKinnon's 37-yard catch taking them to the goal line, from where Lowe scored. A pair of Hadl interceptions briefly stalled the Chargers' momentum. The first of these led to a Jet field goal, but the second did no damage, as Allen made an interception of his own, returning the ball 33 yards to the New York 35. That led to Lincoln's touchdown catch 14 seconds before halftime. In a processional second half, Faison made a leaping interception at the line of scrimmage before scoring on a 42-yard return, and Alworth got behind the defense on a play action pass for an easy 82-yard touchdown reception.

Alworth caught 3 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown. Lowe rushed 18 times for a season-high 96 yards and a touchdown.[67] Rookie defensive back and return man Speedy Duncan ran a kickoff back 91 yards (leading to a missed field goal) and made his first career interception.[71] The Chargers enjoyed a 466–113 advantage in total offensive yardage.[72]

Week 14: vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Week Fourteen: Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers – Game summary
1 2 34Total
Chiefs 11 14 71749
Chargers 0 0 606

at Balboa Stadium, San Diego, California

  • Date: December 13
  • Game weather: 58 °F (14.4 °C), relative humidity 29%, wind 9 mph
  • Game attendance: 26,562
  • Box score

The Chargers declared this to be "Tobin Rote Day", as the veteran quarterback was playing in San Diego for the last time. Rote was honoured in a halftime ceremony, and started for the first time since Week 5.[73] The game itself did not go to plan, as Kansas City forced six turnovers en route to a blowout win.

On the game's opening possession, San Diego tried a fake punt after reaching 4th and 4 from the Chief 46, but Hadl's pass was intercepted. Len Dawson threw the first of his four touchdown passes on the next play (they all went to Frank Jackson), and Kansas City were off and running - it was 25–0 before the Chargers crossed midfield again. When Hadl found Alworth for a short touchdown early in the 3rd quarter, the Chiefs went 65 yards the other way for another Dawson TD pass, immediately extinguishing thoughts of a comeback.

The 43-point margin of defeat would remain the Chargers' worst until a 45-0 defeat to the Patriots, 56 years later.[74][75]

Week 15: at Oakland Raiders

Week Fifteen: San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders – Game summary
1 2 34Total
Chargers 3 7 10020
Raiders 0 14 0721

at Frank Youell Field, Oakland, California

  • Date: December 20
  • Game weather: 57 °F (13.9 °C), relative humidity 81%, wind 12 mph
  • Game attendance: 20,124
  • Box score

San Diego improved on their previous week's showing, but nonetheless went into the AFL title game on a two-game losing streak after a narrow defeat. The Chargers wasted numerous early openings, beginning when Petrich's fumble recovery in Oakland territory led only to a missed Lincoln field goal. Ron Carpenter's interception soon gave them another chance, at the Oakland 29, but Hadl immediately threw an interception of his own; Lincoln later missed another field goal before, finally, Bud Whitehead's interception led to a successful kick. In total, 37 of the game's first 38 snaps took place in Raiders territory.

Oakland pinned the Chargers at their own two yard line late in the first quarter, but Hadl led his team 98 yards in only 9 plays in response, completing 41-yard passes to both Norton and Lowe. The latter of these saw Lowe catch the ball at the Oakland 30, and battle past four would-be tacklers on his way for a touchdown. Oakland responded with touchdowns on two of their next three drives, both from passes by Tom Flores, and led 14–10 at halftime.

Rote had come into the game following a 2nd quarter Hadl interception, and played the entire second half. His 23-yard completion to Lowe moved the ball to the Oakland 28 on the opening 3rd quarter possession; on the next play, Lowe swept right and followed a convoy of blockers for an easy touchdown. Lincoln hit a 33-yard field goal on the next Charger possession, making it 20–14. Flores was sacked on 4th and 6 at the Charger 10 as time expired in the quarter, but threw his third touchdown pass soon after the change of ends. San Diego couldn't cross midfield on their final three possessions, with Rote's final pass being a deep ball, intercepted at the Raider 25 with less than two minutes to play.

Lowe had a season-high 165 offensive yards, rushing 13 times for 85 yards and a touchdown, while catching 4 passes for 80 yards and a further touchdown.[76] The Chargers suffered a blow in the 1st quarter, when Lance Alworth suffered a hyper-extension of the left knee; he missed the AFL Championship game as a result.[77][78]

Standings

AFL Western Division
W L T PCT DIV PF PA STK
San Diego Chargers 8 5 1 .615 4–2 341 300 L2
Kansas City Chiefs 7 7 0 .500 4–2 366 306 W2
Oakland Raiders 5 7 2 .417 2–3–1 303 350 W2
Denver Broncos 2 11 1 .154 1–4–1 240 438 L2

Note: Tie games were not officially counted in the standings until 1972.

Playoffs

Round Date Opponent Result Venue Attendance Recap
Championship December 26 at Buffalo Bills L 7–20 War Memorial Stadium 40,242 Recap

Game summaries

AFL Championship Game: San Diego Chargers at Buffalo Bills

Main article: 1964 American Football League Championship Game

AFL Championship Game: San Diego Chargers at Buffalo Bills – Game summary
1 2 34Total
Chargers 7 0 007
Bills 3 10 0720

at Balboa Stadium, San Diego

  • Date: December 26
  • Game time: 2:00 p.m. EST
  • Game weather: 57 °F (14 °C), relative humidity 26%, wind 10 mph (16 km/h)
  • Game attendance: 40,242
  • Referee: Bob Finley
  • TV announcers (ABC): Curt Gowdy, Paul Christman
Game information
Scoring

The injury to Alworth, their recent poor form and the Bills' home field advantage combined to make San Diego the underdogs for the title game.[78] Nonetheless, the Chargers began well, with Rote, starting in his final game for the team, throwing a touchdown to Kocourek on the fourth play of the game. On their next drive, Lincoln, who had gained 58 yards and four first downs on three runs and a catch, was hit hard by Mike Stratton as he tried to catch a swing pass and knocked out of the game with a broken rib.[3]

After that, the Charger offense carried far less threat, and Buffalo began to take control. The Bills led 13–7 shortly before halftime when Stratton made another big play, intercepting Rote after the Chargers had driven to the Buffalo 15. San Diego switched to Hadl in the second half, but slipped further behind; their last serious chance ended when Hadl threw incomplete on 4th and 2 from the Buffalo 5.[79]

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