It was nice of the Bengals and Panthers to battle to a 37-37 tie Sunday — the highest-scoring draw in the overtime era (1974-). It makes it easier to segue into this next post — about the highest-scoring tie in all of NFL/AFL history.
It took place 50 years ago today at Fenway Park, where the Patriots, then known as the Boston Patriots, played their home games from 1963 to ’68. The final score was Pats 43, Raiders, 43, and unlike today, when indifference, if not disappointment, tends to accompany these games, The Boston Globe called it “the most exciting pro football game in Boston history.” (Of course, there hadn’t been that many pro football games in Boston history at that point, but it’s the thought that counts.)
Part of the reason the paper felt this way was that the Patriots rallied from a 34-14 deficit midway through the third quarter to take the lead, 43-40, with 47 seconds left. The go-ahead score was set up by a play that went like this (according to the Globe’s John Ahern):
[Patriots quarterback Babe] Parilli was back on the Boston 8, and he threw to Jimmy Colclough at midfield. Colclough ran about eight yards with the ball before lateralling off to Gino Cappelletti, who went about five. Just as he was stopped he tossed it to Ron Burton, who got down to the Raiders 31.
That bit of razzle-dazzle led to an 11-yard TD pass from Parilli to running back Larry Garron that put the Patriots up by three. But in the final seconds — there was no OT, remember — the Raiders, aided by a pass-interference penalty at the Boston 30, moved close enough for Mike Mercer to kick the 38-yard field goal that tied it.
It was, as Ahearn wrote, “the dizziest game this old town has seen in years.” Parilli finished with 422 passing yards, which stood as the franchise record for 30 years (until Drew Bledsoe broke it with 426 in 1994). He and Cotton Davidson, the Raiders QB, each threw for four TDs. Also, it was only the fifth time in NFL/AFL history that both teams had scored in the 40s.
What’s particularly amusing is that three years earlier, on the very same field, the baseball All-Star Game had been called because of rain after nine innings with the score tied 1-1. So for a long time — until the 2002 debacle, when the American and National leagues ran out of pitchers — Fenway Park was the site of the highest scoring tie in pro football history and the only tie in All-Star Game history.
Ahern’s only misgiving about the game was that the Patriots had to “settle for a tie instead of a victory. Twice — in 1961 and 1962 — ties have cost the team the Eastern championship. And last year a tie caused a tie [in the standings] at season’s end [requiring a playoff with the Bills that the Pats won, 26-8].”
Fortunately for the Patriots, this tie didn’t end up costing them. In the final week, they still had a chance to go to the AFL title game. Alas, they lost at home to the Bills (who did go — and beat the Chargers). Half a century later, about all that’s remembered of that 10-3-1 Patriots season is their dizzy 43-43 tie with the Raiders, played under the lights at Fenway on a Friday night.