|1962 San Diego Chargers season|
|Head coach||Sid Gillman|
|General manager||Sid Gillman|
|Home field||Balboa Stadium|
|Division place||3rd Western Division|
|Playoff finish||Did not qualify|
The 1962 Season was the 3rd season for the San Diego Chargers as a professional AFL franchise; the team failed to improve on their 12–2 record from 1961. The Chargers finished third in the AFL West at 4–10 that season. At the time it was their worst ever season; this would be the only time the Chargers would endure a losing season during their AFL days. The slip from 12 wins to 4 still represents the worst season-to-season decline in Charger history.
Injuries on offense played a major role in the slump. Promising rookie flanker Lance Alworth missed the final ten games of the season with a knee injury, Paul Lowe broke an arm and missed the entire year, and Jack Kemp was knocked out of action after only two games. Head Coach Sid Gillman placed Kemp on waivers, from where he was claimed by the Buffalo Bills for only $100. Gillman's action has been described as either a calculated risk that backfired, or a simple misunderstanding of the rules.
With Kemp gone, San Diego used three different rookies at quarterback for the remainder of the season: John Hadl, Dick Wood and Val Keckin. None of the trio posted a passer rating above 50, though Hadl did enough to secure a roster spot for the next season, throwing 15 touchdowns against 24 interceptions, and passing for 1,632 yards while starting ten games, though he only won one of them. With Alworth out injured after catching three touchdowns in the opening four games, Don Norton (771 yards) and Dave Kocourek (688 yards, despite a switch to tight end) were again the leading receivers. On the ground, Keith Lincoln and Bobby Jackson had the bulk of the carries in Lowe's absence, combining for 985 yards and seven touchdowns behind a line where tackle Ron Mix was San Diego's lone first-team Associated Press All-Pro selection.
While the defense didn't scale the heights of the previous season, they remained a solid unit. Claude Gibson led the team with eight interceptions, and ran one of those back for a touchdown. George Blair had an outstanding year as a kicker, converting on 17 of 20 field goals. His 85% success rate was comfortably the best in the league, and would stand up as the top performance through the full decade of the AFL. Paul Maguire was called upon to punt 79 times, most in the league, and ranked third with 41.6 yards per kick.
|1||September 7||at Denver Broncos||L 21–30||0–1||University of Denver Stadium||28,000||Recap|
|2||September 16||New York Titans||W 40–14||1–1||Balboa Stadium||22,003||Recap|
|3||September 23||Houston Oilers||L 17–42||1–2||Balboa Stadium||28,061||Recap|
|4||September 30||at Oakland Raiders||W 42–33||2–2||Frank Youell Field||13,000||Recap|
|5||October 7||Dallas Texans||W 32–28||3–2||Balboa Stadium||23,092||Recap|
|6||October 13||at Buffalo Bills||L 10–35||3–3||War Memorial Stadium||20,074||Recap|
|7||October 19||at Boston Patriots||L 20–24||3–4||Boston University Field||20,888||Recap|
|8||October 28||at New York Titans||L 3–23||3–5||Polo Grounds||21,467||Recap|
|9||November 4||Denver Broncos||L 20–23||3–6||Balboa Stadium||20,827||Recap|
|10||November 11||Buffalo Bills||L 20–40||3–7||Balboa Stadium||22,204||Recap|
|12||November 25||at Houston Oilers||L 27–33||3–8||Jeppesen Stadium||28,235||Recap|
|13||December 2||Oakland Raiders||W 31–21||4–8||Balboa Stadium||17,874||Recap|
|14||December 9||Boston Patriots||L 14–20||4–9||Balboa Stadium||19,887||Recap|
|15||December 16||at Dallas Texans||L 17–26||4–10||Cotton Bowl||18,384||Recap|
Note: Intra-division opponents are in bold text.
Denver beat the Chargers for the first time, despite a late flurry. The Broncos blocked a George Blair field goal attempt early on, and drove 56 yards the other way for the opening touchdown. It was 10-0 in the 2nd quarter when Jack Kemp got the Chargers moving with a 17-yard completion to Lance Alworth - the flanker's first catch as a professional - and found DOn Norton from 7 yards out for the first Charger points of the season. Former Charger Bob Scarpitto scored only six plays later, and Denver pushed their lead to 30-7 through the middle portion of the game, while San Diego failed to cross the Bronco 30.
The Charger defense then stepped in with one of the interceptions that had characterised the previous season. Halfback Gene Mingo's pass attempt was picked off by Claude Gibson and run back 37 yards for a touchdown. Bronco QB Frank Tripucka was also intercepted on the next two drives - after the second of these, rookie John Hadl came in at quarterback and led the Chargers on a 6-play, 54-yard scoring drive, his first pass attempt being a 15-yard touchdown to Bobby Jackson with 3:35 to play. Curiously, San Diego eschewed two point conversion attempts after both of these touchdowns, leaving them nine points behind and still needing to score twice more. In the event, Denver ran almost all of the remaining time off the clock, securing the win.
Lance Alworth scored his first AFL touchdowns as the Chargers thrashed New York. Alworth had caught only one pass in his first game; he caught only two here, but both for touchdowns, covering 23 and 67 yards. Jack Kemp and Bobby Jackson also scored rushing touchdowns during the first three quarter, which saw the Chargers go up 31-0.
Halfback Keith Lincoln had been the passer on Alworth's first touchdown; after the Titans finally scored, he ran the ensuing kickoff back 103 yards for a touchdown. He was the first Charger to score in this manner, having already become the first to achieve a punt-return touchdown the previous season. This was also a club record for longest touchdown that would not be tied until 1987, nor beaten until 2007. San Diego gained fewer first downs than the Titans (20-13), but enjoyed a 6-2 advantage in turnovers, with their defense claiming three fumbles and three interceptions.
Kemp broke his finger in this game. It was his final game with the Chargers before the Bills claimed him off waivers.
Houston ran away with this rematch of the first two AFL Championship games. Rookie QB John Hadl was given the start, but his first pass attempt was intercepted, and George Blanda threw a touchdown one play later to set the tone. Dick Wood, another rookie, soon replaced Hadl and managed a pair of touchdown passes to Don Norton. These were rendered irrelevant by an Oilers offense that moved the ball at will. They scored touchdowns on their first four possessions and had 432 yards against only one turnover. Blanda finished up with three touchdown passes, while his rushing attack combined for 277 yards on 42 carries, with a further three touchdowns.
Recently-converted tight end Dave Kocourek represented a bright spot for the Chargers. He caught 5 passes for 140 yards.
For the fifth straight time, the Chargers defeated Oakland while scoring 40+ points. Paul Maguire's interception led to the first score, a 10-yard pass from Wood to Jackson, but former Charger Bo Roberson returned the ensuing kickoff 87 yards for a game-tying score. Hadl came in at quarterback and led San Diego to a first down at the Oakland 17, but Fred Williamson picked off his next pass and went 91 yards the other way for another return touchdown.
Hadl bounced back with three touchdown passes on consecutive possessions. Firstly, he eluded tacklers and lobbed a pass to Kocourek, who took it in for a 30-yard touchdown. After Oakland prolonged the next Charger drive by fumbling a punt (Jacque McKinnon recovered), Norton caught a 13-yard touchdown over the middle. Finally, one play after a Raider punt, Lance Alworth outran his marker and caught a deep ball for a 53-yard touchdown (his final reception of the season, as he was ruled out of the next ten games by a knee injury).
Oakland pulled three points back on the opening drive of the 2nd quarter, but Lincoln then broke off a 45-yard run, and Jackson powered through tacklers for a 6-yard touchdown on the next play. Lincoln got on the scoresheet himself later in the quarter, breaking loose from his own 14 yard line and shaking off two tacklers upfield before completing an 86-yard touchdown run. Down 42-17, the Raiders scored two touchdowns and a pair of two point conversions in the final quarter, but didn't cross midfield after that.
Lincoln had his first 100-yard game, carrying 12 times for 166 yards and a touchdown.
San Diego survived a late scare to beat the eventual AFL Champions. Dick Wood threw a 36-yard completion on the game's first play, but was knocked out of action, and Hadl played the rest of the game. George Blair kicked a 10-yard chip shot at the end of that opening possession, and Hadl led a 72-yard touchdown drive the next time the Chargers had the ball, completing a 36-yard pass to Norton and running the ball in himself on 3rd and goal from the four. The Chargers recovered a fumble in the 2nd quarter, and Hadl found Norton five plays later for a 16-0 lead. The Texans also scored after a fumble recovery, but extended the Chargers' answering drive with a roughing the punter penalty. Jerry Robinson caught his first touchdown pass two plays later, from 33 yards. A Len Dawson touchdown pass made it 23-14 at halftime.
The first six possessions of the second half ended in punts, the last of these a 17 yard effort that set the Chargers up on the Dallas 33. They converted this chance into a field goal, and Claude Gibson intercepted Dawson two plays later. Hadl converted a 4th and inches himself on the ensuing drive, and Lincoln's 2-yard run made it 32-14 with only 2:44 to play. Dawson then threw two touchdowns, either side of a successful onside kick, and were within four points with 45 seconds still to play. Only when the Chargers recovered a second onside attempt could they claim the victory.
Hadl played a clean game, completing 14 of 29 for 208 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. The win left San Diego only a half game behind Dallas and one game behind Denver in the AFL West, but they were to fall away quickly in the coming weeks.
Statistically dominant all over the field, Buffalo beat the Chargers much more handsomely than the scoreline indicated. The Bills pulled off a fake field goal in the 1st quarter, and Warren Rabb threw a touchdown three plays later. Hadl's next two passes were both intercepted, with Rabb throwing a 76-yard touchdown after the second of these. With San Diego offering little threat, it was 35-3 to the Bills before Bob Mitinger recovered a fumble and Hezekiah Braxton rushed for his only professional touchdown.
Hadl finished 2 of 12 for 17 yards and two interceptions, for a quarterback rating of 0.0; Wood replaced him and went 8 of 20 for 70 yards and two further interceptions. Buffalo outgained San Diego 439-115, and had combined rushing stats of 48 carries, 303 yards and two touchdowns. Two Bills (Cookie Gilchrist and Wayne Crow) rushed for over 100 yards. Rabb only completed five passes, but three of those were for touchdowns.
After taking a seventeen point lead into the interval, San Diego slipped to another defeat. Boston opened the scoring with a field goal, but Wood led the charger 76 yards in 8 plays in response, connecting with Kocourek for a 36-yard touchdown pass on 3rd and 17. Blair added a 43-yard field goal, and the Chargers were soon threatening again after Claude Gibson intercepted Babe Parilli. Wood threw a pick of his own to squander that chance, but soon made amends with a 49-yard completion to Norton, setting up Jackson's 2-yard touchdown run. San Diego converted a Dick Harris interception into three further points, and led 20-3 at halftime.
The game turned drastically after halftime. San Diego went three-and-out on their first two possessions, and Parilli responded with touchdown passes each time. A 57-yard kickoff return by Robinson gave San Diego an excellent chance to respond; Hadl came into the game and was immediately intercepted, before the Patriots made it three touchdown drives in a row. Behind for the first time, the Chargers had most of the 4th quarter to respond, but crossed midfield only once in four possessions. On that occasion, Hadl was sacked on consecutive plays, forcing a punt. Wood threw the fourth Charger interception of the day on their final possession.
Norton had his only 100-yard game of the season, with 4 catches for 107 yards.
A floundering offense could muster no touchdowns as the Chargers lost their third straight. There were numerous wasted chances in the first half: both kickers missed one field goal and made another; Norton had a 33-yard touchdown ruled out by holding; both sides threw interceptions after penetrating the opposition red zone, Harris claiming the pick for San Diego. It was 3-3 at the break, but the Titans scored three touchdowns in a span of 7:49 to effectively win the game in the 3rd quarter, Don Maynard catching scoring passes of 63 and 18 yards either side of a punt return touchdown.
San Diego again tried both their rookie quarterbacks with little success. Hadl started and was 9 of 27 for 106 yards and two interceptions, while also losing a fummble; Wood was 5 of 13 for 62 yards and an interception.
With division-leading Denver three games ahead of them, this was San Diego's last serious chance to get back into the title game race. Their performance was greatly improved from the previous week, but another bad second half cost them the win. After the Broncos went 77 yards in 13 plays for the opening touchdown, Hadl got the Chargers moving with an 18-yard carry, and Blair notched a 27-yard field goal. A Gibson interception later set San Diego up at the Bronco 14, but Hadl threw incomplete on 4th and 2 and the Chargers came up empty handed. Shortly before halftime, Bobby Bethune also picked off a pass; two plays later, Hadl found Robinson for a 72-yard touchdown. Denver then fumbled the kickoff, and San Diego took advantage when Jacque MacKinnon caught his first professional touchdown.
A 48-yard pass from Hadl to Robinson led to another Blair field goal no the opening possession of the 3rd quarter, and it was 20-7. San Diego then forced a punt, but Hadl fumbled two plays later and the tide began to turn. Denver scored on the next play and, following a Hadl interception, drove 76 yards in 9 plays to take the lead with 12:43 to play. The Chargers had to punt on their next two possessions; on the second of these, the ball went over Paul Maguire's head for a safety. San Diego had one more possession, starting at their own 13. Two Hadl runs and a pass interference penalty moved the ball to the Bronco 47, but former Charger Bob Zeman then stepped in with an interception, and Denver ran out the clock.
Hadl played a complete game for the first time. He finished 10 of 26 for 198 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, while also rushing 10 times for 60 yards. Robinson caught 3 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown.
Buffalo again brutalised the Chargers in the early going, though San Diego made the final score respectable. With Hadl throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble in the first half, Buffalo scored on their first six possessions and led 37-0 at halftime. While San Diego never seriously threatened a comeback, they did pick up three touchdowns from their four second half possessions. Hadl's 15-yard pass to Kocourek capped a 90-yard drive, and Jackson scored twice from close in, while Braxton added a two point conversion.
In contrast to the statistical dominance of the first game, San Diego actually gained slightly more yardage on offense (370-335), though they lost the turnover battle 5-2. Jacque MacKinnon rushed 17 times for 102 yards, while Kocourek caught 7 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown.
San Diego gave the Eastern division-leading Oilers a scare before losing their sixth straight game. Despite kicking off, the Chargers led 14-0 after only nine plays from scrimmage: Gibson intercepted George Blanda to set up Hadl's 32-yard scoring pass to MacKinnon; Emil Karas recovered a fumble and Kocourek's 26-yard touchdown catch followed on the next play. Houston's recovery began the play after a Maguire punt had pinned them two yards from their own end zone, as backup QB Jacky Lee found Willard Dewveall for a 98-yard touchdown. Robinson took the ensuing kickoff out of his own end zone for a safety, and Blanda's 42-yard field goal made it 12 points scored in 2:25. Hadl was then stopped on a 4th down sneak, but Earl Faison's fumble recovery gave San Diego another chance, and Hadl found Reggie Carolan from 12 yards for the tight end's lone Charger touchdown, making it 21-12 at halftime.
Houston pulled seven points back on their first possession of the second half, but Lee threw interceptions to Bobby Bethune and Bud Whitehead on consecutive pass attempts, both of which were converted into Blair field goals. Blanda then returned as quarterback, completing four passes on a brisk 77-yard touchdown drive, finishing by connecting with Dewveall from 16 yards - a two point conversion tied the scores. Gibson intercepted Blanda's next pass, but Hadl was then picked off on consecutive possessions, leading to a pair of Blanda field goals, the latter with 3:13 left. Four straight incompletions from Hadl turned the ball back to Houston, but Blanda missed from 26 yards out with a chance to clinch the win.
Starting on his own 20 with 1:13 to play, Hadl was sacked on first down but responded with four straight completions, three of them to Robinson, giving the Chargers a 2nd and 1 at the Oiler 25. An incompletion, a penalty and a sack pushed San Diego back, before Robinson was tackled well short of the first down and Houston ran out the clock.
Hadl was 15 of 39 for 261 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. Just as they had in the previous season's title game, the Charger defense forced seven turnovers in a losing cause.
The Chargers broke their losing streak against the cellar-dwelling Raiders, though they had to survive another late lapse to do so. Gibson returned a punt to the Raider 23 midway through the 1st quarter, and Gerry MacDougall ran his first career touchdown from the seven a few plays later. Following a Raider three-and-out, San Diego progressed to the Oakland 24, from where MacDougall scored again. The Raiders threatened several times throughout the first half, but were foiled by a turnover on downs, a missed field goal by former Charger Ben Agajanian, and Bethune's interception of a Cotton Davidson pass.
Following another Agajanian miss, San Diego drove 80 yards and scored on Norton's 23-yard reception. Oakland responded with a quick touchdown, before the Chargers came straight back with a 68-yard drive, capped by Hadl's 17-yard pass to Lincoln. That made it 28-7 with 14:20 to play, but the Raiders scored on two of their next three plays, Davidson connecting with Dick Dorsey for 65- and 90-yard touchdowns (the only touchdowns of the receiver's career). On their next possession, Oakland reached 4th and 2 at the Charger 37, whereupon Faison intercepted Davidson at the line and returned the ball 30 yards to the Oakland 32. San Diego ran the clock down and clinched the win with Blair's 12 yard field goal, 20 seconds from time.
San Diego moved to 6-0 against their nearest rivals. MacDougall had a career day, with 22 carries for 108 yards and two touchdowns.
A weak offensive performance saw the Chargers slip to a narrow defeat. Stymied by three turnovers and an inconsistent passing attack, San Diego snapped the ball in Patriots territory on only three of their first eleven possessions, encompassing three and a half quarters. George Blair made a pair of 42-yard field goals, but they trailed 20-6. The defense, which had played well throughout, then came up with a fumble recovery at the Boston 11. McDougall scored three plays later, and new backup quarterback Val Keckin passed for a two point conversion. However, an onside kick failed, and San Diego went three-and-out on their final possession.
Neither team moved the ball easily - the Chargers were outgained 287-187. Frank Buncom set up one of Blair's field goals with an interception. By going for two when down by eight, the Chargers became one of the first teams to try a situational tactic that would become popular decades later.
Charger quarterbacks threw six of their season finale's eight interceptions, as they lost to finish 4-10. After conceding an early field goal, San Diego drove 78 yards yards in 8 plays, taking the lead on a trick play as Lincoln threw a 20-yard touchdown to a diving Robinson. The Texans, bound for the AFL title game, scored 20 unanswered points in the 2nd quarter, while Hadl was intercepted twice and Keckin both lost a fumbled and was intercepted.
Lincoln broke off a 47-yard run down the right sideline on the first play of the second half, and Hadl followed up with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Norton. Following a field goal on their next drive, San Diego trailed just 23-17. Buncom intercepted Len Dawson to snuff out a Texans threat, but Hadl was soon intercepted in return, and Dallas added an insurance field goal on the first play of the final quarter. Hadl was picked off twice more in opposition territory as the quarter wore on.
On top of his touchdown pass, Lincoln finished with 11 carries for 74 yards.
|AFL Western Division|
|San Diego Chargers||4||10||0||.286||3–3||314||392||L2|
Note: Tie games were not officially counted in the standings until 1972.