In 1973 and 1974, a couple of terrible passing performances by a couple of very young quarterbacks somehow equaled victory for their respective teams. Both outings came about with different circumstances, and they both rank as a couple of the most unique quarterbacking efforts of the decade.
1973 Jets vs. Patriots
On October 14, 1973, rookie New York Jets quarterback Bill Demory was thrusted into his team’s starting lineup against the host New England Patriots, due to injuries to starting quarterback Joe Namath and backup signal caller Al Woodall.
To compensate for having a green rookie like Demory behind center, Jets head coach Weeb Ewbank had decided to shave his team’s offensive gameplan to run the ball, and then run it some more. New York’s rushing attack performed admirably, as they accounted for 232 total ground yards.
Demory, on the other hand, struggled, as he managed to complete only one pass in seven attempts. But his 11-yard strike to wide receiver Chris Knight along the sideline late in the fourth quarter was just what the Jets needed most. Knight’s clutch catch set up New York placekicker Bobby Howfield, who connected on a 22-yard field goal for what turned out to be the winning points. New York somehow prevailed in this low-scoring, defensive battle, 9-7.
Eubank knew that Demory’s performance would not set the NFL on fire.
But it served as a statement of proof that it doe not really matter how you win in pro football…it only matters that you do win.
“We planned to throw the ball more,” Coach Ewbank was quoted to say after the game. That plan never really seemed to take effect, however. That was probably because Jets running back John Riggins and Emerson Boozer were doing so well. Riggins would account for 132 rushing yards in the game, and Boozer accounted for 73 more.
The Jets’ rushers thus which ate up the clock, which served as a successful key to New York’s victory.
The following year, the Jets were once again involved in another game where a quarterback suffered from an even worse statistical outing than that of Bill Demory. On September 29, 1974, the Jets went into Buffalo’s Rich Stadium to face the Bills.
There was no snow this early in the autumn in Buffalo, but there was plenty of rain, and lots and lots of wind.
In some cases, the wind gusts on that day would blow as much as 40 miles per hour. Both Joe Namath of the Jets and Joe Ferguson of the Bills had miserable days in their passing pockets. The wind constantly diverted many of their throws.
Namath could complete only two of his 18 pass attempts all game long.
But Ferguson completed exactly zero passes. Now to be fair, Ferguson only attempted two passes. It was going to be the running game for both teams which would have to decide the winner of this AFC East divisional contest. Buffalo’s rushing attack, led by O.J. Simpson and Jim Braxton, proved to be stronger than New York’s ground game. The Bills accounted for a total of 223 rushing yards, while the Jets could accumulate only 106 total yards on the ground. Thanks to their running backs, the Bills prevailed, 16-12.
Despite their victories, both Bill Demory and Joe Ferguson endured a game in 1973 and 1974, respectively, that both would rather forget.
Demory went back to the bench as soon as Al Woodall got healthy again, and Joe Ferguson continued to hand the football off to his running backs during the remainder of the 1974 season, which fortunately for Buffalo, led them to their only playoff berth of the decade.
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We mentioned the backup quarterbacks for the New York Jets in this episode, but who was Joe Ferguson’s backup quarterback in Buffalo in 1974?
Host of Pro Football in the 1970s - Joe Zagorski
Throughout his days, Joe spent some time as a sportswriter and has been a member of the Pro Football Researchers Association since the mid-1980s. Joe is also a proud member of the Pro Football Writers of America.
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