Even if Winning, Interceptions are Important

Football fans in 1962 were beginning to take the American Football League seriously. The Houston Oilers had the first dynasty which lasted from 1960 to 1962. George Blanda was arguably the best player in the AFL during these years. He was an AFL All Star for three consecutive seasons, 1961 to 1963. A quick summary is below.

1960-The Oilers were 10-4 and at home defeated the Los Angeles Chargers 32 to 16 in the AFL Title game.

1961-The Oilers were 10-3-1 and at San Diego defeated the Chargers 10 to 3. Blanda completed 18 of 41 passes for 181 yards with a touchdown pass and five interceptions. He was the AFL Most Valuable Player and made the AFL All Star Team

1962-The Oilers were 11-3 and were preparing to meet the Dallas Texans at home in the AFL Title Game. Dallas was 11-3 and would become the Kansas City Chiefs the following year.

George Blanda was without a doubt the leader of the team. Blanda had another standout season in 1962 completing 197 passes for 2,813 yards and 27 touchdowns. But he has a negative record which stands to this day. Blanda threw 42 interceptions for a 10% interception rate. He threw six interception in two games. A reporter asked him about his interceptions and Blanda replied in his usual direct fashion. “Interceptions are only important when you lose.”

The title game was one of the most exciting games ever in this fashion:
Dallas dominated the first half and lead at that point 17 to 0;
Houston dominated the second half, scored 17 points, and tied the game at 17 at the end of regulation play.

George Blanda threw three interceptions over four quarters. Without these errant throws, the Oilers would have had an easy victory. Blanda late in the game attempted a 42 yard field goal. Dallas linebacker Sherrel Hedrick got just enough of his hand on the football to deflect it.

The first overtime quarter was scoreless and the Texans won with an 18 yard field goal in the sixth quarter 20 to 17. Blanda had two more interceptions in overtime. Once again, these throws cost the Houston Oilers the game. For the day, Blanda completed 23 of 46 passes for 265 yards, one touchdown, and of course, five interceptions.

Those errant throws were costly for the title game and for the next three years. Houston fell from greatness and wound up in mediocrity. Here were the records. In fairness, George Blanda did have another big season in 1963 being named to the AFL All Star Squad.

1963. Fell to 6-8 with 25 interceptions;
1964. 4-10 with 27 interceptions;
1965. 4-10 with 30 interceptions.

Now the losses stemmed, in part, from those three years of league leading interceptions. The point is this. The two interceptions from Nick Foles in the 27 to 0 win really hurt. The Philadelphia Eagles lost a chance to rest the regulars, give much needed playing time to the second team, and spare the nerves of their fans. Ignoring those interceptions while winning is a sure way to make them cause a loss in the future.

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