George Blanda’s passing on Monday at the age of 83 is a cause for remorse, remembrance and one more celebration of the career of one of the greatest AFL/NFL players ever who was a thorn in the side of the early New York Titans and Jets teams.
And fans of the Jets’ predecessors never cursed louder or secretly admired Blanda more as a competitor than on Nov. 19, 1961, when he tied the pro football record by throwing seven touchdown passes against the Titans at Jeppesen Stadium.
“What people don’t know is when we look at the film, Blanda probably could have topped that number,” Steve Sabol, president of NFL Films, said in the Los Angeles Times. “They were routing the Titans, and Blanda came out of the game early in the second half. He had seven touchdown passes midway through the third quarter when they took him out.”
Just for the record, Blanda’s last scoring pass that day came early in the fourth quarter. Blanda hit Charley Hennigan with a 28-yard strike to start the scoring, then followed with three TDs to Billy Cannon (6, 78 and 6 yards) and three to Bill Groman (66, 46, 11) in the Oilers’ 49-13 win.
That seven-TD passing performance tied the record set by Sid Luckman for the Bears in 1943 and Adrian Burk for the Eagles in ’54. The Giants’ Y.A. Tittle in 1962 and Joe Kapp of Minnesota in 1969 equaled it but no QB in pro football history has ever surpassed
Blanda followed that up three weeks later with three more TD passes in a 48-21 win over the Titans at the Polo Grounds. He also did all the placekicking in those games and so of Houston’s 97 points in the home-and-home that season, he was responsible for 79 of them.
And then, for anyone who doubted if he could do it again, Blanda did it again with six touchdowns against the Titans the next season at Jeppesen.
In 15 career games vs. the Jets/Titans from 1960-70, Blanda had a pretty good “season”: 223-for-425, 3,011 yards, 32 TDs, 22 INTs. But of course his career was Hall of Fame material: AFL Player of the Year in 1961 with a then-record 36 touchdown passes, 236 TDs and almost 27,000 yards for his career and an NFL-record 26 seasons played for the Bears, Colts, Oilers and Raiders.
“All of us at the Pro Football Hall of Fame are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of a great friend and a truly iconic figure in pro football history,” said Steve Perry, the Hall’s president and executive director. “A seemingly ageless wonder, George inspired legions of fans over a 26-year career, with his clutch performances as a quarterback and place kicker. He will be truly missed.”
Tags: Billy Cannon, Charley Hennigan, George Blanda, Houston Oilers, New York Titans
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