by Brendon Rosenau, Patriots Daily Staff
September 16, 2009

Any Patriots fan worth his Stanley Morgan throwback knows that the first time the Pats appeared in the Super Bowl was 1986. But, did you know the Pats came within shouting distance of making history and appearing in the first ever AFL-NFL championship game?

You may recall in 1963 (last week’s history minute) the Pats made the AFL title game. They followed that with a 10 win season. However, in 1965 injuries ravaged the Pats and they limped to just four wins. 1966 was a fresh start and the Patriots took the field with hands-down the AFL’s best running back and a shot at history.

Second year running back Jim Nance ran roughshod over the AFL and helped lead the Patriots to an 8-4-2 record. Nance gained 1458 yards, an unprecedented 657 yards more than anyone else, scored 11 touchdowns, four more than any other RB, and averaged twice as many yards per contest (104.1) as any other back on his way to Player of the Year honors.

Behind Nance the Patriots went on a roll from November 13 through December and did not suffer a defeat in that six game stretch. After a 38-14 drilling of Houston, a game that Nance ran for 146 yards, the Pats were 8-3-2 and needed a win over the Jets in the regular season finale to advance to the AFL title game.

The Jets limited Nance to 78 yards and produced two of their own 100 yard rushers, Matt Snell and Emerson Boozer, to knock the Patriots out of the title picture and fire a preliminary round in the border war. Buffalo, the team the Patriots knocked out of the AFL playoffs in ‘63, won the last game and got the chance to play Kansas City for the AFL crown. The Chiefs of course won and would represent the AFL in Super Bowl 1.

Pro Bowl

Parilli, Jim Nance (FB), Cappelletti, Jon Morris (Center), Len St. Jean (RG), Tom Neville (RT), Jim Hunt (LDT), Houston Antwine (RDT), Larry Eisenhauer (RDE), Nick Buoniconti (MLB), Chuck Shonta (S)

All Pro

Nance, Cappelletti, Morris, Hunt, Antwine, Eisenhauer, Buoniconti


  • Parilli – 2721 yards (3rd AFL), 20TD (4th), 20INT (3rd), 66.9 rating (4th)
  • Nance – 299 (1st), 1458 yards (1st, second place had 801), 11TD (1st, second place 7); 104.1 game (1st, 57.2)
  • Larry Garron – 319 yards, 4 TD; 30-416-5; 9 total TD
  • Art Graham – 51 catches (7th), 673 yards
  • Cappelletti – 43 catches, 676 yards (10th), 6 TD (6th); 16 FG, 35 XP (119 points) 1st
  • Ron Hall and Tom Hennessey 6 INT (6th)

If you have any distinct memories of this squad, we would love to hear from you in the comment box