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On This Date in Sports November 3, 1961

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The Boston Patriots beat the Dallas Texans 28-21 at Nickerson Field, thanks to help from a fan who sneaks on to the field and knocks down a potential game-tying touchdown pass. With time running down, the Texans had the ball at the goal line, looking to even the score down a touchdown. With fans close to the field, one snuck down without the officials noticing and deflected Cotton Davidson’s pass in the end zone as time expired.

The early days of the American Football Conference were sometimes fraught with the bizarre as the battled for legitimacy against the more established NFL. Nickerson Field, was hardly a stadium well suited to host professional football as it was used by Boston University after it was transformed from Braves Field after the team moved to Milwaukee. The Patriots were one of the more successful teams in the AFL, and fans close to the end zone were held back by just a rope.

Facing the Dallas Texans, who were struggling at 3-4 the Boston Patriots held a record of 4-3-1. Five days earlier, the Patriots edged the Texans at the Cotton Bowl 18-17. The Patriots in front of a large Friday Night crowd got off to a quick start on touchdowns by Jim Colclough on a pass by Butch Songin and Gino Cappelletti on a pass by Babe Parilli. Dallas answered as Chris Burford reeled in a 42-yard pass from Cotton Davidson to end the first quarter at 14-7. Abner Hayes ran a touchdown in to tie the game in the second quarter. The Patriots regained the lead in the third quarter on a fumble recovery by Parilli, Bo Dickinson caught a 40-yard pass from Davidson to again tie the score. The game would not remain tied long as Ron Burton returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown.

The game remained tied until the closing minutes of the fourth quarter when the Texans were driving to tie the game. With time running down, the Texans had gotten the ball down to the goal line, but in the final seconds had just one last play to get in the end zone. With Cotton Davidson set up to pass, a man in trench coat slipped out of the crowd and into the end zone. When Davidson made his pass the man put his hand up and knocked the pass away as the game came to an end. As the rest of the fans swarmed the field, the unidentified man disappeared into the crowd as the Patriots won the game 28-21.  Officials never noticed the fan, but it was clear on film from the game, bringing the new league in its second season some unneeded embarrassment. For a time it was rumored that the unidentified man was Patriots Owner Billy Sullivan because he was often seen wearing a London Fog Trench Coat.