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Colts Top Rams as Unitas Sets Record

Dec. 16, 1963 - Johnny Unitas set an NFL pass-completion record yesterday highlighted by a 14-yard touchdown toss to Tom Matte with 33 seconds left that gave the Colts a 19-16 victory over the Los Angeles Rams before a crowd of 52,834 at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium. Unitas had 21 completions in 37 attempts for 373 yards. This gave him 237 completions for the season and bettered the mark of 235 set by Sonny Jurgenson of the Eagles in 1961. The Colts had to rally to outscramble the Rams, who had overcome a 10-point deficit behind the play of quarterback Roman Gabriel and taken a 16-13 lead in the fourth period. The Colts had a 13-3 lead with less than 2 minutes remaining in the third period when Gabriel connected on an 18-yard scoring toss to Carroll Dale. On the next series of downs, Gabriel combined on a 77-yard pass play with a rookie, Ben Wilson, which accounted for the Rams’ 16-13 advantage. The Colts moved to the Rams’ 6, but Unitas fumbled in the end zone. Nat Whitmyer recovered for the Rams, and it appeared the Colt surge would fail. However, Wilson fumbled on the Rams’ 39, and Bobby Boyd of Baltimore recovered with less than a minute to play. Unitas then completed four straight passes, the last going for the winning touchdown to Matte. Afterward, the Colts said the elements were as tough as the Rams. According to Jimmy Orr, Colt end, “Between the hash marks the field was like a skating rink.” Unitas was more concerned with the wind which “made the ball take off in the last period.” And Ordell Braase, defensive end, went to soccer shoes to get more traction for his rushes of Gabriel. “The turf was frozen in spots and soft in spots,” said Baltimore coach Don Shula afterward, who ended his first season as head man with a record of 8-6. Shula admitted he felt for awhile that he might have frozen on his first big decision of the game. “I thought the field goals I called for were coming back to haunt me. Especially the first one that was blocked. A couple of times I wanted that decision back. But if we had made the field goals [2 were blocked and 1 missed], we wouldn’t have been in all that trouble at the end.”


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