Former Bills LB Mike Stratton Dies at 78 of Heart Complications

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMarch 26, 2020

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 03:  Detail view of Buffalo Bills logo on a flag before the game against the Washington Redskins at New Era Field on November 3, 2019 in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo defeats Washington 24-9.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Former Buffalo Bills linebacker Mike Stratton died on Wednesday because of heart complications after a recent fall, according to Chris Brown of the team's website. He was 78. 

Stratton is on the Bills Wall of Fame and also the 25th and 50th Anniversary Teams. He was a six-time Pro Bowler, three-time first-team All-Pro selection and a two-time AFL champion.

His hit on San Diego Chargers running back Keith Lincoln in the 1964 AFL Championship—with the Bills trailing 7-0—forced an incompletion and knocked the wind out of Lincoln, becoming known as "the hit heard round the world."

"That is one of the most beautiful tackles I have ever seen in my life," Chargers coach Sid Gillman said of the tackle at the time, per Erik Brady of The Athletic.

"I asked Keith the obvious question: 'How did you feel after that hit?'" former Bills punter Paul Maguire added, per Brady. "And he just said, 'I was in a whole lot of pain!' I mean, how do you think he felt? He was just trying to breathe."

The Bills went on to win that game, 20-7, their first of two consecutive AFL Championship wins over the Chargers.

"It greatly surprises me," Stratton said in December regarding the infamy of that tackle, per the Buffalo News. "I feel honored and blessed by it. It certainly has had a life of its own."

Though tackles weren't tabulated as official stats at the time—even if nobody will ever forget his most famous hit—Stratton did accumulate 21 interceptions in his career. He spent 11 of his 12 seasons with the Bills before closing his career with the Chargers in 1973.

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