NFL game in the 60's or 70's where team was forced to use fans because of injuries?

I read this in a sports trivia book from the 1990’s two decades ago but have never found a source for it, but then again it does seem hard to google.

Basically the story went, sometime in the 60’s or 70’s there was an NFL game where the home team held a tight lead over the other and in the final minutes of play the home team lost enough players to injuries that they were dangerously close to a forfeit which was completely unprecedented. Not wanting to lose the game nor take that black mark the team on the spot decided to shore up their lines by having a few people volunteer from the stands (it was a home game for them) who had formerly played high school or college football and just take up space so they could release the remaining pro players to other positions. While the fans didn’t do especially well they held their ground enough for the home team to pull off a narrow victory.

Any truth to this or was this one of those things where the trivia book either exaggerated or made-up an incident?

There are no stupid questions, just very gullible people.

ETA: Maybe that was harsh, maybe you’re not from the US and don’t know anything about football. But surely you know that any pro team in probably any major sport has a roster of eligible players approved before the game, and those are the only people who can play.

I do remember a game some decades ago where the Cowboys were too far behind to win, so they literally gave up and headed for the locker room with a few seconds left on the clock. The coaches scrambled around and just got any 11 players they could grab out onto the field for one last play. IIRC Drew Pearson, a wide receiver, was forced to play quarterback.

I’m going with either you mis-remember the situation, or that the book made it up. Players aren’t allowed to play who aren’t on the official roster at the start of the game. Even the old-time AFL/NFL of the 60s wouldn’t have let that happen.

This, in a nutshell.

I could possibly see it having happened in the 1920s, in the very early days of the NFL, when things weren’t quite as formalized as they are now, but even then, it was the era of single-platoon football, with very limited substitution rules, and you really only needed eleven players, total.

But, in the 1960s or 1970s? It simply wouldn’t have happened.

Considering the Cowboys once lost 44-0 to the Bears and didn’t go to the locker room prematurely, just how bad was this score that the Cowboys did go to the lockers early?

You may be thinking of the Texas A&M 12th Man but have garbled it. Not NFL, not '60s-'70s, one guy, didn’t actually play (lots of folks forget that part). His team did win.

I don’t remember, but I’d guess it wasn’t a blowout, or they wouldn’t have been disappointed enough to quit. So probably 10-20 points. I also think it may have been a playoff game, for the same reason. And since (if I’m remembering it right) they just had to run a play from scrimmage to finish the game, I’d guess that the previous play would have been an unsuccessful field goal attempt by their opponents.

And since I was a big Niners fan in the 80’s and 90’s, and never missed watching their games, and since Dallas often met SF in the playoffs during those years, there’s a fair chance that it was the Niners that beat them. But I’ve looked at Wikipedia’s description of playoff games they lost to SF while Drew Pearson was playing, and didn’t see anything about it.

So, if I guessed right on all of the above, maybe it will jog someone else’s memory.

I never saw a team leave the field early but I’ve seen plenty of NFL games end in nasty fights in the last minute or less, where the losing team is so frustrated that they’ve given up on winning and just want to pummel the other team.

I seem to remember an NFL Pro Bowl game (the most useless game in sports unless it was college all stars vs NFL champions) around 1971 where, because of an injury during a game, they got a current player (Gary Larsen of the Minnesota Vikings) down from the stands to play.
Jackie Sherill coach of Texas A & M using non athletic walk ons for the kick off team in the 1980s. They were pretty effective in limiting opponents return yardage. Later coaches have restricted its usage.

Maybe you’re thinking of the Boston Patriots’ Bob Gladieux?

Also, NHL teams have emergency goalies, who normally just watch the game from the stands - but Scott Foster had a moment of glory with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Another important distinction is that Gill wasn’t just some guy in the audience. He was a member of the team, albeit one so far down on the reserve list that he didn’t suit up.

The closest thing to this is the NHL’s use of emergency goalies. Just this year, an emergency goalie even played–and did very well.

Maybe you’re thinking of the 1973 Who concert where Keith Moon passed out, and an audience member stepped up and they finished the concert?

Not in NFL, but in cricket in 1986, a member of the sponsor’s team had to take the field as the wicketkeeper (think catcher) after England’s regular player had been taken concussed.
Even got to meet the Queen.
Won’t be allowed today (taking the field, not meeting the Queen).

And that has me pondering, which is more dangerous? stepping into a pro football team or trying to be Keith Moon for an evening?

Good point: NFL players have an increased rate of early mortality, but not 100% by age 32.

The St. Louis Browns MLB franchise once used fans as managers.

Did pretty well too.

And the Redskins once ran a play called by President Nixon.

Those guys were absolutely insane, since they got very few chances to actually be on the field and play, and were just students who volunteered. The fans loved it, they loved it, and the scholarship players weren’t risking injury playing on kickoffs. It always seemed like a win-win no-brainer.

But subsequent coaches went to alternate single player versions- IIRC RC Slocum, Dennis Franchione and Mike Sherman all had a pool of 12th Man non-scholarship walk-ons, but only played one per kickoff (all wearing number 12). Kevin Sumlin took it a little further and just had a single walk-on player be part of the team and wear #12 and play on kickoffs.

Never understood quite why; the all walk-on team was great!

Maybe the OP is thinking of the time the Eagles held open tryouts, and some mook got a spot on the roster? There was a movie about it, IIRC.

Or maybe he is thinking of Gus.