Colts Stun Cowboys For Title, 20-17

Rick Volk’s interception and return in the final minute set up Lou Michael’s game-winning field goal as the Baltimore Colts defeated the Dallas Cowboys, 20-17, for the NFL championship.
Rick Volk’s interception and return in the final minute set up Lou Michael’s game-winning field goal as the Baltimore Colts defeated the Dallas Cowboys, 20-17, for the NFL championship.

The following is not a summary of historical events, but rather the results of my computer football replay of the 1968 AFL and NFL seasons using Second and Ten football. In reality on December 29, 1968, the the Colts defeated the Cleveland Browns, 34-0, for the NFL Championship and a date with the AFL champion New York Jets Rick Volk’s interception and return in the final minute set up Lou Michael’s game winning field goal as the Baltimore Colts defeated the Dallas Cowboys for the NFL Championship in Miami at Super Bowl III.

Baltimore – The Baltimore Colts scored ten points in the final minute to upend the defending champion Dallas Cowboys for the 1968 NFL championship with a 20-17 victory. Lou Michaels kicked a 14 yard field goal with five seconds remaining for the title. Micheals’ kick was set up by an interception by Rick Volk who returned the ball to the Cowboys 6 yard line.

The game was a defensive struggle, and only Earl Morrall had any success on the afternoon. The Colts quarterback threw for 374 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but until the final minute, it appeared his four interceptions on the afternoon would keep Baltimore from victory. The Colts turned the ball over eight times, but their league-leading defense stymied the Cowboys’ high-flying offense. Dallas could only muster a mere 143 total yards on the day, and Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith became acquainted with nearly the entire defense as the Colts sacked him seven times.

The first sack of the afternoon by linebacker Mike Curtis led to the first score of the game. Curtis forced a fumble that was recovered by Ordell Braase at the Dallas 32. The Colts’ drive was stopped by a Bob Lilly sack, and Baltimore settled for a 21 yard field goal for a 3-0 lead with 9:52 left in the first half. But, Meredith and the Cowboys struck fast. After Craig Baynham returned the ensuing kickoff to the Dallas 45, Meredith found Lance Rentzel behind the Colt secondary for a 55 yard touchdown strike. A holding penalty killed the next Colt drive, and Baltimore punted the ball away. Bullet Bob Hayes fielded the punt at the Cowboys 27, and dashed 73 yards for another Dallas touchdown. Morrall responded with a six-minute 84 yard drive highlighted by a pair of receptions by tight end John Mackey and rushes by Jerry Hill. On third and goal at the 2, Morrall found Mackey in the end zone to close the score to 14-10. The Cowboys were forced to punt, and Rick Volk fumbled the punt which was recovered by Mike Johnson of the Cowboys at the Colts 25. After Mike Curtis’ second sack pushed Dallas back to the 33, Cowboys’ kicker Mike Clark kicked a 40 yard field goal to extend the lead to seven points.

As the Colts defense set up a brick wall for the Cowboys offense, the Colts offense sputtered through the second half. Morrall threw a pair of interceptions on the Colts’ first two possessions. The second came in the end zone as Mel Renfro stepped in front of Jimmy Orr to prevent the Colts from taking the lead. On Baltimore’s subsequent possession, WR Willie Richardson fumbled after being hit by Cornell Green. From there, the defenses took further control of the game. But with five minutes remaining, the Colts were winning the field possession game as Morrall took over from the Cowboys 40 yard line. A pair of completions and a defensive holding penalty took the ball to the 23. Morrall dropped back and looked for Richardson down the sidelines. But, Mel Renfro, once again, thwarted another potential touchdown with an leaping interception at the five yard line. It appeared the Colts were sunk as some of the sell-out crowd of 65,000 headed for the gates.

The Colts defense held the Cowboys, and Volk returned the punt to near midfield with 2:37 left. However, Baltimore was called for holding on the return which retreated the Colts to their own 36. Morrall took over with no timeouts. A pass to Jerry Hill got the ball to midfield at the two minute warning. On 4th and 4 from the Dallas 44, Morrall found the reliable Jimmy Orr for a 12 yard gain and a first down. With 1:18 left, Morrall’ flare pass to Terry Cole gained another first down. But Dallas was flagged for a face mask on the ball carrier and the penalty pushed the Colts to the 11 with 1:09 remaining. On the next play, Morrall opted for the flare pass to the fullback again, this time to Jerry Hill who found the end zone! Michaels tied the score at 17 with the extra point.

The ever-confident Meredith took over at the Cowboys 29 yard line with 53 seconds remaining. Dallas lived on the quick strike, and Meredith took his shot. After a Braase sack put Dallas at their own 20, Meredith looked deep for sprinter Bob Hayes. But, Volk who fumbled a punt to set up a Dallas field goal at the end of the first half, redeemed himself with a leaping interception at the Dallas 38. Volk settled himself and scampered 32 yards to the Dallas 6 yard line as the rafters of Memorial Stadium shook with joy. One play later, Michaels won the championship for Baltimore with a 14 yard field goal. The Colts, who turned the ball over eight times seemingly looking for ways to lose, found a way to win in the final moments.

See Box score and Game Summary of 1968 NFL Championship

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