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 Jets defeated the Raiders, 27-23, for the AFL Championship and a date with destiny in Miami at Super Bowl III.
Flushing, NY – Aided by four turnovers in the final thirteen minutes, the New York Jets flew past the Oakland Raiders, 52-31, for the AFL Championship and a trip to Miami to face the NFL champions. New York scored four touchdowns off each of the turnovers, and the Raiders dizzied by the furious finish by the Jets.
The game was a back-and-forth affair until Ralph Baker intercepted a Daryle Lamonica pass at the Oakland 32 and returned the ball to the 18 with 12:43 remaining in the game. Jets quarterback Joe Namath capitalized on the short field. Five plays later, Matt Snell plunged in from a yard out to tie the game at 31-31. Oakland’s Butch Atkinson fumbled the kickoff, and Bill Baird recovered for New York at the Oakland 32. Namath found George Sauer in the back of the end zone on a 20 yard strike that put the Jets ahead for good.
Oakland took possession, and Lamonica drove the visitors to midfield where Pete Banaszak fumbled. Carl McAdams scooped up the loose ball for New York and rumbled to the Oakland 9 where Namath took control once again. After a pair of incompletions, Namath surprised the Raiders with a scramble for the score and a 45-31 lead. With the clock ticking under five minutes, Lamonica led the Raiders to midfield again. This time, the drive, aided by a roughing the passer penalty, was stopped by the Jets defense on downs. The rushes by the Jets failed to gain a first down, but New York punter Curley Johnson pinned Oakland deep at their own 9 yard line. With 1:42 remaining, Lamonica’s pass for Warren Wells was intercepted by Johnny Sample who returned the ball down the sideline 28 yards for the final score of the game.
The turnovers, eight total for both teams in the game, played a key role in the scoring. But it was the Raiders’ inability to hold onto the ball with four fumbles that was the difference. In the first quarter, Karl Henke returned a Lamonica fumble 31 yards for a 14-0 New York lead. But in the second quarter, a pair of interceptions turned the momentum for the visitors. Down by three, Namath marched the Jets 74 yards to the Oakland 12 with less than two minutes remaining in the half. But, Dave Grayson intercepted a pass intended for Don Maynard in the end zone to end the threat. Three plays later, the Raiders were forced to punt the ball back to New York. Namath took over at the Oakland 46 and looked for a score to close out the half. But, Howie Williams turned the tables on Namath with an interception return 75 yards for a Oakland touchdown and 24-14 lead at half.
In the third quarter, Namath was given a short field twice, once on a muffed punt of 18 yards by Mike Eischeid and another on personal foul penalty on a punt return. Both occasions positioned Namath in Oakland territory, and the Jets tied the score with a touchdown run by Emerson Boozer and a Jim Turner field goal. Oakland took its final lead of the game on the opening play of the fourth quarter, an eight yard draw by Charlie Smith. Baker intercepted Lamonica on the Raiders’ next possession and the scoring flurry that spun the Raiders out of the game was under way.