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 January 12, 1969,the the AFL’s New York Jets defeated the NFL champion Baltimore Colts, 16-7, in Super Bowl III. The game is one of the most storied upsets in NFL history.
Miami – The Baltimore Colts averted a last-minute upset bid by the New York Jets to win Super Bowl III by the score of 19-14. Jets quarterback Joe Namath led New York 65 yards with less than two minutes and no timeouts, but the Colts’ Bob Boyd slapped away a pass intended for George Sauer in the end zone as time elapsed. The NFL-leading Baltimore defense forced three turnovers that led to ten points for the Colts. Meanwhile, the Jets defense harassed Earl Morrall (12-22; 141 yards), sacking the Baltimore quarterback six times on the afternoon. Don Maynard caught a pair of touchdown passes for New York, but it was Jerry Hill’s three yard touchdown run with 6:41 remaining that stood as the difference in the ball game.
On the game’s final series, Namath (27-43; 264 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT) marched the Jets from their own 20 yard line with only 1:44 left. Namath, who guaranteed a Jets victory earlier in the week, completed a pair of 4th down passes to his favorite target, Sauer, to keep the drive alive. Sauer caught 11 passes for 109 yards. With only nine seconds left, Namath found Maynard on a corner route. Maynard caught the ball over his shoulder and was pushed out of bounds at the Baltimore 15 with only one tick left on the clock. On the final play, Namath looked for the reliable Sauer who appeared opened on a crossing route, but Boyd stretched to deflect the ball and save the championship for Baltimore. Boyd intercepted a pass near the end zone to prevent a possible Jets touchdown at the end of the first half of the game.
After the clubs traded possessions to open the game, Morrall guided the Colts from their own 37 on a 10 play drive that stalled after a Paul Rochester sack. Lou Michaels split the uprights for an early 3-0 Colt lead. Don Shinnick intercepted Namath on the following possession, but the Colts could convert the turnover into a 23 yard field goal from Michaels and a six-point lead. Undeterred, Namath led New York on an 11-play, 78-yard drive that was capped by a magnificent 21 yard touchdown catch by Maynard. Jim Turner’s PAT gave the brash young Jets a one-point lead over the old guard Colts. Later in the second quarter, Verlon Biggs forced Morrall to fumble on a sack, and Ray Hayes recovered for the Jets at the Colts 20 yard line with under three minutes to go. Three plays later, Boyd foreshadowed his last second heroics with an interception of a flare pass intended for Matt Snell and raced down the sideline before being pushed out of bounds at the Colts 40 yard line. Morrall advanced the Colts down field, but Michaels missed a 38 yard field goal attempt in the final moments of the first half. New York took its’ one-point edge into the locker room at halftime.
But the second half started disastrously for New York. On the opening play, Snell lost six yards on a sweep that was well read by the Baltimore defense. Namath followed with a 9 yard completion to tight end Pete Lammons who fumbled as he fought for extra yards. Lenny Lyles scooped the ball up for Baltimore and returned it to the 4 yard line. Two plays later, Tom Matte plunged in from two yards for a touchdown. However, Michaels missed the PAT and score stood at 12-7. Later in the third quarter, Matte fumbled at the Colts’ 31 yard line, and Ralph Baker recovered for the Jets. Namath converted the miscue into a touchdown on a 15-yard strike to Maynard. Turner converted the PAT for a two-point Jets lead with 3:23 left in the third quarter.
On the Colts’ first possession of the fourth quarter, Morrall guided the Colts on a nearly six-minute drive. A sack by Gerry Philbin nearly stopped the drive, but Morrall found Jimmy Orr for a 32 yard completion on third down and eighteen yards to go. From the Jets 27, Morrall sought Orr once more. This time on a fly pattern down the sideline. Johnny Sample stayed with Orr, and made a leaping interception in the end zone. But, Sample was called for pass interference, and Baltimore was set up with first and goal at the 1-yard line. After a Morrall sneak failed, Jerry Hill plowed ahead for a 3 yard score. Micheals converted, and the Colts lead returned to five points, 19-14.
The teams traded possessions, and the Jets were forced to use all of their timeouts on Baltimore’s final possession. Colts punter David Lee was called in to punt, and his 55 yard punt rolled out of bounds at the Jets 20 with 1:44 remaining. On second down, Baltimore was flagged for offense, and Namath converted the drive’s first first down with a 14 yard completion to Maynard. Later faced with 4th and 1, the Jets were penalized for a false start. But, Namath calmly found Sauer on the sidelines for a 12 yard gain and a first down. With the ball now at the Colts 45, Namath failed to connect with Sauer and Maynard, and again the scoreboard turned to another fourth down. Namath scrambled from the pocket, and connected with Maynard with one second remaining. The Orange Bowl rattled in excitement as the officials reset the ball for the game’s final play. But, Boyd, the former Oklahoma quarterback, broke up Namath’s attempt and guarantee with a veteran defensive play to save the Colts.
The Colts were listed a favorites by the experts, but the AFL continues to press against the self-proclaimed superiority of the NFL. Last season, the AFL’s Oakland Raiders took the Dallas Cowboys to overtime before falling 16-10 in Super Bowl II. The AFL will have one final chance next year to win a championship before the NFL-AFL merger takes place for the 1970 season.