The Times Vegas Got It Wrong: Broadway Joe Edition

The Times Vegas Got It Wrong: Broadway Joe Edition

by May 14, 2019 0 comments

More than 50 years after Super Bowl III, it is difficult to encapsulate the context heading into the game.

The Baltimore Colts headed into the game as 18 point favorites. The 1968 Colts finished the regular season with a record of 13-1, posting the second-best scoring offense and the best scoring defense in the entire league. Heading into the Super Bowl, the Colts had rattled off an incredible 10 wins in a row, including four shutouts.

After running through the Vikings and the Browns in Cleveland, the Colts found themselves at the precipice of winning the Super Bowl. The Colts had a total of four All-Pros including quarterback Earl Morrall, tight end John Mackey, cornerback Bobby Boyd, and linebacker Mike Curtis. Morrall had a phenomenal 1968 campaign, registering almost 3,000 yards to go along with 26 touchdowns. In the backfield, the Colts also had a pair of running back to combine for over 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns in Tom Matte and Terry Cole.

In the AFL, the New York Jets had the second-best offense, averaging just short of 30 points per game. The Jets also had the fourth best defense. Led by All-Pro quarterback Joe Namath, who threw more interceptions than touchdowns, the Jets steamrolled their way through the AFL including seven wins by double digits. After a four-game winning streak heading into the playoffs, the Jets beat the Raiders in one of the greatest games ever played as the Jets scored a late touchdown to steal a Super Bowl appearance from Oakland.

The Jets had two 1,000-yard receivers in George Sauer and Don Maynard. Sauer was a first-team All-Pro and both players made the Pro Bowl. In the backfield, Matt Snell led the team with the 747 yards rushing and six total touchdowns. Defensively, the Jets were led by All-Pro Gerry Philbin at defensive end. The Jets also had a Pro Bowler, Jim Turner, as their kicker; he connected on 74 percent of his field goals and all 43 of his extra points.

First Quarter:

The Jets got the ball first in the Orange Bowl, as Matt Snell pounded ahead for three total runs on the opening drive. The drive stalled and the Jets were forced to punt, putting the Colts inside their own 30. Morrall immediately hit Mackey for a 20-yard gain, and with an accompanying 10-yard run, the Colts had found themselves in Jets territory in two plays. After that play, the Colts continued to whittle closer and closer to the end zone, picking up a handful of decent runs a 15-yard pass on third and 13 to move into the Jets red zone. After three straight plays of no gain, Lou Michaels walked out on the field and missed a 27-yard field goal, giving the Jets the ball back and dampening the hopes of a Colts blowout. On the next drive, Namath and the Jets threw six consecutive passes before being forced to punt again. The Colts received the ball, went three plays, and punted back to the Jets putting them inside their five. On the ensuing third-down, George Sauer fumbled, before Ron Porter of the Colts recovered on the Jets 12-yard line.

Colts 0, Jets 0.

Second Quarter:

Two plays later, from inside the 10, Morrall threw his first interception of the day, ending any hope of a Colts touchdown on the drive. After the pick, the Jets ran the ball four consecutive times, as Matt Snell picked up 26 yards in total. Namath then fired for three passes as the Jets moved inside the Colts’ 25-yard line. Two plays later, Namath and Snell connected for a 12-yard completion which pushed the Jets inside the Colts’ 10. After a pair of Matt Snell runs, the Jets found the end zone, permitting a 7-0 lead on the Colts. On the next drive, the Colts hit on a 30-yard pass, moving into Jets territory. Three plays later, Lou Michaels again missed a field goal, leaving the Colts scoreless. For the Jets on the next drive, Joe Namath hit George Sauer for a 35-yard gain, pushing the Jets immediately into Colts territory. After a pair of short runs and a pair of incompletions, a sack on third-and-10 forced the Jets into a 41-yard field goal which Jim Turner missed. On the next drive, the Colts had a 58-yard run by Tom Matte, pushing the Colts inside the Jets red zone. Two plays later an Earl Morrall pass found the hands of Johnny Sample, a Jet. The Jets had a three-and-out from inside their own 10, but the Colts could not answer in the final 45 seconds of the half.

Jets 7, Colts 0.

Third Quarter:

The Jets opened up the third quarter with a long drive which had them initially to the Colts’ 11. After back-to-back negative plays, an incompletion on third-and-24 left Jim Turner with a 32-yard field goal which he converted to give the Jets a 10-point lead with 25 minutes to play. For the Colts, Earl Morrall could not move the ball on a pair of runs in a scramble, losing two yards and forcing another punt. When the Jets regained possession, Namath attempted seven passes on the drive, completing three of them and moving the Jets into field-goal range when Jim Turner hit a 30-yard field goal to extend the lead to 13 points. After Earl Morrall’s general ineptitude, Johnny Unitas, a future Hall of Famer in his own right, took the field for the Colts before leading a three-and-out, forcing other another punt. After the ensuing Jets drive, Namath had a pair of passes to Sauer for 50 total yards pushing the Jets inside the Colts’ 10-yard line.

Jets 13, Colts 0.

Fourth Quarter:

Jim Turner connected on a nine-yard field goal after the Jets could not score from inside the 10. Unitas again stepped on the field trying to lead one of the greatest comebacks in the history of football. Unitas was able to have the Colts move the ball into Jets territory but on second-and-10 from the Jets’ 25, he threw a pass which was intercepted by Randy Beverly. With 11 minutes to go, the Jets ran seven consecutive running plays before settling for a 42-yard field goal which Jim Turner missed. Sitting with seven minutes to go, Johnny Unitas had a chance to lead the comeback. After a trio of incompletions, Unitas hit Jimmy Orr for a 17 yard first down. In a similar fashion, Unitas tossed back to back incompletions before connecting on a first down to John Mackey. Unitas continued to work the field having completions of 21 and 11 as the Colts found themselves inside the two-yard line with four minutes to go. Jerry Hill scored a touchdown to cut the lead to 16 to seven, which immediately saw the Colts regain possession on an onside kick. Unitas completed three straight passes to move a total of 25 yards, setting up the Colts inside the 20-yard line. However three passes later, the Colts turned the ball over on downs and had left the game for the Jets. Six consecutive Snell runs later and a punt left the Colts with just 15 seconds left to come back from a two-score deficit. The final whistle sounded and the Jets were champions of the world.

Final: Jets 16, Colts 7.

MVP: Joe Namath

The Jets had overcome an 18-point spread to win outright.

Even to this day, this game is regarded as one of the cardinal moments in the NFL becoming what it is in the present day. Without the famous guarantee by Namath, the AFL might not have been taken seriously over a long period of time, leading to a deterioration of the eventual merger.

I’m Ryan Potts. Some people affectionately call me Splash. I am renowned for being a misplaced Ravens, Cavs, Wings & Braves fan. Twitter: MrSplashMan19

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