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It was fifty years ago today- Sunday January 12, 1969- Jets quarterback Joe Namath had guaranteed it and the Jets did it- in what is still the biggest upset in Super Bowl history the New York Jets of the upstart AFL defeated the NFL’s mighty Baltimore Colts 16-7 in Super Bowl III and the game really wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. The Colts didn’t even score until the final minutes of the game.

Going into the game- the Jets were 18 point underdogs. In the first two Super Bowl’s Vince Lombardi and his Green Bay Packers had taken care of the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders. The so called experts felt that it would be years, maybe even a decade before the AFL- which had begun in 1960 could win a Super Bowl against the NFL-which they felt was the superior league. Most of these so called experts felt that the best teams the AFL had would be middle of the road if they were in the NFL. Atlanta coach Norm Van Brocklin said the week of the Super Bowl that “This will be Joe Namath’s first professional football game.” The NFL champion Baltimore Colts had gone 13-1 during the regular season and were being touted as one of the greatest teams ever. This game was going to be a slaughter. No one told the New York Jets though.

The game was held at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. How the times have changed since 1969- the half time show was the Florida A&M University Band. A 30 second commercial cost $55,000 dollars. The Neilson Ratings were 36.0 an estimated 41 million viewed the game on television. Last February a 30 second commercial cost $5 million dollars and the game had a 43.1 Neilson rating. 103 million viewed it. In 1969 it was a game- today its an extravaganza and at times you get the feeling the game is secondary to the commercials and the halftime show and all the hoopla.

The first quarter was scoreless. The Jets scored the only points in the second quarter on Matt Snell’s 4 yard touchdown run- which capped a 12 play 80 yard drive. This would be the way the Jets played all day. Quarterback Joe Namath was the big name on the Jets but the star of the game on offense for the Jets was Snell who had 30 carries for 121 yards and the Jets ability to control the ball and the clock. Snell’s touchdown would be the only Jets touchdown of the game. At the half it was 7-0 Jets with the Colts struggling on offense. The Jets defense would force 5 turnovers during the same and play an outstanding game- a lot of the yards they would give up were late in the game when the game was already decided.

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In the third quarter the Jets place kicker Jim Turner added two field goals of 32 and 30 yards upping the lead to 13-0. Early in the 4th quarter the Jets drove down to the Colts 2 yard line before having to settle for another Turner field goal of 9 yards [back then the goal posts were on the goal line.}  Joe Namath had so much confidence going into the 4th quarter in his team that he told Jets head coach Weeb Ewbank  that they should play conservatively instead of aggressively. Namath was a great game manager in this game- so in the 4th quarter he didn’t throw a pass- content to run the ball and the clock out.

The Colts quarterback Earl Morrall was the NFL MVP during the regular season but he couldn’t get anything going- and he threw three interceptions in the game before he was replaced in the second half by the great but aging Johnny Unitas. Unitas led them on their only scoring drive capped by a one yard run for a touchdown by Jerry Hill. The score was 16-7 but there was only 3:19 to go when Hill scored. The Colts would get the ball back in the final second of the game but it was too little too late.

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The Jets had shocked the world! The AFL had arrived. Of course many of the experts just considered it a fluke- until Super Bowl IV when the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs dominated the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings.

In looking over the statistics of the game two stats really stick out in Super Bowl III. The big one and it is always a key stat to look at -turnovers. The Jets turned the ball over just one time, the Colts five times. Also the time of possession the Jets had control of the ball for 36:10 to the Colts 23:50.

Joe Namath who ‘guaranteed’ the Jets would win a few days earlier- delivered on his promise and it is still his legacy. He had a good game- 17 for 28 for 206 yards- no touchdown passes but also no interceptions. George Sauer Jr was hit big receiver in the game catching 8 passes for 133 yards.

As Joe Namath ran off the field he raised his index finger signifying they were ‘number one’ the only time he ever did that in his career.

This was the first Super Bowl game I remember watching { I have watched every one since} It wasn’t what you would call and exciting game. A few years ago I saw a replay of the game and that observation was confirmed but it was one of the most important games in NFL history- it helped to make the Super Bowl what it is today.

50 years later the New York Jets have never won another Super Bowl, in fact they haven’t even returned to the Super Bowl. The great Joe Namath- who ever kid I knew wanted to be back in 1969- is now seventy-five.

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video of Super Bowl III below