Monday, January 25, 2010

Super Bowl Countdown #10 - Super Bowl III - Jets 16, Colts 7.

Over the next two weeks, Lattanzi Land will be producing a top ten countdown of the greatest Super Bowls of all time. This is a collaborative effort between myself and my good friend and football expert Dustin Holt. Every day around noon, Monday through Friday, the next one will be put up, climaxing with #1 on Friday, February 5th. Some of these may surprise you, and some may make you ask what we are smoking. Enjoy, and any feedback can be made in the comment boxes or via email at joshua.lattanzi@gmail.com or dholt13@gmail.com - let us start with #10...

Long before Super Sunday parties, six-hour pre-game shows and million-dollar television commercial spots, the Super Bowl was played between two rival leagues: the traditional National Football League (NFL) and the renegade American Football League (AFL). What you know as the Super Bowl today was not the way the game started. In fact, it was not even called the Super Bowl, but rather the 'NFL-AFL World Championship Game'. The first game was played January 15, 1966 between the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before a meager crowd of 61,946 people, approximately 30,000 less than the stadium could hold.

To make the game look more appealing on television, fans were moved to the middle of the stadium so people watching thought the stadium was full. The game was broadcast by both NBC and CBS, although neither network broadcast was saved after the game because some suggested it was not going to end up being a viable sporting event.

In the end, the Packers routed the Chiefs 35-10, an expected outcome by much of America. In the next year's game, the Packers defeated the Oakland Raiders 33-14 in Miami’s Orange Bowl.

Many have argued that the game was in danger of being canceled because the AFL was seen as an inferior league to the traditional NFL. That all changed the following year in Miami as one game, one performance, and one major upset gave life to the Super Bowl; a life that has increased every year since.

During the 1968 NFL season, the Baltimore Colts tallied a 13-1 record, and were considered one of the greatest teams of all-time. The Colts, coached by Hall of Famer Don Shula, scored 402 points, allowed 144 points in the season and were led by NFL MVP Earl Morrall. In the NFL Championship game, the Colts defeated the Cleveland Browns by a score of 34-0, so confidence was very high as the Colts made their way to Miami to play the AFL’s New York Jets in Super Bowl III.

The Jets, led by Joe Willie Namath, recorded an 11-3 record and punched their ticket to Miami by beating the Raiders 27-23 in the AFL Championship.

Much of America saw the game between the Colts and Jets as a mismatch. So much that the Colts were favored to win by more than two touchdowns. Several days before the game, Namath caused a media storm during an interview by saying the Jets would win the game and even guaranteeing it.

Namath’s prediction was on the money as the heavily favored Colts were thoroughly outplayed by the Jets in the first half. Behind the throwing of Namath, the catches of wide receiver George Sauer, the running of Matt Snell, and the Jets' defense, the Colts were down 7-0 at the half. The Jets scored the game's first points with a four-yard touchdown run by Snell in the second quarter. Namath mixed the running of Snell, who finished with 121 yards rushing, and the receiving of Sauer, who had 133 yards receiving, to move the ball for the Jets.

Sauer benefited from Colts taking away Jets receiver and Hall of Famer Don Maynard by double covering Maynard. Maynard did not catch a pass in the game but Sauer burned the Colts with receptions of 39 and 35 yards in the game.

The game’s memorable play (at least to us) occurred near the end of the second quarter when the Colts attempted a throw-back pass. Colts receiver Jimmy Orr was wide open for an easy touchdown, but Morrall never saw Orr and threw the ball to the middle of the field, which was intercepted. The play would have tied the score and the Colts would have gained needed momentum going into halftime.

Morrall had a terrible day with three interceptions and no touchdown passes. He was eventually replaced by Johnny Unitas in the second half, who did not have much better luck against the Jets defense, which forced five turnovers in the game. In the second half, Snell continued to gain yards and eat up clock as the Jets added three field goals to push their lead to 16-0 in the fourth quarter.

The Colts eventually scored to make it 16-7, but the day belonged to the underdog Jets and the AFL. The Jets showed the country the AFL was legitimate with their convincing 16-7 victory over the NFL’s best. Namath was named the game’s Most Valuable Player by going 17 of 28 for 206 yards, even though Snell probably deserved the MVP with a rushing touchdown, 121 yards rushing and 40 yards receiving.

The game did not produce many fireworks or memorable plays but what the game lacked in flair, it made up for it with its historical significance. In the following year's Super Bowl, the Kansas City Chiefs thumped the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings by the score of 23-7. By the 1970 season, the AFL ceased to exist as its teams were absorbed into the NFL in a merger to form one unified league.

Of all of the Super Bowls, the Jets and Colts game was the first one to officially bear the title of Super Bowl. Every great moment has a beginning, and the Super Bowl really became the Super Bowl in Miami on January 12, 1969.

2 comments:

Doyler said...

Good 10th choice. It honors the historical element while understanding that it was a pretty uneventful game. Many Old Colts players have said that they don't wear their SB V rings because when they look at it, it just reminds them of the loss in III.

Joshua Lattanzi said...

Yeah...we agonized over this list and whether to even put SB III on it, but exactly, the historicity of it all was just too much to ignore.

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