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1969 ‐ Super Bowl III ‐ New York Jets vs Baltimore Colts

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New York Jets 16
Baltimore Colts 7

January 12, 1969

Super Bowl III was the third AFL-NFL Championship Game, but the first to be officially called the “Super Bowl”. Weeb Ewbank’s AFL champion New York Jets (11-3) entered the game as heavy underdogs to Don Shula’s NFL champion Baltimore Colts (13-1). Coming off a dominant season, the Colts were dubbed by the media as “the greatest team in Pro Football history.”

The game was played on January 12, 1969 at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida, the same venue as Super Bowl II. Though merged with the established NFL three years earlier, the fledgling AFL was not respected as having the degree of talent as the NFL. Additionally, the NFL champions won the first two Super Bowls easily.

Three days before the game, Jets quarterback Joe Namath told an audience at the Miami Touchdown Club, “We’re gonna win the game. I guarantee it.” Namath made his famous “guarantee” in response to a rowdy Colts fan.

The Colts opened the game without star quarterback Johnny Unitas, who had missed most of the season with a sore elbow, and they took the Jets lightly. The Jets subsequently drove 80 yards in the first quarter to take a 7-0 lead. They also intercepted Colts backup quarterback Earl Morrall three times in the first half.

Two field goals in the third quarter put the Jets up 13-0. A third field goal in the fourth quarter increased the Jets’ lead to 16-0. Unitas came off the bench and rallied the Colts with a touchdown drive. But the Jets closed out one of professional sports’ greatest upsets and won the first Super Bowl victory for the AFL, 16-7.

Namath completed 17 out of 28 passes for 206 yards, and was picked the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl III. The Jets gained 337 total yards, including 121 rushing yards by running back Matt Snell.

Around the World on January 12:

  • Led Zeppelin’s first studio album, Led Zeppelin I, is released.

Around the NFL in 1969:

  • January 11 – The AFL established a playoff format for the 1969 season with the champion in one division playing the runner-up in the other.
  • February 7 – Vince Lombardi became part owner, executive vice-president, and coach of the Washington Redskins.
  • May 1 – Jerry Wolman sold the Eagles to Leonard Tose.
  • May 17 – Baltimore, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh agreed to join the AFL and form the 13-team American Football Conference in 1970. The NFL established a playoff format including the second-place team with the best record as a “wild-card” team in each conference.
  • May 29 – NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle negotiated a three-year contract with ABC to broadcast Monday Night Football beginning in 1970.
  • August 9 – George Preston Marshall, president emeritus of the Redskins, died at 72.
  • September 21 – The NFL opened the regular season with its 16 teams wearing a special patch marking its fiftieth year.

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