Super Bowl III
Super Bowl III had all of the makings of a three-peat for the National Football League as the 13-1 Baltimore Colts, led by veteran quarterbacks Earl Morrall and future Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas, were set to challenge the 11-3 New York Jets. New York was piloted by the brash and confident Joe Namath, whose good looks endeared him to women and his clutch performances and strong arm made him a fan favorite. Fan confidence and odds were again heavily in favor of the NFL's Colts in the wake of the Green Bay Packers victories in Super Bowls I and II, and the perceived notion that the NFL was the superior league. An AFL team with something to prove would soon quash this presumption.
Baltimore was led by a relatively young coach in Don Shula and a core group of veterans that had captured the 1958 and 1959 NFL Championships. However, across the field stood a dozen or so NFL rejects and the head coach, Weeb Ewbank, who had led the Colts to those 1958 and 1959 NFL Championships before being cast off as Baltimore faltered in the early 1960s. Leading up to Super Bowl III, once again at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida, players, fans and the press were chomping at the bit for the annual matchup. Three days prior to the January 12, 1969 game, while attending an event at the Miami Touchdown Club, fourth-year veteran and young Jets quarterback, Joe Namath, "guaranteed" New York would win the game. When a heckling Colts fan vociferated about the Jets chances for victory, a boisterous Namath responded in front of hundreds saying "We're gonna win the game! I guarantee it!" Though Namath's followed through on his prediction, Ewbank and many of his teammates were less than amused by his brash prognosticating.
Super Bowl III, officially referred to as "Super Bowl" for the first time, begin relatively slow with no scoring in the first quarter and a four-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter by New York fullback Matt Shell to close out the first half scoring. The Jets took a 7-0 lead into the locker room at the half. The second half offered little more excitement from either team than in the first as the two teams continued to fight the defensive battle that yielded six turnovers and seven punts. Jets placekicker Jim Turner added to New York's total points with three field goals in the third quarter to put the Jets ahead 16-0. The Jets controlled the second half, just as they had in the first, and kept the Colts defense on the field for much of the game. By game's end, the Colts defense was exhausted. Baltimore finally scored in the waning minutes of the game, but their efforts came a little too late as the clock ticked down, giving the Jets a 16-7 upset victory. Despite not throwing a single touchdown, Joe Namath was named MVP of Super Bowl III after going 17-for-28 for 206 passing yards. More importantly, New York avenged the previous two years' Super Bowl losses to the NFL, marked a triumphant victory for many an NFL castoff and legitimized the strength and talent of the American Football League garnering the respect they sorely deserved.