On January 12, 1969, American Football League underdogs the New York Jets beat National Football League champions the Baltimore Colts at Super Bowl III in what is regarded as one of the hugest upsets in the history of American sports.
Even though it was the third AFL-NFL Championship game played, this game was the first to be given the name “Super Bowl.” There was a strongly held belief among most fans and sports writers that NFL teams included more talented players than those in the AFL. Because of this widely popular opinion, the Jets were pegged to lose to the Colts, who held a 13-1 record in the 1968 season.
Jets quarterback Joe Namath appeared in front of Miami Touchdown Club three days before the game was to take place at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. After hearing news for two weeks prior about how the Colts would be the likely victors, and after being heckled by a Colts fan at the Miami Touchdown club as well, Namath couldn’t take it anymore – he snapped. “We’re gonna win the game. I guarantee it,” he told the crowd and went on to bad-mouth many Colts players saying that the Colts had never had to play against the caliber of players that were in the AFL. Namath’s words would live on in infamy in the world of American sports.
In the first quarter, the Jets surprised the Colts, who had previously been unphased by Namath’s comments, by driving the ball 80 yards, taking a 7-0 lead. The Jets went on to intercept Colts quarterback, Earl Morrall, three times, and the Colts began to realize this win may not be as easy as they had been led to believe it would be by the public. In the third quarter, the Jets scored two more field goals, taking the score up to 13-0. After his three interceptions, Morrall was replaced by Johnny Unitas, who had been injured and out of commission during the regular season. The Jets made another field goal during the fourth quarter, and Unitas led the Colts to their only touchdown during the last few minutes of the game. The final score was 16-7, with Namath leading the Jets to victory.
Namath was named the Super Bowl’s Most Valuable Player, even though he didn’t complete any touchdown passes, or any passes in the fourth quarter. In all, he completed 17 out of 28 passes for a total of 206 yards.
The game is still considered today as one of the most memorable games in Super Bowl and American football history.