Super Bowl LI — we've returned to the Roman numerals after the NFL styled last year's game as Super Bowl 50 — will be played in Houston on Feb. 5. That, combined with today's date, Jan. 12, brings back memories of the Jets' only appearance in the big game, on Jan. 12, 1969, at Miami's Orange Bowl, and the glorious 16-7 victory over the Baltimore Colts that rocked the football world.
Almost everything is known about that game, but here are seven Super snapshots we thought you either might not know or might've forgotten about the Jets' Super Bowl III conquest:
1. The Game's Greatest CatchWR Don Maynard's hamstring injury in the AFL title win over Oakland famously limited him to being a no-catch decoy in the Super Bowl, with George Sauer starring on the receiving end with eight catches for 133 yards. Despite that, Maynard made the catch of the game. Do you remember it?
It came on second-and-9 from the Baltimore 23, past the third quarter's midway point and with the Jets trying to expand their 10-0 lead. Joe Namath, under heavy pressure up the middle, heaved it deep for Maynard, who had position on Colts S Jerry Logan. Maynard went airborne and came down cradling the ball ... but he landed well past the end line. "Spectacular grab, but out of bounds," said Curt Gowdy, the NBC play-by-play man, and no replay was shown.
Top Historical Photos from the Green & White's 16-7 Victory Over the Colts in Super Bowl III
2. Also on That Play...Namath, en route to his efficient, "spectacular" (Gowdy's word again) MVP performance, ominously came out of the game after that play shaking his right hand, the result of the hard hit leveled on him as he threw by Colts RDT and captain Fred Miller. Backup QB Babe Parilli came on and fired a hurried incompletion for Sauer before Jim Turner kicked his second field goal out of Parilli's hold for a 13-0 lead.
Jets fans' fears melted away when No. 12 was back under C John Schmitt to take the next offensive snap. And the hand obviously didn't hurt when Joe held it helmet-high and stuck up his index finger for his iconic "We're No. 1" image as he left the field.
3. Snell and the SticksMatt Snell was the unstoppable force for the Green & White in this one with his 161 yards from scrimmage and second-quarter TD.
But with all the recent talk about RB Bilal Powell's "moving the chains" performances, it's fitting to note that Snell was the first great first-down maker in franchise history. He had the first three 10-first-down games in Jets history (since '63), one as a rookie, one in '66, and 11 first downs against the Colts in SBIII.
4. The Green ZoneThe concept of the "red zone" didn't take hold in NFL circles until after the goalposts were moved from the goal line to the end line beginning in 1974.
Still, you know in the late Sixties that offenses wanted to score touchdowns when they got inside the opponents' 20, and defenses wanted to prevent them. And by that guide, the Jets were "in the zone" that day.
Baltimore had five RZ opportunities and scored only once, on FB Jerry Hill's late 1-yard run. In the first half, the Colts missed a field goal, starting QB Earl Morrall had two red zone passes intercepted, and "relief pitcher" Johnny Unitas guided the NFL team back to the Jets 19 on the next drive after the TD but threw three straight incompletions for a loss on downs.
The Jets also had one "green zone" TD — Snell's 4-yard run on old reliable "19 Straight" — but also scored on all three drives for the decisive 13-7 points edge over the Colts close to the other team's goal line.
5. No Sacks?Individual sacks weren't awarded to defensive players until 1982, but sacks were officially recorded against offenses all the way back into the Sixties. In SBIII, Namath was dropped twice for 11 yards but the official play-by-play said the Colts' QBs weren't sacked.
Yet the descriptions in the official play-by-play present two plays that would be scored as sacks today. In the first quarter, Morrall, "back to pass," according to the stat book verbiage, was tackled by MLB Al Atkinson for no gain on third-and-10. And Morrall, in the third quarter, again on third-and-10 and again "back to pass," was droppped for a 2-yard loss by second-year D-lineman Carl McAdams.
The McAdams play, sack or not, was Morrall's last before Unitas came on. And those two plays were part of the defense's streak of holding the Colts to a midgame 0-for-7 run on third-down conversions.
6. Flea-FlickedGoing back to Gowdy, one of the all-time great AFL/NFL broadcasters, he was prescient in his pregame patter when he said, "Defense wins the ballgame, and it will decide today's game." The Jets' D, perhaps underappreciated all Super season long, came up with five takeaways that day, and one of the biggest came at the end of the first half and at the end of some failed Baltimore razzle-dazzle.
Morrall handed off to Tom Matte, who flowed right, then flipped a high return backpass to Morrall, looking for the quick score to FB Hill before intermission to tie the game at 7-7. Instead, he found S Jim Hudson ranging over for the pick that took the Jets into the second half on top by a TD.
7. Sol Always KnowsFunny, the sun's impeccable sense of timing. Miami was hit by rain the night before the game and the area was overcast for most of the entire first half. But the sun came out seemingly for the first time right before that flea-flicker snap. Needless to say, it was shining on a huge game that was going the Jets' way 48 years ago.