After a pair of dominant Super Bowl wins by the Green Bay Packers, Super Bowl III was once again expected to be a classic David & Goliath matchup. But this time it was David who was victorious as the New York Jets topped the heavily favored Baltimore Colts 16-7 before 75,389 fans at the Orange Bowl in Miami.
The New York Jets had dominated the AFL Eastern Division with an 11-3 record in the 1968 regular season. But despite their solid season, little was expected from the AFL champs, who were pegged as heavy 18-point Super Bowl underdogs.
Led by QB Earl Morrall, who stepped in to lead the Colts’ offense following an early season injury to Hall-of-Famer Johnny Unitas, Baltimore was the class of the NFL in 1968, going 13-1 to win the Coastal Division.
After allowing a mere 10.3 points per game during the regular season, the question wasn’t whether the Colts would win Super Bowl III, but by how much.
Jets QB Joe Namath had different ideas, publicly guaranteeing a New York victory despite some sportsbooks extending New York to 20-point underdogs.
The upstart Jets backed their leader’s guarantee, controlling the game throughout the first half and drawing first blood on a Matt Snell four-yard TD run that capped an 80-yard Jets drive.
New York would continue to grind it out in the second half, tallying a pair of third-quarter field goals on drives that took almost eight and a half minutes off the clock, extending their lead to 13-0.
With the Baltimore offense sputtering with Morrall throwing three interceptions, the Colts handed the ball to Unitas following the Jets’ second field goal.
But momentum was clearly on New York’s side as the Jets added another field goal early in the fourth quarter before intercepting a Unitas pass in the end zone, halting a Colts rally and preserving their lead.
Baltimore would eventually get on the scoreboard, with Jerry Hill carrying the ball for a one-yard rushing TD, but were unable to overcome a stout Jets defense that held the line after the Colts recovered the ball on an onside kick in the dying minutes.
The 16-7 final score rewarded bettors who bet UNDER the point total, which was set at 40 at most sportsbooks.
Namath finished the day completing 17 of 28 passes for 206 yards and no TDs or interceptions, earning the 25-year-old Super Bowl MVP honors and celebrity status that would last for years to come.
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