The NFL champion had smashed the AFL champion by an average score of 34-12 in their first two meetings, when pro football decided to steal the college bowl game set-up by calling the third meeting the “Superbowl.” If the Baltimore Colts, who had gone 14-1 in giving up fewer than 10 points a game against the much tougher NFL, had just taken care of the New York Jets (12-3, more than 20 points a game allowed), then Baltimore probably would not be playing today in a Superbowl.
|Date||Baltimore Colts||Res||Colts||Opp||Attendance||NY Jets||Res||Colts||Opp||Attendance|
|15-Sep-68||San Francisco 49ers||W||27||10||56,864||at Kansas City Chiefs||W||20||19||48,871|
|22-Sep-68||at Atlanta Falcons||W||28||20||50,428||vs. Boston Patriots||W||47||31||29,192|
|29-Sep-68||at Pittsburgh Steelers||W||41||7||44,480||at Buffalo Bills||L||35||37||38,044|
|6-Oct-68||Chicago Bears||W||28||7||60,238||San Diego Chargers||W||23||20||63,786|
|13-Oct-68||at San Francisco 49ers||W||42||14||32,822||Denver Broncos||L||13||21||63,052|
|20-Oct-68||Cleveland Browns||L||20||30||60,238||at Houston Oilers||W||20||14||51,710|
|27-Oct-68||Los Angeles Rams||W||27||10||60,238||Boston Patriots||W||48||14||62,351|
|3-Nov-68||at New York Giants||W||26||0||62,973||Buffalo Bills||W||25||21||61,452|
|10-Nov-68||at Detroit Lions||W||27||10||55,170||Houston Oilers||W||26||7||60,242|
|17-Nov-68||St. Louis Cardinals||W||27||0||60,238||at Oakland Raiders||L||32||43||53,318|
|24-Nov-68||Minnesota Vikings||W||21||9||60,238||at San Diego Chargers||W||37||15||51,175|
|1-Dec-68||Atlanta Falcons||W||44||0||60,238||Miami Dolphins||W||35||17||61,766|
|7-Dec-68||at Green Bay Packers||W||16||3||50,861||Cincinnati Bengals||W||27||14||61,111|
|15-Dec-68||at Los Angeles Rams||W||28||24||69,397||at Miami Dolphins||W||31||7||32,843|
|22-Dec-68||Minnesota Vikings||W||24||14||60,238||only 1 playoff in AFL|
|29-Dec-68||at Cleveland Browns||W||34||0||80,628||Oakland Raiders||W||27||23||62,627|
|Average score before SBIII||28.75||9.875||57831||Average score before SBIII||29.73333333||20.2||53436|
|12-Jan-69||New York Jets||L||7||16||75,389||Baltimore Colts||W||16||7||75,402|
Can you imagine the fan reaction if college football were to announce a new “Superbowl” that would pit the SEC Champion (Alabama) against the Mid-American Conference champion (Northern Illinois) to see who the best team in college football was? That’s what the public was sold in 1969, and the fact that “Northern Illinois” (the New York Jets) beat “Alabama” (the Baltimore Colts) is probably the only reason Baltimore is in a Superbowl today.
The AFL was clearly inferior, and one more blowout loss would have likely killed off the idea of a Superbowl (a takeoff on the college Rose Bowl that pitted the Big Ten against the Pac 10). It probably would have killed off the AFL as well.
But while the Jets were clearly the inferior team from the inferior league, they were able to pull in almost as many fans as the Colts. Simply put, they had the most famous athlete in the young Joe Namath, and they played in the biggest city.
That was enough to convince pro football to see the chance to get out of the shadow of college football and call the AFL-NFL match-up the “Superbowl” for the first time and gamble that Namath could create something.
The fact that the Jets defense that had given up over 20 points a game against the weaker AFL could hold the Baltimore Colts, who had scored almost 30 points a game against the tougher NFL to seven points was unthinkable. Namath gave the Jets the confidence with his brash guaranty of a victory, but it was the Jets defense that backed it up in a 16-7 win that forced the NFL to accept the AFL as an equal conference, go back and call Green Bay’s wins from the previous two seasons “Superbowls I and II,” and in turn have the Superbowl and pro football replace the World Series and baseball as the national pastime.
The day was not as kind to Jets fans like me. I watched that game as a 3-year-old in a Joe Namath No. 12 jersey I had received a couple of weeks earlier at Christmas. With a mother form Alabama, and a father from New York City, the former Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Joe Namath going to the Jets was a perfect combination for me.
Little did I know the Jets were setting us all up for decades of misery, as they have not returned to the Superbowl we will all watch today since winning the most important game in pro football history.
In short, I hope my Baltimore cousins appreciate the chance my Jets gave them to claim another title today – by beating them 44 years ago.