What if the Jets had not defeated the Colts in Super Bowl III?

Originally Published: February 1, 2007
ESPN.com

The Colts are the toast of the football world, but the magnitude of their victory can be traced back to the franchise's most famous defeat. When the heavily favored (in some books, by more than 20 points) NFL champion Baltimore Colts met the upstart AFL champion New York Jets on Jan. 12, 1969, few could have predicted the outcome, or impact, of the game.

Joe Namath
CorbisJets quarterback Joe Namath backed up his boast in Super Bowl III.

Although the AFL had forced the long-established NFL into a merger agreement three years earlier, the AFL still was regarded as an inferior league, especially after its representatives were crushed in the first two AFL-NFL Championship Games. But the third time (the first to officially bear the name Super Bowl) was to be the charm, as the Jets knocked off the Colts, 16-7.

One man who did predict the outcome was New York quarterback Joe Namath, who completed 17 of 28 passes for 206 yards and was named the game's most valuable player. Yet it was Baltimore quarterback Earl Morall who pretty much "guaranteed" the Jets' victory, completing just 6 of 17 passes for 71 yards, with no touchdowns compared to three interceptions.

One of the biggest upsets in American sports history, the game also is regarded as the most important Super Bowl ever played. But what if the Colts had taken care of business against a seemingly overmatched opponent? Would the Super Bowl be as big today? And would a quarterback who tossed 47 more interceptions than touchdowns over his career be a household name?

-- David Mosse

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