At a Miami Touchdown Club dinner three days before the Super Bowl III, Jets quarterback Joe Namath told the audience, "We're going to win Sunday. I guarantee it." His chutzpah made national headlines, though most experts passed it off as bluster or self-delusion.
Not only had the NFL handily won the first two Super Bowls, but the 13-1 Baltimore Colts also were considered one of the greatest teams in football history. Namath's Jets generally were regarded as only third-best in the American Football League. One columnist predicted a 55-0 Colts' win, and oddsmakers made the Jets 18 to 20 point underdogs.
From the opening kickoff, the Jets established a strong ground game, led by 220-pound fullback Matt Snell. Meanwhile, the Colts couldn't get on track.
Quarterback Earl Morrall, the NFL's regular-season MVP, had one of the worst games of his career. For the day, he completed 6 of 17 passes for 71 yards, with 3 interceptions. By the third quarter, he was replaced by Johnny Unitas, who had missed most of the regular season with an elbow injury.
In the second quarter, Snell's 35 yards on 6 carries and Namath's 4 completions for 43 yards accounted for most of an 80-yard drive that culminated in Snell's 4-yard plunge for a touchdown. The 7-0 lead stood up to halftime. The New Yorkers' supposedly porous pass defense held the high-flying Colts in check, and the AFL team actually outmuscled the NFL team.
The Jets built their lead in 3-point increments. Jim Turner kicked field goals of 32, 30, and 9 yards to make it 16-0 in the fourth quarter.
The Colts finally scored with 3:19 left. Jerry Hill ran 1 yard to complete an 80 yard drive. A successful onside kick gave the ball back to Baltimore, but the Colts could not capitalize.
Namath, who completed 17 of 28 passes for 206 yards, was voted the most valuable player, but equally deserving was Snell, who rushed for 121 yards on 30 carries and caught 4 passes for 40 yards.