MIAMI - JANUARY 12: Baltimore Colts' Johnny Unitas #19 looks for a receiver as the New York Jets close in for a tackle during Super Bowl III at the Orange Bowl on January 12, 1969 in Miami, Florida. The Jets defeated the Colts 16-7.
(Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images)

Joe Namath and the New York Jets won Super Bowl 3 on this day in 1969. It remains the greatest upset in sports history.

Robby Sabo

On this day in 1969 (January 12), Joe Namath stole the headlines. His guarantee and subsequent performance helped transform an entire sport.

Prior to Super Bowl 3, the AFL was looked upon as a near-laughable league not worthy of the NFL’s attention. Once it was all said and done, and the Kansas City Chiefs backed it up the following year, today’s modern football era was born.

Namath deserved the accolades he received over the course of his career, if only for that one gigantic moment. He deserved the headlines.

But the New York Jets defense deserved the standing ovation.

It was Weeb Ewbank‘s defense that finished the 1968 season as the AFL’s top-rated unit in yards against. Assistant defensive coaches Buddy Ryan and Walt Michaels helped lead the charge.

The Jets shutout of Earl Morrall and the Baltimore Colts through most of the game is a Super Bowl 3 element some youngsters might not realize.

It wasn’t until Johnny Unitas entered the game that the Colts put points on the board. But for Baltimore and head coach Don Shula, it was too little, too late.

Matt Snell‘s second-quarter touchdown and three Jim Turner field goals were enough for the Jets to come away with the 16-7 victory and the greatest upset in sports history (apologies to Team USA at Lake Placid, NY, 1980).

Namath finished with just 206 yards and no touchdowns to no interceptions on 17 of 28 passing. Calling every play himself, Namath featured his new-found maturity in the way he called the game. He understood there was no reason to force the issue, as his rushing attack and defense would take care of the rest.

Snell finished with 121 yards and the team’s only touchdown on 30 carries, while Emerson Boozer went for 19 yards on 10 attempts. Interestingly, the receiving star of the game wasn’t Hall of Famer Don Maynard, who didn’t catch a pass. It was George Sauer, who went for a cool 133 yards on eight grabs.

The defense picked off four Colt passes. Randy Beverly finished with two picks, while Johnny Sample and Jim Hudson snagged one apiece.

It’s now been 52 years since the Jets experienced a championship victory. Joe Douglas and company are aiming to change that over at some point over the next several years.


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