By then Namath's true self had begun to emerge. He became famous and wealthy by throwing passes, not by handing the ball to running backs. Of the next 12 plays by the Jets, nine were passes. Because of an injury to Pete Lammons the Jets were also without a tight end, using Punter Curley Johnson and Reserve Fullback Mark Smolinski at the position. Smolinski caught two passes in the last drive. But the most important pass Namath threw was one that nobody caught.
On third and 10 from the San Diego 40 Namath hurled the ball in the direction of Maynard, who was well covered. The ball bounced off the ground and Namath did likewise under the charge of Defensive End Steve DeLong. Namath was sprawled out with DeLong lying nearby, hearing the voices of the crowd telling him that the pass was no good and that the Jets might have to try for a field goal that would leave them one point behind. But an official who was standing over the pair reached into his pocket, dropped his handkerchief, pointed at DeLong and yelled: "You hit him too late!"
"I couldn't believe it," said DeLong. "The play before, Houston Ridge [the other defensive end] had got Namath a good shot, nothing dirty, you understand, but a good shot. So then I came in and Namath's arm was still in motion while I had a full head of steam, and I couldn't avoid hitting him. I don't think it was late and I didn't do anything special to him. The Jets hold more than any club we've played. On one play Winston Hill tackled me. But I didn't try to do anything to Namath for that."
Namath agreed that DeLong's intention was honorable. "He just ran into me. He was coming so fast he couldn't stop," Namath said. However, the penalty gave the Jets a first down on the San Diego 25. A pass to Smolinski moved the ball to the six, Boozer ran to the three and, two plays later, to the one. On fourth down Lammons came in at tight end. "He's our best blocker, and the doctor said he could go straight ahead," Ewbank said. Namath called 35 Power. Boozer smashed into the left side of the line, was flung into the air and fell over the goal line as the arms of both officials and Jets players went skyward. "I didn't have too much to spare," Boozer said, tapping himself on the chest. "I got just about this much in there."
With 1:43 left after the touchdown, the Chargers managed to make it interesting. Alworth moved to the left side where Beverly, a desperate man, began cut-blocking him and even tripping. But Hadl's passes to Garrison and Dyer brought San Diego from its own eight to the New York 37. Forty-five seconds remained. Hadl called a pass that sent Alworth downfield and turning on a comeback, with Garrison crossing and Dyer sprinting to the flag. Dyer had just made a nice catch for 22 yards but this time he appeared to lose the ball and wander confusedly, looking at the sky. A couple of yards behind him the ball fell into the grasp of Johnny Sample, and the Jets had won 23-20.
"That was a stupid thing for me to do," Hadl said. "We've got a rookie kid in there, and I go to him in the clutch. I never should have done it. He's a good receiver, but I should have gone to one of the older heads."
It couldn't have been Alworth. He was busy getting tripped on the other side of the field. Despite all the attention Alworth drew, he caught eight passes for 137 yards—the 33rd time in his career that he has gained more than 100 yards—and demonstrated that he is still at least as dangerous as any receiver in the game.
Sauer, who had been leading the AFL in receiving, was held to four catches for 58 yards even though San Diego lost its free safety, Richard Farley, who was hit so hard in the first half that he was an amnesiac after the game. But the Jets had done much of their work on the ground, using more running plays than passes. "We had to keep cracking all night long," said Boozer. And Namath had thrown no interceptions whatsoever, a pleasing turn of events for New York's vastly improved defensive unit. At this stage of the season last year the Jets were a game ahead of Houston but wound up second. They remember that all too well.