The pro football championship of the world was rather definitely decided on a mushy field in Cleveland on Dec. 29 when the Baltimore Colts crushed the Browns 34-0 for the NFL title, but the Colts will have to ratify that claim in Miami this Sunday when they play the New York Jets, AFL champions, in the third annual Super Bowl. In the first two Super Bowls the Green Bay Packers methodically destroyed the Kansas City Chiefs (35-10) and the Oakland Raiders (33-14). The AFL representative improved by four points in the second game, but it is most unlikely that this explosive growth will continue this year.
The major reason it won't is Baltimore's magnificent defense.
"Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships," a coach said not long ago, and Baltimore has what may well be pro football's best defense of the last decade. Against more polished, more cohesive offenses overall than those in the AFL, the Colts allowed only 144 points in 14 regular-season games, and a total of 158 for the entire year, including the conference playoff and the championship game. The Jets, on the other hand, gave up nearly twice as many points in regular-season play, 280. They scored 419 to Baltimore's 402.
What small chance the Jets do have of defeating the Colts rests upon the talented arm of Joe Namath. Namath is an excellent quarterback, with a quick release, a strong, accurate arm and the ability to locate second and third receivers when his primary target is covered. In the AFL, when he is given time, he is phenomenal. But against the bristling pass rush of the Colts, he may not get the requisite three to four seconds to find his very good receivers.
He has three of them. George Sauer, Don Maynard and Pete Lammons are all blessed with good hands, good moves and rare speed. Along with the Jet offensive line and Namath, they hold the key to the Jets' minimal chances. Namath and Maynard combined on a 52-yard pass play to set up a Namath-to-Maynard pass for the winning touchdown in the Jets' victory over the Raiders, and it is plays such as this that Baltimore must stop.
The pattern Namath used against Oakland for the bomb was something the Jets call a "go" pattern. The Colts, incidentally, have much the same set and used it often and successfully against Cleveland. It is called a "wing-right opposite" and, like the "go" pattern, it places both wide receivers to the wide side of the field, hoping to force the defense into man-to-man coverage.
"I would get Maynard in this set," said Bobby Boyd, the All-Pro cornerback of the Colts, as he looked over a diagram of the play last week. "Of course, we could be in a number of different defenses—blitz, straight 4-3, weak-side zone or a strong-side zone. In any case, I would play Maynard normal, or about eight yards off."
In a blitz or straight man-to-man, Boyd would protect the deep area, where Maynard caught the long pass on rookie Defensive Back George Atkinson. Running the pattern against Oakland, Maynard faked toward the middle as he began his route, then took off.
"I certainly wouldn't commit myself on the fake unless I was sure the quarterback had thrown the ball," Boyd said. "I have to watch the quarterback as well as the man I'm guarding and I wouldn't take that kind of chance unless he was already rid of the ball. I'd have to be certain it wasn't just a pump."
On man-to-man coverage, Boyd said he likes to funnel the receiver to the inside where there is apt to be help. In the Colt zones Boyd gets help either from Mike Curtis shallow, or from the strong safety, Rick Volk, deep.