Perhaps the game should be called the Blunder Bowl from now on. The Baltimore Colts are the new world champions, but they won their first Super Bowl by default, not design. They defeated the Dallas Cowboys 16-13 on a field goal by rookie Placekicker Jim O'Brien (see cover) with five seconds remaining, one of the few plays of the day that worked as it was supposed to.
Prior to this ultimate flicker of excellence, the Colts had entertained 80.000 Miami fans and a television audience from the far reaches of West Germany to Japan with five fumbles, four of them recovered by Dallas, three interceptions and a blocked extra point. That ought to be enough to present almost any opponent with a ball game, but Dallas proved it was not just any opponent. Indeed, the Cowboys finally demonstrated that they had an even greater talent for making the big boo-boo. And to think television was worried that situation comedy was dead.
No one has ever accused Craig Morton of being a great quarterback, and after this game it is unlikely that anyone ever will. He completed 12 of his 26 passes—most of them short ones—but he also threw three interceptions and missed open receivers repeatedly, "it was a great challenge," he said sadly after the game. He was accurate there. "I just didn't do it." He was right again, but there is no need for Morton to take more than his share of the blame. Cowboys, Colts, officials and Fates all ganged up to give pro football fans a hilarious—and thrilling—afternoon.
To chronicle events is to catalog catastrophe. To wit: after a spectacularly dull opening five or six minutes, Johnny Unitas set the tone for the day—establishing the game plan, it is sometimes called—by throwing an interception to Dallas Linebacker Chuck Howley, who made a diving, juggling catch of the poorly thrown ball and returned it to the Baltimore 46, where Unitas, of all people, made the tackle.
The Cowboys moved quickly backward to their own 31 and had to punt, giving Ron Gardin, the Baltimore safety, his first serious opportunity. Gardin darted nimbly to his left, leaving the ball behind on his own nine-yard line, where Dallas recovered.
Thanks to this gift, the Cowboys were able to score, but naturally not a touchdown. Morton overthrew Reggie Rucker in the end zone on third down and Dallas had to settle for a field goal that Mike Clark kicked from the 14.
Meanwhile, the Colts were having no success at all trying to run. But on the other hand they were having no success at all trying to pass, either.
Late in the first period, Morton threw one of his few really good passes, down the sideline to Bob Hayes. You are not supposed to complete long passes into the Baltimore zone defense, but Hayes somehow came up with this one as the middle man in a Charlie Stukes-Hayes-Jerry Logan sandwich. The pass went to the Baltimore 12 and the Colts moved it even closer by drawing a penalty for roughing Morton.
Morton quickly managed to back Dallas out of touchdown range by hesitating on a pass until Baltimore Tackle Billy Ray Smith had engulfed him and then throwing the ball at Guard Blaine Nye, who was conveniently nearby but an ineligible receiver. Morton was called for intentionally grounding the ball, which costs 15 yards and a down. So Clark kicked a 30-yard field goal to make it 6-0.
Now came a play that, as John Mackey said later, was definitely not a part of the Baltimore game plan. Unitas, as noted, had been having trouble completing passes against the meticulous Cowboy defense. The rush of the front four was hurrying him, the linebackers were dropping off into his passing lanes and the Cowboy defensive backs clung tenaciously to his receivers. After the Dallas kickoff, Unitas threw two passes, both incomplete, then tried a third. This one was intended for Wide Receiver Eddie Hinton but was far over his head. Hinton jumped high and managed to touch the ball with his fingertips, deflecting it toward Mel Renfro, a Cowboy defensive back, who also seemed to touch it with his fingertips. The ball finally came to rest in the sure hands of a surprised Mackey. who scored to complete a 75-yard touchdown play.