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JOE PASSES THE BIG TEST IN A BREEZE
Edwin Shrake
January 06, 1969
As wind howled across Shea Stadium, Joe Namath came back after a near-disastrous interception to lead his Jets to victory over Oakland and on to the Super Bowl
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January 06, 1969

Joe Passes The Big Test In A Breeze

As wind howled across Shea Stadium, Joe Namath came back after a near-disastrous interception to lead his Jets to victory over Oakland and on to the Super Bowl

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Brace yourself, Miami, Joe Namath is headed your way. So what if last Sunday he threw 30 incomplete passes and one nearly disastrous interception. He also threw for three touchdowns as he led the New York Jets to a 27-23 victory over the Oakland Raiders in the swirling wind of Shea Stadium. In doing so he gave the Jets their first AFL championship and he also put an extra fillip into the Super Bowl.

That fillip is Namath himself. Ever since he signed his celebrated $400,000 contract four years ago, Namath has been the AFL's leading attraction. Namath grows a mustache, it gets in all the papers. He buys a fur coat, everybody knows it. He sends his llama rug to the cleaners, it's the talk of the neighborhood. But until this year, despite the notoriety, Namath had been unable to lead his team to a championship. Now that the Jets have finally done it, Namath will have the opportunity to test his arm against the Baltimore Colts. For even the casual fan, that should be a match too interesting to ignore.

Even in the locker room, where the Jets fled to escape the crowds and the cold wind that had bedeviled both teams most of the afternoon, it was Namath who saved the day. Barring the victors from their spoils—oceans of champagne—were newsmen, well-wishers and an old, familiar foe, Milt Woodard, president of the AFL. Struggling against the mob to make his annual congratulatory visit to league champions, Woodard became part of a routine that he seems to get involved in every year.

"Hey Milt," a Jets employee said, "the champagne is in the back room. Help yourself."

"No, no, cut it off, there's a league rule against champagne in the locker room," Woodard said, looking a bit embarrassed. It has become something of a tradition for Woodard to fine the AFL's championship team for violation of the antichampagne ordinance, but he never seems to enjoy it.

"O.K., Weeb," Namath said to the Jets' coach as Woodard approached them. "Where'd you hide the champagne?"

"There's 25 cases in the back," replied Ewbank, grinning.

"Twenty-five ought to be enough," Namath said. "Excuse me, please, let me through." He squeezed past Woodard. "Oh, hell," said Milt. The rest of the Jets followed.

But the way the game began—with Namath completing three of 12 and Lamonica three of 15 and the first quarter lasting 45 minutes—it appeared for a while that no one would ever get around to earning the champagne. Other than the Jets' first touchdown drive, which followed a very short Oakland punt into the howling wind, the quarter was wasted motion for both offensive units. The ball changed sides 10 times in 13 scoreboard minutes without a fumble or interception. Eventually, however, the Jets emerged with a 10-0 lead.

Namath opened up on the Raiders by throwing to Flanker Don Maynard, who had caught 10 passes for 228 yards against Oakland Rookie Cornerback George Atkinson earlier this season. Namath's first three passes were all to Maynard. Two were complete and one resulted in an interference penalty against Atkinson. Maynard scored on a 16-yard reception when his sharp break toward the sideline flag left Atkinson stumbling. A few minutes later Jim Turner, the AFL's top scorer this season, kicked a 33-yard field goal to give the Jets their largest margin of the day.

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