The Super Bowl is just 47 days away. Let’s look at the Super Bowl from 47 years ago to honor this not that significant occasion!
Super Bowl V was played in Miami at the historic Orange Bowl on January 17, 1971. The game pitted the NFC champion Dallas Cowboys against the Baltimore Colts of the American Football Conference. This was the first Super Bowl played following the merger of the NFL and AFL and brought to an end one of the most competitive and compelling seasons in league history.
The Cowboys had anything but smooth sailing during the 1970 season. They started the season with a 5-4 record. They were beaten by the Vikings by 41 points and the Cardinals in the Cotton Bowl by 38 points. Things had to change and quickly before the season spiraled completely out of control. One thing Coach Tom Landry decided was to stick with Craig Morton as his starting QB over Roger Staubach. Morton was a better “game manager” at that point in their respective careers. And, Morton managed to run Landry’s offense just fine over their seven game winning streak that got them ‘Boys into the Super Bowl.
The true strength of this team was their defense known as “Doomsday.” Landry was one of the greatest defensive minds in NFL history. And he put his wisdom and the profound talents of Bob Lilly, Chuck Howley and Jethro Pugh to good use during their 1970 playoff run. After blanking Detroit, 5-0, they defeated the 49ers in the NFC championship game. Running backs Duane Thomas and Walt Garrison combined for 300 yards from scrimmage in San Francisco. This match up was the first installment of the tremendous San Fran-Dallas rivalry.
The Colts came into the Super Bowl under the direction of first-year Head Coach Don McCafferty. McCafferty replaced Don Shula after a disappointing 1969 season. The ’69 season was a nightmare for the Colts as they suffered a severe post-Super Bowl hangover. Their drudgery was probably made worse by the constant reminders of how Joe Namath guaranteed the win and how the AFL had no business beating an NFL team.
McCafferty was an anti-Shula. He was a players’ coach known for letting the players play. Where Shula was borderline drill sergeant, McCafferty was almost completely hands off. The tactic seemed to work well for the veteran Colts. While they were not spectacular in 1970, they were workmanlike and consistent. Their offense was 6th-ranked and defense was 7th. On offense, they were led by the best QB of the generation, Johnny Unitas. Unitas was past his prime by 1970, but did enough to help Baltimore score 44 points in their two playoff games.
On defense, the Colts ran an aggressive scheme with the emphasis on causing turnovers. Bubba Smith and Mike Curtis anchored the unit that halted the Bengals’ seven-game winning streak in the divisional round of the playoffs, 17-0. They followed that by outlasting Oakland, 27-17. The defense knocked out Raiders’ QB, Daryle Lamonica and picked off back up George Blanda three times. The Colts now had the opportunity to erase the disaster of Super Bowl III against a team from Dallas that could not seem to win the big one.
Super Bowl V turned into a fiasco from the outset. The Colts kept turning the ball over and the Cowboys kept killing their own drives with penalties. One could never have known these were two best teams in football watching this game. Even if the game was not well-played, it was entertaining. Trailing 6-0 in the second quarter, Unitas threw a pass that got deflected twice and found its way into the hands of All-Pro tight end John Mackey. Mackey dashed all the way for the 75-yard touchdown. Rookie kicker Jim O’Brien missed the extra point, however.
Before the break, Dallas got a TD from the eccentric Thomas on a swing pass. That score and an incredible goal line stand for Dallas made the halftime score, 13-6. The Colts suffered another setback when Unitas broke some ribs on a scramble. Hence, the embattled 36-year old Earl Morrall was pressed for duty.
The second half was a turnover festival – seven combined for the half. The Cowboys fumbled on the goal line and the refs ruled Colts’ recovery. After that, Baltimore controlled the play, but squandered several opportunities. Finally, midway through the 4th, they tied it.
Morton was intercepted by Rick Volk who darted to the three-yard line. Tom Nowatzke powered two plays later and with seven minutes left, Super Bowl V was tied. The teams exchanged punts setting Dallas up with the ball and under two minutes to play. They went backwards, then were picked off by Curtis. O’Brien came on to attempt a 32-yarder to give the Colts their first Super Bowl championship. The kick was true causing Lilly to hurl his helmet high into the air. It was yet another bitter defeat for the Cowboys and jubilation for the Colts.
The Orioles had just won the World Series a few months earlier to erase their despair over a shocking 1969 defeat to a NY team. Now, it was the Colts’ turn. Hoever, many of the players to this day remark that the win, although sweet, never measured up to the sour feelings from losing Super Bowl III. Either way, Unitas got his Super Bowl ring.
Dallas would be back the following season. They played in 5 Super Bowls in total under Tom Landry. Meanwhile, the Colts would not get back to the Super Bowl again while playing in Baltimore. The franchise relocated in 1984 to Indianapolis. Baltimore got the Ravens in 1996.
Tomorrow, we’ll review how the Cowboys dismantled Don Shula and the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI.
Brandon Fazzolari is a Super Bowl expert…@spot_Bills