SLAM Presents TD: Special Super Bowl Issue is on sale now! In it, we took every Super Bowl winner and ranked them in order of greatness. Example: If the ’85 Bears played the ’75 Steelers, who would win? That team is higher. We’re counting them down from 47-1, beginning at the end with the squad we believe was the worst SB Champ of all-time: the 1970 Baltimore Colts.—Ed.
No. 47: Baltimore Colts, Super Bowl V
- Date: January 17, 1971
- Game MVP: Chuck Howley
- Record: 11-2-1
The Super Bowl V-winning Baltimore Colts were able to avenge their crushing loss to the Jets in Super Bowl III, but nobody who watched their last-second 16-13 win over Dallas could consider the game a resounding argument for Baltimore’s supremacy. The game featured 10 turnovers, including 7 by the Colts. Were it not for a bizarre tipped-pass folly that resulted in a 75-yard TD by John Mackey (pictured above), Baltimore wouldn’t have won. (In keeping with the Colts’ inept play that day, kicker Jim O’Brien—later the game’s hero—had the PAT blocked.) It was a fitting end to a season that featured success but little domination for Baltimore, which muted—but certainly didn’t erase—the pain of their loss to New York two years earlier.
The 1970 Colts were not without their big names, although some of them were in the latter stages of their careers. QB Johnny Unitas is generally regarded as one of the greatest ever, but he threw 18 interceptions and only 14 TD passes in that, his final season as a full-time starter. Mackey was a standout at tight end and redefined the position with his blend of size and speed. The ground game was unspectacular, and leading rusher Norm Bulaich managed just 426 yards for the season. As a team, Baltimore averaged just 3.3 ypc.
The Colts’ defense was paced by stalwarts like Bubba Smith, Mike Curtis and Ted “Mad Stork” Hendricks, but it wasn’t an overpowering crew. Baltimore ranked just ninth in total yards allowed and seventh in points surrendered.
Still, the Colts finished 11-2-1 and won the AFC East in their first year as a member of the new conference. As part of the merger agreement between the AFL and NFL, three establishment teams—the Colts, Steelers and Browns—agreed to break away from the NFL and join their new brethren in the American Conference. Although many purists howled at the separation, the three franchises settled quickly into their new roles, especially the Colts, who appreciated the opportunity to play two games a season against the lowly Patriots and Bills.
The Colts did win 11 regular-season games, but their quality of opposition wasn’t exactly stellar. The combined winning percentage of the teams they played was a spindly .370. In fact, Baltimore played only three teams that had records of .500 or better—and lost two of them. Point is, the Colts’ résumé wasn’t the strongest.
The defense may not have been overpowering statistically, but it was opportunistic, particularly against the pass. Baltimore picked off 25 enemy aerials, with safety Jerry Logan’s six (including two he returned for scores) leading the way.
Minor issues aside, Baltimore did enter the Playoffs having won four in row and was the top seed. After dispatching upstart Cincinnati in the first round, 17-0, the Colts engaged Oakland in a slugfest in the AFC Championship. Baltimore held a 10-0 lead, but the Raiders tied things up in the third quarter. However, a TD run by Bulaich and a 68-yard Unitas-to-Ray Perkins scoring strike put away the visitors, and the Colts headed to Miami for the Super Bowl after a 27-17 victory.
In keeping with the theme of the first several Super Bowls, the game was a dud. Dallas entered the game on a roll, having won its final contests, a streak that coincided with coach Tom Landry’s decision to make Craig Morton his starting QB over Roger Staubach.
Neither team was able to impose its will on the other, and Dallas was nearly as clumsy as the Colts, adding 10 penalties to its 3 giveaways. With under a minute to play, the score was tied at 13 and Dallas backed up in its own territory, Morton tossed a pass that went through Dan Reeves’ hands and into the arms of Curtis, who returned it to the Dallas 28. Two plays later, as time ran out, O’Brien drilled a 32-yard field goal to give Baltimore some piece of mind two years after its moment of ignominy.
To see the full countdown, click here.