The Ultimate Recount of Super Bowl V

I’m your host, Tommy A. Phillips, and today we have Super Bowl V, between the AFC champion Baltimore Colts and the NFC champion Dallas Cowboys. It was held on January 17, 1971, at the Miami Orange Bowl, the third Super Bowl in the last four years to be held at the Orange Bowl. This was the first Super Bowl following the AFL-NFL merger.

As always, we have a pop quiz, and then homework at the end of the episode. The pop quiz question for today is: which NFL team is the only team to not be in possession of all its Lombardi Trophies? The answer will come at the end of the podcast.

Read the whole story or listen to the podcast episodes below.

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Table of Contents (Minimize to the Right --->)

Lombardi Memories is a show that takes you back in time, into January or February, to the greatest one-day spectacle in all of sports. This is the every-other-Tuesday podcast that looks back at each and every one of the 50-plus Super Bowls and tells the story of who won and why.  Tommy A. Phillips is your host on this Super Journey.  He’s an author of multiple NFL books.  You can purchase below.

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Prelude to Super Bowl V

When the NFL and AFL merged in 1970, there were sixteen NFL teams and only ten AFL teams. That meant that three NFL teams had to switch conferences. The Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns, and Pittsburgh Steelers agreed to be those three teams. They joined the AFL teams forming the American Football Conference. The rest of the NFL formed the National Football Conference.

The Colts were far and away the best team in the AFC in 1970. They finished with an 11-2-1 record, the best in the conference. Their closest competitors were the second-place Miami Dolphins, who finished 10-4 and won a wild card. The other two division champions had eight wins. Baltimore won the AFC Eastern Division, while Cincinnati won the AFC Central, and Oakland won the AFC West.

Led by quarterback Johnny Unitas, the Colts went on winning streaks of six and four games on their way to the playoffs. They then shut out the Bengals 17-0 in the divisional round, before defeating the Raiders 27-17 in the first-ever AFC Championship Game to advance to Super Bowl V.

Unitas threw for 2,213 yards in 1970, passing for fourteen touchdowns but also eighteen interceptions. It wasn’t his best year, to say the least, but it could be understandable given that he was nearing the end of his career. This was in fact the last time he played every game in a single season. He wouldn’t throw for 2,000 yards ever again, with paltry totals in his final three seasons in the league.

The Colts had a great receiving corps; Eddie Hinton caught 47 passes for 733 yards and five touchdowns, while Roy Jefferson caught 44 passes for 749 yards and seven touchdowns. In addition, tight end John Mackey had another 435 yards on 28 catches. The Colts were definitely an air-it-out team. Their leading rusher, Norm Bulaich, ran for just 426 yards and three touchdowns.

As for the Dallas Cowboys, they won the NFC Eastern Division with a 10-4 record. That record was only good enough for third in the conference, however. The Minnesota Vikings had the best record at 12-2, winners of the NFC Central. The San Francisco 49ers won the NFC West with a 10-3-1 record. Dallas finished at 10-4, the same record as the wild card team, the Detroit Lions.

But the Cowboys had a punishing defense. So much so, that they played one of the most unique games in NFL history against the Lions in the divisional round. They won the game by a 5-0 score. That exact final score has only occurred three times in the history of the league. The Cowboys then defeated San Francisco 17-10 in the first-ever NFC Championship Game to make it to Miami.

Cowboys quarterback Craig Morton had a banner year, posting a passer rating of 89.8. He threw for fifteen touchdowns as opposed to just seven interceptions, putting up 1,819 yards. Running backs Duane Thomas and Calvin Hill split carries, with Thomas rushing for 803 yards and five scores, and Hill carrying the ball more times but gaining fewer yards, with 577 and four touchdowns.

Speedster Bob Hayes was the team’s deep threat, catching ten touchdown passes out of his 34 receptions, going for 889 yards. He averaged over 26 yards per catch! The Cowboys certainly had a potent team going into Super Bowl V.

First Quarter

The Cowboys won the toss and chose to receive. Quarterback Craig Morton completed his first pass to running back Duane Thomas, but his third-down pass fell incomplete, and the Cowboys were forced to punt. The Colts came out and went three-and-out, with running back Norm Bulaich being stopped for a loss by Cowboys defensive end George Andrie to force the punt. The Cowboys, though, couldn’t do anything with it either. Colts defensive end Roy Hilton sacked Morton, and the Cowboys kicked it right back to Baltimore.

On the first pass of the next series, Unitas threw an interception to linebacker Chuck Howley. He returned the pick to the Baltimore 46. But the Cowboys couldn’t score off the turnover. On second down, they got called for holding well behind the line of scrimmage, forcing them into a third-and-33. They ended up having to punt again.

Only this time, Colts returner Ron Gardin muffed the return! Cliff Harris and D.D. Lewis were there for the Cowboys to recover. They got the ball at the Colts 9. It was the first of many turnovers on the day for Baltimore. However, after Thomas ran for four yards, the Cowboys could not punch it in. They settled for a fourteen-yard field goal by kicker Mike Clark to go up 3-0.

The Colts went three-and-out on their next drive as well. The Cowboys took over after punter David Lee’s kick went for a touchback. Running back Walt Garrison ran for gains of five and six yards to get a first down. Morton then threw a screen to running back Dan Reeves, who picked up a first down at the 47. That was when the deep threat Hayes came into play. He caught a long bomb from Morton down at the Baltimore 13, with the Colts getting called for roughing the passer on the play.

The Cowboys were now down near the Baltimore 6, but they lost yards on two of three plays, including an intentional grounding call on Morton. They settled for a thirty-yard Clark field goal to go up 6-0 as the second quarter got underway.

Second Quarter

Unitas threw a couple of incomplete passes, and he and the Colts were looking at another three-and-out from their own 25. That’s when the Colts got a little bit of luck. Unitas threw a pass to Hinton, who tipped it, before Dallas defensive back Mel Renfro’s hand just grazed the ball. Mackey caught the deflected pass and went 75 yards for a touchdown, the longest pass in Super Bowl history at the time.

If that pass had just hit Hinton’s hand and not Renfro’s, it would have been ruled an incomplete pass, as NFL rules at the time prohibited two receivers from touching the ball on the same play. The officials ruled that the ball had hit Renfro’s hand, so it was a legal touchdown for the Colts. Cowboys defensive back Mark Washington blocked kicker Jim O’Brien’s extra point, so the game was tied at six.

The next three drives all ended in punts, with neither team getting a first down. When Baltimore got the ball back a second time, Unitas had the ball knocked out of his hands by Howley. Defensive tackle Jethro Pugh fell on top of the loose ball for Dallas. Set up at the Baltimore 29, Thomas ran for five yards, and Morton threw to Reeves for a first down at the 7. Morton then went play-action to Thomas for a seven-yard touchdown, and the Cowboys took a 13-6 lead.

Unitas had his next pass tipped and intercepted by linebacker Lee Roy Jordan, but a pass interference call on defensive back Herb Adderley brought back the pick. That was okay, though, because just three plays later, Unitas threw an interception to Renfro. The Cowboys proved unable to do anything with the ball, however, and the Colts got it back at their own 49 after a punt.

Unitas had been injured on the previous drive, so into the game came Earl Morrall. You’ll recall that Morrall was the quarterback who struggled so much in Super Bowl III that he had to be replaced by Unitas. Now, the shoe was on the other foot; Morrall was replacing Unitas. He threw a pass to Hinton for a first down at the Dallas 26. Two plays later, he hit Jefferson for a first down at the 5. But here head coach Don McCafferty got very unimaginative. He called for three runs in a row by Bulaich, and he could not punch the ball into the end zone.

On fourth-and-goal from the 2, McCafferty chose to go for it. But Morrall threw incomplete for tight end Tom Mitchell, and the Colts turned it over on downs. The Cowboys then ran out the clock, and they took a 13-6 advantage into the half.

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    Third Quarter

    The opening kickoff spelled disaster for the Colts. Returner Jim Duncan fumbled, and the Cowboys recovered. Thomas and Garrison then alternated runs, and the two of them got down to the 2-yard line. But on the next play, Thomas fumbled right at the goal line, and the Colts recovered. If he could have gotten just half a yard more, NFL history would be totally different.

    Bulaich ran for a first down to the 14, then Morrall found running back Sam Havrilak for a first down at the 40. Fullback Tom Nowatzke ran for six more yards, and Bulaich ended up getting another new set of downs on third down. The Colts got close enough for O’Brien to try a 52-yard field goal, but it fell short of the goal line. In fact, since field goals at that time worked like punts, the fact that it came up short was actually a good thing. It landed inches from the goal line, so Dallas would have to take over from there.

    The Cowboys went three-and-out and punted. The Colts were set up to get great field position, but they committed a clipping foul on the punt, and they ended up back in their own territory. Morrall made up for it, though. He went long for Nowatzke, who hauled it in for a first down at the Dallas 15. But just as it looked like Baltimore might tie it up, Morrall threw an interception in the end zone to Howley. As the fourth quarter began, the Colts still trailed by seven.

    Fourth Quarter

    The Colts defense forced a three-and-out, and they got the ball back at their own 18. Hinton drew a pass interference flag, giving the Colts one first down. Jefferson got another, catching a pass at the Dallas 46 for a first down. A holding call on Dallas gave Baltimore another new set of downs, and Nowatzke ran for eight more yards. On the next play, Morrall handed off to Havrilak, who then threw a pass. He completed it to Hinton, but Hinton fumbled. No one could fall on the ball, as it was pushed into the end zone and out of it for a touchback.

    But just when it looked like the Cowboys might put it away, Morton threw a pass that was tipped and intercepted by defensive back Rick Volk. He returned it to the Dallas 2. Nowatzke ran it twice from there, and his second run went for a two-yard touchdown. O’Brien made the extra point, and the Colts tied the game at thirteen.

    The teams traded punts, and Dallas got the ball back near midfield after the two-minute warning. The Cowboys got called for a holding penalty, setting them back. Then, Morton threw a pass that was tipped by Reeves and intercepted by Colts linebacker Mike Curtis. He returned it to the Dallas 29. From there, all the Colts needed to do was run Bulaich up the middle a couple of times. At nine seconds, they called timeout, with the ball on the 24.

    With the goalposts on the goal line, that meant it would be a 32-yard field goal. On came kicker Jim O’Brien, a rookie, to try the biggest kick in Super Bowl history at the time. He converted the kick, and the Colts took a 16-13 lead with five seconds left. The Cowboys got the ball one last time, only to have Colts defensive back Jerry Logan intercept a Morton pass to preserve the Baltimore victory.

    Super Bowl V Awards

    Super Bowl V is the only Super Bowl to ever have a player on the losing team win MVP. Linebacker Chuck Howley won the award after picking off two passes, making two tackles, and forcing a fumble. So, this time, I don’t have to tell you who would have won the MVP should the losing team had won the game. That award has already gone to Howley.

    But I can tell you which player on the other team deserved MVP. That would have to be running back Tom Nowatzke. He ran for 33 yards and a touchdown while catching a key 45-yard pass. It wasn’t a great day for the offenses on either side, but he was probably the best player on the Colts on this day. A runner-up would have to be O’Brien for making such a clutch kick.

    Who was the Least Valuable Player? Sorry, I’ve got to give it to Craig Morton, quarterback of the Cowboys. He threw three interceptions and posted a passer rating of 34.1. All of those interceptions came in the fourth quarter. On a day when the teams were turning the ball over left and right, Morton ended up with the most costly turnovers. Overall, Baltimore turned it over seven times and committed four penalties, while Dallas turned it over four times and committed ten penalties.

    Who was the best player you’ve never heard of? How about defensive back Rick Volk. He made the interception late in the game that set up the game-tying touchdown. Without his pick, the Cowboys could have run down the clock and maybe won the game by a 13-6 margin. His interception set up the Colts to score near the goal line, and they then tied the game on a touchdown run.

    The biggest play of this game was Mackey’s 75-yard touchdown reception. Yes, it was lucky, and Cowboys fans could still argue that perhaps Renfro never touched that ball, and it should have been ruled an incomplete pass. But from what I saw, I think the right call was made, and that reception saved the Colts from getting blown away like they did two years prior.

    The biggest play you don’t remember? It has to be Thomas’s fumble at the goal line early in the third quarter. If he scores on that play, the Cowboys go up by fourteen points and likely win the game. Then the Cowboys are six-time Super Bowl champions and still hold a share of the lead in the Lombardi Trophy race. Instead, the city of Baltimore got a Lombardi Trophy.

    And that brings us to the answer to today’s pop quiz question. Which NFL franchise is not in possession of all its Lombardi Trophies? The answer is: the Indianapolis Colts. When they moved from Baltimore to Indianapolis in the middle of the night in 1984, they did not bring their Super Bowl V trophy. The city of Baltimore then won a lawsuit to get to keep the trophy in Maryland. Thus the Colts have two Super Bowl wins, but only one Lombardi Trophy.

    Homework

    Finally, I’m giving you some homework. I like to recommend books that are great reading material on each game. This time, I’m going with The NFL, Year One: The 1970 Season and the Dawn of Modern Football by Brad Schultz. 

    This book is all about the 1970 season, including an entire chapter on Super Bowl V. You really ought to read it if you want to learn about how things got started right after the AFL-NFL merger.

    In two weeks, we will have Super Bowl VI, where “Next Year’s Champions,” the Dallas Cowboys, take on Don Shula’s Miami Dolphins in the first of three straight Super Bowl appearances for the Fins. Until then, this is Tommy A. Phillips, signing off. So long!

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