Most pro football historians who study the past Super Bowls will tell you that the greatest goal-line stand in Super Bowl history came in the third quarter of Super Bowl XVI. That goal-line stand by the San Francisco 49ers did detrimental harm to the chances of the Cincinnati Bengals to score what would have been a very important touchdown. The 49ers prevailed in a 26-21 win.
I happen to agree with most folks that the Super Bowl XVI goal-line stand was certainly the greatest one in Super Bowl history. But I am reminded of the goal-line stand in Super Bowl V. The goal-line stand in Super Bowl V, you say? Well, do not feel bad. Most pro football fans (and perhaps quite a few pro football historians) would be hard-pressed to remember it.
That could be because it occurred late in the first half in a tight contest between the Baltimore Colts and the Dallas Cowboys in Miami’s Orange Bowl Stadium. And quite a lot of people have forgotten it because it did not really play a decided point in the winning or losing of that game for either team…or did it?
Baltimore Trailing Dallas Late In The Half
Baltimore, who was trailing Dallas at 13-6, had managed to drive the ball down to the Dallas 2-yard line with two minutes left in the first half. A first-and-goal, and just 72 inches away from tying the game (if their placekicker, Jim O’Brien, would make the subsequent conversion, which he failed to do after Baltimore’s first touchdown earlier in the second quarter). Back in that era, if you could not gain 72 inches on the ground, then you probably didn’t deserve to tie the game. So, the Colts went with three straight running plays, each of which were straight dive smashes into the guts of the Doomsday Defense.
The first down Baltimore run was carried by rookie halfback Norm Bulaich. So was the second-down run. And the third-down run. Not a single yard in three rushing attempts was obtained by Bulaich. In retrospect, the Colts probably should have attempted a truly short and makeable field goal, but they did not. Instead, Baltimore quarterback Earl Morrall, who was in for the injured Johnny Unitas, decided to fake a handoff to fullback Tom Nowatzke, and throw the ball to tight end Tom Mitchell. But the play was doomed to failure when Mitchell tripped coming off the line of scrimmage.
Morrall held the ball for as long as he could, but while he was doing so, Mitchell was stumbling to try to complete his route. Morrall finally had to get rid of the ball, but Mitchell could not reach the area where the ball descended. The pass fell incomplete, and Dallas achieved a great goal-line stand in a Super Bowl.
Earl Morral's Point of View
In an interview that I conducted with Earl Morrall back in 2012 while I was writing my book on the NFL in the 1970s, he told me that he really wished that he could have that play over. He lobbed the ball to Mitchell, but the tight end just could not get to the prescribed area in time.
But this goal-line stand would turn out to help Baltimore’s cause. That is because later in the game, they would have another chance to dent the Cowboys’ end zone in the fourth quarter. The lessons that their failed tries to score from the Dallas 2-yard line in the second quarter would not be repeated this time around.
In their fourth-quarter attempt to score from the Dallas 2-yard line, Baltimore fullback Tom Nowatzke would be the ball carrier. He saw Bulaich’s failure to score on three straight tries in the second quarter as a lesson on what not to do when he got to carry the ball in the fourth quarter. When I interviewed Nowatzke around the same year that I interviewed Morrall for my book on the 1970s in the NFL, he…Nowatzke…told me that he had several previous runs earlier in the game, where he ran them incorrectly.
He also told me that he told Morrall that. He basically confessed to his quarterback that he screwed up. Morrall was willing to run the same exact play twice in a row if he were sold on how the next try would succeed. Nowatzke managed to make his point to Morrall, and lo and behold, Nowatzke plowed into the Dallas endzone on his second attempt at running a dive play off of left tackle. Today, you would almost NEVER see an offense running the same exact play two plays in a row.
It would be an anomaly.
Nowatzke’s touchdown tied the game at 13-13, and Baltimore would eventually go on to win the game, 16-13. But the successful goal-line stand (as Dallas saw it), or the same failed four attempts for the Colts to score from the Dallas 2-yard line in the second quarter, would give Baltimore enough lessons on what not to do if they ever got a similar chance again. They did, and pro football history was made. No, it wasn’t as famous as the goal-line stand in Super Bowl XVI, but I know that every member of the Super Bowl V Champion Baltimore Colts were fine with that.
Speaking of the goal-line stand of Super Bowl V, I wrote an article and had a podcast episode covering the only time in Super Bowl history the MVP came from a losing team, and it happened to be this game. Check it out, the Super Bowl MVP from the losing team.
Host and Author of Pigskin Past - Joe Zagorski
Throughout his days, Joe spent some time as a sportswriter and has been a member of the Pro Football Researchers Association since the mid-1980s. Joe is also a proud member of the Pro Football Writers of America.
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