The 1970-71 football season was the first of its kind. The NFL and AFL finally completed their league merger, becoming the NFL and evenly dividing the 26 teams into two conferences: The NFC and the AFC. This equal division of teams led three NFL teams to the newly-formed AFC — the Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers.
January 17, 1971, was a pivotal day in sports history, bringing the Baltimore Colts of the AFC (formerly of the NFL) and the Dallas Cowboys of the NFC onto the field for a game that would forever be known as "The Blooper Bowl."
By the time you're done reading this article, you'll know which team won the first official NFL Super Bowl, which famous fans were in attendance on the big day, and how a player from the losing team earned the title of "MVP."
The Baltimore Colts headed into Super Bowl V with legendary quarterback Johnny Unitas at the helm, just his second season in the starting line-up after returning from a potentially career-ending injury. Though back-up quarterback Earl Morrall performed far better than Unitas (who threw more interceptions than touchdowns) in regular-season play, coaches stuck with Unitas for post-season games.
With Unitas (2,213 yards thrown), three wide receivers (John Mackey, Eddie Hinton, and Roy Jefferson) with a combined 15 touchdowns, and Pro Bowl tackle Bubba Smith holding down the fort, the Colts ended the season with an 11-2-1 record and as favorites to win Super Bowl V.
The Dallas Cowboys' 1970-71 season had been drama-laden from the start. Between choosing Roger Staubach as the starting quarterback over star Craig Morton despite having less than half the quarterback rating and a season-ending injury by running back Calvin Hill, the Cowboys concluded the NFL season with a dismal 10-4 record.
With newcomer running back Duane Thomas (803 yards on 151 rushes), fullback Walt Garrison (507 yards and three touchdowns), and a defensive line nicknamed "The Doomsday Defense" on the starting lineup, the Colts somehow managed to find a pathway toward Super Bowl contention.
As Super Bowl V rapidly approached, Baltimore had its eyes set on retribution, still disappointed by their loss in Super Bowl III at the Jets' hands. Meanwhile, the Cowboys (the winningest team in the league for the last five seasons) were attempting to turn their success on the field into a highly-anticipated Super Bowl victory.
The Colts were clear favorites going in, but the Cowboys had an ax to grind and an unlimited supply of momentum to do the impossible.
On January 17, 1971, 79,204 NFL fans waltzed into the Miami Orange Bowl in beautiful Miami, Florida for Super Bowl V, making it the third time the Orange Bowl hosted the season-ending championship game. Those in attendance — which included Colts fan and Vice President Spiro Agnew and boxer Muhammad Ali — paid an average of $15 for tickets (worth about $96.40 today) to get into the sold-out stadium.
Following a National Anthem performance on the trumpet by Cowboys fan Tommy Loy, a coin toss landing on tails, and a slightly-delayed jet flyover, Super Bowl V officially kicked off.
The first quarter of Super Bowl V accurately set the stage for the game forever-known as the "Blunder Bowl." The game began with both teams trading a series of punts, a fumble on a punt return by Colts player Ron Gardin, and endless penalties at both teams' hands. A booming 14-yard field goal attempt by Cowboys kicker Mike Clark put Dallas on the scoreboard with a 3-0 lead before the end of the first quarter.
The mess on the field continued strong into the second quarter. The Cowboys lost 15 yards of ground on an intentional grounding penalty and closed out their first second-quarter possession with Clark's 30-yard field goal. The Colts responded and made their comeback in the following possession, with tight end Mackey snatching a pass meant for Eddie Hinton and scoring a touchdown on a 75-yard mad dash toward the end zone.
The Cowboys sprung into action and forced Unitas to fumble, setting Dallas up for a series of short passes that evened out the score to a solid 6-6 (kicker Jim O'Brien was unsuccessful in his extra-point attempt).
Not long into the second quarter, Unitas fumbled the ball, and the Cowboys' offensive line managed to deliver a touchdown after a short 7-yard pass, giving the Cowboys a 13-6 lead. Unitas eventually left the game with an injured rib after a tough tackle.
Earl Morrall stepped in for Unitas despite being handed the blame for the loss in Super Bowl III and led the Colts to a surprising sprint to the end zone just before the two-minute warning. Though unsuccessful on a touchdown attempt, neither team gave up any additional points in the lead-up to halftime.
As the two teams strategized in the locker room about how they could pull off a victory, the Southeast Missouri Marching Band and singer Anita Bryant took to the field to wow the fans in Miami with a stunning halftime show.
The third quarter of Super Bowl V was even sloppier than the first half (many didn't believe that could be possible). After an impressive possession recovery at the Colts' 1-yard-line by Duncan, the Colts — not surprisingly — attempted and failed a risky 52-yard field goal by O'Brien. Both teams traded possessions loaded with forced punts and no additional points in the third quarter.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Colts' attempt at a flea-flicker play ended up being one for the history books. Sam Havrilak (running back and former quarterback in college) took the handoff and threw an unintended pass to Hinton, who then had the ball stripped from him while in the red zone.
Six players on the field were unable to get a hold of the loose ball, which eventually bounced into the end zone and led to a touchback, and the following Cowboys possession ended similarly. The Colts then surprised everyone in the Orange Bowl with a successful touchdown play by Nowatzke, tying up the game at 13-13.
The game ended pretty unexpectedly as O'Brien clinched a much-needed 32-yard field goal with just nine seconds left in Super Bowl V. An interception by Logan later, the Colts held onto their 16-13 lead to end the game.
For the first time in Super Bowl history, the title of MVP went to a non-quarterback (and a player on the losing team). In this case, that was Dallas linebacker Chuck Howley, who ended Super Bowl V with two interceptions.
Keeping with the trend of alternating Super Bowl broadcasting every other year, NBC aired Super Bowl V to an audience of about 58.5 million Americans (Nielsen rating of 39.9). The 1971 Super Bowl fell into the same unfortunate trend as the previous four games — footage of nearly the entire fourth quarter is non-existent, despite having the audio from the whole game. It was also the first Super Bowl in history that aired in Alaska.
The Colts stepped into the Orange Bowl as the clear favorites to win Super Bowl V, though they were also favorites during Super Bowl III, where the Jets handed them an embarrassing loss. Super Bowl V came with predictions that the Colts were favored by a 2.5-point spread. The Colts covered the spread. Additionally, the over/under of 36 points gave those betting on under a nice payout after the game ended with 29 total points.
Super Bowl V is arguably the worst championship game to date regarding on-field performance by both teams. But it wouldn't be the last time either of these teams would see the big stage, albeit one would have to wait for much longer than the other. One of the Super Bowl V teams would return for Super Bowl VI, and the other would have to wait another 36 years for another opportunity to win big — can you figure out which team is which?