The Baltimore Colts after switching conferences and divisions in 1970 replacing old rivals with new ones struggled a bit in the early going before putting it all together en route to a championship. In addition of a coaching change when Don Shula left the Colts for division rival Miami and was replaced by longtime assistant coach Don McCafferty. This is a look back at some of the early contests that shaped their season.
September 20, 1970 San Diego Stadium San Diego, CA Baltimore 16 San Diego 14: In the their first post merger matchup the Colts made their first trip to San Diego to face the Chargers. Rookie kicker Jim O’Brien’s 28-yard field goal with 56 seconds left in the game provided the margin of victory for the Colts. With 4:50 left n the game Chargers quarterback John Hadl hit wide receiver Gary Garrison for his second touchdown of the game this time from 43-yards. In the third quarter Hadl hit Garrisin from 65-yards out to give the Chargers a 7-3 lead at that point. The Colts struck back with a 1-yard scoring riun from Norm Bulaich which was setup by a 43-yard punt return by rookie Ron Gardin. O’Brien kicked a 34-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter and also had a 25-yard field goal for the only scoring in the first half. Chargers wide receiver had his streak of catching a pass in 96 consecutive games snapped as he failed to catch a Hadl pass. Colts starting halfback Tom Matte injured his knee and was done for the season.
October 11,1970 The Astrodome Houston, Texas Baltimore 24 Houston 20: In their first ever regular season trip to the Astrodome the Colts had to rally in the final seconds to defeat the pesky Oilers. Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas hit Roy Jefferson from 31-yards out with 46 seconds left in the game. Roy Gerela of the Oilers broke a 17-17 tie with 3:26 left in the game with a 9-yard field goal. The Unitas drive for the winning score was vintage as he went five of five for 75 yards on the drive. Hitting Eddie Hinton three times and John Mackey for the other completion to setup the final pass.
In the first half the Colts jumped to a 14-0 lead as Jack Maitland burst in from the two and Unitas hit Jefferson from 17 yards out. The Oilers responded with a Charley Johnson to Jerry LeVias seven-yard scoring pass and a Roy Hopkins score from 1-yard out. The Oilers also received a 27-yard Gerela field goal in addition to his 9 yarder later in the fourth quarter. Jim O’Brien of the Colts chipped in with a 43-yard field goal in the second quarter.
October 18, 1970 Shea Stadium, New York, New York Baltimore 29 New York Jets 22: The game that Colts had long waited for finally occurred Unfortunately for the Jets the day turned out to be a disaster because quarterback Joe Namath threw six interceptions and injured his wrist in the game and was lost fro the season. Two of his interceptions where brought back for touchdowns by Jerry Logan and Bob Grant. Logan intercepted three of the six incerceptions by Namath. Johnny Unitas hit Tom Mitchell from 11 yards out for the other Colts touchdown in the first quarter. Jim O’Brien of the Colts connected on field goals of 28, 18, and 28 yards for the Colts scoring.
Namath tried to rally the Jets by throwing for 397 passing yards on 62 pass attempts and one touchdown pass to Eddie Bell from 17 yards out in the third quarter. Emerson Boozer had the other Jets touchdown scoring from 1-yard out in the thrid quarter to put the Jets within seven at that point. Two field goals from Jets kicker Jim Turner from 41 and 42 yards out helped keep the game close. In the second quarter Jets defensive lineman John Elliott tackled Colts running back Jack Maitland in the end zone for a safety. Namath injured his wrist when he was sacked by Billy Ray Smith in the furth quarter.
The Colts had a excellent start to 1970 despite a 44-24 thumping by kansas City in week 2 on Monday Night Football in the home opener. This despite a new head coach Don McCafferty and new conference against teams they never faced before.
America’s Game DVD 1970 Baltimore Colts
1970 Baltimore Colts by John Schaefer