As for Namath, he said: "The only thing that scared me after watching film was that the Colts would change their defense."

What film study indicated to the Jets was that the right side of Baltimore's defense was a weak spot and aging.

Thus, Jets coach Weeb Ewbank's game plan was to run that way. The other part of the plan, dictated by circumstance (a hamstring injury to deep-threat receiver Don Maynard), was for Namath to throw short, quick passes to tight end Lammons and split end George Sauer.

The conservative Jets' plan was a smash. Big and fast Matt Snell had a party running left. He and fellow running back Emerson Boozer, both excellent blockers, protected Namath expertly when he needed it. Sauer looked like a latter-day Raymond Berry all afternoon. Once assuming a 16-0 lead, Namath spent the fourth quarter handing the ball off.

Defense is where it all came to fruition for the Jets, however.

"Our defense was underrated," said Jets guard Dave Herman. "Most of the guys weren't that big, but they were strong. All our backs were signed as free agents, but practicing against Joe all the time and facing the strong passing attacks in the AFL, they became excellent."

The Colts found out how good they were every time they threatened to score. Randy Beverly had two interceptions, Sample one and Hudson one. Some were lucky, coming on tipped passes, but it was as if they knew where Morrall was intending to throw the ball all afternoon.

"I'm always asked if [Colts coach Don] Shula should have yanked Morrall and gone to John Unitas earlier," Namath said. "If Unitas wasn't involved, the question wouldn't even come up. You don't pull an MVP, a guy who led the league in touchdown passes with 26, like Earl did."

In the face of Morrall's performance, particularly on a flea-flicker play in which he failed to spot intended receiver Jimmy Orr all alone near the end zone and threw an interception, the question was being asked late in the first quarter, when the Colts had already blown several opportunities to score.

Estimates are that by halftime and performing reasonably, the Colts should have had a minimum of 16 points, a maximum of 24. Instead, they trailed 7-0.

"I think we would have had a better chance if Unitas was in there earlier," Mackey said. "In any case, right or wrong, the fact is the Jets had been consistent all year, and they certainly were that day. We weren't.

"Distractions hurt us. Our owner, Carroll Rosenbloom, took everybody on the trip but family pets. We had wives, kids, everyone. In our hotel lobby, I remember my son asking me why all these people were around asking some guy to write his name on a piece of paper. It was Frank Sinatra."

Ah, the lament of a losing team. Certainly, the Jets were subjected to at least as much attendant craziness, but Namath indicated distractions and pressure have always been overrated.

"I don't care if it's Beaver Falls, Pa. [his hometown], the University of Alabama [his alma mater] or the pros, from the time you start playing, there's always a `biggest game of your life.' You learn to cope with it."

Clearly, the Colts just happened upon a stinkeroo performance at a most inopportune time. Michaels missed a 27-yard field-goal attempt right off. Interceptions, errant passes and fumbles became the order of the day. Unitas finally got his team a touchdown, but he threw an interception down close, too.

"I thought we could win all along. I thought we were supposed to win," Namath said. "But until you do it, you can't be sure. I'll admit when Unitas came on the field, my heart almost stopped.

"I'll never forget, there was 6: 11 remaining, and I said to myself, `Please, Lord, help us out a little bit here. Get that clock moving.' When the game ended, I felt happy, I felt kiddish. It doesn't seem as if it was 30 years ago, and I know the feeling will be with me the rest of my life."