The last week of 2016 has been a disappointment for Ravens fans, who almost saw their team make it to the promising land of the playoffs. Ah, things were so different back when 1970 was easing into 1971, and a revenge-obsessed Baltimore sports community watched with great satisfaction as the Colts continued their march to what would be a glorious (if less-than-picture-perfect) victory in Super Bowl V.
The Colts, still reeling from their 16-7 upset-is-hardly-the-word-for-it loss to the New York Jets in Super Bowl III (and still stinging a bit from not even making the playoffs in 1969), finished the 1970 season atop the newly formed AFC East with an 11-2-1 record. On Dec. 26, they scored a first-round victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, 17-0 (man, if only a smidgen of that defense had showed up against the Steelers last week!), then prepared for an AFC championship bout against the Oakland Raiders.
On Jan. 3, 1971, what The Sun described as a "snowball-throwing crowd" of 56,368 at Memorial Stadium watched expectantly as the Colts, with legend Johnny Unitas at quarterback (unlike that execrable Super Bowl against the Jets, when he spent most of the game on the bench), claimed an early 10-0 lead. The Raiders, with 43-year-old quarterback George Blanda calling the shots, shut down the Colts for a time, eventually tying the game at 10-10 in the third quarter.
But the hometown boys, who had been oft-dismissed during the season for playing a soft schedule, clearly decided enough was enough, scoring 17 second-half points, including a 68-yard pass early in the fourth quarter from Unitas to tight end Ray Perkins, that put the Colts ahead, 27-17. That would be the final score.
Norm Bulaich ran for two touchdowns in the game, while kicker Jim O'Brien, in a harbinger of his coming Super Bowl V heroics, added a pair of field goals.
"'Remember the '69 Super Bowl' was the war chant in the dressing room," veteran Sun sportswriter Cameron C. Snyder wrote following the Raiders game, "after the Colts had won the right for a return to [the] scene of their greatest humiliation."
Two weeks later, Jim O'Brien kicked the winning field goal against Dallas in the Colts' 16-13 Super Bowl V victory. The team's vindication, as well as the city's, was complete.