Actual: The Jets traveled to New Haven to face the NY Giants for only the second time in regular season play. Enthusiasm among diehard fans was high, well over 60,000 people turned out at the Yale Bowl in New Haven – but the game meant something to the players as well. Before the game, the Jet’s players requested a players-only meeting, which the coaches obliged. Having been regarded since their inception as News York’s redheaded stepchildren of football, beating the fair-haired Giants always meant something to the Jets. The Jets took an early 7-0 lead when Namath hit Knight running right-to-left across the middle for a 19-yard TD. Late in the second quarter, Morton picked his way downfield with passes to Tucker, Gillette, Bob Grim, and Joe Dawkins, enabling the Giants to retake the lead, 13-10, on a 22-yard field goal 20 seconds before halftime.
At the end of the third quarter, Morton tossed a 12-yard TD pass to Grim in the deep right corner of the endzone. The Giants were now up 20-13. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Jets had a first and goal from the six-yard line. After a couple of Boozer runs reached the 3-yard line, Namath called an off-tackle to the right (“20 WHAM”). When Namath took the snap, he turned to hand the ball to Boozer, however to the surprise of Boozer, he never received the ball. Broadway Joe did a naked bootleg – looking every bit like a 75-year old man – hobbled into the endzone to tie the score at 20-20.
Nineteen seventy-four was the first season in which the NFL would play overtime during the regular season. The Giants won the flip and marched to the Jets 25-yard line when Gogolak attempted the game-winning 43-yard field goal. The kick had the height and distance but the referee ruled it wide of the left upright. Namath connected with Richard Caster for 42-yards on the next play. Five plays later, Namath went play-action and threw the perfect pass to Boozer as he crossed the goal line. It was over, the Jets had just won the very first regular season game to be decided in overtime.
Replay: The Giants opened the game with a 7-play, 76-yard drive ending with a Doug Kotar two-yard touchdown. Joe Dawkins went off tackle for 10 yards and gashed the interior for 15-yards to key the drive. Craig Morton connected with Joe Dawkins on a wheel route for an 18-yard touchdown to close out the first quarter with a 14-0 lead.
Namath heated up in the second quarter leading the Jets to scoring drives on three of their four offensive series. He tossed touchdown passes of 13 and 18-yards to pull to with one score. He ended the second quarter with a 55-yard touchdown bomb to Richard Caster to enter the locker room at halftime knotted at 21.
Lou Piccone fumbled the opening kick return of the second half resulting in a short field for the Giants. The Jets defense tightened but Pete Gogolak kicked a 25-yard field goal.
The Giants entered the fourth quarter with a 24 – 21 lead. Joe Namath orchestrated a 4:30 drive capped off by an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jerome Barkum in the back of the endzone to take their first lead of the game. Craig Morton went four of four for 46 yards and the Giant retook the lead with an 11-yard scamper by Joe Dawkins with 6:02 remaining. Two plays later, Namath connected with David Knight for a 49-yard completion and followed it up 23-yard strike to Jerome Barkum resulting in a first and goal from the one. John Riggins tried to punch it in on first and second down to no avail. Namath called a “20 Wham” off tackle play to Riggins and broke the huddle. What happened next with go down in football lore, Joe Namath decided to fool everyone in the stadium with a naked bootleg to the left and walked in for the go-ahead score. The Giants were not finished though, aided by penalties they reached the Jets 11-yard line with four seconds remaining. Craig Morton dropped back to pass but was forced to scramble by Mark Lomas and was tackled after a three-yard gain to end the game.
Battle of New York (1974)