|1968 Baltimore Colts season|
|Head coach||Don Shula|
|Home field||Memorial Stadium|
|Division place||1st NFL Coastal|
|Playoff finish||Won Western Conference Championship Game (Vikings, 24–14)|
Won NFL Championship Game
(at Browns, 34–0)
Lost Super Bowl III
(vs. Jets, 7-16)
The 1968 Baltimore Colts season was the 16th season for the team in the National Football League. Led by sixth-year head coach Don Shula, they finished the regular season with a record of 13 wins and 1 loss, and won the Western Conference's Coastal division.
The previous season, the Colts' record was 11–1–2, tied for the best in the league, but were excluded from the playoffs. They lost a tiebreaker with the Los Angeles Rams for the Coastal Division title in 1967; the other three teams in the NFL postseason, all division winners, had nine wins each.
In 1968, Baltimore won the Western Conference playoff game with the Minnesota Vikings and the NFL Championship Game in a shutout of the Cleveland Browns, but then lost to the New York Jets of the American Football League in Super Bowl III. Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas had been injured during the pre-season, so Earl Morrall led the offense. Shula decided to bring Unitas back in during the second half of the Super Bowl, to no avail. After the upset, instead of championship rings, luxury watches were given to the team as a consolation prize to commemorate their NFL Championship victory over Cleveland.
|1968 Baltimore Colts staff|
None - vacant
|1||September 15, 1968||San Francisco 49ers||W, 27–10||1–0||Memorial Stadium|
|2||September 22, 1968||at Atlanta Falcons||W, 28–20||2–0||Atlanta Stadium|
|3||September 29, 1968||at Pittsburgh Steelers||W, 41–7||3–0||Pitt Stadium|
|4||October 6, 1968||Chicago Bears||W, 28–7||4–0||Memorial Stadium|
|5||October 13, 1968||at San Francisco 49ers||W, 42–14||5–0||Kezar Stadium|
|6||October 20, 1968||Cleveland Browns||L, 20–30||5–1||Memorial Stadium|
|7||October 27, 1968||Los Angeles Rams||W, 27–10||6–1||Memorial Stadium|
|8||November 3, 1968||at New York Giants||W, 26–0||7–1||Yankee Stadium|
|9||November 10, 1968||at Detroit Lions||W, 27–10||8–1||Tiger Stadium|
|10||November 17, 1968||St. Louis Cardinals||W, 27–0||9–1||Memorial Stadium|
|11||November 24, 1968||Minnesota Vikings||W, 21–9||10–1||Memorial Stadium|
|12||December 1, 1968||Atlanta Falcons||W, 44–0||11–1||Memorial Stadium|
|13||December 7, 1968||at Green Bay Packers||W, 16–3||12–1||Lambeau Field|
|14||December 15, 1968||at Los Angeles Rams||W, 28–24||13–1||Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum|
|Los Angeles Rams||10||3||1||.769||3–2–1||6–3–1||312||200||L2|
|San Francisco 49ers||7||6||1||.538||2–3–1||4–5–1||303||310||W1|
Note: Tie games were not officially counted in the standings until 1972.
The team made it to the playoffs as winners of the Coastal division and hosted the Minnesota Vikings of the Central division for the Western Conference title. The Colts took a 21–0 lead and went on to win 24–14. They then traveled to Cleveland to take on the Browns in the NFL Championship Game. Baltimore's only loss of the season came at home to the Browns in October, falling 20–30. In late December, the Colts defense was on top of their game as they shut out the Browns 34–0 to gain their third NFL title. The 1968 Colts were being touted as "the greatest football team in history."
In Super Bowl III, the Colts took on the heavy underdog New York Jets led by quarterback Joe Namath, with the Colts favored by 17 to 21 points. Before the game, former NFL star and coach Norm Van Brocklin ridiculed the AFL, saying "This will be Namath's first professional football game." Three days before the game, Namath was being heckled in Miami and he responded by saying: "We’re going to win Sunday. I guarantee it." The Jets beat the Colts 16–7 in one of the biggest upsets in American sports history.
Perhaps the biggest effect of the Colts' loss is that the predominant sentiment that the AFL was not strong enough to merge with the NFL was firmly squelched.
|Playoff Round||Date||Opponent||Result||Game Site||Attendance|
|Western Conference||December 22, 1968||Minnesota Vikings||W, 24–14||Memorial Stadium|
|NFL Championship||December 29, 1968||at Cleveland Browns||W, 34–0||Municipal Stadium|
|Super Bowl||January 12, 1969||New York Jets||L, 7–16||Orange Bowl|
- Strickler, George (January 13, 1969). "Jets score Super upset over Colts". Chicago Tribune. p. 1, section 3.
- "The Baltimore Colts 1968 NFL Championship Ring That Wasn't « Sports-Rings.com – Blog". sports-rings.com. Retrieved 2020-08-03.
- Bledsoe, Terry (December 23, 1968). "Kapp, the tough Viking, finds Colts even tougher". Milwaukee Journal. p. 10, part 2.
- "Browns prove Colts are human". Toledo Blade. Ohio. Associated Press. October 21, 1968. p. 25.
- "Browns hand Colts first loss". Milwaukee Sentinel. UPI. October 21, 1968. p. 1, part 2.
- Strickler, George (December 30, 1968). "Colts crush Browns for NFL title". Chicago Tribune. p. 1, section 3.
- Scholl, Bill (December 30, 1968). "Colts gain revenge, wallop Browns, 34-0, to win National League crown". Youngstown Vindicator. Ohio. p. 12.
- Hannen, John (January 30, 1968). "Colts' Matte returned home to KO Cleveland". Toledo Blade. Ohio. p. 18.
- Strickler, George (January 10, 1969). "Colts soar to 21-point favorites". Chicago Tribune. p. 1, section 3.
- "Jets' Namath carries hopes for AFL prestige today". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. Associated Press. January 12, 1969. p. 1, sports.
- "Quarterbacks Super Bowl topics". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. Associated Press. January 11, 1969. p. 13.
- Dorman, Larry (January 15, 1989). "A guarantee of greatness". Reading Eagle. Pennsylvania. Knight-Ridder. p. C1.
- Zinser, Lynn (May 25, 2012). "Pregame Talk Is Cheap, but This Vow Resonates". The New York Times. p. B10. Archived from the original on May 25, 2012.
- Funk, Ben (January 13, 1969). "Jets make believers out of Colts, NFL". Eugene Register-Guard. Oregon. Associated Press. p. 3B.