Playoff Bowl



January 9, 1966- Baltimore Colts 35, Dallas Cowboys 3

This may be the best remembered Playoff Bowl of them all despite the lopsided score. The Cleveland Browns won the Eastern Division in 1965. The Dallas Cowboys had finished the year tied with the Giants for second place but had won the tie breaker, defeating New York, 38-20, in the season finale (and winning five of their last seven games). With the win came the right to face the Baltimore Colts in the Playoff Bowl. It was the franchise's first post-season game.


It was a season of tremendous ups and downs for the Colts. When quarterbacks, Johnny Unitas and Gary Cuozzo were felled by injuries in the final two games of the season, Halfback Tom Matte was thrown into the quarterback slot without experience. Matte led the Colts to a 20-17 upset triumph over Los Angeles and a great effort against champion Green Bay before losing a divisional playoff. Baltimore did not score an offensive touchdown in their playoff game with Green Bay and lost, 13-10 on Don Chandler's controversial field goal (some still insist it went wide) in overtime. In that game, Matte played with plays written on a wristband. The band resides in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


A special story that appeared in Sunday newspaper supplements before the 1967 game was written by Matte's wife and can be read by clicking HERE.


In the Playoff Bowl, Matte was sensational. He threw two touchdown passes to Jimmy Orr (15 and 20 yards) and totaled 165 yards passing on the day. The Colts were also paced by Jerry Hill's 89 yards and two touchdown rushing performance. Matte was voted the game's MVP. The Colts' defense, led by rookie end Roy Hilton and linebacker Steve Stonebreaker, throttled the passing combination of Don Meredith and fleet Bob Hayes and recovered two Dallas fumbles for the one-sided triumph over the Cowboys, who were 3 point favorites.


The Colts scored first in the second quarter on a 6 yard Lenny Moore touchdown run. Dallas responded with a 12 yard Danny Villanueva field goal with 4:49 to play in the half. The Colts scored on Hill's three yard run with :42 left in the half and led 14-3 at the intermission. The Colts put the game away in the 3rd period on a one yard Hill touchdown run and Orr's 15 yard touchdown reception from Matte. The final score came in the 4th quarter when Matte hit Orr again on a 20 yard scoring play.


The game was not a pretty sight for Dallas, yet it was the beginning of what would turn out to be a common occurrence - the Cowboys in the NFL postseason. A crowd of 65,659 witnessed the battle of National Football League runners-up in windy, overcast weather in the Orange Bowl.


Baltimore Ruins Dallas

in Playoff Bowl



Miami News Sports Writer


Live heroes can become more of a problem than dead ones. You can honor dead ones by building monuments to them. The bench in football, though, is no pedestal.


So what do you do with a breathing hero like Tom Matte, a substitute halfback who is the Cinderella quarterback of the year, a sudden celebrity and the season's most popular football player?


"I just donít know what we'll do with him," Baltimore Colt coach Don Shula confessed, showing some perplexity.


You just don't take a Pulitzer Prize winner's typewriter away from him and put him back to mopping up the floor. So what do you do with Matte?


Shula had been reminded the public will be wanting to see more of the storybook Matte next season than his back from the waist up on the bench. He had been asked if he had any special plans for the "armless" guy who almost pitched a shut out, the non-passer who passed the Colts to a 35-3 upset of the Dallas Cowboys in the Nation≠al Football League's Bowl yesterday.


"I always had a lot of respect for him and now I have so much more," Shula said, pondering the question, and then he grinned and quipped:


"We'll probably have to keep a Matte offense in our book."


A record Playoff Bowl crowd of 65,569 in the Orange Bowl exceeding last year's record throng by 9,351, saw nothing wrong with a Matte offense- although it is not likely to supersede the injured Johnny Unitas'. Neither did the humiliated and chastised Cowboys, a four-point favorite in this sixth annual contest between NFL runner-ups.


The Colts made them look so inept that some fans wondered what the Cowboys had been playing all season: Football or Cowboys and Indians? The Colt defense was superb. Matte's passing was a revelation.


The Cowboys couldn't do anything- and apparently they couldn't even read.


The Colts, Matte pointed out, advertised in the newspapers how they would play them- both on offense and defense- and pursued these strategies to the letter.


"We knew we could run on them, but they seemed surprised we threw the long ball," Matte, himself, said. "We said we would all week but they apparently didn't believe what they read in the papers."


Voted the most valuable player in the game, Matte completed seven of 17 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns- both to flankerback Jimmy Orr for 15 and 20 yards- and his passes set up two other scores.


Thrown into the lurch when the Colts became a team without a quarterback with injuries to superstar Johnny Unitas and Gary Cuozzo, Matte almost led the Colts into the championship game with his courageous performance the last two games. In these two games, he threw only 17 times. A pro halfback, he had been a roll-out running halfback at Ohio State which disdains the pass- the life-blood of the pros.


Matte did everything yesterday they thought he couldn't do as a passer- drop back and pass, throw long.


Actually, though, he won by riding shotgun- or sawed-off shotgun- as the Colts let the would-be hold-up Cowboys bite the duct


They said the Colts- without Unitas- had no backfield. So Matte beat them without a backfield. He often operated from behind the center with no backs behind him.


It was a sawed-off version of the shotgun- with Matte moving back and out to pass like on a halfback option. His fullback was playing one slot and his tailback another slot and another back was at a flanker.


The formation- called the "Shot Right Quarterback 38"- gave him a lot of receivers into the Cowboys secondary right fast and was designed to force the defense into a one-on-one coverage. Both touchdown passes to Orr were from this deployment.


He outpassed a regular quarterback- the Cowboys' Don Meredith. Meredith got six yards fewer- 159 on 15 of 29 completions- and no touchdowns.


The Colt defense was designed to contain Meredith in the pocket to prevent him from rolling out and giving his receivers, notably Florida A & M's Bobby (Fastest Human) Hayes, time to get free and down the field.


He was able to get the ball to Hayes only four times for 24 yards- the same Hayes who scored 12 touchdowns for more than 1,000 yards during the season in a sensational rookie campaign.


Meredith was squeezed from the sides like a pinched tube of toothpaste and could squirt only forward. When he began running forward, the Colts readjusted their defenses to rush him from the front. They also blitzed him. He had a miserable afternoon from the attacks of the whole Colt line- notably Lou Michaels. Steve Stonebreaker, Fred Miller, if it's fair to pick out people.


The Cowboys made only 45 yards rushing and the Colts had a two-one edge in total offense, 347-176, and they were supposed to have no offense.


The Cowboys had the ball 14 times- but could get out of their own territory only three times, to the Baltimore 30 and to the Baltimore four in the first half and to the Baltimore 31 in the second half.


Taking a fumble on the Dallas 32, the Cowboys, as Meredith hit two passes for 35 yards, got a first down on the Colt four in the second period. They lost one yard in three plays and, on fourth down, Danny Villanueva kicked a 12-yard field goal. This was 4:49 before the half and made the score 7-3.


After a scoreless first period, the Colts got the ball on then-own 35 after Villaneuva's 36-yard kick into the strong wind (a source of trouble to the punters all day). They went 65 yards in six plays for a touchdown with about five minutes gone in the second quarter.


Lenny Moore went over from the six, but a 33-yard Matte pass to end Johnny Mackey to the eight had set up the score.


They scored again 42 seconds before the half to lead at intermission 14-3. From the "sawed-off shotgun", fullback Jerry Hill, shooting out from a close-up slotback, outran the linebacker to catch a 52-yard pass to the Dallas 15 and set this one up. Hill finally went over from the three.


Early in the third, a fumble gave the Colts the ball on the Dallas 25. They ran it home in five plays with Hill ramming in from the one.


Then followed Matte's two touchdown passes to Orr- the first for 15 yards on a nifty move by Orr with 5:04 left in the third and the other for 20 to Orr with 7:29 of the game left.


Read the Sports Illustrated recount of the game and Tom Matte's exploits by clicking HERE.




Tom Matte led the Colts to cap his incredible 1965 fairytale season.


This was a disappointing game for the Cowboys and Don Meredith.


Bob Hayes is brought down by Lenny Lyles.





















Scoring Summary


Second Quarter

BALT- Moore 6 run (Michaels kick)

DAL- FG Villanueva 12

BALT- Hill 3 run (Michaels kick)


Third Quarter

BALT- Hill 1 run (Michaels kick)

BALT- Orr 15 yard pass from Matte (Michaels kick)


Fourth Quarter

BALT- Orr 20 yard pass from Matte (Michaels kick)


Attendance: 65,569