Sports history files: The first AFC championship game

Given the paucity of old NFL Films availability on television — this helps to explain why — I consider it a feat when I come across an episode I didn’t know existed.

It’s been nearly 42 years since the NFL split off into the NFC and AFC, with the winners meeting in the Super Bowl. For the 1970 season, three longtime NFL teams — the Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers — joined former AFL teams to even out the AFC.

This time period comes right after the cut-off point covered by Dan Daly’s new book, “National Forgotten League,” that I wrote about yesterday.

The Colts were coming off the bitter disappointment of being the first NFL team to lose in the Super Bowl to an AFL team, the Joe Namath-led New York Jets, and the firing of coach Don Shula.

Don McCafferty guided the revamped 1970 Colts. On a chilly day in January 1971, two aging quarterbacks — Johnny Unitas of the Colts and George Blanda of the Oakland Raiders, the latter coming in for an injured Daryl Lamonica — served up a classic, along with John Facenda’s narration.

Baltimore went on to win its first Super Bowl as Jim O’Brien booted his way to history against the Dallas Cowboys. Like Blanda, he was among the last of the straightaway placekickers, another relic of a time in Daly’s account that was soon to become history as well.

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