Jets Rewind: Winds of Controversy, Al Woodall, and a West Coast Wonder Win

The Jets’ most famous game in their history occurred just over 51 years ago on Jan. 12, 1969.
Another one occurred nearly 10 months later to the day in Los Angeles and a shocking 31-20 victory. It was part of a wild and wooly 1970 season that has plenty of drama.

Do you remember Al Woodall? Woodall was the Jets’ second-round pick from Duke in the 1969 draft, an insurance policy to Joe Namath and his chronic knee issues. Yet, Woodall suddenly became more than just a backup.

Before the season, Namath became embroiled in a controversy over his investment in the nightclub Bachelors III. The league directed Namath to divest himself from the club due to a gambling element.Namath initially refused and threatened to retire, and Woodall was thrust to the forefront. However, Namath changed his course and sold his part of the nightclub.

Namath began the season, but it was short-lived when he broke his wrist in the fifth game against the then Baltimore Colts. Woodall took over, and he arguable had the best game of the season and his career against the Rams. Even though he was sacked four times – Deacon Jones and Merlin Olsen led the charge — Woodall completed 10 of 17 passes, three of them touchdowns, for 261 yards. For the season, Woodall completed 96 of 188 passes for 1,765 yards with nine touchdowns and interceptions apiece. He had a comparable season in 1973, one of his six seasons in Green and White.

The 1-7 Jets entered the L.A. Coliseum against the 7-3 Rams with legendary head coach George Allen, as the Rams who were still in the hunt for the NFC West title. Emerson Boozer was sidelined with an injury, and the Jets had George Nock and Lee White in their backfield.

The Jets jumped out to a 17-7 lead at halftime behind Woodall’s 29-yard post pattern pass to rookie Rich Caster and Nock had a three-year run. Defensively, the Jets harangued Rams’ veteran quarterback Roman Gabriel all afternoon, a steady rush produced a pair of interceptions by middle linebacker Al Atkinson and another by outside linebacker Ralph Baker.

The Jets rode the momentum, and Woodall capped the day with two more TD passes, a 11-yard post to George Sauer and an 11-yard flip to Nock from the backfield.

At the time, it was billed as one of the biggest upsets of the season. “In those days, there was one (nationally televised) game on a week on Sundays,” said Woodall in reference to the game on newyorkjets.com. “And there was a big buildup that the Los Angeles Rams, the ‘Fearsome Foursome,’ versus Joe Namath. A couple weeks before it, Joe got hurt, but they kept the game on (TV). We were, and I believe I’m right, 17-point underdogs. And we beat them.”

The Jets won their next two games, a 17-3 win over Boston (New England) and a 20-10 triumph over Minnesota, both at Shea Stadium. Unfortunately, the Jets dropped their final two games and ended the year 4-10. However, for one afternoon in Los Angeles during the season, the Jets won one of their more memorable games in their franchise.

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