It was the kind of game that made Colt coach Ted Marchibroda count his blessings for having a quarterback like Bert Jones.
Baltimore fumbled away the opening kickoff to the New York Jets and got behind, 3-0. Then the usually reliable Lydell Mitchell fumbled away the ball on the Colts' second play from scrimmage.
So Jones took to the air. He completed 23 of 36 passes for 322 yards and three touchdowns and the Colts glided to a 33-12 victory today at Memorial Stadium.
The victory, Baltimore's fourth in a row and ninth in 10 games, coupled with Miami's loss to Cinninnati, gave the Colts a two-game lead over the Dolphins in the AFC East.
"It probably wasn't the most beautiful of victories, but it still makes us 9-1 and two games in front," said Marchibroda. "It's not very often you can turn the ball over as many times as we did (six) and still win."
The Colts lost the ball four of the five times they fumbled and both Jones and his backup, Bill Troup, were intercepted once.
The Jets also lost the ball six times, with three fumbles and three interceptions. Colt safety Lyle Blackwood had all three of the thefts.
The Jets, however, didn't have a Bert Jones to bail them out.
Jones completed 15 of 22 for 218 yards and two touchdowns in the first two quarters. The scores came on a 53-yard bomb to tight end Chester and on a 33-yard strike to wide receiver Glenn Doughty.
Toni Linhart missed the conversion after Chester's first-period score, but kicked two first-half field goals and the second extra point to give the Colts a 19-3 lead.
"We weren't getting anything on the ground, so why not go ahead and take it the easy way?" said Jones.
R "They (the Jets) were going strong zone on first down, so I threw to the weak side. When they went weak zone I threw to the strong side. Then they play the odd front defense, too, which is fine against the run from. That gave me a lot of time to throw.
The Jets' best quarterback, Richard Todd, has a bad knee and did not play. That made former Colt Marty Damres the starter. He was not a factor. After going one for seven for zero yards, he was relieved by Matt Robinson, a rookie from Georgia. Robinson went one for four minus one yard passing in the first half. He did settle down somewhat later, however, and finished th day nine of 26 for 198 yards and a touchdown. He threw all three Jet interceptions.
A 58-yard pass from Robinson to Rich Caster set up a 22-yard third-quarter field goal by Pat Leahy, which cut the Colts' lead to 19-6. At that point, Jones showed just how easy it can be at times for him to dominate a football game.
Following the Jet's kickoff, Mitchell ran for seven yards and Ron Lee for one, putting the ball on the Colts' 28. Jones either passed or ran the ball himself the next eight plays as he drove the Colts to another touchdown.
With it third and six from the Jet' 43, Jones scrambled up the middle for 15 yards. Two plays later, he started scrambling again. But just as he was about to be forced out of bounds for a sizeable loss, he stopped and lofted a perfect pass to Mitchell in the end zone, 28-yards away. Linhart's conversion put the Colts on top, 26-6.
Jones ran for only 52 yards today, but it was enough to enable him to pss Lenny Moore as the Colts' all-time leading rusher. Mitchell also caught nine passes for 90 yards.
The Jets finally got a touchdown on an 18-yard fourth-quarter pass from Robinson to Jerome Barkum. The point-after, just like an earlier Jet field-goal attempt and punt, was blocked.
The New York touchdown did, however, break a Colt string of 11 straight quarters without giving up a touchdown.
Baltimore got that score back when guard Robert Pratt, playing on the punt team, picked up a Bruce Harper bobble of a David Lee punt and boomed his way 21 yards for a touchdown.