By Zane Miller
Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas had already established himself as one of the most consistent figures in the history of the Colts franchise, joining the team in 1956 as the combo would not look back for years to come. Not only would Unitas lead the team to back-to-back NFL championships in 1958 and 1959, he would also earn MVP honors for the 1959 season to go along with a pair of first-team All-Pro selections. However, one accolade that had eluded him was a double-digit win season. That is, until the 1964 season rolled around.
Unitas would get his best showing of the season on September 27th at home against the Chicago Bears, throwing for three touchdowns and 247 yards in the victory. The Colts defense would match the strong offensive performance, shutting out the Bears to take a 52-0 win and advance to 2-1, in what would be the largest margin of victory for any team in the 1964 season.
Following 1964, Unitas claimed 19 passing touchdowns and 2,824 yards, picking up fifth place in touchdowns thrown and third in passing yardage for the season on the way to a 12-2 record. His touchdown totals set him two behind fourth-place Charley Johnson with the St. Louis (now Arizona) Cardinals (side note: this feels like the third or fourth time that I’ve mentioned Charley Johnson in one of these articles), while his passing yards were 90 back of Washington Redskins (now Washington Commanders) quarterback Sonny Jurgensen in second place. Thanks to these impressive numbers, Unitas would be named to the All-Pro first team for a third time, along with being voted as the league’s MVP once again.
With the Colts taking control of the Western Conference, they would travel to Cleveland to take on the Eastern Conference champion Browns for the NFL championship. The first half saw both defenses play some of their best football of the season, as the teams would be locked in a 0-0 tie through the first 30 minutes of action. While the Browns defense would continue to clamp down for the remainder of the contest, the Colts defense did not get the memo as Cleveland jumped ahead 17-0 after the third quarter, eventually claiming a 27-0 victory to crown the Browns as NFL champs for the fourth time in franchise history. However, this would be the most recent time that this statement could be made truthfully, as of this writing the team has been unable to reach the top of the mountain since. Unsurprisingly given the final score, Unitas struggled throughout the contest, passing for only 95 yards and no touchdowns, giving up a pair of interceptions in the process.
With all of the statistics in mind, I grade Unitas’ 1964 season at an A, despite being unable to get much going in the championship matchup, his top-five stats allowing him to nab the MVP selection for the year makes for a successful season overall.
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