Jan. 2, 1966: 1st of 3 straight Packers titles began with 'Mud Bowl'
TITLE 9 of 13: Bart Starr Leads Packers to NFL Championship
Editor's note: This story was originally published Jan. 3, 1966.
Green Bay, Wis. - Bart Starr, ignoring the sore ribs that sidelined him in the western division playoff a week ago, guided the Green Bay Packers to a 23-12 victory over the title defending Cleveland Browns here Sunday for the National Football League championship.
Starr split open the Cleveland defense with his passes, then sent fullback Jim Taylor and halfback Paul Hornung hurtling through, around and over the line as the Packers left little doubt of their superiority under the lights of Lambeau Field.
The lights were on for the start of this, the 33rd annual NFL championship playoff, because it was a dark and wintry day. It snowed in the morning, some three inches covering the tarpaulin. It rained, sleeted and spit snow while the game itself was on. And then it snowed some more after the Packers had won their ninth championship, thus breaking a tie with the Chicago Bears for the most league titles.
Many of the 50,852 fans who filled the stadium to capacity did not arrive until the game was well under way. Road conditions coupled with a traffic snarl for miles around accounted for the inordinate number of late arrivals.
The temperature was slightly above freezing. "Steam" from the breath of fans and players hovered over the field and the stands, adding to the eerie setting. The field itself was muddy, but the footing was surprisingly good, at least as far as the Packers were concerned.
The game started in high scoring gear as the the Packers made a touchdown by going 77 yards in seven plays and the Browns retaliated by flying 66 yards on three straight passes.
After that, though, Green Bay's defense clamped down, as it had all this long fluctuating season, and the Browns could accomplish precious little. In the whole second half, in fact, Cleveland was restricted to 26 yards from scrimmage.
Green Bay's touchdowns were scored on a 47-yard pass play from Starr to end Carroll Dale and on a 13-yard run around left end by Hornung. Don Chandler, the excellent kicker whose previous championship game experience was with New York, added the extra points and also made three field goals of 15, 23 and 29 yards. His kicks tied a playoff record held by six other players, including present teammates Hornung and Jerry Kramer.
Cleveland scored its touchdown on a 17-yard pass from quarterback Frank Ryan to end Gary Collins, who had caught three touchdown passes in leading the Browns to a 27-0 victory over Baltimore in last year's title game.
Lou Groza, the 41-year-old kicker, never got a chance to try the extra point. The snap from center was low and fumbled. Groza picked it up and tried to pass to Bobby Franklin, who was supposed to hold. Franklin caught the ball, but Willie Wood of the Packers caught Franklin five yards from the goal. Groza had made 96 in a row.
Later, Groza kicked field goals of 24 and 28 yards. He tried another one from the 37-yard line, with Green Bay ahead in the third quarter, 20-12, but tackle Henry Jordan broke through and blocked it.
The Browns led after the first quarter, 9-7, and trailed by only the missed extra point at the half, 13-12. But they hardly had the ball in the second half. The Packers required almost seven minutes to drive 90 yards to Hornung's touchdown. Then they used up another eight minutes in moving 59 yards to position for Chandler's last field goal.
Starr completed 10 of 18 passes all told, and two of the misses were perfect tosses that were dropped. Once he established that he could throw on Cleveland's defense, however, he played it close and let Taylor and Hornung pound out the yardage. Starr tried only five passes in the second half and completed four of them.
The Packers wound up with 204 yards on the ground, 201 by Hornung and Taylor between them. Hornung made 105 yards in 18 carries and Taylor 96 in 27. By comparison, Cleveland made only 64 yards rushing, with the perennial league leader, fullback Jim Brown, picking up only 50 yards in 12 carries. Once the Browns had to play catch up, though, Brown's number was rarely called.
The Packers piled up a 21-8 edge in first downs and outgained the Browns from scrimmage, 332 yards to 161. Starr probably could have taken even further advantage of deficiencies in the Browns' pass defense, but he let Hornung and Taylor gain ground.
This was Green Bay's third title in the last five years under Coach Vince Lombardi. In both 1961 and 1962, the Packers beat the New York Giants for the crown.
The last title game here was in 1961. In that one, the Packers beat the Giants 37-0, and Starr helped Hornung win the sports car as the game's most valuable player by letting the halfback carry on the big plays. Sunday, Taylor was voted the same honor, but the award could have just as well gone to Starr or Hornung or Wood or any number of Packers in the offensive line or on the defense.
Dale, the former Los Angeles Ram, outscrambled Cleveland's defense on the first Green Bay drive. He had to come back for Starr's pass, then eluded three Browns, two of whom had slipped and fallen, and went the last 13 yards of a 47-yard play.
The Browns caught Green Bay looking for Brown's sweeps on their first time with the ball, and Ryan completed passes of 30 yards to Brown, 19 yards to Paul Warfield and 17 yards to Collins. Herb Adderley, who later made an interception against Collins, was fooled by Collins' favorite move toward the goal post. The Cleveland end cut back to the corner and caught Ryan's perfect pass.
The Packers were thrown back for the only time in the afternoon on their next try, and the Browns quickly moved into position for Groza's first field goal. But Green Bay retaliated quickly to provide an opportunity for Chandler's first field goal.
Then Wood made a leaping interception to set up Chandler's second field goal, only to have Walter Beach intercept for position for Groza's second field goal, just before the half ended. That, as it turned out, also ended Cleveland's serious threatening gestures.
The Packers went 90 yards in 11 plays in the third quarter. Hornung and Taylor took turns on nine runs and Starr completed his only two passes. Hornung used Kramer's blocking to find the way into the end zone. After that, Jordan blocked Groza's field goal try and Chandler made good on his, and that was that.
Green Bay's domination of the game is perhaps best exemplified by the number of plays from scrimmage, not including punts or field goal attempts. The Packers had 69 and the Browns had 30. In the first half, the ratio was 34-23. In the second, it was 35-16.
The victory will be worth about $7,000 to each Packer. Each Brown will get about $4,600. It was a long road to the title for the Packers. Including exhibitions, they played 21 games, winning 16, losing four and tying one. They had to go an extra game to win the western division title, and that game went an extra 13 minutes 39 seconds of "sudden death" overtime. It probably all seems well worth it now.
Packers' championship titles
1. Dec. 8, 1929: The Green Bay Packers' first league title
2. Dec. 14, 1930: Tie clinches second straight championship
3. Nov. 29, 1931: Punter/halfback Verne Lewellen helps secure third title
4. Dec. 13, 1936: Green Bay's first championship decided by a post-season game
5. Dec. 10, 1939: Fifth title dubbed the Dairy Bowl
6. Dec. 17, 1944: The Packers' final championship under Curly Lambeau
7. Dec. 31, 1961: Vince Lombardi's first NFL title
8. Dec. 30, 1962: Packers still champs as Ray Nitschke leads way
9. Jan. 2, 1966:1st of 3 straight Packers titles began with 'Mud Bowl'
10. Jan. 15, 1967: Packers beat Chiefs to win Super Bowl I
11. Jan. 14, 1968: Packers rout Raiders to repeat as Super Bowl champions
12. Jan. 26, 1997: Power and the Glory. Packers win Super Bowl XXXI.
13. Feb. 6, 2011: Packers survive injuries to beat Steelers in Super Bowl XLV