Sept. 27, 1959: Vince Lombardi's first victory with Packers

Victory Over Bears Crowned Coaching Career

Milwaukee Journal
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Vince Lombardi in 1959.

Note: This story was published Sept. 28, 1959.

Green Bay, Wis. - Vince Lombardi has coached football a long time.

Vince Lombardi has also won more than his share of games - big ones and little ones.

Vince Lombardi never, though, has won any like Sunday's against the Bears.

A whole career of coaching was crowned - 21 years of coaching.

This was Lombardi's debut as a head coach in pro ball. This was his first game against a team Green Bay almost hates. And this was his victory, in the last seven minutes of play, after an almost unholy succession of frustration for 53 minutes.

The nectar of triumph never tasted sweeter.

There was little question, just looking on, which was the better team on this day. Consider if you will the statistics: Green Bay 176 yards rushing, Chicago 75; Green Bay 101 yards passing, Chicago 96; Green Bay a punting average of 46 yards, Chicago 32 yards. And so on.

Yet with only seven minutes left, Green Bay was not the best team on this day - on the scoreboard. Chicago was. The Bears led 6-0, on two long field goals by John Aveni, one of 46 yards with the wind and the other of 42 against it.

Vince Lombardi talks to Jim Taylor (31) and Paul Hornung (5) on the sideline during a Packers game. Lombardi's first victory as coach of the Packers came on Sept. 27, 1959. He would go on to 89-29-4 record in Green Bay.

Had the game ended so, George Halas, the Papa Bear, probably couldn't have run fast enough to escape the community pitchforks brought out to chase him out of town.

The Packers muffed opportunities until it hurt. They moved smartly most of the time against a team some think is the best in the western division of the league and then inexplicably and suddenly bumbled.

Overthrown Passes

On the very first play from scrimmage, after recovering the fumbled kick-off on the Bears' 20, they overthrew a simple pass with the receiver in the clear for a touchdown. They overthrew another pass a little later with the receiver in the clear again for a touchdown. They muffed simple field goals from 19 and 14 yard lines - missed them. They balled up another field goal attempt from the 26 when the man who was to hold the pass from center dropped it. They lost "position" in the midfield when a man attempting a fair catch fumbled and the Bears recovered. They had a short pass intercepted on the Bears five yard line. They lost valuable possession, and once "position," too, when they dropped interceptions they should have had.

The was Frustration Inc., for 53 minutes, but they hung in there - and they won.

(Editor's note: The Packers scored their go-ahead touchdown with 7 minutes, 15 seconds to go when Jim Ringo recovered Richie Petitbon's punt return fumble on the Chicago 29, leading to Jim Taylor's five-yard sweep for the score. Then, with 47 seconds left, Dave Hanner dumped Ed Brown in the end zone for a safety.)

The defense was immense, from the red dogging to the rush on the kicker, and the victory, as things finally turned out, revolved principally around it. When last were the Bears held without a touchdown - the Bears of Rick Casares' power, of Willie Galimore's speed, of Ed Brown's or Zeke Bratkowski's passing, of Harlon Hill's or Jim Dooley's receiving? They were held without a touchdown here and they were licked.

One Penetration

Only once, really, did the Bears penetrate into a threatening position. They reached the 17 yard line in the first quarter and there on fourth down with a yard to go, they were swarmed over. Bratkowski was stopped on a sneak. The defense was magnificent.

The Packers themselves, and not unexpectedly after what they had shown in the exhibition campaign, came largely by land. They didn't exactly rip the Bears apart, for this was a good Bear defense, too, but they did enough to leave no question which was the better team on this day. It was almost appropriate that the touchdown which wiped out the Bears' lead should have been scored on the ground from five yards out.

Jim Taylor was both the workhorse and the bomber of the day with 22 carries and 98 yards - and the game's lone but big touchdown. Paul Hornung gained 61 yards in 19 carries.

A Note Of Caution

So the Bears were licked - the Bears, whom the Packers have played more than any other team in the league, the Bears who can stir this good community like a plague of measles and the Bears who for the last quarter of a century haven't lost very often in this little citadel of pro ball.

Vince Lombardi has never had a sweeter victory.

P.S. Caution: One drink does not a jag produce or one victory, even if over the Bears, a championship. There's still a lot of rebuilding to do.

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