The Colts Influence
Constructed, destructed and reconstructed
The Colts Influence
NFL Championship Game, 1967
The Ice Bowl was the 1967 National Football League Championship Game between the (NFL) Green Bay Packers and the (NFL) Dallas Cowboys. It is widely considered one of the greatest games in NFL history, due to the extremely hostile conditions it was played in, the importance of the game and of the rivalry between the two teams, and the dramatic conclusion.
Background and conditions
This was the second consecutive NFL championship game played between the two teams. In the previous 1966 season, the Packers defeated the Cowboys 34-27 by preventing Dallas from scoring a touchdown on four consecutive plays starting from the Packers 2-yard line on the game's final drive.
Pro football fans in Green Bay, Wisconsin have always been recognized as a loyal and hearty bunch. But one wouldnt have faulted even the most loyal "Packer Backer" if hed decided not to attend the 1967 NFL Championship game between the Packers and Dallas Cowboys. Played at Lambeau Field on December 31, the temperature at game time registered a frigid 13 degrees below zero. Nonetheless, more than 50,000 parka-clad fans braved the elements that New Years Eve.
The 1967 game remains one of the coldest NFL games on record. The official game-time temperature was -13°F / -25°C, with a wind chill around -48°F / -44°C. The bitter cold overwhelmed Lambeau's new turf heating system, leaving the playing surface hard as a rock and nearly as smooth as ice. The officials were unable to use their whistles after the opening kickoff, when the referee blew his whistle to signal the start of play and it froze to his lips. For the rest of their games, the officials used their voices to end plays. Several players, including Dallas defensive tackle Jethro Pugh and Green Bay quarterback Bart Starr, claim to still suffer occasionally from mild effects of the frostbite they incurred that day. In addition to the elements, Starr suffered a lot of punishment from Dallas players during the game; he was sacked eight times.
The Packers jumped to an early 14-0 lead with a pair of touchdown passes from Starr to wide receiver Boyd Dowler. But Green Bay committed two costly turnovers in the second quarter that lead to 10 Dallas points. First Starr lost a fumble while being sacked by Cowboys lineman Willie Townes; Dallas defensive end George Andrie recovered the ball and returned it 7 yards for a touchdown, cutting the lead in half. Then with time almost out in the second quarter, Packers safety Willie Wood fumbled a Dallas punt after calling for a fair catch, and Cowboys rookie defensive back Phil Clark recovered the ball at the Green Bay 17-yard line. The Packers were able to keep Dallas out of the end zone, but kicker Danny Villanueva kicked a 21-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 14-10 by halftime.
Neither team was able to score any points in the third quarter, but then on the first play of the final period, the Cowboys took a 17-14 lead with running back Dan Reeves' 50-yard touchdown pass to receiver Lance Rentzel on a halfback option play. Later in the quarter, the Packers drove into scoring range and had a chance to tie the game, but kicker Don Chandler missed a 40-yard field goal attempt.
Starting from his own 32-yard line with 4:54 left in the game, Starr lead his team down the field with three key completions: a 13-yard pass to Dowler, a 12-yard pass to running back Donny Anderson, and a 19-yard pass to fullback Chuck Mercein. Then Mercein ran 18 yards to a first down on the Cowboys 3-yard line on the next play. Twice Anderson attempted to run the ball into the end zone, but both times he was tackled at the 1-yard line, the second time after his footing failed to gain traction.
After Anderson's second
attempt, Starr called the Packers' final time-out with only 16
seconds left in the game to confer with coach Vince Lombardi and
decide on the next play. Some observers (and Dallas players) expected
the play would be a pass because a completion would win the game,
while an incompletion would stop the clock, allowing the Packers
another play to attempt a touchdown or kick a field goal to send the
game into overtime. But Green Bay's pass protection had been poor,
and Starr's throws late in the game had been mostly out in the flat;
in this footing, the touchdown-or-incompletion alternative was not
guaranteed. So Green Bay had other ideas. After taking the snap,
Starr executed a quarterback sneak behind center Ken Bowman and guard
Jerry Kramer's block through defensive tackle Jethro Pugh, scoring a
touchdown that gave the Packers a 21-17 win and their unprecedented
third consecutive NFL championship.
The Packers' final play was selected in a sideline conference between Starr and Lombardi. As reported in the book, When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi, by David Maraniss (1999), the coach wanted to get the game over with, one way or another, before conditions became worse, rather than attempting a tying field goal. The field goal try was no certainty given the conditions; and if it were successful, it would have sent the game into a grueling overtime period. As reported in the Maraniss book and also in The Packers!, by Steve Cameron (1995), the called play was a handoff to Mercein. Starr decided, but did not tell anyone, that he would keep the ball and avoid the risk of a fumble. Following the touchdown, the Packers had to kick off to the Cowboys, but Dallas was unable to advance the ball in the few remaining seconds, and Green Bay had the victory.
The Starr dive became legendary. It was the climax of Jerry Kramer's Instant Replay, a diary-style account of the whole 1967 season that illustrated the heretofore anonymous life of an offensive lineman. Overlooked sometimes is the long, desperate fourth-quarter drive that led to the score, wherein a host of offensive players contributed, as well as the heroic efforts of the players on both teams for the entire game.
Green Bay went on to finish the postseason by defeating the American Football League (AFL) champion Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl II, which at the time was still considered of lesser importance than the NFL championship itself.
The game was the end of several eras. With Green Bay having won a still-unmatched third straight championship and 5 championships in 7 years, Lombardi retired. The following year age and injuries caught up to the team and they had a losing record; it would be almost 30 years before the team would become a dominant force again, in the Brett Favre era. Don Meredith would never win a championship, and would soon become more famous as an announcer for Monday Night Football than he had been as a player. This would also be the last year that the NFL championship game was considered more important than the Super Bowl, for in the following year Joe Namath and the New York Jets staged an upset victory that would bring the AFL to full legitimacy.
A highlight film of the Ice Bowl game, shown on television for years afterwards, included John Facenda's dramatic intonation of "the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field", which has subsequently become a long-lived catch phrase.
Pro Football Hall of Fame players
One reason this game is so famous is because it featured numerous players who would later be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as well as the head coaches of both teams.
Cowboys future hall of famers in the game
Tex Schramm (GM)
Packers future hall of famers in the game
Vince Lombardi (coach)
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