The Packers and Giants Have a Storied History With Each Other

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The Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants will be meeting for the 53rd time in their regular season history on Sunday night at Lambeau Field. Green Bay holds a 27-23-2 advantage over the G-Men in a series that began back in 1928.

The Packers and Giants have also played in the postseason seven times, with the Pack again holding the advantage with 4-3 edge over New York.

The Packers have also played seven postseason games against the Dallas Cowboys (3-4) and the San Francisco 49ers (4-3), which is the most times that the Packers have met teams in the playoffs.

In the preseason, the Packers and Giants have met on 30 occasions, which is also the most times the Packers have played an opponent in the exhibition season. The Pack leads that series 19-9-2.

When the Packers and Giants met back in 1928, Green Bay played it’s home games at old City Stadium, while New York played their home games at the Polo Grounds.

The Packers never played a postseason game at old City Stadium (1925-1956), while they did play in three NFL title games at the Polo Grounds when Curly Lambeau was head coach.

The first one was in 1936 against the then Boston Redskins, which was a year before the team moved to Washington.

Owner George Preston Marshall of the Redskins was not happy with the support the team was receiving in Boston. Because of that, Marshall decided to host the NFL title game in New York at the Polo Grounds, instead of Fenway Park, where the Redskins played their home games.

The title game in the Big Apple drew 29,545 fans.

The Packers won that championship game 21-6, mostly because of the passing of Arnie Herber. The Packers had twice as many passing yards in the game, compared to the Redskins.

In 1938, the Packers played in the NFL title game again in the Polo Grounds, but this time against the Giants.

Before this title game, the Packers had lost to the Giants 15-3 in the last game of the regular season, also at the Polo Grounds.

The 1938 NFL Championship Game was much closer, as Herber threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Carl Mulleneaux and Clarke Hinkle scored on a one-yard run.

The Giants won the game 23-17 behind two blocked punts and the play of Ed Danowski, who threw two touchdown passes.

The attendance for the title game was 48,120.

In 1939, the Packers and Giants met again to see who would win the NFL championship. But this time the game was in Wisconsin. But instead of old City Stadium in Green Bay, the game was played in West Allis (just outside of Milwaukee) at State Fair Park.

That title game drew 32,279 attendees, which included my dad and grandfather.

The Packers dominated the game after getting off to a slow start.  The Giants blocked a punt and had two interceptions early in the game, but missed three field goals and also had one of their passes picked off near the Green Bay goal line.

cecil-isbell-in-1939-nfl-title-game

Cecil Isbell carries the ball for the Packers in the 1939 NFL title game

Herber threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to Milt Gantenbein in the the first quarter (the only score of the first half) and Cecil Isbell also threw a touchdown pass in the second half to Joe Laws.  Also, Ed Jankowski scored on a one-yard run.  The Packers added a couple of field goals in their 27-0 victory over the Giants.

The Green Bay defense was outstanding in the game, as they held the Giants to 164 total yards, plus picked off six passes.

In 1944, the Packers and Giants would meet once again in the NFL title game, this time at the Polo Grounds. The attendance was 46,016.

The two teams met in the regular season that year, when New York shut out Green Bay 24-0 in the second to the last game of the schedule.

The Packers played much better in the postseason, especially on defense, as the former Packer Herber threw four interceptions for the Giants, with Laws picking off three of them.

The Packers scored two touchdowns in the second quarter on runs by Ted Fritsch, and the Packers won the contest 14-7.

The next time the two teams met for the NFL title was 17 years later. The game was played at new City Stadium (now Lambeau Field) in Green Bay.  This was the first playoff game ever played in Green Bay.  The attendance was 39,029.

Head coach Vince Lombardi had to pull some strings to get halfback Paul Hornung a leave from the Army to play in this game.  Lombardi personally called President John F. Kennedy to make sure that Hornung would be able to play.

Why was Hornung in the Army?

The Army activated him due to the escalation of the Cold War and the building of the wall in Berlin by the Soviets. In October of 1961, the Department of Defense had activated thousands of military reservists and national guardsmen for duty, including a couple dozen players from the NFL and three very important Packers players (Hornung, Boyd Dowler and Ray Nitschke).

As noted in David Maraniss’ book When Pride Still Mattered, Lombardi was very upset by this situation.  He mentioned that the Packers were hit harder than anyone in the NFL because of the scenario.

This is when the relationship between Lombardi and Kennedy helped make Hornung available for the title game.  Lombardi was a big JFK supporter during the 1960 Presidential election.  They became friends over time.  The Packers won two NFL championships while JFK was in the White House as well.

Initially, Hornung was not granted access to go back to the Packers for the championship game.  That would have been a HUGE blow as Hornung was the NFL MVP in 1961.

Lombardi was concerned about that situation, so he placed a call to JFK to see if the President would get Hornung a pass to join the team for the big game.  Sure enough, Hornung received permission.

“Paul Hornung isn’t going to win the war on Sunday, but the football fans of this country deserve the two best teams on the field that day,” Kennedy told Lombardi a few days before the championship game against the Giants.

The Packers beat the Giants 37-0 in that game, and Hornung scored 19 points in that game just by himself.

Titletown was born that year, as local merchants coined the community nickname—Titletown USA—to describe the spirit of the little town that could.

The Packers and Giants met again the very next year for the 1962 NFL title. This time the game was played at storied Yankee Stadium. The attendance was 64,892.

Guard Jerry Kramer of the Packers played an important role in that title game.

Jerry after the game-winning kick in the '62 championship game

No. 64 was very excited to play in this game, as he did not play in the 1961 NFL title game due to a broken ankle.

The 1962 NFL title game figured to be a much tougher test against the Giants, who wanted to show their fans in New York that the game the year before was an aberration.

Kramer definitely soaked in the fantastic history of Yankee Stadium before the game began.

“Yankee Stadium was an awesome experience,” Kramer said.  “Especially for a kid from Idaho.  Just to walk into that place where you had heard fights broadcast from, where so many World Series games were played, plus to see all the statues out in center field of Gehrig, Ruth and DiMaggio.  The experience was just awesome.”

Yankee Stadium was also a homecoming for Lombardi, as he was a New York City native and was an assistant coach for the Giants from 1954-1958.

“We knew how badly coach Lombardi wanted to win that ball game,” Kramer said.  “And we knew the Giants had been embarrassed the year before in Green Bay.  We knew the Giants were going to be loaded for bear that day.  But we also knew coach Lombardi desperately wanted a victory, and so we wanted to win for him and much as ourselves.”

Besides playing right guard for the Packers that day, Kramer was also the placekicker for the Packers as well, after Hornung hurt his knee early in the 1962 season.  Kramer had been Horning’s backup at kicker since his rookie year in 1958.

The weather would not be an ally for Kramer that day while he was kicking, as the wind was gusting at up to 40 miles per hour at times.  The temperature was 13 degrees, but it seemed much colder due to the wind.

Were the conditions at the 1962 NFL title game comparable to the Ice Bowl?

“You know, they were very similar, ” Kramer said.  “Vince Lombardi Jr. and I were talking about it years later, and Vince Jr. thought the Giants game was colder than the Ice Bowl.  Vince Jr. was at both games, too.  It was just a bitter cold day.  The wind was sharp and biting.”

Because of the weather conditions, the game was mostly going to be won via the ground game and because of turnovers.  The Packers rushed for 148 yards in the game, with fullback Jim Taylor getting 85 of those yards.  Taylor also scored the only touchdown of the game for the Packers.

Kramer was three for five in field goals that windy day.  “The wind was circling in the stadium that day,” Kramer said.  “When I made my last field goal, I aimed maybe eight to 10 yards outside the goal posts.  The wind ended up bringing my kick into the center of the goal posts.  It was one of the very few times I had to play the wind that way.”

Kramer scored 10 of the 16 points the Packers scored vs. the Giants.  When he made that last field goal, the Packers now had a nine-point lead late in the game.

“It was a hell of a moment,” Kramer reflected.  “It put the game out of reach, as they would have to score twice to beat us.  It was probably the most excited I had ever been in a contest, and the guys were pounding me on the back.  I experienced a Bart Starr-like moment, of having everyone applaud me and congratulate me.”

The Packers won 16-7 that day at Yankee Stadium.  Taylor had a big day rushing, and Ray Nitschke was named MVP of the game for his two fumble recoveries and a pass deflection that was intercepted by Dan Currie.

But Kramer had a big day as well.  In fact, Kramer received the game ball from his team for his efforts.

“It was a huge moment and a wonderful experience,” Kramer said.  “The big thing was they you were able to come through.  You met the test and were able to get the job done.  And also not let the team down.”

The Packers and Giants have played twice in the postseason over the past decade and both games were played at Lambeau Field.

The first one was in the 2007 NFC Championship Game, which was played at under frigid conditions, where 72,740 were on hand to watch the game at Lambeau.

The game time temperature was minus-one.  That Ice Bowl-type weather didn’t seem to bother the Giants too much.  The Giants had 24 first downs, while the Packers only had 13.  The Giants time of possession was 40:03, compared to the Packers 22:34.  The Giants had 134 rushing yards, compared to the Packers’ 28.

Quarterback Eli Manning didn’t throw any interceptions, while Brett Favre threw two picks, including a very costly one in overtime.  Favre threw for 236 yards passing, but 90 yards of that came on one touchdown pass to Donald Driver.

donald-driver-vs-the-giants

The Packers defense also allowed the Giants to come back from deficits twice.  The Packers led 10-6 at halftime, only to see the Giants regain the lead 13-10.  After the Packers took the lead again at 17-13, the Packers allowed the Giants to go ahead again, 20-17.

The Packers ended up tying the game and the contest went to overtime. Then Favre’s interception set up the game-winning 47-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes of the Giants as New York won 23-20.

The Packers and Giants also met in a 2011 NFC Divisional Playoff game, which is the only time the two teams did not meet in a title game in their seven postseason games with one another.

The Packers finished the 2011 season with a 15-1 record and had high hopes heading into the postseason.  After all, the Pack had secured home-field advantage for the NFC playoffs and the team was the odds-on favorite to win a second consecutive Vince Lombardi Trophy.

However, all of that went down with a resounding thud, as the Packers were beaten by the Giants 37-20 at Lambeau Field in shocking fashion.

There were several reasons for why the Packers lost the game vs. the G-Men.  Among them were a lack of focus, four key turnovers, eight dropped passes, giving up big plays at critical times and also the fact that Aaron Rodgers did not play like Superman as he had done almost all of the 2011 regular season when he was the NFL MVP.

Manning was clutch again versus the Packers, as he threw three touchdown passes, plus was able to convert several 3rd and long situations.

This Sunday night, Manning gets another shot at the Packers, as he is 4-3 versus Green Bay in his career, which includes the two postseason wins at Lambeau. Both of those wins later led to Super Bowl triumphs by the G-Men.

When you talk about the Packers-Giants series, you have to talk about the coaching dynamics. As mentioned, earlier Lombardi was assistant coach (offense) with the Giants from 1954 to 1958 under Jim Lee Howell.

The Giants won the NFL title in 1956.  Lombardi was also very good friends with Giants owner Wellington Mara from their college days at Fordham.

After Lombardi went on to Green Bay and had the Packers in the NFL championship game in 1960 in just his second year, the Giants and Mara tried to get him back as their next head coach.  But Dominic Olejniczak, the president of the Packers at the time, refused to let Lombardi leave.

Good thing, too, as the Packers ended up winning five NFL championships in seven years, including three straight titles from 1965-1967.  The Packers also won the first two Super Bowls under Lombardi.

The two head coaches (Tom Coughlin and Ben McAdoo) who Manning has played under, both had assistant coaching jobs with the Packers.

Coughlin coached under Forrest Gregg in 1986-87 when he was the receivers/passing game coach.

McAdoo coached tight ends and quarterbacks under Mike McCarthy from 2006 through 2013.

Bottom line, there has been a rich history between the Packers and Giants. Not only that, but both franchises also have storied histories in the NFL.

The Packers have won 13 NFL titles, which is more than any other team in NFL history. The Giants are third in NFL history with eight NFL titles.

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