When it came to making some great blocks in his Pro Football Hall of Fame career, Jerry Kramer of the Green Bay Packers had many. The two most obvious ones occurred in the postseason.
One was in the 1965 NFL title game in Green Bay, when the Packers hosted the defending NFL champion Cleveland Browns. The block occurred in the third quarter when Kramer swept left and first hit the middle linebacker with a block and then went outside to get a cornerback. Halfback Paul Hornung utilized Kramer’s blocks perfectly as he scored his last championship touchdown on a 13-yard run, as the Packers ended up winning 23-12.
The other one is maybe the most famous block in NFL history, as the Packers hosted the Dallas Cowboys in the 1967 NFL title game, better known as the “Ice Bowl” game. Kramer put a classic wedge block on defensive tackle Jethro Pugh, which allowed Bart Starr to shuffle right of No. 64 and score the winning touchdown with 13 seconds left on a quarterback sneak from one yard out, as Green Bay prevailed 21-17.
Earlier in the 1967 season, Kramer had one of the five best blocks of his career, at least according to the former Idaho Vandal star. The block (actually a number of blocks on one play) came against the Chicago Bears in the second game of the season at Lambeau Field.
Lombardi was always thinking the Halas had some spies watching the Packers practice.
“We would be practicing and Coach would see a lineman on a power pole a couple of blocks away doing electrical work,” Kramer said. “And Coach would go, ‘There’s one of Halas’ spies! Somebody go down there and check out that guy!’
Lombardi also had other ways to help hinder any spy tactics of Halas.
“At practice, Bart would wear No. 75 at times,” Kramer said chuckling. “We would change our numbers and everyone would wear a different number to confuse the spies of the Bears. Like Halas was going to think an offensive tackle is playing quarterback for us.”
Lombardi was always primed to play the Bears and he let his team know about as well.
“We were practicing on day before playing the Bears and Coach Lombardi brought us together,” Kramer said. “Coach said, ‘You guys go out and kick the Bears’ ass. And I’ll go out and kick old man Halas’ ass too.’
So when the Packers hosted the Bears on September 24, 1967, odds were that it would end up being a very physical game, which is exactly the way it turned out to be.
The Packers ended up winning 13-10, but it wasn’t easy. The team rushed for 233 yards, led by fullback Jim Grabowski, who rushed for 111 yards on 32 carries. No. 33 also had a rushing touchdown.
But Starr was obviously playing hurt, which was evidenced by the five interceptions he threw. This came a week after No. 15 threw four picks against the Detroit Lions in the season opener.
The game was so physical that Kramer didn’t even finish out the first half, as he suffered a concussion in the second quarter and was replaced by his old running mate, Fuzzy Thurston.
No. 63 had lost his starting left guard spot to second-year lineman Gale Gillingham after he had suffered a knee injury in an early scrimmage in training camp.
Kramer didn’t recall much about the game, except remembering seeing two or three Bears being carried off the field in the second half.
When Kramer came back to see the film of the game two days later with his teammates under the supervision and prodding by his head coach, he recalled Lombardi coming up to him just before the film study began.
Lombardi said, “Boy, you came out there on one block and knocked the halfback down and went on and knocked the end down. You were just great. One of the greatest plays I’ve ever seen.”
Kramer had no memory of the play. The first time he saw it was watching film. I talked with Kramer recently and he gave me a rundown of that play.
“I was pulling and got the halfback first,” Kramer said. “I kept heading upfield and and was able to hit two other defensive players before I ended up hitting the left defensive end who was pursuing across the field.
“The block on the defensive end happened about 10 yards downfield. He was coming across the field and I was coming up the field. So his body position was not a position of strength. So as he ran toward me and in front of me, he tried to engage me. His position was very bad for that.
“I ended up knocking him about five yards through the air.”
It’s no wonder that Coach Lombardi was so impressed.