Before the NFL made Monday Night Football a weekly event for the fans of the league in 1970, the Green Bay Packers played three Monday night games in the 1960s.
The Packers beat the Detroit Lions 14-10 in 1964 on a Monday night at Tiger Stadium, plus beat the Dallas Cowboys 28-17 in 1968 at the Cotton Bowl on another Monday night.
In between those two games, there was another game on Monday night in 1967, on Halloween eve, as the Packers defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 31-23 at Busch Memorial Stadium.
Bart Starr started every one of those Monday night games at quarterback, plus was also the starting QB in the inaugural season of MNF in 1970, as the Packers defeated the then San Diego Chargers 22-20 at San Diego Stadium.
The current Green Bay team plays the now Los Angeles Chargers this upcoming Sunday at Dignity Health Sports Park, as Aaron Rodgers tries to lead the 7-1 Packers to their fourth road victory of the season.
The Chargers were originally the Los Angeles Chargers in 1960 when they joined the AFL, but moved to San Diego the next year and remained there through 2016. In 2020, the Chargers will play at the new L.A. Stadium and Entertainment District at Hollywood Park and share that venue with the Los Angeles Rams.
Back to the 1967 Monday night game in St. Louis now. It was a very important game for the Packers, as they realized that they now had a huge weapon returning kickoffs as Travis Williams returned the first of four touchdowns he scored via the kickoff in 1967.
The game itself was a bloody battle before the kickoff return for a touchdown by Williams.
The Cardinals, led by quarterback Jim Hart, who threw for 317 yards, had 405 total yards, compared to just 245 by the Packers.
Starr struggled in the game, only throwing for 117 yards and a touchdown. No. 15 also threw two interceptions.
Hart also threw two picks, but he also threw two touchdown passes to Dave Williams, who had six receptions for 147 yards.
Boyd Dowler was the leading receiver for the Packers, as he caught five passes for 50 yards and a score.
The Green Bay ground game was quite efficient though, as the Packers averaged over five yards per carry.
Fullback Jim Grabowski rushed for 71 yards on just 10 attempts, while halfback Elijah Pitts rushed for 52 yards and a touchdown on 13 attempts.
As it turned out, the game was the last game that Grabowski and Pitts would finish together, as Pitts was lost for the season (Achilles tendon tear) the following week in Baltimore versus the Colts and Grabowski suffered a knee injury in that same game that would basically end his season except for just four carries later in the year.
The Packers were trailing 23-17 in the fourth quarter to the Cardinals, when Williams returned a kick from former Wisconsin Badger Jim Bakken for 93 yards and a score.
The Packers never looked back, as they added another touchdown on a pass from Starr to Dowler, as Green Bay won 31-23.
But the return was just the start of what Williams would do in 1967. Williams was part of a rookie class that included two first round picks in offensive lineman Bob Hyland and quarterback Don Horn.
In his rookie season, Williams returned 18 kickoffs for 739 yards, which averages out to 41.1 yards-per-return, which is still a NFL record. No. 23 returned four of those 18 kicks for touchdowns and almost had a fifth against the Chicago Bears.
But it all started with that kickoff return for a touchdown against the Cardinals.
“When the Cardinals went ahead 23-17 in the last quarter, I felt we were in real danger. But then they kicked off, and Travis Williams , playing on the kickoff return team for the first time because [Herb] Adderley had bruised his hand, took the ball and headed straight up the middle. I was on the front line, nearest the Cardinals. I hit one guy with a forearm and knocked him backwards, then took about four more steps towards another guy. Suddenly, I felt Travis breeze by me, zip, zip, zip, zip, like I was standing still. He went all the way for a touchdown, 93 yards, and we were back in the lead.”
And that play happened 52 years ago tonight, on Halloween eve.
That was quite a trick by Williams and quite a treat for the Packers.
The Packers would go on to win their third straight NFL title in 1967, a feat that has never been duplicated, as well as winning their second straight Super Bowl.
The 1967 season was also the last year Vince Lombardi roamed the sidelines as head coach of the Packers.
The legacy of Lombardi in Green Bay turned out to be a fantastic treat for Packer Nation.