Green Bay Packers: Vince Lombardi Wheeled and Dealed in the Months of April and May

Vince Lombardi with coaching cap on.

When the Green Bay Packers hired Vince Lombardi in 1959, he was given two titles. They were, head coach and general manager. Obviously his coaching ability turned out to be fantastic, as his Packers won five NFL titles in seven years, which also included the first two Super Bowls.

Yes, there is a reason the Super Bowl trophy has his name on it.

Lombardi also made some fine acquisitions for the Packers as general manager through the draft and trades. Who knows how history would have been written had super scout Jack Vainisi lived, instead of tragically dying in 1960 at the age of 33 due to a heart attack. Vainisi played a key role in getting Lombardi to come to Green Bay in 1959.

Back in the day, the months of April and May were normally pretty quiet in the days when Lombardi led the Packers. That being said, Lombardi did make a number of notable trades during those two months while he was with the Packers from 1959 through 1968.

Here are some of the notable ones:

April 25, 1959: The Packers trade offensive end Bill Howton to the Cleveland Browns for defensive end Bill Quinlan and halfback Lew Carpenter.

The result? Quinlan started at defensive end for the Packers for four years, while Carpenter was a key role player who excelled on special teams and remained with the team for five years. Also, the trade of Howton opened the door for rookie Boyd Dowler to start at end and he became the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1959, plus had a fabulous 11-year career with the Packers.

Boyd Dowler scores TD in Ice Bowl

May 23, 1959: The Packers trade a third-round 1960 draft pick to the Chicago Cardinals for quarterback Lamar McHan.

The result? McHan starts 11 games in 1959 and 1960 and splits time at quarterback with Bart Starr. The competition drives Starr to become the full-fledged starter midway through the 1960 season when he became the true leader of the Pack, as he led the team to five championships, including the first two Super Bowls, where he was named MVP in both games. Starr also won three passing titles, was the NFL MVP in 1966 and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.

May 5, 1964: The Packers trade center Jim Ringo and fullback Earl Gros to the Philadelphia Eagles for linebacker Lee Roy Caffey and a first-round draft pick in the 1965 NFL draft which was used on halfback Donny Anderson.

The result? The Packers had to scramble at the center position for the 1964 season, as Bob Skoronski and Ken Bowman split time at center. To add to that issue, right guard Jerry Kramer missed almost the entire 1964 season due to intestinal issues. Caffey became part of the best trio of linebackers in the NFL for five years, along with Ray Nitschke and Dave Robinson. Anderson had a fine career with the Packers, but his biggest moment was his performance in the “Ice Bowl”, as he played a key role in the final drive of that classic game.

Lee Roy Caffey in the Ice Bowl

April 23, 1965: The Packers trade linebacker Dan Currie to the Los Angeles Rams for wide receiver Carroll Dale.

The result? After Currie is traded, Dave Robinson becomes the starter at left outside linebacker and has a Hall of Fame career with the Packers. Dale becomes the starter at flanker for the Packers replacing Max McGee and becomes the deep threat for the Packers in the passing game for eight great seasons. Lombardi also starts to use Dale, McGee and Boyd Dowler at the same time on passing downs, as Dowler took over at tight end for Marv Fleming in those situations.

April 25, 1966: The Packers trade halfback Tom Moore to the Los Angeles Rams for quarterback Ron Smith, defensive tackle Dick Arndt and a second-round draft pick in the 1967 NFL draft.

The result? The trade allows halfback Elijah Pitts to become the main backup to Paul Hornung, who ended up being hurt for most of the 1966 season. Pitts ended up starting seven games in 1966 and 24 games in his career in Green Bay. The trade also allowed Donny Anderson to get more of a role on offense at halfback and No. 44 became the starter in 1967 when Pitts was lost for the season with a torn Achilles tendon.

Donny Anderson in the Ice Bowl

May 2, 1968: The Packers trade linebacker Tommy Joe Crutcher and offensive tackle Steve Wright to the New York Giants for offensive tackle Francis Peay.

The result? Peay plays in 62 games over the next five years, starting 45 of them at left tackle. Crutcher was later traded to the Rams by the Giants, but then returned to Green Bay when head coach and general manager Dan Devine traded a fourth-round pick in the 1973 NFL draft to the Rams.

When Jerry Kramer Knew Bart Starr Would Keep the Ball on his QB Sneak in the ‘Ice Bowl’

Bart's QB sneak behind Jerry

Photo by John Biever

Looking back on the 100 years of history in the NFL, the play is considered one of the most iconic plays in league annals. I’m talking about Bart Starr and his surprising quarterback sneak in the closing seconds of the 1967 NFL Championship Game, better known as the “Ice Bowl” game between the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers at frigid Lambeau Field.

With just 16 seconds remaining in the game and with his team having no timeouts, Starr followed the classic block by right guard Jerry Kramer on defensive tackle Jethro Pugh, as he shuffled to the right of Kramer’s block  and tumbled happily into the end zone, as the Packers defeated the Cowboys 21-17 to win their third straight NFL title.

Before we dissect that play and talk about the many interesting nuances about that call, let’s first look at the arctic conditions the NFL title game was being played under.

The weather in Green Bay on December 30, 1967 was fairly mild as the Cowboys worked out for a while at Lambeau Field the day before the game. The field was soft and although it was cold (high 20s and low 30s), it was not bitterly cold.

That all changed on December 31, 1967, as one never knows what will happen in the region where the Fox River connects to the bay off Lake Michigan in the winter.

Yes, when the NFL title game started between the Cowboys and Packers began, the temperature was -13°. If you added in the wind throughout the game, the temperature plummeted to -50°.

Nice weather if you are a polar bear. But not if you are a professional football player. Making matters worse, as the game wore on, the field became an ice skating rink.

In the game, the Packers jumped out to an early 14-0 lead, thanks to two Starr touchdown passes to Boyd Dowler.

The Packers also had a fantastic chance to increase their lead, when cornerback Herb Adderley picked off a pass from quarterback Don Meredith of the Cowboys and took it to the 32 yard line of the Cowboys in the second quarter. But the Packers squandered that opportunity and didn’t score.

The momentum of the game changed late in that second quarter. Starr fumbled as he was hit by defensive end Willie Townes of the Cowboys going back to pass, and the other defensive end, former Marquette star George Andrie, scooped up the ball in rumbled in for a touchdown from seven yards out with a little over four minutes to go before halftime.

Then with less than two minutes to go in the first half, Willie Wood fumbled a punt from Danny Villanueva at the 17 yard line of the Packers. That led to a 21-yard field goal by Villanueva to make the score 14-10 at halftime.

In the second half, the offense of the  Packers was being throttled the defense of the Cowboys.

Things were so bad, that the Packers had had minus-nine yards in 31 plays in the second half at one point.

Then on the first play of the fourth quarter, the Cowboys took a 17-14 lead when wide receiver Lance Rentzel caught a 50-yard touchdown pass from halfback Dan Reeves on the first play of the fourth quarter.

That was the score when the Packers got the ball back on their own 32 yard line with just 4:50 left in the game.

Somehow the Packers were going to have to trudge 68 yards across the arctic-like football field to win the game.

I wrote a story about that ensuing drive, as Kramer, halfback Donny Anderson and Chuck Mercein provided the commentary.

Here is part of that article:

“I don’t think we ever considered the possibility of losing,” Kramer said. “We didn’t really acknowledge the fact that we didn’t gain any yardage in 31 plays prior to that. We knew where we were when we got in the final huddle. We knew what we had to do.

“I asked Bart about that years later, about what made him think we could go 68 yards and score a touchdown after we had made minus-nine yards on 31 plays prior to that. Bart said, ‘Jerry, I came into the huddle and started to say something. Then I looked in your eyes, I looked at Forrest’s eyes and everyone else in the huddle, and I knew I didn’t have to say anything. So all I said was, ‘Let’s go.’

Kramer said there was calm in that huddle.

“Even at that point of the game there wasn’t any panic with us,” No. 64 said. “There was a sense of urgency however. We still believed that we could do it.

“The beautiful part of that was the contribution by so many different players in that drive. Players like Chuck Mercein, Boyd Dowler and Donny Anderson.”

Anderson concurred with Kramer about what needed to be on that drive.

“I recall that there was no nonsense at all on that drive,” Anderson said. “It represented the discipline that Lombardi had taught us. We knew that we had to execute and we were determined to get the job done.”

The drive started with Starr completing a swing pass to Anderson which gained six yards. On the next play, Mercein ran the ball for seven more yards off tackle to the 45-yard line and near the sideline of the Packers.

Chuck Mercein II

Mercein vividly recalled that moment.

“I remember that play well, as it was the our initial first down of the drive,” Mercein said. “That was a big confidence booster for me and the team. Because at that point, none of us had done anything in the second half. I’ll never forget because I kind of got shoved out of bounds right in front of the Green Bay bench. I could hear Coach Lombardi yell, ‘Atta boy, Chuck!’ That really brought my spirits up. It was wonderful.”

On the next play, Starr completed his only pass to a wide receiver in the drive, as Dowler caught a pass that gained 13 yards and another first down. Dowler ended up having to leave the game for a few plays, as he was shook up a little after his head hit the frozen turf hard after he was tackled.

Even though Dowler only caught one pass in that drive, it was his two early touchdown receptions from Starr which put the Packers in position to win the game on that drive.

After the Dowler catch, this is when Mercein and the Packers had a hiccup in the drive. Townes made another big play, as he broke through and tackled Anderson for a nine-yard loss.

Mercein explained what happened on the play.

“It was the Green Bay sweep and my responsibility was to block the defensive end there,” Mercein said. “I expected Townes to be on my outside shoulder, but he rushed inside instead, and I only was able to brush him with my left shoulder. I didn’t give him a good enough pop and he was able to get through and put us in a big hole.

I felt particularly bad about that because of my bad execution. It was the lowlight of the drive for me.”

That loss put the Packers in a second and 19 hole, but two swing passes to Anderson netted 22 yards and the Packers had a big first down. If you look at those receptions on film, you see some pretty nifty footwork by Anderson. Not easily done on a truly frozen tundra.

Anderson explained.

“I recall that I had to balance myself,” Anderson said. “Not to run like a sprinter, but to balance yourself. Be a little more flat-footed. I also figured that a quicker guy might be better off under those conditions than a heavier guy.”

Donny Anderson in the Ice Bowl

It was at that point when Mercein caught a 19-yard swing pass from Starr after first conferring with No. 15.

“Sure enough, I was open just like I expected and Bart flipped the pass to me that got caught up in the wind a bit and I caught it over my outside shoulder, ” Mercein said. “I was able to outrun linebacker Dave Edwards and took the pass to the 11-yard line, plus was able to get out of bounds.”

The next play was a running play, known as a give play to Mercein.

“Bart saved that give play for the right exact time,” Mercein said. “Bart later said it was the best play call he ever made.”

On the give play, left guard Gale Gillingham pulls to the right, which then opens up a hole as defensive tackle Bob Lilly followed Gillingham down the line. Still, left tackle Bob Skoronski had to seal off defensive end George Andrie to make the play work.

“On that play, if Bob didn’t block [George] Andrie on that play, Mercein would get killed,” Kramer said. “It was a very difficult block, too. So Bart looked at “Ski” and asked if he could make that block before the play. And “Ski” simply said, ‘Call it, on two.’

Mercein vividly recalls that run.

“The hole was great and I can still see that hole,” Mercein said. “I can still hear myself clomping down on the ice with the noise of my cleats hitting the ice. It was very loud. Forrest Gregg was coming down from the right tackle spot and if I could have cut, I think I could have scored.”

As it was, the Packers had a second and two from the three-yard line of the Cowboys. Anderson then took a hand off from Starr and to many it appeared that Anderson scored on the play. But the referee instead placed the ball about 18 inches from the goal line and it was first and goal.

“After the run, I’m laying across the goal line with my waist and the ball,” Anderson said. “Cornell Green of the Cowboys yelled that I scored, while Jethro Pugh told him to be quiet. The ref then picks up the ball and puts it 18 inches back from the goal line.

“Later on as we saw film of the game, Coach Lombardi said to me, ‘Young man, I think they took one away from you there.’

After two two unsuccessful running attempts by Anderson to score after that, as he slipped both times, the Packers called their final timeout. There were 16 seconds to go in the game.

This brings us to a key point of the game just before Starr carried the ball on his own on the quarterback sneak. Kramer has maintained that he knew Starr was going to carry the football.

No. 64 even wrote about that in his classic book, Instant Replay. Kramer wrote, “In the huddle, Bart said, ‘Thirty-one wedge and I’ll carry the ball.’

The problem is that no one else in the huddle heard that from Starr. And I’ve talked to Anderson, Mercein, Dowler and Carroll Dale. They all heard Starr call the 31 wedge play, but nothing about him carrying the football by himself.

That being said, I believe I have pinpointed when Starr told Kramer he was going to carry the ball himself.

If you have ever seen A Football Life – Vince Lombardi from NFL Films, Starr and Kramer talk about what happened after No. 15 called his final timeout of the game just before the sneak.

Kramer: “We take our final timeout and Bart asked me if I could make a block.”

Starr: “Can you get your footing for one more wedge play?”

Kramer: “Yeah, I think so.”

I believe it was at this moment that Starr told Kramer, and no other player on the field, that he was going to carry the ball.

Starr then went to the sideline and told Coach Lombardi that the wedge play was still the right call, but that he would carry the ball himself because the backs were slipping.

Lombardi concurred and replied, “Then run it and let’s get the hell out of here.”

I have mentioned this possible scenario to Kramer and he thought that my take was very plausible.

I can understand the confusion about the play from Kramer’s perspective. For one thing, the crucial wedge play itself was derived from film study by Kramer.

Kramer was watching film on the Cowboys and specifically regarding how they lined up in short-yardage situations.

“Jethro [Pugh] was high, and I actually suggested that play on Thursday when we were studying short-yardage films,” Kramer said. “I said we could wedge Pugh if we had to. And Coach Lombardi said, ‘What?’ And I said that we can wedge Pugh if we have to. So we ran the film back three or four times, and coach says, ‘That’s right. Put in a wedge on Pugh.’

And little did Kramer know that the play of the game would come down to his block and the play he suggested. That’s a hell of a lot of pressure.

So when Starr called the play, first by conferring with Kramer himself, what went through the mind of No. 64?

“Responsibility. I mean I had suggested the play on Thursday. It seemed like the play was squarely on my shoulders,” Kramer said. “I knew I had to perform. I knew that to be successful as a blocker that I had to keep my head up and my eyes open.

“And also put my face into the chest of the defensive tackle [Pugh]. That is not the easiest thing to do, but it’s the safest and the surest way to make a block. I felt great personal responsibility to the team on that block. When I came off the ball, I was on fire.”

Bottom line, one can see how there might have been a little uncertainty from Kramer regarding how Starr called the 31 wedge play knowing the magnitude of the moment.

Speaking of the 31 wedge play, if run the way it is supposed to, it simply means that the 3-back (fullback) goes to the 1-hole (between the center and the right guard).

Which bring us to center Ken Bowman and the role he played on this block.

“I’ve analyzed that play a lot. “Bow” was there, there is no question about that,” Kramer said. “But when Jethro got up like I expected and then I got into him, the rest was a forgone conclusion. Jethro was then out of position and also out of the play. The play was over for him then.”

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Plus, Starr did not go in between Bowman and Kramer like the play was designed. Instead, Starr shuffled to Kramer’s right and into a hole between No. 64 and right tackle Forrest Gregg.

And as I have I written about in another article, Starr’s intuitive sense of transferring the ball from his right arm to his left on the game-winning sneak was very timely and extremely important. Especially when one sees linebacker Chuck Howley ripping at Starr’s empty right arm as he crosses the goal line.

Yes, there certainly were a number of significant details about why Starr’s quarterback sneak was successful in the “Ice Bowl” game and is now considered the greatest play in the over 100-year history of the Packers.

Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys: A Historical Perspective

Lombardi celebrates 1966 NFL title

The Green Bay Packers joined the NFL in 1921, while the Dallas Cowboys joined the league in 1960. Since that time, the teams have met 28 times in the regular season, with the Packers holding a 15-13 edge.

The two teams have also met eight times in the postseason, with each team winning four times.

Overall, the Packers have won 13 NFL titles, including four Super Bowls, one of which was won at Cowboys Stadium (now AT&T Stadium). The Cowboys have won five Super Bowls overall.

When the two teams meet on Sunday at AT&T Field, it will be the 15th time that the Packers have played Dallas on the road in the regular season. The Packers were 2-1 at the Cotton Bowl, 2-7 at Texas Stadium and now are currently 2-0 at AT&T Stadium.

The Packers are also 2-4 in the postseason in the Big D area. With the latest game being the 2016 NFC title game, as quarterback Aaron Rodgers led Green Bay to a stirring 34-31 victory.

In Wisconsin, the Packers defeated the Cowboys in their inaugural year 41-7 at then City Stadium (now Lambeau Field) and are now 7-2 overall versus the Boys in Green Bay during the regular season.

The Packers and Cowboys also played five games at County Stadium in Milwaukee in the regular season, with the Cowboys holding a 3-2 edge.

The Packers have also won two postseason games against the Cowboys at Lambeau Field, including the legendary “Ice Bowl” game on December 31, 1967.

The two teams were destined to become quite a rivalry, as Vince Lombardi was head coach of the Packers when the Cowboys joined the NFL in 1960 and their head coach was Tom Landry.

Lombardi and Landry had coached together in New York with the Giants, as the team won the NFL title in 1956. In essence, Lombardi ran the offense for the G-Men, while Landry ran the defense during their tenure in the Big Apple.

Lombardi never lost to Landry while he coached the Packers, both in the regular season (3-0) and in the postseason (2-0).

Both postseason games were NFL title games, with the first being played at the Cotton Bowl on January 1, 1967. The winner of that 1966 NFL championship game would be playing in Super Bowl I.

Bart Starr 1966 NFL title game at the Cotton Bowl

Quarterback Bart Starr was magnificent in that game, as he threw four touchdown passes (including a beautiful 51-yard pass to Carroll Dale) without throwing an interception for 304 yards. No. 15’s passer rating for that game was 143.5.

The game came down to the Cowboys being on the 2-yard line of the Packers with less than a minute to go, trailing 34-27. And on fourth down, quarterback Don Meredith of the Cowboys was pressured by outside linebacker Dave Robinson and with No. 89’s arms draped around him, Meredith threw an errant pass that was intercepted by safety Tom Brown of the Packers to seal the victory.

The Packers then went on to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in Super I two weeks later.

The two teams met again the very next year in the 1967 NFL title game, this time in Green Bay at Lambeau Field. I have written about that classic game a number of times, including a story that has fullback Chuck Mercein, halfback Donny Anderson and right guard Jerry Kramer describing their epic final drive to win the “Ice Bowl” 21-17 with just seconds remaining.

Starr was once again the hero, as he threw two touchdown passes to Boyd Dowler in the game and then scored the game-winning touchdown on a quarterback sneak with just 13 seconds remaining in the game and with his team having zero time outs.

Two weeks later, the Packers beat the Oakland Raiders 33-14 in Super Bowl II, which turned out to be Lombardi’s last game as head coach of the Packers.

Bart's QB sneak behind Jerry

The next time the two teams met in the postseason was after the 1982 season, when Starr was the head coach of the Packers and Landry was still at the helm of the Cowboys.

Quarterback Lynn Dickey threw for 332 yards, while wide receiver James Lofton had five catches for 109 yards and a touchdown, plus had another score on a 71-yard run. Still, that wasn’t enough as the Cowboys, led by the three interceptions of Dennis Thurman, won 37-26 in a second-round NFC playoff game at Texas Stadium.

The next three postseason games would all be played at Texas Stadium in the 1990s, as Jimmy Johnson was now the head coach of the Boys after owner Jerry Jones had fired Landry after the 1988 season.

The Packers were coached by Mike Holmgren during that time.

The Cowboys were led by their triplets, quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith and wide receiver Michael Irvin. The Pack was led by quarterback Brett Favre on offense and defensive end Reggie White on defense.

In 1993 (27-17) and 1994 (35-9), the Cowboys beat the Packers in NFC divisional playoff games. In 1995, the Boys beat the Packers 38-27 in the NFC title game. Dallas would end up winning the Super Bowl twice after defeating the Packers in the postseason that decade.

In all, the Cowboys won three Super Bowls in the 1990s, while the Packers won Super Bowl XXXI after the 1996 season.

The Packers won Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium (now AT&T Stadium) after the 2010 season, when Rodgers was the game’s MVP, as the Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25.

Green Bay and Dallas again met in the postseason in a 2014 divisional playoff game at Lambeau Field. Rodgers threw three touchdown passes in the 26-21 victory by the Packers, but the game was marked by controversy.

That occurred when quarterback Tony Romo completed a long pass to wide receiver Dez Bryant on fourth down which took the ball to the 1-yard line of Green Bay that was later ruled a non-catch. The Packers than marched down the field and ran out the clock.

The last postseason game that the two teams played was a 2016 NFC divisional game at AT&T Stadium. The Cowboys came into the game as the No. 1 seed in the NFC, but the Packers behind Rodgers got off to a quick 21-3 lead.

But Dallas came roaring back behind quarterback Dak Prescott and tied the game 28- 28 with four minutes left in the game.

The Packers then took a 31-28 lead on a 56-yard Mason Crosby field goal with about 1:30 to go in the game.

Prescott then led the Cowboys to a game-tying 52-yard field goal by Dan Bailey with 35 seconds left.

Aaron vs. the Cowboys

Then, with just 12 seconds left in the game on a third-and-20 from their own 32-yard line, Rodgers completed a 35-yard pass to tight end Jared Cook to set up a game-winning 51-yard field goal by Crosby as time expired.

The last time the two teams met was in the 2017 regular season, when Rodgers once again led the Packers to a late victory, as he completed a 12-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Davante Adams with 11 seconds remaining, as the Packers won 35-31.

Overall in his career versus the Cowboys, Rodgers is 4-2 against them in the regular season, as he has thrown 11 touchdown passes, compared to just one pick for 1,702 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 101.2.

No. 12 has also rushed for 162 yards on 30 carries and had two more scores.

In the postseason, Rodgers is 2-0 against the Cowboys and has thrown five touchdown passes versus one pick for 671 yards. That adds up to a cumulative passer rating of 111.0.

So, what to expect on Sunday? The Packers are banged up a bit and Adams has been ruled out because of a turf toe injury. Still, the track record of Rodgers against the Cowboys has been fantastic.

Plus, the Packers have never lost in AT&T Stadium in four games, with one of them being Super Bowl XLV. That being said, every game against the Cowboys has been very close and in one of the wins, it was backup quarterback Matt Flynn who led the Packers to a victory.

Bottom line, I also expect the game on Sunday to be very close. It may come down to which team has the ball last. And if it’s Rodgers and the Packers, I like their chances.

Boyd Dowler Talks About Bart Starr and Also Playing Some Tight End

Bart and Boyd

Bart Starr and Boyd Dowler. (Photo: Darryl Norenberg-USA TODAY Sports)

In the 12 seasons that Boyd Dowler  played in the NFL, 11 of those seasons with the Green Bay Packers, No. 86 was 10th in all-time receptions in the NFL and 12th in receiving yardage when he retired.

The game was different in the era that Dowler played in, as the running game was featured much more often, plus the rules in those days allowed defensive backs to pretty much mug a receiver running down the field and not see a flag thrown.

The Packers utilized the running game more than most in the NFL, especially in the early years when Vince Lombardi became head coach. Both Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor put up big numbers between 1959 through 1962. Hornung was the NFL MVP in 1961, while Taylor was the NFL MVP in 1962, when the Packers won back-to-back NFL titles.

Still, Dowler put up some nice numbers himself, which was recognized, as he was named to the NFL 1960’s All-Decade team, as well as the NFL 50th anniversary team (second team).

In his 11-year career with the Packers, Dowler had 448 receptions for 6,918 yards and 40 touchdowns. In the postseason, Dowler also had 30 receptions for 440 yards and five scores.

Also, in his rookie year in 1959, Dowler was named Rookie of the Year by UPI (United Press International), plus was named to two Pro Bowl teams in his career.

That is why I believe Dowler deserves a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

There are very few quarterbacks in the Pro Football Hall of Fame who do not have at least one receiver or tight end from their team in Canton with them.

One of those quarterbacks is Bart Starr.

Starr passed away in May and is going to be honored in Green Bay this weekend, which also just happens to be alumni weekend for the Packers. A number of former teammates will be on hand, as well as players who were coached by Starr during his tenure in Titletown.

One of those teammates is Dowler. Another is a guy who used to hang with Dowler and Fuzzy Thurston after practice and have a few beers. They called themselves the Three Muskepissers. I’m talking about Jerry Kramer, who will be one of the speakers to honor No. 15 this weekend.

I had a chance to talk with Dowler recently and we talked about what it was like playing with Starr.

“Let me give you an example about how smart Bart was and how he trusted guys like me,” Dowler said. “In the ‘Ice Bowl’, when I scored my first touchdown, it was not a play called in the huddle. It was an audible at the line of scrimmage.

“We had never, ever talked about running that play or pattern from that formation with me in tight. We never practiced it either. We never did anything close to what we did on that play. It was the first time we ever did that.

“Bart called the ’86 audible’, which had nothing to do with my number. The play was designed for the split end to run a post in a blitz situation. But normally it was called when the split end was out wide, not in tight like I was. Bart called the play because Mel Renfro was near the line of scrimmage. Now Renfro didn’t blitz, but it didn’t matter because he was already committed to the line of scrimmage.

“So when Bart called that audible, I knew I was supposed to run a quick post, even though I was inside. I had the linebacker on my outside shoulder and the cornerback on my outside shoulder, which is not sound coverage. So all I had to do release inside and look for the ball. It turned out be an easy pitch and catch and we were up 7-0.

“Bart and I laughed about that play after the game. I knew that particular audible was used with the split end on the left side of the formation to run a post. But I was in tight, like a tight end would be. I knew I couldn’t call a timeout. I couldn’t shout out to Bart and say, ‘Do you want me out wide?’

“The bottom line is Bart had enough confidence in me to figure out what I was supposed to do in that situation. The thing that made it so great, is that Bart called that audible, even knowing that we had never run it from that formation in nine years. Even in practice. And Bart called it in a NFL championship game!

“That is a capsule comment about Bart Starr.”

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No. 86 continued.

“Bart did things like that,” Dowler said. “And you know the funny thing about plays like that he called? They always worked! Just like the sneak in the ‘Ice Bowl.’

I wrote about how well thought out that sneak was in this piece. Starr carried the ball in his left arm as he crossed the goal line and not in his right, as outside linebacker Chuck Howley of the Cowboys tried to strip the ball from his empty right arm.

“When you start talking about doing a tribute to Bart Starr, just look at he ‘Ice Bowl’ game,” Dowler said. “I’m talking about making big plays count or making big plays work. You can look at both my touchdowns in that game, you can look at the give play to Chuck Mercein and you can look at the sneak.

“You can take four, five or six plays alone from that game and hang an MVP award around Bart’s neck. Not just because of the plays, because they were good plays. But because when they were called. It was the brain of Bart Starr that made those plays work.”

It wasn’t a coincidence that Dowler was in tight on his first touchdown pass against the Cowboys in the 1967 NFL title game. No. 86 started playing tight end on passing situations beginning in 1965 and continued to do that through his last year with the Packers in 1969.

That meant the Packers could basically use three wide receivers on third down.

“After Ron Kramer left and Marv Fleming was in his second year I believe, Coach Lombardi started using me at tight end on third down or in passing situations,” Dowler said. “When we were going to play the Bears or the Colts, I would be Mike Ditka or John Mackey on the scout team for our defense.

“So I got quite a bit of work at tight end. I was big enough and I could get off the line. I was able to run the tight end patterns pretty well. Coach noticed that and said to me, ‘You look pretty good in there.’

“Anyway after Ron left, even though Marvin was a fine player and a fine blocker at tight end, he didn’t have wide receiver quickness and speed to get down the field. He basically wasn’t much of a threat in the passing game as I would be. It came down to Max McGee getting in the lineup when I would play tight end instead of Marvin. Max had been a backup after Carroll Dale arrived in 1965.

“Vince wanted to get Max in the games and thought that would be a good way to do it. I slid in to tight end and Max took my spot at split end with Carroll on the other side. The first game we did it in was the ‘Fog Bowl’ in Baltimore in late 1965 and I caught a pass for a first down from the tight end position, plus caught a touchdown pass as a tight end. We scored six touchdowns in that game (a 42-27 win) and Paul had five of the TDs while I had the other one.

“Vince was very proud about that, as it was his idea to move me to tight end in passing situations. It gave us a little more downfield speed. I think it helped us. I was all for it. It kept me mentally sharp. I thought it was kind of fun.

“In 1968 against the Bears at Wrigley Field, I played the whole game at tight end. I caught two touchdown passes, one from Zeke Bratkowski and the other from Don Horn. I had a big game. So did Don.

“In Super Bowl II, one of my two catches that day came while I was playing tight end. My touchdown came when I was at split end, but the other catch came while I was at tight end.

“Bottom line, me playing tight end gave us a lot more flexibility. I really enjoyed playing the position too.”

 

Green Bay Packers: Catching Up With Carroll Dale

Carroll Dale vs. the Cowboys in the Ice Bowl

In the offseason preceding the 1965 NFL season, the Green Bay Packers made two very important acquisitions. Head coach Vince Lombardi, who was also the general manager of the team, first traded a draft pick to the New York Giants for kicker/punter Don Chandler and then also dealt linebacker Dan Currie to the Los Angeles Rams for wide receiver Carroll Dale.

Both Chandler and Dale were key contributors for the Packers from 1965 through 1967, when the team won three straight NFL championships, plus the first two Super Bowl games.

Dale recalled the moment he heard about the trade, as he talked with me earlier this week.

“I was working in Bristol, Tennessee for a sporting goods company,” Dale said. “I happened to be in a small town called Galax, Virginia staying at a motel. The local coach knew what motel I was staying in called me and said that my picture was in the Roanoke paper. I asked why. He said, ‘You’ve been traded to the Green Bay Packers.’

Dale knew that his fortunes were about to change, as the Rams had never had a winning season in the five years that he had played with Los Angeles, plus was 2-7-1 versus the Packers in that time.

“We were in the same conference as the Packers when I was with the Rams,” Dale said. “We played them twice a year and were very familiar with them. I was aware that the Packers had won the NFL championship in 1961 and 1962.”

With the Packers, Dale saw a couple of familiar faces who had gotten to know while he was with the Rams.

“It just so happened that (quarterback) Zeke Bratkowski and (offensive ends coach) Tom Fears had both preceded me to Green Bay,” Dale said. “I’m sure that they put in a good word for me with Coach Lombardi.

“It was like Christmas for me when I heard the news that I was traded. I grew up in a small town and with Green Bay being the smallest town in the league, it was right down my alley.

“But because the Packers were winners and a contenders is really what counted most. I was thrilled with the opportunity.”

Dale started his NFL career in 1960 with the Rams, after being drafted out of Virginia Tech, where he was an All-American receiver and where the school has retired his No. 84 number.

From 1960 through 1964, Dale, who went 6’2″ and 200 pounds when he played, caught 149 passes for 2,663 yards (a 17.9 yards per catch average) and 17 touchdowns for the Rams.

Lombardi made the trade to acquire Dale because wide receiver Max McGee was aging and also to give quarterback Bart Starr a deep threat in the passing game.

“You know, back then in the league, when a receiver got to be 33 or 34, your career was close to being over because of your legs,” Dale said. “That was kind of the thinking until guys like Jerry Rice proved them wrong.

“The thinking was that Max had hit that age, plus the Packers had also drafted Bob Long in 1964. So in ’65, because Boyd (6’5″, 225) and Max (6’3”, 220) were bigger guys and better blockers, they played X end or split end, while Bob and I played flanker. Still, we all knew each other’s assignments in case someone got hurt.

“In terms of starting, I pulled a muscle in the front of my leg in an exhibition game. It wasn’t as bad as a hamstring pull, but you really couldn’t stride. So for a game or two I didn’t start. But then we played Detroit that year, and either Boyd or Max was hurt and I was healthy then, so I played at X end.

“I had one of my better games while I was in Green Bay against the Lions and caught a 77-yard touchdown or something and made some key blocks. So after the game on the plane ride to Green Bay,  Coach Lombardi came up to me and told me I had my starting job back. I pretty much started at flanker the rest of my career in Green Bay.”

Lombardi and Dale celebrate after beating Colts in 1966

The 1965 season was a turning point for the Packers in terms of getting back to championship-style play. It certainly was for right guard Jerry Kramer, who was trying to come back after missing most of the 1964 season due to intestinal issues.

Kramer had nine medical procedures to resolve the situation, which included removing 16 inches of Kramer’s colon due to a boyhood accident in which a number of large slivers were in his intestine for 11 years.

But thanks to hard work and the assistance of Chandler during training camp, Kramer earned his starting job back at right guard, which happened ironically in the same Detroit game in which Dale got his job back.

The ’65 season started out well enough for the Packers, as they won their first six games of the season. But in the middle of the season, the offense sputtered, as the team scored just 36 points in four games.

But thanks to the fabulous defense by the Packers, the team went 2-2 in those four games. Still, when it was all said and done, the Packers were ranked 12th in total offense for the year. Fortunately, the defense was ranked 3rd, which is a big reason why the Packers finished 10-3-1 and tied the Baltimore Colts for the Western Conference crown.

For the first time since 1959, fullback Jim Taylor did not run for over 1,000 yards. Starr spread the ball around in the passing game, as Dowler led the team with 44 catches for 610 yards and four touchdowns, while Dale added 20 receptions for 382 yards and two scores.

Dale came up big in the postseason however. In the Western Conference title game at Lambeau Field versus the Colts, No. 84 had three catches for 63 yards, one which set up the game-winning field goal by Chandler in OT, as the Packers won 13-10.

Dale caught all three passes from Bratkowski, as Starr injured his ribs on the very first play from scrimmage trying to make a tackle after Don Shinnick recovered a fumble by tight end Bill Anderson and scored a touchdown.

I also talked to Bratkowski this week and he gave me his thoughts on Dale.

“I knew Carroll when I was with the Rams,” Bratkowski said. “I knew the quality receiver that he was, as well the quality of person he was.  He was the leader for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He helped to bring the speakers in.

“Carroll was a hard working, smart football player. He was very humble. Carroll was not selfish at all. He also loved to hunt. He and I would go hunting west of town to hunt grouse on Mondays.

“I can’t say enough positive things about him because he was such a great team player.”

Carroll Dale II

In the 1965 NFL title game also at Lambeau Field versus the defending NFL champion Cleveland Browns, Starr was able to return and once again Dale came up big.

Dale caught two passes for 60 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown. Dowler also caught five passes for 59 yards, but it was the Green Bay ground game that dominated the contest.

Taylor and halfback Paul Hornung combined for 201 yards toting the rock and No. 5 scored the last touchdown of the game as the Packers won their third NFL title under Lombardi 23-12.

I also had the opportunity to talk to Dowler this week and he talked about the arrival of Dale from the Rams prior to the ’65 season.

“When Carroll came over, I think everybody figured that he came into replace Max,” Dowler said. “Max was pretty old at the time. But Max played pretty good for a long, long time. But when Carroll came in, he got most of the playing time over Max.

“But later in the ’65 season, Coach Lombardi wanted to get Max in the game because we weren’t getting a lot of production from Marvin [Fleming]. And that’s no knock on Marvin, because he was a wonderful blocker, but not much of a receiving threat.

“So what Coach Lombardi did was put me at the tight end position, because I used to run plays from the next week’s opposing team at practice and I would be John Mackey from the Colts or Mike Ditka from the Bears.

“Coach Lombardi asked me late in the year if I wanted to play the tight end position on passing plays so we could put Max in my old spot outside. I told him that I would love it. The very first time we tried that maneuver against the Colts, I caught a third down pass for a first down and then later a touchdown pass from the tight end position. We did that quite often for the next four years at times, but it isn’t talked about a lot.”

Dowler then talked about what Dale brought to the team as a receiver.

“Max and I were kind of the same type of guy,” Dowler said. “We were big and maybe a little stronger and maneuverable over the middle of the field.  Carroll was outstanding running full speed down the field and looking back for the ball.  I believe Carroll’s average yards per catch is close to 20 yards a catch. Maybe 19.8.”

Dowler has a magnificent memory, as Dale’s yards per catch average is actually 19.72 yards per catch, which is best in the history of the Packers. That tells you a lot with receivers like Don Hutson and James Lofton also playing with the Packers during their Pro Football Hall of Fame careers.

Dowler continued.

“Carroll gave us more of a long ball threat than Max and I,” Dowler said. “Carroll was special. He ran under the ball and was natural at finding the football on deep passes. He had a natural and smooth stride when he ran.”

In 1966, Dale led the Packer receivers in catches with 37 for 876 yards (23.7 average) and seven touchdowns. Starr was also the NFL MVP that year, as the passing game became a bigger emphasis on offense for the Packers, as the team finished 12-2.

Later that year, when the Packers made it to the NFL championship game again versus the Dallas Cowboys at the Cotton  Bowl, Dale showed off the deep threat attributes that Dowler was talking about, when he caught a 51-yard touchdown pass from Starr as the Packers won 34-27.

After the victory over the Cowboys, the Packers would be facing the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl I at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Packers won 35-10, as Starr was the game’s MVP and it was McGee who had the huge game at receiver taking over for an injured Dowler.

While No. 85 had seven catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns, Dale also chipped in with four catches for 59 yards. Dale also had a touchdown pass taken off the board after a phantom illegal motion penalty was called.

Carroll Dale in Super Bowl I

“Yes, the TD was for 60-plus yards and was fairly early in the game,” Dale said. “They called motion, but when we looked at the film, we couldn’t see anyone who moved. Maybe they were trying to keep the game close.”

In 1967, the Packers did what had never been done before or never been done since. That is win three straight NFL titles in the playoff era which started in 1933.

But what a difficult ride it was. The ’67 Packers were a team without Taylor and Hornung for the first time. Plus, the guys who replaced them, fullback Jim Grabowski and halfback Elijah Pitts, were both lost for the season in the same game against Baltimore midway through the season.

Starr was also nicked up at the beginning of the year, as Bratkowski had to start at QB in both the fourth and fifth games of the season.

In addition to that, the Packers had two heartbreaking losses on the road to both the Colts and the Rams in the final seconds of those games.

Still, the Packers persevered. Two weeks after losing to the Rams in Los Angeles, the Packers met the Rams again in Milwaukee for the Western Conference title. After a bit of a slow start, Green Bay dominated, as the final score was 28-7.

Dale caught a postseason touchdown pass for the third consecutive year, as he caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Starr, plus almost had another as he was tackled just short of the end zone on a 48-yard pass reception. All in all, Dale had six catches for 109 yards and a score in the game.

Eight days later came the “Ice Bowl” game versus the Cowboys at the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.

The game came down to an epic drive by the Packers, as they had to drive 68 yards in 4:50 across a frozen field which resembled an ice skating rink trailing 17-14.

The Packers got off to a quick start in the game, as they went ahead on two Starr touchdown passes to Dowler. But a 14-0 lead was turned into a 17-14 deficit after a Dan Reeves option pass to Lance Rentzel on the first play of the 4th quarter.

But the Packers were able to put together the signature drive of the Lombardi era, as Starr was able to sneak behind a classic block by Kramer on defensive tackle Jethro Pugh to score the game-winning touchdown.

In the game, Dale had three catches for 44 yards.

The Packers then went on to win Super Bowl II 33-14 over the Oakland Raiders at the Orange Bowl in Miami. Starr was once again MVP of the game. Dowler had two catches for 71 yards and a score, while Dale had four receptions for 43 yards.

McGee wasn’t quite as dynamic in Super Bowl II as he was in Super Bowl I, but he did make a fabulous 35-yard catch on a play-action pass from Starr.

Which was apropos for the Packers under Lombardi. On countless occasions, Starr completed big passing plays on third and short when the defense was expecting a run from the Green Bay vaunted running game.

Dale explained.

“Coach Lombardi had a philosophy of taking what the defense gave us,” Dale said. “If the defense loaded up the box on a third and short, Bart had a knack for taking advantage of that with a play-action pass for big yardage or even a touchdown.

“If you look at our games, we took what they gave us. I might have a game where I catch five or six passes and score a couple of touchdowns and they might double cover me the next week. And under Lombardi, you never threw to a double covered receiver, otherwise Coach would go nuts.

“That was our philosophy. Just take a look at Super Bowl I or the “Ice Bowl”, you see Bart call the play-action 36 post play and it almost always worked. That was a great play. It just held everybody for a second when they saw the blocking coming.”

Carroll Dale in the Ice Bowl

After the 1967 season, McGee retired and Dale went on to be named to three straight Pro Bowl squads from 1968 through 1970.

Dale stayed on with the Packers through the 1972 season, when Green Bay won the NFC Central title under head coach and general manager Dan Devine. Dale was one of three starters remaining from the Lombardi era teams, along with center Ken Bowman and outside linebacker Dave Robinson. There was also middle linebacker Ray Nitschke, but he was a backup to Jim Carter.

Dale talked about that ’72 team.

“Well, at least we got into the playoffs,” Dale said. “And as I mentioned earlier, Coach Lombardi would always take what they gave you, but that wasn’t the case under Coach Devine when we played the Washington Redskins in the playoffs.

“We went into Washington with a game plan that never changed. They put eight in the box and even though we had two great running backs, the ground game never got going. Eight people can outplay six or seven. I tried to get them to change things up, but nothing changed.”

I also heard from some very good sources that Bart Starr, who was the quarterbacks coach under Devine, also tried to get Devine to change things up and pass more. But it never happened and the Packers lost 16-3, as the Redskins completely shut down the Green Bay running attack.

Devine told Dale that he wanted him to return to the Packers in 1973 and continue to be a veteran leader, but Dale was ultimately cut from the team by Devine and was soon picked up by Bud Grant and the Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings went on to Super Bowl VIII, but lost to the Miami Dolphins 24-7.

Dale retired after the 1973 season and what a career he had. Overall, with the Rams, Packers and Vikings, Dale had 438 receptions for 8,277 yards (18.9 average) and 52 touchdowns. In Green Bay alone, Dale had 275 catches for 5,422 yards (19.7 average) and 35 TDs.

Because of his great production on the field, Dale was inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1979.

The honors didn’t end there either for Dale. He is also in Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, the Virginia Tech Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame.

Looking back on the legacy he has left behind, especially about his time in Green Bay, Dale is certainly thankful.

“Well, it was a great time for me in Green Bay,” Dale said. “It was like having your first car or first bicycle. Winning that first championship in ’65 after all the losing in Los Angeles was fantastic.

“Just being part of that team was just awesome. And also to win three NFL championships in a row was really something. The memories of my time in Green Bay are truly unforgettable!”

The Green Bay Packers and Jerry Kramer Have a Couple of Big Weekends Upcoming

Jerry in 2017 at Alumni Day

Both the Green Bay Packers and Jerry Kramer have a couple of big weekends coming up.

The Packers are preparing to open their 2018 NFL season (the 100th anniversary of the Packers being formed) on Sunday night at Lambeau Field versus the Chicago Bears and their newly acquired pass rusher Khalil Mack.

The following week the Pack will host the defending NFC North champions, the Minnesota Vikings.

The upcoming game against da Bears also marks the annual alumni weekend, as Kramer and many of his former teammates, as well as other former Green Bay players will be on hand.

And when the Packers play the Vikings the following week at Lambeau, Kramer will receive his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring, as well as seeing his name unveiled on the facade, along with the other 24 Packers enshrined in Canton.

The Packers and Bears have been playing each other since 1921 when the NFL was called the American Professional Football Association. When Green Bay defeated Chicago 35-14 last September at Lambeau Field, that victory put the Packers ahead in the series against their long-time rivals for the first time in 85 years.

The series now stands with the Packers holding an edge with a 95-93-6 mark. Kramer knows all about this heated rivalry, as No. 64 talked about that story line in a piece I wrote a couple of years ago.

It was an era when Vince Lombardi coached the Packers and George Halas coached the Bears. In the nine years that the two coached against each other, the Packers held a 13-5 edge in the series.

During that period, the Packers won five NFL titles in seven years under Lombardi, which included three NFL championships in a row (which has never been duplicated in the playoff era of the NFL), as well as winning the first two Super Bowl games.

Da Bears won the 1963 NFL title under Halas.

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.’

One of Kramer’s teammates who will be at the alumni weekend get-together is Zeke Bratkowski. The former Georgia Bulldog was the backup to Bart Starr for the Packers in the 1960s, but he started his NFL career with the Bears in the 1950s.

Bratkowski had the honor of playing under both Halas and Lombardi and Zeke talked about that scenario in a story I wrote last summer.

Besides Kramer and Bratkowski, there will be several other former Packers who played under Lombardi at the alumni function this weekend. The list includes Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, Boyd Dowler, Dave Robinson, Marv Fleming, Doug Hart, Don Horn, Carroll Dale and Donny Anderson.

Dale and Anderson are the featured alumni this weekend and they will be signing autographs and visiting with fans on Saturday, Sept. 8, from 11 to noon in the Lambeau Field Atrium.

Other former Packers who are expected to attend are LeRoy Butler, John Brockington, Lynn Dickey, Paul Coffman, Jan Stenerud, Johnnie Gray, Ezra Johnson, Mark Lee, Al Matthews, Karl Swanke, David Whitehurst, Gerry Ellis, Gary Ellerson, Tiger Greene, Ron Hallstrom, Perry Kemp, Don Majkowski, Ron Pitts, Blaise Winter, Vince Workman, Don Beebe, Bucky Brooks, Mark Chmura, Earl Dotson, William Henderson, Ryan Longwell, Bryce Paup, Bill Schroeder, Frank Winters, Nick Barnett, Kevin Barry, Colin Cole, Brad Jones, Aaron Kampman, Buddy Aydelette, Craig Nall and Jason Spitz.

At halftime on Sunday night, the Packers will be introducing all of those players.

I talked to Kramer earlier this week and he talked about how great it is to see his former teammates. Plus, this will be the first time he has seen most of them since he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Jerry with his Gold Jacket hugging his bust.

“It’s always great seeing the fellas,” Kramer said. “But I’m going to bust my ass to make sure that they know I haven’t changed. I want to show that I’m the same guy I have always been the past 40 years.”

From my perspective, having known Kramer for several years now, I can honestly say that Jerry has not changed one iota since he was inducted among the best of the best in Canton.

The game itself will be a big test for the Packers against the Bears, who are definitely a team on the rise. Chicago added a defensive force with the addition of Mack.

Mack and company will be trying to stop Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense, which will not be an easy task, based on the way Rodgers has historically played versus Chicago.

In his career against da Bears, Rodgers is 15-4 in the regular season. In those 19 games, No. 12 has thrown 42 touchdown passes, compared to just nine interceptions for 4,596 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 107.2.

Rodgers and the Packers also beat the Bears 21-14 in the 2010 NFC title game at Soldier Field.

The defense of the Packers, which is now headed by new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, will be trying to force some mistakes by second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

When the Packers go up against the Vikings, Rodgers will definitely keep his eye peeled for linebacker Anthony Barr, as it was Barr who broke the collarbone of Rodgers last season when he took No. 12 down hard to the ground after Rodgers had thrown the ball.

And as good as Rodgers is against the Bears, he is almost equally as good against the Vikings historically. In 19 regular season games, Rodgers is 12-7 against the Vikes, plus has thrown 39 touchdown passes compared to just six picks for 4,571 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 111.7.

And like he did against da Bears, Rodgers has defeated the Vikings in the postseason as well, as the Green Bay beat Minnesota 24-10 in a 2012 NFC Wild Card game at Lambeau Field.

I like Rodgers and the Packers to go 2-0 after their games against da Bears and the Vikings.

Aaron Rodgers 2018.jpg

At halftime of the Vikings game, Kramer will have his cherry on top of the sundae moment, as he receive his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring, as well as seeing his name unveiled on the facade at Lambeau Field in front of the great fans he played in front of for 11 seasons.

Kramer will see his name unveiled along side of the coach who made this all possible, Lombardi, along with several of his Hall of Fame teammates, which include Taylor, Starr, Hornung, Robinson, Forrest Gregg,  Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderley, Willie Davis, Jim Ringo, Willie Wood and Henry Jordan.

“That is going to awesome,” Kramer said. “I’ll never forget the reaction of Jim Ringo when he saw his name on the facade. It was back in 1984, when I was writing Distant Replay with Dick Schaap. We had an alumni get-together at Lambeau and Ringo was there.

“A bunch of us went to Fuzzy’s [Thurston] bar, Shenanigans. Then at the game, we were introduced and had some photos taken of us. Jim was a little unsteady at the time and I helped him down the ramp heading to the field before we were introduced.

“We got about three-quarters down the ramp and then Jim saw his name on the facade. And Jim goes, ‘Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!’ He just kept repeating that over and over. Jim was just stunned and awestruck by that honor.

“I have a feeling that I’ll have similar emotions.”

Zeke Bratkowski Talks About the 1965 Western Conference Championship Game

Zeke vs. the Colts

This upcoming Sunday, on August 7, the Green Bay Packers will take on the Indianapolis Colts in the Hall of Fame game.

The Packers and Colts have a history that dates back to 1953, when the Colts were still in Baltimore and had first joined the NFL. The Colts moved to Indianapolis in 1984.

The two teams have met 42 times in the regular season, with the Colts holding a 21-20-1 edge. When the team was the Baltimore Colts, the Packers led the series 17-16-1.

In their preseason history, the Colts hold a 5-4 edge over the Packers.

The two teams have only met once in the postseason. It was after the 1965 season, when the Colts, who were then in the NFL’s Western Conference, played the Packers at Lambeau Field in the Western Conference Championship Game on December 26.

Both teams had finished the 1965 with identical 10-3-1 records. A playoff game would be needed to see who would play the Cleveland Browns in the 1965 NFL title game. The Browns were the defending NFL champs as well.

The 1965 season was a very interesting season for both the Packers and right guard Jerry Kramer. No. 64 talked with me about that season back in November of 2015.

The Colts came into the game with big issues at the quarterback position, as both starter Johnny Unitas (knee) and backup Gary Cuozzo (dislocated shoulder) were unable to play due to injuries. That meant that halfback Tom Matte would have to play at quarterback.

Matte had played quarterback at Ohio State in college, but was more of a running quarterback, as opposed to utilizing the passing game a lot.

Coming into the game, the Packers looked to have a big advantage at quarterback, as Matte would be up against Bart Starr, who had already won two NFL passing titles at that time, plus had led the Packers to two NFL titles.

But that advantage was soon wiped away on the very first scrimmage play of the game, when linebacker Don Shinnick recovered a Bill Anderson fumble and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown.

Starr tried to make a tackle near the end zone on the play and hurt his ribs in the process. No. 15 was forced to leave the game due to the injury, although he still came into the game to hold on extra points and field goals.

Bart being helped off the field by Jerry

I had an opportunity recently to talk to the man who came into the game in relief of Starr at quarterback. That would be Zeke Bratkowski. No. 12 knew he would be going up against an outstanding defense.

The Colts were ranked 4th in the NFL in total defense in 1965. Baltimore’s offense had it’s hands full too, as Green Bay was ranked No. 1 in total defense in the NFL.

“The Colts had a great defense,” Bratkowski said. “That was their calling card in many ways. I was just putting my warmup jacket on when Bart was injured. I just got my helmet and didn’t throw a pass to warm up before I entered the game.

“I did complete a pass on my first throw. The game was a great memory for me. In fact, somebody called me from Green Bay for a radio show and he told me that the drive I had in overtime against the Colts was just as big as Bart’s drive against the Cowboys in the “Ice Bowl” game. That it was in the same magnitude. I thought that was a nice compliment.”

The Packers put up 362 yards of total offense in the playoff game versus the Colts, with 248 yards coming via the air from Bratkowski, the former Georgia Bulldog star.

Meanwhile, the Colts were held to just 175 total yards behind Matte at quarterback. In fact, Matte only threw for 40 yards passing.

Still, the game was a struggle for the Packers. Green Bay was down 10-0 at halftime. The Packers certainly weren’t helped by the turnover margin in the game, that’s for sure. Green Bay turned the ball over four times, as opposed to just once for Baltimore.

But Bratkowski and the Packers scrapped back. In the third quarter, Bratkowski hit wide receiver Carroll Dale with a 33-yard reception that set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Paul Hornung. That made the score 10-7.

Earlier in the game, the Packers were stopped near the goal line on four downs in a similar situation, so the touchdown by No. 5 was huge.

The Packers were still down 10-7 late in the game when Bratkowski led the Packers from their own 28 to the Baltimore 15, before kicker Don Chandler attempted a 22-yard field goal. The referees said the kick was good, tying the game, while the Colts were complaining to anyone who would listen that the kick was no good and wide right.

That kick led the NFL to raise the height of the goal posts the following season.

There has been quite a debate on whether that kick was good or not, but one person was sure that it was good. That would be Bratkowski.

“The field goal was good,” Bratkowski said. “The reason I say that is Bart and I were both holders. If he was hurt and couldn’t hold on kicks, I would hold. In practice, the quarterback who wasn’t holding would be under the goal posts catching the kicks, just like in that game.

“But with those short goal posts, unless you were under them, you couldn’t tell if a kick was good or not. And that’s were the officials were when they said the kick was good.”

In overtime, the Colts had a chance to win, but Lou Michaels missed a 47-yard field goal that was hampered by a bad snap.

Taking over at their own 20, the Packers were led down the field by Bratkowski, who completed key passes to both Anderson (19 yards) and Dale (18 yards). The Packers got as far as the Baltimore 18, before Chandler lined up for his 25-yard field goal attempt. This time, there was absolutely no doubt about the field goal, as the kick was good and the Packers were 13-10 overtime winners.

Don Chandler game-winner

“Carroll [Dale] made a few key catches in the game,” Bratkowski said. “That included one in the game-winning drive in overtime which took us into field goal range.”

Dale ended up with three receptions for 63 yards, while the tight end Anderson led the way with eight catches for 78 yards.

Bratkowski reflected on his passing performance in that game, as the running game of the Packers only produced 112 yards rushing.

“We were throwing that ball a lot,” Bratkowski said. “You know, the biggest problem that I had, was that I had to be well aware of the situation. I mean, I’m not going in there to lose this game.

“I knew I had to go in there to win the game. You tend to play a little conservative when you don’t want to lose the game. But as the game wore on, we took advantage in some situations with big passing plays.”

Bratkowski then talked about that 1965 Green Bay team. A team which would win the first of three consecutive NFL championships (including the first two Super Bowls), a feat that has never been matched in the modern history of the NFL.

“Coach Lombardi always used to tell us that we may not have the best players, but we have the best team,” Bratkowski said. “And it was true. I don’t know about the best players, but we had a lot of good athletes. People who could do a lot of different things and who believed in the team concept.”

In my many conversations with Kramer, he often would tell me that there wasn’t a big difference between Starr and Bratkowski when they played quarterback. Both were successful because both were well prepared to do their job.

No. 12 did his job well too. During his career with the Packers, Bratkowski completed 220 of 416 passes for 3,147 yards and 21 TDs.

When I told Bratkowski about Kramer’s comments about his quarterbacking skills compared to Starr’s, the former Chicago Bear and Los Angeles Ram was honored.

“I appreciate you saying that,” Bratkowski said. “A lot of the guys would get on me and tease me about that a little bit, but it was a teasing compliment. I really appreciated that. I never gloated about that situation, because it was really a team effort.”

Jerry Kramer Talks About the 1967 Playoff Game Versus the Los Angeles Rams

Rams-Packers program

The 1967 NFL season was a special one in the history of the Green Bay Packers. It would turn out to be the last season that Vince Lombardi would be the head coach of the team.

Up until that season, Lombardi and his Packers had won four NFL titles in six years, plus had won Super Bowl I. In addition to that, the Packers had a chance to win their third straight NFL championship, a feat which had never been accomplished in the playoff era of the NFL.

1967 was also the year when right guard Jerry Kramer of the Packers kept a diary of the season.  Kramer would recite his thoughts into a tape recorder and then submit those words to Dick Schaap, who edited the words into the final version of the classic book, Instant Replay.

Little did Kramer know that the 1967 season would be one of the most remarkable in the history of the NFL, culminating with the NFL Championship Game against the Dallas Cowboys, better known as the “Ice Bowl.” No. 64 played a key role in the outcome of that game as well, as the Packers won 21-17 in the final seconds of that legendary contest.

From training camp, through the “Ice Bowl” victory, then the win in Super Bowl II, Kramer provides a fascinating perspective about the viciousness of the NFL back then, when the game was truly a mixture of blood, sweat and tears.

Kramer also offers an insightful view of Lombardi, as a man, as a coach and as a leader.

Two of the more interesting aspects of the ’67 season were the two times the Packers had to face the Los Angeles Rams. With the Rams now going back to the City of Angels in 2016, I thought it would be an apropos time to talk those contests with Kramer.

The first time the team met was late in the season, when the Packers had already clinched the NFL Central division with a 9-2-1 mark heading into the game. They would be traveling to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to take on the 9-1-2 Rams.

The Packers really had nothing to play for except pride. The Rams meanwhile, were in a heated race with the Baltimore Colts to see who would win the Coastal division. Also, the NFL did not have a wild card format at the time, so the Rams had to win the division to advance to the playoffs.

Lombardi gave the team a quick pep talk on the sideline before the game.

“Thousands of people are here in the stands,” Lombardi told the team. “There are millions of people on television and everyone looking. All this speculation to see what kind of a game the Green Bay Packers are going to play today.

“Right? I want you to be proud of your profession. It’s a great profession. You be proud of this game. You can do a great deal for football today. A great deal for all the players in the league and everything else. Now go out there and play this ball game like I know you can play it!”

This past Friday, the NFL Network had a three-hour special as Super Bowl I was replayed in it’s entirety for the first time since that epic event 49 years ago.

In that special, it was presented that the speech that Lombardi gave his team in the 1967 regular season versus the Rams, was the one he gave before Super Bowl I, which also occurred at the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles.

I knew that wasn’t the case and I posted a comment about it on Facebook. During a conversation I had with Kramer on Tuesday, I mentioned that to him.

“I saw that,” Kramer said speaking of my comment on Facebook. “I said, ‘Bob knows his sh*t. He’s doing it again. He’s got it right.’

The Packers played a great game on that Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles on December 9, 1967.

It was a hard fought contest, which saw both teams go back and forth taking the lead. The Rams had taken a 17-10 lead in the third period when they kicked off to Travis Williams of the Packers.

Williams had already become a sensation in the NFL in returning kickoffs that season, as he had returned three kicks for touchdowns before this game against the Rams.

No. 23 took the kickoff four yards deep in the end zone and returned the kick for yet another touchdown which tied the game at 17 all.

The Rams took the lead again 20-17 in the fourth quarter on a 16-yard field goal by Bruce Gossett, before the Packers scored on a four-yard touchdown run by fullback Chuck Mercein to give the Packers a 24-20 lead.

Donny's blocked put vs. the Rams

The Packers had that lead until the very last minute when Donny Anderson had his punt blocked by Tony Guillory of the Rams. Quarterback Roman Gabriel and his offense now had the ball on the five-yard line of the Packers with just seconds to go in the game.

Gabriel then threw a touchdown pass to Bernie Casey and the Rams won 27-24, as the Packers lost in heartbreaking fashion.

In Instant Replay, this is what Kramer wrote regarding the outcome of the game:

I was ready to fall down when the game ended. I contained Merlin pretty well, but I was beat from head to toe. I played about as hard as I ever played in my life, and I took an incredible physical pounding in the middle of the line. So did everyone else; everybody gave 100 percent. Coach Lombardi told me I played a great game, but I was down, blue, disappointed, dejected, everything. I never came so close to tears on a football field.

Fortunately for the Packers, they had one more opportunity to play the Rams. This time it would be in the Western Conference Championship Game at Milwaukee County Stadium on December 23, just two weeks after that painful loss to the Rams.

Kramer told me that he knew the Rams would be a very tough test.

“They [the Rams] were a hell of a football team,” Kramer said. “The Fearsome Foursome was very real. There wasn’t any weakness there. They also had a good linebacking corp and good defensive backs. They had a hell of a football team.”

The game didn’t start out well for the Packers as they had a couple of turnovers in the first quarter.  The last turnover led to a score by the Rams, as Gabriel hit Casey on a 29-yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 lead.

But the Packers weren’t phased. The team was definitely ready to play, as Lombardi had given the team another pre-game pep talk in the locker room.

Lombardi and the Packers vs. the Rams

“We really got fired up in the locker room when Coach Lombardi gave us his Run to Win speech,” Kramer said. “That got us pretty high. The ring I wear, from Super Bowl II, has Run to Win on the side of it.

“He gave us this wonderful speech of St. Paul’s epistle,  about when all the runners are running the race, only one can win, and we run, not just to be in the race, but we run to win. That got us pumped up pretty good.”

The Packers basically took control of the game emphatically in the second quarter. Kramer talked about one of the strategies that the Packers employed in the game.

“One of the best things we did for the ball game was to put Marv Fleming next to Forrest [Gregg] to double Deacon [Jones],” Kramer said. “We really spent some time on trying to neutralize him and keep him a way from his favorite target [the quarterback].

“So that worked really well. Of course Travis [Williams] was the wild card in that game. I remember blocking on Merlin [Olsen] and he was starting to slip away to the outside in pursuit and I look outside and Travis was about even with us, but near the sideline running towards the end zone. And I knew that this play was over. He’s gone.”

Gone he was, as Williams galloped 46 yards for a touchdown to tie the game.

The Packers added another touchdown in the second quarter, as Bart Starr threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Carroll Dale for a 14-7 lead going into halftime.

The Packers were never threatened after that. Williams ended up with 88 yards rushing and two scores, while Dale caught six passes for 109 yards and a score.

The Packers had 20 first downs to the Rams 12 in the game. Starr was only sacked once, while Gabriel was sacked five times, including 3.5 sacks by Henry Jordan.

The result was a very satisfying 28-7 victory over the Rams. That win set up the game eight days later, when the Packers played the Cowboys in the Ice Bowl game, when the Packers won their third straight NFL title.

This is what Kramer wrote regarding that great win against the Rams in Instant Replay:

I was misty-eyed myself I felt so good. I felt so proud, proud of myself and proud of my teammates and proud of my coaches. I felt like I was part of something special. I guess it’s the way a group of scientists feel when they make a big breakthrough, though, of course, we aren’t that important. It’s a feeling of being together, completely together, a singleness of purpose, accomplishing something that is very difficult to accomplish, accomplishing something that a lot of people thought you couldn’t accomplish. It sent a beautiful shiver up my back.

One of the reasons Kramer was busting with pride was due to the fact that he had competed against arguably the best defensive tackle in the history of the NFL, Merlin Olsen.

Kramer talked to me about the many times he competed against the great No. 74 of the Rams.

“I knew that Merlin was never going to let up on the field,” Kramer said. “He was never going to quit. He wasn’t going to hold you. He wasn’t going to play dirty. But he wasn’t going to take a play off either. He was coming.

“You had to gamble a little bit with Merlin. I liked to pop him every once in awhile. Like if it’s a pass play, I might come off the line of scrimmage and just whack him real quick like it’s a running play. Then I would almost bounce back into my position as a pass-blocker.

Packers-Rams playoff game in '67

“That gave me an extra second for him to figure out that it really was a pass play. I remember one time he was starting to loop around the center towards Fuzzy [Thurston}, and I came up and popped him real quick with my helmet. And he went down to one knee and then bounced back up into a running position.

“He was a load. He was strong. He was motivated. He was smart. And he may have been the best I ever played against.”

Olsen had the honors to prove it. He was named to 14 Pro Bowls and was named first team All-Pro nine times.

The respect and admiration that Kramer had for Olsen, was equally shared by No. 74 towards No. 64.

In fact, Olsen sent off this letter of endorsement for Kramer regarding induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame:

“There is no question in my mind that Jerry Kramer has Hall of Fame credentials. Respect is given grudgingly in the trenches of the NFL and Jerry has earned my respect as we battled eye to eye in the pits on so many long afternoons.

Jerry Kramer belongs in the Hall of Fame and I hope you will put this process in motion by including his name on the ballot for this coming year.”

That might be the strongest endorsement Kramer has ever received regarding his rightful place in Canton, which has still yet to occur, even with Kramer being a finalist 10 times.

I have written about this travesty many times, including in this story.

How can a man who was on the NFL’s 50th anniversary team, be kept out of Canton? Kramer is the only member of that first-team not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In addition, No. 64 was a five-time All-Pro and named to three Pro Bowls. He was also on the NFL All-Decade team for the 1960s.

But his biggest moments came on the football field in the postseason, when it truly was win or go home. The Packers kept winning and Kramer was a big reason why, especially in the 1962, 1965 and 1967 NFL title games.

Olsen wasn’t the only player who has come out to speak out on behalf of Kramer being in the Hall of Fame. So have contemporaries like Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Willie Davis, Frank Gifford, Chuck Bednarik, Bob Lilly, Doug Atkins, Alan Page, Joe Schmidt, John Mackey, Raymond Berry, Mel Renfro, Mike Ditka, Jim Otto, Tom Mack, Dave Wilcox, Tommy McDonald and Lem Barney.

You can see all of those endorsements and much more in this great book put together by Randy Simon.

No matter what your occupation in life is, you always want to be respected by your peers. And Kramer certainly was respected by his rivals in the NFL.

“In the wee small hours of the morning, I rather have the applause of my peers, than to not have the applause of my peers and be in the Hall,” Kramer said. “I rather have the guys I admired and I thought a lot of, think that I belong, than to be in there and have them think I didn’t.”

There is absolutely no question that Gerald Louis Kramer belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He has the credentials, the championships and the respect of his peers who are already in Canton.

Merlin Olsen

In less than a week, on January 23rd, Kramer will celebrate his 80th birthday. He has waited far too long for his proper enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Here’s hoping that this injustice will be taken care of when Kramer is part of the Class of 2017 in Canton.

It s a well-deserved honor which has eluded the best guard in the history of the NFL, at least based on his inclusion on the NFL’s 50th anniversary team.

You know Merlin Olsen would certainly agree.

The Postseason History Between the Packers and Redskins

On late Sunday afternoon, the 10-6 Green Bay Packers will take on the 9-7 and NFC East champion Washington Redskins at FedEx Field in a NFC Wild Card game.

The meeting between the two teams will be the third time the teams have met in the postseason.

Before I get into the two previous matchups between the Packers and Redskins, I wanted to point out some interesting connections between the two teams.

The Packers play their games at Lambeau Field. The stadium is located on Lombardi Avenue.

Why is that? Because Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi are the two most famous and successful coaches in the history of the Packers.

Between the two of them, the Packers won 11 NFL titles.

Both coaches also moved on to become the head coach of the Redskins after their tenures in Green Bay.

Lambeau initially joined the Chicago Cardinals after leaving the Packers in 1950, but after two years in Chicago, Lambeau became head coach of the Redskins in 1952.

In two seasons there, the Redskins went 10-13-1 under Lambeau.

After Lombardi relinquished his head coaching duties in Green Bay in 1968, he stayed on as general manager for one year.

But in 1969, Lombardi was hired by the Redskins to be Executive Vice President, General Manager and Head Coach. Lombardi was also given a stock interest in the team.

Lombardi led the Redskins to a 7-5-2 record in 1969, which was Washington’s first winning record in 14 years.

Tragically, Lombardi passed away in 1970 because of colon cancer at the age of 57.

Lambeau and Lombardi

Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi

In addition to those connections, there is also Green Bay’s current team President and CEO, Mark Murphy. Murphy has held that position since late 2007, when he took over the reins from Bob Harlan.

Murphy has presided over an organization which has gone 89-49-1 and gone to the postseason seven straight years. Included in that run was the Vince Lombardi Trophy the team brought back to Green Bay after winning Super Bowl XLV.

As a player in the NFL, Murphy had an eight-year career with the Redskins playing safety. During that period, Washington won Super Bowl XVII.

In 1983, Murphy led the NFL with nine interceptions and was a consensus All-Pro, as well as getting selected to play in the Pro Bowl.

In terms of their postseason meetings, the Packers and Redskins first met in the 1936 NFL title game.

That game was the very first postseason game the Packers ever played in. Green Bay had already won three NFL titles in 1929, 1930 and 1931, but that was when the NFL awarded the championship by league standing.

In 1933, the NFL went to a playoff system to determine the league champion.

The Packers were 10-1-1 in 1936, which was tops in the Western Division.

The Redskins won the Eastern Division with a 7-5 record. The team was also based in Boston that season.

Owner George Preston Marshall 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.

In 1937, Marshall moved the Redskins to Washington.

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

The Packers won the contest 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.

The Packers had led the NFL in passing offense in 1936.

Herber hit Don Hutson with a 48-yard touchdown pass in the first three minutes of the game. Hutson finished with five catches for 76 yards and a touchdown.

Don Hutson and Curly Lambeau

Don Hutson and Curly Lambeau

Johnny (Blood) McNally also caught two passes for 55 yards. One was a 52-yard reception which set up a touchdown. Herber ended up throwing two touchdown passes.

Clark Hinkle led the Packers in rushing with 58 yards on 16 carries.

The game was marred by a number of turnovers. The Packers forced five turnovers (four fumbles and an interception), while the Redskins forced five themselves (three fumbles and two interceptions).

The bottom line is the Packers had their fourth NFL title with the win and their first via the playoff format.

The next time the two teams met in the postseason was in 1972, which was five years after the Lombardi-era had ended in Green Bay.

Lombardi had added five more NFL championships (including the first two Super Bowls) to the Green Bay trophy cabinet, along with the six titles Lambeau had won.

The Packers struggled after Lombardi had turned over the coaching duties to Phil Bengtson in 1968. In the three years that Bengtson coached the Packers, the team was 20-21-1.

After Bengtson resigned, the Packers brought in Dan Devine, who had been a successful college coach at Missouri. In Devine’s first year in Green Bay, the Packers were 4-8-2.

But the Packers rebounded in 1972 under Devine and ended up winning the NFC Central division with a 10-4 record.

The Packers were led by their defense, which was ranked second in the NFL in total defense. That included being eighth in passing defense and second in rushing defense.

The only remaining defensive starter from the 1967 title team in Green Bay was linebacker Dave Robinson. In addition, Ray Nitschke was also on the ’72 team, but was a backup to middle linebacker Jim Carter.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Packers had two players from the ’67 team who were still starters in ’72. They were center Ken Bowman and wide receiver Carroll Dale.

Speaking of the offense, it was a completely different story compared to the defense. The Packers were ranked 22nd in total offense. Remember that the NFL was just a 26-member league at the time.

Green Bay was ranked seventh in rushing offense, as the team averaged over 150 yard per game on the ground. The two primary reasons were the performances of John Brockington and MacArthur Lane.

Brockington ran for 1,027 yards and eight touchdowns, while Lane rushed for 821 yards and three touchdowns.

The passing game really struggled however. Bart Starr had retired after the 1971 season. Starr was brought on to be the quarterbacks coach for the 1972 season.

That being said, there wasn’t a lot that Starr could have done to help the quarterback situation that season. It’s hard to make chicken salad out of chicken sh*t if you know what I mean.

Starr was forced to work with second-year quarterback Scott Hunter, who had suffered a shoulder injury while he was playing for Alabama, the same place Starr had played college football.

That shoulder injury severely affected the way Hunter could throw the football once he got to the NFL. The Packers also drafted Green Bay native Jerry Tagge of Nebraska in the first round of the 1972 NFL draft, but Tagge was very raw in terms of his throwing skills.

That is what Starr had to work with in 1972. The Packers ended up throwing for just over 100 yards per game that season.

Hunter started all 14 games for the Packers that season and he threw just six touchdown passes versus nine interceptions for 1,252 yards. The passer rating for Hunter that season was 55.5.

Coincidentally, the Packers and Redskins met in the regular season in 1972, when they met in Week 11 at RFK Stadium in Washington. The Redskins won that game 21-16.

The Packers led in that game 14-13 in the fourth quarter, before the Redskins came back to win.

Lane rushed for 71 yards and a touchdown in the game, while Brockington gained 42 yards.

Hunter and Tagge split the duties at quarterback in the game, as between the two of them, they completed five-of-19 passes for just 66 yards and an interception.

At the end of the season, the Packers won the NFC Central, while the 11-3 Redskins had won the NFC East.

That set up another game at RFK Stadium in the playoffs.

The Redskins knew from their previous meeting with the Packers that they had nothing to fear from the Green Bay passing game, so they stacked up a five-man defensive line to stop the rushing attack of the Packers.

The head coach of the Redskins then was George Allen, who took over the team in 1971. Allen was always known for his coaching prowess on the defensive side of the ball.

That five-man front was a success in stopping the running game of the Packers, as the team had just 78 yards rushing that day, which included just nine yards by Brockington in 13 carries.

Hunter did throw for 150 yards in the game, but he also threw a key interception.

In the end, the Redskins won the game 16-3.

After beating the Packers, the Redskins defeated the the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game, before falling to the undefeated Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VII.

It’s somewhat hard to believe that the game on Sunday will be just the third postseason game that the Packers and Redskins have played.

The Packers joined the NFL in 1921, while the Redskins joined the league in 1932.

In addition to that, the two teams have only met 32 times in the regular season as well, with the Packers having the edge 18-13-1.

As I noted in my most recent story about the declining stats of quarterback Aaron Rodgers in 2015, the Packers have a real chance to kick-start their almost comatose offense versus the Redskins.

Washington is ranked 28th in total defense. The Redskins are also ranked just 25th in passing defense and have allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw 30 touchdown passes versus just 11 picks and have a passer rating of 96.1.

Washington also struggles in stopping the run. The Redskins are just 26th in rushing defense and have given up an average of over 122 yards per game on the ground.

The Redskins have also allowed opposing running backs to average 4.8 yards per carry.

We shall see if Rodgers, running back Eddie Lacy and the rest of the offense of the Packers can take advantage of that situation.

If they do, then they would have most likely won the rubber match in this postseason series between the Packers and Redskins, which first started 80 years ago.

Jerry Kramer Talks About Dan Currie

Last week the Green Bay Packers had their annual alumni event for their game against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night.

Former Packer greats like John Anderson, John Brockington, Willie Buchanon, Leroy Butler, Al Carmichael, Paul Coffman, Fred Cone, Dan Currie, Lynn Dickey, Gerry Ellis, Ken Ellis, Antonio Freeman, Johnnie Gray, Ahman Green, Chris Jacke, Ezra Johnson, Gary Knafelc, James Lofton, Don Majkowski, Chester Marcol, John Martinkovic, Mark Murphy, Ken Ruettgers and Frank Winters were in attendance.

In addition, so were a number of players who played on the team which won Super Bowl I. This included Donny Anderson, Zeke Bratkowski, Allen Brown, Tom Brown, Bill Curry, Carroll Dale, Willie Davis, Boyd Dowler, Marv Fleming, Jim Grabowski, Forrest Gregg, Doug Hart, Dave Hathcock, Jerry Kramer, Red Mack, Dave Robinson, Jim Taylor and Steve Wright.

The Super Bowl I players will be honored on Monday night at Lambeau Field when the Packers take on the Kansas City Chiefs.

If you look at the first group of players, all of them are now in the Packers Hall of Fame due to their playing prowess on the field. So are a number of the Super Bowl I alumni, and some of those players are also in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

One player who definitely should in Canton, but who isn’t, is Jerry Kramer.

Kramer was part of the 1958 draft class for the Packers. That class has to be the best draft class in the history of the Packers, as well as one of the best ever in the NFL.

Just look at that draft.

In the first round, the Packers selected Dan Currie from Michigan State.

In the second round, Green Bay took Jim Taylor from LSU.

In the third round, the Packers picked Ray Nitschke from Illinois.

In the fourth round, the Pack went with Jerry Kramer from Idaho.

Taylor and Nitschke have busts in Canton, while Kramer certainly should have one too.

Currie was a very talented player as well.

In seven years with the Packers, Currie was named first-team All-Pro once by the  Associated Press, plus was also given that same designation three other times by NEA (Newspaper Enterprise Association), twice by UPI (United Press International) and once by the New York Daily News.

Currie was also named to the Pro Bowl in 1960.

In his years in Green Bay, Currie played left outside linebacker. Currie was normally grouped with Nitschke, who played middle linebacker, as well as Bill Forester, who played right outside linebacker. In 1964, which was Currie’s last year with the Packers, Forester was replaced by Lee Roy Caffey.

Currie was a very athletic linebacker and he also had a nose for the football. No. 58 had 11 career interceptions for the Packers in the regular season, plus recovered six fumbles.

Currie also picked off a pass in the 1962 NFL Championship Game against the New York Giants at frigid and windy Yankee Stadium.

That was the game in which Kramer kicked three field goals and an extra point in the 16-7 win for the Packers. No. 64 also played right guard that day, as Taylor ran for 85 yards and also scored the lone Green Bay touchdown. As a team, the Packers gained 148 yards rushing that day.

After the 1964 season, Vince Lombardi traded Currie to the Los Angeles Rams for wide receiver Carroll Dale.

I had a chance recently to talk with Kramer about Currie.

“Dan was the number one draft choice,” Kramer said. “Out of Michigan State. He was an All-American center and an All-American linebacker as well. A great all-around football player.

“Dan had his opinions. For instance, one of the coaches were trying to tell him one time that he should have done something else on a particular play. So Dan says, ‘It’s instinct! You put me in the same position and the same thing happens, I’m going to do the same thing!’

“But Dan was a super ballplayer. He was also a proud ballplayer. Dan took care of his business.

“We called him Dapper because he always wore a coat and tie. He was always dressed well.

“Dapper could have had a career in Hollywood. He was a Clark Gable type of guy. He had a lot of fun and had a great sense of humor.”

Currie suffered a knee injury with the Packers and he was never the same ballplayer he was earlier in his career.

Kramer talked about that as well.

“Tommy McDonald was a wide receiver for Philadelphia and he probably went 5’10” and 175 pounds. He was a little ball of muscle and energy. Anyway, he cracked-back on Dapper’s knee on a running play one time.

“That tore Dan’s knee up and he was never the same after that injury.”

If one looks at Currie’s interception in the 1962 NFL title game, No. 58 had clear sailing for a pick-six. But as he was running near the sideline of the Packers, his knee gave out and he stumbled and fell after returning the interception 30 yards.

After his playing career ended, Currie eventually became a security guard at the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas for 25 years.

Currie is now in an assisted living center in Las Vegas and has come across some difficult times.

It didn’t help matters when Currie was assigned a private, for-profit guardian named April Parks by the court system of Clark County.

Dan and Joanna

People who are close to Currie, like good friend Joanna Saxton, started noticing improprieties occurring after Parks became Currie’s guardian.

Saxton talked to Kramer about a number of alarming issues which were ongoing under Park’s watch as guardian.

Kramer then enlisted the help of Bob Schmidt, who is the Executive Director of the Pro Football Retired Players Association.

Schmidt also reached out to Dana Lihan, who is the Program Director for the NFL Player Care Foundation.

The situation took a dramatic turn this past Monday, when Parks had her home and office served with search warrants by the police for guardian exploitation.

Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears is the KTNV reporter who has closely been following this case.

Spears has asked the court what will happen with all the people (more than 100), including Currie, who are under the guardianship of Parks, now that police have seized her files, paperwork and computer equipment.

The court hasn’t responded as of yet, but one thing is for sure, better days are ahead for Currie.

When Currie was in Green Bay last weekend, he and Saxton met with Kramer and his son Dan at the Stadium View bar on Saturday night.

Then on Sunday morning, they all had breakfast together.

Dan and the rest of the Pack

On Sunday night they all celebrated a great victory by the Packers over the Seahawks at Lambeau Field.

Once this guardianship issue is resolved for Currie, there will be another celebration.

You can be certain that Kramer will be with Currie in Las Vegas toasting that victory.