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.

Pro Football Hall of Fame: Jerry is Rooting for Jerry

jerry-at-lambeau-vs-the-jets-in-2014

On Saturday February 4, the day before Super Bowl LI in Houston, we will find out who the Pro Football Hall of Fame will name to their Class of 2017.

One of the people who might get named to the upcoming class is the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones. Jones is one of two contributor nominees for the Class of 2017. One person who will be rooting for Jones to get a bust in Canton is former Green Bay Packers great Jerry Kramer.

Kramer himself should have been inducted decades ago into the Hall of Fame and until that situation is rectified, there will always be a credibility issue at that venue.

That being said, I talked to Kramer recently and he told me about a brief meeting he had with Jones in Dallas in the early 1990s that he still regrets.

Kramer was at a function in Dallas when the Packers were playing the Cowboys in the NFC playoffs, which the Packers did for three straight years (1993-1995) in Big D.

Anyway, apparently Jones saw Kramer and went to him to say hello and Kramer just kept walking.

Kramer explained how his mindset was working then.

“I had a couple interviews last week where I said some nice things about Jerry,” Kramer said. “I said I thought Jerry was a great owner and has done some great things for the NFL since he has owned the Cowboys.

“I was explaining my ignorance and attitude at that point in time in those interviews. Trying to explain that I was still competing and still fighting against the Cowboys instead of behaving myself like I should have.”

Kramer had reason to be in the competing mode, as he played in two of the most famous NFL title games in NFL history versus the Cowboys in 1966 and 1967.

The 1967 game was especially legendary, as it is better known as the “Ice Bowl” game. It was in this game in which Kramer executed the most famous block in NFL history.

The game was played under brutal conditions, as the game-time temperature was 13 degrees below zero. If you added the wind, it was bone-chillingly cold, as there was a minus-48-degree windchill for the game.

The situation came down to this: just 16 seconds to go with no timeouts at the Dallas 1-yard line and the Packers trailing the Cowboys 17-14.

Quarterback Bart Starr called a 31 Wedge play in the huddle, which calls for the fullback to get the ball. However, after conferring with coach Vince Lombardi on the sideline, Starr decided to keep the ball due to the slippery conditions near the goal line.

That play selection was called earlier in the week when the team was studying the defensive tendencies of the Cowboys. Kramer actually suggested the play to Lombardi.

“Jethro [Pugh] was high, and I actually suggested that play on Thursday when we were studying short-yardage films. 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.’

Starr followed Kramer’s classic block on Pugh (who was high just as Kramer expected) and No. 15 happily tumbled into the end zone for the winning touchdown.

jerry-leading-bart-in-the-ice-bowl

Those memories stayed strong in the mind of Kramer as he visited Dallas in the 1990s while the Packers took on the Cowboys for the right to move on in the playoffs.

Still, in retrospect, Kramer wishes that he would have been more receptive to Jones in their brief encounter.

Jones has a couple of things in common with Kramer. Besides being named Jerry, Jones also played guard at the University of Arkansas when the Razorbacks won the national title in 1964.

Not only did Jones play guard, but he was also a co-captain and was named All-Southwest Conference because of his play.

While it’s not known for sure, I would wager a bet that one of the players Jones looked up to in the NFL while he was playing guard in college was Kramer. After all, Kramer was considered the best right guard in the NFL at the time and ended up on the All-Decade team of the 1960s, not to mention the NFL 50th anniversary team.

While Arkansas and Jones won the national title in ’64, Green Bay and Kramer won five NFL titles in the 1960s, which included the first two Super Bowls.

And it was the Cowboys under head coach Tom Landry who the Packers under head coach Vince Lombardi defeated in the 1966 and 1967 NFL title games to get to those first two Super Bowls.

Landry, who had coached the Cowboys from their infancy in 1960, was fired by Jones shortly after he purchased the Cowboys in 1989 and replaced by Jimmy Johnson, who was a teammate of Jones on that national championship team at Arkansas in 1964.

Landry had taken the Cowboys to five Super Bowls and had won two of them. Landry also led the Boys to 270 wins (regular season and postseason), which is currently the third-best mark in the history of the NFL.

Although the firing of Landry was not very popular in Dallas at the time, two straight Super Bowl wins under Johnson after the 1992 (Super Bowl XXVII) and 1993 (Super Bowl XXVIII) seasons deflected the anger in Cowboy Nation.

Two years later, the Cowboys won Super Bowl XXX, this time under head coach Barry Switzer.

The Cowboys have not been back to a Super Bowl in over 20 years, but Jones has become one of the most powerful owners in the NFL.

jerry-jones

One of his greatest endeavors was getting a new spacious and luxurious home for the Cowboys, which is now called AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The stadium, which was built in 2009, is also called “Jerry World” by some. Back in 2009, it was called Cowboys Stadium, and it was at that venue that the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, when they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31- 25.

The Wisconsin Badgers also just won the 2017 Cotton Bowl Classic at that same stadium, when they defeated the then unbeaten Western Michigan Broncos 24-16 on January 2.

“Jerry is a hustler,” Kramer said. “He’s always been a hustler. He’s got that method and that way about him. He’s always talking about his team. To me, that’s sensational. It’s nice to have a love affair like that. It’s nice to have something that is so interesting and important for you to enjoy. Jerry is blessed to have that football team. The Cowboys have been a wonderful thing for him and he’s been a wonderful thing for the Cowboys.

“Bottom line, I’m pulling for Jerry to get into the Hall. I mean, he’s named Jerry and he also played guard. But he’s also good for the NFL, whether you are a Cowboys fan or not.”

The Current Legacy of Mike McCarthy

Mike McCarthy

According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, head coach Mike McCarthy of the Green Bay Packers is feeling the heat, as his team lost yet another heartbreaking overtime loss in the postseason.

This time the loss came against the Arizona Cardinals, and while that loss is painful to Packer Nation, nothing hurt more than the epic team meltdown of the team in the final moments of the NFC Championship Game last year versus the Seattle Seahawks.

In his take on McCarthy, Florio said this:

“It’s just a matter of time before we start compiling a list of coaches on the hot seat for 2016 and Mike McCarthy will be at or near the top, despite all those playoff appearances and despite beating Washington in the Wild Card round. More should be expected of a guy who still has Aaron Rodgers, and who still late in the season looked at good as ever. At some point the Packers may decide that maybe we a need a better coach to get the most out of him.”

I would disagree with Florio about Rodgers looking as good as ever late in the season. Don’t get me wrong, Rodgers had some fabulous moments, but the fact is that No. 12 went 12 straight games (including the playoffs) without having a passer rating of over 100.

That says a lot. Why? Rodgers is the all-time passer rating leader in the history of the NFL with a mark of 104.1. To take that a little further, going into 2015, Rodgers had six consecutive seasons of having a passer rating of over 100. But in 2016, Rodgers had his passer rating go down to 92.7.

92.7 is better than average and a lot of NFL quarterbacks would love that passer rating. But not Rodgers.

at Lambeau Field on September 30, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

In terms of McCarthy feeling some heat, that’s up for conjecture.

But it’s also true that he has fired a couple of coaches over the past couple of years who were with him in the beginning of his tenure in Green Bay in 2006.

Last year McCarthy fired Shawn Slocum as special teams coach after the gaffes made by special teams in the NFC title game last year. Earlier this week, he fired Jerry Fontenot as tight ends coach. In addition to firing Fontenot, McCarthy also fired running backs coach Sam Gash.

Is that a case of a head coach feeling the heat or is that a case of a head coach not happy with the performance of the units that a specific coach (Slocum, Fontenot and Gash) looked over?

McCarthy has been head coach of the Packers for ten years now and a lot of NFL teams would gladly take what he and the team have accomplished in that time.

In the regular season, the Packers have gone 104-55-1 in that period (.653 winning percentage) and have won five NFC North titles. The Packers have also been to the postseason eight times in McCarthy’s ten years in Green Bay, which includes seven straight times now.

The main point of contention to the people who believe McCarthy should be on the hot seat is his overall postseason record. After the loss to Arizona, McCarthy’s postseason record is now 8-7.

Including in that record is a victory in Super Bowl XLV.

It also has to be noted, that in five of the seven losses in the postseason, the losses occurred on the last play of the game, four of which were overtime games.

Just think about that for a minute. McCarthy and his Packers are 0-4 in overtime games in the postseason. Let’s just imagine if the team could have gotten a break or two in those contests and the team won actually two or three of those overtime games.

That would put McCarthy at 10-5 or 11-4 in the postseason and maybe even another shot or two at an additional Super Bowl win.

I talked to former Packers great Jerry Kramer earlier this week and we talked about these close losses that the Packers have had in the postseason recently. Kramer talked about what Vince Lombardi used to tell his teams in Green Bay about close football games.

“Coach Lombardi use to say the game is a game of inches,” Kramer said. “And I didn’t believe that it first. I thought is was BS. It’s a game of touchdowns with long runs and passes.

“But the more you play the game and the more you watch the game, you see a first down is short by two inches so you have to punt. Or you make the first down by an inch and the drive continues. Or the ball is tipped or deflected by an inch or two and is intercepted or caught by another receiver.

“So ultimately, it is a game of inches. And you don’t know when that inch is coming. You don’t know when that moment is coming. But if you play every play like it’s a game of inches, than I think you’ll have a better chance of success.”

Kramer should know. When the Packers won the 1966 and 1967 NFL Championship Games against the Dallas Cowboys, each game came down to the final seconds of the game.

In the 1966 title game, on a fourth and goal situation at the two yard of the Packers, it came down to one final play for the Cowboys, as they trailed the Packers 34-27 and were trying to force overtime. Quarterback Don Meredith rolled right and was pressured by linebacker Dave Robinson.

Meredith heaved a desperation pass with Robinson all over him and the pass was intercepted by Tom Brown of the Packers. But what if Meredith would have thrown it further to the right by a foot or so and was caught by a receiver of the Cowboys for a touchdown?

That would have forced overtime and maybe the Cowboys would have been playing in Super Bowl I instead of the Packers.

Or how about the 1967 NFL title game, better known as the “Ice Bowl” game. The Packers were down 17-14 and were at the one yard line of the Cowboys. It was third and goal with 16 seconds to go in the game.

The Cowboys expected a pass on third down, because the Packers didn’t have any time outs. But Lombardi crossed up the Cowboys after conferring with quarterback Bart Starr on the sideline.

Bart's sneak behind Jerry

Lombardi and Starr decided to use a wedge play in the direction of Jethro Pugh of the Cowboys with Starr sneaking the ball. The play had been suggested by Kramer earlier in the week.

“Jethro [Pugh] was high, and I actually suggested that play on Thursday when we were studying short-yardage films. 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.’

Starr followed the classic block by Kramer on Pugh and happily fell into the end zone, as the Packers won 21-17.

But what if Starr had slipped like running back Donny Anderson had done on the previous two plays on the icy surface of Lambeau Field and not made it into the end zone?

Where am I going with this? Lombardi was 9-1 in the postseason, but he came very close to losing a couple of those games. If the Packers had lost both the 1966 and 1967 NFL title games, Lombardi would have had a 5-3 record in the postseason, with no Super Bowl wins.

But the fact is that Lombardi and his Packers did win those games. And it’s also true, that the game truly is a game of inches. Especially in the postseason.

Let’s give a couple of examples here. Don Shula won more games in NFL history than any other coach, as he had a 328-156-6 record in the regular season (.677 winning percentage). He also won a couple of Super Bowls.

But Shula also lost three Super Bowl games and was just 19-17 overall in the postseason.

Look at Tom Landry, who is third all-time in victories in the NFL, as he had a 250-162-6 mark in the regular season (.607 winning percentage). He also won a couple of Super Bowls.

But Landry also lost three Super Bowl games and was just 20-16 in the postseason overall.

McCarthy has only coached about a third of the time that those two coaching icons coached in the NFL and based on his track record so far, would probably match or come near to the accomplishments of Shula and Landry if he even comes close to their coaching tenures.

In fact, I can think of only one head coach in the NFL currently who has exceeded the job that McCarthy has done over the past 10 years in the NFL. That would be Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots.

Belichick and his Patriots were 124-36 in the regular season during that time. Only once did the Pats not make the playoff in those ten years. The Pats also won nine AFC titles.

But in the postseason in those ten years so far, Belichick and his Pats are just 12-7 with one Super Bowl win. That may change as this current postseason continues.

It should also be noted that Belichick and his Patriots won three Super Bowls before 2006. All of the postseason magic has happened with a fellow named Tom Brady as Belichick’s quarterback.

Brady and Belichick

Speaking of a game of inches, do you remember how the Belichick/Brady run of greatness started? It happened in the “Tuck” game against the Oakland Raiders in the 2001 postseason. Without that call which reversed a fumble by Brady, who knows what happens in the future?

Before he left the New York Giants after this past season, Tom Coughlin had been head coach of the G-Men since 2004.

Coughlin had a pretty good run, especially with two Super Bowl wins in the past nine seasons.

But his tenure was up and down. The Giants were 102-90 in the regular season (three NFC East titles) in 12 seasons, and were 8-3 in the postseason.

The only other head coach who has been with the same team in the NFL the past 10 years is Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints.

Payton has done very well with the Saints and has also won a Super Bowl, but his record in the regular season is 87-57 with just three NFC South titles. In the postseason, Payton and the Saints have a 6-4 record.

It’s a debatable point, but besides the coaches I’ve mentioned, you would have to include Pete Carroll and Mike Tomlin into this discussion about coaches who have done well over a five-year period and who are also currently head coaches.

The bottom line is that McCarthy gets a pretty high grade when you compare what he has done so far in the NFL over the past 10 years with other coaches. The fact that only four NFL coaches (out of 32) lasted that long should say something.

Although McCarthy has made some moves with his coaching staff  over the past couple of years , I don’t see him being on the hot seat in 2016. Not as long as Ted Thompson is his boss. That might change if Thompson decides to retire and someone like Eliot Wolf became general manager.

But the Thompson/McCarthy marriage has been a good one. Could it have been better? That goes without question. If it was better though, people might be comparing McCarthy with Belichick, especially if he had brought another Super Bowl win or two back to Titletown.

Unlike Mike Holmgren, the last head coach to lead the Packers to a Super Bowl win before McCarthy, the current head coach of the Packers is not looking for greener pastures or more power within the organization.

That’s an important point.

McCarthy is just 52 years of age. He could coach another dozen or so more years in the NFL, based on his track record. And he would like to remain in Green Bay.

Yes, they say coaches burn out after 10 years with a team. That’s been true in some case, but not all.

Landry spent 29 years coaching the Cowboys, while Shula coached the Dolphins for 26 years.

Belichick has been with the Patriots now for 16 years.

It’s also important to remember that organizations which have stability at the head coaching position do very well over a period of time in the NFL. The Packers have had just four head coaches since 1992 and look at the success the team had had.

Compare that to the Cleveland Browns under the ownership of Jim Haslam. Since he took over the team in 2012, Haslam has fired three head coaches and numerous other front office people.

The Browns have had a 19-45 record in that time. Talk about a team in disarray. It all starts from the top.

The Packers are different. The team has had two team presidents since 1992. Both Bob Harlan and Mark Murphy have allowed the general manager of the Packers to make all the football decisions regarding the team.

That has led to 244-139-1 record in the regular season, along with 11 NFC Central/North titles over those 24 seasons. The Packers have also made the playoffs in 18 of those seasons and have played in three Super Bowls, winning two of them.

TT, MM & MM

McCarthy has played a large part in that success. And he wants to add to it.

Now it’s true that McCarthy has made a few coaching miscalculations over the years in some key games. When one is 0-4 in overtime in the postseason, all of his decisions are looked at under a microscope.

Still, when compared to the best of the best in the NFL among head coaches in the history of the league, McCarthy fares very well.

We shall see what the future holds for McCarthy and the Packers. But all in all, his tenure in Green Bay has been better overall than almost all of the coaches in the NFL during that period.

The only exception in my opinion is Belichick.