NFL Championship Game, 1967


NFL Championship Game, 1967

The 1967 National Football League Championship Game between the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys was the 35th championship game in NFL history. Popularly known as the Ice Bowl, it is widely considered one of the greatest games in NFL history, due in part to the hostile conditions in which it was played, the importance of the game, the rivalry between the teams, and the dramatic conclusion.

Background and conditions

The 1967 game, played on December 31 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, remains the coldest NFL game on record in terms of actual air temperature. (The coldest in terms of wind chill was the Freezer Bowl.) The official game-time temperature was −13°F / −25°C, with a wind chill around −48°F / −44°C. Using the new wind chill index put into use in 2001, the wind chill was −36°F. The bitter cold overwhelmed Lambeau's new turf heating system, leaving the playing surface hard as a rock and nearly as smooth as ice. The officials were unable to use their whistles after the opening kick-off. As the referee blew his metal whistle to signal the start of play, it froze to his lips. For the rest of the game, the officials used voice commands and calls to end plays and officiate the game.

Several players, including Dallas defensive tackle Jethro Pugh and Green Bay quarterback Bart Starr, still claim to suffer occasional mild effects of the frostbite they developed that day Fact|date=September 2008. Dallas quarterback Don Meredith came down with pneumonia after the game and was hospitalized on his return to Texas Fact|date=September 2008. In addition to the effects of the weather, Starr absorbed a lot of punishment from Dallas players during the game: he was sacked eight times.

The University of Wisconsin - La Crosse (then the Wisconsin State University- La Crosse) Marching Chiefs band were scheduled to perform the pre-game and half time shows. However, during warm-ups in the brutal cold, the woodwind instruments froze and wouldn't play; the mouthpieces of brass instruments got stuck to the players' lips; and seven members of the band were transported to local hospitals for hypothermia. The band's further performances were cancelled for the day.

The game was televised by CBS, with announcers Ray Scott, Jack Buck, and Frank Gifford. No copy of the complete telecast is known to exist, although some excerpts were saved and are occasionally re-aired in retrospective features. The Cowboys radio broadcast, with Bill Mercer announcing, still exists; Mercer, now a professor at UNT, has played the game more than once during all of his Sports Broadcasting classes Fact|date=September 2008.

The game

The Packers jumped to an early 14-0 lead via two touchdown passes from Bart Starr to Boyd Dowler, but Green Bay committed two costly turnovers in the second quarter that led to 10 Dallas points. First, Starr lost a fumble while being sacked by Cowboys lineman Willie Townes; Dallas defensive end George Andrie recovered the ball and returned it 7 yards for a touchdown, cutting the lead in half. Then, with time almost out in the second quarter, Packers safety Willie Wood fumbled a Dallas punt after calling for a fair catch, and Cowboys rookie defensive back Phil Clark recovered the ball at the Green Bay 17-yard line. The Packers were able to keep Dallas out of the end zone, but kicker Danny Villanueva kicked a 21-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 14-10 by halftime.

Neither team was able to score any points in the third quarter, but then on the first play of the final period, the Cowboys took a 17-14 lead with running back Dan Reeves' 50-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Lance Rentzel on a halfback option play. Later in the quarter, the Packers drove into scoring range and had a chance to tie the game, but kicker Don Chandler missed a 40-yard field goal attempt.

Starting from his own 32-yard line with 4:54 left in the game, Starr led his team down the field with three key completions: a 13-yard pass to Dowler, a 12-yarder to running back Donny Anderson, and a 19-yard throw to fullback Chuck Mercein. Then Mercein ran 8 yards to a first down on the Cowboys' 3-yard line on the next play. Twice Anderson attempted to run the ball into the end zone, but both times he was tackled at the 1-yard line, the second time after his footing failed on the icy field.

On third-and-goal, Starr called the Packers' final timeout with only 16 seconds left in the game to confer with coach Vince Lombardi and decide on the next play. Starr asked for a sneak, and Lombardi's response was, "Well, run it and let's get the hell out of here." Some observers (and Dallas players) expected the play would be a pass because a completion would win the game, while an incompletion would stop the clock, allowing the Packers one more play to attempt a touchdown or kick a field goal to send the game into overtime. But Green Bay's pass protection had been poor, and Starr's throws late in the game had been mostly short and out in the flat; in this treacherous footing, the touchdown-or-incompletion alternative was not guaranteed. So Green Bay had other ideas. After taking the snap, Starr executed a quarterback sneak behind center Ken Bowman and guard Jerry Kramer's block through defensive tackle Jethro Pugh, scoring a touchdown that gave the Packers a 21-17 win and their unprecedented third consecutive NFL championship. Later on Kramer would even admit to moving before the ball was snapped which NFL Films tape of the game clearly showed that happened.

Several photos of the final play show Chuck Mercein with his hands in the air. Most people assume that Mercein was signaling a touchdown, but this is not the case. Mercein thought he was going to take a handoff from Starr, and once he realized that Starr was running a sneak, Mercein unsuccessfully tried to stop his forward momentum. He put his hands up in an attempt to show the officials that he wasn't pushing Starr into the end zone, which would have resulted in a penalty.

The Packers' final play was selected in a sideline conference between Starr and Lombardi. As reported in the book "When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi", by David Maraniss (1999), the coach wanted to get the game over with, one way or another, before conditions became worse, rather than attempting a tying field goal. The field goal try was no certainty given the conditions; and if it were successful, it would have sent the game into a grueling overtime period. As reported in the Maraniss book and also in "The Packers!", by Steve Cameron (1995), the called play was a handoff to Mercein. Starr decided, but did not tell anyone, that he would keep the ball and avoid the risk of a fumble. Following the touchdown, the Packers had to kick off to the Cowboys, but Dallas was unable to advance the ball in the few remaining seconds, and Green Bay had secured the victory.

Linescore Amfootball
Road=Cowboys
R1=0
R2=10
R3=0
R4=7
RT=17
Home=Packers
H1=7
H2=7
H3=0
H4=7
HT=21

Green Bay Packers 21, Dallas Cowboys 17

Scoring
*GB - Boyd Dowler 8 yard pass from Bart Starr (Don Chandler kick)
*GB - Boyd Dowler 46 yard pass from Bart Starr (Don Chandler kick)
*DAL - George Andrie 7 fumble return (Danny Villanueva kick)
*DAL - FG Danny Villanueva 21 yards
*DAL - Lance Rentzel 50 yard pass from Dan Reeves (Danny Villanueva kick)
*GB - Bart Starr 1 yard run (Don Chandler kick)

The legacy

The Starr dive became legendary. It was the climax of Kramer's "Instant Replay", a diary-style account of the whole 1967 season that illustrated the theretofore anonymous life of an offensive lineman. Overlooked sometimes is the long, desperate fourth-quarter drive that led to the score, wherein a host of offensive players contributed, as well as the heroic efforts of the players on both teams for the entire game.

Green Bay went on to finish the postseason by easily defeating the American Football League (AFL) champion Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl II, which at the time was still considered by many to be of lesser importance than the NFL championship itself. However, Lombardi made it clear that losing the game was not an option, and the Packers gave it all they had.

The game was the end of several eras. With Green Bay having won five championships in seven years, Lombardi retired. The following year age and injuries caught up to the team and they had a losing record; it would be almost 30 years before the team would become a dominant force again, in the Brett Favre era of the 1990s. Dallas rebounded to become one of the top teams of the 1970s, winning two Super Bowls in that decade, but Meredith would never win a championship, and he would soon become more famous as an announcer for "Monday Night Football" than he had been as a player. This would also be the last year the NFL championship game was considered more important than the Super Bowl, for in the following year Joe Namath and the New York Jets staged an upset victory over the Baltimore Colts that would bring the AFL to full legitimacy and validate the merger of the two leagues that had been agreed upon in 1966 and would be consummated in 1970.

Lambeau Field supposedly got its nickname, "The Frozen Tundra", from a NFL Films highlight film of this game that included in its narration the phrase, "the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field," spoken by "the voice of God," John Facenda. However, Steve Sabol of NFL Films has denied that Facenda used the phrase; it is believed that an imitation of Facenda by ESPN sportscaster Chris Berman popularized the phrase.

Facenda didn't narrate the highlight reel for that game. The highlight reel, "A Chilling Championship," was narrated by William Woodson, as was the highlight reel from Super Bowl II.

Pro Football Hall of Fame players involved in the game

One reason this game is so famous is because it featured numerous players who would later be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as well as the head coaches of both teams.

Cowboys future hall of famers in the game

* Tex Schramm (GM)
* Tom Landry (coach)
* Bob Lilly (defensive lineman)
* Mel Renfro (defensive back)
* Rayfield Wright (offensive lineman)

Packers future hall of famers in the game

* Vince Lombardi (coach)
* Bart Starr (quarterback)
* Forrest Gregg (offensive lineman)
* Willie Wood (defensive back)
* Willie Davis (defensive lineman)
* Ray Nitschke (linebacker)
* Henry Jordan (defensive lineman)

ee also

*NFL playoffs, 1967
*NFL Lore

References

* Cameron, Steve. (1993). "The Packers!". Dallas, TX: Taylor Publishing. ISBN 0878330488
* Gruver, Ed. (1997). "The Ice Bowl: The Cold Truth About Football's Most Unforgettable Game". Ithaca, NY: McBooks Press. ISBN 0935526382
* Kramer, Jerry. (1968). "Instant Replay: The Green Bay Diary of Jerry Kramer". New York, NY: World Publishing. ISBN 0385517459
* Maraniss, David. (1999). "When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi". New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0684844184
* Shropshire, Mike. (1997). "The Ice Bowl". New York, NY: Donald I. Fine Books. ISBN 1556115326

External links

* [http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs07/news/story?id=3205908]
* [http://www.profootballhof.com/history/decades/1960s/ice_bowl.jsp Pro Football Hall of Fame's description of the game]
* [http://www.southendzone.com/packer.g/19671231 The Associated Press story on the game]
* [http://espn.go.com/endofcentury/s/games/nfl.html ESPN's list of greatest NFL games, includes the Ice Bowl]


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