Green Bay Packers: The 1965 NFL Championship Game Versus the Cleveland Browns
The Green Bay Packers are the only team in NFL history to have won three straight NFL titles. The Packers actually did it twice. Once before the playoff system began in 1933, when the Packers won three straight championships from 1929-1931.
The other time it happened was in the 1960s, when Vince Lombardi coached the Pack. Lombardi's Packers won five NFL titles in seven years, and that included three straight from 1965-1967. The Packers also won Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II during their three-peat.
It all started in 1965, as the Packers had gone two straight years without winning a NFL title. The ground game of the Packers was always an important part of the offensive game plan, behind Hall of Fame running backs Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung. The team had rushed for over 2,000 yards for five straight years from 1960-1964, and averaged over 160 yards a game in each season.
However, the Packers played without right guard Jerry Kramer for much of the 1964 season, due to intestinal issues, which included a number of medical procedures. In one of my many discussions with Jerry, No. 64 talked about that situation as he hoped to play in 1965.
I played two games in 1964, and I had the nine intestinal operations (including a colostomy) that year. In 1965, coach Lombardi didn't think I was going to play. He told me that he couldn't count on me and he wanted me to go home, but that the Packers would take care of my hospital bills and salary. For the next hour, I'm telling him that I'm not going home. He was adamant that he couldn't count on me, but I wouldn't relent. Finally, he said, that he would put me with the defense. Anyway, I got on the field, and I only weighed about 220 pounds then (Kramer's normal playing weight was 250). I had an open wound about six inches long and about an inch and half deep on my stomach, too. It wasn't very pretty. Anyway, I got a little help from Don Chandler, who got me through the exercises. He told me that we would do the exercises together, If the team did 50 straddle hops, you do 10 and I'll do 40. If they do 40 push ups, you do five and I'll do 35. Damn, if Don didn't pull me through that knothole then.
Kramer was able to play in 1965, but it appeared that Father Time had caught up with both Taylor and Hornung. Taylor only rushed for 734 yards that year, after having five straight seasons of having rushed for over 1,000 yards.
Hornung only rushed for 299 yards in 1965, and was actually benched for awhile.
The passing game of the Packers behind quarterback Bart Starr became a bigger weapon that year. Starr matched his career-high of 16 touchdown passes, as he utilized receiving weapons like Boyd Dowler and newly acquired Carroll Dale.
The defense of the Packers was the biggest attribute of the Packers in 1965. The Packers had the third-ranked defense in the NFL that year, including having the top pass defense in the league. Cornerback Herb Adderley and safety Willie Wood each had six interceptions, and Adderley returned three of his for touchdowns.
The Packers ended up finishing 10-3-1 and tied with the Baltimore Colts at the top of the Western Conference. That set up a playoff game at Lambeau Field, in which Starr was injured on his first passing attempt, as tight end Bill Anderson fumbled. Starr tried to tackle the linebacker Don Shinnick of the Colts on his way to the end zone, and he hurt his ribs on the play and was forced to leave the game.
The Colts also had quarterback issues, as they played running back Tom Matte at quarterback, as both Johnny Unitas and backup Gary Cuozzo had been injured.
The Packers ended up winning 13-10 in overtime, as kicker Don Chandler made a 25-yard field goal. That field goal was not in question. However, the field goal that Chandler made with 1:58 left in regulation was. The Colts claimed that Chandler's kick was wide right. The officials disagreed and said the kick was good.
That kick got so much attention, that the NFL extended the height of the goal posts for the next season.
That game set up the title game between the Packers and the defending NFL champs, the Cleveland Browns, also at Lambeau Field.
The Browns had arguably the best running back in NFL history on their team. I'm speaking of Jim Brown. The Packers would counter with Taylor and Hornung.
The game turned into a mud bath, as some early snow had softened the surface of the field. The Packers decided to shadow Brown with middle linebacker Ray Nitschke. No. 66 did a masterful job, as Brown was held to just 50 yards rushing.
Meanwhile, with the exception of a 47-yard touchdown pass from Starr to Dale, the Packers for the most part used their ground game to control the clock and keep Brown off the field.
Hornung ended up rushing for 105 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, while Taylor had 96 yards rushing on 27 carries.
The big play that gave the Packers a definite edge in the game was the 13-yard touchdown run by Hornung in the third quarter. Kramer had a huge role in that score, as he related the play to me.
If you look at that play real closely, I made two blocks. First I got the middle linebacker who was slipping through and I hit him in full stride and never slowed and then I went out and got the cornerback on the outside.
That score gave the Packers a 20-12 lead, and Green Bay ended up winning 23-12.
The first of three straight NFL titles under Lombardi had been accomplished.
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