Flashback: Prelude to the Ice Bowl

Editor's note: It's the off-season, but it's game day at PackerReport.com! Each Sunday until the start of the regular season, PackerReport.com will look back at a memorable Green Bay Packers game. Today we feature Green Bay's Dec. 23, 1967 victory over the Los Angeles Rams at Milwaukee County Stadium.

The Packers' road to the NFL championship in 1967 included a game against the Los Angeles Rams. Back then the playoffs were a novel concept and the Packers played some of their games in Milwaukee.

On Dec. 23, 1967, the Packers defeated the Los Angeles Rams 28-7 before 49,861 in Milwaukee in the first regularly-scheduled conference playoff game in NFL history. The victory enabled the Packers to advance to the NFL Championship Game where they downed the Dallas Cowboys Dec. 31, 1967 at Lambeau Field to gain a spot in the second Super Bowl where they would win the last of Lombardi's five titles.

If the game against Dallas didn't turn out to be the classic "Ice Bowl," the triumph over the Rams could have turned out to be signature game of the Vince Lombardi era.

Two weeks earlier, with the Central Conference championship clinched, the Packers suffered a bitterly disappointing 27-24 defeat to the Rams before 76,637 at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The game turned when Donny Anderson had his punt blocked late in the game and the Rams turned the play into a touchdown with 34 seconds left.

Lombardi fumed privately after the game but composed himself by the time he met reporters to praise his troops for fighting until the end despite having only pride on the line.

While Rams coach George Allen echoed Lombardi's sentiments, some Rams players and reporters were writing off the Packers as over-the-hill as the rematch approached. The fact that the Rams had beaten the Packers, were 11-1-2 and had won their final six games by an average score of 30-10 made LA the favorite heading into the game.

That was all Lombardi needed to stage what Michael O'Brien called in his 1987 book Vince: A Personal Biography of Vince Lombardi "his most brilliant motivational campaign."

The Tuesday prior to the game, Lombardi set the tone for the week during a meeting with the players, according to O'Brien's book.

"We may be wounded," Lombardi told the players. "We may be in trouble. Some people may be picking Los Angeles over us. But I'll tell you one thing: That damned Los Angeles better be ready to play a football game when they come in here 'cause they're going to have a battle. I'll guarantee that. This team has a history of rising to the occasion. This is it. There's no tomorrow. This is really the start of the big push.

Lombardi quoted the Bible in the middle of the week. By Thursday, Lombardi's spirits were high and it was obvious Lombardi was building the Packers to a peak. His pregame speech was "intense and emotional," O'Brien wrote.

"There are 50,000 people out there waiting for you to come out of this dressing room," Lombardi said. "They're all your family and your friends. They didn't come here to see the Rams. They came here to see you, and any time you let a team sit in California and say how they've broken your magic and what they're going to do to you, they're challenging you, and if they get away with it, it will be something you'll have to live with the rest of your lives."

The Packers stumbled at the game's outset, falling behind 7-0 early in the first quarter when Roman Gabriel hit Bernie Casey, who would go onto acting fame, with a 29-yard touchdown pass. A fumble by receiver Carroll Dale put the Rams in scoring position.

LA was poised to build on its lead when a Bart Starr interception gave the Rams the ball at the Packer 10 early in the second quarter. The Packers then got a seven-yard sack from Henry Jordan and a blocked field goal by Dave Robinson to turn away the Rams.

From there, the Packers poured it on with the precise Starr getting incredible protection from the Rams' "Fearsome Foursome" while the defense – led by Jordan's 3/12 sacks – stiffened. Travis Williams tied the game with a 46-yard run in the second quarter. The Packers took the lead for good when Dale snared a 17-yard TD pass from Starr. Green Bay finished off the Rams with a 6-yard run by Chuck Mercein in the third quarter and a 2-yard run by Williams in the fourth.

In the locker room after the game, an emotional Lombardi could barely address his jubilant team, according to O'Brien.

"Magnificent," Lombardi said. "Just magnificent. I've been very proud of you guys all year long. You've overcome a great deal of adversity. You've hung in there and when the big games came around …"

At that point, O'Brien said, Lombardi knelt down, crying and led the team in prayer.


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