The Packers easily overcame five offside calls prompted by Namath's hard-count in trouncing the New York Jets 23-7 before 47,124 in the season-opener on Monday Night Football.
Namath was 16 of 32 for 203 yards in his only appearance against the Packers as a Jet. The future Hall of Famer threw one interception and couldn't get the Jets into the end zone. The Jets' lone score came with 33 seconds left via touchdown pass by Al Woodall, Namath's backup. "Joe Willie" looked to be off to a good start when he guided the Jets to the Packers' 34-yard line in the first quarter. The drive – the Jets' first of the game -- stalled, though, when Bobby Howfield's field goal was no good.
From there, Namath drove deep into Packer territory just once and was sacked three times for a total of 35 yards in losses.
"Man, after that first drive, those cats really came on," Namath said after the game. Namath did assemble a 70-yard march that pushed the Jets to the Packer 5-yard line late in the fourth quarter. That's where the drive ended, though, as Packer defensive back Ken Ellis batted away three passes intended for Jerome Barkum in the end zone.
"I thought Ellis wouldn't expect it three times in a row," Namath said.
Ellis was the brightest star in the Packer defensive galaxy.
The future Pro Bowler came up with the team's only interception and it led to a fourth-quarter touchdown. For his efforts, Ellis was awarded a game ball by coach Dan Devine and veteran guard Gale Gillingham.
"While we were walking off the field ‘Gilly' said, ‘Is (giving a game ball to) Ken Ellis OK?' I wasn't going to argue with him," Devine said. "Ellis got a big hand from the team so it was by popular decision."
The Packers also got two fumble recoveries out of defensive back Jim Hill. The Jets tried to stop the Packers' powerful running game by putting eight defenders in the box. It was a ploy used by the Washington Redskins in the Packers playoff loss the previous December.
The formation put the onus on quarterback Scott Hunter and he threw ball well enough to open things up for running backs John Brockington and MacArthur Lane.
Hunter was 6 of 13 for 107 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.
"I thought he did well," Devine said. "We didn't have a turnover and that was one of the things we were trying to keep away from." The Packers amassed 155 yards with Brockington running for 73 yards and Lane registering 60. In addition to the efficiency of Hunter, the Packers were able to offset the Jets' stacked line by utilizing a two tight end offense. "It's just something we've been fooling around with," Devine said. "Maybe since Thursday or so. You'll see a lot more of it this season."
The Packers never trailed in the first meeting between the franchises.
Chester Marcol opened the scoring with a nine-yard field goal in the first quarter. The Packers took a 13-0 lead at halftime thanks to a seven-yard boot by Marcol and a 19-yard Hunter-to-Rich McGeorge touchdown pass.
Green Bay closed the scoring with a 10-yard field goal from Marcol in the third quarter and a one-yard run by Brockington in the fourth quarter.
"When you win a ball game, especially against the Jets and knowing the abilities of Namath … you have to feel good," Hill said.
Notes: The Packers followed the Jets win with a tie, a loss, a win and a tie but then dropped five of their last eight games to finish 5-7-2 and out of the playoffs. … Lane led the Packers with two receptions for 32 yards. … This was the Packers' third home appearance and sixth overall on Monday Night Football and improved them to 4-2 in prime time. All three of the MNF home games were in Milwaukee. The Packers didn't get a MNF game in Green Bay until Oct. 1, 1979.