The first post-season game played on what's now nicknamed the "Frozen Tundra" was 41 years ago today, Dec. 31 1961, when the Packers blanked the New York Giants 37-0 in the NFL Championship at City Stadium (renamed Lambeau Field in 1965). The game also marks another important "first" – it was the first of Vince Lombardi's five NFL championships.
A then-record home crowd of 39,029 watched the Packers break a scoreless tie with 24 points in the second quarter. The Giants were the league's top defense coming in, but the Packers didn't seem to notice with four TDs and three field goals. Paul Hornung, on leave from the Army courtesy of President John F. Kennedy, contributed a playoff-record 19 points (TD run, three field goals, four extra points).
The defense was just as impressive. Green Bay limited NY to six first downs and 130 yards of total offense. Ray Nitschke, defensive back Hank Gremminger and Jesse Whittenton all had interceptions which led to scores. In all, Green Bay picked off four NY passes and Forrest Gregg recovered a fumble.
DEC. 26, 1965: Packers 13, Colts 10 (OT) – Western Conference Championship.
After winning the '62 NFL title on the road, again topping New York this time at Yankee Stadium, the Packers returned to post-season action in Lambeau in 1965.
In a storied finish second only to the Ice Bowl, Green Bay won the only overtime contest in their post-season history at 13:39 of sudden death overtime with a 25-yard Don Chandler field goal.
The game-winner was the second trey of the day for Chandler, who earlier hit a 22 yard field goal to tie the game with less than two minutes remaining in regulation. That kick remains controversial almost 40 years later. Baltimore fans claimed the kick, which sailed high above the uprights, was wide right. Packer fans – and the game officials – called it good. The uprights were lengthened the next season.
The Colts were without Johnny Unitas in this one. They had to go with third-stringer Tom Matte, actually a halfback. He completed only five passes, but the Colts led 10-0 at halftime anyway.
Green Bay had QB problems of their own. On the first play from scrimmage, Bill Anderson fumbled and the Colts scooped it up. Bart Starr injured his ribs when he attempted to tackle Gary Schinnick of the Colts who returned the fumble for a TD.
Zeke Bratkowski replaced Starr the rest of the way, going 22-of-39 for 248 yards and setting up the only offensive TD of the day, a 1-yard run by Hornung.
JAN. 2, 1965: Packers 23, Cleveland 12 – NFL Championship
The "Frozen Tundra," immortalized by NFL Films voice John Facienda, may have been born this day. On a field covered by a four-inch snow, the Packers earned their third championship in five years. Hornung rushed for 105 yards on just 18 carries while Jim Taylor had 96 yards on 27 carries to provide a 201-yard 1-2 punch that the Browns couldn't stop.
The Green Bay defense contained the NFL's leading rusher Jim Brown, holding him to 50 yards.
Five field goals bounced the lead back and forth, but Starr opened the game with a 47-yard pass to Carroll Dale and ended it with a 90-yard, 11-play drive that ended with Hornung's 13-yard TD sweep.
DEC. 31, 1967: Packers 21, Dallas 17 – NFL Championship
When you toast tonight, don't forget to honor the Ice Bowl, played 35 years ago today. The game froze Green Bay, Lambeau Field, the South End Zone, Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr and Jerry Kramer in NFL history forever.
The thermometer read minus-13. The wind chill was minus-46. The Dallas Cowboys must have thought the plane missed Green Bay and proceeded directly to the Arctic Circle.
Here's the scene which was voted the greatest finish in NFL history:
Trailing 17-14 with 13 seconds remaining and no time outs, Bart Starr executed a quarterback sneak on third and goal from the 1, following Jerry Kramer's block to victory.
The touchdown climaxed a 68-yard, 12-play drive which began with 4:50 remaining in the game. It also completed a rally after Green Bay let a 14-0 lead slip away with two fumbles. Dallas had taken the lead on Dan Reeves' 50-yard scoring strke to Lance Rentzel on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Will Reeves, now the Falcons' head coach, have a recurring nightmare when he enters the field and views the South End Zone? Or will this year's Packers give him even more fodder for bad football dreams?
Tomorrow: Post-Lombardi playoffs at Lambeau Field.