Five Touchdowns in the Fog

On December 12, 1965 the second place 9-3 Green Bay Packers met the first place 9-2-1 Baltimore Colts on a foggy day in the Charm City and advanced to the top slot in the West with a 42-27 victory highlighted by a five touchdown performance by Paul Hornung. Some bullet points:

  • It was the second time in Hornung’s career that he scored at least 30 points in a game; the first being 33 in 1961 against these same Colts.
  • Hornung scored on three runs of fewer than ten yards each and on pass receptions of 50 and 65 yards; it was his only 100-yard receiving day of his career.
  • Hornung ran for 61 yards on 15 carries; it was the last game of his career in which he would average four yards per carry.
  • The fourth and final 100-yard rushing game of Paul’s career would come three weeks later in the NFL Championship against the Browns in the mud at Lambeau Field.
  • Two weeks after this game, the Packers would beat Baltimore for the third time in 1965, winning the Western Division playoff in Green Bay.
  • The Colts featured a different starting quarterback in each of this trio of showdown games: Johnny Unitas in the 20-17 Packer win in September; With Unitas out for the season, backup Gary Cuozzo started in Baltimore and separated his shoulder in the third quarter; Although Cuozzo returned to lead two fourth quarter scoring drives, he was done for the season, and halfback Tom Matte played the entire playoff game.
  • The turning point in the game came on a second-and-two at the Packer two with Green Bay ahead 14-13 in the final minute of the first half. Cuozzo expected a blitz and tried a pass that linebacker Dave Robinson leapt high to snag and return 89 yards to the Colt 10. Starr’s 10-yard strike to Boyd Dowler put the Packers up by eight, rather than trailing by six, a 14-point swing.
  • Henry Jordan told the Green Bay Press-Gazette that the problem was not the play call, “It was a good play, only Robbie made a little better play.”
  • It was the first time since week four that the declining Hornung had at least 10 touches in a game. He would score the only Packer touchdown in the Colt playoff game two weeks hence and score another touchdown in the title game.
  • Hornung’s five touchdowns were just the second best scoring performance on that December 12. Rookie Gale Sayers scored six for the third place Bears in the San Francisco mud that day, tying the league record.

1966pphornung2  1965psplayoftheyear

1965pdrobinson2  1965playoftheyear

Custom cards in Philadelphia and Topps styles.


A Day of Big Wins

Two big out-of-town wins fell on December 10. In 1939, the Packers defeated the Giants 27-0 in Milwaukee for the NFL championship; 33 years later in 1972, the Pack rumbled over the Vikings 23-7 in Minnesota to clinch the NFC Central crown. Despite both being convincing victories, each game featured a 7-0 halftime score before Green Bay dominated the second halves. In both instances, the Packer defense was outstanding.

In 1939, Green Bay’s Arnie Herber hit Milt Gantenbein with a scoring toss in the first quarter, and Cecil Isbell found Joe Laws for a 31-yard touchdown in the third quarter, with the passers combining to connect on seven of ten passes. Herber was intercepted three times, too, so no Packer pass hit the ground all day. On the other side of the ball, Green Bay defenders picked off six Giant passes and held the New Yorkers to 72 yards rushing and 94 yards passing. It was Curly Lambeau’s fifth championship.

In 1972, the Vikings led 7-0 at home on a bitterly cold 2-degree day in Minneapolis. On this day, Green Bay held the Vikes to 172 yards of offense, and Clarence Williams sacked Fran Tarkenton three times. Minnesota also turned the ball over four times, with two mistakes leading to Packer touchdowns.

Green Bay opened the third quarter with a Chester Marcol field goal. Then Fred Carr returned a Bill Brown fumble 18 yards to the Viking 28, leading to a Scott Hunter touchdown dive six plays later. Soon after, a Willie Buchanon 25-yard interception return to the Viking 24 led to a MacArthur Lane touchdown to make the score 17-7 after three periods. In the final stanza, Marcol added two more field goals.

For the game, Lane rushed 19 times for 99 yards, while John Brockington carried 25 times for 114 yards. Brockington went over 1,000 yards for the season and became the first player in NFL history to do so in his first two years in the league.

1972tmlane  1972tjbrockington

1972tshunter2  1972tcwilliams

1972tfcarr2  1972twbuchanon

Custom Cards in 1972 Topps style.


Packers by the Numbers Update: #13

Doubling the anxiety of Green Bay triskaidekaphobics, 13 has been worn by 13 Packers through the current season. It was first worn by back Marty Norton in 1925 and then by two other backs (Eddie Kotal and “Hard Luck” Hank Bruder) through 1933.

After a 33-year gap, the next Packer to ignore superstition was quarterback Don Horn in 1967, and he wore it for four disappointing season. The only Green Bay quarterback to follow him was forgettable Steve Bono in 1997.

In between those two signal callers, 13 was worn long term by two good kickers (Chester Marcol and Chris Jacke) and short term by two unimpressive punters (Bucky Scribner and Bill Renner). Marcol wore the number for more seasons (9) than any other Packer, but Jacke wore it for more games (126) in his eight seasons in Green Bay. Marcol scored 521 points in his 102 games in Green and Gold, while Jacke accounted for 820.

Since Bono’s single season, the jersey number regulations were opened up to allow wide receivers to wear numbers below 20. Hence, the last four Packers to wear 13 are all wide receivers: Kelvin Kight (2004), Jake Allen (2009), Chris Harper (2013) and Kevin Dorsey (2014). The four combined to appear in 12 games, and Dorsey’s one four-yard reception is the sole statistical contribution by the quartet.

1925smnorton  1933hbruder

1967pdhorn  1997sbono

1973tcmarcol  1994cjacke

First two custom cards are colorized.

Damon Tassos

December 5 marks the birthday of guard Damon Tassos. Known as “The Greek,” Tassos was born in San Antonio in 1923 and attended Texas A&M, where he captained the football team in his senior season of 1944. As an Aggie, he was All-Southwest Conference in football and was the conference champion in the shotput.

Damon was drafted by the Lions and spent two seasons in Detroit before being traded to Green Bay for Merv Pregulman in 1947. During a period of deep decline for the Packers, Tassos provided decent play at guard for three seasons before retiring in 1950. Recalling his 1,000 1949 season, Tony Canadeo told Lee Remmell for the Green Bay Press-Gazette in 1969 that, “Damon Tassos was a great guard…I can still remember Tassos on that sweep. They used to overshift on us so much that we’d run it back inside. As a matter of fact, I’ve got an ankle that doesn’t turn now because of cutting back against that sweep.”

Tassos returned to San Antonio in 1950 to devote his time to the restaurant business, but later regretted quitting the gridiron early. In 1965, he told the San Antonio Express:

The game is a lot faster now, too. When I was playing with Detroit and Green Bay, we used to go over to the referee between plays and tell him that the guy across the line was using his fists. Then we’d line up and I’d call him (the man opposite Tassos) a dirty name and he’d come out of there with his fists flying when the ball was snapped. Naturally the referee was looking and it was an easy way to pick up 15 yards for your team.

Tassos was stricken with multiple sclerosis in the mid-1970s and died a quarter century later in San Antonio in 2001.

1947dtassos  1949ldtassos

Custom cards are colorized.

Whittenton’s Steal

56 years ago today, the Packers met the New York Giants in Milwaukee and clinched their second consecutive Western Division crown 20-17 in a hard-hitting battle that went down to the final minutes. The Packers held a big advantage statistically, outgaining the Giants 404 to 262 yards, but needed a fourth quarter score and a couple of key late defensive plays to pull out the victory.

The two teams exchanged scores throughout the first 16 minutes of the contest: a Paul Hornung 23-yard field goal; a one-yard touchdown run by Y.A. Title; a 25-yard Hornung field goal; a 14-yard touchdown burst by Jim Taylor following a fumble recovery by Willie Davis; and a 2-yard touchdown run by Bob Gaiters. With the score 14-13 New York early in the second quarter, each team would score only one more time in the game. Pat Summerall kicked a 41-yard field goal in the final minute of the half to extend New York’s lead.

After an exchange of punts early in the fourth quarter, the Giants took over on their own eight, but a Tittle toss to fullback Alex Webster looked to be a big gainer for New York until cornerback Jesse Whittenton tracked down Webster and hooked his arm around the ball and tore it free at the Giants’ 30. A roughing the passer penalty on the next play took the Packers to the 15. Three successive runs to the left – Hornung for seven Taylor for five and then Taylor for the score – gave Green Bay a 20-17 lead with 11:40 to play.

New York was not finished, though. After Summerall missed a 34-yard field goal, Starr drove the Packers to the Giants’ red zone but was picked off at the goal line by Joe Morrison. It was the second time in the game that Starr threw an interception inside the five-yard line. The Giants furiously drove the ball to the Packers’ 27, but with 2:20 to play, Tom Bettis disrupted a reverse to Gaiters, causing a fumble that Willie Davis pounced on.

Green Bay ran out the clock and then carried off Head Coach Vince Lombardi and defensive coach Phil Bengtson in celebration. On the day, Taylor set a team record with 189 yards rushing, while Whittenton held Giants star receiver Del Shofner to just one reception for 29 yards in addition to his ball thievery. Four weeks later, the two teams met again in Green Bay for the championship, and the Packers battered the New Yorkers 37-0 for Lombardi’s first NFL title.

1961tjwhittenton2  1961ttbettis3

1961fphornungarmy  1961fwdavis2

1962fjtaylor  1962fbstarr

Custom cards in three styles.

Aaron Kampman Turns 38

Drafted in the fifth round out of Iowa by Green Bay in 2002, birthday boy Aaron Kampman became a starter in his second season and was an instant fan favorite for his persistent motor and effective play. Defensive coach, Bob Sanders praised him in the Journal Sentinel for “developing his pass rushing skills. Enthusiastic guys like that are fun to be around and fun to coach.”

At 6’4” 265 pounds, Kampman had good enough size to be solid against the run, and he actually bulked up to about 285 later in his career. As a pass rusher, he led the Packers in sacks three consecutive seasons, starting with a career high of 15.5 sacks in 2006 and following that with 12 and 9.5 in the next two seasons. Kampman was a technician who studied his position and worked hard to get the most out of his abilities. Position coach Carl Hairston told the Journal Sentinel, “People say he’s not fast, but he does a great job working the leverage. He’s got a great punch, when he punches a guy, he stands straight up, so he gets up under pretty good.”

In 2009, Coach Mike McCarthy brought in Dom Capers to run the defense and the team went to a 3-4 alignment with Kampman converted to left outside linebacker. Kampman never complained publicly about the switch, but it was obvious that he was uncomfortable there and did not have the quickness and speed to drop into pass coverage. He would have been better as a 3-4 defensive end, even with its changed responsibilities, than linebacker. A knee injury ended his season in December, and Aaron signed with Jacksonville as a free agent in 2010. He lasted just two injury-plagued years in Florida before retiring in 2012.

(adapted from Green Bay Gold)


Custom card in 1962 Topps style.

Packers by the Numbers Update: #12

12 is, of course, a quarterback’s number, but was worn by two tackles (George Abramson and Rudy Rosatti) and six backs (Tom Hearden, Roy Baker, Dave Zuidmulder, Arnie Herber, Frank Baker and Bob Monnett) in the days of single-platoon football. Only Hearden and Monnett wore it for parts of more than one season, and there was a 27-year gap from Monnett to Zeke Bratkowski.

Zeke became the first quarterback to don the number in 1963 and wore it for seven years. He was followed by Jim Del Gaizo in 1973, John Hadl in1974 only, Don Milan in 1975, Brian Dowling in 1977, Lynn Dickey for six years from 1980-85 and T.J Rubley in 1995.

After Dickey, there was a 10-year gap of respect; after Rubley, there was a 10-year gap to fumigate the number before it was worn by an eighth Packer QB. In 2005, Aaron Rodgers took over the number that will someday be retired in his name. Rodgers has worn 12 for 13 years now and will eventually join other 12’s Joe Namath, Bob Griese, Roger Saubach, Ken Stabler, Jim Kelly and some guy still playing in New England in Canton.

1925sgabramson  1935bmonnett

1963tzbrat2  1973tjdelgaizo

1975Tdmilan3  1984tldickey

1995tjrubley  2010arodgers

Abramson, Monnett, Del Gaizo and Milan custom cards are colorized.