Opening Day of a Championship Season

As the Pack opened its 95th NFL season, anticipation is high for another Super Bowl run. 50 years ago, the Packers opened the 1965 season by travelling to steamy Pittsburgh on September 19 to play the lowly Steelers, just two weeks after Steeler Coach Buddy Parker had suddenly resigned, saying, “I can’t win with these stiffs.” While the Milwaukee Journal reported a temperature in the 90s and the Milwaukee Sentinel noted that the temperature was 94 on the field, Pro Football Archives tells us that the official readings at the Pittsburgh Airport that day went no higher than 83, although the humidity level of 69% would make it feel in the upper eighties.

It was hot enough that Steelers’ center Art Hunter was taken to the hospital at halftime suffering from heat stroke. In the Journal, Chuck Johnson recalled a Lombardi quote from July that proved apt, “We might not have the best team in the National Football League this season, but we’ll have the best conditioned team.” That conditioning and Green Bay’s depth that allowed for frequent substitution enabled the Packers to overcome a 9-7 halftime deficit to win going away, 41-9.

Herb Adderley scored the Packers first touchdown just two minutes before halftime on a 35-yard touchdown return of his interception of a Bill Nelson pass. Another Adderley pick, in addition to one by Ray Nitschke and a fumble recovery by reserve defensive tackle Bud Marshall led directly to 17 second half points. Meanwhile, Bart Starr completed 17 of 23 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns in a typical display of controlled brilliance.

Coach Lombardi summed up the performance to reporters by saying, “We were sluggish.” He added, “We’re not the best team I the country, but we’re not the worst either.” By December 26, 1965, they would be the best.

1965tshadderley3  1965tsrnitschke  1965tsbstarr

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Adderly, Nitschke and Starr custom cards in 1965 topps style; Marshall is colorized and in 1965 Philadelphia style.

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