The Playoff Bowl II: Packers vs. Cardinals

In 1960, the NFL created a second post-season game to follow the week after its championship game: The Bert Bell Playoff Bowl, named for the recently deceased league commissioner. The game would pit the runners-up from the Eastern and Western Conferences in a game played at Miami’s Orange Bowl to determine the third place finisher in the league. It was a pointless exhibition that lasted a decade, but did pour money into the players’ pension fund.

In When Pride Still Mattered, Bob Skoronski is quoted as saying that Vince Lombardi referred to the game as “the Shit Bowl…a losers’ bowl for losers.” In the August 9 entry in Instant Replay, Jerry Kramer quotes Lombardi telling the team, “I’ve finished second twice in my time here, and I don’t ever want to finish second again. There’s a second place bowl game, and it’s a hinky-dinky football game, held in a hinky-dinky town, played by hinky-dinky football players. That’s all second place is: Hinky-dinky.”

The Packers dropped to 8-5-1 in 1964, due largely to Paul Hornung’s horrendous kicking following his return from a one-year suspension. It was the second year in a row Green Bay finished second in the West and marked their second time in the Playoff Bowl. This time they faced the 9-3-2 St. Louis Cardinals on January 3, 1965. Dave Robinson missed the game due to illness, and fellow linebacker Dan Currie went down early to injury; they were replaced by Lee Roy Caffey and Gene Breen.

In the game, the Packers trailed at the half 7-3 on an 80-yard bomb to reserve receiver Billy Gambrell. Gambrell would catch six passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns on the game, and with Bobby Joe Conrad suffering an injury, kicker Jim Bakken went in at receiver and caught one pass for one yard – the only reception of his 17-year Cardinal career.

The Cardinals took a 17-3 lead into the fourth quarter before a muffed punt led to a Packer touchdown to tighten the score to 17-10. However, a pick-six by Cardinal safety Jerry Stovall extended the lead to 24-10 and a Jimmy Burson end zone interception of a halfback option pass thrown by Hornung ended the Packers’ chances.

The Cardinals outgained the Packers 385 yards to 181. Quarterback Bart Starr was sacked five times for 50 yards by a blitzing Cardinal defense that Coach Wally Lemm explained to reporters, “We changed our defense for them, using a 4-2 alignment, and we tried to give them a different picture on every down. We used a lot of red dogging, and that forces you into strict man-to-man coverage.”

A grumpy Lombardi grumbled, ”We played a poor ball game; [it] looked like we were sleep walking. We came out of the huddle like we were dying.” He added, “They apparently wanted to play more than we did.”

1964plombardi  1964pgbreen3

1964pvetbacker  1964pfreshfaces

Breen custom card is colorized.

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