New Year’s Eve evokes memories of the Ice Bowl to Packer fans of a certain age, but that 1967 game marked the second NFL title won in Green Bay on December 31. Six year earlier, the first championship game ever played in Green Bay established the pop culture nickname “Titletown USA” for the city from the enthusiastic buildup for the coming home town title match at year’s end. The Packers beat the Giants 20-17 four weeks prior in Milwaukee, with the winning score set up when cornerback Jesse Whittenton stole the ball from Giant fullback Alex Webster in the fourth quarter. Thus, the Packers were favored by just 3.5 points as the home team in this showdown of the league’s best two squads. Coach Vince Lombardi was confident, however. On the Tuesday before the game, he was quoted, ”If the field is right, we’ll win.”
On a crisp, chilly 21 degree day with winds of nine miles peer hour and a wind chill factor of 11 degrees, both the Giants and Packers went three and out in their first possessions, but Green Bay would not punt again in the first half. The second time the Packers got the ball, they drove 80 yards in eleven plays highlighted by a 26-yard pass reception by Hornung to midfield on a third down and a 13-yard interference penalty on Erich Barnes covering Boyd Dowler that took the ball to the Giant seven. Hornung darted in from the six on the first play of the second quarter to give the home team a 7-0 advantage.
The Packers were rolling. On the ensuing New York possession Henry Jordan tipped a Y. A. Tittle pass, and Ray Nitschke intercepted at the Giants 43, returning the pick to the 34. After a 16-yard strike to Ron Kramer on third down, Bart Starr followed with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Boyd Dowler on the next third down, 14-0. Then, Hank Gremminger picked off Tittle at the Giants 49 and returned it to the 36. Starr capped a six-play drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass to his tight end Kramer.
With the score 21-0, Charlie Conerly replaced Tittle and drove the Giants to the Green Bay six, but on fourth down halfback Bob Gaiters missed Kyle Rote on an option pass. With time running out in the first half, Starr moved the Pack 70 yards in six plays, featuring a 17-yard run by Hornung and a 37-yard pass to Kramer again. On the last play of the half, Hornung kicked a 17-yard field goal for a decisive 24-0 lead.
At the start of the third quarter, Bart Starr scrambled 18 yards from the Packer 37 to the Giant 45 on second and nine and fumbled. The Giants recovered, but the ball was blown dead, plus there was a five yard illegal procedure penalty on Green Bay. In the confusion, the officials mark off the penalty from the Packer 40 and reset the down to first. Thus, instead of the Giants having the ball or the Packers having a second and 14 from their 32, the Packers had a first and 15 from their 35. Even given the five downs, the Packers had to punt.
The Giants went three and out, and the Packers followed suit, but Dowler’s punt was fumbled by Joe Morison and recovered by Forrest Gregg at the New York 22. Hornung capitalized with a 22-yard field goal to up the margin to 27-0. After another Giant punt and a penalty, Green Bay took over on the New York 42. Passes of 11 and 13 yards to Dowler and a six-yard Hornung run took them to the 13, where Starr tossed to Kramer again for the game’s final touchdown. Tittle then returned to lead the Giants to the Green Bay 31, but New York failed to convert on another fourth down try.
In the fourth quarter, the Packers punted again, but then Whittenton intercepted Tittle at the Giant 38. Six plays later, Hornung kicked his third and final field goal to extend the score to 37-0. On the Giants final possession, rookie Herb Adderley grabbed Tittle’s fourth interception. By this time, Lombardi had pulled his backfield stars one at a time so each got a hometown ovation, Hornung, then Taylor, then Starr. John Roach took the final snap of the game.
For the game Kramer caught four passes for 80 yards and scored 12 points, while Hornung caught 3 for 47 yards, ran 20 times for 89 yards, and scored 19 points on one touchdown, three field goals and four extra points. Hornung deservedly was named MVP of this game to go with his league MVP award for the year, and the Packers were champions for the first time since 1944. Green Bay outgained New York 345-130, were plus five in turnovers and converted seven of 14 third downs to the Giants two of 12. Lombardi received a congratulatory telegram from President Kennedy, saying: “Congratulations on a great game today. It was a fine victory for a great coach, a great team and a great town.” Title Town it is.
(Adapted from Packers by the Numbers.)
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