AP Was There: 1967 Cowboys-Packers Ice Bowl game
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) The Ice Bowl on Dec. 31, 1967, became one of the games that defined the NFL, a contest between the Cowboys and Packers played on the tundra in Green Bay.
The winner went to the second Super Bowl against the Oakland Raiders, but a bigger accomplishment may have been simply surviving the conditions that seemed unbearable.
The temperature at game time was 15 below zero, with wind chill in today’s calculations at minus-48.
Fifty years later, players from the Packers and Cowboys still shiver from memories of the bitter cold of a game that would become known as the Ice Bowl.
Here is the story published by The Associated Press after the game, presented as published Jan. 1, 1968, by The Greenville News of South Carolina.
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) – Conservative Vince Lombardi gambled and won Sunday with 13 seconds left by going for the winning touchdown on a Bart Starr keeper instead of a tying field goal for a 21-17 Green Bay victory over Dallas in blue 13-below-zero Eskimo weather.
”The whole world loves a gambler, but not when he loses,” said Coach Lombardi after his Packers had won an unprecedented third straight National Football League playoff title.
”We were out of time outs. I had the field goal team warming up. They would have gone in on the next play. But I don’t know if we would have had time to send them in,” he said.
Quarterback Bart Starr, who said, ”We ran out of ideas,” made the gamble pay off by scoring from the one on third down behind the blocking of Jerry Kramer.
”We were stumped for something to do. Kramer made a great block on Jethro Pugh,” he said.
The veteran Starr had thrown two touchdown passes in the first half, but the ”Doomsday Defense” of the aroused Cowboys had dumped him eight times for 76 yards in losses.
Dallas used two Green Bay fumbles to draw close with a touchdown and field goal and had gone ahead on the first play of the last quarter on a 50-yard option pass from halfback Dan Reeves to Lance Rentzel.
”I didn’t figure all those people up there in the stands could take the cold for an overtime game,” said Lombardi with a grin. ”You can’t say I’m always without compassion.”
Both Starr and Lombardi praised the work of Donny Anderson and Chuck Mercein, who caught important passes and made crucial gains in the game winning, 68-yard march.
The Dallas Cowboys, still carrying the memories of a heart breaking 34-27 defeat last New Year’s Day, almost made the fierce cold pay off for them in Packer fumbles. But it wasn’t enough.
”Minus 13,” said Don Meredith, quarterback for the Cowboys. ”You just can’t do things you want to do in weather like this.”
The Cowboy defense did things it wanted to do, manhandling Starr. George Andrie was a one-man gang, and Bob Lilly Pugh and Willie Townes all had a hand as well as linebackers Chuck Howley and Dave Edwards.
In the final analysis, it was the same old Packers, moving when they had to.
”This is what the Packers are all about,” said Lombardi. ”What we did in the last two minutes – they don’t do it for individual glory, they do it because they respect each other and have a feeling for the other fellow.”
Starr’s two touchdown passes to Boyd Dowler had built up an early 14-0 lead for the favored Packers in the frigid cold of 13 below zero weather. But Dallas struck back by turning two fumbles into a touchdown and a field goal and then took the lead in the final period on a 50-yard option pass from Reeves to Rentzel.
In the dramatic final seconds, the Packers pulled it out for Lombardi, and moved into the Jan. 14 Super Bowl game at Miami against the American Football League champion Oakland Raiders.
Trailing 17-14 with 4:54 to go, Starr took the Packers 68 yards in 12 plays, and at last crashed over for the winner after two smashes by Anderson failed to move the ball. It was third and one when Starr took matters into his own hands.
Spuring a field goal attempt that might have sent the game into sudden death overtime, Starr and Lombardi elected to go for the win.
”It was a question of the team knowing what they had to do with time running out,” Lombardi said. ”They arrived.”
Hundreds of the sellout crowd of 50,861 surged onto the playing surface after Starr smashed home for the big touchdown that could be worth $27,500 for each Packer.
When the game ended two plays later, the half frozen spectators in the gaily colored ski gear, red hunting coats and blue and yellow parkas attacked the metal goal posts and finally twisted them to the ground.
It was the second heart breaking defeat for Coach Tom Landry and his Cowboys in two NFL title games for they had lost last New Year’s Day in the Cotton Bowl 34-27 when a desperate last-down pass by Meredith was intercepted by Tom Brown.
Time after time, the aroused Dallas defenders smeared Starr, tossing him eight times for losses of 76 yards as he attempted to de-ice his throwing arm and get off a pass.
It seemed that the Cowboys, who appeared on the way out of the game when the Packers ran up an early 14-0 lead, had gained the momentum to take the first title to Dallas.
A fumble by Starr after he was hit by Townes was scooped up by defensive end Andrie, who rumbled the final seven yards for a Dallas touchdown late in the second period.
Just before halftime, another Packer misplay gave the Cowboys a chance to close the gap. This time, it was safety Willie Wood fumbling the ball while attempting a fair catch. Rookie defensive back Phil Clark recovered from Dallas on the Packers’ 17.
On fourth and six, Danny Villanueva connected with a 21-yard field goal.
Instead of a romp, Green Bay suddenly found itself in a dog fight, betrayed by the bitter Packer weather on the coldest Dec. 31 in the history of the local Weather Bureau.
Held to 42 yards in the first half, Dallas began to move the ball in the third perid. A beautifully executed 50-yard option pass from Reeves to Rentzel on the first play of the final quarter put Dallas in front for the first time.
The icy blast of a 15 mile an hour wind from the northwest, and the subzero temperature, hampered both clubs in a game marred by several fumbles. However, the footing on the electrically heated turf apparently was good enough.
Don Chandler was waiting for the call to try for a tying field goal in the final seconds but it never came.
Chandler had missed a 40-yard field goal attempt earlier in the final quarter.
Although Green Bay won three consecutive NFL titles in 1929-30-31 before the league was divided inot conferences for playoffs, no other club has ever won three straight playoffs. This should be worth about $7 – 800 from this game and a possible $15,000 winning share from the Super Bowl for each Packer. The players also got an extra day’s pay last week for the division playoff with Los Angeles, and could get another payday in next year’s College All-Star game if they win in Miami.
The winning surge covered 68 yards with Starr hitting Dowler for 13, Anderson for 12 and nine and Merrein for 19 to bring it down close.
Mercein, the castoff of the New York Giants who was picked up by the Packers in an emergency because of backfield injuries, earned his pay by rolling for 19 yards on a Starr pass and the slamming up the middle for eight yards to the Cowboy three.
Anderson got the first down at the one, but he couldn’t get home in two attempts. Leaving it up to Starr for the winner.
Don Perkins was the top Cowboys, slashing through the line for 51 yards in 13 carries. Teammate Reeves gained 42 yards in 13 attempts.
Anderson topped the Packers with 35 yards in 18 carries and also pulled down four passes for 77 yards.
Travis Williams, the Packers TD bullet, was not an important factor in this one.
It was so cold that they even called off an elaborate halftime show, leaving the spectators free to swing their hands and stamp their feet in an effort to keep warm in the concrete stands.
There were six fumbles, three by each team. But the Packers lost two big ones, leading to the TD and field goal.
The only interception was by the Packers’ Herb Adderley, who picked off a Meredith toss in the second quarter. The Packers failed to dash in with a first down from the Dallas 32 after the theft.
Green Bay struck the first time it got the ball, moving 82 yards in 16 plays with the help of penalties against Dallas for pass interference and defensive holding.
The score came on an eight-yard toss from Starr to Dowler at 8:50 of the first period. The second Packer score was a thing of beauty. Starr hit Dowler with a long pass, and the 6-foot-5 split end stretched out to grab it on his fingertips, just out of reach of Mel Renfro.
Green Bay needed only four plays to cover 65 yards in that strike.
Although the Packers dumped Meredith only once, the Cowboys’ quarterback had trouble hitting targets. He connected with 10 of 25 for only 59 yards while Starr hit 14 of 24 for 191.
Actually, the best passer of the day was Reeves, a converted quarterback who is now a halfback. He threw one and connected with Rentzel for the touchdown.