Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Pillars of the NFL: 1962 Green Bay Season

In Patrick McCaskey's Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships  he covers the ten greatest NFL coaches of all-time.  Among the pillars is Vince Lombardi who coached the Green Bay Packers to five NFL Championships in the 1970s.  Lombardi was one of most gifted coaches who made his mark on NFL history. This post comes from Pillars and tells the story of one of Lombardi's season's. 

1962 Packers’ Season
Hornung had finished his active military duty and was available fulltime for the Packers’ 1962 season.  The Packers scored 415 points that season and only allowed 148 from their competitors.  The Packers’ first game was against their new neighbors to the West, the Minnesota Vikings.  It was the Vikings second season.  It was not much of a contest although the packed crowd of 38,669 in Green Bay was not complaining.  Hornung made the first four scores of the game with two touchdown runs and two field goals.  A Starr to Ron Kramer pass gave the Packers a 27–0 lead in the third quarter.  Hornung scored again, this time on a 37-yard touchdown run.  The “Golden Boy” was perfect on extra points for the day and scored 28 of the team’s 34 points.  The Vikings’ second-year man, Fran “the Scrambler” Tarkenton, hit Jerry Reichow for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to avoid the shutout.  The final score was Packers 34–Vikings 7.
The Packers’ defense mauled a good Cardinals’ offense in the second game of the season.  The Cardinals were held to just 16 yards rushing.  Taylor led the offense for the Packers with 122 yards rushing, but it was Paul Hornung doing most of the scoring again.  Hornung kicked a 13-yard field goal and had a 3-yard rush for the only scores in the first three quarters.  Max McGee caught a 19-yard touchdown pass in the last quarter and St. Louis was put to rest, 17–0.  Coach Wally Lemm of the Cardinals was impressed by the Packers’ balance and summed up his assessment of the team:
Great runners in Taylor and Hornung, excellent passing, at least five dangerous receivers, tremendous defense, outstanding kicking.
Taylor scored three times in a massacre of the Chicago Bears in week three.  He would not be the only one to see the end zone.  Pitts took it in from 26 yards out and Starr ran one in from 5 yards.  Starr also connected with Ron Kramer on a 54-yard pass play for another score.  To add insult to injury, in the last quarter, Herb Adderley intercepted a pass that he turned into a 50-yard touchdown play.  The final score was 49–0. Bears’ linebacker Bill George and elusive halfback Willie Gallimore were injured and unavailable.  
On October 7, the Lions gave the Packers trouble in the fourth game of the season played in Green Bay.  Hornung kicked a first quarter field goal, but the Lions pulled ahead on a 6-yard touchdown run by Dan Lewis.  Hornung came back in the third quarter with a 15-yard field goal and the Lions led, 7–6.  Just when things looked grim for the Packers, Herb Adderley intercepted a Milt Plum pass in the waning minutes of the game and ran it back 40 yards.  As the clock wound down, Hornung kicked a 21-yard field goal for the 9–7 win.
When Green Bay beat Minnesota again, the big story was not the 48–21 score, but the knee injury suffered by Paul Hornung.  Hornung was sidelined until the game against the Rams on December 2.  Without Hornung, the Packers managed to beat their next five opponents: the 49ers, Colts, Bears, Eagles and Colts again.  The Packers outscored their opponents 152–39.  In the second game with the Colts, Baltimore was leading 13–10 in the fourth quarter when Tom Moore, who was filling in for Paul Hornung, won the game for the Packers on a 23-yard touchdown run.
It would be the Lions who would break the Packers’ winning streak on Thanksgiving Day.  The Lions not only held the Packers scoreless for the first three quarters, but both the Lions’ offense and defense scored.  Quarterback Milt Plum tossed touchdown passes to Gail Cogdill for the first two Lions’ scores.  Then Bart Starr fumbled near his own goal and Sam Williams took it 6 yards for another Lions’ score.  Things got worse for the Packers when Roger Brown tackled Starr in the end zone for a safety and Milt Plum kicked a long 47-yard field goal.  The Lions were up 26–0 going into the fourth quarter.  The Packers came to life then.  First Bill Quinlan intercepted a Milt Plum pass and ran it in from the 4-yard line.  Quinlan fumbled the ball in the end zone, but Willie Davis made the recovery for the Packers’ first score.  Another Detroit fumble deep in its own territory gave the Packers the ball on the 14-yard line.  Taylor carried the ball in from the 4-yard line for the last score of the game.  Despite the late game comeback by the Packers, the Lions prevailed, 26–14.  
Once again, Lombardi turned his team right around from a loss.  First, Green Bay beat the Rams, 41–10, and then beat the 49ers, 31–21.  They finished out the regular season with a 20–17 win against the Rams. The Packers faced the Giants in the NFL Championship game.
1962 Championship Game
After the crushing 37–0 loss the Giants experienced at the hands of the Packers in the 1961 Championship game, Coach Allie Sherman was looking for a better team performance on December 30, 1962, in a cold and windy Yankee Stadium.  The Giants’ Y.A.  Tittle had a seven-touchdown passing day that season and he was aided by the return of Frank Gifford.  Gifford had a lot of mileage in his 9 years as a halfback.  He took a year off and returned to play flanker.  Gifford’s presence at his new position helped Tittle accumulate a whopping 3,446 passing yards.  The Giants also had 1,698 rushing yards.  The Packers were much better balanced on offense than the Giants with 2,621 passing yards and 2,460 rushing yards.  Hornung had a sore knee in midseason and Jerry Kramer took over the field goal kicking duties for the Packers.  
The blustery weather favored the rush that day and the bruising fullback Taylor.  Both sides found it difficult to score facing both inclement weather and inhospitable defenses.  The field was rock hard.  The winds gusted up to 40 miles per hour.  The temperature dropped to 18°.  It was a beautiful day for a football game!  About 65,000 fans were in attendance, a few thousand more than the population of Green Bay at the time.
The Packers drove downfield on their first possession with Jim Taylor grabbing up most of the tough yards.  When the drive stalled, Jerry Kramer delivered a 26-yard field goal.  Responding to the challenge, the Giants drove the ball down to the Packers’ 16 with a good mix of runs and passes.  Tittle looked sharp, but his arm was whacked by Nitschke while throwing and the resultant wounded-duck pass was intercepted by Dan Currie, killing a promising Giants’ drive.  
Two of the game’s top competitors, Sam Huff, the Giants’ great middle linebacker, and Jim Taylor, the Packers’ rugged fullback, went toe-to-toe on several plays during the game.  Huff always had an extra whack for Taylor on each tackle and Taylor, who was known to take any impediment of his progress personally, was riled up.  When Phil King of the Giants fumbled on the Giants’ 38 and Green Bay recovered, the Packers were poised to make the most of it.  Hornung threw a halfback option pass to Boyd Dowler who ran to the Giants’ 7-yard line.  Taylor took the ball right up the gut through Huff’s turf and into the end zone for a score.  The Packers led, 10–0.
In the second half, the Giants’ offense stalled, but the defense scored a touchdown when Jim Collier recovered a blocked punt in the end zone.  Jerry Kramer kicked his second field goal from 29 yards out and then his third field goal from 30 yards out late in the game.  Green Bay won 16–7.  Lombardi’s Packers had their second championship.

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 See "The Day Dick Butkus Caught a Bobby Douglass Pass for the Win."