SI Vault
Tex Maule
December 20, 1965
On a foggy day in Maryland, perfect for fearsome deeds, Green Bay's spectral Packers suddenly re-materialized in the solid form of 1961-62 and stripped the NFL Western Division lead from the Baltimore Colts
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December 20, 1965

A Ghostly Massacre

On a foggy day in Maryland, perfect for fearsome deeds, Green Bay's spectral Packers suddenly re-materialized in the solid form of 1961-62 and stripped the NFL Western Division lead from the Baltimore Colts

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The next key move came late in the same quarter. With Green Bay ahead 14-13 after young Gary Cuozzo—at quarterback in place of the injured Johnny Unitas—had rallied the Colts stubbornly, Jim Taylor fumbled and Baltimore's Bobby Boyd picked up the loose ball and carried it to the Packer four. Suddenly the Colts had an opportunity to take the lead and, perhaps, to establish a winning momentum. Cuozzo called one running play, then tried to sneak a pass to Jerry Hill in the end zone. But Dave Robinson leaped high in the air, intercepted the ball on the Packer two and returned it 88 yards to the Baltimore 10 before Cuozzo himself forced the big linebacker to slow down enough for Lennie Moore to make the tackle from behind. A moment later the Packers scored and went ahead 21-13. More important, they retained solid control of the game.

"I was up tight on John Mackey," Robinson said later. "On the goal line, you have to stay up close. If you loosen up, they'll drive you right out of there. I saw Cuozzo out of the corner of my eye, and when he threw I dropped off Mackey and played the ball. It just wasn't quite high enough."

Late in the game, Starr dealt the final blow to Colt hopes. With third down and nine yards to go against a suddenly fired-up Baltimore team now trailing only 35-27, Starr sensed an imminent all-out blitz. He changed his play to a pass and hit Hornung in the area vacated by one of the linebackers. Hornung ran 65 yards for the touchdown with no Colts anywhere in his immediate vicinity, and Don Chandler kicked the point to make the final score 42-27.

Lombardi had planned to attack the Colt flanks with his running game, counting on Baltimore tightening the defensive ends and corner linebackers in an effort to stop the Packers' strong inside running. He was right. Starr called a number of wide plays, with Hornung or Taylor carrying, and turned the Colt flank several times for key gains, including an ultimate nine-yard sweep by Hornung for a touchdown.

Among the most notable improvements in the Green Bay offense was the performance of the line. Once considered the best blocking unit in football, it had faltered noticeably in recent weeks, neither opening holes for the running backs nor providing adequate time for Starr to pass.

The re-establishment of Thurston at guard and of Gregg at tackle did wonders. So well did the line operate against Baltimore that the Colts never once reached Starr before he could get his pass away. Starr responded by completing 10 of 17 passes for 222 yards and three touchdowns.

"It was great individual effort by Bart and Paul and Jim," Jerry Kramer said. "No, I take that back. It was a great effort by everyone. We had confidence in ourselves again." Taylor, like Hornung, credited his improvement to his rejuvenated legs. "I said early in the week that my legs felt better than they have since September. That was the day I hurt my ankle in an exhibition game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Then I had trouble with an Achilles tendon, but I didn't want anyone to know about it, so I would say my ankle was bothering me if anyone asked. But today everything felt good."

"Shows you the value of clean living," Hornung said, walking painfully through the dressing room. Lombardi took him at his word. Instead of flying the team back to Green Bay, he shepherded them aboard a charter jet for San Francisco. They will be incommunicado at Palo Alto, preparing for the 49ers.

If the Packers should by some strange chance lose in San Francisco, then the most likely opponent for Cleveland in the NFL championship game would be the trounced but unbroken Colts. They must play the resurgent Rams in Los Angeles Saturday, without either Cuozzo or Unitas at quarterback. They will have to go with Tom Matte, who played quarterback at Ohio State, a team notable for its nonexistent passing. Behind Matte is George Haffner, up from the taxi squad. Cuozzo, having a separated left shoulder repaired, will be languishing in the same hospital where Unitas was taken after his injury in the Bear game.

It is to Cuozzo's credit that he came back to play a courageous second half in Sunday's game. Early in the third quarter he was hit hard, and his left shoulder was hurt. He was rushed to the dressing room and as the Baltimore fans wondered dolefully whether it was their lot to lose two superior quarterbacks in a single season, Matte filled in for a series of downs. Then Cuozzo came back. Against the best pass defense in the league he ultimately completed 20 of 38 throws for one touchdown. It was a frustrating culmination of a tense week for the 24-year-old dental student who has understudied Unitas patiently for three years.

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