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Tex Maule
January 08, 1968
On a frigid field and against an ice-hard Dallas Cowboy defense, Bart Starr (No. 15) climaxed a last-minute drive by clawing across for the touchdown that put Green Bay in the Super Bowl
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January 08, 1968

The Old Pro Goes In For Six

On a frigid field and against an ice-hard Dallas Cowboy defense, Bart Starr (No. 15) climaxed a last-minute drive by clawing across for the touchdown that put Green Bay in the Super Bowl

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"I just dumped the ball to him when I couldn't find my primary receiver open," Starr explained later. "He did the rest by himself. Same thing was true on the next pass. He was the outlet receiver, the guy you go to when you can't go to anyone else." This time the pass to Anderson gained nine yards and a first down on the Dallas 30-yard line. There were two minutes left to play.

For the fourth time in this drive, Starr threw to a back, but now it was Mercein, the fullback Lombardi acquired late in the season when injuries depleted his corps of runners. Mercein had been a New York Giant and Washington Redskin reject, but on this cold, cold day, he contributed a large share to the Green Bay victory. He took Starr's short pass, eluded one tackle, and ran 19 yards, going out of bounds on the Dallas 11.

"This one wasn't a dump pass or an outlet," Starr said. "On this play Mercein is not the primary receiver. But if the linebacker doesn't pick him up immediately when he comes out into his pattern, then I hit him. I saw the linebacker freeze this time, so I hit Chuck quick. He made the rest of it on his own."

From the 11 Starr produced one of the daring calls that make him a great quarterback. It was what some clubs, fittingly, call a sucker play. Gale Gillingham, the young guard who all afternoon had had his hands more than full trying to block All-Pro Defensive Tackle Bob Lilly, pulled out and pulled to his right. Lilly, reading a run to the right, went with him, and Starr handed the ball to Mercein. Mercein shot through the hole left by Gillingham and by the trailing Lilly and struggled to the Dallas three. On the next play Anderson got a first down on the Dallas one.

From the one Starr twice called on Anderson, and both times Anderson was stopped for no gain. After each play, Starr called for time-out. The second time he trotted over to confer with Lombardi. This was Green Bay's last timeout. There were 20 seconds and possibly two downs remaining. A field goal was a near certainty and would have put the game into a sudden-death overtime; a pass would win if completed; it would stop the clock and leave time for another play if not. Lombardi, who has unbounded faith in Starr, elected to gamble with his quarterback. ("I was thinking of the fans," he said later, facetiously. "I couldn't stand to think of them sitting in those cold stands for an overtime period.")

Anderson had slipped taking off on both of his jabs at the line. The field, now in the shadow of the stands, was fast becoming an iced-over pond. "I knew Donny wasn't getting any footing," Starr said after the game. "He almost fell down before I could get the ball to him the second time he carried. I figured I wouldn't have as far to run and I wouldn't have as much chance to fumble, so I called the wedge to Kramer's side." Kramer had been having much better luck blocking Pugh than Gillingham had had with Lilly.

"When he called the play, I knew he would be following me," Kramer explained. "I had been having a hell of a time trying to get footing to drive off and block. I searched around with both feet when I got down and I finally found a little soft spot with my right foot. I got off real good with the ball. Pugh was playing on my inside shoulder—to my left—and I took my best shot at him. That may have been the biggest block I ever made in my life."

The block moved Pugh in and back. Starr came hard behind him and slid into the end zone, and suddenly, for 50,000 people, spring came.

The temperature probably will be 100� higher January 14 when Green Bay meets Oakland in Miami's Super Orange Bowl. But, thawing out in the dressing room, Bob Skoronski, the big tackle whose face was marked and bloody, expressed a sentiment held by most of his teammates.

"This game," he said wearily, "was our mark of distinction."

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