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In the gelid confines of Lambeau Field, on the coldest New Year's Eve in the cold history of Green Bay, the Green Bay Packers won the right last Sunday to move south to Miami. There, on January 14, they will meet the Oakland Raiders, easy victors over the Houston Oilers (page 14), for the championship of all football.
Marshaled into something resembling a hot streak by Quarterback Bart Starr, the Packers shook off more than two quarters of almost total ineffectiveness and in the final frozen moments toiled 68 yards in four minutes and 37 seconds to score on the brave Dallas defenders. Thus, with only 13 seconds left to play, Green Bay won 21-17 to take the National Football League championship for the third straight year. No other team has been able to do that since the NFL was split into divisions.
The Packers had started off as though the temperature of 13� below zero was as comfortable for them as the gentle breezes of Miami Beach. They scored the first time they got the ball, marching 82 yards in a typical, methodical drive that took 16 plays. Starr threw six passes, called eight running plays and was helped along by two penalties on the Cowboys, one for interference, the other for holding.
In the second quarter he called a play that has become a Starr trademark. Almost everyone in pro football is aware that when the Packers have a third down and short yardage beyond their own 40-yard line, Starr is likely to go for broke. This time it was third and one on the Dallas 43. Starr faked Fullback Ben Wilson into the line, dropped back and lofted a long pass to Boyd Dowler, who had raced behind Dallas Safety Mel Renfro. For a moment it appeared that Dowler would not be able to reach the pass, but a brisk, 15-mile-an-hour wind hung the ball just long enough for him to pick it up on his fingertips.
The touchdown made the score 14-0; a year before, the Packers had jumped off to a similar 14-0 lead against the Cowboys, only to have Dallas come within two yards of catching up in the last minute and 52 seconds. But that game had been played on a good day. It seemed unlikely that on this frightful one the Cowboys could recover from a two-touchdown deficit. But they did and, as it turned out, almost all of the rest of the game was to belong to them.
They got one touchdown back later in the second quarter when the very quick Dallas line, which punished Starr most of the afternoon—he was dumped eight times while attempting to pass—threw him for a 19-yard loss. End Willie Townes hit Starr and forced a fumble; the other end, George Andrie, picked up the ball and scored with it.
"It wasn't the offensive line breaking down," Starr said after the game. "They did well enough. But the receivers couldn't make their cuts on the icy field, and I couldn't find anyone to throw to. So I was holding the ball too long, and they got to me."
A little later the usually sure-handed Willie Wood dropped a punt on the Green Bay 17 and Phil Clark recovered for Dallas. Danny Villanueva kicked a 21-yard field goal just before the half, and the Cowboys, who had been unable to gain more than three first downs in the first half, nevertheless left the field trailing only 14-10.
Even so, it seemed improbable that Dallas could win the game. While Starr had been throwing well and the Packers' running had been adequate, the Cowboys had been almost helpless against the Green Bay defense. Dallas managed only 42 yards as Quarterback Don Meredith, his hands numbed by the cold, missed his receivers, even when they were in the clear.