SI Vault
Ray Nitschke
July 15, 1968
According to the fine Green Bay middle linebacker, the 1967 Packers were the strongest in the history of the team, but the 1968 model will be even better
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July 15, 1968

Champion On The Way Up

According to the fine Green Bay middle linebacker, the 1967 Packers were the strongest in the history of the team, but the 1968 model will be even better

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We went on to wrap up the division championship against the Chicago Bears, with three games left to play. Then we finished the regular season by losing to the Los Angeles Rams and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Since we had already won the division championship, lots of people figured we weren't really trying in the Ram game, but that's not true. The game was on national TV from Los Angeles, and we certainly did not want to disgrace ourselves or the league. We went all out, and all the front-line players played until the end. The Rams are a strong team physically and their front line had a good day against us, but we were still ahead late in the game when we had to punt.

I can't remember the last time the Packers had a punt blocked. The Rams blocked this one when one of our backs just flat overlooked Tony Guillory coming up the middle. The back is supposed to take the first man penetrating on the inside, but he must have looked the wrong way. They scored on a fake-and-pass play when our defensive back took the fake and let Bernie Casey go. Casey was the only receiver out on the play and he was all alone. We lost 27-24 with 34 seconds to go.

Again, we felt that we were a better club than the Rams, even in losing. We lost again to the Pittsburgh Steelers the next week, but this time Coach Lombardi was resting the veterans and giving the younger players a chance. Bart played one quarter, and Don Horn and Zeke Bratkowski played three at quarterback. Coach did not want to take a chance on getting Starr hurt with the really big game coming up against the Rams or the Colts the next week. The Rams and Colts were playing each other for the Coastal Division championship, and, no matter which team won, we knew we would have a tough game to play. As it turned out, it was the Rams who won.

Los Angeles had beaten us on the Coast, but we felt pretty sure we would beat them at home when it counted. The Rams are a strong team with a big offensive line. Roman Gabriel is a giant of a quarterback, and he's strong enough to shake off tackles and still get the pass away. He is also so tall that he sees more than most quarterbacks, and that makes him even more difficult to defend against. Les Josephson and Dick Bass are powerful runners, but we didn't figure they would beat us by running.

We had a few things going for us in the second gameā€”the game for the Western Conference championship.

We hadn't given them a complete picture of our offense in the first game. We played conservative football, pounding it out. The second game, we went for broke.

The key to the offense in the second game was taking care of Deacon Jones, who had been a menace all day when the Rams beat us. Coach Lombardi has a theory that if you beat a team at its strength you win the game. So we set out to whip Deacon Jones, and that's just what we did.

First, we ran at him, double-teaming him on sweeps and plays to his side until he became so conscious of the run and run blocking that he hesitated on his pass rush. When he hesitated on the rush he was whipped on the block by Forrest Gregg, and so he was never a factor in the game.

Once you take away the strength of a club you create doubt and confusion. The rest of the Ram defense was wondering what had happened to Jones and why he wasn't getting in on the passer, and they began to hesitate and wait and then they were getting whipped as badly as Jones was. If you can take away a team's confidence by taking away its strength you'll beat the team, and we beat the Rams 28-7. It was one of the best games played by any Green Bay team I've been on.

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