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Dallas and Green Bay Continue Storied Postseason Duels

Posted on January 11, 2015 by Chris Kent
Bart Starr scores the winning touchdown in "The Ice Bowl" in 1967

Bart Starr scores the winning touchdown in “The Ice Bowl” on this one yard plunge into the end zone.

The Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers. Need anyone say anymore? Despite that, there is plenty to talk about. Especially when the two of them meet in the NFL playoffs because memories abound. Chief among them is “The Ice Bowl” which was played on Dec. 31, 1967 at Lambeau Field. The winner was the champion of the NFL (which became the NFC) and advanced to Super Bowl II to meet the champion of the American Football League (which later became known as the AFC). This game is one of the most storied in the history of the National Football League. The postseason series resumes today when the Packers host the Cowboys in the NFC divisional playoffs.

The temperature at game time was -15 oF and the wind chill was about -48 oF. While Green Bay had the home field advantage that day, the elements were surely not friendly to either side. What edge the Packers had came from them just being used to it more during that time of the year compared to their visitors. It was so cold that attempts to heat the field backfired, transportation problems occurred, and equipment malfunctioned. Even though a tarpaulin covered the field in the days leading up to the game, it left moisture on the field which froze in a flash after the tarpaulin was removed. This created an icy surface on the field that got worse as the game wore on. The turf-heating system for the field malfunctioned and many players had difficulty starting their cars forcing them to make alternative transportation plans in order to get to the stadium on time. When the game did finally begin, referee Norm Schachter blew his whistle only to have it freeze to his lips. Upon freeing it from his lips, he ripped his skin off. The resulting blood just froze to his lips. The marching band from Wisconsin-State University LaCrosse (now The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse) could not perform their pre-game and half-time shows as their instruments froze and would not play. Several band members also got transported to area hospitals for hypothermia. This was literally a test of attrition and the limits of the human body were tested for every player, coach, official, fan, worker, and media person that day.

In the end, Green Bay won 21-17 on one of the most famous plays in NFL history. Bart Starr’s quarterback sneak from the

The bitter cold is shown hear from the fans' breath during "The Ice Bowl"

The bitter cold is shown hear from the breath of the fans cheering in the stands during “The Ice Bowl”

one-yard line on third and goal with 16 seconds left to play provided the winning score. Starr had called timeout prior to the play to discuss strategy with Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi. Knowing that the traction was difficult with the icy field, handing off to a running back or stepping back to make a throw would have been difficult. So Starr convinced Lombardi to sneak it in. In doing so, Starr followed a double team wedge block from right guard Jerry Kramer and center Ken Bowman against Dallas left defensive tackle Jethro Pugh to cross the goal line for the decisive score and a 20-17 lead. The extra point provided the final score. Dallas would down the ensuing Packers’ kickoff and could manage only two incompletions which ended the game. Jubliant Green Bay fans rushed onto the field knocking over players from both teams. It was the end to an iconic game in NFL annals.

Since then, Dallas and Green Bay have also had some lofty playoff history. For three straight seasons during the 1990’s, the Cowboys and Packers met in the playoffs. These meetings came at the height of the Cowboys dynasty period during the decade. Dallas won all three times and all three games were played at Texas Stadium in Irving, TX, the Cowboys prior home to their current plush digs at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX which opened in 2009. Behind the offensive brilliance of “the triplets” – Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin – along with a fast and aggressive defense, Dallas ended Green Bay’s season three straight years from 1993 through 1995 by a combined score of 100-53. The Cowboys beat Green Bay in the NFC divisional playoffs following the 1993 and 1994 seasons by respective scores of 27-17 and 35-9. The most memorable of those three games then came after the 1995 season when the two met for the NFC Championship. A very competitive game went back and forth into the fourth quarter before Dallas wore the Packers down en route to a 38-27 win. Smith ran 35 times for 150 yards and three touchdowns in the win which were all single game postseason career highs for him. Smith’s 35 carries and three touchdowns were also Cowboys single game playoff records which still stand as of this article.

Part of the famed "Triplets", Emmitt Smith breaks free of Packers' defenders in the 1995 NFC title game

Part of the “Triplets”, Emmitt Smith breaks free of Packers’ defenders in the 1995 NFC title game.

Dallas put on a well-rounded display in that win with Irvin making seven catches for 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Meanwhile, Aikman finished 21-for-33 for 255 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. A late interception in the fourth quarter by cornerback Larry Brown sealed the win. The Cowboys advanced to Super Bowl XXX in Tempe, AZ where they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17 to put their stamp on the decade with their third Super Bowl win in a four-season span.

The Packer teams that they beat each of those three seasons were no slouches either. Green Bay was lead by head coach Mike Holmgren who would go on to lead Green Bay to a victory in Super Bowl XXXI the following season. On the field, future hall of fame quarterback Brett Favre was young and just entering his prime. He had a tough running fullback in Edgar Bennett and quality receivers in Robert Brooks and Antonio Freeman along with a veteran tight end in Keith Jackson who caught one of Favre’s three touchdown passes in the game. Defensively, the Packers were very stout on the defensive line with the late hall of famer Reggie White at defensive end along with the humongous Gilbert Brown inside at defensive tackle. Strong safety Leroy Butler was a four-time first-team all-pro selection and also a four-time pro-bowl player while free safety George Teague was a solid player who made big plays. Teague later played for Dallas.

The 2014 versions of Dallas ad Green Bay – while not quite as prolific as their predecessors, still resemble their teams of the past and are at least similar if not identical. Aaron Rodgers was drafted back in 2005 as the eventual heir to Favre. After serving as Favre’s backup for three years, Rodgers became the starter in Green Bay in 2008 when Favre signed with the New York Jets. Since then, Rodgers has emerged as one of the best quarterbacks in the league. In 2010, he lead the Packers to victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV and was named the games most valuable player. All he did for an encore was follow that up by being named the 2011 NFL MVP the following season.

Aaron Rodgers is the leader of the potent Green Bay offense in 2014

Aaron Rodgers is the leader of the potent Green Bay offense in 2014

So Rodgers has become his own name in Green Bay quarterback lore with still the potential to accomplish more. Green Bays’ running game is probably tougher now with the one-two punch of second-year running back Eddie Lacy along with James Starks, both physical runners. Their wide receiver corps is balanced with the fleet tandem of Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson. Defensively, Green Bay has some of the league’s best linebackers in veterans Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, and A.J. Hawk. That core is the strength of their defense.

Dallas counters with veteran players on offense lead by quarterback Tony Romo who is in his 12th year overall and eighth as a starter. Fourth-year running back DeMarco Murray led the league in rushing this season with 1,845 yards on 392 carries and ran for 13 touchdowns to give the Cowboys the most balance they have had on offense in the Romo era.

A big reason for that is the muscle and power of the offensive line which emerged this season as the strength of the team. After drafting three lineman with their first round picks in three of the last four years, they have developed into a cohesive unit that is one of the best offensive lines in the league. Left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick, and right guard Zack Martin have given the team stability and chemistry while opening holes for Murray and giving Romo the best consistent protection he has had in his career.  Fifth-year wide receiver Dez Bryant is one of the best in the game and led the league with 16 touchdown receptions this year. However it does not stop there for Dallas. Jason Witten is one of the best tight ends to ever play the game and the chemistry between him and Romo rival the best quarterback-tight end combinations to ever play. Complementary receivers like Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley give Romo other good options with Williams providing deep

DeMarco Murray has given Dallas a potent running game in 2014

DeMarco Murray has given Dallas a potent running game in 2014

speed.

Defensively it is night and day for Dallas from last season to this season. Despite losing defensive end DeMarcus Ware to Denver and defensive tackle Jason Hatcher to Washington in free agency last offseason and linebacker Sean Lee for all of 2014 due to a knee injury in training camp, they have regrouped behind the coaching of defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Free agent addition Henry Melton has helped at defensive tackle and the return of defensive end Anthony Spencer who missed most of 2013 with an injury has given the Cowboys some added spark. Linebacker Rolando McClain was signed from Baltimore after Lee went down in training camp and his played great. Overall, the Dallas defense has been opportunistic this season with a +6 turnover ratio while collecting 18 interceptions this season. Coming up with a turnover or two against Green Bay will help Dallas’ cause today.

Overall, this game could come down to the fourth quarter. The elements will no doubt play a role for both teams. Although Green Bay is used to it more than Dallas, the Cowboys have nothing to lose. Furthermore, Dallas is playing its’ best football of the season right now. The Cowboys are riding a five-game winning streak and have not lost since a 33-10 home loss to Philadelphia on Thanksgiving. At the very least, this one should be fun. Regardless of who you want to win, sit back and enjoy this one. Another chapter will be written in this storied postseason series.


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