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
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. Read the rest of this entry →