The Super Bowl is just 51 days away. Let’s look at the Super Bowl from 51 years ago to honor this not that significant occasion!
Super Bowl I was played in the Los Angeles Coliseum on January 15, 1967. The game pitted the NFL champion Green Bay Packers against the upstart Kansas City Chiefs of the American Football League.
Green Bay was a perennial power by then coached by legendary Vince Lombardi. Lombardi’s offensive philosophy was simple, yet effective. In fact, he may be the greatest offensive coordinator in NFL history. He relied on the great talents of Jim Taylor and his offensive line. They ran lots of traps and power sweeps and said, “Stop us if you can.” Most teams could not.
Their best player may have been quarterback Bart Starr. Starr was unflappable in the big games and rarely cost his team with poor decisions or errant passes. He was Joe Montana before there was a Joe Montana.
To say the Packers of the 1960’s were strong would be an understatement. They literally had a Hall-of-famer at every position. Indeed, six of their 11 starters have been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.
The Packers were the dominant team of the decade. This was their 4th NFL title in six seasons. The 1966 version of the Packers were as good as any team in NFL history and had an incredible midseason stretch of outscoring their opponents 104-10. Their 12-2 record earned them a spot in the NFL championship game against the East Division Champion Dallas Cowboys. Interestingly, Vince Lombardi and Dallas’ Head Coach Tom Landry coached together for the 1958 NFL champion New York Giants. Tom Landry was the defensive coordinator of that squad.
However, coming into the championship game, Dallas had the top-rated offense while Green Bay had the #1 defense. This game played in Dallas’ home stadium due to an annual rotation that was done back then would feature a lot of scoring. And, really, by 1960’s standards, it was a tremendous game. Bart Starr was the MVP of the game as he tossed 4 touchdown passes including a 28-yarder to little-used Max McGee in the fourth quarter. Led by “Dandy” Don Meredith, the Cowboys came back to within 34-27 late in the game. Meredith, though, was picked off in the end zone by Tom Brown. The interception preserved the win and sent the Pack to the first Super Bowl.
In the AFL, the Kansas City Chiefs would be the representative. The Chiefs had an amazing offense led by the innovative Hank Stram and Hall of fame QB, Len Dawson. Where the Packers were powerful, the Chiefs were fast and nifty. Tall and lean Otis Taylor was arguably the best wide receiver in the AFL and Mike Garrett and Curtis McClinton gave KC a change of pace from the backfield.
Kansas City’s defense was young and improving. They had Bobby Bell, Buck Buchanon and Emmitt Thomas who were in the infant stages of their incredible careers. But, it was a cornerback nicknamed the “hammer” that took hold of the headlines. During his period of playing for the Chiefs, Williamson became one of football’s first self-promoters. He would use his forearm to deliver karate-style blows to the heads of opposing players. Before Super Bowl I, Williamson gathered national headlines by boasting that he would knock out Green Bay’s receivers.
As good as Kansas City was in 1966, oddsmakers did not give them much of a chance labeling the Pack as a 14-point favorite.
Things got off to an ominous beginning for the Pack as they lost starting wide receiver Boyd Dowler to injury and Starr was sacked on consecutive plays forcing a punt. The next time Green Bay got the ball, however, they marched down the field for the first score in Super Bowl history. Starr was 4 for 4 on the drive hitting four different receivers. The last pass was completed to the veteran, McGee. He made a spectacular one-handed catch and ran untouched for a 37-yard score.
McGee was out partying the entire night before the game. It turns out that worked for him. He had a great game replacing the injured Dowler. Incredibly, McGee had four catches over the entire regular season, but 7 for 138 on Super Bowl Sunday!
The Chiefs were able to move the ball well the rest of the first half. They missed a field goal, scored a touchdown and made a field goal to end the half with ten points. Green Bay added one more touchdown before halftime as Starr continued his hot streak on third down. Once in scoring range, Jim Taylor ran the patented power sweep to the left and scored from the fourteen.
While the first half was competitive, the second half went according to script. On its first series, KC was picked off by Willie Wood who returned it to the five. Green Bay went up 21-10 and the Chiefs never threatened again. Elijah Pitts scored twice, and McGee added one more to give the Packers a resounding 35-10 victory.
And while the second half was not among the most exciting halves of football in sports history, something interesting did happen. Williamson took a knee to the head from Donny Anderson which knocked the big talker from the game.
Both teams would be back. Green Bay won Super Bowl II and Kansas City notched a title in the AFL’s last ever game, winning Super Bowl IV over Minnesota.
Tomorrow, we will be 50 days away from the Super Bowl, so we’ll talk about the game from 50 years ago…Super Bowl II between the Packers and the AFL champion Oakland Raiders.
Brandon Fazzolari is a Super Bowl expert…@spot_Bills