1965 NFL Championship Game
The 1965 National Football League Championship game was the 33rd championship game for the NFL. The game was played on January 2, 1966 at Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin. The game matched the Eastern Conference champions Cleveland Browns (11–3) who were the defending NFL champions. The Western Conference champions Green Bay Packers (10–3–1) had defeated the Baltimore Colts a week earlier in a Western Conference play off. The Packers were making their first appearance in the championship game since 1962. This was the first NFL championship game televised in color, and the last one played before the Super Bowl era.
With the victory the Packers won their 9th overall NFL title, 6th in the championship game era.
Game Day Preparations
The Packers, coached by Vince Lombardi, would feature on offense, Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor and Carroll Dale, along with linemen Jerry Kramer, Forrest Gregg and Fuzzy Thurston. Defensively Green Bay showcased Herb Adderly, Ray Nitschke, Willie Wood and Dave Robinson.
Cleveland, coached by Blanton Collier, had Jim Brown, WR's Gary Collins, Paul Warfield, guard Gene Hickerson and kicker Lou "The Toe" Groza on offense. Cleveland's defense however, during the regular season, allowed an average of 23.2 points and twice gave up 40+ points in losses to the lowly Cardinals and Rams.1
Despite a heavy snowstorm that blanketed the field, 50,777 hearty fans showed up in 26ºF weather. A tarp covered the field until shortly before kickoff and a moderated wind of 12 mph blew through Lambeau field.3 4 7
- 1st Quarter
- 2nd Quarter
- GB – FG Chandler 15 10–9 GB
- GB – FG Chandler 23 13–9 GB
- CLE – FG Groza 28 13–12 GB
- 3rd Quarter
- GB – Hornung 13 run (Chandler kick) 20–12 GB
- 4th Quarter
- GB – FG Chandler 29 23–12 GB
Tom Moore returned the opening kickoff to the GB 23-yard line and the Packers wasted no time in moving the ball as Bart Starr, who had bruised ribs tightly taped, mixed running plays to Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung with short passes to both backs. After a Taylor 6-yard run up the middle to the Cleveland 47, Starr faked to Hornung and lofted a pass to Carrol Dale at the Cleveland 18. Starr slipped as he threw the ball but Cleveland's DB Walter Beach slid on the tricky surface while Dale kept his footing, adjusted to the ball and galloped into the end zone amid the frenzied cheers of the Green Bay faithful. Don Chandler's kick put GB in front 7–0.
Cleveland took possession and immediately turned to Jim Brown. However instead of running, Brown circled out of the backfield and turned towards the right sideline where Frank Ryan hit him with a 30 yard pass despite good defense by linebacker Dave Robinson. Ryan continued passing hitting Warfield over the middle for 19 yards and Gary Collins on a square-out pattern near the right corner of the end zone for 17 yards and a touchdown. Green Bay fans responded by pelting Collins with snowballs. On the extra-point attempt, holder Bobby Franklin fumbled the snap, and Cleveland's kicker Lou Groza, who did not miss an extra point all year, pick up the errant ball and passed to Franklin but Green Bay's Willie Wood promptly tackled him, keeping Green Bay ahead, 7–6.
After a short punt gave the Browns possession in Green Bay territory, Ryan passed to Warfield for 11 yards and Jim Brown ran for 5 more. On the play Brown jumped to the outside when he found the middle awash in green and yellow jerseys. Green Bay's strategy throughout the game would be to clog the middle forcing Brown to hesitate while looking for room to run. Brown took extra steps to cut on the wet field thus giving the GB defense time to catch up. On 3rd down and 2, Ryan, instead of handing off to Brown, crossed up the defense and sent Warfield to the Post. Warfield beat safety Tom Brown and CB Doug Hart to the goal line but the ball slid through Warfield's outstretched hands and the Browns had to settle for a field goal. Lou Groza, the 41 year-old 6' 1", 240 lb lineman whose career extended all the way back to the A.A.F.C., coolly kicked a 24 yard field goal to put Cleveland in front 9–7.
When the Packers took over on their own 27, Jerry Kramer escorted Paul Hornung around left end on the "Green Bay Sweep", picking up 34 yards. Bart Starr passed to Boyd Dowler for 11 yards and Taylor gained 8 up the middle. Another Hornung sweep, this time led by Fuzzy Thurston gave Green Bay a first down at the Cleveland 6 as the 1st qtr ended.
Cleveland's defense stiffened and Chandler kicked a 15 yard field goal, making it 10–9, GB.
With 7:42 left in the 2nd period, and Jim Brown unable to make headway, Cleveland's Frank Ryan again attempted to go deep to Warfield. The speedy Warfield, who had been sidelined by injury and caught only 3 passes all year, was now covered by GB defensive back Bob Jeter, replacing Doug Hart. Jeter's speed enabled him to keep up with Warfield and he batted away Ryan's pass at the Cleveland 43. On 3rd down and 10, Ryan threw a quick pass to Leroy Kelly who was streaking up the right sideline. The ball was underthrown and GB's Willie Wood made a spectacular play tipping the ball to himself and returning the interception to the Cleveland 9 yard-line. Helped by a motion penalty against Paul Hornung, Cleveland's defense rose to the occasion and held the Packers to a 23-yard field goal by Chandler, extending the Packer lead to 13–9.
With the clock winding down, Cleveland took over on their own 16 yard line. Field conditions were rapidly deteriorating, and Frank Ryan sent Jim Brown around left end on Cleveland's own version of the sweep and Brown tip-toed his way for 9 yards. Ryan then sent Brown sweeping around the right end. Cleveland's HOF guard Gene Hickerson led the way giving Brown room to find good footing and sprint down the sideline for 15 yards. After an incomplete pass and the middle of the field turning into a quagmire, Ryan sent Brown on a pitchout around left end. Brown found good traction near the sideline and picked 8 more yards. On 3rd down, Brown again tried sweeping around the right, but the Green Bay defense swarmed over him for a loss, forcing Cleveland to punt.
Green Bay took over deep in their own territory where Bart Starr committed one of the few mistakes of a Lombardi coached team. On 3rd down, Starr overthrew Hornung in the left flat and Walter Beach intercepted, toe tapping the sideline to give Cleveland the ball at the Green Bay 30 yard line. This was the only Green Bay turnover in the game.
Frank Ryan looked down field but threw incomplete to Collins, double covered at the goal line. Ryan's next pass attempt went awry as Ray Nitschke charged up the middle on a blitz forcing Ryan out of the pocket, where he was sacked by Dave Robinson. Ryan then completed a pass to Brown on the left flat and Brown angled towards the sideline but was stopped at the Green Bay 21 by Nitschke and Jeter, 1 yard short of the first down. Groza's 28-yard field goal sent the teams into halftime at 13–12, GB.
The 2nd half was dominated by Green Bay as the weather brought more snow, fog, mud and less wide open play.
Cleveland made no headway at the start of the half and punted. Green Bay's Elijah Pitts carried the punt backwards for −10 yards, and the Packers were forced to start from their own 10-yard line. The Packers methodically marched down field as Forrest Gregg, Fuzzy Thurston, Ken Bowman and Jerry Kramer all made room for Taylor and Hornung to run. Hornung carried for 6 yards, Taylor for 8, Taylor left for 7 yards, and Taylor again for a 1st down to the Cleveland 46. A screen pass was complete to Taylor for 10 yards, then Hornung slipped outside the right tackle for 20 yards. After a short gain by Taylor the 11 play, 90 yard drive culminated as Paul Hornung followed Jerry Kramer on a 13 yard TD sweep around left end. The play captured from an end zone ground level camera is on what seems like every Packer highlight reel.6 Chandler's point made the score 20–12, GB.
Fog rolled in as Cleveland looked to come back. With a 1st down on their own 31, Ryan scrambled for 8 yards and the Packers LeRoy Caffey was flagged for a 15 yard face mask penalty, one of only three penalties on the day for the Packers. Jim Brown however was unable to find any running room and Ryan continued to pass, hitting Collins for 11 yards, then looked for Brown in the end zone. The pass was catchable but Ray Nitschke made a great effort to stretch and barely knock the ball out of Brown's hands. Cleveland would not threaten the goal line the rest of the day. Ryan's next pass slipped out of his hand and Groza was brought in for the field goal attempt. Henry Jordan however, broke through the Cleveland line and deflected Groza's kick.
The Packers continued to run Taylor (27 carries on the day for 96 yds) and Hornung (18 carries for 105 yds) to control the ball and chew up the clock. Chandler kicked his third field goal from 29 yards out, bringing Lombardi and the Packers one step closer to their 3rd championship as a unit.
Cleveland had one last chance when Leroy Kelly took Chandler's ensuing kickoff and promptly angled towards the right sideline. At midfield, Chandler, the kicker, was the last player in Kelly's path. Kelly, with 10 more yards of room to his right, eschewed the sideline, cut back and into Chandler's path. Chandler held his ground and dropped Kelly on the muddy turf. Cleveland could not move the ball and punted again.
The Packers also failed to move the ball, but Chandler was hit by Cleveland's Ralph Smith after punting from the end zone. The roughing penalty gave GB the ball, and another opportunity to run down the clock. A last minute interception by Herb Adderly sealed Cleveland's fate.
Vince Lombardi-Jim Brown
Vince Lombardi proved to be a master tactician by stressing a ball control offense, assigning Nitschke to shadow Brown all day, and switching defensive assignments when Warfield was getting open early in the game. The Packers ran the ball 47 times for 204 yards 7 on the day while holding Cleveland to just 38 total offensive plays. Lombardi coached the team to stop Jim Brown and force Cleveland's other players to step up and try and win the game. 6 The strategy worked as the Packers gained twice as many yards from scrimmage as the Browns.
This would be Jim Brown's last NFL game as he left at the top of his game to pursue a career in Hollywood.9 Brown, who had carried his team to an NFL title in 1964, would have no regrets, despite the fact that he was still a month shy of 30 years old.
 Chuck Heaton, "Packers Sink Browns, 23–12", Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 2, 1966, Browns history database retrieved December 12, 2007
3. The Football Encyclopedia, St Martin's Press, New York, NY, ISBN 0-312-05089-5, p.391
4. Ray Scott, Ken Coleman, or Frank Gifford during CBS's TV/radio original full game broadcast
5. Coach Lombardi diagrams "power sweep" @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2v3Qgt0Fb8I, retrieved on June 29, 2010
6. Interviews with the 1965 Green Bay team @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2p_sWXgBm0c&feature=related, retrieved on June 29, 2010
8. The Football Encyclopedia, St Martin's Press, New York, NY, ISBN 0-312-05089-5, p.392
9. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000987/bio, retrieved June 29, 2010