The Dallas Cowboys will host the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Round of the playoffs; a rematch of the contest two season ago that ended in controversy. The questionable call in which Dez Bryant made the catch that he didn’t make will be stuck in the minds of Cowboys fans as we root for the blue and silver clad team to extract a bit of justice for the team’s most recent playoff loss. Pure and simple, we want revenge. Am I right? Of course I’m right.
To leave the playoff history between the two franchises at this point would not do justice to the rivalry. Fitting for the two franchises that have 9 Super Bowl wins between them, the playoff rivalry dates back to the beginning of the modern era of professional football. Dallas hosted the Packers in the Cotton Bowl for the first ever trip to the big game.
The battle started out quickly with Vince Lombardi’s Packers surprising Tom Landry’s defense with a misdirection play on the first offensive snap. They marched down the field and quickly scored the game’s first touchdown. A kick-return fumble by Mel Renfro soon led to a second score by Green Bay. Dallas was down 14 points before the Cowboys had time to get warmed up. It seemed that the experienced Packers were going to have an easy time with the young-but-talented squad that Coach Landry was building.
Dan Reeves and Don Perkins decided that they had seen enough. The Dallas runners quickly added scores of their own and made it a whole new ball game. The experts had predicted a shoot out between the two squads, and a 14-14 after one quarter seemed to prove the experts right.
The game did not stay tied for long. Just a handful of snaps into the second stanza of the contest Bart Starr launched a 51-yard bomb over the head of Cornell Green. The Packers were back on top by a touchdown. Don Meredith did his best to answer Starr’s aerial performance with a deep pass of his own, but his target, Reeves, managed to only get to the four-yard line. The Cowboys could not punch it in as Lombardi’s defense stiffened. Danny Villanueva tacked on a field goal to salvage something from the drive.
Green Bay held a 21-17 lead as halftime drew near, but Starr and the Packer’s offense threatened as time wound down. Cowboys tackle Ralph Neely put an end to the scoring threat when he blocked a field goal attempt to ensure that Dallas would only be down four points at intermission.
The Cowboys were able to draw first blood to start the second half. Defensive back Warren Livingston recovered an Elijah Pitts fumble and that allowed Meredith the opportunity to start doing damage. The Packer defense had no answers for the Dallas drive; that is until they got in the shadow of their own goal posts. Once again the Green Bay defense stiffened and Dallas settled for another Villanueva field goal. The Cowboys were down one point and it looked like momentum was swinging back their way.
Bart Starr had other ideas. A pair of downfield strikes to Carroll Dale, the target for his earlier deep bomb, and Boyd Dowler, put the Packers back into command. Three quarters of the way home the Green Bay Packers held a 28-20 lead over the home-standing Dallas Cowboys. With the way that the game had unfolded, it was still anyone’s ballgame and the final fifteen minutes of action looked to be exciting.
At this point the game took an unexpected turn. The fourth quarter shoot-out took a while to get rolling. It was late in the period before a Dallas drive that stalled deep in their own end gave Bart Starr an opportunity to get rolling again. The Cowboys defense sacked Starr twice during the Packers drive, but the Hall of Fame quarterback managed to convert a pair of third and long plays to overcome the setbacks. The second of these was a 29-yard scoring pass to Max McGee. The game appeared to slip out of the Cowboys grasp at that point.
A Bob Lilly block on the extra point gave the Cowboys a fresh gasp of air. Tom Landry’s charges were not going to go down without a fight. The Lilly block kept them within two scores, and they were determined to take advantage of the slim opportunity. For the team to pull out a miracle in the Cotton Bowl, Dallas needed to score quickly and then get the ball back. A 68-yard strike from Meredith to Frank Clark got the first objective out of the way.
Responsibility shifted back to Lilly and the Dallas defense. Dave Edwards stepped up on the second play of the Green Bay drive. He sacked Starr and shifted momentum the Cowboys way. A broken up screen pass and another tackle for a loss meant that Dallas would get their opportunity. Coach Landry gambled on the punt, going for the block. The pressure did not get to the ball but it did get to punter Don Chandler. The kick traveled just 17 yards and Don Meredith was back in business.
The Dallas offense went to work with 2:12 on the clock and 47 yards to consume. Two quick plays and the Cowboys had cut that distance by more than half. The crowd at the Cotton Bowl was firmly behind the home team as they drove toward the endzone. The Green Bay defense did everything they could to help Meredith out; a pass interference call on safety Tom Brown gave the Cowboys a first and goal at the two yard line. Dan Reeves then gained a yard for Dallas, but that would be as close as the Cowboys would get. A false start would set them back on the following snap. Soon a wobbly final gasp pass attempt by Don Meredith would be intercepted by Brown and the Green Bay Packers would make their way to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and immortality as the first ever Super Bowl Champions.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Outside of winning their fourth Lombardi Trophy in Cowboys Stadium a few seasons back, the 1966 game remains the Packers only playoff win in Dallas. Let’s hope that trend continues.