Cowboys-Packers Playoff History Lesson: The Ice Bowl was “A Game of Survival”
Sunday’s upcoming Packers-Cowboys Divisional Round game at AT&T Stadium will be the eighth postseason meeting between these two iconic franchises. The second of those meetings is arguably the most famous game in NFL history: The Ice Bowl.
The game was played at the end of the 1967 season. For those of us who weren’t around back then, here’s our list of “5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE ICE BOWL.”
The Ice Bowl was the coldest game in NFL history!
The wind chill was minus-48 degrees and the air temperature was minus- 13 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin on December 31, 1967.
Cowboys defensive tackle Bob Lilly called it “a game of survival”.
Cowboys and Packers who played in that game will tell you they still feel affects of frostbite from that game; some of them used socks to cover the hands. Whistles froze to the officials’ lips. Coffee in the press box and broadcast booths froze. It was cold unfit for man and beast. A local college band was supposed to perform, but the instruments froze, brass mouthpieces were stuck to the kids’ lips, and band members were treated for hypothermia. Obviously the halftime show was cancelled.
Packers players had to hitch rides to Lambeau Field because their car batteries were frozen and their cars wouldn’t start. The officiating crew stopped at a local sporting goods store to buy warming gear. That didn’t help with their whistles, however. They had to use voice commands and shout rather than blow their whistles.
Yet 50,861 hearty souls attended the game and more than 30 million viewers watched the game broadcast on CBS.
If the conditions were that bad, what didn’t they just postpone the game? Well, because the forecast for the next day called for even colder temperatures! And the weather guys missed on the game day forecast. The original forecast for game day called for a temperature of 5 degrees, but the cold front hit earlier than expected and everyone was surprised by the record-low temperatures.
Vernon Biever via AP
The Cowboys were the up-and-comers, the Packers were the defending NFL champs!
The official name of The Ice Bowl is actually The NFL Championship Game. The Packers were led by head coach Vince Lombardi and packed with a roster of future Hall of Famers going for their third consecutive championship. The Cowboys were the up-and-comers. It was only their 8th season in franchise history and their second trip to the playoffs.
The game was a rematch of the previous year’s NFL championship game played 11 months and 30 days earlier on January 1, 1967 at The Cotton Bowl in Dallas. The Packers won that game 34-27.
The winner of The Ice Bowl would be the NFL Champions and would advance to play the AFL Champions in the second annual AFL-NFL World Championship Game (which we now call The Super Bowl).
The Packers won The Ice Bowl 21-17 on a last-minute QB sneak by Bart Starr.
Tom Landry’s Cowboys struggled early on in the harsh, frost bite-inflicting cold. The more weathered Packers took an early 14-0 lead.
The Cowboys scored in the 2nd quarter when George Andrei returned a fumble 7 yards for a touchdown.
John E. Biever via AP
The fumble by QB Bart Starr was caused by a sack/strip by Willie Townes. Later in the 2nd quarter, Phil Clark recovered a fumbled punt to set up a field goal by Cowboys kicker Danny Villanueva. The halftime score was 14-10 Packers.
The Cowboys took a 17-14 lead on the final play of the 3rd quarter when Dan Reeves threw a halfback option pass 50 yards to Lance Rentzel for a touchdown.
But late in the 4th quarter, in dramatic playoff style, the Packers ultimately persevered in the game’s final seconds. Just feet away from the goal line, Bart Starr scored on a QB sneak with only :13 left on the clock. Cowboys defensive linemen were unable to find any traction/footing on the icy field as the offensive line surged forward to lead Starr into the end zone. It’s one of the most famous plays in league history.
The play call was “Brown Right 31 Wedge” but Starr kept the ball instead of handing it off. Guard Jerry Kramer threw the key block.
After the loss, the Cowboys became known as “Next Year’s Team”
The Cowboys were obviously despondent after the heartbreaking loss. Quarterback Don Meredith talked postgame with telecaster Frank Gifford about the pride he felt in his team’s effort, but he was choked with emotion. Bob Lilly told reporters that the team couldn’t win “the big one”.
Wide receiver Lance Rentzel, in recounting the game years later, said that during the flight home from Green Bay to Dallas that “not a word was spoken the entire flight”.
12 future Hall of Fame players and 2 future Hall of Fame coaches took part in the game
Vince Lombardi & Tom Landry were the head coaches, of course. If you want to include front office members, Cowboys team president/general manager Tex Schramm was also there. Lombardi, Landry and Schramm are all enshrined in Canton at The Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The four future Hall of Fame players suited up for the Cowboys in The Ice Bowl were: DT Bob Lilly, WR Bob Hayes, DB Mel Renfro, and OT Rayfield Wright.
Vernon Biever via AP
The eight Hall of Famers that suited up for the Packers were: QB Bart Starr, OL Forrest Gregg, LB Ray Nitschke, LB Dave Robinson, DL Willie Davis, DL Henry Jordan, DB Herb Adderley, and DB Willie Wood. Adderley later played for the Cowboys for three seasons (1970-72).
The Packers went on to defeat the Oakland Raiders in the AFL-NFL World Championship Game two weeks later (now knows as Super Bowl II) in the warm climate of Miami, Florida. It was Lombardi’s final game as Packers head coach.