The Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers get the chance to face-off against each other for the thirty-first time in the history of this series which Dallas lead 16-14 overall. Some of the games have been iconically huge such as the famous, “Ice Bowl” game in 1967. Monday night’s game against the Chicago Bears set the franchise regular season mark for game time temperature and it could be easily assumed that this game set the mark for all-time franchise game time temps by starting out at a chilly -13 degrees.
The game was the NFL Championship game between two legendary head coaches who happened to be co-workers no longer than 10 years beforehand. Tom Landry and Packers coach Vince Lombardi were assistant coaches on the New York Giants staff that saw one championship out of the duo only because Paul Brown and Otto Graham were already dominating the NFL landscape with the Cleveland Browns. Landry and Lombardi worked together from 1954-59 under head coach Jim Howell. Howell was the first recorded head coach to utilize the concept of coordinators in his coaching staff. Lombardi was the offensive coordinator, while Landry was the defensive coordinator. It was rumored that Howell basically kept the peace between the offense and defense.
Lombardi concentrated on perfecting his “sweep” offense that he took with him when left to become the fearless leader of the Pack. Landry invented the 4-3 defense while with the New York Football Giants and it has become a staple among defensive formations throughout the NFL.
Both coaches knew each other well, it was evident in the first few games the teams played each other against as Lombardi took advantage of the fact that the Cowboys coach was developing his own style of offense that took time to perfect and mold. The “Little Tyrant”, as Lombardi’s players sometimes referred him as, basically took Landry’s defense and incorporated it into the Packers scheme. Landry worked on putting together a multiple set formation offense that kind of upset Lombardi. He felt like Landry should have taken his offense with him since it only made since that he used Landry’s scheme. The former Texas Longhorn didn’t feel that way and so he created his own way of moving the sticks 10 yards at a time.
It didn’t work very well for Landry was beaten all five times that the two head met including being beaten in both NFL Championship games in 1967. The Cowboys and Packers met on January 1, 1967 to play for the 1966-67 season championship then 365 days later, they met on December 31st for the 1967-68 championship.
That last day in 1967 saw two teams who basically wanted to survive the weather, the game, and “get the hell out of there” as said by Lombardi when he ordered his quarterback Bart Starr to put the ball in end zone on the games last play. As a matter of fact, he didn’t even know what play Starr had called as a player asked him and his response was “Damned if I know.” The day had started out with Starr throwing two touchdowns in the first half to Boyd Dowler. The first was an 8-yard pass in the first quarter and then later in the second quarter he tossed a 46-yarder. After that, Dallas scored 17 unanswered points. George Andrie took a fumble recovery to the house and then Danny Villanueva kicked a 21-yard field goal before halftime. The Packers still led at the break, 14-10. The game turned into a see-saw battle during the third period as neither team scored. The fourth quarter started and Lance Rentzel took a half-back pass from Dan Reeves 50-yards into the end zone giving the Cowboys the 3-point edge, 17-14. Time was running out and that is when Starr called a timeout to tell his coach he wanted to run a “31 wedge” but he would keep the ball. That is when Lombardi famously stated, “Run it! And let’s get the hell out of here!” Run he did as that play pierced the hearts of Cowboy fans. Cowboys signal caller
Don Meredith would be known to Dallas fans as the quarterback of that couldn’t win the big ones as he was the starter for both games that year. Meredith played only one more season after that, the inability to win important games and injuries forced Meredith to the re-think his career as a player. Ironically enough, that re-thinking led to his time in the booth as a part of the Monday Night Football team with Frank Gifford and Howard Cosell for 14 seasons.
The “Ice Bowl” has been just one of many games between the two storied franchises that NFL fans get reminded of when the weather turns cold. The game Cowboy fans get reminded of around Thanksgiving time is the game that saw a ginger-headed backup quarterback that led his team to come from behind and win against a very good Packer team in 1994. All Cowboys fans know this man as he now leads them as their head coach, Jason Garrett. Garrett led a second half comeback completing 15 of 26 passes for 311 yards and two touchdowns. At that time, Garrett was the third-string quarterback starting for the injured backup Rodney Peete.
These games mentioned in this article tell the tale of the quarterbacks as we will see if current man under center Tony Romo can add to the folklore of stories. Much like me, fans are hoping that this is a start for Romo that leads them to the playoffs and beyond. Only time will tell, in the meantime the Cowboys play on Sunday afternoon at 3:25 PM CST on FOX where another former Dallas quarterback could be calling the game for the network, in one Troy Aikman.