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Colts-Packers Playoff Remains Etched In Lore


Chandler field goal controversial to this day

In terms of Packers history, the "Ice Bowl" of frigid legend is far better "known"...

So is Super Bowl I, an unqualified success.

And, for that matter, Super Bowl II, another resounding success.

But the Packers' 1965 Western Conference playoff victory over the Colts, then based in Baltimore, also has had a profound impact upon the team's distinguished annals.

Without it, in fact, there would have been no Super Bowls I and II in the Packer "experience."

It was only because the Green and Gold were able to ultimately prevail on that now distant occasion - 13-10 in a sudden death overtime struggle - that they became positioned to win three consecutive National Football League championships (1965-66-67), thus becoming the only team to pull off such a trifecta since the league adopted its playoff system in 1933.

It is an exclusivity they continue to own to this day.

In the process, that historic triumph also became the essential precursor to the Packers' back-to-back triumphs in the first two Super Bowls, following the '66 and '67 seasons.

Beyond that, the low-scoring marathon - finally resolved at 13:39 of sudden death on Dec. 26, 1965 - enjoys another historical distinction in Green Bay's storied annals. It was the first-ever overtime game in Packers history - and it remained their only such experience for nearly a decade. The league did not implement the current overtime rule for regular season play until 1974.

The playoff, which was the first of its kind for the Packers since 1941, was necessitated when they finished the '65 regular season in a tie with the Colts, each having posted a 10-3-1 record over the 14-game campaign.

With both teams on the road, the tie was forged on the final day of the season when the Colts shaded the Rams, 20-17, in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and the Packers, 400 miles up the California coast in San Francisco, dueled to a 24-24 deadlock with the 49ers in the Bay Area's Kezar Stadium.

The most dramatic encounter in the history of the Packers' 50-year-old rivalry with the Colts, who moved from Baltimore to Indianapolis in 1984, that '65 showdown also remains the most controversial in their half-century relationship.

Don Shula, then head coach of the Hosses, vehemently insists to this day that the 22-yard Don Chandler field goal, delivered with 1:58 remaining to tie the game and send it into overtime, sailed wide right.

It may not have been of particular solace to Shula but the controversy over the Chandler kick subsequently prompted the league to extend the goal posts' height by 20 feet prior to the following season.

Conversely, the 25-yard Chandler field goal which settled the issue in sudden death was routine and uncontested.

The close-to-the-vest struggle was in dramatic contrast to the teams' second meeting of the regular season, staged in Baltimore's venerable Memorial Stadium precisely two weeks earlier (Dec. 14). It was one which saw the Packers sweep to a 42-27 victory, powered by Paul Hornung's team-record five touchdowns.

The conservative character of the contest was dictated, in large part, by injury. The Colts, playing without starting quarterback Johnny Unitas, (knee) and his backup Garry Cuozzo (dislocated shoulder), employed halfback Tom Matte as an emergency fill-in.

Matte, working from a short list of plays written on a wrist band taped to his left arm, completed only 5 passes but managed to gain 57 yards rushing.

The Packers also lost starting quarterback Bart Starr on the game's opening series.

The 31-year-old field general was injured as Baltimore scored 21 seconds into the game, when linebacker Don Shinnick returned a Bill Anderson fumble 25 yards for a touchdown.

Starr, in pursuit of Shinnick, injured his ribs on the play, the Packers' first from scrimmage of the afternoon.

"Super Sub," Zeke Bratkowski, replaced Starr at quarterback for the balance of the afternoon, completing 22 of 39 passes for 248 yards.

It was an uphill battle for the Packers. Baltimore was out front at halftime, 10-0, with left-footed Lou Michaels contributing a 15-yard field goal in the second quarter. He and the Colts didn't know it then but he was closing out Baltimore's scoring in the process.

The Packers, meanwhile, finally ended their scoring drought in the third quarter, when Hornung tallied on a 1-yard run, setting the stage for Chandler's contributions, controversial and otherwise.

The Western Conference championship in their possession, however tenuously acquired, the Packers proceeded to capture the first jewel in what became their triple crown.

Just seven days later, on Jan. 2, 1966 -- after groundskeepers had shoveled four inches of pre-game snow from the Lambeau Field surface -- the Green and Gold dispatched the Cleveland Browns, 23-12, to win their ninth National Football League championship.

Continuing an association with the team that is more than 55 years old, Lee Remmel was named the first official Team Historian of the Green Bay Packers in February 2004. The former *Green Bay Press-Gazette reporter and Packers public relations director, Remmel will write regular columns for as part of his new assignment.

In addition to those articles, Remmel will answer fan questions in a monthly Q&A column. To submit a question to Remmel, click here. *

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