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How it happened: Paul Hornung's five touchdowns

Packers needed them all in season-saving triumph at Baltimore

Former back Paul Hornung
Former back Paul Hornung

Resuming a series that began last summer, is taking a look back at some of the team's single-game records and how the individual set the mark. The series continues with Paul Hornung's five touchdowns on Dec. 12, 1965.

GREEN BAY – Talk about the biggest of performances in an awfully big game.

For the second-to-last contest of the 1965 regular season, the Packers headed to Memorial Stadium in Baltimore to face the Colts, who could clinch the Western Conference championship with a victory over Green Bay.

Baltimore came into the contest at 9-2-1, a half-game ahead of the 9-3 Packers. Green Bay had to win or its season would effectively be over.

Paul Hornung made sure that didn't happen.

He started his record-setting day with a 2-yard TD run midway through the first quarter to give the Packers a 7-3 lead. It came one play after Bart Starr had connected with Jim Taylor on a 24-yard screen pass, setting up the touchdown plunge.

On the Packers' next possession, it was Hornung himself with the big play, taking a pass from Starr over the middle and going the distance for a 50-yard TD and a 14-3 advantage.

The Colts quickly rallied early in the second quarter with a field goal and then, after Elijah Pitts fumbled the ensuing kickoff, a short TD drive to get within 14-13.

After the Colts missed a field goal and Taylor fumbled the ball back to them deep in Green Bay territory, Baltimore was in position to take a lead into halftime. But Dave Robinson intercepted Gary Cuozzo's sideline pass and returned it 87 yards to the Baltimore 10. One play later, Starr found Boyd Dowler in the end zone and the Packers led 21-13 at the break.

In the third quarter, Hornung scored twice on runs of 9 and 3 yards to make it 35-13. The second followed a Tom Brown interception of Tom Matte, who had replaced Cuozzo for one possession.

But the Colts had another rally in them. Two touchdowns in the fourth quarter sandwiched around a Green Bay three-and-out put the score at 35-27 Packers with 5½ minutes left.

It took just three more plays for Hornung to score TD No. 5, taking a third-and-9 Starr pass the distance, 65 yards in all to seal the 42-27 win and keep the Packers' season alive.

It turns out the Packers and Colts weren't done playing that year, because Green Bay proceeded to tie San Francisco in the regular-season finale the following week, leaving the Packers and Colts even atop the standings at 10-3-1, necessitating a Western Conference playoff.

In a game made famous by Don Chandler's controversial tying field goal late in regulation, the Packers prevailed in overtime, 13-10, and went on the following week to beat the Browns for the third title of the Vince Lombardi era, and the first of three straight championships from 1965-67.

As for Hornung's record five TDs, he had previously been tied with Don Hutson and Jim Taylor for the team mark with four TDs in a game. Hutson scored four against the Lions in 1945 when he had 29 points in the second quarter, Hornung had four against the Colts in '61 when he set the team record with 33 total points, and Taylor had four TDs three times between the '61-62 seasons.

But no Packers player had ever scored five, and no one's done so since. Five others have scored four – Donny Anderson in '67, Terdell Middleton in '78, Sterling Sharpe twice in '93 and '94, Dorsey Levens in the '99 finale and, most recently, Aaron Jones in 2019 at Dallas.

Interestingly, Hornung had just three touchdowns that entire season before scoring his five in the crucial win at Baltimore. Lombardi considered Hornung one of the best clutch players in NFL history, and rightly so.