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Remmel: In Only Showdown With Joe Willie, Packers Got Best Of Namath


It was a relatively balmy, 51-degree night in September of 1973, four years after the "Joe Namath" Super Bowl had lit up the pro football world.

The scene was a sold-out Milwaukee County Stadium, a venue that had recently become host to the Milwaukee Brewers, the Braves having long since departed Milwaukee for presumably greener pastures in Atlanta.

That evening, the Green Bay Packers were being formally introduced to the flamboyant Joe Willie Namath and the New York Jets, who earlier in their brief existence had been known as the New York Titans.

It was a modestly historic occasion, this first-ever meeting of the Packers and Jets, following upon the then recent (1970) merger of the American and National Football Leagues.

As might have been expected, there was considerable speculation about how the Packers would fare against the showboating Namath, he of the conspicuous white shoes and colorful life style.

The Packers, it should be noted, were themselves coming off a division championship (10-4-0) under the late Dan Devine.

Namath, making his first appearance in Wisconsin, had gained nation-wide fame and credibility for first promising that his New York Jets would upset the heavily-favored Baltimore Colts in "Super Bowl III" in 1969, then proceeding to preside over the predicted result (16-7).

As often is the case in such ballyhooed encounters, neither Namath nor the County Stadium contest lived up to the pregame hype.

The Packers, playing a judiciously conservative game, led all the way and held their guests scoreless until the very end, en route to a comfortable 23-7 victory.

Joe Willie did complete 16 of 32 passes for 205 yards, without however, a touchdown.

In addition, the Green and Gold's defense titillated the faithful by sacking Namath three times and parlaying its lone interception into a touchdown.

In the process, the Packers converted a pair of fumbles - both recovered by safety Jim Hill - into 10 points, the first of these acquisitions leading to their first touchdown on a 19-yard hookup between quarterback Scott Hunter and tight end Rich McGeorge.

Placekicker Chester Marcol added valuable and complementary assistance, contributing three field goals in as many attempts - of 9 yards (first quarter), 37 yards (second quarter) and 10 yards (third quarter).

{sportsad300}Namath, meanawhile, escaped interception until the last play of the third quarter, when Packers safety Ken Ellis pilfered a pass that had bounced in an out of the hands of Jerome Barkum, a favorite Joe Willie target.

It triggered the Packers' final score of the evening. Setting up at the Jets' 23-yard line after Ellis' 6-yard return, the Packers were in the end zone five plays later, fullback John Brockington powering over the goal line from 1 yard out.

Meanwhile, the Packers' miserly defense continued to pitch a shutout until the literal last minute, when the Jets finally struck paydirt.

With first down at the Green Bay 17-yard line at that juncture, Jets backup quarterback Al Woodall rifled a strike to wideout David Knight in the left corner of the end zone - with a mere 27 seconds remaining.

British-born placekicker Boby Howfield then added New York's final point.

A game highlight actually had surfaced on the Jets' next-to-last possession, at which point they had reached the Green Bay 6-yard line with a promising second down opportunity.

But Joe and the Jets were jointly frustrated.

On three consecutive plays, a persistent Namath fired in the direction of Barkum, each time into the left of the end zone.

And, each time, the pass was incomplete, largely due to Ellis' blanket-like coverage. It would have been a great highlight reel.

As it turned out, the Packers would have to savor that victory over the Jets another 21 years.

It was Nov. 13, 1994, in fact, before they posted their second win over the New Yorkers, a 17-10 succcess in Lambeau Field under Mike Holmgren.

The Jets had won five consecutive meetings over the intervening decades.

And since that '94 "interuption," they have won two more, 20-16 to mar the Packers' 2000 season opener under debuting head coach Mike Sherman in Lambeau Field, and 42-17 at New York's Shea Stadium 2002 to lead the series, 7-2.

So the Packers, it seems safe to say, would be about due...

*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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