Packers Replay: Starr's clutch passing spawned double-digit 1966 comeback over Browns

One contest between Thursday night's preseason opponents is rarely-discussed, but happens to be one of the most dramatic games between these two teams, a double-digit comeback victory in a rematch one season after the 1965 NFL Championship Game.

Click on each picture for more about this story, and listen for it during Packers Gameday beginning at 5:00 p.m. on Newsradio 620 WTMJ.  You can also watch the game with coverage beginning at 6:00 p.m. on TODAY'S TMJ4.

(Archive photos: Milwaukee Sentinel.)

  • (Photo from 1965 NFL Championship Game: Milwaukee Sentinel)

    GREEN BAY - "Starr takes the ball, hands off to Hornung, sweep to the left side. He's got the block. He's inside the 10. He's at the 5...cuts into the end zone for the touchdown!" yelled Newsradio 620 WTMJ's then-Voice of the Packers Ted Moore on Jan. 2, 1966 during the 1965 NFL Championship Game.

    That iconic touchdown on the muddy tundra of Lambeau Field was the centerpiece of the Packers' 23-12 win over the Cleveland Browns to clinch a title.

    259 days later, the same two teams met in sunny, breezy Cleveland in front of a highly hostile crowd that was thirsty for revenge.

    "Always a thrill to play Cleveland. It was always an emotional game, and especially in Cleveland, (with) 80,000 people booing you. You come on the field, and the whole stadium got wacko," explained Packers guard Jerry Kramer to Newsradio 620 WTMJ's Jay Sorgi.

    The volume meter rose among Clevelanders early on in that game.

    Quarterback Frank Ryan found wide receiver Gary Collins twice for touchdowns that opened up a quick 14-0 lead.

    That was no worry for Coach Vince Lombardi and a normally ground-oriented team that changed their modus operandi in 1966.

    That season, with a banged-up Paul Hornung and an aging Jim Taylor producing less in the running game, quarterback Bart Starr and an often-explosive passing attack became the focal point of the offense.

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  • (Photo: Milwaukee Sentinel)

    "Bart had so many great moments. Bart was such a wonderful leader, bright and surgical," said Kramer.

    Starr led the Packers back from 14 points down, starting with a daring fourth-down-and-short call from the Cleveland 44 yard line, as he went to Hornung through the air in the second quarter.

    "The play action worked well," Starr recollected to Sorgi.

    "If it was fourth and one, what would you think if you were on the other side? You would think they were going to run the football with a guy like Paul Hornung. We faked that ball, threw him a pass, and he was wide open."

    It was the first of 9 scoring throws Starr would have that year that were longer than 40 yards, and it cut Cleveland's lead in half.

    But with two minutes left. the Packers were down 20-14 and had a fourth-and-goal at the Cleveland eight yard line.

    For the second time, Starr threw a fourth down touchdown pass, but avoiding conventional wisdom, Starr failed to throw the ball to a receiver in the end zone.

    Click on the picture for more about this story.

  • (Photo: Milwaukee Sentinel)

    Starr instead went in the flat to Jim Taylor, who had two Browns defenders - Erich Barnes and Ross Fitchtner - between himself and a Packers victory.

    "I think it was a good call. Whether the decision to go to him or not was that great, I'm not sure," admitted Starr.

    "He was the only one who was truly open. They had done a good job covering the wide receivers downfield, and the tight end. Quickly, I put that ball out to him, knowing how well he could run that short distance."

    "Jimmy actually liked contact. Jimmy always liked to sting 'em," described Kramer.

    "He had that combination thigh and forearm, lowering his body, bringing his thigh up and bringing that forearm in at the same time, and knocking that particular defensive back backwards, probably, or down, and going on to the next guy. That's a classic Jimmy Taylor type of run."

    Taylor produced another classic yard-gainer, using the exact methods Kramer described to break two tackles and reach the end zone.

    The score delivered a come-from-behind 21-20 Green Bay win that helped propel the Packers to their second of a record three straight NFL championships.