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An Ice Bowl On "The Frozen Tundra" – The Best NFL Game Ever Played
The NFL Dallas Cowboys joined the league as an expansion team in 1960. Since that time they have been a success on and off the field and have enjoyed an avid following in the state of Texas, the United States at large and internationally as well. Dallas Cowboys history is marked with many great events and endless memorable games, none more so, perhaps, than the Ice Bowl of 1967.
Ice Bowl is a term that has been attached to a number of sporting events that have taken place in extremely cold weather conditions. The 35th National Football League Championship game that took place in 1967 between the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys was one such game. Due to the importance of the game, the rivalry between the teams and the game’s stunning conclusion, it is considered to be one of the greatest games played. The weather conditions that the teams endured during the game cemented its place among the all time greatest games in NFL history.
The Ice Bowl game of 1967 is remembered not only for the play on the field but also for all the happenings and consequences attributed to the brutally cold football conditions. The game that took place on December 31, 1967 at Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers in Green Bay, Wisconsin, is one of the coldest NFL games ever played. At game time the official temperature was -13°F (-25°C), with a wind chill of -48°F (-44°C). The playing field was as hard as a rock and almost as smooth as a hockey rink as the cold temperatures overwhelmed the new turf heating system at the stadium. As a result of the Ice Bowl, Lambeau Field was affectionately referred to thereafter as “the Frozen Tundra”.
The Ice Bowl was the second consecutive NFL championship game between the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys. The Packers had won the game in 1966 with a 34-27 defeat of the Cowboys. On this cold day in December 1967 the Green Bay Packers, coached by legendary great Vince Lombardi, jumped out to an early 14-0 lead with two touchdown passes from quarterback Bart Starr to wide receiver Boyd Dowler. However, two costly turnovers by Green Bay in the second quarter allowed Dallas to score ten points and end the half down 14-10. Neither team put any points on the board in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter the Cowboys struck early with a 50-yard touchdown pass from running back Dan Reeves to wide receiver Lance Rentzel on a halfback option play that put them ahead 17 to 14. Later in the fourth the Packers missed on a 40-yard field goal attempt. With just under four minutes to play and on their own 32-yard line, Starr led the Packers down the field with three key completions. They then ran the ball to the 3-yard line of the Cowboys. Twice the Packers attempted to run the ball into the end zone but both times they were stopped at the 1-yard line – the icy field and poor footing playing a part in the second attempt.
With only 16 seconds left on the clock Starr called a time-out. He and Coach Lombardi conferred on the sidelines. Many observers, including the Cowboys, expected a passing play as a completed pass in the end zone would win the game and an incompletion would allow for another play for a touchdown to win or a field goal attempt to take the game to overtime. The Packers, however, partly influenced by the treacherous footing and weather conditions had another idea. After the snap Starr executed a quarterback sneak and went in to score a touchdown giving the Packers a dramatic 21 to 17 lead. The Cowboys received the ball back on the kick-off but were unable to advance the ball in the few remaining seconds. With the victory, the Packers defeated the Cowboys for the second straight year and won their third consecutive NFL Championship.
The Green Bay Packers went on to easily defeat the American Football League Champion, Oakland Raiders, to win Super Bowl II. At the time the Super Bowl was considered by many to be of lesser importance than the NFL Championship game (that would all change the next year when the AFL Champions upset the NFL Champions to claim the Super Bowl). The Ice Bowl and Super Bowl II marked the end of an era as Vince Lombardi, after winning five NFL Championship games in seven years and Super Bowl I and II, retired as head coach of the Packers. The following season the Packers had a losing record as age and injury caught up to the team. It would be thirty years before they would be a dominant force again. On the other hand the Dallas Cowboys were becoming a force to be reckoned with and would show their domination in the 1970s winning two Super Bowls.
The bitterly cold weather experienced at the Ice Bowl had an affect and left its mark on every aspect of the game including the pre-game and half time entertainment, how the game was called, the health of the players, and the overall comfort of the fans. During the warm-up for the pre-game show the wood wind instruments of the marching band froze and the mouthpieces of the brass instruments stuck to the players lips. Several of the band members suffered hypothermia and in the end the performances by the band were cancelled. The metal whistle used by the official to signal the start of the game froze to his lips and thus ended the use of whistles for the day. For the rest of the game the officials used only their voices to call the plays. Also on this day, the health of players was compromised as some suffered frostbite during the game and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith was diagnosed with pneumonia and hospitalized on his return to Texas.
The Ice Bowl of 1967 will forever go down in the history books as a remarkable game not only due to “the Frozen Tundra” and the elements the players had to face but also due to the drama of the final minutes. The game capped an amazing run for the Green Bay Packers and marked the end of a coaching career for the legendary Vince Lombardi. It also revealed what was ahead for Cowboys football and Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry as the team completed their second winning season of what would become 20 consecutive years of winning seasons. At the Ice Bowl of 1967, the glory days of the Dallas Cowboys were just beginning.
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