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Original Issue

The Packers in a thriller

In the biggest game of the young season Green Bay edged its main rival for the NFL championship

Both Vince Lombardi of Green Bay and Don Shula of Baltimore had promised a gang war when their teams met in Milwaukee's County Stadium last Sunday. After 1964, when the Colts won the NFL's Western Division by beating Green Bay twice by a total of four points, that forecast seemed not only accurate but also a promise of grand entertainment.

The day broke gray and cold, with light snow in the morning followed by a nasty drizzle, but a record crowd of 48,130 huddled in overcoats to see if the local favorites, the Packers, could manage without their injured fullback, Jim Taylor. That the Packers could, and did, was a tribute to their remarkable depth. But the Colts had to cooperate by butchering the final five minutes of the game.

In devising his tactical plan Shula wanted to take away the Packers' best plays—the sweep and the sweep trap—and meanwhile utilize his own finest weapon, the pass from Quarterback Johnny Unitas to End Raymond Berry. Berry has cracked two finger joints this season, but he was to work against the young weak-side Corner Back Doug Hart, and figured to escape frequently.

However, it was a day for defense on both teams, and Hart knew his lessons well. Unitas went to Berry half a dozen times in the first quarter and wound up with nothing but an offensive interference call when Berry had to wrestle Hart out of his way on the goal line.

The Colts moved in front on a 26-yard field goal by Lou Michaels in the first quarter after a Unitas-to-Jimmy Orr pass for 57 yards. Then the Green Bay defense, which took advantage of Baltimore's offensive lapses with proper greediness, helped the Packers score 10 points within 42 seconds of the second quarter. Don Chandler kicked a 19-yard field goal after a Unitas fumble, and on the next play Herb Adderley intercepted a Unitas pass and ran 48 yards for a touchdown. Finally, on a third-down blitz Unitas threw blindly into a zone, and Berry grabbed it at the goal to set up a touchdown and a 10-10 tie at the half.

The Baltimore defense, playing brilliantly, penetrated to halt Green Bay's sweeps and put Paul Hornung out of the game with a pinched nerve in the third quarter. Packer Quarterback Bart Starr also left, with a twisted leg.

Zeke Bratkowski, his replacement, started slowly in the chill weather, but Chandler kicked a 41-yard field goal and Green Bay led again 13-10 early in the fourth period. Unitas, throwing to Tight End John Mackey and to Berry, drove the Colts into another lead, 17-13, on a five-yard touchdown pass to Berry.

With Hornung, Starr and Taylor out, and with the Baltimore defense holding, the Colts apparently were on their way to a repeat of 1964. But the Colt offense, which had been making errors, suddenly collapsed altogether. From their own 31, three penalties put the Colts back to the two, and Tom Gilburg, punting into the wind, barely got the ball to the original line of scrimmage. The defense stopped Green Bay again, but then Lennie Moore fumbled and the Packers' Willie Wood recovered at the Baltimore 37. Bratkowski used the ancient trick of throwing deep after a fumble, and it paid off with a 37-yard touchdown pass to Max McGee with 2:48 left to play. Green Bay now led 20-17.

With Unitas passing to Mackey and Berry, the Colts returned to the Green Bay 38 with 58 seconds left. Then Unitas threw to Tom Matte at the Packer 24 and Matte dropped the ball after a cracking tackle. Adderley recovered, and Baltimore had lost even a chance at a tying field goal.

"We blew it," said Colt Owner Carroll Rosenbloom.

Lombardi maintains that the Packers do not have true depth but an illusion of depth, since all the linemen can play more than one position, as can the defensive backs. But in beating Baltimore with three offensive backs on the sideline at the finish, Green Bay looked genuinely deep, and the Packers move into next week's Chicago Bears game with their biggest obstacle brushed aside—until December 12 when the gang war will be renewed at Baltimore.