The 1962 NFL Championship Game
by Rob Holecko
While many people of course consider the 1967 NFL Championship between the Cowboys and Packers at Lambeau Field the true Ice Bowl, five years earlier another NFL Title game was also played in frigid conditions, this one at Yankee Stadium in New York. "On This Day..." today brings you from 49 years ago today, the 1962 NFL Championship.
The Giants and Packers met for the second time in a row in the title game, the Packers had won the 1961 Championship 37-0 in Green Bay. This time the teams met in New York, and the Packers knew how important the game was to head coach Vince Lombardi, who had used to be a Giants' assistant coach. "It was the coach's backyard and his first time back in the big city in a playoff game. We knew how much it meant to him. There was considerable pressure and we understood it was going to be a substantial battle," said Packer Jerry Kramer.
The 1962 game was a rematch of the 1961 championship game, won by Green Bay 37–0. The Eastern Conference champions New York Giants (12-2) faced the Western Conference titlist Green Bay Packers (13-1). Green Bay began the season 10–0 including a 49–0 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, where they gained 628 yards to Philadelphia's 54. Before the game, 10,000 fans at a New York Knicks game spontaneously began chanting "Beat Green Bay! Beat Green Bay!", and when the 18,000 tickets available to non season ticket holders went on sale for the game, they sold within three hours. Due to the NFL's blackout policy which aimed to protect gate receipts, until 1973, fans in a team's home market could not watch their team's regular season and playoff games on television, even if they were title games. New York fans made reservations for motels in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Connecticut so they could watch the game out of the 75 mile blackout zone, and even though the game was played in single digit weather with 35–40 mph winds, only 299 of the 65,000+ Giant fans who bought tickets to the sold out game stayed home. Although the weather was temperate the previous day, during the contest it became so cold that a cameraman filming the game suffered frostbite, and television crews used dugout bonfires to thaw out their cameras. Broadcaster Art Rust, Jr. later described the weather as "barbaric". The cold conditions favored the Packers who used a run-oriented offense led by Taylor, while the Giants featured a more pass heavy offense led by quarterback YA Tittle who, coming into the game, had passed for 3,224 yards and 33 touchdowns on the season.
The wind caused the ball to be blown off the tee three times during the opening kickoff, and a Green Bay player had to hold the ball onto the tee so Willie Wood could kick it off. After a Jerry Kramer field goal made the score 3–0 in favor of Green Bay in the first quarter, the Giants drove to the Green Bay 15 yard line behind short passes from Tittle. Tittle's play action pass to wide open tight end Joe Walton near the goal line was tipped by Nitschke and intercepted by fellow linebacker Dan Currie. During most of the first and second quarter, the teams ran the ball for short gains. The Giants repeatedly hit Taylor hard, and he suffered cuts to his arm and tongue. Near halftime, the Giants Phil King fumbled on their own 28, and Nitchke recovered. Behind a halfback pass from Paul Hornung to flanker Boyd Dowler, the Packers drove to the Giants seven yard line. On the following play Taylor used an outside fake before going back inside to run untouched into the end zone.
The weather worsened by halftime and the wind swirled dust around the stadium, tearing apart the ballpark's United States flag, and knocking over a television camera. Passing became even more difficult; the longest pass of the day was a 25 yard one from Tittle to Walton. After blocking a Green Bay punt in the end zone and recovering it for a touchdown to pull the game to 10–7 in the third quarter, the Giants defense forced the Packers into a three and out on their next possession. Sam Horner fumbled on a punt return at the Giants 42 yard line however, and Nitschke recovered. Five plays later Kramer kicked a field goal to make the score 13–7. Tittle, with the aid of two Packers penalties, then drove the Giants from their own 20 to the Green Bay 18 on the ensuing drive. New York then incurred two holding penalties, pushing them back to the Packers 40 yard line and ending their drive. Led by Taylor who repeatedly ran for key first downs, the Packers advanced the ball down to the New York end of the field, where they kicked a field goal to make the score 16–7 with 1:50 to play. Green Bay recovered all five of their fumbles during the game, while the Giants lost both of theirs.
Tomorrow we will look back at the original December 31, 1967 Ice Bowl between the Cowboys and Packers.