Cow­boys, Pack­ers make mem­o­rable play­off ri­vals

Houston Chronicle - - PRO FOOTBALL - By Ge­naro C. Ar­mas

The Dal­las Cow­boys and Green Bay Pack­ers go way back, as in the 1967 NFL cham­pi­onship game played in such frigid con­di­tions at Lam­beau Field that it is known in league an­nals as the “Ice Bowl.”

Cow­boys re­ceiver Dez Bryant has more re­cent mem­o­ries, and they’re painful for rea­sons other than the cold.

Two of the league’s mar­quee fran­chises share a post­sea­son his­tory that dates back five decades. They have met seven pre­vi­ous times in the play­offs, with Dal­las hold­ing a 4-3 edge go­ing into the di­vi­sional round game on Sun­day against the Pack­ers at AT&T Sta­dium.

While the teams may not be heated di­vi­sional ri­vals, their post­sea­son meet­ings of­ten leave an im­pres­sion.

“I hope the Cow­boys don’t spoil it, or I’ll be re­ally (an­gry) if they do,” said for­mer Pack­ers of­fen­sive line­man Jerry Kramer.

He was one of the block­ers for Hall of Famer Bart Starr’s game-win­ning, 1-yard quar­ter­back sneak with 13 sec­onds left in the fourth quar­ter of Green Bay’s 21-17 win in the Ice Bowl.

Each team has made 32 post­sea­son ap­pear­ances, tied with the New York Gi­ants fore­most in NFL his­tory.

Dal­las and Green Bay have unique own­ers. For the Cow­boys, owner Jerry Jones is part-show­man, part-per­son­nel ex­ec­u­tive and part­spokesman. Dal­las plays in a cav­ernous, mod­ern sta­dium in a sprawl­ing sub­urb.

Green Bay plays in the league’s small­est mar­ket. Lam­beau Field is the league’s long­est-tenured sta­dium, si­t­u­ated in the mid­dle of a blue-col­lar neigh­bor­hood. It’s the only pub­licly owned fran­chise in the NFL.

“Part of it is, I don’t think the or­ga­ni­za­tions could be more dif­fer­ent. Their sta­dium and our sta­dium — ours is iconic, an older sta­dium. Theirs (sta­dium) is glitzy,” Pack­ers pres­i­dent Mark Mur­phy said. “But I have tremen­dous re­spect for the Dal­las or­ga­ni­za­tion and Jerry.”

A look back at some post­sea­son high­lights of post­sea­son be­tween the teams:

• New Year’s Day — Fifty years ago on Jan. 1, the teams met in the 1966 NFL cham­pi­onship game, which took on new mean­ing since the win­ner would rep­re­sent the league in the first Su­per Bowl against the AFL win­ner. Starr was 19-of-28 for 304 yards and four touch­down passes in the 34-27 vic­tory at the Cot­ton Bowl in Dal­las. The Pack­ers went on to beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the Su­per Bowl.

Af­ter join­ing the NFL as an ex­pan­sion fran­chise in 1960, Dal­las started a streak of 20 con­sec­u­tive win­ning sea­sons in 1966.

• Ice Bowl — The tem­per­a­ture was mi­nus-13 at kick­off on Dec. 31, 1967, when the Cow­boys and Pack­ers met at Lam­beau in a clas­sic NFL cham­pi­onship game. Cow­boys equip­ment staff gave play­ers a salve to rub on to keep warm and put Saran Wrap around feet in an at­tempt to add an­other layer of warmth.

There wasn’t much of a ri­valry then be­cause the Cow­boys were still rel­a­tively new to the league, Kramer said, though the seeds of a ri­valry were planted.

• Dal­las dom­i­na­tion — The Cow­boys dom­i­nated in the mid-1990s with a starstud­ded lineup led by the Hall of Fame trio of Troy Aik­man, Em­mitt Smith and Michael Irvin. Dal­las hosted the Pack­ers and an­other fu­ture Hall of Famer, quar­ter­back Brett Favre, for three straight sea­sons, from 1993-95, all Cow­boys vic­to­ries.

Kramer re­mem­bers a week­end in which he at­tended one of those play­off games and got frus­trated by the brash and con­fi­dent Cow­boys. His anger boiled over in a ra­dio in­ter­view.

“There wasn’t any­thing about any of them that I liked,” Kramer re­called this week. He has be­come friends with for­mer Dal­las play­ers, though his heart re­mains with the Pack­ers.

The loss in the 1995 NFC ti­tle game served as a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for Green Bay. The Pack­ers went on to beat New Eng­land in the Su­per Bowl in the 1996 sea­son.

“Ev­ery year, you got bet­ter, you learned from your mis­takes,” for­mer cen­ter Frank Win­ters said. “From a mo­ti­va­tional point … you tried to over­come those ad­ver­si­ties, tried to learn from them and move for­ward.”

They didn’t face the Cow­boys in the play­offs that year af­ter Dal­las was knocked out by Carolina. The Pack­ers re­turned to the Su­per Bowl the fol­low­ing sea­son, los­ing to Den­ver.

“I think the sig­na­ture ‘win’ for the Pack­ers was a loss, and that was the NFC cham­pi­onship in 1995 in Dal­las,” for­mer Pack­ers line­backer Ge­orge Koonce said. “That re­ally pre­pared us and got us fo­cused to re­ally get us ready to win a cham­pi­onship.”

• Over­turned catch — The Cow­boys re­turned to Lam­beau for a post­sea­son game on Jan. 11, 2015. They left with a 26-21 loss af­ter Bryant’s leap­ing, 31-yard catch to the Pack­ers’ 1 on fourth-and-2 with 4½ min­utes left was over­turned by of­fi­cials.

Cor­ner­back Sam Shields had solid cov­er­age. Coach Mike McCarthy saw oth­er­wise and threw a chal­lenge flag. Re­plays showed that Bryant bob­bled the ball as he rolled into the end zone, with part of it touch­ing the field. Af­ter re­view­ing the play, of­fi­cials over­turned the call, say­ing Bryant didn’t main­tain con­trol all the way to the ground.

“Still to this day,” Bryant said when asked if fans still come up to him about the call. “Still to this day they (will) be like ... ‘I just want the world to know that Dez Bryant still caught it.’ ”

As for Bryant, that call is his­tory .

“It’s al­ready erased … I’m just think­ing about this game,” Bryant said. “I can’t wait. It’s go­ing to be a fun game Sun­day.”

As­so­ci­ated Press

Green Bay quar­ter­back Bart Starr (15) dives across the goal line to score the win­ning touch­down against Dal­las at Lam­beau Field on Dec. 31, 1967, in what is known in NFL an­nals as the Ice Bowl.

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