Bye week refreshes Packers
Teammates take time to go deer hunting
After Fran Tarkenton and the Minnesota Vikings upset Green Bay, 20-17, at Lambeau Field on Nov. 6, 1966, a bye week provided a much-needed respite for the Packers.
The unexpected loss at home would put the defending NFL champions in a tie with the Baltimore Colts with a 7-2 record in the league's Western Conference the next weekend.
For Dave Robinson and several teammates, the time off meant a trip up to northern Wisconsin for some time in the woods.
“A group of us — Lionel Aldridge, Herb Adderley, Jerry Kramer — went deer hunting past Rhinelander,” the former Green Bay linebacker recalled last week.
“I don’t remember most losses, but Tarkenton gave us fits that game and it was hard to maintain our coverage. But after that one, a bunch of the guys got away with our guns in the woods and left football back in Green Bay for a few days.”
When Green Bay players and coaches returned from their bye, the opposition was a familiar foe: the Chicago Bears. The 3-4-2 Bears were locked in a mid-division battle with 4-3-2 San Francisco and 3-5-1 Minnesota.
“It didn’t matter when we played the Packers, we wanted to beat them, no matter the records,” Bears tight end Mike Ditka said. “It was a game that coach (George) Halas wanted us to win badly, and I know coach (Vince) Lombardi and the Packers wanted to beat us. It was an intense rivalry.
“We won the NFL title in 1963, but Green Bay was the defending champions in 1965. They were the king of the hill and we were going there to knock them off.”
Packers receiver Carroll Dale said Lombardi had his team very focused after the unexpected defeat to Minnesota.
“Especially after that loss, our focus was even sharper,” he said. “Coach Lombardi made sure we were motivated. It was all team orientated and the expectation was to give 100%. Lombardi was even more motivated against Halas and the Bears. He didn’t want to lose. Period. Ever.”
The Bears gave the favored Packers all they could handle. Green Bay played without the services of team leader Bart Starr, who was injured early in the contest.
His backup, the always reliable and prepared Zeke Bratkowski, took the reins of the offense and teamed with Dale to provide all the scoring the Packers would need.
On a cold 34-degree afternoon with 8 mph winds before 50,861 fans, the first quarter went scoreless.
Bratkowski capped a scoring drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Dale for a 7-0 secondquarter lead that held until the fourth quarter.
Chicago finally got on the scoreboard with a 2-yard touch- down run by the incomparable Gale Sayers, but the extra point was missed.
The victory was secured when Dale beat safety Richie Petitbon with a double move on a 33-yard scoring pass for a 13-6 cushion. The Green Bay defense, which limited Chicago to 160 total yards and nine first downs, then shut out the Bears the rest of the way.
“Our defense did a great job against Gale Sayers — held him to under 100 yards,” Dale said. “He had 68 yards, that’s unbelievable. He was an amazing football player.”
The Green Bay defense was also lauded by Ditka.
“That Packers defense with future hall of famers like Ray Nitschke, Willie Davis, Dave Robinson, Herb Adderley was very tough,” said Ditka, who finished with three receptions for 29 yards. “They made you earn it.”
Dale was given a game ball for his six receptions, 87-yard performance, which he still has in his basement.
“I got that ball somewhere,” he joked Sunday. “Zeke really stepped up for Bart and came through with two touchdown passes.
“Everyone pulled together after the Vikings loss. Coach Lombardi patted a few players on the back and kicked a few backsides, too. He wanted preparation, respect for your opponent, and expected you to give 100% and leave it all on the field.”
Next up on the Packers’ 1966 schedule was the opportunity to avenge the loss three weeks earlier, as Green Bay traveled to Minnesota for a rematch at MET Stadium on Nov. 27.
“Coach Lombardi was always very aware of human nature,” he said. “When you have success, you have to be focused on getting better each week.
“You’re only as good as your last practice or your last game. Lombardi would go against human nature and chew us out after a victory, when most coaches would pat you on the back. He always kept the team on edge, on alert.”
Carroll Dale had two touchdown catches that gave the Packers a 13-6 victory over the Bears on Nov. 20, 1966.