Bye week re­freshes Pack­ers

Team­mates take time to go deer hunt­ing

Packer Plus - - 50 YEARS AGO: THE JOURNEY TO SUPER BOWL - MARTIN HEN­DRICKS SPE­CIAL TO PACKER PLUS

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.”

VER­NON J. BIEVER

Car­roll Dale had two touch­down catches that gave the Pack­ers a 13-6 vic­tory over the Bears on Nov. 20, 1966.

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