By T.J. Troup
|Willie Davis by Christopher Paluso|
Perspective is a key element when a team is evaluated and discussed. Eleven-year-old boys in '62 living outside of Chicago look forward to Chicago Bear road games on TV. The Bears started 2-0 that year and then came the devastation in Green Bay as the Green & Gold took this so called rivalry to a new height or depth depending upon your viewpoint. Twice more I saw the Packers that year, the Thanksgiving day massacre in Detroit, and the 1962 title game at Yankee Stadium.
Now, all these years later having coached, and devoured film of the Packers brings a true perspective of just how powerful this team was. Ready? The 49ers and Colts are flawed teams that really are not contenders in 1962. The two teams in the Western Conference that believe they are contenders are the Bears & Lions. Willie Galimore's early season injury limits the Bears running game, but Bill Wade can fire that football. He has some outstanding games during the year, yet still forces throws into coverage.
How does Wade fare against the Green Bay defense? The Chicago defense is in transition, and to this day no one really knows when Shaughnessy is striped of his defensive co-ordinator role and George Allen takes over. The youthful talented Bear secondary is improving, and the d-line and linebackers can and do make plays, but can they limit the Packer attack? The Bears are too inconsistent to win the west. Detroit has finished second in back to back seasons and has an outstanding defense.
The question that is asked each year in the Motor City is where is the quarterback to take us back to the championship game? Milt Plum proves he cannot rise to the level of elite quarterback. The Lion running game is very limited as hard running fullback Nick Pietrosante gained just 204 yards rushing the last five games of '61, and struggles during the '62 campaign.
Coach George Wilson like so many coaches wants a balanced attack, but the Lions cannot dominate the game running the ball. What the attack does have is a truly gifted receiver who makes key catches all year; team MVP Gail Cogdill(44 catches for 797 yards in 11 victories). The toughness, and talent of the defense coached by Don Shula coupled with Cogdill just might be enough most years to win the division, but not this year. Defining greatness can be a real challenge, we know it when we see it, but how do we state it?
The 1962 Packers are one of the greatest/best teams of all-time! Vince Lombardi knows his defending champions are primed to repeat, and his excellent coaching staff returns. Much has been written about this man, and he is complex in some ways. He is the best combination chemistry teacher/offensive line coach during his time in the league. Lombardi understands how to put the right ingredients together in just the right amounts and then send that motivated ingredient on the field to lay waste to the opposition.
His defensive coordinator Phil Bengston finally has every position filled with a quality player. Willie Davis is in his third year starting in Green Bay. He is durable, quick, sheds blocks, and is finally a force as a pass rusher. He is not chosen for the Pro Bowl, yet is voted Second-team All-Pro. Dave "Hawg" Hanner has survived the lean years in Green Bay and is still a strong run defender at left defensive tackle. Second year man Ron Kostelnik fills in capably off the bench during games for Hanner. Henry Jordan is quick, savvy and is a master at shedding blocks. He is not chosen for the Pro Bowl, yet he also earns All-Pro recognition at right defensive tackle. Veteran Bill Quinlan is not much of a pass rusher, but is strong at the point of attack at his right defensive end position.
|Ray Nitschke by Merv Corning|
|Herb Adderly by Merv Corning|
This group is durable, capable, and at their peak. The Green Bay defense allows just 14 offensive touchdowns in fourteen games, and records 36 sacks. Vince Lombardi wants to dominate opponents defenses, and at times the offense so controls the clock and the scoreboard that there is very little for him to do on game day but watch. No team in this era is as well prepared for Sunday as the Lombardi Packers. Ron Kramer has size and athleticism but rarely has he been the tight end that everyone in the league knew he could be. That situation changes in '62 as he is All-Pro and a real asset to the attack as both a blocker and downfield receiver. McGee & Dowler have size and speed and run the pattern needed for all successful teams.
|Bart Starr by Merv Corning|
|Jim Taylor by Merv Corning|
|Paul Hornung by Merv Corning|
|Jim Ringo by Merv Corning|
|Forrest Gregg by Merv Corning|
Max McGee struggles when asked to punt during the year, but Dowler has a fine year as the number one punter. The Packers are excellent in the kick return game, and with the exception of Abe Woodson cover punts and kick-offs with savage proficiency. Nelson Toburen before his injury was a stellar special teams bomber. You now know the line-up, shall we take a look at the season? Of course we will.
Three straight home victories set up the first Lion game. Besides Alex Karras throwing his helmet at Plum in the locker room after the game for his ill timed inaccurate pass, how about credit to youngster Adderley for zipping into position to pilfer the pigskin? The Packers win three more before their annual pilgrimage to Wrigley Field. Lombardi is going for his third straight victory in the lair of the Bear. Green Bay was at one point 1 win 16 losses and a tie in 18 consecutive games at Wrigley. The Packers have outscored the Bears 96-41 in their last three games against Chicago, and though the Bears come out fired up they are humbled 38-7. How strong is the Packer running attack you ask? The Bear defense many times lines up in an 8-man front with Petitbon as the lone safety in the middle of the field. Could Starr have thrown against this defense?
Of course, but the Green Bay offensive line with precision, and power opens hole after hole, running lane after running lane. The Packers are off to Philadelphia, kind of a homecoming for Jersey boy Lombardi and scene of his championship loss in '60. The Eagles of '62 are a weak club, and have defensive limitations. Does Lombardi feel pity for the Eagles? A league record setting performance for 1st downs, and looking at the box score, and film the Packers are at their peak. Two weeks from now the Packers will journey to Detroit for the rematch with the one loss Lions, but first is the November 18th home game against Baltimore, and the game that will be examined in depth. The 5-4 Colts have won four of their five road games, and though it is not his best year still have Johnny "hightops" Unitas. Weeb Ewbank has his steads ready, and they really play inspired physical football for much of the game.
Baltimore kicks off with a 3-0 lead and Adderley weaves his way through the Colts for 103 yards and the lead. Adderley intercepts and the Baltimore turnover leads to a field goal and a 10-3 lead but here comes the Colts down the field. Weeb is pulling out all the stops today as holder Bobby Boyd on a fake field goal dashes to the Packer one yard line. On 4th and goal deep in Packer territory Unitas attempt to fool the Bengston defense goes awry as Bill Forester records his second sack of the quarter. Just before the half Unitas pitches to Orr in the corner and a 10-10 tie.
Third quarter and a 52 yard Baltimore drive sets up a field goal and a 13-10 lead. Fourth quarter and Baltimore is forced to punt, and Wood zips to the Colt thirty-one yard line on the return. Tom Moore runs through a massive hole on trap play to the right and a 17-13 lead. The tension mounts as both teams fumble, but this is the field general himself John Unitas and he marshalls his hosses down the field and when he sees daylight he is off and running inside the Packer ten. Jimmy Orr has a step on Adderley but we will never know the outcome since left linebacker Ken Iman leaps to block Johnny's pass. Out played and out gained by 266 yards, yet resilient enough and with enough big plays the Packers are 10-0 before the inevitable massacre in Detroit.
The highlights of the final two games of the season on the west coast are worth a mention. John Brodie has had some impressive games against Green Bay, but also some duds as well. The Packer pass rush overwhelmed the Niners earlier in the year, and Brodie struggled the entire afternoon. Today though at Kezar the Niners in a "trips" right alignment cause havoc and have a 21-0 lead as slot receiver Bernie Casey torments the Packer secondary. The Green Bay offense is up to the challenge and win 31-21.
The division crown is clinched and a meaningless game in the Coliseum against a Ram team that has won just one game. Max McGee fumbles the center snap from punt formation, and in his feeble attempt to roll right is under pressure from young defensive end David Jones. McGee's end over end pass winds up in the hands of rookie defensive tackle Merlin Olsen, and the big man rumbles 20 yards for a score in the Green Bay 20-17 win.
Back to perspective. My two historical mentors answered questions from their persective on the championship game in Yankee Stadium. Paul Lionel Zimmerman is a fledgling writer who know offensive line play. He stated to me more than once how impressed he was with the Packers o-line and blocking combinations. My other mentor a young 20 year old small college football player helping his dad out on the camera crew for upstart Blair Motion pictures told me of his day filming the title game rematch of the Giants against the Packers.
Looking back now at the Giants strategy on the windy frigid day—should Allie Sherman have aligned the Giants in a "trips" right offensive formation and continually thrown short passes with the weather conditions being what they were? Give credit where it is due, Green Bay's defense shut-out the Giants. Even with the huge special teams play by New York, they just were not going to beat the Packers. Workmanlike and consistent Green Bay survived the elements and a motivated New York Giant team to win their second in a row 16-7. Eric Goska is one helluva writer and historian on Packer history, and quoting him from his super book,"Vince Lombardi preached perfection. Of all his teams, the '62 edition came the closest to attaining it".