A rivalry for the ages.

Packerlifer

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Every fan pretty well knows about the championship rivalry that existed in the 2000's between the Colts and Patriots, featuring the matchups of their two elite, future Hall of Fame qb's Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Not so well remembered these days is an even more intense rivalry that existed between the Colts and Packers a half century ago. A championship competition that also featured two Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterbacks. http://cdn-s3.si.com/s3fs-public/si/multimedia/photo_gallery/0611/gallery.nfl.qbrivals/images/starr_unitas.jpg.

Consider these facts: Between 1958-68 the Packers and Colts combined to win 8 of 10 NFL Championships. One or the other was involved in 10 of 11 Championship Games. The Packers (91-25-4) and Colts (78-46-3) separately and combined won more games than any other club or combination of clubs in pro football during that time. They were the NFL representative in the first 3 Super Bowls against the American Football League. They won 3 of the first 5 Super Bowls ever played. Fifteen players and 3 coaches of that rivalry period have been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Packers and Colts of that period only met once in a playoff game but in those days they were in the same division, the Western Conference of the National Football League, and played two games against each other every year. Those games were the marquee of the week on the league schedule and always met with heightened expectation.The winner was usually the one who went on to the league Championship Game and went in as the favorite to win.

The Colts, at that time, were located in Baltimore. There had not been much special between them and the Packers at first after they came into the NFL in 1953. The rivalry could be said to have had its beginning in the 1958 Championship Game between the Colts and New York Giants. "The Greatest Game Ever Played" was the famous sudden death overtime game won by the Colts.

The offensive assistant on the Giants in that game was Vince Lombardi. With two minutes remaining and the Giants leading by 3 Lombardi's offense appeared to have sealed the game for the Giants. Halfback Frank Gifford looked to have made a critical first down at the NY 40, which would have allowed the Giants to keep the ball and run out the clock. But the official placed the ball short of the marker; a placement the Giants bitterly protested and have always maintained was an officiating error that cost them the title.

Forced to punt to the Colts, John Unitas began to carve his legend by directing a drive for the game tying field goal to put it into overtime and then won the game with another for the touchdown in the extra period.

The Colts repeated as champions the next year, with a more decisive win over the Giants. But by that time Lombardi was in Green Bay as head coach and general manager, beginning to forge the dynasty that would dominate pro football for the coming decade.

In 1960 the Packers replaced the Colts on top of the West, denying Baltimore the shot at becoming the first team to win 3 straight championship games. And for four seasons the Colts trailed in the Packers' wake as Green Bay won three straight conference titles and two world championships.

In 1963 the Colts replaced the coach who had won championships for them in '58-'59 Weeb Ewbank with Don Shula. In his second year in charge of the team Shula's Colts took the West away from Green Bay; running up a 12-2 season, beating the Packers (8-5-1) twice in close games and outdistancing them by a comfortable margin.

During the Packers' historic "threepeat" championship run of 1965-67 the Colts would be their primary stalking horse. The two teams would finish the '65 season tied for first place at 10-3-1 each. At that time there were no tiebreakers to decide such situations. Instead a special playoff was mandated. http://www.packershistory.net/1965PACKERS/GAME2.html
http://www.packershistory.net/1965PACKERS/GAME13.html

http://archive.jsonline.com/sports/packers/184032361.html
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That playoff would be the longest game in NFL history until the double overtime Miami-Kansas City playoff on Christmas Day 1971. And like in the '58 Championship Game would come with an officiating controversy. The Colts and their fans would always maintain that Don Chandler's game tying field goal was wide as it sailed higher than the uprights. It would lead to the league extending the heighth of the uprights on the goal post to eliminate future doubts.

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1996-11-03/sports/1996308165_1_colts-packers-gary-cuozzo

The Packers-Colts rivalry had reached such a pitch that the league made them its opening game of the 1966 season; the first with the Super Bowl awaiting at its end. Green Bay and Baltimore were regarded as the two most likely NFL teams to reach that historic game against the AFL so there was additional motivation for both clubs.

http://www.packershistory.net/1966PACKERS/GAME1.html

There was no question about the '66 race and no playoff necessary as the Packers won the conference by a clear margin. They clinched it with room to spare when they beat the Colts for the 5th straight time.

http://www.packershistory.net/1966PACKERS/GAME13.html

In 1967 the league split the conferences into divisions and the Packers and Colts would only then on meet once a year for the final three before the merger. It was widely expected that they would meet in the first regularly scheduled Western Conference Playoff at the end of that season, though, and their midseason game at Baltimore that season was billed as a preview of that anticipated showdown.

Vince Lombardi placed a premium on beating the Colts. He was 11-7 against them during his Green Bay career and lost to them in his one season in Washington in 1969. In his book INSTANT REPLAY Packers' All Pro guard Jerry Kramer tells how well prepared Lombardi had the team for this game against Baltimore.

http://www.packershistory.net/1967PACKERS/GAME8.html

Despite losing Kramer said the Packers were confident they could defeat the Colts in a playoff again. More confident of it, actually, than against the Rams who wound up meeting them in the playoff that season. The Colts would never make it to the playoffs, despite losing only one time in the very last game of the season against the Rams. That one loss knocked Baltimore out of the playoff since there was as yet no wild card option.

In 1968 would come the changing of the guard. Lombardi retired as Packers' coach, age and injuries overtook the team and in an ironic turn it would be the Colts who not only succeeded the Packers as NFL champs but delivered the coup de grace to Green Bay's title run in the next to last game of the season at Lambeau Field. http://www.packershistory.net/1968PACKERS/GAME13.html

The Packers were indisputably the team of the decade in the '60's but a good case can be made for the Colts as a worthy number two. They have been overshadowed by the Packers but also by their own tendency to choke in moments when they could have stepped out onto the stage themselves.

They were heavy favorites to beat the Cleveland Browns in the '64 NFL title game but lost 27-0. They went undefeated, though twice tied, until the last game of the '67 season but their 34-10 loss to the Rams left them out of the playoffs even at 11-1-2 for the year.

Their biggest stumble came in Super Bowl III. The '68 Colts were prohibitive favorites and being hailed as the greatest team ever until Joe Namath and the New York Jets throttled them 16-7 in the most shocking and arguably biggest upset in the history of the game.

Baltimore went 15 straight seasons without a losing year until 1972 and would finally win their Super Bowl in V 16-13 over the Dallas Cowboys in 1971 before time finally caught up with them.

With the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 the Packers and Colts became even more removed from one another. The Colts were one of 3 NFL clubs who joined the former AFL clubs in the AFC and games with the Packers would become only occasional. They played 30 games against each other over 16 years from 1953-69 but have met only 10 times in the last 42 years since the merger.

The league thought enough of the great Packers-Colts rivalry of the '60's, though, to schedule them for their last meeting of that era on the first regular schedule of Monday Night Football in 1970. They weren't slated to be on one another's schedule again until 1974 so the game was billed as the last meeting of Bart Starr and John Unitas. Starr was injured and didn't play. Don Horn ran the offense in his absence.

http://www.packershistory.net/1970PACKERS/GAME8.html

The Packers and Colts are currently tied at 21-21-1 in their all-time record of 43 games, dating back 63 years. http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/game_query.cgi?tm1=gnb&tm2=clt&yr=all
 
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yooperpackfan

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Every fan pretty well knows about the championship rivalry that existed in the 2000's between the Colts and Patriots, featuring the matchups of their two elite, future Hall of Fame qb's Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Not so well remembered these days is an even more intense rivalry that existed between the Colts and Packers a half century ago. A championship competition that also featured two Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterbacks. http://cdn-s3.si.com/s3fs-public/si/multimedia/photo_gallery/0611/gallery.nfl.qbrivals/images/starr_unitas.jpg.

Consider these facts: Between 1958-68 the Packers and Colts combined to win 8 of 10 NFL Championships. One or the other was involved in 10 of 11 Championship Games. The Packers (91-25-4) and Colts (78-46-3) separately and combined won more games than any other club or combination of clubs in pro football during that time. They were the NFL representative in the first 3 Super Bowls against the American Football League. They won 3 of the first 5 Super Bowls ever played. Fifteen players and 3 coaches of that rivalry period have been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Packers and Colts of that period only met once in a playoff game but in those days they were in the same division, the Western Conference of the National Football League, and played two games against each other every year. Those games were the marquee of the week on the league schedule and always met with heightened expectation.The winner was usually the one who went on to the league Championship Game and went in as the favorite to win.

The Colts, at that time, were located in Baltimore. There had not been much special between them and the Packers at first.
Yes, the good old days.
Starr/Unitas
Hornung/Ameche
Ron Kramer/John Mackey
The list of greats from these two teams goes on and on.
 

gopkrs

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In 1960 the Packers replaced the Colts on top of the West, denying Baltimore the shot at becoming the first team to win 3 straight championship games.
I have always wondered why the 1929, 30 and 31 Packer seasons have never been included in the 3 straight championship talk. Could someone enlighten me?
 

Robert Mason

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In this story it says " unprecedented third straight NFL championship".




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gopkrs

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In 1930 there were 11 teams in the league. The Giants actually played more games but the Packers had a better record. There was no Championship game but they were the Champs of the NFL.
 

Robert Mason

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In 1930 there were 11 teams in the league. The Giants actually played more games but the Packers had a better record. There was no Championship game but they were the Champs of the NFL.

Up until the late 30's I believe, if you finished in first place......You were the champion. Then came one championship game between the east and west conference. That lasted into the mid or late 60's. Then I think in the late 60's the divisions were formed ushering in multiple payoff games and later...wildcard spots. So you see the journey to a championship is a lot longer than in 1929.
 

PWT

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The NFL was split into two divisions in 1933 . (Eastern Division and western Division.)
 
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Packerlifer

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While the Packers and Colts were competing for championships in the 1960's the chief story-line of that rivalry was the match-up of their two great Hall of Fame quarterbacks. And debate raged over who was the better; if there was such between them.

http://www.nfl.com/videos/green-bay-packers/0ap2000000333953/Bart-Starr-highlights

http://www.nfl.com/videos/baltimore-ravens/0ap2000000333960/Greatest-QB-of-all-time-Johnny-Unitas

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/U/UnitJo00.htm

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/S/StarBa00.htm

Because of injuries Starr and Unitas didn't play against each other in all the Packers-Colts games of that period. All-time, though, they matched up directly 17 times with Unitas winning 9 and Starr 8.

However, during the years of direct competition for access to the championship games on the line between them Starr posted a 7-4 record versus Unitas and swept the season series 3 times to Unitas' one. Following are the all the games in which Starr and Unitas quarterbacked against one another:

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/195710130gnb.htm
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/195710270clt.htm
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/195810120gnb.htm
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/195811020clt.htm
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/195911150gnb.htm

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/196011060clt.htm
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/196110080gnb.htm
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/196111050clt.htm
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/196210280clt.htm
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/196211180gnb.htm
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/196309290gnb.htm

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/196409200gnb.htm
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/196410180clt.htm
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/196509260gnb.htm
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/196609100gnb.htm
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/196612100clt.htm
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/196711050clt.htm

The only quarterback rivalry that compares to Starr-Unitas, in terms of the number of times they played and the championship implications involved, is the one between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. http://www.si.com/nfl/tom-brady-peyton-manning-history-box-score and the parallels between the two are rather uncanny.

In both one quarterback has the bigger career stats and the other has the most championships on his resume. In both one is regarded as the greater talent but the other the clutch performer and big game winner. In both one quarterback tended to overshadow his coach and team and the other was somewhat overshadowed by his coach and team. But at a later point began to step out as the face of their franchise.

http://www.espn.com/classic/biography/s/Unitas_Johnny.html
http://www.salon.com/2001/12/06/starr_6/

Starr and Unitas were not only intense competitors they also became friends. Unitas once said the only person he would ever talk money with was Starr because, he said, they were both in the same profession.

We lost Johnny U 14 years ago and with his recent health issues we can't know how much longer Bart will be with us. But they are players and peopleand features of a time we should never forget.

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gopkrs

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you know, I don't remember such a big rivalry between Starr and Unitas. Maybe the Packers and Colts but even that...it has always been the Bears. I think Unitas had always been considered in a class by himself.
 

Robert Mason

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Chris398

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Looks like Unitas in the M*A*S*H movie smoking a joint. I also saw Joe Kapp #14, Ben Daviidson #88 and Buck Buchanon #86. Fran Tarkenton was also listed among the cast, but I cold not spot him.
 
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