Pivotal Pro Football Moments
pivotal NFL postseason moment: A decision by a coach or an action by a player that establishes or changes the momentum of a playoff game.
Hornung, Taylor Good Mudders
January 2, 1966: NFL Title Game - Cleveland Browns @ Green Bay Packers
A snow storm hit the Green Bay area the morning of the championship game. When Packers FB Jim Taylor woke up at 8 AM and looked out the window, "I liked what I saw," he recalled. "I knew the snow was going to equalize some things."
The busses bringing the Browns 30 miles from Appleton WI to Green Bay were caught in a massive traffic jam compounded by the fact that highway crews had cleared the south­bound lanes but not the northbound lanes heading into Green Bay. As a result, a 40-minute trip stretched to nearly two hours. So the Browns arrived at Lambeau Field much later than anticipated. Some players stepped off the bus unnerved at having their pregame rituals upset.
Observing the Browns' arrival, Cleveland Plain-Dealer sportswriter Hal Lebovitz noted that only star RB Jim Brown seemed to have his game face on.
Meanwhile, the thick layer of straw covering the field at Lambeau had been removed by men with pitchforks while another crew removed the tarpaulin. As game time approached, the snow picked up again, mixed with freezing rain as the temperature rose to just above freezing. The uncovered field turned to mush.
When the Browns finally took the field, they were disgusted with the conditions. Wearing a white Cleveland warmup jacket, Brown ran gingerly for a few steps, then slid in the snow. The look on his face was not nice. Earlier in the week, he had expressed fear that the field in Green Bay would be frozen or snow covered and not suited to his talents. On the other end of the field, Taylor told guards Jerry Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston, "It's Pack­er weather."

L: High schoolers help shovel snow off the field.
R: Carroll Dale catches underthrown ball as Walter Beech slips down.
The snow had stopped by kickoff, but the footing was soft and mushy as melting snow covered the field. The yard lines had been cleared. However, the conditions worsened when it started to rain.
The Packers scored on the first possession of the game, aided by the field conditions. QB Bart Starr, playing with severely bruised ribs suffered in the Western Conference playoff against the Colts, alternated short passes and runs to move to the Cleveland 48.
Starr surprised the Browns with a long pass to LE Carroll Dale. Unable to get enough mustard on the ball with his bandaged ribs, Starr underthrew the pass. Dale came back for it as the defender, Walter Beech, slipped down. Carroll caught the ball on the 15 as the safety, Ross Fichtner, overran the play and lost his footing, and scooted into the end zone. Don Chandler converted. Packers 7 Browns 0 (11:08)

L: Bart Starr throws an early pass. R: Carroll Dale
Starr explained the touchdown after the game. "That wet ball just slipped. It squibbed off my hand when I threw it, and it never would have been a score except that Dale made it one. I threw short. Dale stopped, came back, caught it, and went by Beach when he slip­ped. On a day like this, you need everything". Bart later recalled why he went for the jug­ular so soon. "We knew it had to be bad for them psychologically, so we hit them right way."
The Browns answered with a touchdown of their own. Starting from the 34 after the kickoff, QB Jim Ryan started strong with two straight completions–the first for 30y to RB Jim Brown–to put the ball on the 17. From there, Ryan saw FL Gary Collins get loose from CB Herb Adderley and hit him in the end zone. Collins caught the ball just before careening into the snow bank off the edge of the field. The PAT holder fumbled the snap. Packers 7 Browns 6 (10:07)

L: Gary Collins catches a first quarter touchdown pass from Jim Ryan.
R: Jim Brown runs with a pass in the second quarter as the melting snow makes the field muddy.
(Stills from video footage.)
The Pack's second possession didn't go nearly as well as the first, and it cost them the lead. Jim Kanicki and Bill Glass sacked Starr on the eight. That led to excellent field position for the Browns when Leroy Kelly fair caught Chandler's punt at the GB 39.
After Brown gained two, Ryan hit FL Paul Warfield to the 24. Following two runs for 7y, Ryan failed to connect with Warfield behind the goal posts in the end zone. So ageless Lou Groza booted a 24y field goal. Browns 9 Packers 7
The lead didn't survive Green Bay's next possession. Starr decided his best options were to give the ball to Hornung and Taylor. Paul scooted around left end, shook off several tacklers, and continued for 34y to the Cleveland 39. Next, Starr found Dale open at the 25, and Carroll ran for seven more. Then Taylor and Hornung took turns carrying the ball and blocking for each other. The period ended with the ball on the six. Green Bay had run 20 plays to Cleveland's nine.

Jim Brown tries to find running room.
The Browns sent in extra linemen for their goal-line defense. Hornung met a stonewall on 2nd down. Then Starr tried to pass but was dropped at the eight. So Don Chandler booted a 15y field goal. Packers 10 Browns 9 (13:14)
The Packers added to their lead when DB Willie Wood intercepted Ryan's pass and returned to the 10. But a motion penalty and three incompletions brought on Chandler for a 23y field goal. Packers 13 Browns 9
In the last minutes of the half, Cleveland's Gary Collins got off a sensational punt that went out of bounds on the four. Using their timeouts, the Browns capitalized to put three points on the board before halftime. First, the defense made a big play. On 3rd down, Starr tried to trick the defense with a pass. But CB Walter Beech wasn't fooled and stepped in front of Hornung to intercept just in bounds at the 30.
On third-and-15, Ryan faked to Brown, then threw a swing pass to him. Jim barreled to the 21. That set up Groza for a 28y field goal. Packers 13 Browns 12 (0:48)
The rain stopped for halftime, but the marching bands played on the sidelines to avoid churning up the field any more. But as the teams came back out, rain mixed with snow came down again.
Another excellent Collins punt put the Pack in a hole on their first possession of the second half. Elijah Pitts took Collins' line drive kick over his shoulder going toward the goal line at the 20 and was trapped back at the 10.
The Packers imposed their will on the Browns up front as they covered 90y in 11 plays with just two passes. When the march reached the Cleveland 36, Starr faked a handoff to Taylor to the weak side and gave the ball to Hornung, who followed great blocking by Forrest Gregg and Taylor over right tackle to the 15. After Jim pushed for two, Paul swept left end and cut back behind Jerry Kramer's great block for the touchdown. Packers 20 Browns 12 (5:45)

Hornung cuts in behind Forrest Gregg as Taylor blocks DE Bill Glass.
As high fog rolled in, the Browns moved to the GB 27. That's when one of the key plays of the afternoon transpired. Brown circled long down the middle. Ryan looped a pass to him under the goal posts, but Nitschke reached out a hand at the last second on the slightly underthrown ball and wrenched it from Jim's grasp in the end zone.
When Ryan fumbled and recovered at the 30, Groza came out for a field goal try from the 37, but DT Henry Jordan got a hand on the ball, and it dropped harmlessly in the end zone.
With the fog descending and a light snowfall, the action took on a ghost-like aura. The Packers mounted a relentless march that continued into the final period.

Taylor follows Hornung through the fog.
After the Packers gained another first down at the Cleveland 27, the Browns finally drew the line and stopped Hornung for 2y on two carries. So Chandler banged through a 29y field goal that tied a record shared with many of three field goals in a championship game. Packers 23 Browns 12 (9:28)
Another fine Collins punt backed the Packers to their seven. Desperately needing a turnover to set up an easy score, the Browns almost caught Starr in the end zone as he tried a 2nd down pass. But Bart wiggled out to the two. Taylor then fought his way back to the seven to give Chandler more room to punt.
Cleveland tried for the block, but Ralph Smith hit Chandler just after the ball left his foot. The roughing penalty made it first down at the 22. That allowed the Packers to run the clock to under two minutes. FINAL: PACKERS 23 BROWNS 12

Taylor fights to get away from LB Vince Costello.
The Packers ran 66 plays, a whopping 30 more than the Browns. Hornung led all rushers with 105y on 18 carries while Taylor added 96 on 27 attempts. Brown, not as good a mudder as the Packer tandem, gained only 50y on 12 carries.
Green Bay Coach Vince Lombardi: This is not the best football team we've ever had, but it is a team of real fine character. It's got a great deal of perseverance. It never even began to count itself out. A lot of things happened to us this season, but the players closed their mouths and never said a word to the press or anyone. They kept their mouths shut about injuries and a number of things."
Told he and Taylor performed like rookies, Hornung replied, "We felt like rookies. And when you win, you feel like rookies." Paul also said, "The snow reduced their speed down to ours. Was the footing good? Yes, considering that it was muddy and slippery."
Taylor said the heavy field hampered him somewhat. "I couldn't cut and drive too good. It was like having only one leg to run on. ... I've been playing on a leg and a half all year, but I've still got enough spring in me to play this game of football and overcome it."