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.
1966: Unexpected Star
Super Bowl I: Green Bay Packers vs Kansas City Chiefs
Green Bay's two leading playboys, 31-year-old Paul Hornung and Max McGee, three years older, shared a motel room the night before Super Bowl I in Los Angeles. Neither expected to play the next day. Hornung appeared in only nine games because of injuries and hadn't taken the field against Dallas the week before. McGee caught just four passes all season.
When Coach Dave "Hawg" Hanner checked their room, McGee was under the covers with his clothes on. After Hawg moved on, Max invited Paul to hit the town with him, promising a hook up with several stewardesses. With his wedding three days away, Hor­nung turned down the offer.
However, after watching films of the Kansas City secondary, McGee felt confident if he did a chance to play. In an encounter that evening with Ray Scott, the Voice of the Pack­ers, Max boasted, "I don't know if I'll get in the game, but if I do, they'll never get me out. Ray, I've found me a cornerback I'll have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!"
Sunday morning, Green Bay QB Bart Starr awoke, took a quick shower, and went downstairs to read the paper. He walked by McGee, who needed a shave and was wearing the same sports coat and slacks as the night before. Obviously, Max hadn't spent the night in his room. The two men greeted each other, and the wide receiver who didn't expect to play headed for the elevator.
Max had breakfast with the team, then napped for an hour. Used to short nights throughout his playboy life, Max looked refreshed as he boarded the bus for the stadium.
No one outside of the AFL cities expected the game to be close. The oddsmakers made the Packers 13-point favorites. A press poll determined that 51 of 60 reporters favored Green Bay. Four days before the game, Gene Ward wrote in the New York Daily News, "To be brutally frank, this could end up being labeled the 'Stupor Bowl.'"
McGee dressed next to Hornung and told him, "I wonder if I'll get a chance to play in this thing. I guess it's me if Dowler gets hurt again"–Boyd had been suffering from a shoulder injury–"but you know how little I've played all year. I just don't know about my legs. I know I can beat the pants off the guys in their backfield, but I don't know if the legs will hold up."
Max recalled the pregame warmup: "I didn't even bother to stretch out too much be­cause I figured I'd just be sitting around watching anyway. I could barely stand up for the kickoff." As the game began, McGee and Hornung were sitting on the bench making plans for Paul's upcoming wedding in Hollywood. They were paying little attention to the game.

L-R: Bart Starr, Boyd Dowler, Carroll Dale, Marv Fleming
Dowler Injured
Green Bay received the kickoff, and on their third play from scrimmage, Dowler had to leave the game after aggravating his shoulder injury while blocking. McGee: "I heard Lombardi yell, 'McGee! McGee!' Boyd Dowler had gotten hurt. I had to scramble to my feet. I grabbed a helmet–I'm pretty sure it was someone else's–and I went in."
Starr recalled: "As Max jogged toward our huddle, I could hardly believe my eyes. He looked ready to go. Max always had the ability to turn his humor and concentration on and off, but this was an extreme example even by his standards."
Dowler's leaving the game was considered a bad break at the time, but the substitution of McGee would have a big impact on the contest.
Each team made one first down on their first possession before punting. So the Packers started their second possession on their 20. Starr threw to TE Marv Fleming over the middle for a first down at the 34. Flushed from the pocket, Bart tossed to RB Elijah Pitts for another first down at the KC 43. After FB Jimmy Taylor was dragged down for a 6y loss, Starr fired to WR Carroll Dale, who made a sliding catch at the KC 37. That set up the first key play of the game.
McGee's First Touchdown
Green Bay Coach Vince Lombardi had told his quarterback when the Super Bowl game plan was finalized, "I want you to pass and then pass some more. Don't be afraid to change the play when you see the right setup." Vince wanted to take advantage of KC's triple-stack linebacker alignment. One of the outside linebackers, Bobby Bell or E. J. Holub, would play inside the defensive end on his side to help stop the run. "There was no one to help a defensive back cover a receiver," said Starr, "so our plan was to isolate our wide receivers on their cornerbacks." McGee recalled: "I didn't have much left, but there was one play I could still run and that was the quick slant. Bart knew it, so he audibled to it once we got into Kansas City territory." He told Starr that the Chiefs secondary was ignoring him.

Max McGee makes a difficult catch as CB Willie Mitchell (22) tries to defend, then sprints to the end zone.
McGee lined up on the left side and cut across the middle when the ball was snapped. Massive DT Buck Buchanan escaped C Bill Curry's block and hit Starr right after he re­leased the pigskin. The ball wasn't well thrown, but McGee, racing over the empty middle with CB Willie Mitchell chasing him after using an outside technique, reached behind him with his right hand and pulled in the ball as Mitchell dived in vain. MLB Gerald Hendrick got a hand on him, but Max ripped his way out of his grasp and easily outran Williamson "like an aging gazelle" the final 20y into the end zone. Don Chandler booted the PAT. Packers 7 Chiefs 0 (6:04 remaining in the period)
Starr: "I trotted off the field and congratulated Max. 'Hell of a catch, Max,' I said. 'Made it look easy, didn't I?' he laughed. ' Max, I've got to tell you. I was surprised you caught that thing.' Max replied, 'You think you were surprised. I was just sticking my hand out to keep Mitchell from picking it off. I looked back and there was the ball in my hand, so I kept running.'
Starr: "The Chiefs may not have realized that we loved when teams blitzed. We had a very good adjusting process for dogging linebackers and safeties. Guys like McGee could read a blitz and let us know it was coming, which gave us the time to exploit it. Our line allowed me to remain in the pocket, rather than bootlegging or scrambling."
The helmet that McGee hurriedly grabbed when he entered the game after Dowler's injury belonged to WR Bob Long, who recalled: "I was the guy playing behind Boyd Dowler, and if he got hurt, I was supposed to go in, right? ... In the first series of play, Boyd Dowler hurts his shoulder. So I'm getting ready to put on my helmet and go in. In typical Vince Lombardi style–he was known for doing the unexpected–all at once Lombardi yells out, 'McGee!' On the bench everybody's looking at each other. He's going to put Max McGee into this game? Max was also getting older. By the way, 34 years is old for a receiver. ... I'm distraught. McGee looks around for his helmet and cannot find it. One of the guys on the team yelled out, 'Max! You left your helmet in the locker room!' ... I said, 'Max, take my helmet for the first series of plays, and we'll send someone into the locker room to get yours.'
"Max McGee scored the first touchdown in Super Bowl history. My kids and friends some­times say, "Hey, Long, did you play any in the first Super Bowl?" I say, "Yeah. And let me tell you another thing: My helmet scored the first touchdown in Super Bowl history!"
To the surprise of NFL fans, the Chiefs tied the score with a six-play, 66y drive in the second period. The biggest gainers were both passes from QB Len Dawson. He hit Garrett out of the backfield for 17y on the first snap of the drive. Four plays later, Dawson faked a handoff to the fullback and, with no pressure at all on him, looped a long one down the right side to WR Otis Taylor, who had to slow up for the pass slightly and was dragged down by S Tom Brown at the seven.
On first-and-goal, Dawson again faked a handout, dropped back, and threw left to RB Curtis McClinton in the end zone for the touchdown. Packers 7 Chiefs 7 (10:41)
Packers Retake Lead
After an exchange of punts, the Packers drove 73y in 13 plays to retake the lead. Starr converted three third downs to keep the drive. First, he hit McGee for 10y to the Green Bay 42. Then he found Carroll Dale for 15y to the KC 43. Three plays later, TE Marv Fleming was the target for 11y to the 27. Facing having to settle for a field goal, Bart connected with RB Elijah Pitts to make it first and 10 at the 14. From there, Taylor took a handoff around the left side, cut back, and barrelled into the end zone. On the play, McGee, lined up tight at left end, blocked LB Holub toward the inside, creating a bowling ball effect that took down two other defenders as well. LDE Chuck Hurston came across the formation and got his hands on the former LSU Tiger at the five, but Jimmy had too much forward momentum and continued into the end zone. Packers 14 Chiefs 7 (4:37)

Taylor scores first rushing touchdown in Super Bowl history.
Before the half ended, the Chiefs marched to the GB 23. On fourth-and-one, Coach Hank Stram sent in the field goal unit, and Mike Mercer made good on the 31-yarder with little or no angle. Packers 14 Chiefs 10 (0:54)
At halftime, Lombardi was remarkably calm. "We'll be all right; we just have to tweak a few things." According to Starr, he told the offense, "We've looked at them for a half. We know what they're trying to do." So he recommended no major changes. Lombardi also told his defense to stop grabbing and start tackling. "I told the defense to stop being so cautious and go after the Chiefs' offense."
Stram's guys were buoyed by their first half performance and seemed to be a team that had learned that they could compete with the big boys. After all, they had breached Green Bay territory on all four of their first half possessions and even outgained Green Bay 181-164 and had more first downs 11-9.
Receiving the second half kickoff, the Chiefs had a chance to stun the football world even more by taking the lead. Instead, they provided the Packers with an excellent opportunity to break open the game.
Wood's Interception
The possession started promisingly as Dawson scrambled for 15y to the 44 for a quick first down. On third-and-five, Green Bay defensive coordinator Phil Bengtson called for the first blitz of the afternoon, and it worked perfectly. Both LLB Dave Robinson and RLB Lee Roy Caffey as well as DT Henry Jordan broke through a feeble double team up the middle. Throwing off his back foot just before Jordan got to him, Dawson blooped a throw toward TE Fred Arbanas, who was open in the left flat as RB Mike Garrett, running a pattern into the opposite flat, yelled, "Don't do it! Don't do it!" The pass wobbled behind Freddie to S Willie Wood at midfield. Taking the ball on the run with no one in front of him, Willie sprinted down the sideline as he picked up blockers. He swerved inside to the hashmarks to avoid traffic, then, as he cut back outside, his USC teammate Garrett, racing diagonally across the middle of the field, tackled him from behind at the five.

L: Len Dawson just as he throws toward Fred Arbanas in the left flat.
R: Willie Wood (24) streaks toward the goal line with his interception.
The Packers had blitzed on third-and-five only three times in two years. Stram: "Sud­denly, the conservative Packers, who never blitzed, blitzed. Lombardi had turned into a fox. We were the deception-and-speed team. Yet the Packers had tricked us with the blitz. One play and it came apart." Arbanas: I was man-to-man with Wood. I gave him a head fake to the inside. ... I was open to the outside, but they had a rare blitz ... It fooled Lenny and our offensive line ... Then all of a sudden I see the ball come fluttering out like a wounded duck, and I chase Willie and just see the bottoms of his shoes as he pulls away from me."
Wood called the interception "my legacy play." "Dawson had to hurry the pass," Willie recalled. "It didn't have any velocity on it. It was an outside route. I was in coverage. It was just a routine play. It wasn't anything spectacular. It gave us a little impetus." He added, "I was stung by the pass Otis Taylor caught against me (in the first half), so I was sort of waiting for a chance. We were all anticipating a sideline chance on a third-and-5 situation."
It took only one play for the Packers to reach the end zone. Pitts took a handoff, es­caped the grasp of Buchanan, and cut through a gaping hole at left tackle created by the combined blocking of Fleming, T Bob Skoronski, and G Fuzzy Thurston. Packers 21 Chiefs 10 (12:33)
The Chiefs would have six possessions the rest of the way and punt all six times. They would gain only five first downs and a mere 38y in 25 plays. KC OT Jim Tyrer: "It was over then. They wouldn't respect our run again. Our play fakes were useless. They knew we had to pass, and they just flew to the quarterback."
Stram: "After the game a number of reporters looked on that interception by Willie Wood as the key play on which the game turned. That interception certainly didn't improve our chances of winning, but perhaps a more critical play came in the following series of downs. We continued to move the ball. Dawson completed a pass to Taylor for a first down. Curtis McClinton gained four yards through the middle, and Bert Coan caught a pass on the 50-yard line that missed being a first down by only one yard. Then with third-and-one, Coan started around left end, but Lee Roy Caffey shrugged off a block and dropped him for a 4y loss. Instead of our cutting seven, or at least three, points off our deficit on that drive, we had to punt."
McGee's Second Touchdown
McGee had caught only four passes the entire season for Green Bay. He matched that total in the Super Bowl and would grab three more before the afternoon was over, including another touchdown pass. His 138y against KC would exceed his regular season total by 47. His two Super Bowl touchdowns would double his output during twelve regular season games.
McGee's second touchdown came on a first-and-ten play from the KC 15. After faking a handoff, Starr threw to McGee heading for the goal posts. The ball bounced off Max's hand, but he grabbed it back in the end zone. Packers 28 Chiefs 10 (0:51)
L: McGee grabs deflected pass for his second touchdown.
R: Elijah Pitts slides off the left side into the end zone.
The final score came in the fourth quarter when Elijah Pitts's 1y touchdown run culmi­nated an 80y drive. Packers 35 Chiefs 10
The MVP award went to Bart Starr. When he received the award, Bart said: "I accept this on behalf of the other 39 members of the Green Bay Packers." Paul Hornung had a different take on the MVP award. "Max should have been named player of the game. I told Bart that a hundred times, and he agreed with me. That was the greatest performance by a guy who was out of shape. If Max had not been such a great athlete, he would never have done what he did."
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