With 16 seconds left in the famed Ice Bowl in 1967 and trailing the Dallas Cowboys by a field goal, the Green Bay Packers called their final timeout and Bart Starr went to the sidelines to talk to coach Vince Lombardi.
The two men weren’t wired, but Starr has retold the story of that conversation many times.
The Packers had failed on two runs to get in the end zone, and Starr told Lombardi the runners were slipping on the ice and he thought a better option was for him to run a quarterback sneak because he could get better footing.
Lombardi said something like, “Ok, let’s run it and get the hell out of here.’’
Behind blocks by Jerry Kramer and Ken Bowman (who never got the credit he should have on the play), Starr went under the Dallas lineman and scored the winning touchdown. Two weeks later, the Packers won their second Super Bowl and fifth NFL title.
He also did it on third down. If Starr hadn’t made it, the clock almost certainly would have run out before the Packers could have run a fourth-down play. But that is the kind of confidence Starr had and that Lombardi had in him.
In the CBS truck, the producers told the cameramen to isolate the receivers because they expected a third-down pass. But the cameras were frozen in place in the center of the field and they got the instant replay shot that became the title of Kramer’s book.
Starr making the suggestion to Lombardi wasn’t unusual in those days. Starr called all the plays.
Fast-forward a half century to Minneapolis last Sunday when the Philadelphia Eagles had a fourth down at the New England Patriots’ 1-yard line late in the first half.
Quarterback Nick Foles went to the sidelines to talk to coach Doug Pederson and said, “Philly, Philly,” although he meant Philly Special.
Pederson replied, “Yeah, let’s do it.’’
But we don’t have to take his word for it. NFL Films had Foles wired, so we could all hear it on Inside the NFL. That clip will likely be replayed countless times over the years the same way Starr’s sneak is.
Foles did it in an era when quarterbacks don’t usually call the plays, and the Eagles pulled it off in one of the key moments of their 41-33 victory in the Super Bowl.
It capped an incredible game for the backup quarterback — only the fourth backup in the history of the league to replace an injured starter late in the season and win the title. The last time was in 1990, when Jeff Hostetler replaced injured Phil Simms for the New York Giants. Before that, you have to go back to 1957, when Tobin Rote replaced Bobby Layne for Detroit. It also happened in 1934, when Ed Danowski replaced Harry Newman after Newman was injured and won the so-called “Sneakers Game” for the Giants.
The fact that Foles suggested the play added an extra dimension to his MVP performance.
And to think that two years ago, Foles was considering retirement. Now he’s part of an iconic moment in the history of the game.