In Baltimore's eerie, fog-shrouded Memorial Stadium last Sunday a green-shirted ghost came out of the past to terrorize the National Football League. The Green Bay Packers of 1961 and 1962 returned in all their might and with all their computer precision to overwhelm the Baltimore Colts 42-27 and supplant them at the top of the NFL's Western Division with just one game left in the season.
The Packers had finished in second place for two years, and for a while this season it seemed they might sink even lower. The Green Bay offense had sputtered and stalled instead of moving with its old ferocious efficiency. The line blocked haphazardly, Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor ran gimpily and Bart Starr had to run for his life.
But last Sunday these vintage warriors—and their younger accomplices (SI, Oct. 4)—suddenly began to play like invincible champions. Fuzzy Thurston, who had been on the bench much of the year, returned to his guard position. Jerry Kramer, who played not at all last year because of an operation, was in his old familiar spot at the other guard. Forrest Gregg, who had been playing guard, went back to tackle, where he had earned all-pro honors. It was virtually the same offensive line that won two championships.
And behind it Hornung—the onetime gambler and alltime lover—ran and blocked with the joyous �lan he had shown when he earned the nickname Golden Boy. Hornung was not alone. Jim Taylor thundered over the Colts with abandon; once he slammed headlong into a knot of would-be tacklers at the Baltimore 15, shook them off as casually as you might shake raindrops from your coat and ran on down to the Colt four. And Starr, afforded the kind of blocking he had long ago grown accustomed to and had begun to forget in recent weeks, calmly picked the Colt defense to pieces.
Because they had to beat the Colts to retain any chance for a title, the Packers spent five days sequestered in a motel outside Washington preparing for this game. Vince Lombardi brought them there early, ostensibly to avoid the danger of curtailed practice in the icy Wisconsin winter. There may have been another reason—the Packers are famous for their playboy tendencies and this was no time for play.
"The ballplayers stayed at the motel all the time," Lombardi said with a certain tone of grim satisfaction after the game. "They had a 10:30 curfew and they got lots of rest. Today they showed it."
The man who showed it most was Hornung—who has another nickname besides Golden Boy. Occasionally during the time they were at the motel, Hornung's teammates serenaded him. "The Goat's come back, the Goat's come back," they sang. "Thought he was a goner, but the Goat's come back." Hornung, because of his sloping shoulders, is called Goat Shoulders by the Packers, or Goat, for short. Until last Sunday, it had been a painfully appropriate nickname. "I got my legs back for the first time," Hornung said in the dressing room after the victory. "I guess all that rest did it."
Hornung carried the ball 15 times and gained 61 yards. He caught two passes and scored five touchdowns. He blocked with his remembered ferocity, helping to clear routes for Jim Taylor to pile up 66 yards on 17 carries. He was again the spark for the Packer team.
Although they performed superbly all of the dank afternoon, the Packers won the game with three key plays.
One came early in the second quarter. Leading 7-3, Green Bay had the ball on the 50-yard line, third down and two to go. In this situation Starr often calls a fake hand-off to Jim Taylor into the line, and then throws a pass. Often enough in past seasons this ploy has produced a touchdown. He called the play and Taylor faked the run. Hornung, who blocks for Taylor on a run of this type, feinted a block and ambled downfield. Starr passed to him and Hornung went the 50 yards untouched by any Colt, giving the Packers a 14-3 lead.