Because the Green Bay Packers and Baltimore Colts ended up tied in the Western Conference standings after the regular season ended, a conference playoff game was held in Green Bay. Although the Packers had defeated the Colts in both of their games in 1965, there were no tiebreaking rules at the time. In the playoff game, both Colts starting quarterback Johnny Unitas and backup Gary Cuozzo could not play, so Baltimore was forced to use running back Tom Matte as the starter. Packers starting quarterback Bart Starr was injured on the first play from scrimmage and did not return to the game. Green Bay's Don Chandler kicked a 27-yard field goal with less than two minutes remaining to tie the game. Chandler then kicked a game-winning 25-yard field goal after 13 minutes, 39 seconds of overtime. The Packers went on to defeat the Cleveland Browns in the NFL Championship Game, the last before the Super Bowl era.
Meanwhile, the NFL's war with the rival AFL began to increase as the two leagues competed for the top players coming out of college. Prior to the season, both the NFL's Chicago Bears and the AFL's Kansas City Chiefs selected running back Gale Sayers in their respective league drafts. Sayers eventually decided to sign with the NFL's Bears in a victory for the established league. On the other hand, quarterback Joe Namath was selected by both the NFL's St. Louis Cardinals and the AFL's New York Jets, but Namath decided to play for the Jets after signing a $427,000 contract.
This war between the AFL and the NFL would escalate until just before the 1966 season, when they would agree to merge and create a new AFL-NFL World Championship Game between the winners of the two leagues.
In the Western race, Green Bay won its first six games, before a 31-10 loss, at Chicago on Halloween, put it in a tie with the Colts. In Week Eight (November 7), the Packers lost again, 12-7 to Detroit, while the Colts beat Chicago 26-21. Both teams won their next two games, but in Week Eleven, the Packers lost 21-10 to the Rams, and the Colts averted a loss by tying the Lions, 24-24. In Week Twelve, Green Bay closed the gap with a 24-19 win over the Vikings, while the Colts fell to Chicago, losing the game (13-0) and their star quarterback, Johnny Unitas, to a knee injury.
With backup Gary Cuozzo passing for the Colts, they met the Packers again, in Baltimore, on December 12, and Paul Hornung scored five touchdowns as Green Bay won, 42-27, to take a half-game division lead, 10-3 to 9-3-1. Along with the conference lead, the Colts lost another quarterback when Cuozzo was injured. In the final weekend, the Colts were in Los Angeles for a Saturday game that they had to win, but were losing 17-10. A tying touchdown by fourth-string quarterback Ed Brown helped the Colts knot the game 17-17, but a tie wasn't enough. It took Lou Michaels' field goal to get a 20-17 win and a 10-3-1 record. A Green Bay win the next day in San Francisco would have ended the race, and the Packers leading and were slightly more than a minute away from the title game, but the 49ers tied the game, 24-24, with 1:07 to play. Both Green Bay and Baltimore had 10-3-1 records, forcing a playoff for the day after Christmas.
|1||4 teams (Bal, Det, GB, SF)||1-0-0||3 teams (Cle, Dal, Phi)||1-0-0|
|2||3 teams (Det, GB, SF)||2-0-0||DALLAS COWBOYS||2-0-0|
|3||Tie (Det, GB)||3-0-0||4 teams (Cle, Dal, NYG, StL)||2-1-0|
|4||GREEN BAY PACKERS||4-0-0||Tie (Cle, StL)||3-1-0|
|5||GREEN BAY PACKERS||5-0-0||Tie (Cle, StL)||4-1-0|
|6||GREEN BAY PACKERS||6-0-0||CLEVELAND BROWNS||5-1-0|
|7||Tie (Bal, GB)||6-1-0||CLEVELAND BROWNS||5-2-0|
|8||BALTIMORE COLTS||7-1-0||CLEVELAND BROWNS||6-2-0|
|9||BALTIMORE COLTS||8-1-0||CLEVELAND BROWNS||7-2-0|
|10||BALTIMORE COLTS||9-1-0||CLEVELAND BROWNS||8-2-0|
|11||BALTIMORE COLTS||9-1-1||CLEVELAND BROWNS||9-2-0|
|12||BALTIMORE COLTS||9-2-1||CLEVELAND BROWNS||10-2-0|
|13||GREEN BAY PACKERS||10-3-0||CLEVELAND BROWNS||10-3-0|
|14||Tie (Bal, GB)||10-3-1||CLEVELAND BROWNS||11-3-0|
Note: Prior to 1972, the NFL did not include tie games when calculating a team's winning percentage in the official standings
|New York Giants||7||7||0||.500||270||338|
|St. Louis Cardinals||5||9||0||.357||296||309|
|Green Bay Packers||10||3||1||.769||316||224|
|San Francisco 49ers||7||6||1||.538||421||402|
|Los Angeles Rams||4||10||0||.286||269||328|
NFL Championship Game
Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)