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1966_NFL_season

1966 NFL season

The 1966 NFL season was the 47th regular season of the National Football League, and the season after which was played Super Bowl I, though it was called the AFL-NFL World Championship Game. The league expanded to 15 teams with the addition of the Atlanta Falcons. This was the last season that the NFL had just two divisions, and that the conference champions went directly to the NFL Championship Game without playing in playoff games.

Atlanta Falcons

The league awarded an expansion franchise to the city of Atlanta on June 30, 1965. NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle granted ownership of the Atlanta Falconsto Rankin Smith Sr.. The Falcons were awarded the first pick in the 1966 NFL Draft, as well as the final pick in each of the first five rounds. The league also provided the Falcons with an expansion draft six weeks later.

The AFL-NFL merger agreement

As the competitive war between the NFL and the American Football League reached its peak, the two leagues agreed to merge on June 8, 1966. Under the agreement:

  • The two leagues would combine to form an expanded league with 24 teams, which would be increased to 26 teams by 1969, and to 28 teams by 1970 or soon thereafter.
  • All existing teams would be retained, and none of them would be moved outside of their metropolitan areas.
  • While maintaining separate schedules through 1969, the leagues agreed to play an annual AFL-NFL World Championship Game beginning in January, 1967.
  • The two leagues would officially merge in 1970 to form one league with two conferences.

Thus, after the Green Bay Packers defeated the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL Championship Game, they then went on to beat the American Football League's Kansas City Chiefs in the first annual AFL-NFL World Championship Game (later known as Super Bowl I).

Major rule changes

Goal posts were standardized in the NFL. They were to be between 3 to 4 inches in diameter, painted bright yellow, with two non-curved supports offset from the goal line, and uprights 20 feet above the crossbar. In 1967, the new "slingshot" goal post would be made standard, with one curved support from the ground. In 1974, the goal posts would be returned to the end line, and the uprights would be extended to 30 feet above the crossbar.
The new goal-post rule is often referred to as the "Don Chandler Rule", who was the kicker for the Green Bay Packers. Although widely denied, the height increase of the uprights was in reaction to the previous season's Western Conference playoff game in Green Bay. Chandler kicked field goal that tied the game with under two minutes remaining. The kick was high above the upright, and many spectators thought that the kick missed. Chandler later hit an uncontroversial field goal that defeated the Baltimore Colts in overtime. The Packers went on to defeat the Cleveland Browns in the 1965 NFL championship game.

Conference races

In the Western Conference, Green Bay's first loss was in Week Five, falling 21-20 in San Francisco to tie them with the Rams. The Rams' lost 35-7 to Minnesota the next week, and Green Bay stayed in front until Week Nine, when Minnesota beat them 20-17. Baltimore's 19-7 win over Atlanta briefly tied it with the Packers at 7-2-0 in Week Ten, but the Colts lost to Detroit the next week, 20-14. The Packers clinched the title in Week Thirteen.

In the Eastern Conference, the St. Louis Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys were unbeaten through Week Six, when they played to a 10-10 tie. Both teams won their next two games, with St. Louis's 6-1-1 better than Dallas at 5-1-1. In Week Nine (November 6), St. Louis beat the Giants, 20-17, while Dallas came up short in a 24-23 loss to the Eagles. The next week, Dallas won at Washington 31-30 on a field goal with 0:15 left, while the Cards fell at Pittsburgh, 30-9, cutting their safety margin to a game ahead. St. Louis had a bye in Week Eleven, and a 20-7 Dallas victory over Pittsburgh gave the Cards and Cowboys records of 7-2-1. Both teams won the next week, setting up the stage for their December 4 meeting in Dallas during Week Thirteen. The Cards took a 10-7 lead in the first quarter, but Dallas won 31-17 to take over the conference lead. In Week Fourteen, Dallas hosted Washington, and lost 34-31 on a field goal at 0:08. The Cardinals were in a must-win game against what should have been an easy opponent, the new (2-10-0) Atlanta Falcons. Instead, the Falcons notched their third win and virtually ended St. Louis's hopes to go to the title game. The St. Louis Cardinals, who lost again the next week, never got that close to the Super Bowl again; they would move to Phoenix twenty years later.

Week WESTERN EASTERN
1 3 teams (Det, GB, LA) 1-0-0 3 teams (Cle, StL) 1-0-0
2 Tie (GB, LA) 2-0-0 Tie (StL, Dal, Pit) 1.000
3 GREEN BAY PACKERS 3-0-0 Tie (StL, Dal) 1.000
4 GREEN BAY PACKERS 4-0-0 Tie (StL, Dal) 4-0-0
5 Tie (GB, LA) 4-1-0 Tie (StL, Dal) 5-0-0
6 GREEN BAY PACKERS 5-1-0 Tie (StL, Dal) 5-0-1
7 GREEN BAY PACKERS 6-1-0 ST. LOUIS CARDINALS 5-1-1
8 GREEN BAY PACKERS 7-1-0 ST. LOUIS CARDINALS 6-1-1
9 GREEN BAY PACKERS 7-2-0 ST. LOUIS CARDINALS 7-1-1
10 Tie (Bal, GB) 7-2-0 ST. LOUIS CARDINALS 7-2-1
11 GREEN BAY PACKERS 8-2-0 Tie (Dal, StL) 7-2-1
12 GREEN BAY PACKERS 9-2-0 Tie (Dal, StL) 8-2-1
13 GREEN BAY PACKERS 10-2-0 DALLAS COWBOYS 9-2-1
14 GREEN BAY PACKERS 11-2-0 DALLAS COWBOYS 9-3-1
14 GREEN BAY PACKERS 12-2-0 DALLAS COWBOYS 10-3-1

Final standings

W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, PCT= Winning Percentage, PF= Points For, PA = Points Against

Note: Prior to 1972, the NFL did not include tie games when calculating a team's winning percentage in the official standings

Eastern Conference
Team W L T PCT PF PA
Dallas Cowboys 10 3 1 .769 445 239
Cleveland Browns 9 5 0 .643 403 259
Philadelphia Eagles 9 5 0 .643 326 340
St. Louis Cardinals 8 5 1 .615 264 265
Washington Redskins 7 7 0 .500 351 355
Pittsburgh Steelers 5 8 1 .385 316 347
Atlanta Falcons 3 11 0 .214 204 437
New York Giants 1 12 1 .077 263 501
Western Conference
Team W L T PCT PF PA
Green Bay Packers 12 2 0 .857 335 163
Baltimore Colts 9 5 0 .643 314 226
Los Angeles Rams 8 6 0 .571 289 212
San Francisco 49ers 6 6 2 .500 320 325
Chicago Bears 5 7 2 .417 234 272
Detroit Lions 4 9 1 .308 206 317
Minnesota Vikings 4 9 1 .308 292 304

NFL Championship Game

See also

References

  • NFL Record and Fact Book (ISBN 1-932994-36-X)
  • NFL History 1961-1970 (Last accessed December 4, 2005)
  • 1966 season in details
  • Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)
  • When Pride Still Mattered, A Life of Vince Lombardi, by David Maraniss, 1999, p.381, (ISBN 0-684-84418-4)

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