Legacy of Champions: Packers 1961 Championship

1961 Packers ChampionshipA continuation of the Legacy of Champions series. Articles that chronicle the 13 Packer championships. If you’re just joining us, read about all the great Packer championships by clicking here.

In 1959, under a great deal of skepticism, the Packers hired Vince Lombardi as their head coach. He had never been a head coach before but was about to show the world that he would become the greatest head coach of all time.

The 1959 Packers were coming off a nightmare 1958 season where they recorded just one solitary win on their way to a 1-10-1 season. Lombardi would take that Packer team, comprised of players like Bart Starr, Jim Taylor, Paul Hornung, Max McGee, Fuzzy Thurston, and others, back to the top in just two seasons.

In 1959 the Packers finished with their first winning season in a long time with a record of 7-5. In 1960 they went all the way to the world championship but lost to the Eagles in disappointing fashion. After the loss to the Eagles, Vince Lombardi told his team, “Gentlemen, this will never happen again.”

The following year, in 1961, the Packers had a chance to prove Lombardi’s words were prophetic.

The 1961 Season

In 1961, the Packer offense was dominated by the power sweep, and they ran it to perfection. Teams knew it was coming and still couldn’t stop it. Riding on the shoulders of the power sweep, the Packers offense rose to #1 in the league in points scored and #4 in yards generated. It was an unstoppable juggernaut that rumbled down the field.

Lombardi and his team would spend hours in the film room, and on the practice field, fine-tuning the details of the power sweep. They would analyze what the defense could possibly throw at the sweep and how they would counter it.

In the 1961 campaign, the Packers, just two years removed from their dismal 1-10-1 1958 season, methodically marched to a 11-3 record and another appearance in the championship game. Their only losses came in close games to the Lions (13-17) and San Francisco (21-22), and a let down against the Baltimore Colts (21-45).

Bart Starr’s quarterback rating during the regular season was rather pedestrian at 80.3. However, when the chips were down, he came through in grand style. During his playoff appearances, Starr held a passer rating of 104.8. That rating has held fast in the face of talented team generals like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre, Drew Brees, and a host of others. None have been able to match the productivity of Bart Starr in the playoffs, and that streak was fueled by a monstrous win over the Giants in 1961.

1961 Championship Game

In 1961, just three years removed from a 1-10-1 season, the Packers returned center stage in the NFL to face an old nemesis in the New York Giants. The last time the Packers met the Giants in the championship game was in 1944 and the Packers walked away from that game with a 14-7 win.

1961 was different though. The Packers were riding a emotional high as they had returned to glory from obscurity, and the sting of the previous year’s loss in the championship game created a ferocity in the team that made the 1961 Packers and their famed power sweep nearly unstoppable.

The Giants started the game in scrappy fashion. They threatened to score a couple times in the first period and even held the Packer offense scoreless. In the second period, however, Green Bay unleashed the monster. They scored 24 points in the second period alone and when into halftime up 24-0. In the third quarter they added another 10 points and again held the Giants scoreless. With the game well in hand the Packers tacked on a final three points in the fourth quarter and once again held the Eastern Division Champs scoreless to post an embarrassing 37-0 shutout in the world championship game and bring home to Green Bay not just another championship, but the beginning of another Packer dynasty.


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