A few days ago, I had the opportunity to sit down for about 90 minutes with Carroll Dale, a former NFL receiver with the Packers, Rams and Vikings. I visited Dale to pick his brain for recollections of playing in the Ice Bowl.
That story will appear later on The Rainout Blog – in December if I can wait that long – and will include a number of anecdotes, such as the one about Dale needing to call a gas station service man to give his freezing car a jump start before he could drive to Lambeau Field for the game. And the one about his wife, Pat, braving the conditions in the stands with a “stadium bag and several coats and long handles” while her father and uncle left to listen to the rest of the game in the car.
During our chat, Dale talked about playing receiver in various weather conditions – rain, snow and mud – and he told me a story about his touchdown catch in the 1965 NFL Championship game against the Browns on a muddy, partially snow-covered field in Green Bay.
The NFL Championship for the ’65 season was played Jan. 2, 1966 on a nasty, 26-degree day at Lambeau. The contest pitted the Western Conference champion Packers and their 10-3-1 record against the Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Browns, who were 11-3 and defending NFL champions. Notably for the Browns, this would be the final game of Hall of Fame Cleveland running back Jim Brown’s career.
The game was the last championship contest played before the Super Bowl era and the first to be televised in color.
Dale recalled waking up on game day to an unexpected six inches of fresh snow on the ground. “Either I didn’t watch the weather forecast or the forecasters didn’t expect it,” he said of the snow. “They (Packers’ grounds crew) had to clean everything that morning, the stands and the field and then take off the tarp. And, of course, the field was just a muddy blob.”
Not long into the game, Dale put his Packers on the board first with a 47-yard touchdown reception of a pass from legendary quarterback Bart Starr. The score came in the first quarter after Starr had asked Dale for details about the Browns’ secondary coverage of the receiver.
“I told him that they were playing me tight,” recalled Dale, a member of the Packers Hall of Fame. “Then we called a fly pass, which was just a long, straight pass. I go down and make a move, and the guy (Browns’ defensive back) reacts a little bit.”
On that second and five play, Starr threw a sailing pass in Dale’s direction down the left side of the field.
“Bart threw it, but he underthrew it because it was wet and slippery,” Dale said. “And so, I was able to stop and come back. The defensive back slides down and I make a move on another guy. He slides down, and I go 47 yards and score.”
In the video of the play, you can see, beginning at the 1:35 mark, Dale make a cut back toward the ball on Starr’s underthrown pass and make the catch at the Browns’ 17 yard line. Two Cleveland defenders – one was Walter Beach — slipped on the slick field. Dale put a move on another Browns defender and galloped into the end zone, through the middle of the two goal posts, for the touchdown. and a 7-0 Packers lead after Don Chandler’s extra point kick.
Jimmy Morse, a color commentator on the radio announcing crew, described the play, saying “on a slippery field like this, the offensive receiver definitely does have the advantage. We saw it here when Paul Hornung caught a pass and on that touchdown pass to Carroll Dale. Actually, it was kind of a fluttery pass, and Dale had to come back for it.
“However, he did make the catch and eluded two tacklers after that,” Morse continued. “He’s a great football player, and it’s early in the football game yet, however. And anything can happen and generally does here in the National Football League.”
The Packers went on to win 23-12, and Dale’s score was one of only two touchdowns the Pack scored that day. It was the only TD pass for Starr, who finished the game with 147 yards, completing 10 of 18 passes. The scoring strike to Dale was the quarterback’s longest pass of the day.
Dale, who is always humble, gave part of the credit for the scoring play to the field conditions and his shoes.
“The elements definitely were to my advantage and somehow my three-quarter-inch cleats held up in that mud, and they (the Browns’ defenders) probably had on half-inch cleats… and they slipped,” he said with a grin. “That ’65 championship game was muddy. It was a close game and could have gone either way. We ran the ball well and lucked up with that long pass.”