The Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons have met 31 times since Atlanta joined the NFL in 1966. There have also been four playoff meetings. But the very first time the Packers and Falcons met during Atlanta’s expansion season was a memorable one for the Packers who set a team record that still stands to this day in the process.

Packers Face Familiar Faces

The Packers met some familiar faces in this game including Atlanta’s head coach. He was Norb Hecker, who spent the previous seven seasons as the Packers defensive backs coach under Vince Lombardi.

The Falcons also featured some former Packers on their roster including quarterback Dennis Claridge, wide receiver Dan Grimm and running back Junior Coffey. The Pack had also drafted wide receiver Alex Hawkins who was now playing for Atlanta although he never played a game for Green Bay.

The defending champion Packers entered the game with a 5-1 record while Atlanta was 0-6 and still looking for their first franchise win.

The Packers Dominate the Falcons Early

Green Bay scored early and often in this game. Elijah Pitts ran in from three yards out to put the Packers ahead 7-0 in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Lombardi’s team put the game away with touchdown runs by Jim Taylor and Donny Anderson and a 51-yard touchdown pass from Bart Starr to wide receiver Carroll Dale. The Packers led at the half, 28-0.

The touchdown was the first of Anderson’s NFL career. The highly regarded rookie with the huge contract had only five total carries in the first six games of the season but doubled that number in this game. Fellow “Gold Dust Twin” Jim Grabowski also saw his first significant NFL action in this game, carrying seven times for 52 yards after running the ball just three times in the previous six contests.

Jim Taylor Upset About His Contract

Both Anderson and Grabowski signed massive contracts as rookies due to the battle between the AFL and NFL to sign draft picks. Anderson’s deal earned him a reported $600,000 while Grabowski’s was worth more than $355,000.

Taylor, who was in his ninth season in the NFL and earned Pro Bowl honors five times, All Pro honors three times and was the league MVP in 1962, hadn’t earned that much money in his entire career.

Taylor refused to sign a new contract prior to the 1966 season and instead played out option. The veteran wanted a deal that reflected his worth. It was frustrating for Taylor to see players who had never played a down in the NFL make so much more money than he did.

“It has a bearing on your pride and your performance as an individual,” Taylor said of the rookies big contracts. He then told reporters he and Lombardi were “still negotiating” but added, “I don’t think it’s likely I’ll sign before the season ends.”

He didn’t and signed with the Saints as a free agent in 1967 which would be his final pro season. Even as the Packers were crushing the Falcons, Taylor’s exit from Green Bay was closer to becoming a reality.

Packers Defense and Special Teams Crush the Falcons

The Green Bay offense scored four times in the first half, but they would only put seven more points on the board in the final 30 minutes. They came on a 24-yard touchdown toss from backup quarterback Zeke Bratkowski to veteran wideout Max McGee. This would be the final regular-season touchdown catch by McGee who caught only three passes in the regular season but had seven grabs and two touchdowns later this season in Super Bowl I.

The Packers defense and special teams scored in the second half to make the game a complete route. Future Hall of Famer Herb Adderley scored on a 68-yard pick-six in the third quarter to make it 35-3 Packers.

After McGee’s touchdown catch in the fourth quarter, the special teams put points on the board when Anderson returned a punt 77 yards for another TD. Defensive back Doug Hart finished the scoring when he intercepted a pass and returned it 40 yards for the final touchdown. The Packers won the game 56-3.

A Dominant Day for the Pack

The Packers defense intercepted four passes on the day, three off Randy Johnson and one off Claridge. They also sacked the Falcons quarterbacks eight times. Tommy Crutcher and Bob Jeter had the other two interceptions with Jeter’s setting up the first Packers touchdown in the first quarter.

Four of the Packers eight touchdowns came on big plays of 40-yards or more. The game got so out of hand that Lombardi benched Starr early in the third quarter. Bart completed 8-of-13 passes in the game but they went for 217 yards, an average of 27.1-yards per completion. Dale led all receivers with 110 yards on four catches.

The Packers Win Over the Falcons Sets a Record That Still Stands

The win Packers went on to finish 12-2 that season and represented the NFL in the first Super Bowl. Starr was named the league MVP and Lombardi’s team won their fourth championship and their second straight.

The Falcons lost their first nine games that season but finished 3-11, finally earning their first victory when they beat the New York Giants at Yankee Stadium in their 10th ever franchise game.

Even 57 years later, the Packers 53-point margin of victory remains the largest in franchise history.



Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

Click here for more great Packers coverage