Bart Starr earned his first win as head coach of the Green Bay Packers in improbable fashion as his squad shocked the previously unbeaten Dallas Cowboys in Dallas, 19-17. The Packers entered the game with an 0-4 record and had been outscored by their opponents 159-55. The Cowboys came into this matchup with a perfect 4-0 mark and already beaten two teams that made the playoffs the previous season. Green Bay entered the game as 15-point underdogs.

Starr had great success against the Cowboys as a player, but he entered this game as a winless, rookie head coach while facing a team coached by legend Tom Landry who had been in charge of the Cowboys for 16 seasons already and had led the team to four championship games and one Super Bowl win.

The Packers Shocked the Cowboys as Bart Starr Earned First Win as Head Coach: The First Half Was a Defensive Battle

The two teams engaged in a hard-hitting, physical battle in the first half and neither team found the end zone. The only points came on a 24-yard field goal by Packers kicker Joe Danelo in the first quarter. The score was set up when defensive lineman Dave Pureifory hit Drew Pearson and forced a fumble that rookie Johnnie Gray recovered in Dallas territory.

The Packers defense managed to frustrate Roger Staubach for most of the half. For the game, the Packers sacked Staubach four times and forced five turnovers including four fumbles. The Packers defense frustrated “Roger the Dodger.” Staubach completed 16-of-31 passes for 201 yards and did not throw a touchdown. Packers cornerback Perry Smith intercepted Staubach who had a quarterback rating of just 58.7 for the game.

Packers quarterback John Hadl also struggled to get much going against the Cowboys “Doomsday Defense” and the 3-0 lead held at the half.

The Cowboys Take the Lead

While the Packers contained the potent Dallas passing attack, the running game worked well for Dallas in this game. Preston Pearson carried 15 times for 101 yards while fullback Robert Newhouse added 92 yards on 17 carries.

In the third quarter, the lead changed hands. First, the Cowboys took the lead on a one-yard run by Newhouse.

The Packers managed to answer on a 26-yard dash by halfback Willard Harrell which briefly gave the Packers a 9-7 lead. Danelo missed the extra point on Harrell’s run which showcased the diminutive halfback’s speed as he raced around right end and beat linebacker D.D. Lewis to the corner of the end zone.

But a fumble by Harell led to the next Dallas score, a three-yard dash by Doug Dennison. That gave the Cowboys a 14-9 lead in the third quarter.

The Packers Shocked the Cowboys as Bart Starr Earned His First Win as Head Coach: The Exciting Finish

The Cowboys held this lead until late in the game. The defense held the Packers offense in check and forced the Pack to punt with a little more than two minutes left in the fourth quarter. Golden Richards fielded David Beverly’s punt and was hit hard by Larry McCarren and coughed up the ball. Steve Luke recovered for the Packers who took over at the Dallas 31.

The Packers took the lead on the ensuing drive when Hadl found tight end Rich McGeorge at the Dallas 12 and he beat Lee Roy Jordan to the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown. McGeorge finished the game with four catches for 80 yards and the game-winning score.

“We’ve run this play all year,” Starr said. Of course, this time it worked to perfection and the Packers held on for the win.

The Aftermath

The Packers won the game with a hard-hitting defense and by taking advantage of five Dallas turnovers. For Starr, it was a meaningful first win as head coach that improved the team’s record to 1-4.

Despite his team’s shocking loss, Landry acknowledged that his team didn’t play well enough to win. “Nothing happened to us that we didn’t deserve,” he admitted after the game.

As for Starr, he was thrilled by his first win. “We’re elated. We’re about three feet off the ground, right now,” he said.

Unfortunately, the Packers went on another four-game losing streak to fall to 1-8. The Packers won three of their last five to finish 4-10 in Starr’s first season. The Cowboys finished 10-4 and went to the Super Bowl where they fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Despite a year of struggle, the win over the Cowboys was the highlight of the season. Starr beat the Cowboys as a coach, just like did so many times as the quarterback.




Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

Click here for more great Packers coverage