“Bart had so many great moments. He was such a wonderful leader, bright, a surgical quarterback,” said Jerry Kramer.
In the 1965 championship season, Starr played in a game which further revealed his character and confidence in his team, and even more of his leadership role on the Packers.
On October 17, the Packers fell behind 21-3 to the Detroit Lions on the road. Starr threw a rare a pick six to contribute to the deficit.
Then came one of the great individual quarters by a quarterback in Packers, and arguably, NFL history.
– Packers legend Bart Starr dead at 85 years old
– Gene Mueller’s blog: Bart Starr – A legend passes, another link to glory gone
– Bart Starr’s legacy, part 1: A chase for perfection
– Bart Starr’s legacy, part 2: Winning, not stats, defined Starr
– Bart Starr’s legacy, part 3: Competitive fire and comebacks
– Bart Starr’s legacy, part 4: 1967- Ice in his veins, fire in his heart
– Bart Starr’s legacy, part 5: Post-Lombardi – his coaching failure and a moment of forgiveness
– Bart Starr’s legacy, part 6: Kindness, presence, attitude, an impact of love
In three third-quarter drives, Starr tossed touchdowns of 62 yards to Bob Long, 32 yards to Tom Moore and 77 yards to Carroll Dale.
He added a fourth score of his own, using his feet on a bootleg run in the fourth quarter to cement a 31-21 win.
Typical of the self-effacing Starr, he wouldn’t take credit.
“Our linemen did a better job of holding out their guys,” said Starr after the game, according to Journal Sentinel archives.
“Our pride was tarnished quite a bit in the first half. Win, lose or draw, we wanted to prove in the second half that we were a better football team than we showed in the first half.”
Pride. Pride in each other. The kind of pride the selfless Starr would engender on the field. He did it time and time again in pressure situations.
Starr produced 19 fourth quarter comebacks in his career. Only seven Hall of Fame quarterbacks have more.
Another signature Starr comeback came a year later in Cleveland, in a rematch of the 1965 NFL Title Game on September 18, 1966.
Green Bay trailed 14-0 before Starr brought his team back with a call that seemed out of character for such a running team, but was very applicable for the gutsy, risk-taking Starr.
He called a play action pass to Paul Hornung. “The play action worked well, obviously, on 4th and 1. What would you think if you were on the other side? You’d think we would run the ball with a guy like Paul Hornung,” Starr told 620WTMJ.
“We faked the run, threw him a pass and he was wide open” for a 44 yard score.
The Packers later trailed 20-7. Then Starr directed two 2nd half touchdown drives, the second of which included a fourth-and-goal touchdown pass to Jim Taylor in the final two minutes that clinched a 21-20 victory.
In the last season for Hornung and Taylor as Packers, that win launched Starr into not just the team’s main offensive spotlight, but his best season as a pro. He delivered a 105.0 passer rating, a then-Packers record that Brett Favre never reached, and one Aaron Rodgers surpassed in 2011 with his league record 122.5.
The Packers rode Starr and a stout defense to a 12-2 record, coming within four points of an undefeated year. Starr earned the NFL MVP award.
The Packers’ 1966 postseason began on January 1, 1967. It was day one of arguably the greatest 379 days of post-season quarterbacking by one player in NFL history.
On that New Year’s Day, the dynasty of the present matched up with a dynasty of the future, the Dallas Cowboys. When the top-ranked Packers defense struggled with the complex schemes of Tom Landry’s attack, Bart Starr nearly kept Green Bay ahead the whole game by himself.
He bulleted the blue skies of Dallas for 304 yards and four touchdowns, including bombs of 51 yards and a 29-yard fourth quarter strike to give Green Bay enough cushion to survive a Dallas comeback and win, 34-27.
“I thought Starr had as good of a day as I’ve ever seen him have,” said Landry to the Milwaukee Sentinel after the contest.
“No one ever played a better game at quarterback than Bart Starr did today” said NFL official Mark Duncan to the Milwaukee Journal. “If anyone ever did, you’d have to show me, and I wouldn’t believe it.”
The establishment NFL didn’t want to believe that the upstart AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs could defeat the Packers two weeks later at Super Bowl I. Starr knew the pressure was on him and his teammates when he woke up in a Los Angeles hotel room on Sunday, January 15.
He couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the man who would be his main pass-catching target in a sleepless, post-partying state six-and-a-half hours before kickoff.
“I was going down to pick up a paper that morning, and as I’m walking down, I’m looking off to the entrance of the hotel, and at 6:30 in the morning, I’m seeing Max (McGee) come through in a coat and tie and I’m thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, he’s been out all night.’ He had been!” Starr recalled to 620WTMJ.
Starr must have thought he’d have to be extra-accurate on throws to a bleary-eyed McGee that afternoon at the L.A. Coliseum. Perhaps Starr was extra-accurate, with a 16-23, 250 yard, two touchdown pass performance (both caught by McGee) in a 35-10 blowout.