The Los Angeles Rams were sporting a mediocre 2-5-1 record as they took on the Green Bay Packers in Milwaukee on November 20, 1960. Two of the franchise’s former great players had taken over leadership positions, with Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch as general manager and Bob Waterfield as head coach. After an 0-4 start, Waterfield began shifting personnel and giving talented rookies more playing time. The Rams rolled up big scores in wins over the Lions and expansion Cowboys before losing in the rematch with Detroit the week prior to facing the Packers.
Green Bay, in its second year under Head Coach Vince Lombardi, was 5-2 and fighting it out with the Colts, winners of the last two NFL titles, for primacy in the Western Conference. QB Bart Starr was a rising talent and HB Paul Hornung was proving to be a scoring machine. FB Jim Taylor was a solid inside runner, but was listed as doubtful coming into the game due to a leg injury. The defense was tough and the Packers clearly had the look of a club on the rise.
There were 35,763 fans in attendance at Milwaukee’s County Stadium. The Packers broke out to an early lead when Hornung kicked a field goal to cap an 11-play, 70-yard drive. DT Henry Jordan then recovered a fumble by Los Angeles QB Bill Wade, giving the Packers possession at the LA one yard line. Two plays later, and after Taylor, who clearly was not in top form, lost a yard, Hornung ran in from two yards out for a touchdown. “The Golden Boy” also added the extra point that made the score 10-0 in favor of the home team.
The Rams, in danger of being left in the dust, reached Green Bay territory on the next series before CB Jesse Whittenton intercepted a Wade pass at his own six. However, the Packers couldn’t move the ball from there and LA made a big play when DT John LoVetere blocked a Boyd Dowler punt. The Rams capitalized by scoring a touchdown on a Wade pass to end Del Shofner from 17 yards out.
The Packers responded by moving into Los Angeles territory, at which point Hornung was briefly knocked out of the game after being hit by LB Jack Pardee and CB Ed Meador. Hornung returned to try for a 36-yard field goal, but LoVetere again came through with a blocked kick for the Rams. Meador picked up the loose ball and ran all the way to the Green Bay 21 before Starr pulled him down. The Packers dug in on defense but the Rams ended up with a field goal of their own, by Danny Villanueva from 23 yards, thus tying the score at 10-10.
It quickly got worse for the Packers when flanker Lew Carpenter fumbled on the ensuing kickoff return. CB Carl Karilivacz recovered for the Rams at the Green Bay 11 and Los Angeles again made the Packers pay. Villanueva kicked another field goal, from 17 yards, to put LA in front.
Three plays later, an interception by safety Will Sherman set up another score for the Rams. LA took possession at the Green Bay 47, and this time reached the end zone. Wade threw to rookie end Jim Phillips (pictured at top) for a nine-yard touchdown, the receiver catching the ball on one knee in the corner of the end zone. The Rams took a 20-10 lead into halftime.
In the third quarter, backup QB Lamar McHan came in for Starr and he overthrew a pass that was picked off by safety Charley Britt at the Green Bay 41. Wade went long for Phillips right away, who had a step on the aging great safety Emlen Tunnell, and it was good for the 41-yard touchdown. With Villanueva’s extra point, the Rams were up by 27-10.
It continued to go badly for the Packers as end Max McGee, after gaining 16 yards on an end-around, fumbled and the ball was recovered by DT George Strugar. The Rams continued to make Green Bay pay for mistakes, going seven plays on a series that ended with another Villanueva field goal, from 31 yards. LA was ahead by a remarkable 30-10.
Down by 20 points, the Packers came alive on offense. Rookie Tom Moore (pictured below), in for the injured Taylor at fullback, took a pitchout on the fourth play of the next series and ran down the left sideline, broke to the middle where he outmaneuvered Pardee and Britt, and continued on for a 59-yard TD. Not only did it pick up the team, but the crowd came back to life as well.
The Rams were forced to punt by the inspired Green Bay defense, and the Packers moved 55 yards on a possession that ended with Hornung throwing to Dowler on a halfback option pass in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Once more the Packers forced a short LA series and punt. After a 10-yard run by Moore, Starr connected with Hornung for a 33-yard gain and, two plays later, it was Hornung running over for a touchdown from two yards out. Adding the extra point, the Packers were up by a point with ten minutes to play and appeared to have capped an amazing comeback – but there was still plenty of time.
Ahead by 31-30, the Packers were ferocious on defense. When the Rams once again went three-and-out, they had managed only 13 plays and one first down over the course of four possessions that resulted in punts as Green Bay surged back.
Following that punt, the Packers took over at their own 41. It appeared that the home team was moving in for a clinching touchdown as Starr threw to McGee for a 24-yard gain to the LA 17, but the drive stalled and TE Ron Kramer couldn’t hold onto a pass at the goal line. Hornung then missed a 22-yard field goal attempt that would have forced the Rams to have to score a touchdown rather than a field goal to win.
The Rams couldn’t get anywhere on offense once again, and Shofner’s punt traveled only 25 yards. The Packers had another shot but, facing second-and-five at the LA 35, Hornung ran for four yards but then fumbled the ball away, with Britt recovering for the Rams.
The clock was down to 2:40 and the Rams had the ball at their 40 with Frank Ryan now at quarterback. Twice Ryan scrambled away from Green Bay defenders to keep a drive going that reached the Packers’ two. Nearly sacked by DT Dave Hanner, the nimble Ryan took off for a 12-yard gain to the Green Bay 40 and followed up by firing a 15-yard completion to end Carroll Dale. HB Jon Arnett lost two yards but then broke away for a 22-yard gain to the Green Bay four. After FB Ollie Matson couldn’t plow into the end zone, Villanueva kicked the winning nine-yard field goal with 22 seconds remaining. The Rams came away with a stunning 33-31 upset.
Green Bay led in total yards (384 to 205), with 203 of that total coming on the ground, and first downs (20 to 12). However, sloppy play on the part of the Packers helped the Rams along, who took advantage of two blocked kicks and five turnovers to score points, while turning the ball over just twice themselves. The Packers recorded six sacks, while Los Angeles didn’t get to the Green Bay quarterbacks at all.
Bill Wade completed 14 of 26 passes for 162 yards and three touchdowns with one intercepted, while Frank Ryan, appearing in the climactic series, was one-of-three through the air for 15 yards and ran effectively for 13 yards on two carries. Jim Phillips caught 5 passes for 88 yards and two TDs. The anemic running game was led by rookie HB Dick Bass, with 20 yards on two attempts. Jon Arnett had just 14 yards on 8 carries and Ollie Matson ran the ball 10 times for only 13 yards, although he also had three pass receptions for 36 yards. Danny Villanueva (pictured above) did his part by connecting on all four of his field goal attempts, including the game-winner.
For the Packers, Tom Moore had a great performance, especially in relief of Jim Taylor in the second half as he gained 105 yards on 11 carries that included the long scoring run. Paul Hornung ran 16 times for 47 yards, caught two passes for 45 more yards, and tossed an 18-yard TD pass as he accounted for a total of 19 points, but his critical missed field goal try and fumble in the fourth quarter dampened the performance. Bart Starr was successful on 10 of 20 throws for 163 yards and gave up one interception. Max McGee led the receivers with four catches for 71 yards.
The loss put the Packers a game behind the Colts with four contests remaining, and Green Bay would be on the road for all four. However, Baltimore was in the process of a complete collapse and, after losing the next week at Detroit, Green Bay rallied to win the last three games and top the Western Conference at 8-4. The finale, which clinched the title, was at Los Angeles. The Packers lost the NFL Championship game to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Rams, meanwhile, ended up sixth in the conference with a 4-7-1 record.
Paul Hornung went on to set a league scoring record of 176 points that lasted until 2006. He tallied 15 touchdowns, 15 field goals, and 41 extra points and was a consensus first-team All-NFL honoree as well as Pro Bowl selection.
Jim “Red” Phillips had a fine first year, catching 52 passes for 883 yards (17.0 avg.) and scoring eight TDs. He was chosen for the Pro Bowl. Third-year QB Frank Ryan, who masterminded the last scoring drive that put the Rams over the top, saw considerable action in relief of Bill Wade and threw for 816 yards and seven touchdowns with nine interceptions. He would eventually achieve stardom – but not until he was dealt to the Cleveland Browns following the ’62 season.