The 1965 NFL playoffs determined the champion of the National Football League in professional American football for its 1965 season. Although a single championship game between conference winners was the current format for the league, a tie in the Western Conference standings between the Green Bay Packers and Baltimore Colts necessitated a rare tiebreaker playoff, the first in the league in seven years and the first in the Western conference since 1957. A coin flip decided the home team.[1] The teams had played twice during the regular season and Green Bay had won both: 20–17 in Milwaukee on September 26,[2] and 42–27 in Baltimore on December 12.[3]

Both teams were hampered on offense without their starting quarterbacks. Colts Johnny Unitas and Gary Cuozzo were both sidelined with injuries, and newly signed replacements Ed Brown and George Haffner were ruled ineligible by the league owners,[4] so fifth-year running back Tom Matte, a quarterback in college at Ohio State, was thrust into service behind center.[1][5][6] Defensive back Bobby Boyd, a one-time Oklahoma quarterback, assumed the back-up role.[4] Packers QB Bart Starr was injured (ribs) on the first play, so veteran Zeke Bratkowski played the rest of the game,[6] backed up by halfback Paul Hornung and safety Willie Wood. Tied at 10 points at the end of regulation, the game went into overtime for over 13 minutes. At the time, it was the longest game in NFL history.[6][7][8][9] Green Bay kicker Don Chandler made a controversial field goal late in regulation (22 yards), which video replays confirmed was wide to the right by a substantial margin. He then booted the winning 25-yarder in overtime.[8]

Although the championship game was played in 1966 on January 2, it is recognized as part of the 1965 NFL season. It was the latest date for an NFL Championship Game to that point, and the first time in league history that the game was held after all of the college bowl games.

The Playoff Bowl (a consolation game between the conference runners-up) for the 1965 season took place in Miami on January 9, 1966, the Sunday following the NFL championship game. With Matte at quarterback, the Colts defeated the Dallas Cowboys 35–3;[10][11] the rusty Cowboys' previous game was three weeks earlier, on December 19. This capped a season where the Western Conference won 15 out of 16 interconference games against the Eastern Conference, including the championship game and Playoff Bowl.

The tiebreaker playoff between Green Bay and Baltimore was the last for the NFL; the league expanded to sixteen teams in four divisions in 1967 and a point differential was introduced to break ties. It was used that year in the Coastal Division, where Baltimore (11–1–2) tied with Los Angeles for the best overall record in the league, but was left out of the postseason, which consisted of the four division winners only; the wild card team was introduced in 1970 with the realignment of the AFL–NFL merger. The American Football League (AFL) had two tiebreaker playoff games, the last in 1968.

Tournament bracket

Western Conference playoff
December 26
NFL Championship
January 2, 1966
E Cleveland Browns 12
W Green Bay Packers 23
W Baltimore Colts 10
W Green Bay Packers 13
Both games were at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin

Western Conference playoff

Green Bay Packers 13, Baltimore Colts 10 (OT)
Period 1 2 34OTTotal
Colts 7 3 00010
Packers 0 0 73313

at Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin

  • Date: December 26, 1965
  • Game time: 1:05 p.m. CST
  • Game attendance: 50,484
  • Referee: Norm Schachter
Game information
  • First Quarter
  • Second Quarter
    • BAL – field goal Michaels 15 BAL 10–0
  • Third Quarter
  • Fourth Quarter
    • GB – field goal Chandler 22 10–10
  • Overtime
    • GB – field goal Chandler 25 GB 13–10

NFL Championship Game

Further information: 1965 NFL Championship Game

Green Bay Packers 23, Cleveland Browns 12
Period 1 2 34Total
Browns 9 3 0012
Packers 7 6 7323

at Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin

  • Date: January 2, 1966
  • Game time: 1:05 p.m. CST
  • Game attendance: 50,852
  • Referee: George Rennix
Game information
  • First Quarter
  • Second Quarter
    • GB – field goal Chandler 15 GB 10–9
    • GB – field goal Chandler 23 GB 13–9
    • CLE – field goal Groza 28 GB 13–12
  • Third Quarter
    • GB – Hornung 13 run (Chandler kick)GB 20–12
  • Fourth Quarter
    • GB – field goal Chandler 29 GB 23–12


  1. ^ a b "Matte hopes for Fran's success". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. December 23, 1965. p. 2B.
  2. ^ Lea, Bud (September 27, 1965). "Packers ride 'taxi' to 20-17 win". Milwaukee Sentinel. p. 2, part 2.
  3. ^ Johnson, Chuck (December 13, 1965). "Hornung scores 5 touchdowns as Packers break Colts, 42-27". Milwaukee Journal. p. 17, part 2.
  4. ^ a b "Rule Brown out of game". Youngstown Vindicator. (Ohio). Associated Press. December 21, 1965. p. 38.
  5. ^ Hartnett, Ken (December 26, 1965). "Packers battle Colts, Chargers meet Bills today". Youngstown Vindicator. (Ohio). Associated Press. p. D1.
  6. ^ a b c "Packers edge Colts: injuries mar GB victory". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. December 27, 1965. p. 1C.
  7. ^ a b "Packers win, 13 to 10, for NFL Western title". Milwaukee Sentinel. December 27, 1965. p. 1, part 1.
  8. ^ a b c Lea, Bud (December 27, 1965). "Chandler 'kicks' Packers to title". Milwaukee Sentinel. p. 2, part 2.
  9. ^ a b Maule, Tex (January 3, 1966). "The point of some return". Sports Illustrated. p. 10.
  10. ^ "Baltimore whips Cowboys 35-3 in NFL battle of second-bests". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. January 10, 1966. p. 3B.
  11. ^ "Matte leads Colts to humiliating win". The Bulletin. (Bend, Oregon). UPI. January 10, 1966. p. 9.
  12. ^ Lea, Bud (January 3, 1966). "Packers blast Browns for title". Milwaukee Sentinel. p. 2, part 2.
  13. ^ Hand, John (January 3, 1966). "Green Bay's ball-control tactics beat Browns for title, 23-12". Youngstown Vindicator. (Ohio). Associated Press. p. 18.
  14. ^ Maule, Tex (January 10, 1966). "A cool masterpiece". Sports Illustrated. p. 14.