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On This Date in Sports December 12, 1965: Hornung Shines in Baltimore

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

 The Green Bay Packers thump the Baltimore Colts 42-27 at Memorial Stadium to take over first place in the season's penultimate game. The Packers are led by Paul Hornung, who has a big day with 176 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns. The Colts would have clinched the Western Conference with a win but left the game with both of their quarterbacks injured.

 After finishing in second place in 1963 and 1964, the Green Bay Packers and coach Vince Lombardi were hungry to get back to the NFL Championship Game in 1965. The Packers got off to a great start, winning their first six games. This included an early season 20-17 win over the Colts in Milwaukee. A midseason slump seemed to derail Green Bay’s playoff hopes as Colts held a game and a half lead with three games left.

 The Baltimore Colts had a bitter taste in their mouths in 1965, as they suffered a 27-0 loss to the Cleveland Browns in the 1964 NFL Championship Game. The Colts suffered a loss to the Packers early in the season but appeared to be cruising to the NFL Championship Game at 9-1. Despite playing the Detroit Lions to a 24-24 tie on Thanksgiving, the Colts at 9-1-1 entered the final three games holding a game and a half lead on Green Bay. However, trouble arose when Johnny Unitas suffered a season-ending injury knee injury in a 13-0 loss to the Chicago Bears, which opened the door for the Packers. 

 Earlier in the season, Gary Cuozzo had a terrific start in place of Unitas as the Colts rolled over the Minnesota Vikings. The Colts hoped he could do the same as they hosted the Packers in Week 13, with first place on the line. A win meant a clinch for the Colts, while a loss meant the Packers would leap over them heading into the final week of the season. 

 While Gayle Sayers of the Bears was making history against the 49ers, Paul Hornung was having his own monster day with more at stake in Baltimore. Two seasons removed from a gambling suspension, Hornung had lost his starting job for the Packers as some expected it to be his final season with the Packers. He had three touchdowns early in the season, but he had only played sparingly down the stretch of the season. 

 Paul Hornung got the start against the Colts, as Vince Lombardi looked for veteran leadership when he needed it most. It was a foggy day in Baltimore Colts as 60,238 fans filled Memorial Stadium. The Colts gave their fans reason to cheer early as Lou Michaels opened the scoring with a 14-yard field goal. The field goal was set up by an interception by Lenny Lyles. However, the Packers scored the next two times they got the ball and led 14-3 in the first quarter. The first touchdown was a two-yard run by Paul Hornung, while Hornung reeled in a 50-yard pass from Bart Starr for the second score. 

 The Colts crawled their way back in the second quarter, as Michaels added a 45-yard field goal by Lenny Moore scored from the two to make it 14-13. The Colts had all the momentum following a fumble by Jim Taylor and appeared to be set to take the lead into half time when Dave Robinson intercepted Gary Cuozzo and returned the ball 87 yards to the Baltimore ten-yard line. Starr hit Boyd Dowler in the end zone to give Green Bay a 21-13 lead on the next play. 

 The Packers took the momentum after the half and stretched the lead to 35-13 with a pair of rushing touchdowns by Hornung. The Colts would not go quietly into the night, as Jerry Hill scored from the one and Raymond Berry caught a five-yard touchdown pass from Cuozzo to bring hope back to the Colts sideline. That hope would quickly be quashed as Bart Starr connected with Paul Hornung on a 65-yard touchdown that clinched the 42-27 victory. Making matters worse, Gary Cuozzo suffered a shoulder injury late that forced Tom Matte into action at quarterback. 

 The Colts and Packers would play again two weeks later, as Green Bay, with a shot to win the conference, ended the season with a 24-24 tie. The Colts meanwhile beat the Los Angeles Rams with Matte at quarterback 20-17. With both teams at 10-3-1, a tiebreaker was needed. The Packers would win the game in overtime 13-10 on the way to a third NFL Championship in five years.