1965 NFL season

1965 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration September 19 –
December 26, 1965
East Champions Cleveland Browns
West Champions Green Bay Packers (playoff)
Championship Game
Champions Green Bay Packers

The 1965 NFL season was the 46th regular season of the National Football League. The Green Bay Packers won the NFL title after defeating the Cleveland Browns in the championship game, the last before the Super Bowl era.

War with the AFL

The NFL's war with the rival American Football League began to increase as the two leagues competed for the top players coming out of college. Prior to the season, both the NFL's Chicago Bears and the AFL's Kansas City Chiefs selected running back Gale Sayers in their respective league drafts. Sayers eventually decided to sign with the NFL's Bears in a victory for the established league. On the other hand, quarterback Joe Namath was selected by both the NFL's St. Louis Cardinals and the AFL's New York Jets, but Namath decided to play for the Jets after signing a $427,000 contract for three years.

This war between the AFL and the NFL would escalate until just before the 1966 season, when they would agree to merge and create a new AFL-NFL World Championship Game between the winners of the two leagues, that later would be known as the Super Bowl.

Major rule changes

  • A sixth official, the Line Judge, is added to the officiating crew.[1] This change is sometimes referred to as the "Fran Tarkenton Rule" after the Minnesota Vikings quarterback, who developed the nickname scrambler as he ran around the backfield to avoid being sacked by the opposition. With the Line Judge stationed on the line of scrimmage opposite the Head Linesman, it made it easier for the officials to judge whether or not Tarkenton or any mobile quarterback crossed over the line before throwing the ball.[2] Five officials had been used since 1947, when the back judge was added.[3]

Conference races

Each team played each of the six other teams in its conference twice. In addition, each team played two of the seven teams from the other conference to complete the 14 game schedule. Thus each week's schedule included 6 intra-conference games (3 from each conference) and one inter-conference game. In 1965 the Western Conference dominated the Eastern winning 13 out of the 14 interconference games. The lone win for the Eastern Conference was a 39–31 victory by Dallas over San Francisco in week eight.

As in 1964, the Eastern Conference race started out as a battle between the Cardinals and the Browns. By Week Five (October 17), both had 4–1–0 records, but the Cards won only one more game after that, finishing 5–9. The Browns won all seven of their remaining divisional games during the same stretch, losing only their two inter-conference games against Western opponents. The Browns had clinched the conference title by November 28.

In the Western race, Green Bay won its first six games before a 31–10 loss at Chicago on Halloween put it in a tie with the Baltimore Colts. In Week Eight (November 7), the Packers lost again, 12–7 to Detroit, while the Colts beat Chicago 26–21. Both teams won their next two games, but in Week Eleven, the Packers lost 21–10 to the Rams, and the Colts averted a loss by tying the Lions, 24–24. In Week Twelve, Green Bay closed the gap with a 24–19 win over the Vikings, while the Colts fell to Chicago, losing the game (13–0) and their star quarterback, Johnny Unitas, to a knee injury.

With backup Gary Cuozzo passing for the Colts, they met the Packers again, in Baltimore, on December 12, and Paul Hornung scored five touchdowns as Green Bay won, 42–27, to take a half-game division lead, 10–3 to 9–3–1. Along with the conference lead, the Colts lost another quarterback when Cuozzo was injured. In the final weekend, the Colts were in Los Angeles for a Saturday game that they had to win, but were losing 17–10. A tying touchdown by fourth-string quarterback Ed Brown helped the Colts knot the game 17–17, but a tie wasn't enough. It took Lou Michaels' field goal to get a 20–17 win and a 10–3–1 record. A Green Bay win the next day in San Francisco would have ended the race, and the Packers leading and were slightly more than a minute away from the title game, but the 49ers tied the game, 24–24, with 1:07 to play. Both Green Bay and Baltimore had 10–3–1 records, forcing a playoff for the day after Christmas.

Week Western Record Eastern Record
1 4 teams1–0–0 3 teams1–0–0
2 3 teams2–0–0 Dallas Cowboys2–0–0
3 Tie (Det, GB)3–0–0 4 teams2–1–0
4 Green Bay Packers4–0–0 Tie (Cle, StL)3–1–0
5 Green Bay Packers5–0–0 Tie (Cle, StL)4–1–0
6 Green Bay Packers6–0–0 Cleveland Browns5–1–0
7 Tie (Bal, GB)6–1–0 Cleveland Browns5–2–0
8 Baltimore Colts7–1–0 Cleveland Browns6–2–0
9 Baltimore Colts8–1–0 Cleveland Browns7–2–0
10 Baltimore Colts9–1–0 Cleveland Browns8–2–0
11 Baltimore Colts9–1–1 Cleveland Browns9–2–0
12 Baltimore Colts9–2–1 Cleveland Browns10–2–0
13 Green Bay Packers10–3–0 Cleveland Browns10–3–0
14 Tie (Bal, GB)10–3–1 Cleveland Browns11–3–0

Final standings

W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, PCT= Winning Percentage, PF= Points For, PA = Points Against

Note: Prior to 1972, the NFL did not include tie games when calculating a team's winning percentage in the official standings

Eastern Conference
Cleveland Browns 1130.786363325
Dallas Cowboys 770.500325280
New York Giants 770.500270338
Washington Redskins 680.429257301
Philadelphia Eagles 590.357363359
St. Louis Cardinals 590.357296309
Pittsburgh Steelers 2120.143202397
Western Conference
Green Bay Packers 1031.769316224
Baltimore Colts 1031.769389284
Chicago Bears 950.643409275
San Francisco 49ers 761.538421402
Minnesota Vikings 770.500383403
Detroit Lions 671.462257295
Los Angeles Rams 4100.286269328


Because the Green Bay Packers and Baltimore Colts ended up tied in the Western Conference standings after the regular season ended, a conference playoff game was held in Green Bay at Lambeau Field. Although the Packers had defeated the Colts in both of their games in 1965, there were no tiebreaking rules at the time.

In the playoff game, both Colts starting quarterback Johnny Unitas and backup Gary Cuozzo could not play, so Baltimore was forced to use Tom Matte, normally a running back, as quarterback. (Matte played the position in college at Ohio State.) Packer quarterback Bart Starr was injured on the first play from scrimmage and did not return to the game, relieved by Zeke Bratkowski. Green Bay's Don Chandler kicked a 27-yard field goal with less than two minutes remaining to tie the game and it went to overtime. Chandler kicked the game-winning 25-yard field goal after 13 minutes, 39 seconds of extra time. The following week at Lambeau, Starr returned and the Packers defeated the Cleveland Browns in the NFL championship game, the last before the Super Bowl era.

Home team in capitals

Western Conference Playoff Game

  • GREEN BAY 13, Baltimore 10 (OT)

NFL Championship Game

  • GREEN BAY 23, Cleveland 12

Playoff Bowl

The Playoff Bowl was between the conference runners-up, for third place in the league. This was its sixth year (of ten) and it was played a week after the title game.


Most Valuable PlayerJim Brown, Fullback, Cleveland
Coach of the YearGeorge Halas, Chicago


The 1965 NFL Draft was held on November 28, 1964 at New York City's Summit Hotel. With the first pick, the New York Giants selected back Tucker Frederickson from Auburn University.


Eastern Conference

Western Conference

See also


  1. "Football so fast, complex: NFL adding sixth official". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. Associated Press. July 25, 1965. p. 3, sports.
  2. Strickler, George (February 20, 1965). "Sixth N.F.L. official to watch scramblers, clock". Chicago Tribune. p. 1, sec. 2.
  3. "National League officials to work in crews of six (five)". Milwaukee Journal. Associated Press. August 19, 1947. p. 6, part 2.

Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)

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