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1966 NFL season

Updated: 2017-05-24T02:25Z
1966 National Football League season
Regular season
DurationSeptember 10 – December 18, 1966
East ChampionsDallas Cowboys
West ChampionsGreen Bay Packers
Championship Game
ChampionsGreen Bay Packers
The Packers defeated the Chiefs in the first AFL–NFL Championship Game (Super Bowl I)

The 1966 NFL season was the 47th regular season of the National Football League, and the season after which was played Super Bowl I, though it was called the AFL-NFL World Championship Game. The league expanded to 15 teams with the addition of the Atlanta Falcons, thus an odd number of teams (making byes necessary). This was the last season that NFL teams were divided into just two groups called conferences, and only one round of playoffs was played, the NFL championship game between the two conference champions. The season concluded with Super Bowl I. The NFL Green Bay Packers defeated the AFL Kansas City Chiefs at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with a score of 35-10.

Atlanta Falcons

The league awarded an expansion franchise to the city of Atlanta on June 30, 1965. NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle granted ownership of the Atlanta Falcons to Rankin Smith, Sr. The Falcons were awarded the first pick in the 1966 NFL draft, as well as the final pick in each of the first five rounds.[1] The league also provided the Falcons with an expansion draft six weeks later.[1]

The AFL-NFL merger agreement

As the competitive war between the NFL and the American Football League reached its peak, the two leagues agreed to merge on June 8, 1966. Under the agreement:

  • The two leagues would combine to form an expanded league with 24 teams, which would be increased to 26 teams by 1969, and to 28 teams by 1970 or soon thereafter.
  • All existing teams would be retained, and none of them would be moved outside of their metropolitan areas.
  • While maintaining separate schedules through 1969, the leagues agreed to play an annual AFL-NFL World Championship Game beginning in January 1967.
  • The two leagues would officially merge in 1970 to form one league with two conferences.

Major rule changes

Goal posts were standardized in the NFL. They were to be between 3 and 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter, painted bright yellow, with two non-curved supports offset from the goal line, and uprights 20 feet (6.1 m) above the crossbar. In 1967, the new "slingshot" goal post was made standard, with one curved support from the ground. In 1974, the goal posts were returned to the end line, and the uprights were extended to 30 feet (9.1 m) above the crossbar, and to 35 feet (10.7 m) in 2014.

The new goal-post rule is often referred to as the "Don Chandler Rule", referring to the placekicker for the Green Bay Packers. Although widely denied, the height increase of the uprights was in reaction to the previous season's Western Conference playoff game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. Chandler kicked a controversial field goal that tied the game with under two minutes remaining. The kick was high above the upright, and many spectators thought that the kick missed. Chandler later hit a field goal that defeated the Baltimore Colts in overtime. The following week, the Packers defeated the Cleveland Browns in the 1965 NFL Championship Game, their first of three consecutive league titles.

Stadium changes

St. Louis opened new Busch Stadium in 1966.

Conference races

In the Western Conference, Green Bay's first loss was in Week 5, falling 21–20 in San Francisco to tie them with the Rams. The Rams lost 35–7 to Minnesota the next week, and Green Bay stayed in front until Week 9, when Minnesota beat them 20–17. Baltimore's 19–7 win over Atlanta briefly tied it with the Packers at 7–2–0 in Week 10, but the Colts lost to Detroit the next week, 20–14. The Packers clinched the title in Week 13.

In the Eastern Conference, the St. Louis Cardinals took the early lead, winning their first five games. (The Dallas Cowboys were also unbeaten, but due to a bye in Week One, they had played one fewer game and thus were a half-game behind the Cardinals in the standings). The unbeaten teams met in Week 6, and both were still unbeaten after they played to a 10–10 tie. However, both teams suffered their first defeat the next week, with St. Louis losing at Washington, 26–20, and the Cowboys falling in Cleveland, 30–21. In Week 9 (November 6), St. Louis beat the Giants, 20–17, while Dallas came up short in a 24–23 loss to the Eagles. The next week, Dallas won at Washington 31–30 on a field goal with 0:15 left, while the Cards fell at Pittsburgh, 30–9, cutting their safety margin to a half-game again. St. Louis had a bye in Week 11, and a 20–7 Dallas victory over Pittsburgh gave the Cards and Cowboys records of 7–2–1. Both teams won the next week, setting up the stage for their December 4 meeting in Dallas during Week 13. The Cards took a 10–7 lead in the first quarter, but Dallas won 31–17 to take over the conference lead. In Week Fourteen, Dallas hosted Washington, and lost 34–31 on a field goal at 0:08. The Cardinals were in a must-win game against what should have been an easy opponent, the new (2–10–0) Atlanta Falcons. Instead, the Falcons notched their third win and virtually ended St. Louis's hopes to go to the title game. The St. Louis Cardinals, who lost again the next week, never got that close to the Super Bowl again before moving to Phoenix twenty years later.

1Detroit, Green Bay, Los Angeles (tie)1–0–0Cleveland, St. Louis (tie)1–0–0
2Green Bay, Los Angeles (tie)2–0–0St. Louis, Pittsburgh (tie)2–0–0
3Green Bay Packers3–0–0St. Louis Cardinals3–0–0
4Green Bay Packers4–0–0St. Louis Cardinals4–0–0
5Green Bay, Los Angeles (tie)4–1–0St. Louis Cardinals5–0–0
6Green Bay Packers5–1–0St. Louis Cardinals5–0–1
7Green Bay Packers6–1–0St. Louis Cardinals5–1–1
8Green Bay Packers7–1–0St. Louis Cardinals6–1–1
9Green Bay Packers7–2–0St. Louis Cardinals7–1–1
10Baltimore, Green Bay (tie)7–2–0St. Louis Cardinals7–2–1
11Green Bay Packers8–2–0Dallas, St. Louis (tie)7–2–1
12Green Bay Packers9–2–0Dallas, St. Louis (tie)8–2–1
13Green Bay Packers10–2–0Dallas Cowboys9–2–1
14Green Bay Packers11–2–0Dallas Cowboys9–3–1
15Green Bay Packers12–2–0Dallas Cowboys10–3–1

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
Dallas Cowboys1031.769445239
Cleveland Browns950.643403259
Philadelphia Eagles950.643326340
St. Louis Cardinals851.615264265
Washington Redskins770.500351355
Pittsburgh Steelers581.385316347
Atlanta Falcons3110.214204437
New York Giants1121.077263501
Western Conference
Green Bay Packers1220.857335163
Baltimore Colts950.643314226
Los Angeles Rams860.571289212
San Francisco 49ers662.500320325
Chicago Bears572.417234272
Detroit Lions491.308206317
Minnesota Vikings491.308292304

NFL Championship Game

Playoff Bowl

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


Most Valuable PlayerBart Starr, Quarterback, Green Bay
Coach of the YearTom Landry, Dallas

See also


  1. ^ a b "1966 NFL Draft". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved September 27, 2008. 
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