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Upset in the Bay: The 49ers Beat the 1961 Packers

Even though they had talent, the 1960's was a lost decade for the San Francisco 49ers. Year after year, they suffered through losing seasons while trying in vain to reach the postseason. However, like many teams lost in their ways, the 49ers enjoyed the occasional upset now and then. That includes an upset over the Green Bay Packers in 1961. It would be the last loss the Packers would suffer until Vince Lombardi became a champion.

The Lead-Up

The 49ers and the Packers could not have been more different in 1961. Having suffered a tough loss in the NFL Championship Game the year before, the Packers were determined to redeem themselves. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the 49ers had recently traded their longtime quarterback Y.A. Tittle to the New York Giants and were starting his unproven backup John Brodie for the first time in a full season. While the 49ers would end the season with a winning record, they were a far cry from being a championship contender.

Meanwhile, with two weeks left in the regular season, the Green Bay Packers were looking good, having lost just twice all year. Led by the powerful running of Jim Taylor, the elusive magic of Paul Hornung and the astute leadership of Bart Starr who guided Green Bay's business-like offense to near perfection every week, the Packers looked like a team of destiny.

But even the best of teams have cracks within the seams and the 49ers had noticed some during the Packers' impressive 20-17 win over the powerful Giants the week before. They had noticed how Starr battled through a lackluster performance, completing less than half of his passes for 125 yards and two interceptions while Big Blue's quarterback Y.A. Tittle confidently led his team down the field time and again, throwing for 212 yards. Having watched the film, the 49ers were confident going up against a team that had previously beaten them by 20 points in the second week of that season.

December 10, 1961

Future actor Bernie Casey got the 49ers on the board first in the second quarter by hauling in a 51-yard touchdown pass from John Brodie. Emboldened by the early score, the 49ers defense stopped the Packers to give Brodie another opportunity to poke another hole in Green Bay's defense.

Before the Packers even knew what hit them, R.C. Owens had slithered into the end zone for a 10-yard reception. Staring up at the daunting 14-0 deficit, the Packers answered right back with a 22-yard halfback pass from Tom Moore to Max McGee to end the half.

The 49ers built upon their lead early in the third when defensive tackle Charlie Krueger sacked Bart Starr in the end zone for a safety But once again, Max McGee narrowed the deficit by catching Starr's pass for a 12-yard touchdown.

After Tommy Davis kicked a 40-yard field goal to give the 49ers a five-point lead early in the fourth quarter, Jim Taylor rumbled for a 40-yard touchdown to give Green Bay their long-sought lead. Down 21-19, John Brodie led his teammates down Kezar Stadium's hallowed ground to give Tommy Davis one last chance at victory. Davis delivered, kicking a 14-yard field goal to give the 49ers a surprising 22-21 victory over the soon-to-be-dynastic Green Bay Packers.

Three weeks later, the Packers beat the Giants 37-0, giving Vince Lombardi his first championship as their coach.

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