Archive for December, 2008
…1994: The Packers closed down County Stadium in style.
Needing to win their final three games to make the playoffs, the Packers had gotten that big job under way the week before by smothering the Bears, 40-3, in Green Bay. Now phase two of the assignment was to take care of the Atlanta Falcons in what was to be the final NFL game ever played at Milwaukee’s venerable County Stadium. (Venerable is a nice way of saying it was a dump.)
The Packers, 7½-point favorites and facing the NFL’s worst defense, seemed ready to run away with the game following two early touchdown passes by Brett Favre, but the Falcons fought their way back with a touchdown run by “Ironhead” Heyward. Worse yet, the Packers lost WR Sterling Sharpe with what first appeared to be a stinger, but turned out to be a potentially life-threatening neck injury that would force him to retire.
Chances to put the Falcons away kept fizzling out. Late in the second quarter, QB Brett Favre threw an interception deep in Atlanta territory; three holding penalties killed a promising third-quarter drive; and Chris Jacke missed a 37-yard field goal try that would’ve put the Packers ahead by 8 points.
Seizing the opportunity, backup Atlanta QB Bobby Hebert led the team on a 76-yard scoring drive, with a two-point conversion putting them ahead by 3. After a three-and-out, the Packer defense held, and the team got the ball back with 1:58 to play and one timeout.
Favre moved the Packers to the Atlanta 9, and used that final timeout. After consulting with Mike Holmgren, quarterback coach Steve Mariucci, and backup QB Ty Detmer, Favre agreed on a play designed to find TE Mark Chmura in the end zone.
With all his receivers covered, Favre rolled out to his right and took a quick look at WR Terry Mickens, who was running parallel to Favre. But the defensive back on Mickens was closing quickly, so Favre took off. With Atlanta’s defenders tied up in the end zone or at the line, the less-than-nimble quarterback had a brief chance to navigate the right sideline the nine yards to pay dirt.
After dodging DE Chuck Smith, Favre dove over the top of a lunging Falcon cornerback and into the end zone. Had he been stopped short, the field goal team would’ve had only 14 seconds to scramble into position for a tying kick.
But his dive kept the Packers alive, and the following week the team clinched a playoff spot. It also provided a memorable finale to the Packers’ 42-year run at County Stadium.
(Note: This will be the last installment of “On This Date…” for 2008. Thanks for reading — both of you!)
Dec. 18, 1994
County Stadium, Milwaukee
1 2 3 4 F Falcons 3 6 0 8 17 Packers 14 0 0 7 21
GB: Sterling Sharpe 8 pass from Brett Favre (Chris Jacke kick)
AT: Norm Johnson 20 FG
GB: Anthony Morgan 15 pass from Favre (Jacke)
AT: Craig Heyward 2 run (pass failed)
AT: Terance Mathis 5 pass from Bobby Hebert (Andre Rison pass from Hebert)
GB: Favre 9 run (Jacke)
Trivia: During the 1960s and ‘70s, what unusual characteristic was shared by the home fields of the Packers, Minnesota Vikings, and Detroit Lions? The answer will appear in the Comments section tomorrow.
…1936: The Packers were truly, indisputably world champions for the first time.
The Packers of the late 1920s and early ‘30s were the most dominant team of their era, finishing at the top of the fledgling National Football League three years in a row from 1929-31. But they had never been tested in a championship game.
The Boston Redskins would provide that challenge in the NFL’s fourth championship game, held at the Polo Grounds. (Redskins owner George Preston Marshall insisted that the game be moved to New York in order to draw a bigger crowd. Ticket prices ranged from 40 cents to $1.25.)
The Packers entered the game coming off an impressive 10-1-1 season in which they’d defeated the 7-5 Redskins twice. The Packers boasted a bruising offense led by QB Arnie Herber, super-rookie WR Don Hutson, and RBs Clark Hinkle and Johnny Blood.
Meanwhile, the Redskins’ attack was based mostly around the running of Cliff Battles, by far the team’s biggest offensive weapon until the arrival the following year of the great Sammy Baugh. Unfortunately for them, Battles would leave this game early with an injured knee.
The Packers asserted themselves early with a quick-strike scoring pass from Herber to Hutson, who’d turned the league on its head as its first true deep receiving threat. “The one-time Alabama Rose Bowler swerved to his left and just as he reached the 20-yard strip he was racing down the sidelines in full stride,” wrote Arthur Daley in the New York Times the next day. “Herber whipped the pigskin to the left flat zone, the pass just leading Hutson by the right margin.”
The Redskins responded with a 79-yard drive capped by a short rushing TD. But although Boston outgained Green Bay in the first half, all they had to show for it was a one-point deficit.
The Packers dominated play in the second half, holding the Redskins to 14 total yards in the final two quarters. They increased their lead with a 73-yard scoring drive highlighted by a 52-yard hookup between Herber and Blood that brought the ball to the Boston 8.
Overall, the Redskins completed only 7 of 27 passing attempts for a meager 38 yards and only crossed midfield twice in the second half. A blocked punt in the fourth quarter gave the Packers the ball on the Boston 2, and Bob Monnett’s touchdown clinched the game at 21-6 in favor of Green Bay.
It would be the first of three NFL championship games the Packers would win under founder and coach Curly Lambeau. Each winning Packer received $250 for winning the championship, while the Redskins had to settle for $180 apiece.
Dec. 13, 1936
Polo Grounds, New York
1 2 3 4 F Packers 7 0 7 7 21 Redskins 0 6 0 0 6
GB: Don Hutson 48 pass from Arnie Herber (Ernie Smith kick)
BOS: Pug Rentner 2 run (kick failed)
GB: Milt Gantenbein 8 pass from Herber (Smith)
GB: Bob Monnett 2 run (Paul Engebretsen kick)
Trivia: What would have happened if the Packers and Redskins had played to a tie in the 1936 NFL Championship? The answer will appear in the Comments section tomorrow.
…1960: The Packers could be forgiven for wanting to do a little scoreboard watching.
The Packers went into their meeting with the Bears trailing Chicago by half a game and Baltimore by a full game in the Western Conference standings with three games to play. The 5-4 Packers won with ease by leaving matters in the capable hands of HB Paul Hornung.
The fifth-year triple threat responded with a 23-point performance that gave him 152 for the season, breaking Don Hutson’s 18-year-old single-season scoring record. (Hornung would finish with 176 points for the year, still a record for a season of fewer than 16 games.) Overall, the Packers rolled over the Bears with 443 total yards, including 225 rushing yards in 43 attempts.
Despite the dominant win, the Packer locker room was filled with mixed emotions after the game. For one thing, the victory was tinged with sadness because the team’s brilliant chief scout, Jack Vainisi, had died of a heart attack the week before at age 33. The team dedicated the Chicago game to him.
Also, 600 miles away in Baltimore, it looked certain that the Colts would keep their lead over the Packers. With 14 seconds to play, Lenny Moore made an acrobatic catch of a John Unitas pass to give the Colts a 15-13 lead over Detroit.
With no radio or TV in the visitors’ locker room, Packer players and staff waited nervously while head coach Vince Lombardi spoke with reporters in an adjoining room. Lombardi slumped in disappointment when he was told of Moore’s touchdown, and he prepared to deliver the bad news to his players.
But just then came an update: On the next play from scrimmage, Lions TE Jim Gibbons had somehow gotten behind the Colts secondary and fielded a strike from QB Earl Morrall, rumbling 65 yards for the winning touchdown as time ran out. Final: Lions 20, Colts 15.
“Are you sure?” asked an incredulous Lombardi. “Don’t say anything to the players if you aren’t sure.”
Assured that the incredible finale had indeed happened, Lombardi let his jubilant players know that they were tied for first place. From there, the Packers won both of their remaining games while the Bears and Colts lost both of theirs, and the West belonged to the 8-4 Packers by a full game. The Lombardi dynasty was officially under way.
Dec. 4, 1960
Wrigley Field, Chicago
1 2 3 4 F Packers 0 13 14 14 41 Bears 0 6 7 0 13
GB: Paul Hornung, 21 FG
GB: Willie Davis recovered blocked punt in end zone (Hornung kick)
CHI: Willard Dewveall 19 pass from Ed Brown (PAT blocked)
GB: Hornung 41 FG
GB: Hornung 17 pass from Bart Starr (Hornung)
GB: Jim Taylor 2 run (Hornung)
CHI: Jim Dooley 20 pass from Zeke Bratkowski (John Aveni)
GB: Hornung 10 run (Hornung)
GB: Max McGee 46 pass from Starr (Hornung)
Trivia: In what year did a Packer game at Lambeau Field last fail to sell out?