The Top Five Most Exciting Playoff Finishes in Packers History
The Green Bay Packers have a greater winning percentage in postseason games than any team in NFL history.
The Green and Gold have compiled an impressive 30-17 record (.638) in the playoffs. Only the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys have won more games – each with 33 – but their winning percentages of .611 and .569, respectively, don’t measure up.
More than 75 years have passed since Green Bay got its first taste of postseason play against the Boston Redskins in 1936. In the years since, some victories have come easily and some have come down to the wire.
Here is a list of the top five finishes in Packers’ playoff history.
Jan. 4, 2004
Packers 33, Seahawks 27 (overtime)
When Matt Hasselbeck declared: “We want the ball, and we’re going to score,” the quarterback likely envisioned tossing a scoring pass that would end the wild-card playoff game between his Seahawks and the Packers. Hasselbeck got the ball and he fired the deciding pass, but it was Green Bay’s Al Harris, not a Seattle receiver, who dashed to the end zone to secure a 33-27 victory in front of 71,457 fans at Lambeau Field.
Hasselbeck made his infamous remark after his team won the coin toss before overtime. With the referee’s microphone on, Hasselbeck’s words echoed throughout the stadium.
Hasselbeck was brimming with confidence. He had just orchestrated a seven-play, 67-yard drive to tie the game with 51 seconds left. After the Packers’ Ryan Longwell missed what would have been a game-winning, 47-yard field goal as time expired, momentum seemed to have swung Seattle’s way.
That the Seahawks had to punt after their first possession in overtime seemed only to delay the inevitable. With a second opportunity, Hasselbeck completed passes to Koren Robinson and Darrell Jackson to pick up a first down and reach the Seattle 46-yard line.
Shaun Alexander then lost a yard and Hasselbeck fired incomplete. On third down, Packers defensive coordinator Ed Donatell rushed seven leaving four defensive backs in man-to-man coverage.
Harris, a right cornerback, gambled. At the risk of giving up a big play, he jumped in front of receiver Alex Bannister to grab the interception he returned 52 yards to pay dirt.
“It’s every cornerback’s dream,” said Harris who became the first player in NFL history to win an overtime playoff game with a defensive touchdown.
Jan. 8, 1994
Packers 28, Lions 24
The pitch and catch was so amazing Sterling Sharpe even broke his self-imposed silence with the media and granted his first group interview in years.
With 55 seconds left, Brett Favre moved to his left and then launched a deep pass to his right that settled into Sharpe’s hands in the end zone. The TD lifted the Packers to a 28-24 win over the Lions in a wild-card playoff game at the Silverdome.
“I think what happened, they stayed pretty much in zone,” said Sharpe, who caught an NFL-best 112 passes during the regular season. “The safety never got over the top. With Brett going to his left, I think they just kind of looked over to their (right), and Brett just heaved it.
“I was just standing in the end zone . . . Brett just looked over and made a great play.”
The Packers hardly saw the ball in the fourth quarter. The Lions took more than eight minutes off the clock in going ahead 24-21, and the Packers then gained but a yard before punting back to Detroit.
Two minutes and 26 seconds remained when Green Bay got another opportunity. Favre completed all four of his throws (for 67 yards) and running back Edgar Bennett chipped in four more on a running play during the Packers’ game-winning drive.
Favre’s heroics came less than a week after his poor showing against Detroit in the regular-season finale. In that game, a 30-20 loss, Favre was intercepted four times and his passer rating was a puny 44.7.
“I know my abilities. This team knows my abilities,” Favre said after his highlight-reel heave. “The people who count care about me; I just want to prove to them I still have it.”
Dec. 26, 1965
Packers 13, Colts 10 (overtime)
Two of the biggest field goals of his career had kicker Don Chandler, “shaking like a leaf.”
A New York Giant for nine seasons, Chandler came to Green Bay in 1965 after Paul Hornung missed an NFL-record 26 field goals in 1964. In his first year with his new team, Chandler was successful on 17 of 26 field goal attempts, including a last-second boot that beat the Rams 6-3 in Week 9.
Because Green Bay and Baltimore finished with 10-3-1 records, a playoff game between the two was held at Lambeau Field on December 26, 1965. The Colts were without quarterback Johnny Unitas (knee) and backup Gary Cuozzo (shoulder), and the Packers lost Bart Starr to a rib injury on the game’s first offensive play.
Backups Tom Matte and Zeke Bratkowski did little to generate points. Baltimore led 10-7 after three quarters.
Saving his best for last, Bratkowski directed a 13-play, 57-yard advance that reached the Colts’ 15-yard line with about two minutes remaining. After a third-down pass fell incomplete, center Bill Curry snapped the ball to Starr the holder, and Chandler kicked a 22-yard field goal.
Or had he? Many if not all on the Baltimore sidelines felt the kick was wide.
Those who mattered – the officials – signaled the kick good. When the gun sounded shortly thereafter with the score still knotted at 10, the game went into sudden death, a first in Packers history.
There Green Bay survived another scare. Lou Michaels lined up for a 47-yard field goal on the Colts’ second possession of the extra period, but the kick sailed wide.
Given new life, the Packers drove from their 20 to the Baltimore 18 behind the running of Elijah Pitts and Jim Taylor and two completions from Bratkowski. After Taylor came up two yards short on third down, Chandler nailed a 25-yard field goal 13 minutes and 39 seconds into the extra period for a 13-10 win.
“I’m shaking like a leaf,” Chandler said in the locker room. “I still can’t relax good.”
“I thought our team was superb under adverse conditions,” coach Vince Lombardi summed up. “We game ‘em a touchdown quickly, but we stayed right in there.”
Jan. 1, 1967
Packers 34, Cowboys 27
“We had our chance down there and muffed it. It was just one of those things.”
Had the final series turned out differently, Cowboys coach Tom Landry believed his team would have knocked off the Packers in the Cotton Bowl. Momentum was on the side of Dallas he felt, and horse and rider were galloping toward a fantastic finish.
But Green Bay linebacker Dave Robinson and safety Tom Brown had a say in the outcome. The pair teamed up to force a last-second interception as the Packers reined in the Cowboys 34-27 to garner their fourth NFL title under coach Vince Lombardi.
Any chance this meeting would turn into a defensive battle was quickly dispelled. Four touchdowns were counted in the first quarter, and Green Bay led 28-20 heading into the final 15 minutes.
Bart Starr’s 28-yard scoring pass to end Max McGee increased the Packers’ advantage. But Bob Lilly blocked Don Chandler’s extra point attempt and Dallas remained within two scores down 34-20.
Don Meredith countered in five quick plays. The Cowboys quarterback ran for one first down and completed three of four passes including a 68-yard TD strike to Frank Clarke to close to 34-27 with four minutes, nine seconds to go.
Minutes later, Meredith was back at it. A 21-yard pass to Clarke, a 4-yard run by Don Perkins and a 20-yard pass interference call on Brown gave Dallas a first down at the Packers’ 2-yard line.
After Dan Reeves gained one, the Cowboys were backed up for illegal motion. Meredith fired incomplete on second down, then hit Pettis Norman for four to the Green Bay 2.
On fourth down, Meredith rolled right but couldn’t shake the hard-charging Robinson. The 240-pounder draped himself over the quarterback who lobbed a weak pass that Brown intercepted in the end zone.
“I had his left arm completely paralyzed and I had his right arm at the elbow,” Robinson said. “So he just flipped it with his wrist. I thought it was a good move on his part.”
“We just got overanxious, that’s all,” Landry said regarding the illegal motion penalty. “We thought we were going to score and go on to win, and I believe we would have.”
Dec. 31, 1967
Packers 21, Cowboys 17
Bart Starr’s assignment was simple: drive 68 yards to a touchdown in mind-numbing cold against a Dallas team still seething over its loss to his Packers in the NFL championship game a year earlier.
Starr’s assignment was daunting: in the 31 plays preceding Green Bay’s final chance at victory, his team had been knocked down and knocked backward to the tune of minus-9 yards. Clearly, these Cowboys were in no mood to cooperate.
That Starr and his teammates rose to the occasion, shrugging off sub-zero temperatures and Cowboys tacklers alike, makes the Ice Bowl the greatest finish to a playoff game in Packers history. Starr needed four minutes, 37 seconds, a dozen plays and a steely resolve to subdue the Cowboys and make history as Green Bay prevailed 21-17 to win an unprecedented third straight NFL championship in front of 50,861 frozen fans at Lambeau Field.
It had all appeared so easy early on. Starr passed to Boyd Dowler for touchdowns on Green Bay’s first and third possessions to give the Packers a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter. Faced with that deficit and wind chills approaching 50-degrees below zero, surely these Cowboys would roll over and head back to the warm climes of Texas.
Instead, George Andrie, Willie Townes, Jethro Pugh and the rest of the Dallas defense tightened. Over the next 37 minutes or so, they sacked Starr seven times, permitted three first downs and forced seven punts.
Late in the second period Starr fumbled on a sack by Townes. Andrie rumbled seven yards with the turnover to score the Cowboys first touchdown.
Just before halftime, Danny Villanueva kicked a 21-yard field goal. After Dan Reeves hit Lance Rentzel with a 50-yard option pass to start the fourth quarter, Dallas went up 17-14 and Green Bay’s prospects looked dim.
“We got the ball with about five minutes left and I know I was thinking, ‘Well, maybe this is the year we don’t make it, that it all ends,’” Packers guard Jerry Kramer said.
“But I know every guy made up his mind that if we were going down, we were going down trying.”
Starr was 5-for-5 on the drive. His 9-yarder to running back Donny Anderson overcame the first third down Green Bay encountered on its game-winning drive.
His 19-yard toss to Chuck Mercein then delivered a first down at the Cowboys’ 11-yard line. From there Mercein gained eight, and Anderson made it first-and-goal from the 1.
On first down, Anderson gained nothing. He again failed on second down.
With time winding down, Starr used Green Bay’s final timeout with 16 seconds left.
“It was quite slick and hard on that end of the field,” Starr said. “Then when Donny Anderson slipped while trying to run on second down, I decided to run it myself because I could get a better start.”
The future Hall of Fame quarterback did nothing more than author the greatest quarterback sneak in NFL history. He squeezed into the end zone behind blocks by Kramer and center Ken Bowman scoring with 13 seconds to go.
Green Bay had to weather a couple of incompletions by Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith before celebrating.
“We took the gamble,” Lombardi declared. “And it was a gamble. We had the field goal team ready to go in if we didn’t make it… if we had enough time to get them in.”
Two weeks later, the Packers defeated the Oakland Raiders 33-14 in Super Bowl II to close out the Lombardi era, a glorious run that brought with it five NFL championships in nine years.