Fast and Furious: A Look At Packers’ Biggest Fourth-Quarter Rallies
“Fast and Furious” carries meaning outside the political arena and Hollywood.
Bandied about in the media as the name of the latest scandal to rock Washington and the name of a Vin Diesel movie, the term could also apply to some of the fourth-quarter comebacks the Packers have produced. Rallies staged with no more than 15 minutes remaining aren’t often thought of as “Slow and Steady.”
The Packers have been on the short end of the scoreboard after three quarters many times. Victory is rare when that deficit is one of double digits.
Green Bay has bounced back from down 10 or more in the fourth quarter 15 times in its history. On just four occasions has it extricated itself from a hole of two touchdowns or more.
Listed below are highlights from those four “Fast and Furious” finishes.
October 28, 1951
Packers 29, Yanks 27
Rallied from 15 points down
Gene Ronzani’s Packers knew fourth-quarter deficits. Twelve times in Ronzani’s first 16 regular-season games as head coach, his team found itself in arrears after 45 minutes of play.
Deficit No. 13 occurred on October 28, 1951. Green Bay (2-2) had traveled to Yankee Stadium to face the New York Yanks (0-3-1) before a sparse crowd of 7,351.
There, the Packers ran into a hot quarterback. Bob Celeri, who couldn’t make it with the 49ers a year earlier, passed for 319 yards and three touchdowns. Celeri’s bombs to Sherman Howard (75 yards) and Dan Garza (52) along with a 3-yard run by Howard put the Yanks in front 21-6.
But Green Bay spun some quarterback magic of its own. Bobby Thomason, obtained before the season from the Rams, enjoyed his finest day as a Packer.
His team down 15, Thomason came to life. The 23-year-old completed seven straight passes to five different receivers on an 80-yard drive early in the fourth quarter. His 3-yard toss to Ray Pelfrey and Fred Cone’s extra point closed the gap 21-13.
On the Packers’ next drive, Thomason again hit Pelfrey for 3 yards. He then heaved a long one to Earl (Jug) Girard who outmaneuvered Paul Crowe and Bill O’Connor to reach the end zone. The Pack was within one at 21-20.
Green Bay jumped in front after Dan Orlich recovered Zollie Toth’s fumble. Thomason fired another TD, this one to Tony Canadeo from 15 yards out, and Green Bay led 26-21.
It was Green Bay’s third TD within a span of five minutes.
New York wasn’t finished. It regained the lead 27-26 with one minute, 12 seconds to go after Celeri connected with Garza from 10 yards out.
Those 72 seconds gave the Packers more than enough time to move into position for Cone’s game-winning field goal. Tobin Rote and Thomason each completed a pass on the drive, and the fullback blasted the game-winning, 16-yard boot with 11 seconds showing on the clock.
The win pushed Green Bay (3-2) into a three-way tie for second place behind the Chicago Bears (4-1) in the National Conference, but the team’s stay there was short-lived. The Packers lost their final seven games in a disappointing slide that included a three-point loss to the Yanks in the rematch in early December.
October 1, 1989
Packers 23, Falcons 21
Rallied from 15 points down
The Packers of 1989 pulled out some victories that even a Hollywood screenwriter couldn’t have dreamed up.
Green Bay had to come from behind in all but three of its 10 victories. Seven times it won by four or fewer points. It eked out an NFL-record four wins by a single point.
No rally was greater than the one the Packers (1-2) staged against the Falcons (1-2) on the first day of October. Green Bay outgained Atlanta 145 yards to 29 in the fourth quarter while controlling the ball for just over 11 minutes.
Hugh Millen, starting in place of the injured Chris Miller (ribs), was nearly flawless through two-and-a-half quarters. At the time Atlanta went up 21-6, he was 15 of 19 for 231 yards and a touchdown.
Five times he found rookie wide receiver Shawn Collins for a total of 126 yards. All five receptions occurred on the team’s three TD drives.
The tide turned when Packers quarterback Don Majkowski took a page out of Millen’s book. The third-year pro completed eight of his last 10 passes for 154 yards and a score.
So effective was Green Bay that it encountered just two third downs in its final 25 plays. Sterling Sharpe scooped up fellow receiver Jeff Query’s fumble and returned it five yards for a touchdown to overcome the first. On the second, Majkowski gained a yard to set up Chris Jacke’s game-winning, 22-yard field goal with 1:42 left.
In between those drives, Majkowski hit Herman Fontenot with a 37-yard scoring pass to cut Atlanta’s lead to 21-20. Green Bay was fortunate a 96-yard kickoff return by Deion Sanders following that TD was called back because of holding.
Tim Harris and Dave Brown spoiled Atlanta’s final drive. Harris dumped Millen for a 10-yard loss, and Brown then came up with the Packers’ only interception.
“This football team has reached the stage where we can compete,” Packers coach Lindy Infante said.
Compete it did as the Packers went 10-6 – their best record over a full season in 17 years.
October 27, 1957
Packers 24, Colts 21
Rallied from 14 points down
Quarterback Babe Parilli and end Billy Howton collaborated on the 75-yard touchdown pass, but Packers coach Liz Blackbourn got the game ball.
“We wanted him to have that game ball,” defensive tackle Dave Hanner said. “He certainly deserves it – all the gruff he’d been taking the last few weeks.”
Blackbourn, whose team had dropped three straight after winning the opener 21-17 over the Bears, called the winning play. Parilli’s heave to Howton came with just 29 seconds left.
“It was just perfect, that play. Babe put that ball down there just right and Bill was there waiting for it,” Blackbourn said.
Overlooked, perhaps, was quarterback Bart Starr who directed the Packers to scores on each of the three drives preceding Parilli’s bomb. Paul Hornung crashed over for two short touchdowns, and Fred Cone kicked a 9-yard field goal as Green Bay bounced back from a 14-0 deficit at the start of the fourth quarter.
“That Bart did himself a wonderful job of throwing on those rollouts to Ron (Kramer) who also was going up and getting the ball. And Paul is really strong, isn’t he? He’ll learn to pass, too. Babe was in there on that last play because he can throw the longest,” Blackbourn explained.
September 20, 1992
Packers 24, Bengals 23
Rallied from 14 points down
“That last ball, I was so scared I thought I was going to throw it halfway up into the seats. When I threw it I closed my eyes and I was just listening for a cheer.”
The cheers came. Victory, too. And so a new era began.
Brett Favre’s heave to Kitrick Taylor with 13 seconds left gave Packers coach Mike Holmgren his first win, a 24-23 thriller over the Cincinnati Bengals. For Favre, too scared to look, it signaled the start of a run at quarterback that would stretch an incredible 16 years without interruption.
Favre got to play hero because starter Don Majkowski injured ligaments in his left ankle in the first quarter. Prior to entering the game, Favre had attempted a total of just 18 regular-season passes in his young career.
As important as Favre’s throw was, he didn’t start the rally. Terrell Buckley did. With his team down 17-3, the defensive back returned a punt 58 yards for a touchdown.
Jim Breech then kicked field goals on the Bengals’ next two possessions. Favre countered with touchdowns the two times Green Bay had the ball. He ended the first with a 5-yard throw to Sterling Sharpe and the second with his rainbow to Taylor.
“I’m standing right on the field in the middle of an NFL Properties highlight film,” Packers tackle Ken Ruettgers said of the play to Taylor.
Even after his game-winner, Favre’s day wasn’t quite over. He took the field one last time to hold for Chris Jacke’s extra point.