A Look Back: Packers Largest Season-Opening Wins
There is nothing quite like kicking off a new season with a blowout victory.
Winning big in week one can add to the optimism already present on opening day. Expectations tend to ratchet upward after a particularly decisive victory.
The Green Bay Packers have played in 91 season openers since turning professional in 1921. They’ve won four of those by 30 or more points.
Below are summaries detailing the largest margins of victory the Packers have manufactured on opening day.
Sept. 19, 1965
Packers 41, Steelers 9 (+32)
The Packers were hotter than the weather in forging a 41-9 victory over the Steelers at Pitt Stadium. Green Bay poured on 34 second-half points to hand Pittsburgh its second largest opening-day loss since it entered the NFL as the Pirates in 1933.
Vince Lombardi’s club scored on each of its first six second-half possessions. By the time Elijah Pitts powered across for the final time, Zeke Bratkowski had replaced Bart Starr at quarterback for the Packers.
Starr enjoyed his finest day of the season. The 10-year veteran completed 17 of 23 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns (133.6 rating).
Receiver Boyd Dowler was the recipient of six of Starr’s throws. The lanky end chalked up 104 yards receiving and moved the chains with all but one of his catches.
But during the opening 30 minutes, Green Bay could do little right. Don Chandler was wide right on a 38-yard field goal attempt. Starr and the offense failed to record a third-down conversion in four attempts. A pass interference call on Doug Hart set the stage for Mike Clark’s third field goal, a 32-yard boot that put Pittsburgh up 9-7 at the half.
Then, as if a switch were flipped, the Packers roared to life. Green Bay gained 237 second-half yards to just 27 for Pittsburgh.
“We suddenly got a little enthusiasm,” Lombardi said. “We started doing things right.”
Three second-half scores were set up by turnovers. Herb Adderley snagged his second interception, Ray Nitschke got his first and Rich Marshall recovered a fumble.
The Steelers also lost their starting center. Art Hunter, who was suffering from heat stroke in the 94-degree heat, was taken to Divine Providence Hospital.
“That’s where the Packers have a great advantage,” Steelers first-year coach Mike Nixon said. “They have to lose half a team before anyone knows they’ve had an injury.”
Sept. 17, 1948
Packers 31, Yanks 0 (+31)
Curly Lambeau’s Packers didn’t blow out many teams once Don Hutson retired. Their 31-0 dismantling of the Boston Yanks to start the 1948 season was their biggest in the four years that followed the departure of the Alabama Antelope.
With its passing game a shadow of what it had been with Hutson in uniform, Green Bay relied on its ground game to subdue the Yanks. Employing nine backs, the Packers trampled Boston for 257 yards rushing on 46 carries in a rare Friday night contest.
Little Ralph Earhart (165 pounds) reeled off the evening’s most spectacular run. He weaved his way 72 yards for a score breaking three tackles in the process. Guard Damon Tassos obliterated Joe Golding at the 30-yard line to spring Earhart free.
Defensively, the Packers held Boston to just 20 yards rushing on 17 carries. Rudy Romboli was Boston’s leading ground gainer with seven yards on three carries.
Singled out for his stalwart defensive play was Larry Craig. The 10-year veteran was credited with at least three tackles for loss by one sportswriter.
Another scribe, Oliver Kuechle of the Milwaukee Journal, wrote: “Craig was a fifth man in Boston’s backfield all night, and at a late hour the Messrs. Boley Dancewicz and Ray Zimmerman, who played at quarterback for the Yankees, were still combing him out of their hair.”
Boston crossed midfield just twice. Ted Cook ended the first threat by intercepting Dancewicz. Steve Pritko dropped a TD pass as the Yanks failed to score in three tries from inside the Packers’ 10-yard line in the third quarter.
Sept. 1, 1996
Packers 34, Buccaneers 3 (+31)
Keith Jackson caught 11 touchdown passes in his brief career with the Packers. Three of those came in a dominant 34-3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that helped set the team on the path to its first Super Bowl appearance in nearly 30 years.
Green Bay acquired the services of the veteran tight end a year earlier, but Jackson caught only 13 passes during the 1995 regular season as he didn’t report until after six games had been played. With a full training camp under his belt, Jackson shredded Tampa Bay’s secondary finishing with five catches for 76 yards including scoring receptions of 1, 4 and 51 yards.
“(Jackson) certainly makes us a better football team,” Packers General Manager Ron Wolf said. “He’s a great player, and when you add a great player to your arsenal, it allows you to do so many things.”
Jackson was not quarterback Brett Favre’s only target. The Mississippi native also fired to receivers Antonio Freeman and Robert Brooks, tight ends Mark Chmura and Jeff Thomason, and others.
Favre’s numbers were stellar, and he decisively outperformed the Buccaneers’ Trent Dilfer. Favre completed 20 of 27 passes for 247 yards and four touchdowns (141.5 passer rating) while Dilfer was 13 of 30 for 123 yards with four picks (15.7).
“This is a good way to start,” Favre said. “I think this is the first time we’ve opened up this well on offense. Our defense got the turnovers and it was just an all-around good game.”
Green Bay outgained Tampa Bay by 230 yards (406 to 176). It held the ball for 36 minutes, 28 seconds to the Buccaneers’ 23:32. It forced six turnovers and turned three of them into 17 points.
The Packers had five first half possessions and scored four times, including Jackson’s three TDs. Chris Jacke’s 40-yard field goal and a 1-yard pass from Favre to Dorsey Levens rounded out the afternoon’s scoring.
Sept. 5, 1993
Packers 36, Rams 6 (+30)
Green Bay’s defense carried the day and it was only fitting that for the first time in 61 years, the Packers’ initial score of a season was a safety. Buoyed by that rare turn of events, the Green and Gold dismissed the Los Angeles Rams 36-6 as they went on to return to the playoffs for the first time in 11 years.
Green Bay recorded its two points early in the first quarter. Linebackers George Koonce and Bryce Paup tackled Cleveland Gary in the end zone after Tim Hauck downed Bryan Wagner’s punt at the Rams’ 1-yard line.
It was just one of four runs by Gary that resulted in loss of yards.
“(Green Bay’s coaching staff) has them playing really hard which is what you want to do,” Los Angeles offensive coordinator Ernie Zampese said.
Gary gained 31 of the Rams’ meager 53 yards rushing. Jim Everett added 175 yards through the air, but his passer rating of 34.1 was far below the 103.2 of Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre.
The game was the first in a Packers uniform for Reggie White. The defensive end did not get a sack and registered only two tackles.
“I feel good about the way I played today,” White said. “I want to get some sacks and make some big plays. Those things will come. I’m a patient man.”