One of my alter-egos is The Au Gratin Cheesehead—Idaho’s biggest Green Bay Packers fan (potatoes and cheese… get it?). I’ve been a fan since the late 1970s, when the Pack rarely put together a winning season. But since the anointing of three-time MVP Brett Favre as quarterback in 1992, through the current three-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, winning seasons have become commonplace under these two first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterbacks.
Winning Super Bowls, however, has been limited to one for each of them.
As a fan, is it more disappointing to be forced to cheer on a perennial loser, or more disappointing to cheer on a perennial winner that blows it in the playoffs? It’s got to be the latter; to get expectations built up only to have them dashed is true heartbreak. Cheering on a lovable loser actually has some charm.
For the past thirty years there have been two ups and too many downs for the playoff Packers. In twenty-two playoff appearances, they have three playoff exits where they were shutout in the first half and another two without a TD in the first half. Five playoff-exit games were lost in overtime, two of them lost by Brett Favre interceptions in opponents’ FG range, one lost when a strip-sack of Aaron Rodgers was returned for a TD. Six losses were in the NFC Championship.
Here follows my ranking of Packers’ playoff exits, from the joy of winning Super Bowls, through the proud hard-fought losses, the embarrassing blowouts, the disappointments we gave away, and concluding with the heartbreaking catastrophic failures.
We Are The Champions
Super Bowl XXXI — 1996: NE 21–GB 35: The title returns to Titletown as Brett Favre and the Packers blow the game open with a 17–0 2nd quarter. Then, as Drew Bledsoe leads the Patriots back to within a TD, Desmond Howard returns the kickoff 99 yards for the dagger TD. The defense holds New England to a scoreless 4th quarter.
Super Bowl XLV — 2010: PIT 25–GB 31: The Packers win Super Bowl XLV, stunning the Pittsburgh Steelers by jumping out to a 14–0 first quarter lead, extending it to 21–10 at the half.
They Just Beat Us
Super Bowl XXXII — 1997: GB 24–DEN 31: Defending Champs Green Bay battle the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXII, only to fall short when John Elway gets a crucial first down rush, spinning mid-air when hit. Favre throws for 3 TDs and an INT.
The Fitzgerald Game — 2015: GB 20–AZ 26: In the Divisional Round, the Packers and Cardinals fight to a 20–20 tie. Then, having won the toss, on the first play of overtime the Packers give up a 75-yard pass to Larry Fitzgerald. Then an incomplete pass to Larry Fitzgerald before the five-yard TD completion to, who else, Larry Fitzgerald.
The Owens Game — 1998: GB 27–SF 30: A hard-fought Wild Card game in San Francisco with six lead changes that is decided by Terrell Owens’ game-winning TD catch with 0:08 remaining, capping off a 76-yard 2-minute drive.
The Kaepernick Rematch — 2013: SF 23–GB 20: The Packers host a Wild Card game with a 5 degree kickoff temperature. The teams battle to a 20–20 tie, but with 5:09 left, the Packers’ defense can’t stop Niners’ QB Colin Kaepernick as he leads a 65-yard drive for a game-winning FG as time expires.
The Dallas Championship — 1995: GB 27–DAL 38: A close contest in the NFC Championship until the Cowboys blow it open in the 4th quarter. Brett Favre throws 2 INTs and is sacked 4 times.
The Kaepernick Game — 2012: GB 31–SF 45: The Packers travel to San Francisco in the Divisional Round. It’s a competitive game, tied 24–24 in the third, until a 56-yard TD scamper from Colin Kaepernick breaks the dam and leads to two more unanswered TDs from the Niners.
We Never Showed Up
The Triple Pick-Six — 2001: GB 17–STL 45: Brett Favre throws SIX interceptions in the Divisional Round, three of them are pick-sixes. ‘Nuff said.
The Dallas Blowout — 1993: GB 17–DAL 27: A Divisional game in Dallas where the Packers offense was kept out of the end zone until the mid-3rd quarter.
The Dallas Blowout II — 1994: GB 9–DAL 35: The Packers were never in this Divisional game, which was highlighted by a 94-yard TD pass by Troy Aikman and the lowest Packers’ playoff point total in the HOF QB Era.
The Minnesota Blowout — 2004: MIN 31–GB 17: The Vikings come to Lambeau for a Wild Card game and jump out to a 17–0 lead in the game’s first nine minutes. The Vikings never lead by less than a TD the whole game.
The San Francisco Blowout — 2019: GB 20–SF 37: A 13-win season, but the Niners are at home as 8 point favorites in the NFC Championship. By halftime, it’s San Francisco 27, Green Bay 0, as Raheem Mostert runs for 220 yards and Jimmy Garappolo finishes with a higher QB rating than Aaron Rodgers.
The Atlanta Blowout — 2016: GB 21–ATL 44: Green Bay goes to Atlanta for the NFC Championship. By halftime, it’s Atlanta 24, Green Bay 0, and the Falcons’ first drive of the 3rd quarter makes it 31–0. A total blowout.
The First Tundra Loss — 2002: ATL 27–GB 7: Up to this game, the Packers had never lost a home playoff game. Then Michael Vick and the Falcons came to Lambeau for a Wild Card game where they led 24–0 by the half, with Brett Favre throwing two INTs.
The Two-Loss Season — 2011: NYG 37–GB 20: The defending Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers have the best season of the HOF QB Era, 15–1. It comes crashing down in the Divisional Round as the New York Giants come into Lambeau and go up 20–10 as Hakeem Nicks catches a Hail Mary TD pass to close the first half.
We Just Beat Ourselves
Favre’s Last OT Interception — 2007: NYG 23–GB 20: The Packers host the NFC Championship at Lambeau in -1 degree weather. In Brett Favre’s last game, the teams battle to a 20–20 tie. Green Bay wins the OT coin toss, but Favre’s first pass is intercepted well within Giants’ FG range, which they make after gaining five yards on downs.
The Desert Shootout — 2009: GB 45–AZ 51: A true Wild Card shootout between Aaron Rodgers and Kurt Warner that ends in a 45–45 tie in regulation. The Packers win the toss, but get behind the chains on their drive with a holding call. On third down, Rodgers is strip-sacked and the fumble is returned 17 yards by Arizona for the winning TD.
Give it to the GOAT — 2020: TB 31–GB 26. A second straight 13-win season. The #1 seed. Second straight NFC Championship game. A competitive game at Lambeau with the Pack down by 8 with just over 2:00 in the 4th. But coach opts for a FG on 4th down and gives the ball back to the GOAT Tom Brady to run out the clock for the road win.
Favre’s First OT Interception — 2003: GB 17–PHI 20: This Divisional game starts well, with the Packers going up 14–0 in the first quarter on the road. But Philly ties it up 17–17 after the offense goes dormant for three quarters and the defense gives up a 4th-and-26. In OT, Green Bay’s defense holds after the Eagles win the coin toss. But on his very first pass of OT, Brett Favre is intercepted well within Eagles’ FG range, which they convert after making a first down.
Catastrophic Special Teams Failures
The Unspecial Teams — 2021: SF 13–GB 10. A third straight 13-win season. A second straight #1 seed. Home field in the Divisional Round in ten degrees against a California team after a bye. Healthy starters returning. A defense that holds the opponent to two FGs and the QB to an 11.9 rating. Only to blow it all thanks to a blocked FG, a blocked punt returned for a TD, and 10 men on the field for the opponent’s game-winning FG.
The Onside Kick — 2014: GB 22–SEA 28: The Packers travel to Seattle for the NFC Championship and dominate the Seahawks, going up 16–0 at half. The Seahawks get a TD on a fake punt in the 3rd, the Packers’ offense goes to sleep, and it’s 19–7 with four minutes to go. Then the defense gives up a TD, muffs the ensuing onside kick, surrenders another TD and a 2pt PAT, versus one Mason Crosby FG to tie it up. Seattle wins the OT coin toss and drives for the winning TD.