Nobody was expecting much from the 1989 Green Bay Packers. They finished 1988 a dismal 4-12 under first-year head coach Lindy Infante and most experts expected another sub-.500 campaign from the Pack. On the other hand, the Saints were 10-6 in 1988 and Jim Mora’s team was expected to contend again in 1989.
After losing a tight game to the Bucs in Week 1, the Packers hosted the New Orleans Saints in Week 2. Because it was still mid-September, the Packers made a rare decision to wear their road white uniforms Lambeau Field for this game, thereby making the visiting Saints wear their dark jerseys in the heat. It was the second straight week the Packers wore their road whites at home. The Saints entered the game as 4 ½ point road favorites.
From the start, the game went as the experts predicted with New Orleans dominating. The Saints jumped out to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter on a pair of touchdown passes by Bobby Hebert sandwiched around a three-yard run by Dalton Hilliard. The Packers answered with a one-yard run by Brent Fullwood but trailed 24-7 at the half after Morton Andersen booted a 38-yard field goal.
The fans booed the home team as they headed off the field at the half. “When they were booing me, I kind of said, ‘I think that was the first time I’d ever been booed,’” Packers quarterback Don Majkowski told the Associated Press after the game. “They should never boo me. I knew I could come back and change things around.”
In the second half, the “Majik Man” caught fire and tied a franchise record with 18 consecutive completions. The Packers closed the gap in the third quarter on Fullwood’s second touchdown run of the game followed by a three-yard touchdown toss from Majkowski to tight end Ed West. The Packers still trailed but by a close 24-21 margin.
The Saints were resilient and Hebert found Lonzell Hill on a 24-yard touchdown toss early in the fourth quarter to give the Saints a 31-21 lead. The Packers answered with a long drive of their own as Majkowski led the Packers on a five-play, 78-yard drive the ended with another touchdown pass to West to pull the Packers to within three at 31-28.
Then it was the Saints turn to get the ball. Hebert led them on a 12-play drive that took more than eight minutes off the clock but the Packers defense stiffened in the red zone and they held the Saints to a 32-yard field goal and Green Bay trailed by six, 34-28.
The Packers got the ball back at their own 20 with a little more than two minutes left on the clock. Majkowski then worked his magic. Three times on the drive, he went to rookie wide receiver Jeff Query for big gains. The first catch gained 35 yards and put the Packers in New Orleans territory at the Saints 45. The biggest catch came on a fourth-and-17 with less than two minutes left when Query made an acrobatic catch along the sidelines for 23 yards and a crucial first down. Replay confirmed the catch and the Packers hopes were still alive.
The drive culminated with a three-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Sharpe with 1:31 left in the game. Chris Jacke booted the extra point and the Packers were ahead 35-34.
The Saints got the ball back and needed just a field goal to win, but Hebert’s first pass was intercepted by Packers cornerback Van Jakes and that sealed the win for the Packers.
It was a dramatic comeback for the Packers who overcame deficits of 21-0, 24-7 and 31-21 to earn their first victory of the season.
Even Infante was not expecting the Packers to come back and win the game. “Quite frankly, I’m astounded,” he said after the game.
Majkowski finished the game with 354 passing yards and three touchdowns while completing 25-of-32 passes. Fullwood gained 125 yards rushing on just 18 carries and scored twice. Sharpe caught eight passes for 107 yards and the game-winning score while West finished with six receptions for 87 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
It was the start of a career year for Majkowski who earned Pro Bowl honors after throwing for a league-leading 4,318 yards and a career-high 27 touchdown passes.
The win was the first of several dramatic, last minute comebacks by the Packers that season that earned them the nickname “The Cardiac Pack.” Green Bay finished the year with a surprising 10-6 record although they missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker. This comeback was the start of a special season that was the Packers best since their 10-4 campaign of 1972. And it all started with this dramatic, come from behind win over the Saints at Lambeau.
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