The Green Bay Packers recently learned that Aaron Rodgers will miss this Sunday’s game in Kansas City after the reigning NFL MVP tested positive for Covid-19. That means that Jordan Love will get his first career NFL start this Sunday against the Chiefs.
Backup quarterbacks have made an impact on the Packers and the NFL. In fact, so many of Brett Favre’s backups in Green Bay went on to strong careers as starters elsewhere like Mark Brunell, Aaron Brooks and Matt Hasselbeck.
Several backup quarterbacks have also had outstanding performances for the Packers. Here is a look at the best performances by backup quarterbacks for the Packers. Players on this list could have started the game in question or come off the bench, but they had to be viewed as the backup on the day of the game in question. The quality of the performance and the importance of the game are also taken into consideration. Feel free to mention any other outstanding performances by Packers backups in the comments.
- Anthony Dilweg, September 9, 1990, Packers 36, Rams 24
The Packers finished the 1989 season with a surprising 10-6 record behind the outstanding play of quarterback Don Majkowski. But “The Majik Man” held out in training camp in 1990 and head coach Lindy Infante was forced to start backup Anthony Dilweg who had thrown one career pass up until that point.
Dilweg was a Green Bay legacy as his grandfather, Lavvie Dilweg, played for the Pack from 1927-1934.
The backup had a strong showing in his first NFL start, completing 20-of-32 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns without tossing an interception. Two of his scoring passes went to tight end Ed West while the other was a 47-yard scoring play to wide receiver Jeff Query.
The Packers scored 16 points in the fourth quarter and won the game 36-24.
Dilweg started Week 2 against the Bears before Majkowski returned to action and reclaimed the starting job. But for that one game, the second-year man out of Duke was on top of his game.
- Don Horn, December 21, 1969, Packers 45, Cardinals 28
With Bart Starr injured, former first round pick Don Horn took over as the Packers starter late in the 1969 season. In the season’s final game, Horn had a record-setting performance against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The former San Diego State star threw for 410 yards and five touchdowns, an even more incredible number when you consider this was nine years before the NFL liberalized the rules on pass blocking and only allowing defenders to make contact with a receiver within five yards of the line of scrimmage.
Horn was removed from the game early in the fourth quarter or he could have had even gaudier statistics.
Carroll Dale made nine catches for 195 yards and two touchdowns while Boyd Dowler made six grabs for 102 yards and a pair of scores.
The win allowed the Packers to finish the season with an 8-6 record, the only year they had a winning record under head coach Phil Bengtson.
- Matt Flynn, January 1, 2012, Packers 45, Lions 41
Statistically, few backup quarterbacks had a better game than Matt Flynn did in the 2011 season finale against the Lions. The Packers had little to play for in this game with team already settled in as the top seed in the NFC with a 14-1 record. So, they decided to rest Aaron Rodgers and start the former LSU star.
Flynn had a record-setting day, completing 31-of-44 passes for 480 yards and six touchdowns as the Packers beat Detroit 45-41 in a back and forth game that resembled Arena Football.
Jordy Nelson caught nine passes for 162 yards and three scores while Ryan Grant, Donald Driver and Jermichael Finley each caught a TD pass. Grant scored on an 80-yard play in the second quarter while Finley’s four-yard catch with 1:10 left in the game put the Packers ahead to stay.
Head coach Mike McCarthy was impressed with Flynn’s performance. “It was clearly one of the best performances I’ve been a part of,” he said. “I can’t say enough about Matt Flynn. The whole world got to see what we see every day.”
Flynn cashed in on that big performance and signed a free agent contract with the Seahawks worth $20.5 million over three years in March of 2012. But he lost the battle for the starting quarterback to rookie Russell Wilson and spent only one year in Seattle. He returned to Green Bay when injuries struck in 2013 and started four more games with the Packers. For his career, Flynn started seven NFL games with six of them coming in green and gold.
- Zeke Bratkowski, December 26, 1965, Packers 13, Colts 10 (OT)
The Packers entered their Western Conference playoff game with the Baltimore Colts at a distinct advantage. Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas was injured and unavailable for Baltimore. The Colts were also without backup Gary Cuozzo. So, coach Don Shula was forced to start halfback Tom Matte at quarterback. Matte had been an option quarterback in college.
The Packers started Bart Starr but the future Hall of Famer was injured early in the game when he was sacked and suffered a rib injury. Starr fumbled on the play and the ball was scooped up by Baltimore’s Don Shinnick and returned 25 yards for a touchdown to give the Colts a quick 7-0 lead.
Enter backup Zeke Bratkowski. The wily veteran helped the Packers overcome a 10-0 halftime deficit to win the game 13-10 in overtime.
Bratkowski’s statistics were hardly overwhelming, even for 1965, but his leadership and strong play in the clutch helped the Packers tie the game late in the fourth quarter on a controversial Don Chandler field goal and then to win it in overtime on another boot by Chandler. He finished the game by completing 22-of-39 passes for 248 yards.
The Packers advanced to the NFL Championship Game against Cleveland where Vince Lombardi won his third NFL title in five years.
- Brett Favre, September 20, 1992, Packers 24, Bengals 23
Some people may forget that Brett Favre burst onto the scene in Green Bay as the backup to Majkowski during the 1992 season. It was only when Majik injured his ankle in a Week 3 contest against Cincinnati that Favre came in and led the Packers to an improbable and dramatic comeback win at Lambeau Field.
Favre’s performance wasn’t always pretty. He fumbled four times in the game and wasn’t always sure about the plays he was calling, but it was unquestionably gutsy and clutch.
The winning score came in the final minute on a 35-yard pass to Kitrick Taylor that tied the game at 23-23. Chris Jacke’s extra point gave the Packers a one-point win. It was Mike Holmgren’s first win as a head coach in the NFL.
Favre finished the game by going 22-of-39 for 289 yards and two touchdowns. He then started every game for the Packers through the 2007 NFC Championship Game 15 years later.
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