The offseason has already begun for the Green Bay Packers, but as championship Sunday arrives, it’s time to look back at the Packers greatest moments from the NFC title game since the start of the Super Bowl era.
These are all great moments in the history of the Packers franchise, victories that propelled the team to the Super Bowl. Some of these games are considered among the greatest in the history of the sport.
Again, only games from the Super Bowl era are included in this list so the Packers victories under Curly Lambeau in the 1930s and 40s and the first three NFL Championships under Vince Lombardi are not under consideration.
5. 1997 NFC Championship Game, Packers at 49ers.
Green Bay 23, San Francisco 10
Brett Favre and the Packers reached their second straight Super Bowl with a win over Steve Young and the 49ers at a rainy and wind-swept Candlestick Park.
The Packers quickly jumped out to a 3-0 lead on the opening drive. In the second quarter, the Niners were on the move at the Packers 28 when veteran safety Eugene Robinson stepped in front of a Young pass intended for tight end Brent Jones. Robinson zig-zagged his way back to the San Francisco 28 for a 58-yard interception return. One play later, Favre threw his only touchdown pass of the game to Antonio Freeman and the Packers led 10-0.
The Pack led 13-3 at halftime and made the score 16-3 early in the fourth quarter on Ryan Longwell’s third field goal of the game.
The Green Bay defense held the Niners to just 33 yards rushing for the game. With a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Packers defense was able to pressure Young and sacked him four times. Keith McKenzie led the way with a pair of sacks.
Dorsey Levens capped the win witBh a five-yard touchdown run to give Green Bay a 23-3 lead. Levens finished the game with 114 yards rushing on 27 carries. Favre finished completed 16-of-27 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown. He did not throw an interception. Freeman had four catches for 107 yards to lead Green Bay receivers.
The Packers had defeated the 49ers for the third straight year in the playoffs and were headed to San Diego for a chance to win their second straight Super Bowl.
4. 2010 NFC Championship Game, Packers at Bears
Green Bay 21, Chicago 14
Aaron Rodgers did a little of everything on this cold day at Soldier Field in Chicago. On the opening drive, he ran for a one-yard touchdown. He led the Pack to a 14-0 halftime lead after James Starks ran for a score in the second quarter.
The Pack was driving for a third score early in the third quarter which would have put the game almost out of reach when Rodgers was intercepted deep in Bears territory by linebacker Brian Ulracher. The quarterback was the last man with a chance to stop the future Hall of Famer and he barely got a piece of his leg to stop Ulracher at the Chicago 45. Had Urlacher scored on the play, the complexion of the game would have entirely changed.
After third-string quarterback Caleb Hanie led the Bears to their first score early in the fourth quarter, the Green Bay lead was cut to 14-7. Then, nose tackle B.J. Raji stepped in front of a Hanie pass and returned it 18 yards for the clinching touchdown and a 21-7 lead. The Packers were going back to the Super Bowl for the first time in 13 years.
3. 1996 NFC Championship Game, Carolina at Green Bay
Green Bay 30, Carolina 13
The atmosphere was electric at Lambeau Field for the first NFC title game in Titletown in 29 years. The official temperature at game time was 3 degrees above zero with a wind chill factor of minus-17, but the fans in Green Bay were ready for a celebration. The Packers were the league’s best team in 1996 while the Panthers were upstarts who were somehow one game away from the Super Bowl in the franchise’s second season of existence.
The Packers got off to a rough start as Brett Favre was picked off by linebacker Sam Mills to set up an early Carolina score. The Panthers led 7-0 and later 10-7 before the Packers took control of the game late in the second quarter.
First, Favre found Antonio Freeman for a six-yard touchdown pass with just 48 seconds left in the half. Then, rookie cornerback Tyrone Williams intercepted Kerry Collins which led to a Chris Jacke field goal with 10 seconds remaining before halftime. The Packers headed into the locker room with a 17-10 lead.
The Packers extended their lead in the third quarter. A 66-yard screen pass to Dorsey Levens set up Edgar Bennett’s four-yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 27-13 and all but put the game out of reach.
Levens was the offensive star of the game. He finished with 205 yards of total offense including an incredible 29-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter that required a lot of concentration and got the Packers on the board.
Bennett ran for 99 yards while Favre threw for 292 yards and a pair of touchdowns despite the cold conditions.E
For the first time since Vince Lombardi’s dynasty ended, the Packers were heading back to the Super Bowl.
2. 1966 NFL Championship Game, Packers at Cowboys
Green Bay 34, Dallas 27
The 1966 NFL title game is overshadowed by the incredible game that followed a year later, but it should be remembered as one of great games in league history.
The Packers were seeking their second straight championship and their fourth title under Lombardi. To do that, they had to beat a young, up and coming Dallas team coached by Lombardi’s former fellow Giants assistant, Tom Landry.
Bart Starr had one of the best games of his career, finishing 19-for-28 for 304 yards and four touchdowns. Carroll Dale was his favorite target with five catches for 128 yards and a score.
Because Dallas’ “Doomsday Defense” was so strong against the run, Lombardi decided to emphasize the pass in this game.
“Coach Lombardi, his philosophy was to take what they give you,” Dale recalled. “If they came up eight in the box, he would throw on every down if he needed to.”
“We had probably the best game plan I’ve ever seen, and we executed it extremely well,” added backup quarterback Zeke Bratkowski. “It was nothing extravagant, but the things we did, we did very well.”
The Packers had what seemed like a comfortable lead in the fourth quarter after Starr found Max McGee with a 28-yard touchdown pass. Even though Don Chandler’s PAT was blocked, the Packers led 34-20. But Dallas didn’t quit as Don Meredith found tight end Frank Clarke on a 68-yard bomb that cut the Green Bay lead to seven points.
The Cowboys got the ball back for one last chance at the Packers 47 with 2:12 left on the clock. Tom Brown was called for pass interference and Dallas was at the Green Bay two-yard line just a few plays later.
The Green Bay defense stopped Dan Reeves at the one. A false start penalty backed the Cowboys up to the six. Then Reeves dropped a pass because his eye had been scratched and he was suffering from double vision. Meredith threw to tight end Pettis Norman who got the ball back to the two before being tackled.
The Cowboys had one last chance. On fourth down, linebacker Dave Robinson blitzed and forced Meredith to throw up a wobbly pass that Brown intercepted to clinch the victory. The Packers would represent the NFL at the very first Super Bowl.
“If we hadn’t won that game and Dallas went to the Super Bowl, they probably would have beaten Kansas City and it would have been the Tom Landry Trophy (instead of the Vince Lombardi Trophy),” Robinson said. “Doesn’t sound right, does it?”
1. 1967 NFL Championship Game, Cowboys at Packers
Green Bay 21, Dallas 17
The 1967 NFL Championship Game is unquestionably the greatest game in the 100-year history of the Green Bay Packers. Vince Lombardi’s veteran players overcame age, injuries, freezing cold and a very talented “Doomsday Defense” to make history and win a third straight NFL title. No team has matched that mark since the league started holding title games in 1933.
The game time temperature was officially minus-13 with a wind chill of 46 below zero. Although Lombardi had heating coils installed under the playing field at Lambeau, they failed, and the field was a rock hard and a sheet of ice.
After the first play, the referee blew his whistle and when he tried to take it out of his mouth, a large chunk of his lip came off with it.
The Packers jumped off to an early 14-0 lead as Starr threw two touchdown passes to Boyd Dowler of eight and then 43 yards.
The Cowboys then shut down the Packers offense and began to whittle away the lead. First, Starr was sacked and fumbled deep in Green Bay territory. Dallas’ George Andrei scooped up the loose ball and ran it in from seven yards out to cut the Packers led in half. Danny Villanueva booted a 21-yard field goal later in the second quarter to make it a 14-10 game at halftime.
The momentum belonged to Dallas, but the Packers defense held them off the scoreboard in the third quarter to hold on to the lead. But on the first play of the fourth quarter, Dan Reeves threw a 50-yard scoring pass to Lance Rentzel on a halfback option play and the Cowboys led for the first time 17-14.
The Packers offense couldn’t move the football throughout the second half. They got one final chance at their own 32 with 4:54 left in the fourth quarter.
Starr methodically led the team downfield. He used mostly short passes and a few runs with Donny Anderson and journeyman running back Chuck Mercein each picking up key gains.
The Pack got down to the Dallas two-yard line, but they couldn’t get the ball in the end zone. Anderson slipped on the icy turf and was stopped short twice. It all came down to fourth down at the one-yard line with just 16 seconds left. Starr called his final timeout and went to the sideline to confer with Lombardi.
“Before I went to the sideline, I asked Jerry Kramer if his footing was good enough to run a wedge play on Jethro Pugh and he replied ‘Hell, yes,’” Starr remembered. “So, I told coach Lombardi that the wedge play was still a good play, there was nothing wrong with it, but that our backs couldn’t get to the line of scrimmage because of the footing. I said I could sneak it in because I was right on top of the blockers. I don’t have as far to go, and I could just shuffle my feet and lunge in.”
Lombardi simply replied, “Well then, run it in and let’s get the hell out of here.”
Jerry Kramer and center Ken Bowman combined to make the most famous block in NFL history as they moved Dallas defensive tackle Jethro Pugh back and Starr snuck his way into the end zone for the winning score.
“It’s really an amazing thing, that final drive,” Kramer said. “We had not had much success before that. Something turned on inside of us and all of a sudden everybody is doing their job and we’re moving down the field. I’ve wondered for years how to define and explain that. I use the analogy of the lady lifting a car off her baby. It’s impossible. It can’t happen. But something happens in her body and her mind. She has to lift that car to save her baby and somehow she does it.”
Dowler added, “We were an unusual group of people. A bunch of winners, I know that. I guess you learn how to win, and we did. We learned it pretty quickly and we learned it well. We knew what we were doing, and we knew how to do it. And that’s just what we did.”
What they did has never been done before or since. This would be Lombardi’s last game at Lambeau Field. He remains the only coach to lead a team to three consecutive NFL titles. The Packers win personified what Lombardi’s philosophy was all about and it launched the team and their coach into football immortality.