Reviewing the 5 Most Painful Losses in Green Bay Packers History
Winning championships is nothing new to the team as they won the first Super Bowl in league history in 1967 and many championships before that.
However, the team has also endured its fair share of failures.
Painful losses often come when stakes and expectations are high.
I was born in 1987 and have little frame of reference as to how Packer fans may have felt after some losses before my time. So I went to my father, a Wisconsin native and Packer fan since the 1960s, to hear his insight.
He remembered some losses and exciting games, but even he agreed, none of the games he could think of even came close in comparison to the five I had already chosen for this list which have all occurred in the past 15 years.
5. 2009 Wild Card Playoffs: Arizona Cardinals: 51 Green Bay Packers: 45
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To fully understand the meaning of the game, fans have to be reminded of the state of the franchise at the time. Entering the 2009 season, the Packers were coming off a 6-10 year, Brett Favre had just joined the rival Minnesota Vikings and the Favre/Rodgers comparisons were at an all-time high.
General manager Ted Thompson and Head Coach Mike McCarthy were under heavy scrutiny for their decision to let Favre leave Green Bay, and although Rodgers showed promise, leading a team to a 6-10 season was nothing to write home about.
Moving forward through the 2009 season, Aaron Rodgers had a terrific season and the Packers compiled an 11-5 regular-season record, earning a wild-card spot in the playoffs behind the Favre-led Vikings in the NFC North.
Rodgers leading the Packers into the playoffs was an inspiration of hope. It was the validation that everything was going to be OK in post-Favre era.
The wild-card game against the Cardinals was as memorable for being a good game as much as it will be remembered as a devastating game.
The Packers fell behind to an early 17-0 deficit in the first quarter and were down 31-10 as late as the third quarter.
However, this game served as Aaron Rodgers’ career breakout game, and the Packers came roaring back in one of the most exciting playoff games in NFL history.
In the final two quarters, the Packers scored five touchdowns and took a 45-45 tie heading into overtime.
In overtime, the Packers received the ball first. After being such an unstoppable force in the final two quarters of regulation, many expected the Packers to drive down the field and score at east.
Unfortunately, on 3rd-and-6 at their own 24, Aaron Rodgers was sacked by Michael Adams and fumbled the football which was recovered by Karlos Dansby and returned 17 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
On the play, Adams seemed to grab Aaron Rodgers by the face mask which would have been a penalty, but the touchdown stood, and Packer fans were left speechless.
This game was devastating not only because it was an overtime playoff loss, but also because of the level of hope and optimism everyone had when the game was blown on the final play.
4. 1998 Wild Card Playoffs: San Francisco 49ers: 30 Green Bay Packers: 27
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Coming off back-to-back Super Bowl appearances, the Packers appeared to be an emerging juggernaut in the NFC.
In 1998, the Packers took a step back but still won the wild-card spot with an 11-5 record.
The Packers were matched up against 49ers, led by Steve Young, in their wild-card matchup.
Earlier in the season, the Packers played the 49ers at home and won handedly 36-22. But this game was played in San Francisco and was seen as an even matchup.
The Packers and 49ers remained tied 20-20 with seven minutes to play in the fourth quarter and the two teams appeared to be in a stalemate, matching point-for-point the majority of the game.
With 1:56 left in the fourth quarter, Brett Favre threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Freeman which gave the Packers a 27-23 lead (Wade Richey had hit a 40-yard field goal on the 49ers prior drive).
The 49ers had one last chance to win the game—one drive to win it all.
After receiving the kick, the 49ers started the drive at their own 24 and methodically drove down the field. On one play, Steve Young completed a pass to Jerry Rice, which replay showed was a fumble recovered by the Packers; but since replay was not in use at the time, the ball remained in the 49ers’ hands.
The Packers had the 49ers in a favorable position—3rd-and-3 at the Packers’ 25 yard-line with eight seconds to play. All Green Bay had to do was make one or two stops on quick shots to the end zone.
It didn’t happen.
Infamously dubbed “The Catch II” by 49ers fans, this game featured one of the worst moments in Packer history.
With eight seconds left, the 49ers offense lined up, and Terrell Owens ran a deep slant into the middle of the field and fell into the soft spot in zone coverage. Steve Young threw an accurate strike for the game-winning touchdown.
Packer fans were left stunned. There was no reason Green Bay should have lost this game.
3. Super Bowl XXXII: Denver Broncos: 31 Green Bay Packers: 24
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This game had the most stakes on the line of any game on the list, though, they couldn’t get any higher. The Packers had won the Super Bowl the previous season and were the favorite to repeat as champions.
The Packers and Broncos battled in an evenly matched game. The two teams were tied 24-24 early in the fourth quarter.
Both teams exchanged punts back-and-forth throughout the quarter. Neither team could muster up any offense, and the game appeared to be destined for overtime.
The Packers appeared to get themselves in trouble late in the fourth quarter. With 3:27 remaining in regulation, the Packers had to punt from their own 10-yard line which gave the Broncos good field position, only needing a field goal to win the game.
The Broncos were able to drive 49 yards and scored on a Terrell Davis one-yard touchdown run with 1:47 left on the clock.
Green Bay got the ball back and drove all the way to the Broncos’ 35-yard line with over a minute remaining, leaving plenty of time left on the clock to score a game-tying touchdown.
Unfortunately, it did not happen.
Brett Favre completed a short pass to Dorsey Levens, but then, threw three consecutive incompletions, securing the win for the Broncos.
It should be noted that this game also featured one of the most important plays in John Elway’s career. Elway, who had never won a Super Bowl in his career prior to this one, scored in the third quarter on a bootleg run where he was greeted by two Packers defenders and was sent into the air, spinning into the end zone.
The play was dubbed “The Helicopter” and has been a featured on numerous “Top Play” countdowns.
But for Packer fans, the play is just harsh reminder of a lost Super Bowl.
2. 2007 NFC Championship Game: New York Giants: 23 Green Bay Packers: 20
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This game was an emotional roller coaster for Packers fans. Brett Favre appeared to be on his last legs. The 2006 season ended with Brett Favre walking off the field in Chicago choking back tears and appearing as though he was going to retire and many fans felt that 2007 could be his last go-around.
There could not have been a better story book ending to Favre’s illustrious career than going out with a Super Bowl victory in his final season.
Fans and media alike seemed to think that the Packers were destined for this finish.
Heading into the NFC Championship against the New York Giants, the Packers were coming off a 42-20 throttling of the Seattle Seahawks. The Giants had to travel to Green Bay. All signs pointed in the direction of a Green Bay victory.
The Giants, and the weather, had another story book ending in mind.
With a game time temperature of -1 degrees, the game registered as the third coldest game in NFL championship history. The Giants, primarily a running team, held a major advantage in this instance because it is easier to run the football than it is to throw it in the cold weather. Green Bay was primarily a passing team, riding Favre’s hot arm into the playoffs.
The Packers and Giants remained evenly matched throughout the entire game, taking a 20-20 tie into overtime.
Green Bay’s inability to run the football was their downfall as they were forced to throw the football for most of the game which led to two Brett Favre interceptions, one in the most crucial of spots.
In overtime, the Packers received the ball first and on the second play of overtime, Brett Favre threw an interception to Corey Webster on a ball intended for Donald Driver.
This play ended up being the last pass ever thrown by Brett Favre in a Green Bay Packer uniform, an interception in a game deciding moment in the NFC Championship game.
The Giants took control of the ball at the Packer 34-yard line and moved up five yards to the 29-yard line on two Ahmad Bradshaw runs followed by an incompletion by Eli manning.
Lawrence Tynes, who had missed two kicks earlier in the game, including a 36-yarder at the end of regulation, made the 47-yarder for the 23-20 victory in Green Bay.
The game served as both a heartbreaking loss and the end of an era. It was the end of Brett Favre’s legacy in Green Bay.
1. 2003 NFC Divisional Round: Philadelphia Eagles: 20 Green Bay Packers: 17
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Fans outside of Green Bay may not understand why this game is No. 1 on the list. It wasn’t for the highest stakes (Super Bowl XXXII), it didn’t end on a game-winning catch with under five seconds left (1997 wild-card loss) and it didn’t end on an inexcusable interception in a conference final game (2007 NFC Championship).
So why is this game No. 1?
Because it is the one game that Packer fans still have a hard time talking about. It was the single-most inexcusable loss in Packer history. It was in the middle of Brett Favre’s prime, with a team that could have made a Super Bowl run.
Just writing about this game puts knots in my stomach. I still remember where I was and how I felt immediately after this game ended.
So what happened that made this game so horrifying for Packer fans?
The Packers held a 17-14 lead late into the fourth quarter. Packers punted with 2:21 left in the fourth quarter, leaving the Eagles with just over two minutes to get into field goal range to tie the game.
On the first play of the drive, Duce Staley ran for 22-yards, putting the Eagles in good position to get into field goal range. After a Donovan McNabb incompletion, McNabb took a 16-yard sack to put the Eagles into a 3rd-and-26 hole. McNabb threw another incompletion.
Thus, 4th-and-26; With a 17-14 lead, 1:12 on the clock, no timeouts and one play to get 26 yards, the Packers seemingly had the game wrapped up.
On 4th-and-26, McNabb took the snap and hit Freddie Mitchell, self-proclaimed as “Fred-Ex”, for what appeared to be exactly 26 yards, although it was spotted two yards ahead of the first-down marker for an official 28-yard catch.
With renewed life, the Eagles drove all the way down to the Green Bay 19-yard line before David Akers kicked a 37-yard field goal to send the game into overtime.
In overtime, David Akers hit a 31-yard field goal to win the game, ending Green Bay’s title hopes and leaving Packer nation stunned that the team could allow a 28-yard completion on 4th-and-26.
An often criticized part of this game was that with 2:30 left on the clock, the Eagles had one timeout left, and Green Bay was faced with a 4th-and-1 on offense at the Philadelphia 41. Rather than going for it to secure the win, the Packers took a delay-of-game penalty and punted. The next possession was the 4th-and-26 drive.