The 2011 Green Bay Packers have received a lot of optimistic coverage recently (much of it written by me). There is little doubt that the Packers will soon be at the top of most preseason power rankings, but history has taught us that such accolades have little to do with how the season will play out.
With all the talk about Green Bay’s chances of repeating as Super Bowl champions next season, it’s easy to forget that the Packers have fielded many great teams that fell short of a championship.
So, in an effort to gain a bit of perspective, let's take a trip down not-so-pleasant memory lane.
Here are the five most heartbreaking losses in Packers history (with one bonus).
The 1960 Green Bay Packers, under second-year head coach Vince Lombardi, won the NFL West title and advanced to the NFL championship game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Behind the one-two punch of Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung, the Packers played great, but found themselves on the wrong side of a close game.
Down four points late in the fourth quarter, Jim Taylor was tackled on Philadelphia’s 9-yard line as time expired. Vince Lombardi famously said following the game that the Packers didn’t lose, they were simply behind when time ran out on them.
Luckily for Packers fans, great things were on the horizon under the tutelage of Lombardi.
Final Score: 17-13, Philadelphia
More than just a controversial loss, this game marked the end of an era for the Green Bay Packers. It was the final game for head coach Mike Holmgren and DE Reggie White.
Following an 11-5 season, the Packers made their way to San Francisco for a Wild Card matchup. Trailing 23-20 late in the fourth quarter, Brett Favre engineered a 76-yard drive that ended with a touchdown throw to Antonio Freeman with 1:56 to play.
San Francisco answered with a game-winning drive capped with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Steve Young to Terrell Owens (yes, that Terrell Owens) with eight seconds left on the clock.
That would be bad enough on its own, but Young never should have had the chance to make that throw.
Earlier in the drive, Jerry Rice fumbled the football but was incorrectly ruled down by contact. It was a blown call, to be sure, but remember, these were the days before instant replay. If that happened today, Green Bay would have advanced to the next round.
Final Score: 30-27, San Francisco
Fresh off their victory in Super Bowl XXXI, the Packers entered the 1997-98 season with expectations that closely mirror those that the 2011 Packers face.
In a word, the expectation was greatness.
Green Bay breezed to a 13-3 record and made it back to Super Bowl after beating Tampa Bay and San Francisco in the NFC playoffs.
I remember going to my grandparent’s house for a Super Bowl party that year. The conversations I remember having weren’t about whether the Packers would win, but by how much.
Danger, Will Robinson.
The Broncos jumped out to a 17-7 lead and led 17-14 at halftime. In the second half, the Packers tied the score at 24 early in the fourth quarter but could never get ahead.
John Elway sealed his legacy as a great quarterback with a 49-yard drive that ended in a touchdown with less than two minutes remaining, and the Packers' last-ditch attempt to tie the game fell short.
In a Super Bowl where the Packers were favored by most to win, the Broncos played harder and deserved to win.
The moral of the story? The best team doesn’t always win.
Final Score: 31-24, Denver
This was a heartbreaking way to end the Brett Favre era in Green Bay. Love him or hate him for the way he ended his relationship with the Packers, Favre played his heart out every time he walked onto the field.
The 2007 NFC championship game was played in frigid weather conditions (the wind chill hit minus-30 degrees) and was a great back-and-forth battle right up to the final kick.
The Packers survived two would-be winning field goals by New York’s Lawrence Tynes in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t handle a third.
After winning the coin toss and getting the ball to begin overtime, Favre threw an interception on the Packers' second play from scrimmage, setting up Tynes’ 47-yard game-winning field goal.
Truthfully, the Packers never should have made it to overtime, but the loss was tough to take, nonetheless. I suppose it’s fitting that Brett Favre’s last pass in Green Bay was be an interception, but at the time, it didn’t seem so final.
It just stung.
Final Score: 23-20 (OT) New York
As a Packers fan, I don’t think I have ever been more excited, confused and ultimately shattered by a game.
A wild shootout by any definition, the Packers' first trip to the playoffs with Aaron Rodgers was both a brilliant offensive display and a complete defensive meltdown.
The Packers nearly won in overtime, but Rodgers missed a game-winning throw to Greg Jennings on Green Bay’s first play. On the second play, Rodgers fumbled right into the arms of LB Karlos Dansby, who returned the fumble for a touchdown.
Nevermind that Michael Adams illegally hit Rodgers in the head (not called) on the final play. Nevermind that the refs missed at least two other egregious roughing the passer calls during the game. Nevermind that Arizona got a major gift from a Packers defense that didn’t show up to play.
If that game is played 10 times, Green Bay wins nine.
Yeah, I’m still bitter.
Final Score: 51-45 (OT), Arizona
This game was…
I can’t help but feel…
Nope. I have no words.
I’m sorry, I know you were probably expecting more for the No. 1 game on this list, but I just can’t.
If you want to know what I mean, watch the clip. That play will forever live in infamy for Packers fans.
Final Score: 20-17 (OT), Philadelphia