The 10 Most Heartbreaking Playoff Losses In Green Bay Packers History
Waking up the day after a Green Bay loss is difficult for a lot of Packers fans. When that loss is in the playoffs, it can be darned near impossible. That was the case for me this morning. I’m still reeling from the 37-20 dismantling of the Packers, at home, at the hands of the New York Giants in the 2011 Divisional Round of the NFC Playoffs. I, like many fans, am heartbroken and saddened by opportunities lost.
As a Packers fan of more than 30 years, I’ve seen my share of tough losses. Yesterday’s loss was bad, but I found myself wondering where it stands in the ranks of all-time Packers playoff heartbreakers. Of the ten I came up with, I’ve personally witnessed eight of them. All were painful to watch, I can assure you.
Here they are: The Ten Most Heartbreaking Playoff Losses In Green Bay Packers History!
#10 – Dec. 26, 1960 NFL Championship Philadelphia 17, Green Bay 13
This 1960 title game loss to the Philadelphia Eagles marked the lone playoff defeat for legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi. After this loss, the Packers and Lombardi went on to establish a dynasty that won five NFL championships, including both Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II over the course of seven years. Heartbreaking? Yes, but I think those 5 world titles probably helped take some of the sting away.
#09 – Dec. 11, 1938 NFL Championship N.Y. Giants 23, Green Bay 17
The Green Bay Packers won their first NFL title in 1936. It was just the 3rd year that the NFL held a title playoff game to determine the league championship. Green Bay made its 2nd ever title game appearance in 1938, but was denied a 2nd Championship by the New York Giants. The Giants became the first franchise in NFL history to win two titles. The two teams met again in the title game the following season where the Packers extracted a measure of revenge, defeating the Giants soundly, 27-0.
#08 – Jan. 4, 2003 NFC Wild Card Atlanta 27, Green Bay 7
Brett Favre’s 17th playoff appearance since 1994 resulted in the first home playoff loss in Green Bay Packers history (11 games since 1933). The Packers entered the game with a record of 12-4 and were the only team in the NFL to go undefeated at home that season. Brett Favre was 35-0 when the game time temperature was 34 degrees or colder and it was 31 degrees at kickoff. Going into the game, a loss to Atlanta was inconceivable.
Michael Vick’s Falcons ran over Green Bay that day with the help of 3 lost fumbles and 2 Brett Favre interceptions. Injuries to DonaldDriver, Ahman Green and Terry Glenn made a 2nd half comeback from a 24-0 deficit impossible.
#07 – Jan. 14, 1996 NFC Championship Dallas 38, Green Bay 27
After Bett Favre took over for an injured Don Majkowski and hall of fame Defensive End Reggie White arrived in free agency, the Green Bay Packers were a young team on the rise in the early 90s. The team made the playoffs for the first time in over a decade in 1993 and again in 1994. Both times, the Packers suffered defeat in the playoffs at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys’ future Hall of Fame “Triplets” – Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin – led Dallas to three Super Bowl victories in four years and were the measuring stick by which the Packers gauged their own Super Bowl worthiness.
In 1995, the Packers and their fans felt the team had finally closed the talent gap on Dallas. They won the NFC Central Title for the first time since 1972. They beat the Atlanta Falcons at home in the Wild Card round and went on to beat the defending Super Bowl Champion 49ers on the road. The Packers went to Dallas in January brimming with confidence and took a 27-24 lead into the 4th quarter.
It wasn’t enough, however, as Brett Favre was sacked 4 times and threw 2 interceptions in what was ultimately a 38-27 loss. Favre won the first of his three NFL Most Valuable Player awards that year, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Packers’ season from ending in heartbreak.
#06 – Jan. 3, 1999 NFC Wild Card San Francisco 30, Green Bay 27
The Green Bay Packers had appeared in the Super Bowl following the 1996 and 1997 seasons and entered 1998 with a big chip on their shoulder. Green Bay finished in 2nd place in the NFC Central behind the 15-1 Minnesota Vikings. It was the first time the Packers failed to win the division in 4 years, so they had to open the playoffs on the road against the San Francisco 49ers as a Wild Card team.
Confidence was high because the Packers had knocked Steve Young’s 49ers out of the playoffs in each of the previous three seasons. The game was a thriller. The Packers took the lead, 27-23, with just 1:55 to play in the 4th quarter. The Packers kicked off and Steve Young drove his team methodically down the field.
Up until this point, Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice had been held without a catch On this final drive, Young connected with Rice for a six yard gain at which point Rice fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Green Bay. The officials ruled that Rice was down, however, so the drive continued. Since there was no instant replay that year, there was nothing the Packers could do to challenge the ruling.
A few plays later, with 8 seconds remaining, Steve Young split 3 defenders and hit Terrell Owens in the end zone for the winning score. It was brutal. Brutal, not just because of the loss, but because it marked the end of an era. This was Reggie White’s final game in a Packers uniform and Mike Holmgren’s final game on the sidelines as Green Bay’s head coach.
#05 – Jan. 14, 2012 NFC Divisional N.Y. Giants 37, Green Bay 20
Fresh off a winning Super Bowl XLV run in 2010, the Green Bay Packers were thinking “Dynasty.” Aaron Rodgers said it was his goal to win 5 Super Bowls since no one’s ever done it. Needless to say, confidence levels and expectations were high.
Green Bay cruised to a 15-1 regular season record. The lone loss came at the hands of the Kansas City
Chiefs, but the 15-1 mark was good enough to secure the NFC’s number 1 seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The New York Giants had no shortage of confidence themselves. The Packers defeated the Giants in New York in December, 38-35 in a thriller that moved the Packers to 12-0 and an NFC North title while simultaneously sending the Giants to 6-6, seriously endangering their already fading playoff hopes. Unfortunately for the Packers, the Giants ended up making the playoffs and traveled to Lambeau for a playoff rematch.
Eli Manning’s Giants rolled over the Packers’ 32nd ranked defense with the help of four Packers turnovers and more than a half a dozen dropped passes. Green Bay Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked 4 times and displayed none of the MVP form he had shown in the regular season.
This one is going to hurt for a while.
#04 – Jan. 20, 2008 NFC Championship N.Y. Giants 23, Green Bay 20 (OT)
The New York Giants have already appeared in this list twice. Their third appearance is for the 2007 NFC Championship game in Green Bay. Packers GM Ted Thompson was in the process of rebuilding a Packers team decimated by talent loss during the Mike Sherman years. With a young team and a veteran Quarterback, the Packers surprised a lot of people by winning 13 games and earning an NFC North Title.
The Packers’ 13-3 record earned them the NFC’s number 2 seed and a Wild Card round bye. In the divisional round, the Packers defeated the number 3 seeded Seattle Seahawks, led by former Packers coach Mike Holmgren, 42-20. The number 4 seed Giants, meanwhile, had defeated fourth seeded Tampa Bay in the Wild Card round and took out their division rival Dallas Cowboys in the Divisional round. The Cowboys were the number 1 seed in the playoffs that season, so the Giants victory meant the Packers would host the NFC Championship Game in Green Bay.
It was the third coldest game in NFL History with a game time temperature of minus one degree and wind chills of up to forty below zero. The Packers were trailing 20-17 in the 4th quarter when Brett Favre led the team to a game tying field goal to force overtime. The Packers won the overtime coin toss and elected to receive. On the ensuing drive, Brett Favre threw an ill advised pass which was intercepted, killing the potential game winning drive. The Giants kicked a field goal a short time later, winning the game 23 – 20 in overtime.
This was Brett Favre’s final game in a Green Bay Packers uniform.
#03 – Jan. 11, 2004 NFC Divisional Philadelphia 20, Green Bay 17 (OT)
This game needs no introduction. I can sum it up in just a few short words: “Fourth and Twenty-Six.”
Let us never speak of this again.
#02 – Jan. 16, 1983 NFC Divisional Dallas 37, Green Bay 26
Modern Packers fans are spoiled by the team’s success in the 1990′s and 2000′s under Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. Some fans don’t realize that there were a lot of lean years in Green Bay in the 1970′s and the 1980′s following Lombardi’s championship runs in the 1960′s.
In 1982, the Green Bay Packers played an 9 game, strike shortened season. Led by Quarterback Lynn Dickey, the Packers made the playoffs for the first time since 1972. It would also be the last time they would make the playoffs for another 11 years. That’s what made this one so heartbreaking.
Coach Bart Starr and Quarterback Lynn Dickey led the Packers to a 5-3-1 record in the regular season. The Packers had a potent offense that led the league in scoring. Because of the strike, the NFL ignored divisional standings and placed the top 8 teams in each conference in the playoffs based solely on overall record. Green Bay’s 5-3-1 mark was good enough to earn the Packers the NFC’s number 3 seed.
In the first round of the playoffs, the Packers were matched up with the St. Louis Cardinals. Lynn Dickey passed for 260 yards and 4 touchdowns en route to a 41-16 victory. It was the first Packers playoff victory since Super Bowl II. In the divisional round, the Packers traveled to Dallas to play the Tom Landry coached Cowboys.
The Packers were overmatched, but delivered a gutty performance. In the end, though, the team’s second half rally wasn’t enough to overcome Lynn Dickey’s 3 interceptions. The Packers’ carriage had turned into a pumpkin once more.
And finally, the most heartbreaking playoff loss in Green Bay Packers history is…
#01 – Jan. 25, 1998 Super Bowl XXXII Denver 31, Green Bay 24
After defeating the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI, it appeared that the Green Bay Packers were peaking and primed for a repeat performance. The Packers dominated the NFC Central once again, their third straight division crown, with a 13-3 regular season record. Brett Favre won his third straight NFL Most Valuable Player award as the Packers cruised to the Super Bowl by crushing Tampa Bay in the Divisional Round 21-7 and crushing the 49ers in the NFC Championship game, 23-10.
In the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, the fans and the press had already pretty much handed Green Bay the Lombardi Trophy. Their opponent in the big game? The AFC Wild Card Denver Broncos, led by a 37 year old, four time Super Bowl loser John Elway. The Broncos got no respect. Everyone expected Green Bay to dominate.
Super Bowl XXXII was one of the most exciting Super Bowls in history, but it was, in my opinion, the most devastating playoff loss in the history of the Green Bay Packers. Broncos running back Terrell Davis ran roughshod over Green Bay’s vaunted defense while John Elway’s 37 year old legs and arm propelled the Broncos to a late, go ahead touchdown. The kicker? Packers coach Mike Holmgren told the defense to allow the Broncos to score that go ahead touchdown during a goal line stand in order to preserve the time to put the ball back into Brett Favre’s hands.
Favre’s final drive fell short and the Broncos won the game. It was the first of two Super Bowl victories for Elway and the Broncos. It was Brett Favre’s final Super Bowl appearance and the last Packers appearance in the Super Bowl until XLV.
This one still hurts, 14 years later.
So there you have it! The ten most heartbreaking playoff losses in Green Bay Packers history. Take heart, Packers fans, this is a young team with a lot of talent and lot of great years ahead of it. Thanks for a great season, Green Bay! We’ll see you in the playoffs again next year. Hopefully with a little less heartbreak…