With the Packers coming off a rough 28-point defeat in Tampa Bay, it’s important to remember that even some of the best teams in this franchise’s history have put up clunker performances. Here’s a look back at some of those bad games from great squads.
The Green Bay Packers’ loss last weekend left a bad taste in many fans mouths, not to mention varying levels of anxiety in their minds over how the rest of the season will progress. One thing, though, needs to be noted: The NFL season has, is and always will be a marathon filled with highs and lows.
But those championship teams never lost like this, right?
Dig through the Packers’ records and you’ll find plenty of subpar showings from teams that ultimately finished near or at the pinnacle by the end of the year. So, let’s refresh your respective memories and glance back at those less-than-stellar games.
Sept. 20, 1936: Lambeau’s Packers Blown Out by Bears
The 1936 Packers were arguably one of the best teams in “Curly” Lambeau’s tenure as head coach. Featuring future Pro Football Hall of Famers in Don Hutson, Arnie Herber, Johnny “Blood” McNally, Clarke Hinkle, and Walt Kiesling alongside other standouts in Charles “Buckets” Goldenberg and Milt Gantenbein, that squad rolled to a 10-1-1 record, outscoring the opposition by a combined 248-118 en route to a fourth NFL title in eight years.
That one loss, though, sticks out.
Having narrowly won their opener against the Chicago Cardinals, 10-7, the Packers dropped an embarrassingly one-sided 30-3 decision at City Stadium to the Chicago Bears in Week 2. The defeat – the team’s worst in 11 years – featured four interceptions thrown by the Packers and numerous other dropped passes, helping contribute to Chicago’s 20 second-half points.
From the next day’s edition of the Green Bay Press-Gazette:
“The Packers obviously were off key. Except for a period of severe battling in the first half, when they tied the score at 3-all and made other threatening gestures, the team lacked the fire and spirit which characterized their work in the league opener against the Cardinals. They missed blocks, or didn’t block at all, let tackles slide past them, and generally demonstrated that they were having an off day.”
Nov. 5, 1961: Unitas, Colts Kick Packers
The ’61 Packers proved they were serious title contenders early. Shaking off a season-opening loss to Detroit, the squad won its next six games by a combined score of 209-51. One of those games was a 45-7 demolition of the Baltimore Colts in Milwaukee, highlighted by Paul Hornung’s historic day.
So a return trip to the Charm City wouldn’t be an issue, right? Yeah, not so much.
Johnny Unitas threw four touchdown passes and the Colts outgained the Packers, 407-225, in a 45-21 blowout at Memorial Stadium. If not for three Baltimore turnovers – the last a 41-yard pick-six by Jesse Whittenton – it’s plausible the Colts could have put 50-plus on Green Bay that day.
Though Unitas and Baltimore shined, the Packers’ offense sputtered. Bart Starr finished the day 6-of-17 for 64 yards (though he did find the endzone on a 21-yard scramble), while Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung were effectively held in check while the Colts widened their lead.
The loss proved to be an aberration for Green Bay. Outside of a one-point, last-second loss at San Francisco with the division title already clinched, the Packers rolled to their first title in 17 years.
Nov. 22, 1962: The Thanksgiving Day Massacre
The ’62 Packers are known as arguably the best team in franchise history and one of the best in NFL history. After all, they went 13-1 and won the NFL title, outscoring their opposition by a 431-155 margin along the way. One of the last memories from that team, though, was in their lone blemish.
A 26-14 loss at Detroit on Thanksgiving Day may not sound bad. After all, the Lions of the early ‘60s were regularly the Packers’ greatest threat for the Western Division crown.
But, dig a little deeper and you’ll see how rough this game really was.
Detroit’s defense (unofficially) sacked Starr 11 times, forced five turnovers and held the Packers’ offense to just 122 yards on offense. Additionally, defensive lineman Sam Williams scored on a fumble recovery and Roger Brown notched a safety on a sack of Starr.
Offensively, the Lions got early scores on a pair of Milt Plum-to-Gail Cogdill passes and racked up 304 yards on the day. If not for five turnovers, one wonders how much more Detroit would have put up.
By halftime, the score was 23-0 and a Lions field goal early in the third pushed the margin to 26-0. Green Bay was only able to get on the board when Willie Davis recovered a fumble from Bill Quinlan’s interception. Moments later, a fumble from Milt Plum set up Jim Taylor’s late scoring run.
Nov. 16, 1997: Defending Champs Fall to Winless Colts
A 41-38 game may not fit the bill of a rough loss in most instances, but when that loss comes to a team that is 0-10 and without its starting quarterback, it’s ugly enough to make this list.
Midway through the ’97 season, the Packers were 8-2, on a five-game winning streak and clearly looking like a team prepared to defend their title come January. Meanwhile, their next opponent, the Indianapolis Colts, had fallen to 0-10 and seemed destined to part ways with head coach – and Mike Holmgren predecessor – Lindy Infante. Plus, the Colts were without Jim Harbaugh, who broke a bone in his hand weeks earlier in a scuffle with recently-retired QB and NBC analyst Jim Kelly.
It made sense the Packers were pegged as 13-point favorites. What didn’t make sense is what transpired.
Indianapolis’ Paul Justin torched the Green Bay secondary to the tune of 24-of-30 passing for 340 yards and a touchdown, while Marshall Faulk churned out 116 yards rushing on just 17 carries. Early in the second quarter, a 14-9 Green Bay lead quickly evaporated when Al Fontenot recovered a Brett Favre fumble and rumbled 33 yards for a TD. Moments later, Favre was intercepted by Robert Blackmon, who lateraled the ball to Jason Belser for a 50-yard score and a 24-14 Colts lead.
The Packers came back and held a pair of one-point leads in the second half, but Indy’s 72-yard drive in the final 5:19 of regulation set up Cary Blanchard for a 20-yard field goal and one of the largest upsets in Packers history.
Dec. 5, 2004: Packers Find No Love in Philly
The ’04 Packers may not be one of the better teams in recent vintage, but this loss surely qualifies in the ugly category.
Shaking off an early 1-4 start (capped by its own rough loss at home to Tennessee on national TV), Green Bay rattled off six-straight wins heading into an early December showdown with the NFC-leading Eagles. A win in Philadelphia would put the Packers in prime position to get a first round bye in the playoffs should they hold on and with the NFC North.
Those hopes were extinguished pretty quickly. Donovan McNabb threw five touchdown passes in the game’s first 28 minutes – four of which came in a span of less than nine minutes in the second quarter – as the Packers went into halftime with a 35-3 deficit. Things only got worse, as four field goals from David Akers pushed the score to 47-3 before Green Bay scrounged out two late touchdown passes from Craig Nall.
All told, Philadelphia outgained Green Bay, 542-249, while McNabb threw for 464 yards, 317 of which went to either Brian Westbrook or Terrell Owens.
Dec. 23, 2007: Pack Goes Cold in Chicago
Still in the hunt for the NFC’s top seed, a trip by the 12-2 Packers to face the 5-9 Bears in Chicago didn’t seem like a tall task. Yet, much like the weather that day on Lake Michigan, Green Bay was blown away by the Bears’ defense.
Green Bay was fortunate to only be down 6-0 midway through the second quarter following a turnover on downs and a blocked punt. Then, Ryan Grant’s 66-yard touchdown run appeared to give hope the offense may bust out of the offensive funk highlighted by Favre’s measly nine yards passing to that point.
Chicago, though, responded with a scoring drive of its own to go into halftime up 13-7. Disaster came in the third quarter, when a Favre interception and another blocked punt pushed the score to 28-7. To add insult to injury, Brian Urlacher capped the scoring with an 85-yard pick-six.
Aside from Grant’s scoring run and 38 passing yards from Favre in garbage time, the Packer offense managed just 170 yards of offense on the day.