The Green Bay Packers’ Week 1 loss to the New Orleans Saints was far from a fun endeavor for fans. However, starting the year without a win has hardly been a death sentence for many Packer squads of the past.
Starting the season with a loss is never fun. Starting the season with a blowout loss? Well, this week has shown Green Bay Packers fans how uncomfortable that can be.
While that loss to the New Orleans Saints didn’t provide many bright spots, a look back at this franchise’s history shows opening the year without a win isn’t a sign of terrible things to come. In fact, many squads have turned things around rather quickly after uninspiring lid-lifters.
How It Started: Year two of Vince Lombardi’s tenure didn’t exactly start out as many hoped it would. With higher expectations following a surprising 7-5 finish in ’59 (the team’s finish season above .500 in 12 years), the Packers suffered a sloppy 17-14 loss to the Chicago Bears at Green Bay City Stadium. Leading 14-0 entering the fourth quarter, the Bears cut the lead in half early in the stanza, while a Jim Taylor fumble set up an 18-yard run from Willie Galimore to tie the game. Later in the game, a Bart Starr pass was deflected and intercepted by Earl Leggett, allowing the Bears to move into field goal range for the win. Making matters worse in the loss: Green Bay drove into Chicago territory three times in the first quarter and came away with no points.
How It Ended: The Packers quickly rebounded from the loss with four-straight victories. Though losses in three of four November contests put the team’s hopes for a Western Conference title in serious jeopardy, a 41-13 blowout of the Bears at Wrigley Field put things back on track. During the team’s annual season-ending West Coast swing, they captured wins over the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams to claim their first postseason appearance in 16 years. However, that season would end with a heart-breaking 17-13 loss at the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL Championship Game.
How It Started: Looking to defend their conference crown in ’61, things got off to a precarious start with a 17-13 loss to the Detroit Lions at Milwaukee County Stadium. After Taylor’s one-yard plunge capped a 69-yard drive on the opening possession, Green Bay could muster little else against the stout Lions defense. Two touchdowns from Nick Pietrosante – the second of which was set up by Yale Lary’s fake punt – got Detroit a 14-7 lead in the second quarter, while a pair of Paul Hornung field goals were all the Packers could counter with. Trailing by four in the game’s final minutes, Starr drove the Packers to Detroit’s 21, but his pass bounced off Gary Knafelc’s fingers and into the hands of Dick “Night Train” Lane to seal the defeat.
How It Ended: A six-game winning streak quickly erased memories of that season-opening loss and had the Packers in the driver’s seat for another Western Conference title. An early November defeat to the Baltimore Colts put that into question, but Green Bay rattled off an additional four-straight victories – that last a 20-17 triumph against the New York Giants in Milwaukee – to clinch another conference crown. In a return appearance to the NFL title tilt, the Packers reversed their fortunes with a dominant 37-0 shutout of the Giants in Green Bay.
How It Started: Fresh off a second-consecutive NFL title and a win in the inaugural NFL-AFL Championship Game (better remembered at Super Bowl I), the schedule makers gave the Packers a Week 1 date at home against the Lions – a four-win team the year prior – and new head coach Joe Schmidt. What transpired on the field was far from expected. Starr, the reigning MVP, was intercepted four times and sacked seven times as the Lions took a 17-0 lead into the break. A pair of Elijah Pitts touchdowns, got the Packers within three midway through the fourth quarter, while an 84-yard catch-and-run on a Starr-to-Pitts screen pass set up Don Chandler’s game-tying field goal in the disappointing 17-17 draw.
How It Ended: Despite losing Starr to injury two weeks later, the Packers picked up nine wins over the following 11 weeks and clinched the inaugural NFL Central Division title by the end of November. Though a pair of losses dampened expectations heading into the postseason, Green Bay knocked off the favored Rams in Milwaukee in the Western Conference Championship, then snuck past the Dallas Cowboys in the famed “Ice Bowl” eight days later. In Super Bowl II, the Packers claimed a comfortable 33-14 win over the Oakland Raiders in Lombardi’s final game as head coach in Green Bay.
How It Started: After back-to-back postseason appearances, expectations were the Packers would continue to improve in ’95. It just didn’t begin that way. Hosting the recently-relocated St. Louis Rams at Lambeau Field, Brett Favre threw three interceptions and was constantly harassed by St. Louis’ defensive front in a 17-14 loss, ending the Packers’ 10-game home winning streak and the Rams’ seven-game skid. Despite outgaining the visitors on the day, 315-187, Green Bay trailed 17-7 with five minutes remaining. Though an 11-yard touchdown catch by Charles Jordan got the Packers within three with 1:36 remaining, the ensuing onside kick was recovered to dash any wild comeback hopes.
How It Ended: Five wins in the next six games got the Packers moving in the right direction again, though a pair of mid-season dome losses at Detroit and Minnesota dropped them to 5-4 by early November. Six more wins in the final two months – bookended with dramatic and memorable wins at Lambeau Field over the Bears and Steelers – got Green Bay its first NFC Central championship in 23 years and a third-straight playoff appearance. In the playoffs, the Packers downed the Atlanta Falcons, 37-20, and upset the 49ers, 27-17, to advance to the NFC Championship Game, where a fourth-quarter rally sent them to a 38-27 loss at Dallas.
How It Started: The ’03 season featured plenty of fanfare to open, but it didn’t stay that way for long. Coming off a division title in 2002 and a highly-anticipated rededication of Lambeau Field in Week 1, the Packers fell flat in a 30-25 defeat to the Minnesota Vikings. Four first-half turnovers and a big day from Randy Moss (nine catches, 150 yards, 1 TD) put Green Bay in a 20-3 hole by halftime and a 27-3 deficit midway through the third quarter. Though two Ahman Green touchdowns and a Favre-to-Javon Walker scoring connection got the Packers close, it would be Minnesota spoiling the festivities.
How It Ended: Injuries and inconsistent play riddled the Packers through the first half of the season. A Monday night loss at home to Philadelphia put Green Bay at 4-5 midway through November and a sloppy 22-14 loss on Thanksgiving at Detroit made their record 6-6 entering December. However, three-straight wins combined with a faltering Vikings squad put the Packers back into the playoff picture entering Week 17. During the final moments of a 31-3 home rout of the Denver Broncos, the improbable NFC North title was clinched with Minnesota’s 18-17 loss at the Arizona Cardinals. The playoffs saw the Packers pull out a thrilling overtime win against the Seattle Seahawks before things came to a halt one week later in a crushing Divisional Playoff loss at Philadelphia.
How It Started: Three seasons. Three tough defeats to begin promising seasons. In 2012, Jim Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers churned out 186 rushing yards, while the Packers’ late rally fell short in a 30-22 defeat at Lambeau Field. One year later in northern California, San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick – who ran for 181 yards in their playoff meeting eight months prior – threw for 412 yards and Green Bay endured a 34-28 defeat. Now cap it off in 2014, when a 10-10 tie in Seattle quickly devolved into a sloppy 36-16 loss to the Seahawks.
How It Ended: In all three instances, the Packers rebounded and won the NFC North title – albeit in far-different circumstances each time. The ’12 campaign witnessed Green Bay wipe away a 2-3 start with nine wins over 10 games to claim a second-straight NFC North title, then win a Wild Card rematch with the Vikings before suffering the aforementioned Divisional round loss in San Francisco. In ’13, injuries nearly put the Packers out of the playoffs, but a roller coaster December and a wild Week 17 win at Chicago got Green Bay into the playoffs before a last-second loss to the 49ers. Come ’14, the Packers rolled to a division title, then picked up an exhilarating playoff win over Dallas before falling in crushing fashion at Seattle.