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Greatest Playoff Plays from the Green Bay Packers Since Super Bowl XXXI: Fan’s Flashback
The Green Bay Packers are just days away from beginning their playoff journey with a divisional playoff game against the New York Giants on January 15, 2012. The Packers had played in four Super Bowls before last season's Super Bowl XLV. Those Super Bowls came in pairs of two. How about a pairing with XLV and XLVI?
I started watching football in the mid-90s. This was when the Packers were always getting stomped by the Dallas Cowboys during the playoffs. However, the playoff memories would become a bit sweeter during the 1996-97 season. The Packers had the NFL's best quarterback, a strong running game, the No. 1 defense, and a special-teams unit that starred Desmond Howard, Chris Jackie, Craig Hentrich and Travis Jervey. The Packers won their first title in 29 seasons with a 35-21 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI.
Since then, the Packers have given us fans many thrilling playoff memories. Some of those moments were for the bad (Terrell Owens' touchdown reception, 4th-and-26, Brett Favre's overtime interception in the 2008 NFC Championship, Michael Vick…). However, there have been plenty of positive memories that fans can concentrate on.
The plays that are mentioned below this paragraph are what I consider as the greatest plays to have occurred in playoff games for the Green Bay Packers since Super Bowl XXXI. You might have to fast forward through some of the videos to get to the play. These are in order of when they happened.
Andre Rison's 54-yard Touchdown Reception
As a ten-year-old, this was my first chance to watch the Packers in a Super Bowl. The only other Super Bowl that I had ever watched was the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX. I wasn't able to watch much of that game since I was staying with some caretakers because of a medical emergency in my family. Those caretakers had a kid who insisted we watch Nickelodeon over the Super Bowl… so be it.
The first scoring play of Super Bowl XXXI was one to remember. Brett Favre connected with Andre Rison on a 54-yard touchdown strike. Favre was sprinting across the field while he raised his helmet in the air. Nowadays, he would've likely been flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and fined $15,000 for removing his helmet and excessive celebration.
Desmond Howard's 99-yard Kickoff Return
The Patriots had just scored in the third quarter via an 18-yard run by Curtis Martin. The 27-14 halftime lead was now 27-21. The Patriots appeared to have the momentum. The Packers needed another big play from their offense.
Of course, a 99-yard kickoff return from Desmond Howard would also suffice. Neither team would score after that. Reggie White would finish the game with three sacks. Favre finished the game 14-of-27 for 246 yards with two touchdown passes, one rushing touchdown and no interceptions.
The Seattle Seahawks and Packers were deadlocked at 27 heading into overtime in their 2003-04 wild-card game. Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who had spent a few seasons as a backup to Favre, claimed "We're gonna score" once the Seahawks won the coin toss.
Both teams exchanged punts after their first drives. The Seahawks would get a second opportunity. The Seahawks faced third down as they reached midfield. Packers cornerback Al Harris would jump a quick pass and return it 52 yards for the go-ahead score, 33-27.
With arguably the NFL's best kicker in Matt Bryant, Smith decided to try a dangerous out route with fewer than 10 seconds remaining. The risk from trying to "Bite off more yardage" (As Joe Buck famously put it) was that any of the Packers' opportunistic cornerbacks could've jumped the route. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had to be extraordinarily careful in this situation.
Ryan wasn't careful. Tramon Williams closed out the first half with a 70-yard interception return. That ten-point swing turned what should've been a 21-17 Packers' lead into a 28-14 lead.
I'm not sure about whether I was more excited about the touchdown or more baffled about how poorly that situation was handled by Coach Smith. Regardless, that was also around the time when I realized that, even with all their injuries, the Packers had a good chance to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLV.
Chicago Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie didn't see a wide open Devin Hester running across the field. Instead, Hanie was baited into throwing to B.J. Raji, who dropped back into pass coverage. Raji returned the interception for 18 yards. That proved to be the go-ahead score in a 21-14 win for the Packers.
Dorsey Levens' 29-yard touchdown reception in the 1996-97 NFC Championship
Joshua Huffman graduated from Middle Tennessee State University as a marketing major in 2009. He's been a Middle Tennessee resident from 1986-88 and 2001-present. He lived in the Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin from 1988-01 and for approximately eight months in 2009-10 while completing a 20-game volunteer position with the USHL's Green Bay Gamblers. His favorite sports organizations include the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Cubs and Nashville Predators. He also follows the Tennessee Titans, his favorite AFC team.
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