A miracle game winning pass with 13 second left, as exciting as it is, does not mean you’ve suddenly revived a historic franchise from an also-ran into a true contender.
The Green Bay Packers were only 3-6 on November 15, 1992 and two months removed from Brett Favre’s now-historic comeback when they entered County Stadium in Milwaukee against a Philadelphia Eagles team that had become an NFC powerhouse in the years before that day.
Favre was just starting to show glimpses of his Hall of Fame talent, but more often than not, his explosive arm was more erratic than effective.
That played a major part in the Packers losing four of the five games previous to this showdown against Philadelphia. In that stretch, he threw more interceptions than touchdowns.
Was Holmgren’s team really turning into a winner or still a pretender? Hopes for only the sixth winning season in 25 years were waning, so a turnaround had to happen quickly.
That turnaround seemed to start in the second quarter of that game in the County Stadium sun, after Philadelphia started the game with a Roger Ruzek field goal in the first stanza.
Green Bay’s scoring started with the so-far unreliable Favre hitting Mr. Reliable, Sterling Sharpe – on his way to an NFL record 108 receptions – snagged a five yard score, followed by a one-yard Vince Workman scoring run that gave Green Bay comfortability at halftime, 14-3.
Perhaps the Packers should not have been as comfortable while sitting in the Milwaukee Brewers’ clubhouse for halftime. Philadelphia, whose offense was surprisingly moribund with Randall Cunningham only producing 200 total yards all day, rode running back Heath Sherman to get back in the game.
Sherman’s 17 yard carry in the third quarter brought Philadelphia within 14-10.
The fourth quarter began with Darrell Thompson (remember that name, Packers fans?) taking a short pass from Favre – the lifeblood of the Holmgren passing game – and building an again-comfortable 21-10 lead.
For the second time, comfortability was ill-advised.
Two quick scores – a 75-yard catch-and-carry by Sherman and, thanks to pass interference penalties by Terrell Buckley and Roland Mitchell, a two-yard rumble by Herschel Walker, Philadelphia owned the lead at 24-21.
Two fumbles saved Green Bay.
The first, by Sherman, was spawned by a collision by Mitchell and Chuck Cecil. LeRoy Butler snagged the pigskin, and soon, Chris Jacke’s clutch right leg tied the game with about five minutes left.
Then, with less than a minute left, Walker became the ultimate goat, fumbling at his own 23 yard line with Johnny Holland being Johnny on the spot of the football.
52,000 throats screamed joyfully as Jacke’s 41 yard field goal attempt split the uprights when the final gun sounded and the Packers won 27-24.
As Ron Wolf told the Milwaukee Journal that day, “We’ve turned a huge corner.”
One particular observer noticed it: Eagles defensive end Reggie White.
The man who is now considered by many to be the greatest to ever play his position noted Brett Favre growing as a quarterback and a defense that dominated his own Eagles.
Five months later, White shocked the NFL and joined the Packers, being the leader of a defense that helped transform Green Bay back into Titletown, U.S.A.
The seeds were really planted that day, the day that Favre, Holmgren and the Packers proved they were no fluke.