Jeff Clutterbuck relives one of the more painful moments from his Packers fandom, courtesy of the New York Giants.
I’m not sure if you’re aware, but it gets cold in Wisconsin during the winter.
Oh, I’m not talking “Honey, you should put on a jacket to go get the mail.” No, it’s usually more along the lines of “Honey, if you don’t cover up every single inch of exposed skin, you’re going to end up losing it after about 20 minutes.”
The wind chill on Jan. 20th, 2008 ended up reaching as low as -4 degrees in Green Bay Wisconsin.
Those conditions aren’t supposed to encourage any sort of behavior beyond trying to conserve body warmth.
And, yet, there were 72,740 fans in the bowl of Lambeau Field, witnessing the Green Bay Packers take on the New York Giants for the right to move on to the Super Bowl and play the New England Patriots.
Listen, the Giants were a cute story.
In fact, during the 2007 playoffs, the Giants did Green Bay a favor.
The G-Men went down to Dallas and eliminated “America’s Team” (I can barely choke down the vomit). In doing so, it guaranteed that the NFC Championship game would be held not in Texas, but on the frozen tundra.
Of course, everything in Green Bay revolved around #4, the Gunslinger, Brett Favre.
This was the year when Favre broke some of the most hallowed (and not so hallowed) records in NFL history:
- All-time leader in wins
- All-time leader in passing yards
- All-time leader in touchdown passes
- All-time leader in interceptions thrown
If you had conducted a survey of Wisconsin residents prior to the game, it was practically a foregone conclusion that Green Bay would win.
I have vivid memories of being in a bar, and hearing my fellow fans discuss their strategies on how the Packers would match up with New England (who lest we forget, were undefeated that season).
Eli Manning? He’s Peyton’s younger brother.
Brandon Jacobs? Please.
Plaxico Burress? The Packers will throw Al Harris on him and he won’t be heard from all night.
Vegas had Green Bay as 7.5 point favorites, which was an accurate spread considering the disparity in regular season success, roster, and storied history of the Packers at Lambeau in the playoffs.
The Giants had pulled off the playoff shocker in Dallas, but this Cinderella run was over for them, right?
Eight years is a long time to remember every snap and every play of a game, but there are certain memories that stand out for this Packers fan. Memories that are just as painful today as they were nearly a decade ago.
Burress absolutely laid waste to the Packers secondary. There was absolutely no stopping that man.
It didn’t matter that Harris, one of the best corner’s in the league, was lined up against Burress. The Giants wideout outmuscled, out physical-ed, and, generally, willed the Giants offense down the field to the tune of 11 receptions and 151 yards receiving.
It’s rare that a wide receiver can impact a game without finding the end zone, but Burress showed that night that it was certainly possible.
Manning did not light up the scoreboard either, but as the NFL has come to know, the man can rise to an occasion like few others have in football history.
His QB rating of 72.0, belies the fact that Manning did not turn the ball over once, which, considering, the climate and aggressive nature of a Packers defense that thrived on them, was absolutely crucial for the Giants to pull out the victory.
It’s impossible to talk about Favre without mentioning the risks that he’d take to win games. Minnesota Vikings fans know what I’m talking about.
But in 2007, things were different!
Favre had only thrown 15 interceptions – which for him showed remarkable restraint.
There was just one problem Packer fans should have known: what made us think things were going to be different?
Favre had ended multiple playoff runs at this point with soul crushing turnovers, but the wool was still hanging over our eyes, obscuring the reality that the fans should have seen coming.
Packer fans have spent nearly as much time analyzing this video as the Warren Commission did with the Zapruder film.
One of the best memes to come out of this incident showed at least 4 other players Favre could have tried to throw it to… but nope! He just had to throw it to the one player who was not open.
I couldn’t turn on ESPN; I couldn’t bear to watch the post-game interviews; I couldn’t watch PTI for about a week.
It was supposed to be our year!
Everything had been set up for Packers fans to watch as Favre took his last shot at adding a second ring to his legacy.
Ryan Grant had exploded on to the scene as a nobody, cut by the Giants to become a dependable member of the Packers backfield. But that all went down the drain, a victim to the success of the Giants.
The logical part of my brain has said for years that, in the end, the Packers would have been handily beaten by New England.
The only team that was capable of taking down the Patriots juggernaut was the Giants.
But whenever the Webster interception comes up on the NFL Network, or in a highlights package for some random game, I can’t help but feel that deep, loathing for the team that obliterated Green Bay’s Super Bowl chances on that cold January night.
Of course little did I know that history would repeat itself a handful of years later…
See Part Two, coming soon