Cowboys, Steelers on Packers Schedule Evokes Ghost of Christmas Past
When the Green Bay Packers 2013 schedule was announced, one thing was very clear: it’s going to be a doozy of a season for the Packers. They have one of the toughest schedules in the league and it will certainly challenge them to repeat as NFC North division winners.
I thought we’d take a quick break from our daily coverage of current Packers happenings and look at some interesting history.
There are two games that really stand out to me on this year’s slate. Not because of the playoff implications or because they are the “team to beat”. It’s simply about some Packers history and how it also connects these two opponents. I’m talking about the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Packers visit Dallas and will play the Cowboys on December 15th. One week later, they will host the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 22nd. The last time the Packers beat the Cowboys in Dallas was on December 24, 1989. The last time they beat the Steelers during the regular season was on December 24, 1995.
So how ironic is it that this year’s games against each opponent come in back-to-back weeks and so close to the Christmas holiday? As you’ve heard me say before: history has a tendency to repeat itself. Is this the year the Packers finally exercise the ghost of Christmas Eve? Beyond that connection, there are others throughout these rivalries. Let’s take a look at each.
Packers at Cowboys
Here’s the box score from that last Packers win in Dallas over the Boys. To put some perspective on how long ago that was, that year was Jimmy Johnson’s first as Cowboys Head Coach and it was quarterback Troy Aikman’s rookie season. Emmitt Smith was still in college and hadn’t yet started collecting any of his NFL-record 18,355 yards. The Cowboys were 1-15 that year and they seemed destined for some rough seasons ahead until that little trade with the Minnesota Vikings. Herschel Walker went to Minnesota and in Dallas, the rest is history. They would go on to win three Super Bowls in the next six seasons. Along that Packers losing streak in Dallas have been some memorable games, including the 1996 NFC Championship game that the Packers almost came back and won. More on that in a bit.
What is amazing is that the streak has lasted through the careers of both former Packers and future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre and current Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (although I do acknowledge that, in Rodgers’ case, his only regular season appearance there was as a backup). It seemed that Favre could do anything on the gridiron, except beat the Cowboys in Dallas. Favre apparently grew up a big Cowboys fan and dreamed of playing for them. Perhaps those daydreams got the best of him.
Rodgers was never a Cowboys fan (that we know of) and I’m sure he would love to get the monkey off the back of the Packers franchise. Some could argue that it was in Dallas during the 2007 season that Packers nation and the rest of the NFL finally got a glimpse of what Rodgers was capable of. With Favre injured in the second quarter of a nationally-televised Thursday night matchup, Rodgers stepped in and finished the game. Here are the Rodgers highlights from that night:
The Packers came up short in their comeback bid that night, but the idea of Rodgers eventually taking over the helm at quarterback became a lot less scary after his performance in that game. At one point, he completed 10 passes in a row. Even back then and as green as Rodgers was, his accuracy was evident.
There’s still the draft and training camp before the 2013 season kicks off but as it stands, the Packers should head into Dallas as the better team and favorite to win. Hopefully when the Packers head to Dallas this December, they can channel some of the 2010 Packers team that went into that same Cowboys Stadium and won Super Bowl XLV against the Steelers.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Regular Season
While the Packers achieved the ultimate goal and enjoyed one of the biggest wins in franchise history against Pittsburgh, the regular season has not been so kind to Green Bay in this very limited rivalry. What is interesting about the Steelers and Packers matchups is that there have not been many over the past 20 years.
Besides the Super Bowl win, another very memorable win over the Steelers came on September 27, 1992. Many of you already know why this game was significant. It was Brett Favre’s first start for the Packers and was just one week after Favre came in to relieve injured starting quarterback Don Majkowski to beat the Bengals.
After that game, the next time the Packers faced the Steelers was on December 24, 1995. The Steelers came in looking to secure the top seed in the AFC and the Packers needed a victory to win the division and make the playoffs. It was simple for Green Bay: win and you’re in. Lose and you’re going home. With seconds left and the Packers clinging to a very slim lead, the Steelers had the ball near the goal line. Here is how that game ended:
The Packers won that season ending game (and it should be noted that the hearts of Detroit Lions fans everywhere were broken as the Lions would have claimed the division and a playoff berth had Yancy Thigpen held onto the ball. I couldn’t resist an opportunity to take a jab at the Lions!). Instead, that Packers win pushed them into a playoff run that got them to the conference championship game in Dallas against the Cowboys. A win over the Cowboys would have put the Packers into their first Super Bowl in nearly 30 years and against those same Steelers. Dallas prevailed and went on to face Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XXX, a game that the Cowboys eventually won. The Cowboys haven’t been to a Super Bowl since. The Steelers have been to three in that time and have won two.
Since that 1995 meeting, the packers have faced the Steelers just three times. Seems hard to believe but that’s how the scheduling shook out. There was a Monday Night loss in Pittsburgh during the 1998 season, Mike Holmgren’s last as Packers Head Coach, which was then followed by a seven year hiatus. Back then, the Packers were still in the NFC Central. The NFL had not yet restructured the divisions and moved to its current format whereby NFC teams play each AFC team once every four years, rotating venues when they can.
The next regular-season matchup between these two teams didn’t come until the 2005 season and the timing couldn’t have been better for the Steelers. That season, the Packers couldn’t buy a win and even at Lambeau Field they were no match for the eventual Super Bowl champs.
In 2009, the Packers traveled to Pittsburgh for the first time in 11 years. Green Bay was streaking and looking to make a strong push for the top Wild Card seed. They seemed to have secured a big comeback win on the road and were up 36-30 with :03 seconds left. Here’s how that one ended:
That one still hurts to watch.
So here we are in 2013 and the Packers not only have a chance to get these two elusive wins, but they come in back-to-back weeks. As I said, a lot can happen between now and then that can change the complexion of these matchups, but Packers fans have to be hoping that there’s a little holiday cheer in the air. While it seems that Green Bay will be facing both of these teams as well as the long history that comes with the game, these are two games I think the Packers can and should win.
Until next time, wishing you and yours a very merry 2013 football season!——————
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on "AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason at: Jason Perone
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