Eric Goska column: Epic opening march helps Packers continue December domination at home

Dec. 8, 2013

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Green Bay Packers quarterback Matt Flynn, left, and receiver Jordy Nelson, right, congratulate running back Eddie Lacy after Lacy rushed for a touchdown to cap a first-quarter drive during Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons at Lambeau Field. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media

Winter Driving

The 10 longest opening drives (number of plays) by the Packers in December/January regular-season games at Lambeau Field.

18-90-79:07Matt FlynnTDDec. 8, 2013
14-53-49:01Scott HunterFGDec. 3, 1972
13-64-45:13Lynn DickeyINTDec. 14, 1980
13-62-46:16Brett FavreFGJan. 1, 2006
13-55-57:21Aaron Rodgersmissed FGDec. 5, 2010
12-80-66:11Brett FavreTDDec. 28, 2003
11-47-36:21Aaron RodgersFGDec. 7, 2009
10-74-45:27Don HornTDDec. 21, 1969
10-70-45:54David WhitehurstTDDec. 4, 1977
10-26-24:50Brett FavreFGDec. 8, 1996
Field goal attempts are not included as an offensive play in those drives that ended with a try for three points.


Call it a statement drive.

Call it a season-saving drive.

The Packers nickled and dimed, dinked and dunked, and slid and skidded to a touchdown on their opening possession against the Falcons on Sunday at frigid Lambeau Field. Just as Green Bay declined to be denied on that long march, the team refused to fold against Atlanta, rallying for a 22-21 win to keep their playoff hopes alive.

In doing so, the Packers won for a team-record 13th straight time in December/January regular-season games at home. The previous record of 12 in a row was set under coaches Ray Rhodes (1) and Mike Sherman (11) from 1999 to 2004.

Sunday was the Packers’ 70th regular-season game played after November (referred to as December games going forward) at Lambeau Field. Never before had the team opened with such a methodical and time-consuming drive.

Matt Flynn presided over the 18-play, 90-yard affair that ate up the final 9 minutes, 7 seconds of the first quarter. He dropped back to pass on seven occasions and handed off 11 times with the temperature hovering around 9 degrees.

The offense shrugged off a sack and a 5-yard penalty (12 men on the field). It converted four third downs and was granted a fifth fresh start after Atlanta linebacker Paul Worrilow was flagged for illegal contact with receiver Jordy Nelson.

Flynn erased two third downs with passes. He tossed 15 yards to tight end Andrew Quarless early in the drive and later found receiver James Jones for 8 yards to reach the Atlanta 19-yard line.

Running back James Starks gained 5 on third-and-1 from the Falcons’ 36. Running back Eddie Lacy bulled into the end zone from a yard out on third-and-goal to close out the quarter.

Lacy also earned a first down on an 11-yard run. He moved the chains on a 16-yard screen pass as well.

In all, the Packers picked up seven first downs on the drive. It was almost as many as the Falcons (9) had in the entire first half.

Green Bay played its first December game at Lambeau Field on Dec. 5, 1965, defeating the Vikings 24-19. In that game, the team staged one of its quickest opening drives, a one-play event that began and ended with a 27-yard TD pass from Bart Starr to Boyd Dowler.

In the 68 December games that followed, the Packers’ longest opening drive in terms of number of plays and time of possession occurred on Dec. 3, 1972. Under similar conditions (10 degrees), Scott Hunter engineered a 14-play, 53-yard advance that took 9:01 off the clock. Chester Marcol’s 24-yard field goal broke the ice, and Green Bay cruised to a 33-7 win over the Lions.

Ten times have the Packers opened a December game at Lambeau Field with a drive of 10 or more plays (field goal attempts not counted as an offensive play). Their only loss: a 22-3 setback to the Houston Oilers, a game in which Lynn Dickey was intercepted to end their first chance with the ball.

From 1965 through 1991, Green Bay went 11-12 (.478) in December games at Lambeau Field. Since 1992, the team has been dominant 42-5 (.894), with Mike McCarthy’s teams notching 16 wins in 18 games.

Extra point

The Packers’ longest drive in a December game at Lambeau Field in terms of time of possession was an 11-minute, 18-play session that covered 73 yards in the fourth quarter of last season’s 23-14 win over the Vikings. The longest drive in terms of net yards was a seven-play, 99-yard advance capped by a 32-yard TD pass from Brett Favre to Bill Schroeder in a 49-24 season-ending win over the Cardinals on Jan. 2, 2000.

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If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

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