Detroit Lions: Revisiting Last Victory at Lambeau Field
Two questions will arise this Sunday night: 1) When was the last time the Detroit Lions went into Wisconsin and took a victory?
And 2) Who was the Green Bay Packers' quarterback that day?
The answers at these questions are: 1991 (the last season the Lions won a playoff game) and Mike Tomczak (yes, the same Tomczak who was a backup for Jim McMahon as a a rookie for the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XX).
Yes, the longest home winning streak in NFL history belongs to the Green Bay Packers over the Detroit Lions, 21 games, including a playoff game in 1994.
Make your counts, neither Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers lost at home against the Lions. In fact, 1991 was Brett Favre’s first season in The NFL (with the Atlanta Falcons) and also was the first (and only season) of Mike Tomczak as a Packers' quarterback. Let’s see what happened on that cold December 15, 1991, in the penultimate regular season game for both teams.
Detroit was 10-4, tied with the Chicago Bears at top of the NFC Central Division, led by future Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders (who, by the way, had been passed in the 1989 NFL Draft by the Packers, who took tackle Tony Mandarich instead, in one of the all-time worst Draft selections).
Green Bay, in the other hand, was at 3-11 in fourth place in their division. The quarterback for the Lions was Erik Kramer, who had begun his NFL career as a strike replacement player with the Falcons in 1987 and was in his first full NFL season, and like Tomczak, who had started in place of Don Majkowski, was starting in place of the injured Rodney Peete.
Detroit used the run-and-shoot offense, which mean the Lions started four wide receivers (Brett Perriman, Willie Green, Robert Clark and Mike Farr, and also had rookie Herman Moore, who would become a Pro Bowler from 1994 through 1997).
The Packers, on the other hand, played with a two tight end offense, with fullback Darrell Thompson carrying most of the load, but had a real threat in wide receiver Sterling Sharpe (who had been an All-Pro in 1989, and still was one of the NFL top pass catchers).
The Lions, who were favored by 3 points, needed to win to secure winning their division over the Bears, and to host a divisional playoff game. The Packers, on the other hand, were trying to win to save head coach Lindy Infante’s job after a disastrous season.
The game was played at a 10 degree temperature, with a wind chill of -18, and there were 15,162 no-shows at Lambeau Field. The Packers scored first, after a Kramer fumble at the Green Bay 30, Green Bay advanced 70 yards culminating in a Vince Workman 30-yard touchdown run. The Lions came back with a 67-yard drive of their own, culminating on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Kramer to Clark.
In the second quarter Green Bay added a field goal and went into halftime with a 10-7 lead. After a scoreless third quarter, the Lions had a 60-yard drive, culminating in another touchdown pass to Clark, and took a 14-10 lead.
Then the Packers couldn’t convert the first down and Paul McJulien’s punt was returned by All-Pro Mel Gray darted 78 yards for a touchdown to increase the Lions' lead, 21-10. The Packers scored later, on a Workman 12-yard touchdown pass with 4:10 remaining in the game.
Green Bay had the ball back with less than 3 minutes at the Detroit 44 yard line, but Workman couldn’t convert on a 4 and 1. The Packers had one last chance, on the final play of the game, at their 11, but Sharpe was stopped at their 45 yard line after a catch, and the Lions prevailed, 21-17.
For the record, the Packers had more rushing and passing yards that the Lions (367 to 206), and 7 minutes more of time possession, but Gray’s punt return was the key play that gave Detroit the victory.
Infante was fired after the season, and replaced with Mike Holmgren. Favre came to Green Bay from the Falcons and the rest was history. The Lions beat the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional playoffs and advanced to the NFC Championship game, but they lost at Washington.
Last season the Packers won a wild one 45-41 on the final week of the season, led by Matt Flynn’s six touchdown passes (who started in place of Rodgers, who was rested). Would the Lions be capable to beat the Packers at Lambeau Field? We’ll see on Sunday night.