The 11 Most Heartbreaking Packers Losses of the Last 20 Years

PAIN IS, ULTIMATELY, WHAT BRINGS US TOGETHER... OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT

By Mike Morbeck (Flickr: Skirmish) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons;

Why would you want to read this? You must be a sucker for that especially painful nostalgia… like us.

Anyway, as most of you know, to be a fan of professional sports is to open yourself up to both the pure joy winning as well as the agony of brutal defeats.

Fans of the Green Bay Packers, a franchise that has been crowned World Champions a record 13 times, have seen an incredible amount of success over the last 20 years, but they’ve also had their hearts broken quite often, too. A great deal of the success in Green Bay over the last two decades can be traced back to its back-to-back future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterbacks Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.

The Favre era was an exhilarating time in Green Bay as he led the franchise back to glory. However, that excitement came with a price. Many seasons of the Favre era ended in heartbreaking fashion and although the Rodgers era has a handful of years left, it too has already seen a plethora of heartbreaks.

Some heartbreaking Packers losses came from Favre interceptions, others came from the defense letting up improbable plays in the waning minutes of games. Either way, they all stung.

For a franchise that expects greatness, such as the Green Bay Packers, a heartbreaking loss in the regular season just doesn’t sting quite as badly as one that ends a season in the postseason. Thus, this list of brutal defeats all came in the playoffs.

Alright you masochist, time to take a hellish walk down memory lane. Both of us, David and Daniel, share our thoughts on each of these damn games… for better or worse.

11. 2004 Wild Card Loss to the Minnesota Vikings (31-17)

David: Losing in the playoffs is always tough to take and losing to the Vikings always hurts, but losing to the Vikings in the playoffs is about as bad as it gets. It was true then and still is. Interestingly, the Vikings scored 31 points on the Packers for the third time that season, although Green Bay won the two regular season games 34-31 thanks to its potent offense. However, the adage, “It’s tough to beat the same team three times in one season” again rang true at the worst time. That potent offense, for some reason, didn’t show up in January.

Losing to Minnesota in the postseason is one wound that will truly never heal.

Daniel: Remember when Randy Moss mooned the Lambeau faithful and announcer Joe Buck nearly fell out of his chair? Yeah, that happened during this game; talk about adding insult to injury. This was also the second consecutive home playoff loss (which happened to be the second home playoff loss in Lambeau Field history). This game officially killed Lambeau Field’s ‘playoff mystic’ as a place where no one else could win in the cold. Sigh.

10. 2013 Wild Card Loss to the San Francisco 49ers (23-20)

David: This game is memorable because the Packers could not stop Kaepernick, and his running ability, for the second straight postseason. Another memory that jumps out was Clay Matthews’ out of bounds hit on Kaepernick early in the game. That hit–if you can call it that–resulted in a personal foul and ultimately a touchdown, instead of what would have been a field goal. Of course losing at Lambeau in January was and still is disappointing. We should have gone to the Super Bowl that year.

Daniel: Five minutes to go, tie game in the freezing cold of Lambeau Field. This is the type of game that the Packers should win, right? Well, they didn’t and that is partially what was so heartbreaking. That and this was the second year in a row that the 49ers ended Green Bay’s season. Somehow Kaepernick always saved his absolute best for the Packers. Green Bay seemed to have turned a corner in 2013 with sensational rookie running back Eddie Lacy and Rodgers both in the backfield together, but the season still ended the same as the year before.

Losing to a running quarterback is always frustrating, but to lose to the same guy (Kapernick) in two straight postseasons was beyond frustrating. Why couldn’t the defense muster up anything? We’ll never know.

9. 2002 Wild Card Loss to the Atlanta Falcons (27-7)

David: This game was all about Atlanta having to come up to Lambeau Field and play in cold weather. It ended up being an uninspired Packers team losing to a, then, up-and-coming Michael Vick. I noticed it wasn’t just the Packers that were looking past this game; the crowd seemed to be sitting on their hands that day, too. If I am honest with myself I think I may have been as well. That game was the first ever playoff loss at Lambeau Field and it was not fun to witness.

Daniel: This entire game felt like it was going to turn around at any moment. “There’s no way this southern team can keep playing so well in the Frozen Tundra” I thought. I remember Donald Driver played the game with essentially one arm. Ironically, he caught the Packers’ only touchdown on the day. This loss was hard to swallow because it seemingly went against the script of how Packers fans had come to understand how January wass supposed to unfold when playing at home.

Lambeau Field has seen a few playoff losses since this game; who knows what would have happened if the Packers hadn’t lost to Michael Vick and the Falcons in 2002.

8. 2011 Divisional Round Loss to the New York Giants (37-20)

David: The first half ended with a Giants touchdown on a Hail Mary pass and it was devastating to the Packers and Packers fans. My first thought as that touchdown was scored was “Nick Collins never would have allowed that completion…” Of course, Collins’ career ending neck injury had sidelined him early in the 2011 season. It’s tough to think of what could have been.

If there was one player that could have helped Green Bay make it back to another Super Bowl shortly after Super Bowl XLV, it would have been Collins. Brutal.

Daniel: The Packers had a chance to go to back-to-back Super Bowls in 2011 and were an absolute wrecking crew all year. They put together a 15-1 record just to lose their first playoff game — what a letdown. What is worse about this game is that the Packers beat the Giants in New York earlier in the season. Then, for the second time in five years, the G-Men made golf season come early for the Packers. What a shame.

To lose the same amount of games in the regular season and postseason in a single season is not a fun thing to experience (no matter how fun the regular season was).

7. 1998 Wild Card Loss to the San Francisco 49ers (30-27)

David: Two plays, just two plays dominate my memory from this game. The first play is Jerry Rice’s fumble that wasn’t–of course we all know it was–on the Niners’ game-winning drive (perhaps that play helped bring about instant replay in the NFL). The second play was when a relatively unknown Terrell Owens caught a last-second touchdown pass from Steve Young between two Packers defenders as time expired…brutal! Game over.

Daniel: I have to admit that the ending of this game was the first time I ever cried because of sports (cut me some slack, I was only eight or nine at the time). But looking back, it’s incredible to comprehend at the names that were involved in this game including Brett Favre, Steve Young, Reggie White, Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens, and so on. Although this game’s finish still feels ‘unfair’ and probably always will for me and most Packers fans.

Jerry Rice fumbled, Green Bay should have won. And who knew the infamous reputation Terrell Owens would develop over the next decade — this game definitely spring-boarded his fame.

6. 2003 Divisional Round Overtime Loss to the Philadelphia Eagles (20-17)

David: This game was a Green Bay victory, just stop the Eagles one more time; and by stop I mean give up 25 yards or less on 4th down. But we all know what happened. Packers fans and Packers players shared the same disappointed and dumbfounded look of disbelief that the referee signaling ‘Eagles first down’ had. This Packers fan just shook his head, much the same way I am doing now as I think back on the infamous “4th and 26” game.

This game still hurts.

Daniel: Most people just remember defense letting the Packers down when they think about this game. However, it should be remembered that Brett Favre inexplicably heaved the ball downfield for an easy interception in overtime of this game, too. Everyone remembers the “4th and 26” play, but some forget that Green Bay had the ball in overtime with a chance to win, but Favre gave it away. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the last time that a Packers season ended on an interception from old No. 4.

5. 2009 Wild Card Overtime Loss to the Arizona Cardinals (51-45)

David: This game will forever live in my mind as the “Arod game”. Aaron Rodgers played so well on such a big stage in this game, but he was not quite ready for greatness. Had he been ready, he would not have overthrown Greg Jennings as he flashed open across the middle for what would have been a game-winning touchdown. Had he been ready the officials would have called the obvious face mask on the game-ending play. The time just wasn’t right yet. Yeah, this is the “Arod game”… and he bounced back from this game and led the Pack to a championship in 2010.

Daniel: This game would have been remembered as one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the NFL. The Packers were down 31-10 in the second half and 38-24 at the start of the fourth quarter and still managed to force overtime. Rodgers threw four touchdown passes and ran for another. Unfortunately, Kurt Warner threw for five touchdowns. Not to mention, in overtime the refs missed a blatant 15-yard face mask, which resulted in a fumble that ended the game. Head Coach Mike McCarthy fell to his knees… heartbreaking indeed.

I think we were all McCarthy in that moment.

4. 2015 Divisional Round Overtime Loss to the Arizona Cardinals (26-20)

David: This was the game that proved that as long as “Arod” has the ball in his hands, no game is lost! Even if the only way to win is a Hail Mary. Heck, this game proved that even if two Hail Mary’s are needed then Rodgers is your man. The game was over, it seemed, as Rodgers scrambled around and finally fired the ball toward Janis. Incredibly, it was completed. Then it happened again. Rodgers did it…again. Janis did it…again. Touchdown! It was then that I went back to the thought that no game is lost as long as Rodgers has the ball in his hand.

Combine that fact with the Packers’ recent OT losses where the offense and Rodgers don’t even get to touch the ball and the answer is simple: go for the win, go for the two-point conversion! The Cards were on their heels; the Packers should have punched it in for the win. Sadly, Green Bay opted for OT. The coin flip betrayed The Pack once again and a Carson Palmer to Larry Fitzgerald broken play turned into a game-changer. Next thing we know, game over. Another brutal play off loss. Another painful OT loss where the best player in the NFL didn’t even get the ball in his hands. Another lost season.

Daniel: Ugh. This was a tough one to swallow. I missed the first half of this game because I had to be at a holiday party. By the time I got home it seemed like Arizona had the game in-hand. But then one of the most magical sequences in NFL playoff history unfolded. Rodgers did the impossible and then he did it again. Sadly though, the ghosts of football’s past simply did not want the Packers to win this game. How can a team lose so many coin tosses in a row in such massive games? This loss hurt because had the Packers won — it would have been one of the most famous moments in the history of this proud franchise.

That moment was stolen from us with the flip of a coin.

3. 2007 NFC Championship Game Overtime Loss to the New York Giants (23-20)

David: I remember thinking that Brett Favre looked like he just didn’t have anything left in the tank as he was standing in the bitter cold as the game went into overtime. I stood up and screamed at the television, “Put Aaron Rodgers in for overtime!” As the game ended, with a terrible Favre interception and an easy game-winning field goal for the Giants, I repeated in my mind “Put Rodgers in”… was I right?

Daniel: I can confirm the above story. I was eighteen years old telling my father he was insane. “No way, keep the legend in, the Super Bowl is on the line” I said, scoffing at his suggestion. As soon as the game ended I realized that my father was right. The Rodgers era could have began in that game — as crazy as that sounds. Favre was simply no longer suited for the cold and it was obvious. With red cheeks, he had no passion left in his eyes. The Giants won the right to go play the undefeated New England Patriots in the Super Bowl and it’s hard to believe there are two heartbreaking games listed above this one.

To think that a Super Bowl appearance for Green Bay was so close in Favre’s last season as a Packer stings. I think we all wish we could have seen that.

2. 1997 Super Bowl Loss to the Denver Broncos (31-24)

David: This game was supposed to be Favre and the Pack going back-to-back, Elway falling further into the undisputed ‘best to never win a title’ category, and the start of the Packers’ newest Dynasty. Obviously none of that happened and I have only one question. Late in the game a downfield collision left both Broncos starting safeties, along with the Pack’s Robert Brooks, down on the turf. The next play the Packers tried a short pass… the big question is, “Why not go for the end zone with both starting safeties out of the game?” I didn’t understand it then and I still don’t now.

John Elways retires as a guy that couldn’t win the big game, if the Packers would have just been more aggressive throwing downfield.

Daniel: Call it being cocky, but it just felt like the Packers were going to win this Super Bowl in the days leading up to the big game. I mean, they had history on their side. However, as I’m know you all know, the Packers didn’t win. But hey, I was just a kid; it wouldn’t be the last time I wrongly predicted how a season would end. The Super Bowl MVP, running back Terrell Davis, left the game with a migraine and it seemed as though the Packers had the advantage at that point. Yet he came back and put together an amazing three-touchdown performance as the clock struck midnight for the Packers’ hope for a 1990s dynasty. To lose a Super Bowl is tough; to lose by one score is even harder to swallow. Who would have believed that Favre would never get the Packers back to the big game over the next 10 years?

1. 2014 NFC Championship Game Overtime Loss to the Seattle Seahawks (28-22)

David: Play the game until the clock runs out. Seems simple, seems smart, and seems logical, but somehow the Pack forgot that last January and two observations prove it. Clay Matthews was standing on the sideline with his helmet off while Lynch ran for a late score is the first. Peppers running off the field after motioning Burnett to go down after his late-game interception, instead of blocking and trying for a touchdown, is the second. It is clear that the Packers thought they had already won the game. Bad things happen to teams that think like that.

Daniel: I was sitting at a bar in Chicago alone during this game. The drunken Packers fans behind me were chanting, “Super Bowl, Super Bowl” when there were five minutes left on the clock. I sipped my beer, cursed them for their potential jinx, and watched as the Packers unraveled in the most incredible way in franchise history. I’ve never seen a team give away a game as thoroughly in my life. You know the story, Russell Wilson bounced back from his four prior interceptions and Seattle sent Green Bay home in overtime on a pass that seemed to hang in the damn air forever. The wound is still fresh… and probably will be forever.

Can a game ever hurt more?

I mean, how can there even be that many heartbreaking Packers losses in just two decades? Sheesh.

Thanks for reading, but I hope you remember that life is good and that Green Bay has won more World Championships than all other NFL franchises.

 

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We seek to bring more context to, and share interesting stores about, the history of the Green Bay Packers and the NFL as a whole. Clickbait be damned. "We" are Daniel and David Zillmer; hit the about or contact to learn more.

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