GREEN BAY – If you're looking for some good vibes heading into the Packers' visit to Carolina this weekend, consider this:
Green Bay has won seven straight times on Christmas Eve, and some of those wins have turned out to be rather significant.
The first such game wasn't, though. The Packers' inaugural appearance on Christmas Eve was in the 1972 NFC Divisional playoff at Washington, which didn't go well. But since then, Green Bay has gone from 0-1 to 7-1 in games played on Dec. 24.
NFL regular seasons didn't extend to Christmas Eve until the late 1980s, which is why the Packers' long and illustrious history doesn't include that many Dec. 24 games.
But for those interested, here's the full rundown with various particulars.
1972: Redskins 16, Packers 3 (NFC Div. playoff)
In Green Bay's first postseason appearance since the Lombardi era, the Packers insisted on pounding the ball with the run against Washington's loaded front, and the results were disastrous – 29 carries, 78 yards, 2.7 per carry, and one field goal in the second quarter. Washington went on to lose the Super Bowl to the undefeated Miami Dolphins.
1989: Packers 20, Cowboys 10
Green Bay entered the regular-season finale with a shot at the NFC Central crown and did the best it could, knocking off the one-win Cowboys and rookie QB Troy Aikman on the road to finish 10-6. Despite the Packers' stagnant running game (22 carries, 43 yards) and a fumble return for a TD by Dallas LB Jack Del Rio, the Packers prevailed thanks to an efficient performance from QB Don Majkowski (21-of-32, 232 yards, two TDs).
But Minnesota won the next night at home vs. Cincinnati to also finish 10-6 and take the division via tiebreaker (the Vikings posted a 6-2 division record to the Packers' 5-3 mark). Two weeks later, Minnesota was blown out in the divisional playoff, 41-13, by eventual Super Bowl champ San Francisco.
1994: Packers 34, Buccaneers 19
One week after winning their final game ever at Milwaukee County Stadium in dramatic fashion to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Packers secured their postseason berth with a convincing road victory. Sterling Sharpe caught three TD passes in the first half as the Packers took a 28-6 lead. He finished with nine receptions for 132 yards, while Edgar Bennett rushed for 100 yards and a TD on 21 carries.
Four NFC Central teams made the playoffs that year – division champ Minnesota at 10-6, followed by Green Bay, Chicago and Detroit, all at 9-7. In the wild-card round, the Packers knocked off the Lions at home, shutting down star running back Barry Sanders (13 carries, minus-1 yard), and the Bears surprised the Vikings in Minnesota. Green Bay and Chicago both lost the following week, at Dallas and San Francisco, respectively.
1995: Packers 24, Steelers 19
Forever known as the Yancey Thigpen game. Needing a win to capture their first NFC Central title in 23 years, the Packers received a startling Christmas gift as Steelers QB Neil O'Donnell's 55th pass attempt of the game, on fourth-and-goal from the 6-yard line to a wide open Thigpen in Lambeau Field's north end zone, was dropped with 11 seconds left.
The Packers would go on to win two playoff games, over Atlanta and defending Super Bowl champ San Francisco, before falling in the NFC Championship at Dallas.
2000: Packers 17, Buccaneers 14 OT
Green Bay entered this home regular-season finale with an outside shot at a wild card, needing a win plus losses by the Lions and Rams to get into the playoffs. The Buccaneers, with their postseason berth already secured, nonetheless rallied from a 14-3 deficit in the fourth quarter to force overtime.
De'Mond Parker's 21-yard run to the Tampa Bay 4-yard line set up Ryan Longwell's chip shot to win it, and while Detroit did indeed lose to Chicago, St. Louis won at New Orleans to take the final wild-card spot. One week later, the defending Super Bowl champion Rams went right back to the Superdome and got beat.
2004: Packers 34, Vikings 31
On a special Friday afternoon Christmas Eve game, Green Bay clinched the NFC North in a dramatic fourth quarter. With the game tied at 24, Packers QB Brett Favre threw an interception that Vikings LB Chris Claiborne returned 15 yards for a TD with eight minutes left.
Green Bay rallied to tie the score on a 13-play, 80-yard drive capped by Donald Driver's 3-yard TD catch on fourth-and-goal. Following a Vikings punt, the Packers had the ball on their own 13-yard line with 1:35 left and two timeouts. Completions of 21 yards to Tony Fisher, 18 yards to Driver, and 31 yards to Javon Walker set up a Longwell chip shot as time expired.
It was the second time that season the Packers had beaten the Vikings by that identical score, and the division title came on the heels of a 1-4 start to the season. Two weeks later, Minnesota came to Lambeau Field as a wild card and got its revenge, ending Green Bay's season.
2016: Packers 38, Vikings 25
In the midst of "run the table," this Saturday triumph was the fifth of six straight wins to end the regular season and take the NFC North, and it wasn't particularly close. The Packers built a 38-13 lead early in the fourth quarter as Aaron Rodgers threw for 347 yards and four TDs, and Jordy Nelson caught nine passes for 154 yards and two scores.
Side note: Minnesota's Adam Thielen, who now plays for Carolina and will face the Packers on Sunday, had 12 catches for 202 yards and two TDs in the game.