*PACKERS, LAUNCHING A NEW RELATIONSIP IN HOUSTON INVASION,
HAVE HAD THEIR MOMENTS IN RARE VISITS TO TEXAS METROPOLIS*
Historically and collectively, the Packers have not seen much of Houston, their NFL destination this weekend.
But, in retrospect, they have found it an agreeable place to visit...thus far.
The Green and Gold made three, widely spaced trips to the Texas megalopolis while the Houston Oilers were in residence (1960-1996) and managed to come away with a victory in hand on each occasion - although all three successes were decidedly of the claw-and-scratch variety.
The Oilers, it should be noted, no longer reside in Houston, having re-located to Nashville as the Tennessee Titans for the beginning of the league's1997 season.
The Packers thus will be launching a new relationship when they take on the fledgling Houston Texans in two-year-old Reliant Stadium Sunday, their first such experience since the mid-90s when they played against the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars (1995) and Carolina Panthers (1996) for the first time.
Reliant Stadium, it may be recalled, was the site of Super Bowl XXXVIII between the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers last February.
In addition to kicking off a new rivalry, the Packers also will be marking the 32nd "anniversary" of their first visit to Houston - on Nov. 19, 1972, a day on which they made their initial appearance in the Astrodome.
On that occasion, wideout Jon Staggers was the catalyst in what became a 23-10 Green Bay victory by returning a punt 85 yards for a first-quarter touchdown, staking the Packers to an early lead.
However, it was a 68-yard pass-run collaboration between punter Ron Widby, throwing out of a fake punt formation, and wide receiver Dave Davis that eventually carried the day, Head coach Dan Devine making the daring call with the Packers facing fourth-and-2 at their own 32-yard line.
Running back MacArthur Lane, who emerged as the game's leading rusher with 126 yards in 16 attempts, later put the game away, cantering 36 yards for the game's final touchdown with 4:43 remaining.
The Packers would not return to Houston for more than a decade, but when they did, it was a day to remember. Their visit to the Astrodome Sept. 4, 1983, triggered one of the most spectacular shootouts in team annals, one which saw the Green and Gold gratefully escape the premises with a 41-38 victory, in overtime.
At one stage, the Packers were the possessors of a 28-10 advantage, but leads meant little on this explosive afternoon, which saw the principals roll up nearly 1,000 yards of offense between them (the Oilers 498 yards, the Packers 479) while the combatants were collaborating in the acquisition of 79 points.
What made the Packers' dazzling production remarkable was the fact that they owed much of their success to the precise marksmanship of quarterback Lynn Dickey, who went into the game literally reeling from a severe viral headache, a complication which made his starting status a question mark until after the pre-game warm-ups.
Fending off acute discomfort throughout the day, Dickey proceeded to break his own Packers record by completing 18 passes in succession, and tie another by firing five touchdown passes while completing 27 of 31 throws for 333 yards overall.
Woozy and unable to "focus" any longer, Dickey left the field at the end of the regulation four quarters, giving way to veteran backup David Whitehurst, who then guided the Packers into position for a game-winning, 42-yard field goal by 41-year-old Jan Stenerud.
Fortuitously, the Packers had won the coin toss at the start of sudden death and thus proceeded to score on the game's only possession of the overtime via an 11-play, 59-yard drive.
It was another nine years before the Packers were to find themselves in Houston again - this time on Dec. 13, 1992, when both Mike Holmgren and Brett Favre were nearing the end of their first season in their respective roles as head coach and franchise quarterback.
And they were doing so with a flourish. The Packers entered the Astrodome with considerable momentum, occasioned by a four-game winning streak - consecutive victories over the Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions.
It was uncomfortably close at halftime, the Packers nurturing a 3-0 lead by way of a 39-yard second quarter field goal from Chris Jacke, who subsequently nosed the Packers into a slightly more acceptable, 9-0 lead with 36- and 30-yard field goals in the third quarter.
The issue was not resolved until much later, however, when Favre hit wide receiver Sterling Sharpe with a 6-yard scoring pass as only 3:33 remained in the contest.
In fact, the Oilers subsequently threatened to stage a "miracle" finish, winging 77 yards in seven plays to a second touchdown, scored by halfback Lorenzo White on a 2-yard run with 1:55 remaining.
They then essayed an onside kick, delivered by Al Del Greco, but the Packers' Sanjay Beach recovered it at the Houston 47-yard line and Favre proceeded to run out the clock, sealing a 16-14 Green Bay victory.
-Although the Packers Sunday will be meeting the Texans for the first time, they will be encountering a somewhat familiar face on their host's sideline. They have had prior and significant association with Dom Capers, the Texans' veteran head coach, now in his 19th NFL season.
And initially, for the record, association at a lofty competitive level. The Green and Gold first crossed paths with the 54-year-old Capers in the 1996 NFC Championship Game, when he led the young Carolina Panthers into Lambeau Field the afternoon of Jan. 12, 1997.
An obvious over-achiever, Capers had maneuvered the Panthers to a 12-4 record, the NFC West title and a divisional playoff victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys to qualify for the showdown in Titletown.
His Panthers also made it interesting for the Packers in the early going on that occasion - marked by a wind chill reading of minus-17 degrees - mounting a 7-0 first quarter lead via Kerry Collins' 3-yard touchdown strike to Howard Griffiths before the home forces took control of the situation with a 17-point second quarter en route to a 30-13 victory and Super Bowl XXXI in New Orleans.
The Packers also subsequently had two regular-season meetings with Capers' Panthers, both in Carolina's then-Ericsson Stadium, prevailing 31-10 in 1997 and 37-30 in 1998.
Continuing an association with the team that is more than 55 years old, Lee Remmel was named the first official Team Historian of the Green Bay Packers in February 2004. The former *Green Bay Press-Gazette reporter and Packers public relations director, Remmel will write regular columns for Packers.com as part of his new assignment.
In addition to those articles, Remmel will answer fan questions in a monthly Q&A column. To submit a question to Remmel, click here. *