OCCASIONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH TITANS INCLUDED ONE OF GREATEST SHOOTOUTS IN PACKERS HISTORY
The Packers and the Tennessee Titans, previously known as the Houston Oilers, have had what perhaps could best be described as an "occasional" relationship.
Though the current Tennesseans have been card-carrying members of the National Football League since 1970, the year the NFL and AFL formally merged, the Packers have encountered them only eight times in the southerners' combined identities over that 34-year span.
And next week's "Monday Night Football" collision in Lambeau Field (Oct. 11) will be just their third regular season clash since 1992.
Nevertheless, one of those eight prior meetings, an opening day matchup in 1983 when the Titans were still the Oilers and holding forth in the once wondrous Houston Astrodome, remains among the most memorable contests in Green Bay's storied annals.
- In part because it was a 41-38 shootout...
- In part because it went into overtime before the issue was ultimately resolved in favor of the Green and Gold;
- And, assuredly, in part because of a gutty, record-breaking performance by ailing quarterback Lynn Dickey, who literally arose from a sick bed to preside over one of the most explosive offensive efforts in team history before reluctantly retiring to the bench at the beginning of the sudden death period.
In the freewheeling process, during which the Packers were out front 28-10 at one point, the principals amassed nearly 1,000 yards of offense between them, the Oilers piling up 498 yards to the Packers' 479 while the combatants were collaborating in the production of 79 points.
Despite Dickey's malady, the Packers' attack owed its success in large measure to the precision marksmanship of the ex-Kansas State field general, who had been prostrated by a severe viral headache which made his starting status a major question mark until after the pre-game warm-ups.
Shrugging off acute discomfort throughout, Dickey proceeded to break one Packers all-time record - his own - and tie another which he already shared. He completed the first 18 passes he attempted, setting a mark which still stands, although it has been tied (by Don Majkowski against New Orleans in 1989).
Dickey's string eclipsed his own Packers record of 15 straight, set against the Buccaneers in Tampa on Oct. 12, 1980, a day on which the Packers quarterback was en route to a 418-yard passing performance, still an all-time club record.
The strong-armed Kansan, one of the premier long passers in team history, completed 27 of 31 throws for 333 yards overall and also passed for five touchdowns before the afternoon was over, equaling the record (1981) he shared with Cecil Isbell (1942) and Don Horn (1969), and now shares with Brett Favre (1995, 1997, 1998).
On that occasion, Dickey also became the only passer in Packers history to turn the trick twice. His first 5-TD performance had come at New Orleans, Dec. 13, 1981, personally triggering all five scores during a 35-7 victory over the Saints.
En route, Dickey demonstrated exemplary diversity in his selection of targets, completing passes to eight different receivers, all-pros James Lofton and John Jefferson making eight and six catches, respectively, and fullback Gerry Ellis also weighing in with six receptions, with two of Dickey's scoring throws going to Jefferson and one each to Lofton, Ellis and tight end Paul Coffman.
At the end of the day, Dickey had thrown for more yards than any other passer in Packers history except Starr. Entering the game with 11,510 yards, he passed Tobin Rote (11,535) in the first quarter and closed out the afternoon with 11,853.
He left the field at the end of the regulation four quarters, turning over the offense to veteran backup David Whitehurst, who subsequently guided the Packers into position for a game-winning, 42-yard field goal by 41-year-old Jan Stenerud, the Packers winning the toss and scoring on the game's only OT possession by way of an 11-play, 59-yard march (the last 45 yards resulting from seven straight rushing plays).
Stenerud's decisive field goal came at 5:55 of sudden death.
Following the game, Dickey admitted the throbbing headache had taken its toll.
"I was pretty mixed up there early in the third quarter when Gerry Ellis and I had a fumble on an exchange," he said. "I fell on the ball and I spun around as I hit the ground. When I got up, I remember looking into the Houston huddle and Willie Tullis (of the Oilers) told me, 'You're huddle's on the other side.' I kind of lost track of the benches there....I just had a headache - no nausea or anything like that. It would only help when you lie down. It didn't help when you stood up and sat up - your head throbbed."
An admiring Bart Starr, a patently proud head coach on this record-breaking occasion, called Dickey's performance "a real test of courage...and there are many others...But he was given the game ball by our people quickly after the game because of their respect for what he had gone out and done."
Asked why Dickey had been taken out of the game at the end of the regulation, with the score tied at 38-all, Starr explained, "He simply ran out of gas - he was just out of steam. He had worn down...He had been heavily medicated.
"For a guy to miss two days of practice - Friday and Saturday - and feel groggy going into the game," Starr added, "I think what he did is a remarkable feat, I really do."
Stenerud, Dickey's roommate, also was impressed.
"He's courageous (to have played, under the circumstances)," the veteran placekicker said. "He had room service here at the hotel Saturday night - he never left the room. Even this morning, when he was still lying down just before we caught the (team) bus for the stadium, I thought he would just go through the warm-ups and wouldn't be able to play...His instincts took over."
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. *