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Remmel: Packers 'Delayed' In Seeking Success Against Miami


As such things are reckoned, it took the Green Bay Packers a veritable eternity to pin a first loss on the Miami Dolphins.

And that, in part, may be because the lantern-jawed Don Shula was Miami's head coach for the first two decades of the Dolphins' existence.

Shula clearly was a major source of the Packers' problem. A man with a low tolerance for losing, he won more games (328) over his 33-year career than any other coach in pro football history.

And he was never particularly cordial to the Packers. In fact, he retired as the Dolphins' field leader following the 1995 season with a perfect 8-0 record against Green Bay in that role.

Don earlier had coached the Baltimore Colts and well may have been nursing a grudge against the Packers for a happening in a 1965 Western Conference playoff game at Lambeau Field. The game could have been behind his dominance in the series.

On that playoff occasion, Shula's ire was aroused by a 22-yard Don Chandler field goal which sent the game into overtime, tied at 10-all.

The former Colts coach insists to this day that the kick sailed wide right - and, further, he reportedly turns a deep shade of purple if anyone chancing to be around him maintains that the kick was good.

Be that as it may, the Packers eventually prevailed at 13 minutes, 39 seconds of the overtime in that contest - on a 25-yard Chandler field goal - and went on to defeat the Cleveland Browns the following week, 23-12, to capture their seventh NFL championship.

The controversial kick, which soared high above the uprights, actually prompted the league to extend the goal posts' height for the following season.

The series with the Dolphins, which finds the Fins out front 9-2 in 11 games, obviously has been quite a different matter from the Green and Gold's point of view.

Fortunately for the Packers, Shula's successor, the colorful Jimmy Johnson, generously set the stage for the Packers' first win at the Dolphins' expense.

It was the second week of the 1997 season, Johnson's second year as the Dolphins' fearless leader, and he made a surprising decision late in the third quarter, at a point when the Packers were nurturing a 13-12 lead.

Inclined to essay the unexpected, the gambling Johnson called for a fake punt, as upback Bernie Parmalee took the snap - and was stuffed for a mere 2-yard gain deep in Miami's end of the field.

This, incidentally, came after a successful fake field goal for John Kidd worked to allow extra cracks at the end zone for Miami, attempting to upset Green Bay's reigning Super Bowl champions.

Johnson, explaining his risky rationale after the game, said, "When you're going up against Green Bay at their place, and they've got the momentum, you've got to try things you don't normally do. But any time you do anything like that, you have to execute. We didn't execute it."

The Dolphins, it turned out, were fortunate that Green Bay managed only a 39-yard field goal after the "bypassed" punt set up the Packers at the Dolphins' 34-yard line. A touchdown could have settled the issue.

Kidd said, philosophically, "Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't."

In the end, the Packers (2-1) used a "championship" drive...a 12-play, 83-yard excursion climaxed by Brett Favre's 10-yard touchdown pass to fullback William Henderson to dispatch the Dolphins, 23-18.

Favre, in his postgame press conference, confided, "Toward the end of the game, I was telling myself, 'It's going to be this way every week.' People are asking why we're not blowing teams away like we did early last year. But that stuff is over with. We're not going to sneak up on anybody."

In addition to blitzing Favre frequently, Miami's wrinkles included a fake field goal (good for a first down), a fake punt and Dan Marino throwing 47 passes - his most in a game since Jimmy Johnson took over as coach of the Dolphins, some of which were unleashed from a changeup no-huddle offense.

Injuries made it even more difficult. Even while Dorsey Levens, who was getting full-time tailback work because of Edgar Bennett's knee injury, was slicing through holes that grew larger as the game progressed to post his first 100-yard game, and tight end Mark Chmura (five catches, 57 yards) showed a capable return from arthroscopic surgery, the Packers licked a few more wounds.

LeRoy Butler sat out Miami's last-gasp drive because of a torn right biceps, and defensive tackle Gilbert Brown never returned after straining his right knee in the first quarter.

From the Dolphins' perspective, dropped passes were a culprit.

After one third-down pass glanced off wide-open tailback Jeris McPhail in the fourth quarter, Marino left the field in a huff, kicking and apparently screaming.

The Dolphins reasserted themselves in the rivalry the next time around - at Miami in late October of 2000 - making off with a 28-20 victory under new head coach Dave Wannstedt, a one-time Packers draftee (14th round, 1974).

Back home in Lambeau Field in September of 2002, the Packers beat the Floridians for just the second time, erecting a 24-0 lead under Head Coach Mike Sherman with a pair of rushing touchdowns from Ahman Green and an 89-yard scoring interception by Darren Sharper, and cruised from there to a 24-10 victory.

*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 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.*


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