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Remmel: Packers vs. Saints


Focusing on football in the devastating wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita - even for those in distant areas of the country, far removed from the destruction - is not a simple task.

And, obviously, it continues to be a challenge for the New Orleans Saints, temporarily headquartered in San Antonio these days, who invade Lambeau Field next Sunday. Yet, despite being a "road" team, they have been highly competitive - having squared their record at 2-2 with a 19-7 conquest of the Buffalo Bills over the weekend.

Under the unique circumstances, there is a natural tendency to zero in on the present and the attendant distractions. The principals' collective history thus is likely to be lost for the moment.

In any case, pausing to sight in on the Packers' rivalry with the Saints from the Green and Gold's perspective, it is remarkable how much has transpired in Titletown since the Louisianans last visited Green Bay for a regular season engagement on Sept. 17, 1989.

Nearly a generation ago, as such things are reckoned, it was a time that Bob Harlan was just 14 weeks into what has become a remarkably successful tenure as the organization's president and chief executive officer, highlighted by 12 winning seasons and 10 trips to the NFL playoffs.

Also when Lindy Infante was early in his second season as head coach. of the Green and Gold and Tom Braatz was presiding over personnel matters as executive vice president of football operations.

Meanwhile, Ron Wolf, due to become the architect of a major Packers renaissance, and Mike Holmgren, then offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers who also would be a significant factor in that turnabout, would not be found at 1265 Lombardi Avenue for two more years.

Not to mention franchise quarterback Brett Favre, then a junior at Southern Mississippi, who six years later would escort the Packers to a league-best collection of winning seasons and victory in Super Bowl, appropriately enough, New Orleans in the Louisiana Superdome.

But, lest we forget, what happened at Lambeau Field that September Sunday afternoon in 1989 was exceedingly memorable in itself. An old-fashioned shootout, it saw then resident quarterback Don Majkowski preside at a hectic, 35-34 victory over the Saints, passing for 354 yards in the process.

The Packers, who had lost their season opener a week earlier, had to come from behind in the closing minutes, by way of a 3-yard Majkowski touchdown pass to Sterling Sharpe, climaxing an 8-play, 80-yard drive, with only 86 seconds remaining.

A tribute to their perseverance, it was the only time they had led all afternoon.

In fact, it had been a game-long struggle for the Green and Gold, who trailed 14-0 at the end of the first quarter and by 24-7 at halftime as Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert passed for two touchdowns, running back Dalton Hilliard scored on a 3-yard run and Morten Anderson delivered a 38-yard field goal to build that 17-point lead.

Fortuitously, Majkowski decided to begin taking over the game in the third quarter, initially orchestrating a pair of scoring drives, the first a 14-play, 80-yard march capped by a 4-yard Brent Fullwood run and the next a 6-play 64-yard sortie finished off by a 3-yard pass to tight end Ed West, closing it to 24-21.

The Saints, however, intervened with another score of their own, Hebert hitting wideout Lonzell Hill with a 24-yard TD pass to puit New Orleans up, 31-21, in the second minute of the fourth quarter.

Whereupon Majkowski went back to work, forging a 5-play, 78-yard drive completed by a 17-yard strike to West, pulling the Packers to within three points (31-28) at 4:15 of the fourth quarter.

The Saints subsequently retaliated with a 32-yard Andersen field goal as only 2:21 remained, padding the New Orleans lead to 34-28, and the Packers' prospects of a last-minute victory began to look chancy at best.

But this was Majkowski's day. Taking over at his own 20, after Carl Bland had taken a knee in the end zone following the kickoff, he gave the Packers faithful immediate hope by hitting wide receiver Jeff Query with a 35-yard bullseye down the right sideline.

Shortly, however, he was facing a critical fourth-and-17 situation, following a second-down 7-yard sack loss. But, again, Majkowski found Query, this time along the left sideline, for a 23-yard gain and a first down.

Fortunately, after a review to determine whether Query had been out of bounds in making the reception, the play was allowed to stand.

Reluctant to give up on a good thing, Majkowski then hit Query with back-to-back 11- and 15-yard strikes, the second of these for a first down at the New Orleans 3-yard-line.

On the next play, Majkowski found Sterling Sharpe in the heart of the end zone for the tying touchdown, completing an 80-yard drive in 55 seconds - with 1:26 remaining. Placekicker Chris Jacke then added the decisive extra point.

There was, of course, still time for the Saints to counter. But, following an illegal hands penalty on the following kickoff, which set New Orleans back to its 23-yard-line Packers defender Van Jakes intercepted Hebert's first down pass in the deep middle, essentially settling the issue.

As the season unfolded, that early squeaker against the Saints was the first of what was to become an NFL-record four one-point victories for the Packers, who just missed the playoffs on the final day of the season and closed out the year with a 10-6 record, their best in 17 years.

It also was a hallmark game for Majkowski, who completed 18 consecutive passes along the way to tie the club record, which had been set by Lynn Dickey at Houston in 1983.

Majkowski, who still shares the record with Dickey, was en route to the most productive season of his career, going on to finish the year with 4,318 passing yards, still the third-most in Packers history, and 27 touchdown passes.

Dickey, incidentally, had himself enjoyed a singular afternoon against the Saints earlier in his career, passing for all five touchdowns in a 35-7 victory over New Orleans at the Louisiana Superdome on Dec. 13, 1981, thus tying the team's record for most touchdown passes in a game.

Edgar Bennett, currently the Packers' offensive backfield coach, likewise had a memorable moment against the Saints. In 1995, as the Packers clinched a playoff berth, Bennett became only the fifth 1,000-yard rusher in Packer history as the Green and Gold clinched a playoff berth with a 34-23 victory over New Orleans.

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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