Remmel: Patriots Paying First Official Visit To Lambeau Since '79


It may come as a surprise to the average Packers fanatic, but the New England Patriots' impending appearance in Lambeau Field will mark the Pats' first "official" visit to Titletown in more than a quarter-century.

"Official," of course, referring to a regular-season visit to Lambeau.

Lest there be misunderstanding, the Patriots admittedly have paid an occasional visit in the interim for preseason, non-league contests with the Packers on their home turf. But not for any that counted in the NFL standings.

For the record, the last time the New Englanders were in Green Bay for a regular season engagement, it was Oct. 1, 1979, a time when Bart Starr was launching his fifth season as the Packers' head coach and general manager.

The recently - and reluctantly - high-profile Bill Belichick, who has been collecting Super Bowl victories with regularity of late, was not in evidence then. Today the imposing "image" of the Patriots, he then was just beginning to surface in pro football's coaching fraternity as the special teams coach on a Ray Perkins' New York Giants staff, which also included the redoubtable Bill Parcells in 1979.

And then, as now, the Patriots were being touted as substantial favorites to make the "Big Dance." They had not, to be sure, achieved the eminence of New England's current crew, not having won their first Super Bowl at that point, but they were coming off a division title in '78 (AFC East), acquired by way of an 11-5 record.

They also had a talented cast built around quarterback Steve Grogan and a cluster of Pro Bowlers, among them running back Sam "The Bam" Cunningham, tight end Russ Francis, wideout Stanley Morgan, guard John Hannah, tackle Leon Gray and cornerback Mike Haynes.

Looking back upon the Patriots' original regular-season showing in Lambeau Field, it clearly was a night to remember - despite the distracting presence of light rain and fog, on the first day of October in '79.

The Packers, though obviously challenged, didn't lack for motivation. They were to be playing a Monday Night Football game in Lambeau Field for the very first time in team annals - and, of course, before a national television audience.

And, if that were not sufficient incentive, the Green and Gold would also be playing the 1,000th game in their already distinguished history.

Despite such obvious positives from the Packers' perspective, the Patriots were heavy pre-game favorites, in part because the home forces were taking a modest 1-3 record into action and facing a 3-1 New England team just two weeks removed from a 56-3 rout of the New York Jets.

Things, admittedly, began to look ominous in the earlygoing when a David Whitehurst pass bounced off the hands of Green Bay's James Lofton and into those of Patriots safety Tim Fox at the Green Bay 13-yard line.

Two plays later, New England had a 7-0 lead, Grogan hitting Francis with a 27-yard scoring strike and John Smith adding the extra point.

But these Packers, it began to appear, were on a mission - even though they quickly were three-and-out following the next kickoff.

{sportsad300}On second down following the punt, cornerback Johnnie Gray made the first of five Green Bay interceptions, which became a major factor in the subsequent proceedings. It took Whitehurst and the Packers only five plays, from the New England 41, to activate the scoreboard, with fullback Barty Smith powering over right guard into the end zone from 1 yard out. Placekicker Chester Marcol squared the score at 7-7 with the conversion.

The next time the Packers had the football, they scored again, moving 74 yards to the end zone in nine plays. Whitehurst completed the process with a 15-yard TD pass to wide receiver Aundra Thompson. Marcol's PAT made it 14-7, Green Bay.

The Packers shortly again cashed in after a second interception, this one by safety Steve Luke, who waylaid the football at the New England 20 and returned to the Patriots' 10 before being sidetracked.

This time, the Green and Gold capitalized in three plays, one a 5-yard Whitehurst pass to Barty Smith. Running back Terdell Middleton, then en route to a 1,000-yard rushing season, went the final yard over left guard.

Marcol's "automatic" extra point attempt was blocked by Fox, and the Packers led 20-7.

But not for long.

The Pats mounted a 12-play, 83-yard scoring drive following the next kickoff, Grogan hitting Francis with a 6-yard strike just in front of Packers linebacker Mike Douglass in the end zone.

John Smith then added what was to become New England's final point - with 1:01 left in the first half.

But the Packers were not finished.

Early in the third quarter, cornerback Mike Charles McCoy weighed in with the fourth of the Packers' five interceptions at the New England 38.

It took Whiteheurst only four plays from there, and he personally rolled out and into the right corner of the end zone from 4 yards out for the game's final touchdown.

Marcol then added the final point to seal a 27-14 victory, putting a happy period to the Packers' 1,000th game.

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