The Green and Gold proved mortal with a hard-fought 27-20 loss at KC, followed by a Monday Night debacle at Dallas in which the Cowboys did not score a touchdown, but beat Green Bay 21-6. A short week on the road is typically a tall order anyway, but this time the situation was aggravated by losing receiver Antonio Freeman to a broken arm, plus the pressure of a downhill slide threatening to escalate into an actual losing streak in this Sunday Night ESPN matchup.
That looked to be the Green Bay's fate early in that third-consecutive road game, Nov. 24, 1996 at St. Louis. The Packers fell behind 9-0 when the Rams pinned them for a safety in the closing minutes of the first half. On the ensuing free kick by punter Craig Hentrich, safety Mike Prior gave the Packers a spark by recovering the ball in St. Louis territory. Still, the Green Bay offense just couldn't shake their doldrums and came away with just a 37-yard Chris Jacke field goal.
After halftime, stars finally emerged on both sides of the ball for the Pack. On the second play of the third quarter, cornerback Doug Evans intercepted a Tony Banks pass and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown. Green Bay went up 10-9 and never looked back.
Evans' heroics were no surprise. The cornerback shared the team lead in interceptions with LeRoy Butler that season, and also contributed a three sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery during the championship campaign.
The offensive standout was definitely an eye-opener. Brand new Packer Andre Rison, who signed with Green Bay earlier that week, got a warm welcome from quarterback Brett Favre who made Rison his favorite target. Rison was the evening's leading receiver with five catches for 44 yards.
In typical fashion, Favre shared the wealth with seven receivers, including Don Beebe with four catches for 46 yards, Edgar Bennett (4-28) and Terry Mickens (3-36). Dorsey Levens had 41 all-purpose yards, a subpar day for him, but he made them count as he scored the game-sealing touchdown on a 5-yard TD pass from Favre in the fourth quarter. Favre's 35-of-38 for 192 yards and two TDs made him the second quarterback in league history to throw 30 or more touchdown passes in three seasons: 1994, 1995, 1996. (Note: Favre went on to make it five seasons in a row with 30-plus TD passes, and recently flirted with the feat again. After tossing 32 passes in 2001, Favre came up just short in 2002 with 27.)
It can't be proven, but for the '96 Packers, something clicked when that Tony Banks pass found its way into Evans' arms. It was all good after that. Including the win over St. Louis, the Packers never lost again that year, pummeling everyone in their path on the way to winning the Lombardi Trophy on Jan. 26, 1997. The space between their loss at Dallas, so memorably erased on the St. Louis turf, and the team's next loss, Sept. 7, 1997 at Philadelphia, was an awesome ride of nine months and 19 days.