Thanks for the Memories...

As we bid goodbye to 2003 and embark upon 2004, it's time to get ready for the playoffs and reflect on some of the great "crunch time" memories the Packers have delivered in previous home finales.

Certainly last weekend's surreal experience of a pass completed more than 1,000 yards away setting off a Lambeau celebration is near the top of the list. Cardinals receiver Nathan Poole will be recognized for his role in restoring the Packers' playoff life – he will be in attendance at Lambeau Field Sunday as an honored luxury box guest of a Green Bay businessman. Rumor has it Poole will also receive a key to the city.

Yancy Claus
: One man who may not have received the key to the city definitely is remembered in the hearts of Packer fans – not for a completed pass, but for a dropped one.

Pittsburgh  receiver Yancy Thigpen held a Steelers' victory and the Packers' fate in his usually sure hands in the end zone in the 1995 regular-season finale. What happened next has become another beloved chapter in Packer lore:

A picturesque snow fell on Lambeau Field on Christmas Eve 1995. The Packers held a slim 24-19 lead in their game with Pittsburgh. Like this year, a victory meant a division championship. A loss meant an all-too-early offseason.

The Steelers stood first-and-goal at the Green Bay 5 with 29 seconds remaining. After Steelers' QB Neil O'Donnell threw two incompletions, coach Bill Cowher had Kordell Stewart shift over behind center on third down. The QB was a double-threat to run it himself or stay alive scrambling for an open receiver, but safety LeRoy Butler wasn't fooled. Butler threw Stewart for a 1-yard loss, setting up  an intensely crucial fourth-and-goal. O'Donnell was back at QB with 16 seconds remaining. For the first time in the goal-line series, a receiver broke free. O'Donnell found Thigpen all alone in the deep left corner of the end zone. His hands began to cradle the perfectly-placed ball, but has his knee came up to take a step, Thigpen disrupted his own catch and the ball bounced out of his hands. The bounce onto the south end zone grass signifieda 24-19 Packer win and  Green Bay's first outright Central Division title since 1972.

Should County Stadium be forgot…:
A year earlier, a gift came from a much more familiar source. Quarterback Brett Favre gave County Stadium a proper send off with an heroic final play there on Dec. 18, 1994.

A decision to play all home game at Lambeau Field brought an end to the Packers' 62-year stay in Milwaukee. With just 21 seconds left in that long history, Green Bay was trailing 17-14 in the closing minute to Favre's former team, the Atlanta Falcons. With a playoff bid – and possible first home playoff game in 12 years hanging in the balance, Favre started one of his most famous minute drills with a 25-yard pass to tight end Mark Chmura. The Packers rolled into the Falcons' red zone, but stalled on the nine with just 21 seconds to play and no time outs. Favre rolled out to pass but was in trouble as the Falcon pass rush was in hot pursuit. The fourth-year QB rolled right, but found no one open. Directing traffic, he kept scrambling, then as the clock ran down, he made a decision – Favre tucked in the ball, headed for the goal line, and dove in just inside the pylon. Packers 21, Falcons 17 and Milwaukee 105-61-3.

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