On top of the world

Seven years ago today, the Green Bay Packers were the toast of Bourbon Street. PackerReport.com looks back at the Packers' Super Bowl XXXI win over the New England Patriots Jan. 26, 1997 at the Louisiana Superdome.<P>

The title has changed hands several times, and a lot of players plus a couple of coaches have come and gone since that amazing day. But one thing remains – the Packers will always be associated with the trophy they took back home after nearly 30 years.

"This trophy … this is it. It was named after Vince Lombardi. You play in Green Bay. As important as it is to any other team and any other player, it means more to us.

"Back in July, we set our goals., And I'm so proud of you. You made every single goal. You earned it, you worked for it."

-Coach Mike Holmgren's post-Super Bowl speech to his team, Jan. 26, 1997.

Source: Packer media guide.

The Green Bay Packers made it an even dozen, earning their league-best 12th championship with a 35-21 victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI. The title capped a year full of super stars and super games, as the Packers marched through the regular season to finish 13-3, earning the top seed in the NFC playoffs. Green Bay beat the Carolina Panthers 30-13 in an emotional NFC Championship game at Lambeau Field – the first title game there since the Ice Bowl.

The Packers were the favorite to take it all in New Orleans, based both on their power and personality. Mike Holmgren's Packers ranked No. 1 on defense led by Reggie White and a killer secondary, all under the tutelage of defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmur. The Packer offense had it all with league MVP Brett Favre, a one-two punch of Edgar Bennett and Dorsey Levens on the ground, and an arsenal of receivers including Antonio Freeman and Andre Rison. The star-powered lineup even had an unusual marquee tandem of tight ends in Mark Chmura and Keith Jackson.

When Favre hit mid-season addition Rison with a 54-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage, it seemed like the trophy was already signed, sealed an delivered. But New England proved resilient, Drew Bledsoe connected with Ben Coates to rally for a 14-10 lead.

Green Bay answered with the longest scoring play in Super Bowl history. Freeman eluded the coverage of Lawyer Milloy, caught Favre's tight spiral in stride and went 81 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.

The Packers extended their lead to 27-14 on Favre's 2-yard scamper, but New England, playing under controversial coach Bill Parcells for the last time, wouldn't go away. Curtis Martin took advantage of a rare hole in the Green Bay defense, running 18 yards for a touchdown to pull to within 27-21.

The ensuing kickoff earned a permanent spot on Super Bowl highlight reels. Desmond Howard took Adam Vinatieri's kickoff at the one and headed right up the middle of the field. The Packers' highly-touted special teams lived up to their billing. Howard tore through the coverage, then juked Vinatieri en route to a 99-yard touchdown return and the game's MVP award.

Favre hit Chmura in the back of the end zone to give Green Bay a comfortable 14-point advantage.

The Green Bay defense sealed the deal in a fitting conclusion. White sacked Bledsoe on consecutive plays in New England's next possession. White's three sacks were good for a Super Bowl record.

Holmgren's post-game speech continued:

"To the coaches, players, organization, trainers, equipment people, everybody, this trophy is for you. Everybody. Everyone hada say in it. Everyone got it done. I'm proud of you."

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