Flashback: Lady Luck fuels Packers over Falcons

Editor's note: It's the off-season, but it's game day at PackerReport.com! Each Sunday until the start of the regular season, PackerReport.com will look back at a memorable Green Bay Packers game. Today we feature the Oct. 1, 1989 game between the Packers and the Atlanta Falcons at Milwaukee County Stadium.

1989 was one of the most memorable seasons in Green Bay Packers' history. It was also one of the luckiest.

And never was that luck more prominent than on Oct. 1, 1989 when the fortuitous Packers tipped the Atlanta Falcons 23-21 before 54,647 at Milwaukee County Stadium.

In this triumph the luck came in the form of an inadvertant whistle that halted an Atlanta run, a penalty that negated Deion Sanders' 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a fumble recovery for a score by the Packers.

This nailbiter, which was won in the final 1 minute and 42 seconds, was part of a campaign in which the Packers won seven of 10 games by four points or less. Four of the conquests were by one point – an NFL record.

The luck wasn't all good in 1989. The team dropped three games decided by no more than three points and watched its playoff hopes dashed when the Minnesota Vikings defeated the defending AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals on Christmas night to clinch the NFC Central.

Coach Lindy Infante's charges entered the game against the Falcons 1-2. The week prior, the Packers fell into a 38-7 halftime hole at Los Angeles before a frantic rally fell three points short against the Rams.

The disappointment of that setback carried over to the next week as the Packers fell behind the Falcons 21-6 after three quarters.

In the first 45 minutes, the Packers could only answer touchdowns by tight end Brad Beckman, and running backs John Settle and Gene Lang with a pair of second-quarter field goals by Chris Jacke. His 52-yard boot in the first half was tied for the second longest in Packer history and the longest since Jan Stenerud's club-record 53-yarder on Nov. 22, 1981.

The tenure of the game – and possibly the season – finally changed for the better in the fourth quarter thanks to the 1989 Packers' best friend – Lady Luck.

Rookie wide receiver Jeff Query appeared to be headed for his first NFL touchdown after he snared a Don Majkowski pass over the middle. Query used his blazing speed to get to within a step of the goal line when Atlanta's Tom Gordon spun him around and teammate Charles Dimry forced a fumble with a strip.

Luckily for the Packers, the ball bounced back to the 5-yard line where wide receiver Sterling Sharpe scooped it up on the dead run and bulled his way into the end zone.

The huge break put the Packers back in the game at 21-13.

Green Bay got to within a point later in the quarter on a 37-yard pass from Majkowski to running back Herman Fontenot.

Majkowski, who was 19-of-35 for 295 yards, used his mobility to buy himself some extra time on the play. The touchdown made most everybody forget about two interceptions Majkowski threw earlier in the game when the Falcons were building their lead.

"The touchdown, that was a great play," Majkowski said after the game. "I was scrambling and Herman had an out-route called. I saw with man-to-man (coverage) in the corner so I threw it over the guy. Herman, with his great athletic ability, went up higher and got the touchdown.

"On the (interceptions), I wasn't in a good position but on that last one to Herman, I know some guys might not have thrown it but we needed a big play. Herman did a good job, taking it deep and making a great catch."

The Packers took the lead thanks to the right foot of Jacke, who booted a 22-yard field goal with 102 seconds left in the game.

The kick was a relief in more ways than one for the Packers.

Not only did the 3-pointer provide the difference, it proved the rookie could deliver under pressure.

"Every kicker dreams of winning a game and I got my chance and came through," Jacke said. "It not only helps my confidence of all the coaches and players so that they can have someone to rely on when it's needed."

Infante couldn't hide his glee after Jacke's make and who could blame him?

The Packers were coming off one of the worst kicking seasons in club history in 1988. Infante ran through four kickers the previous campaign without much success. The best of the lot was Max Zendejas and he was 17-of-19 on extra-points and an abysmal 9-of-16 on field goals.

To remedy the problem, which was embarrassing, Green Bay used a sixth-round pick on Jacke. It was only the second time in club history the Packers had drafted a pure kicker.

The plan worked. Through the Falcons game, Jacke had not missed a kick (15-of-15 on extra-points and 4-of-4 on field goals).

"I don't ever go to sleep worrying about our field-goal situation any more," Infante said. "Like I told Chris as we walked up the tunnel, ‘You're going to be in a lot more like this where you have to go out there and make that game-winning field goal for us.'

"There's nobody I'd rather have out there than him."

The Green Bay defense, which had stiffened in the second half, stamped out Atlanta's last chance thanks to Tim Harris.

The hard-charging linebacker capped his best day as pro by sacking Atlanta quarterback Hugh Millen and then hurrying him into throwing a game-ending interception on consecutive plays. Dave Brown, in his 15th year, came up with the interception – the 57th of his career.

Harris finished with four sacks (for 29 yards in losses), which tied Alphonoso Carreker's club record first set on Dec. 1, 1985 against Tampa Bay at Lambeau Field.

Notes: The Packers' Brent Fullwood rushed for a game-high 84 yards on 19 carries while Majkowski ran for 39 yards.

- Perry Kemp topped the Packers with five catches for 80 yards while Sharpe had four catches for 78 yards.

- The Green Bay offense rolled up 448 yards.

- Safety Mark Murphy led the Packers with 12 solo tackles and two assists.

- The Falcons finished 3-13.

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