'96 Packers-Rams game became gateway to Super Bowl
Brett Favre, Andre Rison. | File Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
ST. LOUIS - In most championship seasons, a moment comes where a team responds to adversity and begins the critical charge that climaxes with a title.
For the 1996 Green Bay Packers, that moment came in the stadium they're playing in against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.
On November 24th, 1996, it didn't initially look like the Packers were on their way to a Super Bowl championship.
They had lost two straight games, including a blowout loss to the defending champion Dallas Cowboys.
Their receiving corps was decimated. Robert Brooks was out for the year. Antonio Freeman and Mark Chmura were both out as well with injuries.
The Packers limped under the shadow of the Gateway Arch to play the a lowly Rams team that clicked early in the second quarter.
Rams quarterback Tony Banks delivered a six yard touchdown strike to Isaac Bruce.
He outfought Eugene Robinson, who had blanketed him with coverage during the play, for the ball to give the first advantage to the Rams, 7-0.
Meanwhile, the Rams defense was looking fearsome.
They picked off two Brett Favre passes. They held Edgar Bennett, Dorsey Levens and company to 58 yards on the day and barely more than two yards per carry.
To add insult to injury, they forced a safety when Brett Favre was called for intentional grounding in the end zone.
A Chris Jacke field goal before the half provided a little comfort with a one-score deficit at 9-3.
Then, the arm of Rams quarterback Tony Banks started the play that changed the season for the Packers, and started them back on the route to Super Bowl XXXI.
As the Newsradio 620 WTMJ Packers Radio Network crew called it that night:
Jim Irwin: "Here is Banks, quick pattern, quick slant."
Larry McCarren: "Whoa! There it is!"
Irwin: "Intercepted! Touchdown! Doug Evans! Evans on the interception, and takes it in, and suddenly, the Packers have tied the ball game! He caught it at about the 30, stepped right in front (of the intended receiver) and took it into the end zone for Green Bay!"
McCarren: "Max (McGee), is that called sitting on a pattern or what?"
McGee: "I tell you, he had that read all the way. As soon as the ball was in the air, it looked like it was thrown to him! Evans picked it off and from there on, it was easy!"
Packers 10, Rams 9.
Evans' touchdown suddenly turned on the light switch for a Packers team that endured two and a half games of darkness.
Brett Favre turned that light into an offense that caught fire and kept the fire for the remainder of the season.
HIs first second-half touchdown pass was a six-yard over-the-middle dart through many nearby blue-and-gold defenders to Keith Jackson to extend the Packers' lead to 17-9.
His second of those scoring throws was vintage, improvisational, houdini-like Favre.
Irwin: "Here's Brett Favre on a roll to the right, looking, now goes back to the left. He can run..still with the ball, and he's caught from behind, got away! Still on his feet..."
McCarren: "Ah, hah, hah hah!"
Irwin: "...throws the touchdown! Holy cow! It's caught in the end zone! Brett Favre bought time, and Dorsey Levens got open, and the Packers score a touchdown that brings the team off the bench! Holy cow!"
Favre's two touchdown passes in the second half turned an offense that seemed more like a hospital ward back into a healthy juggernaut.
They would average 32 points per game in their final eight games.
The final score in the first of those games: Packers 24, Rams 9.
The Packers wouldn't lose again that year, as St. Louis proved to be the gateway to the road to a Super Bowl title.