File Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

File Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


Super Bowl Frenzy: Tales from Titletown - 1996

By Jay Sorgi

GREEN BAY - The 1996 Green Bay Packers had four critical elements that powered the team to its 12th world championship.

They included big play passes from MVP Brett Favre powering the sport's top offense.

He threw for nearly 3,900 passing yards, 39 touchdown passes and just 13 interceptions.

Another piece of the puzzle: big defensive plays from the sport's top-ranked defense.

The Packers intercepted twice as many passes as Brett Favre threw, while the pass rush - led by Hall of Famer Reggie White - sacked quarterbacks 37 times.

Element number three came to Green Bay that year in the form of kick returner Desmond Howard.

He averaged 15.1 yards per punt return, bringing back three kicks for touchdowns.

The formula was no different in the playoffs.

In the divisional round against San Francisco, it was Howard who took control, with two punt returns going for 117 yards, scoring one touchdown and setting up the second in a 35-14 domination in the mud of Lambeau Field.

In the three-degree cold of Lambeau Field the next week, it was Favre's passing and more than 200 total yards from running back Dorsey Levens that delivered Green Bay to a 30-13 triumph over the Carolina Panthers, bringing Green Bay back to the Super Bowl after a 29-year wait.

Two Sundays later, in the comfort of the Louisiana Superdome, all three critical elements made their presence known in a win over the Patriots.

It started with Brett Favre, who called two audibles that led to two long touchdown passes in the first half.

The first was a 54-yard strike to Andre Rison, while the second became a then-Super Bowl record 81-yard scoring throw to Antonio Freeman.

Favre's three first-half touchdowns (including a scoring run) gave Green Bay a 27-14 lead.

After the Patriots used a Curtis Martin touchdown run to cut the advantage to 27-21 in the third quarter, Desmond Howard gave the Packers control of the game for good, running back the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown that - after a two-point conversion - delivered a 35-21 lead.

Then, Reggie White clinched victory for Green Bay, dominating Patriots' right tackle Max Lane in the second half with a record three sacks.

When it was all said and done, the Packers' 35-21 victory made Green Bay "Titletown, U.S.A." again.