Thompson underwent an intensive nine-day search to tab Mike McCarthy the franchise’s 14th head coach (Jan. 12, 2006).
McCarthy guided the Packers to a resilient four-game winning streak to close his first season as head coach with an 8-8 record, keeping the team in contention for the playoffs until the final weekend of 2006, when mere percentage points dubbed the Giants the NFC’s last postseason qualifier.
McCarthy was disappointed the Packers just missed the playoffs, particularly because the team was as healthy as it had been all season and was playing its best football the last month. But the NFL’s youngest club carried that momentum into 2007, winning its first four games and ultimately tying the then-franchise record for regular-season victories with a 13-3 mark. McCarthy also tied Sherman’s team mark for the most wins by a head coach in his first two seasons (21).
With Joe Philbin taking over as offensive coordinator, Ryan Grant emerging at midseason as a feature back, and Favre enjoying a brilliant final season in Green Bay, the offense finished second in the league, its highest ranking since 1983.
Grant then posted franchise playoff records of 201 rushing yards and three touchdowns in a 42-20 snow-filled NFC playoff triumph over Seattle at Lambeau, but the club’s quest for a fifth Super Bowl appearance came up agonizingly short.
In the third-coldest game in NFL championship history, with a temperature of minus-1 and wind chill of minus-23 at kickoff, Green Bay fell at home, 23-20, in overtime to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game.
In 2008, the torch was passed to Aaron Rodgers from Favre, who retired in March with virtually every significant NFL passing record, un-retired in July and was traded to the New York Jets during the first week of training camp. Rodgers became just the second quarterback in league history to pass for more than 4,000 yards in his first season as a starter, and the offense produced a 4,000-yard passer, 1,200-yard rusher (Grant) and two 1,000-yard receivers (Greg Jennings, Donald Driver) for the first time in team history.
On defense, the team set a franchise record with seven touchdowns, including six on interception returns, leading to Pro Bowl berths for three-fourths of the starting secondary in Nick Collins, Charles Woodson and Al Harris. But that wasn’t enough to overcome injuries and other shortcomings on that side of the ball, and with the team losing seven games by four points or less, the final 6-10 mark was just the franchise’s second losing season dating back to 1992.
That led to a series of changes on the coaching staff, most of them on defense, as McCarthy hired Dom Capers as his new defensive coordinator to institute a switch to a 3-4 scheme. The players responded faster than most predicted in 2009, climbing all the way to No. 2 in the league in yards allowed and No. 1 against the run for the first time in team history, setting a franchise record for the fewest rushing yards allowed per game (83.3).
That defensive prowess was highlighted by Woodson winning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, rookie Clay Matthews leading the team in sacks, and Collins joining both as Pro Bowl honorees. Combined with another dynamic season on offense – as the quartet of Rodgers, Grant, Jennings and Driver repeated their feat of the prior year and a new franchise record for points (461) was established – the Packers won seven of their final eight regular-season games to finish 11-5 and earn an NFC Wild Card playoff berth.
Rodgers earned his first Pro Bowl nod and made a memorable postseason debut, throwing for a Green Bay postseason-record 423 yards and record-tying four TDs as he rallied the Packers from a 21-point second-half deficit. Emerging tight end Jermichael Finley also set a team playoff mark with 159 yards receiving and tied a team postseason record with nine receptions.
Ultimately the Packers came up short, however, dropping a 51-45 overtime heartbreaker in Arizona, the highest-scoring postseason game in NFL history. But the disappointment fueled a determination and the late-season surge sparked a genuine optimism heading into 2010.
That optimism led to high expectations, and the Packers became a popular preseason pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Boasting both a deep and maturing roster, and relative scheme continuity on both sides of the ball, Green Bay was primed for a deep playoff run.
The team got out to a 3-1 start in the season’s first quarter, but injuries to key players mounted. Grant, a back-to-back 1,200-yard rusher, was lost for the season in Week 1. Finley, the team’s leading receiver entering Week 5, was also placed on injured reserve, as was linebacker Nick Barnett, the third all-time leading tackler in franchise history. By season’s end, the Packers would place 15 players on the season-ending injured list.
Despite the injuries, the Packers never blinked. Rodgers led the offense by throwing for nearly 4,000 yards and posting a quarterback rating of 101.2. Jennings finished with 1,265 yards and earned his first selection to the Pro Bowl. Defensively, the Packers ranked No. 2 in the NFL in scoring defense at 15.0 points per game. Matthews, who racked up 13½ sacks, was voted a Pro Bowl starter and a consensus first-team All-Pro and was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year by various publications. In the secondary, Woodson set career highs in tackles and forced fumbles, becoming the team’s emotional leader throughout. His counterpart at corner, Tramon Williams, led the team with six interceptions, earning his first bid to the Pro Bowl, where he was joined by Collins, who was chosen for the third consecutive year.
The Packers’ six losses came by a combined 20 points, and they became the first team since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to never trail a game by more than seven points over an entire season. They finished the regular season with a 10-6 record and secured the sixth and final seed in the NFC’s playoff bracket.
Taking to the road for the NFC playoffs, the Packers started by bottling up the Eagles’ offensive attack and winning the opening-round Wild Card game at Philadelphia by a score of 21-16. The following week they traveled to Atlanta to take on the top-seeded Falcons. After an initial back and forth, Green Bay exploded with a 28-point second quarter and never looked back. On the strength of a near-flawless display of quarterbacking by Rodgers (31 of 36 for 366 yards and three TDs), and two crucial interceptions by Williams, the Packers hammered the Falcons, 48-21, the second-largest margin of victory in team postseason history.
For the NFC championship, the Packers faced their division rival, the Chicago Bears, for a chance to return to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1997 season. The game marked just the second-ever meeting between the two teams in the postseason. The Packers got out to a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter. The opportunistic defense forced three Chicago turnovers, highlighted by an improbable 18-yard interception return for a touchdown by nose tackle B.J. Raji that put Green Bay ahead, 21-7, late in the fourth quarter. Rookie cornerback Sam Shields sealed the 21-14 win on the Bears’ final drive, making his second interception of the game to send the franchise to its fifth Super Bowl.
The Super Bowl pitted the Packers against the AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers. In what was billed as a matchup between two renowned 3-4 defenses, it was the Green Bay offense, led once again by the exceptionally precise Rodgers, that was the difference. The Packers stormed out to a 21-3 lead in the first half, with two touchdowns coming off the arm of Rodgers and one on an interception return by Collins. Under circumstances reflective of the entire season, the Packers were forced to overcome injuries, as veteran stalwarts Driver and Woodson were both ruled out of the game late in the first half.
The Steelers fought their way back, but a forced fumble by Matthews at the start of the fourth quarter led to another Rodgers touchdown pass. Forcing a turnover on downs on Pittsburgh’s final drive, the Packers won the franchise’s fourth Super Bowl, 31-25.
In the months that followed the season, both Thompson and McCarthy were rewarded with multi-year contract extensions.
With an unquestioned franchise quarterback, a nucleus of young veterans, and a roster even further bolstered by the return of injured players and a 10-man draft class, all eyes were set on the quest for another world title in 2011.
Due to a league-wide work stoppage that began in early March, the Packers were deprived of an offseason program. The ongoing labor negotiations meant that the players first convened as a team at the start of training camp in late July. With an abbreviated training camp schedule and a bull’s-eye on their backs as the reigning champions, the Packers would have to rely on their stable roster and established schemes to help pick up where the team had left off in early February.
And that they did. Beginning with the NFL’s season-opening Thursday night spectacle against the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field, the Packers stormed through the regular season, reeling off a team-record 13 consecutive wins en route to a franchise-best 15-1 record. The team became just the sixth in NFL history to reach the 15-win plateau, and when combining the start of 2011 with the six wins that closed out 2010, the 19-game winning streak was the longest in team history and second longest in league annals.
The franchise laid claim to its first NFC North division title since 2007 and secured the conference’s No. 1 seed for the playoffs. Throughout the season, the recipe for success was written by Rodgers and a prolific offense that scored 560 points, the third-highest total in league history.
Rodgers earned the league’s Most Valuable Player award and consensus first-team All-Pro honors from almost every major publication. His 122.5 cumulative passer rating set a new NFL record and he also eclipsed the previous franchise single-season marks for yards, touchdowns, completion percentage, yards per attempt and 300-yard games.
The Packers continued to display their knack for taking the football away on defense, leading the NFL with 31 interceptions, the most by a Green Bay team since 1962. Woodson tied for the NFL lead with seven INTs. The defense’s 38 takeaways tied for the league lead and helped contribute to the team’s plus-24 differential in the turnover department, a mark that also tied for No. 2 in franchise history.
Joining Rodgers, Woodson and Matthews in the Pro Bowl were Jennings, FB John Kuhn, Raji and C Scott Wells, giving the Packers seven representatives, the most voted in for the franchise since 1967.
In the postseason, Green Bay fell victim to uncharacteristic, costly turnovers in its only contest, and lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants in the divisional round, 37-20. The loss to the Giants left a foul taste in the team’s collective mouth as they entered the offseason with a renewed focus on the ultimate prize in 2012.
The Packers entered the 2012 campaign with strong motivation and a recalibrated focus that centered upon getting the team to peak at the right time: the end of the regular season and playoffs.
With that in mind, the club overcame its share of adversity in the season’s early going, recovering from a 2-3 start to win 9 of 10 games in Weeks 6-16 and putting itself in prime position for the postseason. With a win at Chicago in Week 15, the Packers secured their second consecutive NFC North title, marking the franchise’s first back-to-back divison conquest since it captured three straight from 2002-04.
During the regular season, it was once again a Rodgers-led offense that forged the team’s identity. The unit ranked No. 5 in the league in scoring despite being plagued by injuries throughout the season. Five different players started at running back in addition to five different combinations on the offensive line, and primary targets Jennings and Jordy Nelson missed 12 full games combined and parts of others with various ailments.
Defensively, the Packers climbed to No. 11 in pass defense on the strength of an 81-yard-per-game improvement over the previous season.
Despite suffering a hamstring injury in Week 9 that shelved him for a month, Matthews still managed to finish fifth in the NFL with 13 sacks and became the first player in franchise history to be named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons in the league.
The defense was also aided by second-round pick Casey Hayward, who led the team and all NFL rookies with six interceptions.
Finishing the season with an 11-5 record, the Packers laid claim to the No. 3 seed in the NFC and a Wild Card matchup with the division-rival Minnesota Vikings. The game marked the two teams’ third meeting over a six-week stretch, and the defense managed to keep league MVP Adrian Peterson in check while Rodgers and the offense built a 24-3 margin en route to a 24-10 victory.
In the following week’s divisional-round contest at San Francisco, the 49ers’ offense proved too much for Green Bay to handle, and despite only trailing 24-21 at halftime, a second-half surge saw the Packers ultimately fall, 45-31.
The typically quiet Green Bay offseason was highlighted by long-term contract extensions for both Matthews and Rodgers.
The Packers welcomed the 2013 campaign and an upgraded facility, as the organization put the finishing touches on the first phase of another Lambeau Field construction project that was highlighted by the addition of 6,700 new seats in the south end zone of the stadium bowl.
In 2013 the Packers were beseiged by injuries to key players at a host of positions. Bryan Bulaga, Randall Cobb, Finley, Hayward and Matthews all missed significant portions of the season. However, the most devastating blow came against the Bears in Week 9, when Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone that would sideline him for the ensuing seven games, a stretch that saw the team post a 2-4-1 record during his absence.
Despite the volume of adversity, there were a number of positives. First and foremost was the emergence of rookie RB Eddie Lacy, who powered the Packers to the No. 7-ranked rush offense in the league and led all NFL rookies with 284 carries, 1,178 yards (4.1 avg.) and 11 TDs, all team rookie records. Lacy earned a bid to the Pro Bowl, was named second-team All-Pro by AP, and became the first Packer since RB John Brockington in 1971 to be voted the recipient of the AP’s Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Another bright spot was the play of backup QB Matt Flynn, who breathed life into the staggering team, keeping its playoff hopes alive with comeback victories in Weeks 14-15.
Rodgers returned in Week 17 with the Packers needing a victory at the archrival Bears to advance to the postseason. With the season on the line in the waning moments of the finale, Rodgers escaped pressure on a fourth-and-8 play and found Cobb wide open downfield for a game-winning 48-yard TD, clinching the Packers’ third consecutive NFC North division title and earning the No. 4 seed in the playoffs.
The Packers welcomed San Francisco to Lambeau Field for the Wild Card game. With the game tied at 20-20 late in the fourth quarter, the 49ers burned the remaining 5:06 off the clock, and kicked a game-winning 33-yard field goal as time expired.
With an offseason to rest and nine new additions through the draft, the Packers were ready to hit the ground running in 2014.
After road losses in two of the first three games of the 2014 season, the Packers won each of the next four games. The winning streak was fueled by an offense that put up at least 38 points in three of the contests. Over the four games, Rodgers threw 13 TDs and zero INTs, setting the pace for a season that would result in him being named the NFL MVP by AP for the second time in his career.
After a loss at New Orleans, Green Bay returned to Lambeau after the bye week to register wins over Chicago and Philadelphia as it became the second team in NFL history (Los Angeles Rams, 1950) to score 53-plus points in back-to-back games.
The Packers went back on the road to take on division foe Minnesota and came away with a 24-21 victory that was powered by Lacy’s season-high 125 rushing yards and two TDs. Green Bay hosted New England the next week in a battle of two of the NFL’s best teams and quarterbacks. Rodgers and Tom Brady both recorded passer ratings over 100.0, and Green Bay edged the eventual Super Bowl champs, 26-21. In Week 14, the Packers used a 31-point first half to hold off a Falcons team that scored 30 points in the second half, to win 43-37.
Green Bay’s five-game winning streak came to an end in Buffalo, as the Packers fell to the Bills, 21-13. Green Bay rebounded the next week in Tampa Bay with a 20-3 victory in which the defense sacked Josh McCown seven times and held the Bucs to 109 total net yards.
The Packers entered the final game of the regular season against the Lions with the NFC North title on the line. Green Bay built a 14-0 lead, but Rodgers re-injured the calf he hurt the previous week on his 4-yard TD pass to Cobb. Matthew Stafford connected with Calvin Johnson on two TDs to tie the game at 14. Rodgers, who returned to the game after a visit to the locker room to treat his calf, would find Cobb for another TD and sneak one in from a yard out to give Green Bay a 28-14 lead. The Packers held on for a 30-20 victory, capturing their franchise-record fourth straight division title.
Green Bay completed the regular season tied for first in the NFL with a 12-4 record, including an unblemished 8-0 at home. Rodgers threw 24 touchdowns with zero interceptions at Lambeau, joining Brady (2003) as the only QBs in NFL history to throw 200-plus passes at home in a single regular season with no INTs. Rodgers’ set an NFL record with a 133.2 passer rating at home during the regular season.
The Packers’ home success during the regular season continued into the divisional round when they hosted the Dallas Cowboys. Green Bay rallied from an eight-point deficit in the second half to take a 26-21 lead. With under five minutes to play, Dallas faced a fourth-and-2 at the Packers’ 32-yard line and QB Tony Romo launched a pass to leaping WR Dez Bryant that was initially ruled a completion at the Green Bay 1-yard line. After replay review, the call was overturned and the Packers converted two third downs to secure the victory. The season came to an end the following week in Seattle after the Seahawks rallied in the final minutes of the fourth quarter to beat the Packers, 28-22, in overtime.
Green Bay used the offseason to lock up free agents Cobb and T Bryan Bulaga, setting them up for another run in 2015.
The Packers entered the 2015 regular season short-handed after losing Pro Bowl WR Jordy Nelson to a season-ending knee injury in the preseason. Green Bay overcame the loss early in the season, starting 6-0 for just the fourth time since 1945.
The winning streak involved a victory at Chicago in Week 1, followed by prime-time wins at Lambeau Field over Seattle and Kansas City. In Week 4, the Packers won a defensive battle at San Francisco, 17-3, marking the sixth time since 2000 that Green Bay allowed three or fewer points on the road.
Green Bay returned to Lambeau and completed the 6-0 start with victories over St. Louis (24-10) and San Diego (27-20). The victory over the Chargers was the 100th regular-season win for McCarthy in just his 150th game, making him the fastest active NFL coach at the time to reach the 100-win plateau and tied for the seventh fastest in NFL history. The Week 6 contest also saw Rodgers go over the 30,000-yard passing mark for his career on just 3,652 attempts, the fewest needed in NFL history.
After the bye week, the Packers dropped three consecutive games, losing on the road to two undefeated teams, Denver and Carolina, and then came up two points short to Detroit at home. Green Bay got back on track with a 30-13 win at Minnesota, recording six sacks to tie the single-season franchise record for most games (three) with six-plus sacks (1966, 1978, 1991).
Green Bay honored Hall of Famer Brett Favre by unveiling his name and retired No. 4 during halftime of the Packers’ first home Thanksgiving game since 1923. The night would end with a four-point loss to the Bears.
Green Bay found itself in another tight game the next week in Detroit. Trailing by two points, Rodgers launched a 61-yard pass that would connect with a leaping TE Richard Rodgers in the end zone as time expired to give Green Bay a 27-23 victory.
Green Bay returned home to beat Dallas, 28-7, and then traveled to defeat the Oakland Raiders, 30-20. The Packers finished the regular season with a road loss to Arizona (38-8) and a home loss to Minnesota (20-13). The Packers’ 10-6 record earned them the 31st postseason appearance in franchise history, tied for the most in the NFL. It was also the seventh consecutive season making the playoffs, a team record.
As the No. 5 seed, the Packers traveled to take on NFC East champion Washington. A 35-18 victory over the Redskins advanced Green Bay to the divisional round of the playoffs. Nearly three weeks after losing at Arizona, Green Bay returned to the desert for a postseason meeting with the Cardinals. After a back-and-forth game, the Packers found themselves down seven and 41 yards away from the end zone with time for one play. Aaron Rodgers heaved a pass to the end zone that WR Jeff Janis leaped to grab and the game went into overtime. For the second consecutive year, Green Bay’s season would end on the first possession of overtime as Arizona went 80 yards in three plays to score a touchdown and win the game, 26-20.