There’s not a single, perfect definition that makes a game one of the “greatest.” To some, the greatest games are the most exciting, loaded with drama. To others, they’re highlighted by individual achievement, or they carry major significance, both at the time and in historical context.
This list of the 10 greatest games tries to encompass all of that. The game needs to be dramatic, significant and historically meaningful to qualify.
That doesn’t mean the Packers won them all. In fact, they went 6-4 through this slate. Green Bay has appeared in five Super Bowls, but the lone loss is the only one to make this list.
So, from more than 1,250 games in the storied history of the Green Bay Packers, here’s one crack at the top 10, ranked in ascending order.
10. 1965 Western Conference Championship: Packers 13, Colts 10 OT
It turned into a battle of backup quarterbacks, with Green Bay’s Bart Starr and Baltimore’s Johnny Unitas both sidelined. Starr left less than a minute into the game with injured ribs that he injured while chasing linebacker Don Shinnick on a fumble return for a touchdown that helped stake the Colts to a 10-0 halftime lead.
Behind Zeke Bratkowski, the Packers rallied to tie the game on a controversial 22-yard field goal by Don Chandler with 1:58 left in the fourth quarter.
Chandler’s kick carried so far above the upright that it wasn’t clear whether it was good. The Colts were adamant it sailed wide right, but to no avail. The following year, the league extended the goal posts’ height. Chandler’s next kick, a 25-yarder, carried no such controversy and ended the franchise’s first overtime game.
With Starr back at the helm the following week, the Packers went on to win the first of three straight league titles, the franchise’s second three-peat and the last the NFL has seen.
9. 2009 NFC wild-card playoff: Cardinals 51, Packers 45 OT
The highest-scoring playoff game in NFL history ended in heartbreaking fashion for the Packers as quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked and fumbled the ball into the arms of Arizona linebacker Karlos Dansby, who returned it 17 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
Prior to that, the Packers came back from a 31-10 hole in the second half as Rodgers threw for a franchise playoff-record 423 yards. The Packers tied the game twice in the fourth quarter, at 38 and at 45, before Cardinals kicker Neil Rackers pulled a 34-yard field goal attempt wide left in the final seconds of regulation. Green Bay won the toss for the overtime, which lasted all of 78 seconds.
Head Coach Mike McCarthy vowed his young team would learn from the experience, and it did, needing to pull out three of their four postseason victories in the waning moments the following year en route to a Super Bowl title.
8. Sept. 20, 1992: Packers 24, Bengals 23
When quarterback Don Majkowski went down with an ankle injury in the first half, Packers history was forever altered.
In came Brett Favre, for whom new GM Ron Wolf had traded a first-round draft pick. Favre directed two touchdown drives in the final eight minutes of an electrifying comeback, winning the game with a 35-yard laser to receiver Kitrick Taylor with just 13 seconds left.
For Taylor, it was his first and only career TD catch. For Favre, well, he went on to throw 442 touchdown passes for the Packers and start the next 253 consecutive regular-season games. A legend was born.
7. 1998 NFC wild-card playoff: 49ers 30, Packers 27
The Packers had appeared in back-to-back Super Bowls, but a third straight trip wasn’t to be as an era came to an end in the final Green Bay game for defensive end Reggie White and Coach Mike Holmgren.
In a back-and-forth contest that featured three ties and five lead changes, Favre marched the Packers 89 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 1:56 left. San Francisco’s Steve Young, aided by an early whistle on an apparent Jerry Rice fumble, countered with a 76-yard march that culminated in a 25-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Owens between four defenders with three seconds left.
Five days later, Holmgren became the head coach and GM in Seattle, and in the coaching shakeup the following season a new quarterback coach got his first taste of Green Bay – McCarthy.
6. Oct. 18, 1936: Packers 20, Lions 18
The Don Hutson era was in just its second year, and the Packers were 4-1 when the defending NFL champions came to town.
The lead changed hands four times in the fourth quarter, and the Packers finally prevailed on a field goal by Paul “Tiny” Engebretsen in the final minute. The champs had been vanquished, paving the way for the second major run of success in Packers history.
Green Bay would go on to finish 10-1-1 in the regular season and win the NFL title over the Boston Redskins. That began a span of nine years during which the Packers appeared in the NFL Championship four times, winning three (’36, ’39, ’44) and bringing Coach Curly Lambeau’s title total to six.
5. Super Bowl XXXII: Broncos 31, Packers 24
It was supposed to be another cake-walk for the NFC in the big game. Instead, the two-touchdown favorite Packers became the backdrop for Denver quarterback John Elway’s long-awaited championship in what some at the time termed the greatest Super Bowl ever played.
Green Bay led 7-0, trailed 17-7, and then tied the game at 17 with a field goal following MVP Terrell Davis’ fumble early in the third quarter. Davis then scored the second of his three rushing TDs before the Packers averted disaster on Antonio Freeman’s fumble of the ensuing kickoff. Safety Eugene Robinson intercepted Elway in the end zone and then Freeman atoned with a 13-yard TD catch, his second of the game, to re-tie things at 24.
Davis rushed for his third TD with 1:45 left (did Holmgren really forget what down it was, or did he let them score?), and the assumption was Favre would lead the Packers back and produce the first overtime in Super Bowl history. But his fourth-down pass to tight end Mark Chmura from the Denver 31 was incomplete and the Packers’ chance for consecutive championships, and maybe more, was lost.
The Packers would wait another 13 years before returning to the Super Bowl.
4. 1966 NFL Championship: Packers 34, Cowboys 27
In the first of what is now six postseason meetings with Dallas, Green Bay won a thriller to advance to Super Bowl I.
The Packers’ 14-0 lead was wiped out by the end of the first quarter. Green Bay then led 21-20 in the second half when Starr threw his third and fourth touchdown passes of the game, but Dallas blocked the extra point on the last one, which kept the Cowboys in it.
Don Meredith threw a 68-yard touchdown pass and then drove Dallas to the Green Bay 2-yard line. On fourth down, Packers linebacker Dave Robinson, who was criticized by Coach Vince Lombardi for freelancing on the play, pressured Meredith into a poor throw that was intercepted in the end zone by Tom Brown.
The Packers’ historic run at the top continued.
3. Nov. 24, 1929: Packers 20, Giants 6
In their inaugural decade of existence, the Packers came close to winning the NFL title just once, in 1927, finishing in second place behind the Giants (championships were determined by the league standings then).
In 1929, the Packers and Giants were both unbeaten when they met in late November in New York, and Green Bay handed them what turned out to be their only loss that season.
The Associated Press account of the game noted the Packers featured a “smashing line attack that brought down (Giants quarterback Benny Friedman) time and time again before he could get the ball out of his hands.” Sacks didn’t become an official statistic for another half-century, but it sounds like the Packers piled up a bunch in this one.
Leading 7-6 in the fourth quarter, the Packers put together an 80-yard touchdown drive, capped by a Bo Molenda touchdown run. In the final two minutes, Johnny “Blood” McNally added another score and the Packers went on to finish 12-0-1 to win the first of three straight league titles and the first of 13 in franchise history.
2. 1960 NFL Championship: Eagles 17, Packers 13
In Green Bay’s first appearance in the title game in 16 years, the visiting Packers came up 8 yards short of the crown when Jim Taylor was tackled by Chuck Bednarik on the game’s final play. It would become, however, a defining defeat.
Lombardi took the blame for the loss and he never lost another postseason game, as the Packers proceeded to win five championships over the next seven seasons, a run unmatched in league annals before or since.
As an aside, the Packers exacted some revenge on the Eagles two years later with a 49-0 victory in Philadelphia, but the curse of that ’60 title game wasn’t lifted, as Green Bay went 48 years without a victory in the City of Brotherly Love.
Until, that is, the 2010 team won the season opener and a playoff game in Philly en route to another championship.
1. 1967 NFL Championship: Packers 21, Cowboys 17
Can there be any doubt the Ice Bowl is number one? Some rank this game the second-greatest in league history behind the 1958 Colts-Giants NFL title tilt.
This game had it all, featuring 13-below zero temperatures with a minus-46 wind chill on a frozen Lambeau Field, Dallas’ rally from a 14-0 deficit for a 17-14 lead on a 50-yard halfback option pass, and Starr’s improvised sneak behind Jerry Kramer and Ken Bowman with 13 seconds left.
Lombardi’s fifth and last title was secured two weeks later in Super Bowl II, but that didn’t matter nearly as much as this one did. Obviously.
Mike Spofford is a 1995 Masters graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University who worked as a sports reporter for two daily newspapers in Wisconsin, covering the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII. Spofford has been a packers.com staff writer since 2006.