Former Utes, Cougars, Aggies Share History In Classic NFL Rivalry
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The 49ers and the Packers rivalry runs deep. From playoff upsets, walk-off game winners, stifling defense and record-setting offensive performances, the rivalry has entertained NFL fans for years. Iconic moments and players have been a part of the battles the two teams have shared.
It’s a rivalry that has featured its fare share of players with Utah ties.
And has driven me to chew my fingernails for 30 years.
Choosing The Niners
For me, it all started in the 80s. When I was forming my attachments to certain sports teams, the 49ers were good. Really good, in fact.
I was nine years old when I vividly remember telling my parents I wasn’t going to church on the day of Super Bowl XXIII. Good thing I didn’t go, or I would have missed one of my favorite childhood memories.
From that moment, I was hooked. For better, or for worse.
1996: Packers win divisional round
The rivalry with the Packers really heated up in the mid 1990s. That’s when Brett Favre, Dorsey Levens, Antonio Freeman and Mark Chmura rose up and became a powerhouse. Not to mention some dude named Reggie White. He was OK.
During the 1995 season, both the Packers and 49ers finished with identical 11-5 records. Former BYU quarterback Steve Young and San Francisco were coming off a Super Bowl XXIX victory, and looking to repeat as champions. However, the 49ers had lost RB Ricky Watters to the Eagles in free agency after their title run, and their lack of a running attack showed in their divisional round game with Green Bay.
The Packers got out to a 21-0 lead and never looked back, winning 27-17. Favre demonstrated why he won the MVP that season, going 21-of-28 for 299 yards and two touchdowns with a 132.9 passer rating.
Two other former BYU players, Bart Oates and Jamaal Willis also played for San Francisco in 1995-96, while current BYU AD Tom Holmoe coached the defensive backs. Both Jim McMahon and Ty Detmer backed up Favre for Green Bay.
1997: Packers Win On The Road To Lombardi Trophy
The 1996 regular season saw injuries for the 49ers, while the Packers became a dominant force. Green Bay would finish with a 13-3 record, the best in the NFL. Brett Favre would win a second consecutive MVP. The Packers’ defense would set a record for the fewest touchdowns allowed in a 16-game season. Again, dominant force.
The two teams would meet in the 1997 divisional playoffs. But while Steve Young sat out with broken ribs, the Packers used special teams to win a muddy 35-14 game at Lambeau Field.
Green Bay would go onto win Super Bowl XXXI against the New England Patriots.
1998: Green Bay Claims Conference Title over San Francisco
Two juggernauts. That’s what this game was supposed to feature. Two 13-3 teams, the #1 and #2 seeds in the NFC, going head-to-head for the right to go to the Super Bowl.
Instead, what we got was one juggernaut and a hobbled 49ers team. Jerry Rice was out with injury, and Garrison Hearst played a few ineffective snaps as he was trying to recover from a broken collar bone. San Francisco battled the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round, getting by 38-22.
Meanwhile, the Packers were humming going into the NFC Championship, coasting past the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional round.
Green Bay’s defense stifled the 49ers offense, holding them to 3 points during the game. The Packers led 23-3 before a Chuck Levy kick return for a touchdown in the 4th quarter gave us the 23-10 final score.
However, the Packers wouldn’t make it back-to-back Super Bowl victories, losing to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXII.
1999: The Catch II
Why not make it an even quartet?
Green Bay took a step back in the ’98 regular season, finishing with an 11-5 record and a wild card berth. Meanwhile, the 49ers wrapped up the year with a 12-4 mark, but still entered the playoffs as a wild card thanks to the NFC West winning Atlanta Falcons. Yes, Atlanta was in the NFC West, along with the New Orleans Saints, St. Louis Rams and Carolina Panthers. The 90s were a weird time.
This game was a classic. With :08 left in the game, and down 27-23, Steve Young found his team on the Packers’ 28-yard line. What followed was one of the most iconic moments for 49ers fans everywhere. Young found some young receiver named Terrell Owens for a game-winning touchdown, and the Niners won the game 30-27.
Backing up Young on this day would be none other than another BYU great, Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer.
San Francisco would head to Atlanta and lose the following week in the divisional game against the Falcons, 20-18.
2001: Green Bay Wins Wild Card Affair
With Steve Young’s retirement two years earlier, this game did not feature a single Utah product. The Packers finished 12-4 in the NFC Central, while the 49ers finished with the same record in the NFC West.
This one was actually much closer than the score indicates. With the game tied at 15 in the 4th quarter, San Francisco was driving for the go-ahead score when the Packers’ Mike McKenzie deflected a Jeff Garcia pass right to Tyrone Williams who intercepted the ball at the Green Bay 7-yard line.
Brett Favre then led the Packers on a 93-yard drive that culminated with Ahman Green’s nine-yard touchdown run that put the Packers ahead to stay.
2013: Colin Kaepernick Runs Wild
After suffering a concussion in the middle of the season, former Utah QB Alex Smith was forced to watch from the sideline in the divisional game vs. Green Back. His backup, Colin Kaepernick, ran for 181 yards and two touchdowns, and threw for another 263 yards and another two scores.
In all, the 49ers offense racked up 579 yards of total offense on the night.
San Francisco would go onto play in Super Bowl XLVII, losing to the Baltimore Ravens 34-31.
2014: Dawson’s Game Winner
The closest we get to any players with Utah ties playing in this game – former Utah WR Reggie Dunn and former Utah State WR Chuck Jacobs both played on the 49ers’ practice squad. Not much to write home about. Their link to this game was about as cold as the weather during it.
In 5-degree temperatures in Wisconsin, Phil Dawson hit a game-winning 33-yard field goal as time expired as the 49ers beat the Packers 23-20. Kaepernick threw for 227 yards and ran for another 98. Aaron Rodgers went 17/26 for 177 yards and a score.
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