Green Bay Packers quarterback Lynn Dickey led a dangerous passing attack in the early 1980s, throwing to elite receivers like James Lofton, John Jefferson, and Paul Coffman. But with the Packers fighting for a playoff berth in the next-to-last game of the season, Dickey had one of the best performances of his career to lead the Pack past the New Orleans Saints 35-7.
Lynn Dickey Is Nearly Perfect for the Packers
How good was the Packers quarterback on this day? Nearly perfect. He completed 19-of-21 passes for 218 yards and five touchdowns without throwing an interception. His quarterback rating was 149.5 and the two incomplete passes were dropped. He completed his final 13 passes on the day.
“I’d say that this probably was my greatest game,” Dickey said later. “Statistically, it was the best day I’ve had as a pro. … It’s been a long-time coming for me to have one of these days. But I really got excellent protection. It seems when a guy was wide open, I had all the time in the world to throw.”
Jefferson caught two of Dickey’s TD passes while Lofton, Gerry Ellis, and Coffman each grabbed one.
Packers Defense Also Shines
The defense came up big for the Pack as well. They intercepted Saints starter Archie Manning three times and his backup, Dave Wilson once. The defense also recovered two fumbles while the offense didn’t turn the ball over at all. The result was an easy 35-7 win for the Packers.
“When the defense turns it over that many times and with that kind of field position, you’re got to get some points on the board,” Dickey said.
A Late Season Comeback
The Packers needed the win badly. Their season was on the line. Bart Starr’s team got off to a difficult 2-6 start and the season and Starr’s job were hanging on by a thread. But the team rallied and won five or their next six to even their record at 7-7 with two games left. They headed down to New Orleans needing to win both of their final games to have a chance to make the playoffs.
The Packers got off to a quick start and never looked back. In the first quarter, Dickey found Ellis on a nine-yard touchdown pass followed by a 24-yard scoring strike to Jefferson. The Packers led 14-0. Dickey threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Lofton to give the Packers a 21-0 halftime edge.
The Saints stayed in the game with a three-yard touchdown run by George Rodgers, but the Packers answered with a two-yard scoring pass to Coffman. Jefferson closed out the scoring in the fourth quarter with a 30-yard touchdown catch. Rich Campbell relieved Dickey after that but he never threw a pass.
Jefferson led all Packers receivers with four catches for 91 yards. Ellis caught five passes and had 90 total yards including a team-leading 64 yards rushing.
A Meaningful Win for Lynn Dickey and the Packers
Dickey’s remarkable performance was even more meaningful for him because it came against Saints head coach Bum Phillips who had been his coach during part of his time with the Houston Oilers.
“We spent a couple of good years together, and I really enjoyed it at Houston,” Dickey said.
Lofton also broke a Packers franchise record with 1,252 yards receiving in a season. The old record was 1,231 set by Billy Howton in 1952.
The win was the third straight for the Pack and their sixth in seen games. The Packers were now in a three-way tie with Tampa Bay and Detroit in the NFC Central with the Vikings a game back at 7-8.
The Packers Are Still Alive
Starr denied he turned his team around in the second half. “We made up our minds at the beginning of the second half of the season that we were going to have a better season,” Starr explained. “We were very disappointed in the first half. We knew we were a better team than our record indicated. We just let a couple games get away from us that we shouldn’t have but did. So, we just rededicated ourselves to playing better.”
The Packers needed to beat the New York Jets at Shea Stadium to have a chance to make the playoffs for the first time since Starr became head coach in 1975. That did not happen but the 6-2 finish in 1981 did give a victory-starved fan base some reasons for optimism entering 1982. And on this day, Lynn Dickey had one of the best games of his NFL career.
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