The Green Bay Packers and Buffalo Bills had two opponents to overcome in their game in Week 5 of the strike-shortened 1982 NFL season: the other team and the muddy field conditions that made Milwaukee County Stadium look like a swampy mess. The result was a sloppy, turnover-filled contest that saw Bart Starr’s club down the visiting Bills 33-21.
The infield dirt in Milwaukee was still on the field even though the last Brewers World Series Game played there was played six weeks earlier on October 17th. The result on a cloudy, rainy day was a muddy field that made the entire game a slog.
Both coaches agreed that the conditions were awful. “I don’t know what happened. It’s disgusting to have to put up with that mess. It was very distasteful,” Starr said.
Buffalo’s Chuck Knox added, “It was murder out there. In this day and age, you really shouldn’t have to play in that,’ Knox said. “We didn’t handle the ball well, we didn’t handle the mud well, we didn’t play well.”
Packers kicker Jan Stenerud kicked four field goals despite the poor field conditions. With this performance, Stenerud passed Jim Bakken to move into third place in the NFL’s all-time scoring list with 1,381 points. Stenerud became the first pure kicker to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991.
The field conditions had an immediate affect on the game. Ted McKnight of Buffalo fumbled the opening kickoff and Robert Brown recovered for the Packers to set up Stenerud’s first field goal of the game. On the very next series, running back Joe Cribbs fumbled and safety Maurice Harvey recovered for the Packers at the Bills 13. Stenerud connected from 25 yards out to make it 6-0 Green Bay.
After the Bills took a 7-6 lead on a one yard run by Cribbs, the Packers managed to put together a solid drive despite having trouble with the wet football. The drive featured a 21-yard pass to future Hall of Famer James Lofton and a 23-yard toss to John Jefferson. Running back Gerry Ellis fumbled at the Buffalo 10 but Del Rodgers fell on the ball in the end zone after a long and messy scramble to give the Packers a 13-7 halftime lead.
The Packers added to their lead in the third quarter on a 60-yard drive that featured a 30-yard reverse run by Lofton. Eddie Lee Ivery scored from one yard out to give the Pack a 20-7 lead after three quarters.
Quarterback Lynn Dickey struggled at times with the weather conditions. He finished the game by completing 14-of-23 passes for 195 yards. He found backup tight end John Thompson on a 23-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter to put the Packers ahead 27-7 and to essentially put the game away. It was one of two career catches for Thompson and both went for touchdowns.
The Packers created five turnovers in the game with Harvey and Mark Lee picking off passes by Bills starter Joe Ferguson. The Packers turned the ball over three times as both teams fought the conditions.
The Bills made the game closer with two late touchdown passes to tight end Mark Brammer, one by Ferguson and one by backup Matt Robinson, but that just made the final score closer.
Packers linebacker Rich Wingo suffered an injured knee in this game that would require arthroscopic surgery. He would miss the rest of the season but would return to start 10 games the following year.
The win got the Packers back on the winning track after a tight 15-13 loss to the New York Jets the previous week. Green Bay’s record increased to 4-1 on the season while the Bills fell to 3-2. The Packers finished the strike-shortened season with a 5-3-1 record and made the playoffs for the only time in Starr’s nine-year tenure as coach of the team.
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