The Green Bay Packers became an NFL powerhouse in the 1990s under head coach Mike Holmgren thanks to elite players like Brett Favre, Reggie White and LeRoy Butler. But even after winning the Super Bowl in 1996, the Packers couldn’t seem to beat the Dallas Cowboys. Holmgren’s took over as head coach of the Packers in 1992 and his record against Dallas was a disappointing 0-7 including playoffs with all seven games being played in Dallas. Even in their Super Bowl winning season of 1996, one of the Packers three losses came against the Cowboys on the road.

But in 1997, the Packers finally got to face the Cowboys at Lambeau Field and the team was determined to end their slump against their rivals from Texas. So much so, in fact, that Holmgren changed things up. The Packers coach was a pass-first, West Coast Offense type of guy. But even when scripting his first 15 plays for this game, the Packers coach went run heavy, with eight runs and seven passes.

“My eyes lit up,” starting halfback Dorsey Levens said when he first saw the scripted plays. “I couldn’t believe it.”

The Packers struck first midway through the first quarter. Favre found Robert Brooks over the middle for a 36-yard gain that helped set up a seven-yard touchdown run by Levens.

After a Dallas field goal, Favre was victimized by Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders who jumped in front of intended receiver Derrick Mayes and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown. That gave the Cowboys a 10-7 lead and the Packers a feeling of déjà vu.

But the Packers answered on the ensuing drive which ended with a 32-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell and the game was tied 10-10 at the half.

In the second half, the Packers game plan changed. They emphasized the run even more and they ran over and through the once vaunted Dallas defense. Levens had 45 yards on nine carries in the first half but finished the game with a then Packers single-game record of 190 yards on 33 carries. He scored one rushing touchdown and caught another from Favre. The old record was set by Hall of Famer Jim Taylor when he gained 186 yards against the Giants in 1961.

Holmgren challenged his team before the game. “I’d never done it that way before,” Holmgren admitted when asked about his emphasis on the run. “But I felt it was something we had to do. Dallas had always beaten us by running it down our throats and killing us in time of possession. Now I wanted us to dominate. I wanted us to control the clock…I want to see how tough we are. Show me. We’ve been asking for this game for a long time. Go knock their butts off.”

The Packers most certainly responded. As a team, the Packers ran for 220 yards in the game and they held the ball for 37:19 compared to just 22:41 for the Cowboys. The Packers also finished the game 13-of-17 on third down chances in the game and went nine-for-nine on third down in the second half.

Favre finished the game by completing 22-of-35 passes for 203 yards and four touchdowns. Tight end Mark Chmura caught two of the scoring passes while Antonio Freeman and Levens each had one.

Meanwhile, the Packers defense shut down the Dallas attack. Troy Aikman finished the game by completing just 12-of-24 passes for just 130 yards. Emmitt Smith gained just 59 yards rushing while Herschel Walker had just 16 yards on three tries.

The Packers outscored the Cowboys 35-7 in the second half and closed out the scoring on a 34-yard fumble recovery for a score by safety Darren Sharper.

Dallas head coach Barry Switzer was impressed with the way the Packers played. “In the second half, I witnessed probably the best kicking the Cowboys have had in a long time,” he said.

Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin was blunt after the game. “The last time I took a beating like that, my father gave it to me.”

The win was an emotional one for the Packers. “That’s no monkey we got off our back,” Levens told reporters. “That’s a gorilla, an elephant and every other large zoo animal you can think of.”

The win improved the Packers record to 9-3 on the season. They finished with a 13-3 mark and returned to the Super Bowl for the second straight year. Dallas dropped to 6-6 on the year and wouldn’t win another game after this, finishing 6-10.

For Dorsey Levens, this game was a magic moment. “I mean who’d have ever thought this,” he said. “Not me, never. I’m living a dream.”


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