The Green Bay Packers went into their Week 16 game against the Tennessee Oilers knowing that this would be Reggie White‘s final home game at Lambeau Field in a Packers uniform. White announced he wouldd be retiring after the season. The Packers got outstanding performances from Brett Favre and Antonio Freeman to send White out on a positive note with a 30-22 Packers victory.

The Leadup to the Packers Win in Reggie White’s Final Game at Lambeau Field

The Packers entered the game with a 9-5 record while the Oilers were 8-6. The weather at Lambeau Field was 25 degrees with a wind chill of 14 above zero. Snow flurries fell throughout the day to add a little atmosphere to what would be White’s final home game with the Packers.

Freeman was rounding back into form after suffering a broken jaw a month ago that caused him to miss a game. He was in his contract year and needed a big finish to the season to earn a big contract with the Packers or another team.

Favre was also on the brink of reaching the 4,000-yard milestone for the second time in his career which would make him just the fifth player in NFL history to do that twice in his career.

The Packers Make Big Plays and Strike First in Reggie White’s Final Game at Lambeau Field

The Packers took the opening kickoff and went right to work. On the third play from scrimmage, Packers head coach Mike Holmgren changed things up by lining Freeman up in the backfield. The veteran receiver went in motion and that confused the Oilers defense which was set to blitz on the play.

Favre found Freeman in the right flat 10 yards down field with no defenders within 10 yards of him. Freeman sprinted untouched into the end zone for a 57-yard touchdown pass. Freeman lifted the ball high over his head at the Oilers 20 before reaching the end zone.

“I looked around, and it was like, ‘Oh, my goodness,’” Freeman said. “It was just wide open, and I just ran to the score.”

The Packers led 7-0.

Favre and Freeman weren’t done making big plays. Two possessions later, Favre sidestepped the rush and found Freeman behind the Tennessee defensive backs. The play covered 68 yards and the Packers were up 14-0 after one quarter.

A Seesaw Second Quarter Helps the Packers Pull Away

Early in the second quarter, the Oilers got back in the game with an eight-play, 71-yard drive. Steve McNair found wideout Derrick Mason for a 25-yard touchdown pass. Former Packers kicker Al Del Greco booted the extra point, and it was a 14-7 football game.

But the Packers weren’t done. Late in the second quarter, Favre and Freeman hooked up for their third long touchdown pass of the game. The key plays on the drive were 17-yard passes to Dorsey Levens and Derrick Mayes. The touchdown came with a little more than a minute left in the half when Favre found Freeman from 32 yards out. The Packers led 21-7.

The Second Half of the Packers Win in Reggie White’s Final Home Game at Lambeau Field

The Packers increased their lead in the third quarter. A 35-yard run by Favre set up a 38-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell. The Oilers answered with a 30-yard touchdown pass from McNair to Yancey Thigpen.

Favre then came out of the game early in the fourth quarter. “My turf toe is killing me, as it always does,” Favre explained after the game. “I’m sure everyone’s tired of hearing about a toe. Hip’s a little sore. Hand and thumb is sore. Typical late-year injuries.”

Backup Doug Pederson came in and led the Packers to two drives that both culminated in 40-yard field goals by Longwell.

A late touchdown pass from McNair to Mason plus a two-point conversion by Eddie George made it a one-score game at 30-22. The Packers snuffed out the Oilers last chance to rally when the ensuing onside kick didn’t go a full 10 yards and the Packers were able to run out the clock.

The crowd serenaded White as he walked off the field with chants of “Reg-gie, Reg-gie.”

“I didn’t want to just walk off the field,” White said. “I wanted to express myself to them by bidding them farewell. It would have been good to play here today even if it was 70 degrees. But the aura of the cold and the snow added to it. I just thank God for the opportunity to play in front of these people for six years and that I had a hand in bringing a championship back to them.”

The Aftermath

While the attention was on White, Favre and Freeman had outstanding games. Favre finished 14-of-22 for 253 yards and three touchdown passes which gave him a quarterback rating of 142.6.  He topped 4,000 yards for the season which made him just the fifth player in NFL history to have two or more 4,000-yard passing seasons.

Freeman caught seven passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns. “I feel that I’m the go-to guy in this offense, so that’s the attitude I go out there with,” Freeman said. “I expect to win every battle. [And] I expect to catch every ball.”

“You see how important he is to us,” Holmgren said. “Other teams know that. I’m happy to see him playing with a lot of confidence.”

Favre was impressed by Freeman’s play. “For a while there today, it seemed every time I turned around, he was open and making plays. What happens is when you throw to the guy and he’s making plays like that, in the back of your mind even if he’s not the primary guy you start depending on him a little bit.”

After the game ended, White took a victory lap around the stadium to thank the fans. He retired after the season but returned to play again a year later with the Carolina Panthers. He never played at Lambeau Field again.




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