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On This Date in Sports January 8, 1994: The Pack is Back

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

In their first playoff appearance in 11 years, the Green Bay Packers stunned the Detroit Lions 28-24 at the Pontiac Silverdome. The Lions beat the Packers 30-20 with the NFC Central on the line. The Lions were in control most of the game as Barry Sanders rushed for 169 yards. However, Brett Favre, in his playoff debut, had three touchdown passes, including a 40-yard pass to Sterling Sharpe with 55 seconds left to win the game. 

It had been more than 25 years since the Green Bay Packers dynasty ended. Since Vince Lombardi departed after Super Bowl II, the Packers had made the playoffs twice in 1972 and the 1982 strike year. The Packers had just one playoff win in that time and became an afterthought in the NFL. Things began to shift when they landed prized Free Agent Reggie White in 1993. The Packers had begun to show signs of awakening in 1992 as Mike Holmgren became the team's new coach. That year they also acquired Brett Favre from the Atlanta Falcons. Favre became the quarterback that the Packers had been seeking for two decades as Lambeau Field again was hosting big games. 

The Packers struggled early in 1993, as they lost three straight after starting the season with a win. The Packers would get back on track with three straight wins as they battled the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings for first place in the NFC Central. Late in the season, all three were on target to make the playoffs. In the season's final home game, the Packers beat the Los Angeles Raiders 28-0 as LeRoy Butler invented the Lambeau Leap to secure a playoff spot. The Packers stumbled in the final week and were the sixth seed as they faced the division champion Lions. The teams were on track to meet no matter what, as the game would have been in Lambeau if they won the final game of the season. 

Led by Wayne Fontes, the Detroit Lions had won their first playoff game in 34 years in 1991, reaching the NFC Championship Game. The Lions had a disappointing 5-11 record in 1992. The Lions surged to the top of the NFC Central, riding a four-game winning streak to a 7-2 start. However, after Barry Sanders suffered an injury, the Lions stumbled, suffering a three-game losing streak. Despite the struggles, the Lions hosted the Packers with the division title on the line in the final game of the season. Detroit won the game 30-20 and hosted the Packers again a week later in the Wild Card round. 

Barry Sanders was able to play in the Wild Card Game, as the Lions dominated the game early, holding the ball ten minutes in the first quarter. However, they managed just three points as Jason Hanson kicked a 47-yard field goal after their first long drive ended with Terrell Buckley intercepting Erik Kramer in the end zone. After the Lions got on the board, the Packers' offense got on track, with Brett Favre leading an 80-yard drive that ended with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Sharpe. Detroit answered with Perriman catching a pass from Kramer to take a 10-7 lead into the half, capping a 95-yard drive.

Midway through the third quarter, the Lions appeared to be on the verge of pulling away as Melvin Jenkins picked off Brett Favre and returned in 15 yards for a touchdown. Down 17-7, the Packers responded as Sterling Sharpe reeled in a 28-yard touchdown pass to get Green Bay back in the game. The Lions responded with another long drive and appeared on the verge of another score when George Teague picked off Kramer and returned it 101 yards for a pick-six that gave the Packers a 21-17 lead. 

The Lions continued to move the ball at will and regained the lead in the fourth quarter, as Derrick Moore caught a five-yard scoring pass from Erik Kramer midway through the quarter. After each team was forced to punt, the Packers got the ball at their own 29-yard line with 2:24 left and trailing 28-24. With one minute left, the Packers had driven into Detroit territory. On the 40-yard line needing a field goal to tie and a touchdown to take the lead, Brett Favre lofted a perfect 40-yard strike to Sharpe to give Green Bay the lead with 55 seconds left. The Lions were unable to move the ball as the Packers won the game 28-24.

The Packers' season would end a week later with a 27-17 loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Dallas Cowboys. It would be the first of a three-year stretch in which the Cowboys beat the Packers in the playoffs. The Packers would eventually win Super Bowl XXX, ending a nearly 30-year drought. Meanwhile, the Lions have not hosted a playoff since and have just that one playoff win since 1957.