On Super Bowl Sunday, Green Bay running back Edgar Bennett found
himself trapped in a nightmare right in his own home. Because
the Packers' 38-27 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC
Championship Game two weeks earlier was still so painful,
Bennett decided that he would not torture himself by watching
the Super Bowl. But the 80-inch TV screen in his Jacksonville
home was hard to ignore. "I couldn't resist," he says, "so I put
Soon some of his friends dropped by, turning the evening into an
impromptu party. To add insult to agony, some of his friends
wore Cowboys jerseys. ("We're fans of you as an individual and
fans of Dallas as a team," his friends explained. "That's weak,"
replied Bennett.) "I wasn't a very good host. I kept having to
leave the room," Bennett says. "Man, we were 15 minutes away
from being in that game!"
Guess what was on everyone's mind in Green Bay this off-season.
"We talk about it all the time," says Bennett. "Fifteen minutes!"
July 31, 1996
The NFC championship loss is securely lodged in the Packers'
collective consciousness. (Remember, after three quarters the
NFC Central champs were ahead 27-24.) Dallas has now won the
last seven meetings between the two teams. Will this be the year
that Green Bay outlasts the Cowboys?
"Dallas had 10 Pro Bowl players," says Packers general manager
Ron Wolf. "You have to have 10 Pro Bowl players to catch the
Cowboys. [Green Bay had three players in the Pro Bowl last
year.] I think we've gotten ourselves a little bit closer. We
need more young players to step up like Edgar Bennett did last
During the regular season Bennett, the fullback turned tailback,
ran for a career-high 1,067 yards on 316 carries, becoming the
first Packer to rush for 1,000 yards since Terdell Middleton in
1978. He also set a team mark for most yards gained from
Bennett accounted for an astounding 77% of all team carries last
year. He was overused and abused, though the back will tell you
otherwise. "I never want to come out of the game, no matter
what," says the fifth-year pro, who played last season with bone
chips in his left ankle, bruised ribs, a banged-up right elbow,
a sprained neck and lingering pain from a past shoulder
separation. This year the Packers plan to spell their iron horse
at least one series a game with second-year man Travis Jervey
and '96 fourth-round draft pick Chris Darkins.
Green Bay also packs a 4,000-yard passer in league MVP Brett
Favre and a 1,000-yard receiver in Robert Brooks. Coach Mike
Holmgren says that if he can just remember to call more running
plays to balance his pass-happy attack, the offense will be even
stronger this year.
Convinced that it already had built a title-winning team, the
Packers' front office was as quiet as a monastery during the
off-season. Wolf yawned at the loss of three starters--right
guard Harry Galbreath, nosetackle John Jurkovic and linebacker
Fred Strickland--and signed just two free agents, linebacker Ron
Cox and defensive tackle Santana Dotson. In order to reach the
promised land, Green Bay's two marquee players, Favre and
defensive end Reggie White, must be healthy. Favre, who played
with bone chips and spurs in his left ankle, received treatment
in the off-season for an addiction to prescription painkillers.
White was hampered in '95 by knee and hamstring injuries, but
the 34-year-old feels he has enough fire and brimstone left for
one more big season.
Bringing a Super Bowl title back to Green Bay after 29 years
would be an especially sweet reward for all those folks who
treat the Green and Gold as if it were part of the family (page
66). Are any fans more loyal to their team? The good fans of
Green Bay donated $250,000 to White's church in Knoxville,
Tenn., after it was firebombed last January. In this town the
Pro Bowl, the dullest all-star game in sports, drew the largest
audience of any TV show, including Seinfeld, in the month of
February. Just imagine what the ratings would have been had the
Packers sent 10 players to Honolulu.
But first things first. This is Bennett's dream: The Packers win
the divisional title, becoming the first NFC Central team to
repeat as champions since Chicago in 1988, and gain home
advantage for the playoffs; the Cowboys pack their parkas and
fly to Green Bay, where they've never won a game; and Bennett
hosts another Super Bowl party, this time on the field of the
BY THE NUMBERS
1995 Yards per Game (NFL rank in parentheses)
Rushing Passing Total
OFFENSE 89.3 (26) 270.1 (3) 359.4 (7)
DEFENSE 94.7 (7) 227.5 (21) 322.2 (14)
The Packers were the NFL's most adept team last season at
turning a scoring opportunity (a possession inside the
opponent's 20-yard line) into a touchdown. That's a marked
improvement; Green Bay ranked 19th in that category just two
Percentage of TDs Scored on Red-Zone Possessions in '95
BEST TEAMS Poss. TDs Pct.
Packers 60 40 66.7
Eagles 44 26 59.1
Cowboys 63 36 57.1
49ers 62 35 56.5
Seahawks 38 21 55.3
NFL average 49.3
WORST TEAMS Poss. TDs Pct.
Cardinals 49 15 30.6
Patriots 62 24 38.7
Bills 53 21 39.6
Browns 42 17 40.5
Falcons 50 21 42.0
PLAYER TO WATCH
The girth of nosetackle Gilbert Brown should come in handy this
year, since the 6'2", 344-pound lineman, whom coach Mike
Holmgren describes as "a guy-and-a-half wide," may have to do
the work of two men. Newcomer Santana Dotson is primarily a pass
rusher, so Brown will single-handedly stuff the run. After
battling weight and injury problems the last three seasons, Big
Gil is healthy. "He's an awesome force now," says defensive
coordinator Fritz Shurmur. "Very, very impressive."
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
Head coach: Mike Holmgren
QB Brett Favre 570 att. 359 comp. 63.0% 4,413 yds.
38 TDs 13 int. 99.5 rtg.
RB Edgar Bennett 316 att. 1,067 yds. 3 TDs
FB Dorsey Levens 36 att. 120 yds. 3 TDs
TE Mark Chmura 54 rec. 679 yds. 7 TDs
WR Robert Brooks 102 rec. 1,497 yds. 13 TDs
WR Anthony Morgan 31 rec. 344 yds. 4 TDs
WR Derrick Mayes [*](R) 48 rec. 881 yds. 6 TDs
LT Ken Ruettgers 6'6" 292 lbs.
LG Aaron Taylor 6'4" 305 lbs.
C Frank Winters 6'3" 295 lbs.
RG Gary Brown 6'4" 315 lbs.
RT Earl Dotson 6'3" 310 lbs.
PK Chris Jacke 43/43 XPs 17/23 FGs
LE Reggie White 12 sacks 0 fum. rec.
NT Gilbert Brown 0 sacks 0 fum. rec.
DT Santana Dotson[*] 5 sacks 2 fum. rec.
RE Sean Jones 9 sacks 1 fum. rec.
OLB Wayne Simmons 4 sacks 0 int.
MLB Ron Cox[*] 0 sacks 1 int.
OLB George Koonce 1 sack 1 int.
CB Craig Newsome 1 int. 0 sacks
SS LeRoy Butler 5 int. 1 sack
FS George Teague 2 int. 0 sacks
CB Doug Evans 2 int. 1 sack
P Craig Hentrich 65 punts 42.2 avg.
PR Antonio Freeman 37 ret. 7.9 avg.
KR Antonio Freeman 24 ret. 23.2 avg.
[*] New acquisition (R) Rookie (college statistics)