APC looks back at the Packers' Super Bowl history to identify the players who performed at their best on the biggest stage in professional football.
Super Bowl Sunday is rapidly approaching, with the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens set to take the biggest stage of all in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. We continue our look back at past Packers Super Bowls by examining some of the best individual performances in the big game in team history.
Super Bowl I - Packers 35, Kansas City Chiefs 10
Everyone remembers the story of Max McGee playing this game hung over after staying out well past curfew the night before the game, but I had forgotten how dominant a receiver McGee was during that game. He put up a stat line of seven catches for 138 yards (19.7 average) and two touchdowns, including the first score of the game.
Bart Starr won the first MVP award in Super Bowl history by throwing 16 completions on 23 attempts for 250 yards and those two scores to McGee. He had the benefit of a great running game behind him though, as Jim Taylor, Elijah Pitts, and Donny Anderson combined for 132 yards on 32 carries and three touchdowns.
Super Bowl II - Packers 33, Oakland Raiders 14
Starr had a less impressive day statistically in the second Super Bowl (13 for 24, 202 yards, one touchdown), but he still won the MVP award for a second time. His only score was a 62-yard pass to Boyd Dowler in the second quarter for the game's first touchdown. Starr also contributed a 14-yard run in the game.
Once again, the running game and defense were huge in this game. Anderson, Ben Wilson, and Travis Williams keyed the consistent and steady rushing attack, as those three racked up 146 yards on 39 carries and a score. Cornerback Herb Adderley closed out the scoring for Green Bay with a 60-yard interception return in the fourth quarter.
Super Bowl XXXI - Packers 35, New England Patriots 21
Taking a look back through the statistics of this game still makes me wonder how Desmond Howard won the MVP award over Brett Favre. The QB's completion rate wasn't stellar (14/27, 52%) but his three touchdowns all came at critical points in the game. The deep bomb to Andre Rison was on the very first drive, and Antonio Freeman's long catch-and-run came early in the second quarter shortly after the Patriots tied the game up at 14. Then Favre's rushing touchdown came with about a minute left in the first half to give the Packers a 27-14 lead. His total stat line of 14/27 with 246 yards, two passing touchdowns and 4 runs for 12 yards and a score should have been enough to earn him the MVP award, in my opinion.
That's not discounting Howard's contributions, though. His kickoff return in the third quarter would have been Wayne Larivee's "dagger" (had he been calling Packers games at the time), which came immediately in response to a Curtis Martin touchdown that closed the Patriots to within 27-21. The 99-yard return took the wind out of the Patriots' sails and allowed the Packer defense to close the door on Drew Bledsoe and company (more on that shortly). Howard was dangerous on punt returns as well, and finished with a line of four kickoff returns for 154 yards and the score to go along with six punt returns for 90 yards.
Reggie White was the big name on the Packers' defense on the day, and he closed the door on Bledsoe after Howard's kickoff return, recording sacks on consecutive plays to force a New England punt. He added a third sack in the fourth quarter. The defense picked up four interceptions off Bledsoe, one each by Doug Evans, LeRoy Butler, Craig Newsome, and Brian Williams (off a deflection by Newsome).
Super Bowl XXXII - Denver Broncos 31, Packers 24
The one Super Bowl loss in Packers history wasn't without its impressive efforts. Had the result of the game gone in Green Bay's favor, there would have been a difficult decision on the game MVP. Favre had a good day, going 25 for 42 with 256 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. Dorsey Levens picked up 90 yards on 19 carries with six catches for 56 receiving yards.
But Antonio Freeman built on a big game in Super Bowl XXXI with an even more impressive game the following year. Freeman was a beast, recording nine catches for 126 yards and two scores. In his two Super Bowls, he totaled 12 receptions for 231 yards and three touchdowns.
Super Bowl XLV - Packers 31, Pittsburgh Steelers 25
This game is of course the most vivid in Packer fans' memories, if only because it's the most recent. Aaron Rodgers won the game's MVP, and deservedly so - if you win the game with a stat line of 24-39 for 309 yards and three scores and don't win the MVP, then there's something a little crazy going on. Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings had the big days as the receivers, with Nelson catching nine passes for 146 yards and a score while Jennings had four receptions for 64 yards and two scores.
Nick Collins deserves special attention for his interception return, which put Green Bay up 14-0 late in the first quarter. Clay Matthews also gets a mention for forcing a fumble out of Rashard Mendenhall on the first play of the fourth quarter, returning momentum back to Green Bay after Pittsburgh had driven into Packer territory.
Those are the some of the best individual performances in the Packers' rich Super Bowl history. Please don't hesitate to let me know in the comments if I missed anyone who was worthy of mention.