The Green Bay Packers stumbled out of the gate in their 2004 campaign with a 1-4 record, but by week 12, coach Mike Sherman had a different team who came into their contest with the 5-5 St. Louis Rams, riding a five-game winning streak. The game was not only featured on Monday Night Football, but it was also the 200th consecutive start by Packers’ ironman quarterback Brett Favre. A brisk 23-degree wind chill greeted the 70,385 in attendance at Lambeau Field as the Packers hoped to continue to ride their recent wave of success. While the Packers’ relied on one quarterback since September 27, 1992, when Favre replaced an injured Don Majkowski, the Rams saw 13 quarterbacks start under center during that span. The Rams “Greatest Show on Turf” era ended in 2001, but the team was still very formidable and was coming off a 12-4 season and found themselves again in the race for an NFC West division championship.
Rams’ quarterback Marc Bulger led the offense featuring familiar names such as running back Marshall Faulk and receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. The Rams, winners of the previous two contests in the series history both in convincing fashion, hadn’t won a game at Lambeau Field since the 1995 season opener and they didn’t get off to the start they hoped for in this one. After Favre and the Packers’ offense were unable to get anything going on the first drive of the game, coach Sherman called on punter Bryan Barker to boot it away and the Rams took over on their own 27-yard. Three plays later, after a six-yard reception by Bruce on third and five, the Packers’ rookie third round draft pick, cornerback Joey Thomas, stripped Bruce of the football and the first-round draft pick Ahmad Carroll scooped it up and raced 40-yards for a Packers’ touchdown and a 7-0 lead, three and a half minutes into the game. When the Rams took over on their second possession, head coach Mike Martz used a balance offensive approach and utilized rookie running back Steven Jackson, who was a bruiser compared to the shifty Faulk. The Rams marched 50 yards down the field, but stalled out at the Green Bay 24-yard line and Rams’ pro-bowl kicker Jeff Wilkins missed a 42-yard field goal attempt.
Wilkins would be able to redeem himself shortly after the Rams’ defense forced another punt by Barker, the Rams’ took the football from their own ten-yard line and fourteen plays and six minutes later, after a third down incomplete pass by Bulger, Wilkins finished off the drive with a 34-yard field goal to put St. Louis on the board. With starting running back Ahman Green inactive for the game due to a rib injury, the Packers leaned on a combination Najeh Davenport, Tony Fisher and fullback William Henderson to help lead their ground attack. The trio helped Green Bay move down the field on their next drive, gaining 37 of the 75 yards on the drive while receiver Donald Driver pitched in with two receptions for 30 total yards. On second down and six from the St. Louis seven-yard line, Favre found tight end Bubba Franks who bulldozed his way into the end zone to put the Packers back up two possessions, 14-3. On the Rams’ next possession, after two straight completions to receivers Kevin Curtis and Holt, defensive end Aaron Kampman roped down Bulger for a ten-yard loss, which took the wind out of the Rams on the drive and they called on Kevin Stemke, a former Wisconsin Badger and Green Bay native, to punt it away two downs later. The Packers’ offense kept rolling on their fourth possession. A 12-yard reception by Driver was followed by a 31-yard run by Davenport and then Favre hit Franks for a 29-yard gain to bring the ball to the St. Louis 10-yard line. On the next play Favre connected with receiver Javon Walker with a 10-yard touchdown pass and the Packers increased their lead to 21-3.
With a little less than three minutes remaining in the second half, coach Martz called an all aerial attack in which Bulger completed five of seven passes to quickly move the Rams from their own 28-yard line to the Green Bay five-yard line. After a short Faulk run, Bulger linked up with Bruce for a Rams’ touchdown to cut the Packers lead to 21-10 right before halftime. The Packers ran out the remaining 23 seconds and headed to the locker room with an 11-point lead, which was not very comfortable with dynamic Rams’ offense on the other side of the field.
The Rams opened the second half with possession of the football and on the second play, Bulger hit tight end Brandon Manumaleuna for 25 yards to bring the ball into Green Bay territory. After a crucial third down defensive holding call against Carroll gave the Rams’ an automatic first down, the rookie redeemed himself immediately. On the next play, following the penalty, Carroll stepped up and intercepted a pass intended for Bruce and halted the Rams’ drive and their momentum. However, outside of a 27 reception by Robert Ferguson on third down, the Packers’ following drive went for naught, but the Packers were able to flip the field on St. Louis after a 52-yard punt pinned the Rams’ back to their own 20-yard line. The Rams’ proceeding series was methodical 12 play drive, which drained seven and a half minutes off the game clock before the Packers’ defense stepped up and stopped Faulk for a three-yard loss and forced consecutive incompletions to bring up fourth down and seven from the Green Bay 24-yard line. On the fourth down, with his field goal unit out on the field, Coach Martz rolled the dice and called a fake field goal, but Wilkins found the ball in his hands with nowhere to go or throw before being gang tackled by defensive backs Al Harris and Mark Roman to force a turnover on downs.
Davenport started the Packers’ second drive of the second half by ripping off a 37-yard run which was followed up two plays later by a 15-yard completion to Driver to set up the Packers’ back in the red zone. On the next play Favre hit Driver again, this time for a 16-yard leaping touchdown catch to cap off a quick and efficient 71-yard drive to push the Green Bay advantage to 28-10. With the Rams being no stranger to large deficits in a season where their five losses coming at an average of 15 points, Bulger came out slinging completing his first three passes and then hooking up with Bruce for a big 56-yard gain on third down and ten to move the ball down to the Green Bay eight-yard line. On the next play, Faulk took the ball across the goal line on a short reception from Bulger to make it a 28-17 ballgame. With a little over 14 minutes remaining in the game, the Packers took to the ground to help grind out the Rams’ defense, by gaining 45 yards on the ground between Davenport, Fischer and Favre on a 65-yard drive which culminated with a 27-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell to extend to Packers lead to 14 at 31-17.
After a 33-yard Bulger to Bruce hookup opened the Rams’ next drive and brought the ball down to the Green Bay 30-yard line, sixth year veteran defensive end Cleditus Hunt would make his presence known. On second and seven Hunt sacked and forced a Bulger fumble (recovered by the Rams) which permanently knocked the wind out of the Rams’ sails for the night and coach Martz called on Stemke, who pinned the Packers’ down on their own 16-yard line. After the two-minute warning, coach Sherman decided to go for it on fourth down and one, and Davenport put the final dagger in the Rams’ by rumbling for a 40-yard touchdown run down the right sideline to cap the Packers’ offensive onslaught and put Green Bay up for good at 38-17. During the following drive, just for good measure, with the Rams’ backed up on their own 23-yard line with less than a minute left, safety Darren Sharper tackled and stripped Bruce of the football after a 12-yard completion, and cornerback Michael Hawthorne scooped it up and brought it 34-yards the other way to complete the day’s scoring and extend the Packers’ lead 45-17. Packers’ Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila put the final cap on the game by sacking Bulger on the game’s last drive and the Packers’ walked off the field victorious for the sixth week in a row.
Favre’s record streak of starts moved to 219, counting playoffs, almost 100 more than Ron Jaworski’s previous NFL quarterback mark of 123. Favre improved to 37-1 at home (Green Bay and Milwaukee) in temperatures 34 degrees and lower. Favre’s stat line for the evening was 18/27 for 215 with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Davenport ran rugged and determined all night and finished with 178 yards on 19 carries (9.4 yards per carry) and one touchdown. The 178-yard mark was the fifth highest single-game rushing total in Packers’ franchise history. On the other side, with the Rams’ playing catch up for most of the game, Bulger threw for 448 yards completing 35 of 53 attempts, two touchdowns, one interception. The 448 yards were the most ever thrown against the Packers. Bruce led all receivers with nine receptions for 170 yards, but his two crucial fumbles were both returned for touchdowns.
The Packers’ went 3-3 to finish the 2004 season at 10-6 to capture the NFC North Division Championship for the third season in a row before ultimately losing in the Wildcard playoff game to the Minnesota Vikings. The Rams’ snuck into the playoffs as a Wildcard with an 8-8 record and defeated their rival Seattle Seahawks in the Wildcard round to give them a three-game season sweep against Seattle. The Rams’ would then fall 47-17 to the Atlanta Falcons in the Divisional Playoff round.