The Green Bay Packers entered their 89th season of existence with reserved optimism, coming off an 8-8 season and another offseason of the Brett Favre retirement dilemma. Second year Head Coach Mike McCarthy led his team into the 50th Anniversary season of Lambeau Field which had its end zones painted with plain white diagonal stripes in place of GREEN BAY in the north and PACKERS in the south. As a youthful Packers squad took the field in week one, on the other side waited the defending NFC East Champion Philadelphia Eagles, who whooped the Packers in Philadelphia 31-9, on Monday Night Football, the year before and came into Lambeau with the second ranked offense from 2006.
For those who attended the fall like 62 degrees, partly cloudy day at Lambeau Field they were treated to what became a relatively sloppy game between two teams whose prospectus for the year was projected by pundits to go in many routes. The Eagles posted three turnovers along with eight penalties for 76 yards, while the Packers had two turnovers (including Favre’s 274th career interception) to go with six penalties for 35 yards.
Going into the game it was expected that Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb and Favre would be the headliners for the game. McNabb owned an impressive 4-1 record against the future Hall of Fame gunslinger, but it was two rookies who helped an offbeat and injury riddled Packers team pull out the first of 13 wins in 2007. Filling in for injured Running Back Vernand Morency, rookie Brandon Jackson, a second-round draft pick out of Nebraska, helped lead an otherwise lethargic offense. Jackson set the tone running for 40 yards on 15 carries and hauling in four receptions for 35 yards. With starting wideout Greg Jennings inactive with a hamstring injury, rookie James Jones, a third round selection out of San Jose State, stepped up and posted four catches for 29 yards.
Special Teams however, would be the difference maker and also the only scoring punch for the Packers on the day. In the first quarter Eagles’ punt returner Greg Lewis muffed punt off the foot of punter Jon Ryan, which careened into the end zone only to be recovered by Packers’ reserve linebacker Tracy White for a touchdown. White’s touchdown was followed by a Nick Barnett interception on the Eagles’ next possession. The Packers followed up the turnover by putting three more points on the board after a 53-yard field goal, the first of the career of rookie kicker Mason Crosby.
The second quarter was all Philadelphia, as the Eagles outscored the Packers 10-0 to tie the game, ignited by a nine play 67-yard drive which ended with a nine-yard McNabb to Jason Avant touchdown reception.
The third quarter saw the teams trade field goals to head into the fourth all tied up at 13. Five punts were exchanged between the teams until on third down and seven from the Green Bay 48 Favre was sacked and stripped of the football by Trent Cole and the ball was recovered Jevon Kearse. With the Eagles in Packers’ territory with under five minutes remaining the Packers’ defense came up with a big stop, boosted by a holding penalty which pushed the Eagles outside of field goal range. The Packers would march the ball to their own 40 before eventually stalling out. On fourth down, Coach McCarthy sent out the punting unit, with the hopes of sending the game into overtime. With 59 seconds remaining on the clock, Eagles’ return man, JR Reed, who had never returned a punt in a regular season game, took a chance on catching a short 29-yard punt from Jon Ryan in traffic and bobbled the football, which fell to the Lambeau tundra. Second year reserve cornerback Jarret Bush fell on the loose football on the Philadelphia 31, giving the Packers a shot at a potential game-winning field goal. After two run plays that gained nine yards, Favre took a knee in the middle of the field and the Packers called a timeout with six seconds remaining. Rookie Mason Crosby found himself in front of 70,598 staring down a 42-yard field goal attempt. Crosby stood up to the challenge and nailed the 42-yard field goal giving the Packers the 16-13 lead while also become the only player in league history to boot a 50-plus-yard field goal and game-winning field goal in the final minute in his first NFL game.
When the proceeding squib kickoff was halted after 16 yards and an illegal forward pass by return man Correll Buckhalter, the Packers found themselves at 1-0 for the first time since 2004.
The Eagles statistical leaders were McNabb threw for 184 yards one touchdown as well as one interception, while going 15/33. Brian Westbrook finished the day 85 yards rushing to go along with 46 yards receiving and Jason Avant led the receiving core with three catches for 54 yards and the Eagles’ lone touchdown. For the Packers’, Favre finished 23/42 for 206 yds. with one interception. Donald Driver led the team with six receptions for 66 yards. The Packers’ win was the 148th win with Favre as the starting quarterback, tying John Elway’s record for career victories by a starting quarterback in NFL history. While it wasn’t the most memorable of Favre’s fourth-quarter comebacks, it marked the 37th time in green and gold which #4 delivered a win with the Packers trailing or tied in the fourth-quarter.