Barry Sanders vs. the Green Bay Packers
A look back at all the classic battles from Bob McGinn. Barry Sanders, the most electrifying running back ever, faced the Packers 21 times.
This is a continuation of the latest “McGinn Files” piece at Go Long. To read Bob McGinn’s feature on Barry Sanders, upgrade to a paid subscription. You’ll learn all about the iconic 1989 NFL Draft and why there truly is “only one Barry Sanders.”
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Barry Sanders’ rivalry with the Green Bay Packers lasted for a decade, his individual brilliance pitted against a superior team.
In their 21 meetings, Sanders averaged 106.1 yards rushing for the Detroit Lions but the Packers overcame that to forge a 13-8 record.
“Easily the best runner we had to play against when I was with the Packers,” said Ron Wolf, who took over as the team’s general manager in late November 1991 and didn’t step down until spring 2001. “Barry Sanders was a hold-your-breath type of player because every time he touched the ball he had a chance to go the distance.
“You have to remember that they had Herman Moore in (Sanders’) time, who also was a dynamite performer. One or the other could make you have a bad Sunday afternoon.
“He, along with Moore, made them competitive, but we were a much better team. I do not think he was a block who prevented us from achieving our goals.”
Those were the days of the NFC Central Division, and in Sanders’ first three seasons the Wayne Fontes-coached Lions held a 4-2 advantage over the Lindy Infante-coached Packers. With Wolf, coach Mike Holmgren and quarterback Brett Favre all arriving in Green Bay in 1992, the Packers defeated Sanders and the Lions 11 times in the 15 meetings before Sanders’ retirement after the ’98 season.
The breakdown for Sanders against Green Bay was 6-4 at the Silverdome, 2-5 at Lambeau Field and 0-4 at Milwaukee County Stadium.
Sanders faced four teams 10 times or more in his 159-game career, counting playoffs. Of the seven games that he missed due to injury, one came against the other four NFC Central teams. He played 21 games against Green Bay, 20 against Tampa Bay and 19 each against Chicago and Minnesota.
His averages were 113 yards per game and 5.51 yards per carry against the Buccaneers, 97.79 and 5.12 against the Vikings and 97.16 and 5.02 against the Bears. In the Green Bay series, he carried 424 times for 2,227 yards and seven touchdowns; his average per carry was 5.25 yards.
The Lions captured the NFC Central title twice in Sanders’ first five seasons (1991, ’93); they haven’t won it since.
Recalling the draft in 1989 when the Packers selected tackle Tony Mandarich at No. 2, one spot ahead of Sanders, Wolf said, “No doubt in my mind. Had the Packers taken him (Sanders) I would never have been in Green Bay.”
Here is a game-by-game look at the career of Barry Sanders against the Packers. If the commentary on Sanders becomes repetitiously glowing, that was the reality of watching one of the NFL’s all-time greats. The coverage appeared in the Green Bay Press-Gazette (1989-’90), The Milwaukee Journal (1991-’94) and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. (1995-’98).
Date/site/score: Oct. 29, at Milwaukee County Stadium. Green Bay wins, 23-20, in overtime.
Sanders’ stats: 30 carries, 184 yards, 6.1-yard average (long gain of 31 yards). No receptions.
What I wrote: Spectacular rookie Barry Sanders bolted through Green Bay’s semi-confused defense for 184 yards on 30 carries. A half-rollout draw play did most of the damage … Sanders broke or eluded too many tackles.
What they said
LB Brian Noble: “He will be a great one. He’s so low, so compact and so strong, he doesn’t allow you a shot at him. You’re grabbing at cloth and he’s running by you.”
Sanders: “I can’t really dwell on that. It’s unfortunate we lost the game. That’s the stat that counts (his total of 184 yards was 13 short of Bob Hoernschemeyer’s single-game team record).”
Date/site/score: Nov. 12, at the Silverdome. Detroit wins, 31-22.
Sanders’ stats: 16-69-4.3-1 touchdown (15). One reception, 20 yards.
What I wrote: The pitiful Lions had 10 yards to show for their first four second-half possessions when they started from the Green Bay 41 (leading, 24-20). So assistant Mouse Davis called Sanders’ number six straight times and the magnificent rookie responded by finding the end zone for the clinching touchdown … The entire defense did well clogging lanes and gang-tackling Barry Sanders.
What they said
Coach Wayne Fontes: “The (20-yard) catch by Barry was the turning point in the game for us. Rodney (Peete) threw the ball a little high and Barry made a great catch.”
LB Brian Noble: “We just took the run away from them.”
Date/site/score: Sept. 30, at the Silverdome. Green Bay wins, 24-21.
Sanders’ stats: 20-94-4.7-1 (18). One reception, 11 yards.
What I wrote: What a strange game. Linebacker Brian Noble, the Packers’ leading tackler, hits Barry Sanders on the second snap from scrimmage and doesn’t make another tackle. Nose tackle Bob Nelson, No. 2 on the tackling charts after three weeks, isn’t credited with a single stop. Defensive coordinator Hank Bullough elected to use quicker players in his pursuit of Sanders, quarterback Rodney Peete and the Lions’ run-and-shoot offense. Noble and Nelson played only about 15 of the 61 defensive plays.
What they said
LB Brian Noble: “When you’ve got a back like Sanders you’ve got to limit his contribution to the game. I think for the most part they (his teammates on defense) did a pretty damn good job on him.”
DE Matt Brock: “Sanders is a big threat, but I think Rodney is as big or bigger a threat with his running.”
Date/site/score: Dec. 22, at Lambeau Field. Detroit wins, 24-17.
Sanders’ stats: 19-133-7.0-1 (37). Four receptions, 49 yards.
What I wrote: The crowd (46,700) witnessed a grimly-fought battle between NFC Central Division rivals that, basically, was decided by the incredible talents of running back Barry Sanders. When the Lions moved 74 yards on eight plays for the winning touchdown with 3:37 left, it was Sanders who negotiated the last 50 yards on four carries.
What they said
Barry Sanders: “I don’t know what I would have done if I was drafted by Green Bay. I don’t know if I would’ve wanted to play in Green Bay. I don’t think I could’ve handled this weather (2 degrees, wind chill minus-35) every day.”
Packers CB Jerry Holmes: “He’s their entire running game. Barry’s the man. They wouldn’t be half as good without him.”
Coach Lindy Infante: “I didn’t know if he (Sanders) would be able to stand up or not (late in the game). I knew if he could we were going to be in trouble.”
Packers safety Tiger Greene: “They had a small back (Sanders), and a lot of times you can’t see him. He’d get eight yards before you could get to him … No, I don’t think he’s better than Walter (Payton) in his day, but he’s getting there.”
Date/site/score: Sept. 8, at the Silverdome. Detroit wins, 23-14.
Sanders’ stats: 18-42-2.3-1 (7). Two receptions, no yards.
What I wrote: Halfback Barry Sanders played most of the game after being questionable with a rib injury … The orders were to read-and-react against Barry Sanders, denying him his favorite cutback lanes. It was mission accomplished.
What they said
Cornerback LeRoy Butler: “He (Sanders) just wasn’t in rhythm. I was glad he wasn’t. If he had been in rhythm, it’d have been a different ballgame.”
Date/site/score: Dec. 15, at Lambeau Field. Detroit wins, 21-17.
Sanders’ stats: 27-85-3.1 (26). Two receptions, 13 yards.
What I wrote: Erik Kramer, a limited free agent and CFL refugee, had to throw 29 times when the Packers neutralized Barry Sanders. A disciplined, gang-tackling defense caused Wayne Fontes to pass on 11 consecutive plays in the third quarter … The whole defensive line maintained its gap responsibilities against Sanders. Tony Bennett leaped over attempted cut blocks by Sanders and (tackle Lomas) Brown for 1 ½ sacks. Chuck Cecil made several open-field tackles against Sanders on a treacherous track.
What they said
Barry Sanders: “Their pursuit was tremendous. They made great defensive plays that kept us on our heels until the fourth quarter.”
Date/site/score: Nov. 1, at the Silverdome. Green Bay wins, 27-13.
Sanders’ stats: 12-38-3.2 (9). Five receptions, 30 yards.
What I wrote: Defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes alternated nickel packages designed to contain Barry Sanders and pressure Rodney Peete. Sanders rushed 12 times for 38 yards, far below his 101-yard average against the Packers … All of the defenders converged on Sanders but outside linebacker George Koonce was the key man. All seven of his tackles were made on Sanders … As maligned as the Packers’ defensive front is, and even minus Brian Noble, they were better and more inspired than the Lions’ pathetic offensive line. A makeshift unit that started four backups was so bad that coach Wayne Fontes opted to play the fourth quarter with third-stringers at right guard and tackle.
What they said
Defensive end Robert Brown: “He (Sanders) is probably the best player in the league. The defensive linemen tried to get into the backfield to confuse their blocking schemes. If we missed, so be it.”
Coach Wayne Fontes: “This was just a terrible, terrible game. This is the worst game I’ve ever been associated with since I’ve been here (1985).”
Date/site/score: Dec. 6, at Milwaukee County Stadium. Green Bay wins, 38-10.
Sanders’ stats: 16-114-7.1 (26). Three receptions, 20 yards.
What I wrote: Sanders was his usual amazing self, darting and dodging behind a young and untalented offensive line for 114 yards on 16 attempts. Nevertheless, Sanders was more of a nuisance than a threat to the Packers because of the lopsided score … Sanders rushed for 7.1 per carry. Considering the Lions’ leaky front, you know there was some loose tackling. Yet, he had just eight yards when the Packers assumed command at 28-0 early in the second quarter. After that, the rush line was given the green light to pay less attention to draws and screens and tee off on the passer.
What they said
Linebacker Tony Bennett, on whether chasing Sanders is more difficult than facing reporters: “I don’t think so. That’s just running and tackling. Or running and trying to tackle. For me, being a loner, it’s harder for me because there’s more notoriety and people around me, and it totally destroys me.”
Date/site/score: Nov. 21, at Milwaukee County Stadium. Green Bay wins, 26-17.
Sanders’ stats: 17-75-4.4 (19). Two receptions, eight yards.
What I wrote: Going in, the Green Bay Packers’ overriding objective was to prevent Barry Sanders from determining the outcome. This was no easy task, trying to contain the (NFL’s) greatest running back while struggling to overcome their own error-stricken quarterback (Brett Favre) … All the linebackers had embarrassing moments whiffing on Sanders, but their hustle and gang tackling helped limit him to 75 yards and a 4.4 average.
What they said
LB Keo Coleman, after making his first start: “We went out and did a pretty good job containing Barry. I wish he could have kept getting the ball more so I could have made more plays.”
Date/site/score: Jan. 2, at the Silverdome. Detroit wins, 30-20.
Sanders’ stats: Did not play because of knee injury.
What I wrote: Yes, the Packers’ offense is severely limited without tight end Jackie Harris providing a deep threat in the middle and with Sterling Sharpe struggling to free himself on artificial turf with a bad foot. Sure, the defense had to play without linebackers George Koonce (dislocated shoulder) and Bryce Paup (calf strain) for much of the game. But before anyone uses injuries as an excuse, remember that the Lions played the last five games without franchise running back Barry Sanders … Free agent Eric Lynch, the Lions’ third-string back, gained 115 yards in 30 attempts and scored two touchdowns.
What they said
Safety LeRoy Butler: “We made (Erik) Kramer look like he was Pro Bowl. We made Lynch look like he was Pro Bowl. It was like, ‘Oh, yeah, we’re in the playoffs, it don’t make no difference.’ We’re the better team … if we don’t come in here with some intensity (next week) they’re going to kick our ass. That’s plain English. Simple.”
Date/site/score: Jan. 8, at the Silverdome. Green Bay wins, 28-24, in NFC Wild Card playoff game.
Sanders’ stats: 27-169-6.3 (44). Two receptions, no yards.
What I wrote: Barry Sanders, playing for the first time since suffering a knee injury on Thanksgiving Day, proved unstoppable. The Lions outplayed the Packers, amassing large advantages in total yards (410-293), first downs (25-16) and time of possession (35:34-24:26) … The Packers trailed, 24-21, with 2:26 remaining. They had the ball on their own 29 after Matt Brock and Wayne Simmons twice stopped Sanders for no gain and a third-down pass to Brett Perriman was dropped … Trying just to force overtime with a last-ditch field goal, the Packers won on an improbable Brett Favre-to-Sterling Sharpe 40-yard touchdown pass with 55 seconds remaining that will live forever whenever Green Bay fans gather to recall great moments in franchise history … Not having speedy George Koonce to cut off Barry Sanders was a crucial loss. Sanders took advantage of over-pursuit, faulty containment and missed tackles to gain 169 yards.
What they said
Wayne Fontes: “Right before the game we found out that (Eric) Lynch couldn’t go. His hamstring tightened up. I told Barry, ‘Just go as long as you can go.’ He tried his damndest. He’s pretty tired right now.”
Barry Sanders: “Everyone in our camp is disappointed. We feel like going out and doing it again. The best team won this game. If you want to use this as a building block, go ahead. I can’t wait until we start again next year.”
Date/site/score: Nov. 6, at Milwaukee County Stadium. Green Bay wins, 38-30.
Sanders’ stats: 15-47-3.1 (20). Eight receptions, 51 yards.
What I wrote: In forging their 24-point lead, the Packers completely dominated the line of scrimmage with their defensive front seven, holding the great Barry Sanders to minus-4 yards on six first-down rushes in the first half. That would have been more than enough if Scott Mitchell, the Lions’ ineffective quarterback, had stayed in the lineup instead of suffering a broken navicular bone in his right hand and exiting shortly before halftime (in 2012, left tackle Lomas Brown gleefully told ESPN Radio he intentionally allowed Sean Jones to beat him inside on the play Mitchell was hurt) … The entire front seven drove hard off the ball, leaving Barry Sanders nowhere to run … Bryce Paup tackled Sanders about five times, frequently throwing aside the tight end first.
What they said
Defensive end Sean Jones: “He (Brown) was playing me to the outside all day. Finally, I just figured we needed a play so I took a chance. The inside was there all day but you can’t take it with Barry. … Any time that you can hold Barry Sanders under 150 yards you are happy. Even though (Dave) Krieg got hot, we made too many errors in the second half.”
Defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmur: “We controlled the running game with Barry. That was a big, big part of this ballgame.”
Date/site/score: Dec. 4, at the Silverdome. Detroit wins, 34-31.
Sanders’ stats: 20-188-9.4-1 (63). Three receptions, 17 yards.
What I wrote: Early in the fourth quarter, the Packers faced fourth and 1 at the Detroit 36. Mike Holmgren probably should have gone for it or let Chris Jacke attempt a 53-yard field goal (he punted) … Starting from their 10, the Lions sent Barry Sanders off left tackle on the third play of the drive. He eluded Steve McMichael in the hole, left Terrell Buckley and George Teague reaching for air on the corner and outran LeRoy Butler down the sideline before Doug Evans caught him (after a 63-yard gain). Five plays later, Derrick Moore bulled over for a 1-yard touchdown and the final margin of victory … Sanders went 34 yards to set up a second-quarter touchdown when guard Doug Widell trapped Bryce Paup … Missed tackles by Teague, Buckley and Evans accounted for 109 extra yards … Every single one of Sanders’ 20 carries began by going away from Reggie White and toward Sean Jones.
What they said
Mike Holmgren: “Craig (Hentrich) kicked exactly the kind of punt I wanted him to kick and then Barry Sanders, a great player, beat us with a big play.”
Linebacker Bryce Paup: “We can’t stop people. In the past we’d always stop him (Sanders). There’s no reason to think we couldn’t this time. To tell you the truth, I don’t know what was happening.”
LeRoy Butler, on Sanders’ 63-yard run: “He was outside and was gone 100 miles an hour.”
Date/site/score: Dec. 31, at Lambeau Field. Green Bay wins, 16-12, in NFC Wild Card playoff game.
Sanders’ stats: 13-minus 1-minus .1 (7). Three receptions, four yards.
What I wrote: They took the NFL’s rushing leader out of the game. Shocking as it may seem, Fritz Shurmur’s unified, aggressive run defense limited Barry Sanders to negative yardage … Reggie White and Sean Jones were at the top of their games. The Lions must have been surprised to see White inside because they didn’t adjust and give guard Shawn Bouwens help until late in the second quarter. White trashed Bouwens and guard Doug Widell, generating phenomenal penetration on about 17 plays. It was a sight to behold. With the inside of his line in White-induced turmoil, Sanders kept trying to bounce outside. Jones was an easy mark for him a month ago but not this time. Operating against tackle Lomas Brown, who appears to have lost considerable weight, Jones penetrated without losing containment … Bryce Paup tackled Sanders for losses three times. Both George Koonce and Wayne Simmons helped force punts by making one-on-one sideline stops against Sanders. Fred Strickland stuffed some lead blocks to cut off running lanes … The entire secondary did its share to stymie Sanders. George Teague, LeRoy Butler and Doug Evans took decisive shots at him when opportunities arose, and Terrell Buckley eluded blockers and forced him inside.
What they said
Mike Holmgren: “(Sanders) is a great football player on grass. He’s an unbelievable football player on turf.”
Wayne Fontes: “They controlled the line of scrimmage and we never had a chance. If you can’t run the ball, you can’t win. They just out-physicaled us.”
Barry Sanders: “I think they did a good job of pursuing. When we tried to get outside, they were always there. They did a good job of fighting off blocks and closing up all the gaps on defense.”
Bryce Paup: “That’s just amazing because he’s the best back to ever play this game, in my opinion. I think it’s one of the greatest accomplishments this defense has ever had.”
Reggie White: “I’ve seen this man do things that I’ve never seen anybody else do. He’s definitely the best, and he deserves to be the MVP in this league.”
Date/site/score: Oct. 15, at Lambeau Field. Green Bay wins, 30-21.
Sanders’ stats: 18-124-6.9 (30). No receptions.
What I wrote: Barry Sanders didn’t catch a pass after coming into the game with 22. His four longest rushes (30, 20, 12, 11) came off the left side against George Koonce and Sean Jones. Koonce was unable to get off blocks by guard Doug Widell, tight end Ron Hall and fullback Cory Schlesinger, either to squeeze the hole or make the tackle. Fred Strickland also was slow at times coming off blocks, leaving him a step late against Sanders.
What they said
George Koonce: “They had us thinking about that pass and then Barry gashed us.”
Barry Sanders: “We have more trouble with them (the Packers) than almost anyone else in the league, including Dallas and San Francisco … The way I looked at it, I’ve played over 100 games in my career and if critics want to pick one game (the playoff game in 1994) – I look at it as the exception and not the rule.”
Mike Holmgren: “Every time they motioned him (Sanders) out of the backfield, I was glad. It’s crazy because they were killing us with their passing, but then I knew they couldn’t hand it off to him. You can gear up to stop him and he’s still going to get his yards. It’s amazing, he’s so good.”
Date/site/score: Oct. 29, at the Silverdome. Detroit wins, 24-16.
Sanders’ stats: 22-167-7.6 (37). Three receptions, 31 yards.
What I wrote: On third down from the Detroit 3, Brett Favre was sacked from the blind side, the ball popped loose and Chris Spielman picked the ball off the pile for a fumble recovery. After that, the defense that was ranked second in the league but allowed 407 yards collapsed. Green Bay had all three timeouts left to stop the clock when the Lions took over at their 14 with 2:41 left. Instead, Barry Sanders rushed five times in a row for 64 yards, including four for 55 off the left side toward Sean Jones. Thus, the clock expired without the Packers touching the ball again. Letting Sanders (run) against eight-man fronts at the end was pathetic … Doug Evans, Craig Newsome and Lenny McGill missed at least three tackles, and LeRoy Butler missed two.
What they said
Barry Sanders: “I can’t remember many drives like that since I’ve been here when we shoved the ball down their throats at the end of a game.”
Mike Holmgren: “It wasn’t the turf. It wasn’t the noise. It wasn’t any of that stuff. Barry Sanders played an outstanding game. And Scott Mitchell. And Herman Moore.”
Date/site/score: Nov. 3, at Lambeau Field. Green Bay wins, 28-18.
Sanders’ stats: 20-152-7.6-1 (35). One reception, minus-1 yards.
What I wrote: With Scott Mitchell, the strong-armed southpaw who fired six touchdown passes in two meetings with the Packers last year, the Lions would have been in ideal position to win as an 11-point underdog. The reason is Barry Sanders would average 7.6 and gain 152 yards behind an offensive line that didn’t back away from challenging Reggie White man-to-man and the rest of the league’s No. 1-ranked run defense. It was almost strictly because of Sanders’ phenomenal performance that the Lions became the first team to score first against the Packers this year and why they trailed by just four points, 14-10, late in the third quarter. But at some point it became clear that Don Majkowski couldn’t keep handing off to Sanders or throwing off run fakes. He had to make plays to beat his old team, and when that time arose he wasn’t up for the task … With 320-pound right tacke Zefross Moss playing a career-best game, the Lions ran Sanders to White’s side for gains of 35, 18, 12, 7, 7, 7 and 5 yards … Wayne Simmons was out of position on a few of Sanders’ runs, and another struggling linebacker was George Koonce … Eugene Robinson flew around and attacked Sanders, which is what the defensive staff preached all week. But he also missed three tackles, including a frontal shot on Sanders three yards downfield that turn into an 18-yard touchdown run.
What they said
Mike Holmgren, who erupted at halftime after seeing defensive coaches at the blackboard making adjustments: “I said, ‘No, this is not what’s going to do it. It’s just playing harder and with more emotion.’ In the first half, we did not control them defensively. In the second half, we did.”
Linebacker Wayne Simmons, on Sanders’ 18-yard touchdown: “I was behind him. Santana (Dotson) had him cut off. He was coming at an angle, I was coming from the back side. I said, ‘Maybe I can get him.’ Then he made a move on Santana … oh, boy. I’ve never seen anything like that. He makes some phenomenal plays. You catch yourself just sitting there watching him. You’re, like, ‘Did you see that? Did you see that?’”
Defensive tackle Santana Dotson: “Barry’s field of vision is so great. And when he makes a cut or a move, it’s at full speed. He can break it anywhere.”
Date/site/score: Dec. 15, at the Silverdome. Green Bay wins, 31-3.
Sanders’ stats: 21-78-3.7 (12). One reception, minus-2 yards.
What I wrote: The Lions’ game plan was to run Sanders, and then him some more. But with defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmur’s players adhering to a disciplined, containment-oriented scheme, Sanders’ long run was merely 12 yards in 21 carries … Reggie White’s concentration not to let Sanders outside him was phenomenal … Shurmur spent most of the second and third quarters with all three linebackers on the field. Not only didn’t he have matchup problems but also had bigger players to corral Sanders … Eugene Robinson tackled Sanders by himself in the open field three times.
What they said
QB Scott Mitchell: “I think we’ve kind of fallen apart as a team … The thing I watched all week in the films was that they (the Packers) are solid in every position.”
Reggie White, after right tackle Zefross Moss was injured and Scott Conover had to replace him: “They started leaving Barry in off and on (to block), and then they started sliding the center to me in the second half. We didn’t have to blitz a whole lot.”
GM Ron Wolf: “It’s so correct; we don’t screw up. Part of our discipline is what our coaches have done. We’ve got so many things we can do here to enable us to win a game and stay in a game.”
Defensive assistant Johnny Holland: “It’s just amazing how well we’re playing on defense this year.”
Date/site/score: Sept. 28, at the Silverdome. Detroit wins, 26-15.
Sanders’ stats: 28-139-5.0 (46). One reception, 20 yards.
What I wrote: GM Ron Wolf conceded that he was displeased and more than a little surprised when the Lions were able to drive 59 yards in 12 plays for a clinching field goal with 1:30 remaining against a defense that knew the run was coming. On the march, the Lions rushed on all but one play, with Barry Sanders carrying nine times for 35 yards … Most players on defense missed Sanders more than once but not Bernardo Harris. He had a game-high 11 tackles, for the most part holding his cutback lanes and getting off blocks at the point of attack.
What they said
Mike Holmgren: “The Lions have great offensive weapons. Barry Sanders is just an unbelievable player.”
Barry Sanders: “Of course they were champions last year. They haven’t crowned the champions for this year yet.”
Tackle Ross Verba: “I’ve never been in a place this loud. It’s tough.”
LeRoy Butler: “We keep living off last year. That stuff is gone.”
Coach Bobby Ross: “Wow! What a game. This is what the NFL is about, what we had today.”
Date/site/score: Nov. 2, at Lambeau Field. Green Bay wins, 20-10.
Sanders’ stats: 23-105-4.6 (18). No receptions.
What I wrote: Take them any way you can get them, say nice things about Scott Mitchell and don’t look back. That’s what the Green Bay Packers did Sunday night after Mitchell went into his familiar panic mode with four interceptions to undermine his team’s determined upset bid … Gilbert Brown played about 75% of the snaps and had a great game. Center Kevin Glover and right guard Jeff Hartings just don’t have the bulk to move him. The Lions double-teamed Brown on virtually every running play but still he wouldn’t budge, leaving Barry Sanders two fewer gaps to enter. On one play in the third quarter, Brown had enough stamina and speed to tackle Sanders seven yards downfield on the sideline.
What they said
Mike Holmgren: “You kind of think that Barry’s going to get his 100 but I thought we did a real fine job against him. A great defensive effort covered up a lot of things tonight … I’ve said this before. I think Bobby Ross is a fine coach. He will prepare his team well every week, and they were well-prepared tonight.”
Barry Sanders: “They stopped our running game. That forced us to make some mistakes.”
WR Johnnie Morton: “I think last game we physically beat them up. I think Green Bay’s defense wanted to hit our offense as hard as we hit their offense.”
Ron Wolf: “Very tough game. This is really a good division. Every game we play is tooth and nail.”
Date/site/score: Sept. 6, at Lambeau Field. Green Bay wins, 38-19.
Sanders’ stats: 17-70-4.1 (18). No receptions.
What I wrote: The run defense ended Barry Sanders’ streak of 100-yard games at 14. His long was 18 on a 17-for-70 day … All the games that George Koonce has played against Sanders showed. Whether it was coming up to meet a lead blocker or slicing through from a stack position Koonce gave the Packers the third physical starting linebacker that they didn’t have in 1997 (with Seth Joyner) following the trade of Wayne Simmons … Bernardo Harris missed three tackles (the Packers missed about eight in all, a manageable number with Sanders on the field) but he also used his speed to squeeze Sanders’ cutback lanes.
What they said
Lions DT Luther Elliss: “We’re tired of being the same old Lions. We’re not the same old Detroit Lions.”
Fritz Shurmur: “Our guys did a great job of getting off blocks and getting to the ball.”
Bobby Ross: “He (Brett Favre) might be the greatest that’s ever played the game.”
Lions defensive coordinator Larry Peccatiello, on the Packers’ 28-game home winning streak: “Don’t give too much credit to the stadium because they’ve had years when they haven’t done well at home. You put Brett Favre in any other stadium in the country and the results would be the same. The true advantage is him.”
Date/site/score: Oct. 15, at the Silverdome. Detroit wins, 27-20.
Sanders’ stats: 25-155-6.2-1 (73). Three receptions, 27 yards.
What I wrote: Frittering away a 10-0 lead, the Packers were whipped by the struggling Lions Thursday night. Brett Favre played terribly for the second straight week; a veteran and supposedly rock-ribbed defense was unable to rattle rookie quarterback Charlie Batch; and Barry Sanders was Barry Sanders. That is, magnificent. He thrilled a raucous, jubilant crowd of 77,933 by carrying 25 times for 155 yards and breaking the game open with a 73-yard touchdown run with 8 minutes left. He almost had 80 yards more and another touchdown less than a minute later until the lengthy jaunt was brought back by penalty.
What they said
Ron Wolf: “It’s our annual appearance over here. I thought we were beyond that. Obviously, we’re not. What can you say?”
Charlie Batch, on the difference between him and fellow rookie quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf: “I’ve got Barry Sanders. They don’t.”
Wolf, asked if he regarded Sanders as a fabulous back: “He is, here.”
Mike Holmgren: “I thought he (Sanders) was special.”
I remember this 1994 game and it has crossed my mind multiple times since.
"Sanders’ stats: 13-minus 1-minus .1 (7). Three receptions, four yards."
The Packers were on the rise and the beat down the they put on Sanders and the Lions gave me the confidence the Packers were gonna be a dominate team. I really don't know how the defense was able to hold perhaps the most talented RB in the history of the game to negative yardage, super effort. Man, was it fun to watch.