GREEN BAY, Wis. — It’s the longest winning streak in NFL history. Now going on 22 years since the Detroit Lions last defeated the Green Bay Packers in the state of Wisconsin, there are players on both teams who were infants at the time.
The date was Dec. 15, 1991. It was a quarterback battle between Mike Tomczak and Erik Kramer with running back Barry Sanders only in his third NFL season. Tony Mandarich was a starter on the Packers’ offensive line. Yeah, it was a long time ago.
“I was probably crying in my mom’s arms,” Packers rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari said. “I was still a few months post being out of the womb. I was just trying to learn my first word.”
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This was a common theme among many of the players in Green Bay’s locker room.
“I was probably playing in my playpen,” rookie safety Chris Banjo said. “That’s crazy. I did not know it was that long.”
Banjo and many of his young teammates didn’t know of the winning streak because coach Mike McCarthy chose not to tell them.
“I don’t acknowledge the streak,” McCarthy said. “Last year is last year. The last two decades is the last two decades. I get it, it’s good to write about. It won’t show up in our power points. It won’t show up in our team meetings.”
McCarthy’s decision to not mention it led to many Packers rookies finding out about it from members of the media.
“About five minutes ago when Josh (Sitton) had his interview over there and they asked the question, and I was like, huh?,” Bakhtiari said. “(It’s been) 22 years straight? I didn’t know that.”
Now-retired kicker Jason Hanson spent his entire 21-year career with the Lions and still was never able to enjoy a victory over Green Bay on the road.
“Shoot, he was the oldest person in the league,” said first-year Packers quarterback and 10-year NFL veteran Seneca Wallace. “To never come in here and beat them, and he was in Detroit for a long period of time.”
Wallace — the second-oldest player on a Green Bay roster that is the fifth-youngest in the NFL — has more perspective than many of his teammates. Wallace spent two losing seasons on the Cleveland Browns in 2010 and 2011. He remembered hearing stories during that time about some of the long-running streaks that didn’t favor the Browns and how motivated he and his teammates were for games like those.
Wallace believes that perhaps Detroit’s current losing streak in Wisconsin will create an emotional advantage for certain Lions players when they step onto Lambeau Field on Sunday.
“Any time that you can go out and change a situation from where it’s pure dominance on one end by a different team and you go in and change that, shoot, your hypeness, your energy level has gone up because you want to be that team that has broken that streak,” Wallace said. “We just have to make sure we do the same things that we’ve been doing — obviously the Packers before I got here — in preparation and getting ready for them to make sure they don’t come in here and try to spoil it.”
Detroit coach Jim Schwartz was quick to point out that if the Lions are able to end this streak that it won’t be the first one his emerging team has put to rest. It wouldn’t even be the first time this season that Detroit ended an infamous streak, as the Lions beat the Washington Redskins two weeks ago for the first time ever.
“We were asked a million questions about it,” Schwartz said in a teleconference. “I don’t know how really fair that is to Matt Stafford or Reggie Bush or Ndamukong Suh or Lou Delmas or anybody else that hadn’t been part of that. But I think just about everybody on our team — other than our rookies — has been part of losing games at Lambeau.”
Unlike a Detroit-Washington game, though, the Packers and Lions play each other in Wisconsin every year as NFC North opponents.
Stafford, who was Detroit’s starting quarterback for the past two Lions losses in Green Bay, was asked what grade he was in in 1991.
“I was 3 years old,” Stafford said before laughing.
It’s difficult to dispute the comic nature of a streak that’s gone on for more than two decades, even for Lions players who are on the wrong side of it.
“We’ve got to go out there and spend all of our time preparing to play the 2013 Green Bay Packers and not the ones from ’94, ’95,” Stafford said in a teleconference. “That has nothing to do with what we’re trying to do this weekend. We’re preparing to play this team and doing that to the best of our ability.”
One player who’s been on both sides of the rivalry is Packers starting right guard T.J. Lang, who was born in Michigan but is now in his fifth season in Green Bay.
“I doubt they care what a team 20 years ago did,” Lang said. “I know from being over there the media talks a lot about it. As a player, I doubt they really care. Every year, it’s a new year. You’ve got a new team, so I don’t think that streak is really important. We haven’t talked about it, I doubt they’ve talked about it. It’s a new year. We’ve both got new teams, it’s a division game, it’s going to be tough.”
Regardless of whether the streak is a bigger topic for the Lions than it is for the Packers, it’s one that has a chance to come to an end Sunday. And if that happens, Green Bay will find itself with a 1-3 record and looking way up in the standings at a 4-1 Detroit team.