Fans watching Super Bowl XXXI were treated to a bit of history as NFC champion Green Bay Packers, after compiling an NFC-best 13-3 regular season record, were on course to capture their third Super Bowl victory in franchise … and the team's first in 29 years. It would be up to head coach Mike Holmgren, quarterback Brett Favre (with back-up Jim McMahon), future Hall of Famer Reggie White, and the rest of the team to make that a reality. Standing in their way … the AFC champion New England Patriots and their 11-5 regular season record. With head coach Bill Parcells at the helm, quarterback Drew Bledsoe, linebacker Tedy Bruschi, future Hall of Famer Curtis Martin, and the rest of the squad were hoping their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history would continue a slow but steady rise as an NFL superpower.
New England, however, looked nothing like a powerhouse during the opening drives of Super Bowl XXXI, which was held at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans on January 26, 1997. The Pack forced the Pat to punt on the opening possession of the game, and later would have Favre fire a 54-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Andre Rison on Green Bay's second offensive play of the game. With the Packers up 10-0, the Patriots quickly battled back to take a 14-10 lead. (Those 24 first-quarter points were a Super Bowl record). The Packers scored 17 unanswered points in the 2nd quarter … including a record 81-yard touchdown pass from Favre to wide receiver Antonio Freeman … to extend the lead 27-14. In the third quarter, the Patriots cut the lead to 27-21, compliments of an 18-yard rushing touchdown from Martin, but Green Bay's Desmond Howard returned the ball for what was (at the time) a record 99 yards for a touchdown. The score proved to be the last of the game, as Green Bay went on to win it by a final of 35-21, bringing the Lombardi Trophy back to the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. Howard, who ran for a total 154 kickoff return yards and had a Super Bowl record 90 punt return yards, was the game's MVP.