Tue, 15 Jun 2021

Packers defensive end kept Bills at bay in shutout victory

In this new series, packers.com takes a look back at one of the team's single-game records and how the individual set the mark. The series continues with Vonnie Holliday's five-sack performance vs. Buffalo on Dec. 22, 2002.

GREEN BAY - Sack records are tricky.

Because sacks didn't become an official NFL statistic until 1982, sack records don't encompass as much history as rushing and receiving marks, and the like.

So when defensive end Vonnie Holliday set the Packers' single-game sack record with five late in the 2002 season, it came with the proverbial asterisk.

According to the team media guide, both Ezra Johnson (in 1978 at Detroit) and Dave Pureifory (in '75 at the LA Rams) recorded five sacks in a game for the Packers before the magical "official" date of 1982.

But that shouldn't take anything away from the dominant game Holliday had on a windy and chilly late December day at Lambeau Field.

A 25-mile-per-hour breeze made 27 degrees feel like 13, according to the league's official game summary, though many players told reporters it felt a lot colder than that.

More consequential, the weather made throwing the ball extremely difficult, and therefore offense was hard to sustain, even for two teams like the Packers and Buffalo Bills accustomed to the cold.

The two quarterbacks, Brett Favre and Drew Bledsoe, combined to complete less than 50 percent of their passes (33-of-49) and throw four interceptions. They had less than 300 yards passing between them.

The difference in the game was Holliday, who came into the game with just one sack on the season (he had missed six games due to injury). Yet the most notable element to his five-sack performance might be that he didn't even get his first sack until less than six minutes remained in the third quarter.

At that point, the Packers led just 3-0, and the Bills faced third-and-goal from the 5-yard line. Holliday's 10-yard sack forced Buffalo to try a 33-yard field goal, and kicker Mike Hollis missed it wide left.

Holliday's other four sacks all came fast and furious in the fourth quarter, and he forced fumbles on three of them.

With roughly 10 minutes left, on second-and-7 just after the Bills crossed midfield, Holliday got Bledsoe for a 7-yard loss. On the ensuing third-and-14, he got him again and got the ball out, with Packers teammate Jamal Reynolds recovering in Buffalo territory.

Four plays later, Favre found Donald Driver for an 11-yard touchdown for a 10-0 lead and what proved to be the final points of the day.

During Buffalo's last two possessions, Holliday got one more sack in each.

He forced a second fumble on a third-and-15 sack, which the Bills recovered, but they had to punt.

Then with less than two minutes left, he got sack No. 5 deep in Green Bay territory, and his third forced fumble. Teammate Cletidus Hunt recovered to preserve the shutout, just the second time the Packers had blanked an opponent since 1993.

In all, the defensive effort included six sacks (Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila had the other one), six turnovers, and just 185 total yards allowed.

The victory kept the Packers, who had already clinched the inaugural NFC North title, in contention for a first-round playoff bye and the conference's No. 1 overall seed. That chance was unfortunately squandered in a blowout loss on the road to the N.Y. Jets the following week.

Officially (that is, not including the aforementioned efforts of Johnson and Pureifory), Holliday's five sacks broke the previous team record of 4½ set by Bryce Paup against the Buccaneers in 1991.

Since Holliday got five, the only other Packers defender to record four sacks in a game was Gbaja-Biamila at Chicago in the 2004 regular-season finale. More recently, Clay Matthews (vs. Chicago in 2012) and Za'Darius Smith (at Minnesota in 2019) each had 3½ sacks in a game.

For Holliday, those five sacks actually turned out to be his last as a member of the Packers. The 1998 first-round draft pick had a career-high eight sacks his rookie year and recorded 32 sacks in all over five seasons before signing as a free agent with Kansas City in 2003.

Up Next All Videos Baldinger's takeaways from Packers WR Davante Adams' film session All Videos Is LB Za'Darius Smith the most underrated NFL player in 2020? All Videos Alumni Spotlight: Cullen Jenkins All Videos Aaron Jones eager to build upon breakout 2019 season All Videos Alumni Spotlight: Vonta Leach All Videos James Jones includes Davante Adams in Top 5 NFL WRs All Videos Game Pass Film Session: How Davante Adams dominates with double moves All Videos GMFB debates Aaron Rodgers' 2020 NFL MVP prospects All Videos Alumni Spotlight: Jason Spitz All Videos Alumni Spotlight: Daryn Colledge All Videos Billy Turner discusses his role in Packers' social-justice video All Videos Will Davante Adams be a Top 5 fantasy WR in 2020? All Videos Alumni Spotlight: Colin Cole All Videos Packers Daily: June 18 All Videos Packers Daily: June 17 All Videos Three Things: The virtual offseason, Jerry Gray and the mystical 'it' All Videos Matt LaFleur 1-on-1: Packers embracing high expectations for 2020 All Videos How the Packers saw an eight-win swing in just one season All Videos Rock Report: 'Stuff' Happens All Videos Packers Daily: June 12 All Videos Getsy says Rodgers' input in offense has been invaluable during offseason All Videos Gray looks forward to putting his stamp on young secondary All Videos Packers Daily: June 10 All Videos Three Things: Social justice, Bakhtiari and the virtual offseason All Videos Bakhtiari looks to 'think less, play faster' in 2020 All Videos Packers Head Coach Matt LaFleur: 'There's things that are bigger than football' All Videos Rock Report: Measuring Up! All Videos 2010-2019 | Eye on the Prize All Videos Trailer: 2010-2019 | Eye on the Prize All Videos Rock Report: Football 'Know-how' All Videos 2000-2009 | At the Door All Videos Toughest 4-game stretch for Packers in 2020? All Videos Packers Unscripted: Sideline views All Videos Three Things: Rashan Gary, Marc-Antoine Dequoy and honoring our veterans All Videos Aaron Jones focused on the controllable, not his contract All Videos Adrian Amos feels defense will be a step faster in Year 2 together  All Videos Trailer: 2000-2009 | At the Door All Videos Marc-Antoine Dequoy college highlights All Videos Pettine emphasizes 'a lot we need to get done' on defense All Videos Hackett excited for improvements in Year 2 on offense

More Buffalo News

Access More

Sign up for Buffalo News

a daily newsletter full of things to discuss over drinks.and the great thing is that it's on the house!