Comedy of errors
Favre speechless, others frustrated after nightmarish defeatPosted: Sunday January 05, 2003 1:24 AM
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- Not even a late-arriving snowstorm could save the Green Bay Packers.
Too many injuries. Too many mistakes.
The Atlanta Falcons, making their first postseason appearance since the 1998 season, waltzed into the mecca of pro football and did something that's never been done: beat Green Bay on its own field in the playoffs.
Actually, the Packers did plenty of things to beat themselves in a 27-7 loss.
Five turnovers. Two missed field goals. A blocked punt that was recovered by the Falcons for a touchdown. A couple of questionable decisions by head coach Mike Sherman.
"It's a bit amazing that it's over," offensive guard Marco Rivera said. "It kind of feels numbing."
Atlanta headed to a second-round game at Philadelphia. For Green Bay, there's the whole offseason to figure out what happened.
Green Bay had 14 starters miss 64 games during the regular season. Four regulars missed the playoff game.
"We're never going to use that as an excuse," Rivera said. "Everybody plays hurt. Everybody has injuries. When somebody goes down, the other person has to step in and play well. This is our job."
Atlanta took control right from the kickoff. Three straight plays of at least 12 yards got the offense rolling, and Michael Vick finished the drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Shawn Jefferson.
"That was big," Vick said. "On the first possession, we wanted to come out and make a statement."
Atlanta didn't capitalize on that mistake, but Chris Mohr's punt backed up the Packers on their own 5. When Green Bay went three-and-out, the Falcons came up with another big play.
This time, it was reserve linebacker Mark Simoneau, who found himself with a clear path to punter Josh Bidwell when one blocker turned to his right, the other to his left. Neither of them saw Simoneau, who smothered the punt. Artie Ulmer fell on the ball for a touchdown.
With the game barely eight minutes old, the Falcons had a 14-0 lead.
Favre is the master of comebacks, and it appeared the Packers were beginning one when he drove them to a first down at the Atlanta 20.
But Ahman Green was stopped for no gain, Favre was sacked for a 9-yard loss and then threw an incomplete pass. Ryan Longwell drew more groans out of the crowd when he pushed a 47-yard field goal wide right.
Early in the second quarter, the special teams were at the center of another grievous mistake, only this one didn't appear to be of their doing.
Eric Metcalf dropped back to field a punt but got knocked aside as he tried to make a fair catch. Atlanta's Kevin McCadam blocked Green Bay's Tyrone Williams into Metcalf, and replays showed the ball actually struck McCadam on the shoulder pads.
The Falcons recovered, with the officials ruling that Green Bay had touched the ball first. Sherman didn't bother to challenge the call, though an NFL observer in the press box said the play could have been reviewed on instant replay.
Sherman said an official "led me to believe it wasn't renewable. If I misunderstood the official, I apologize."
Five plays later, T.J. Duckett bulled up the middle for a 6-yard touchdown run to give the Falcons a 21-0 lead.
For all intents and purposes, the game was over -- Favre had never rallied the Packers from a deficit of more than 15 points.
But Sherman's misery wasn't done. The head coach passed up a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the Falcons 2, calling for Green to run into the heart of the defense. He was stuffed for a 4-yard loss, turning the home crowd firmly against its team.
The boos were deafening when the Packers headed to the locker room trailing 24-0.
"We have great fans," Sherman said. "They deserve the right to be frustrated. I was frustrated."
By the time the snow started falling late in the first half, it was too late. The Packers were finished.
Favre threw two interceptions and lost a fumble, but his most lasting image came on a meaningless play late in the game. Center Frank Winters rolled a snap past the quarterback, who stumbled into the snow after making a futile attempt to cover it.
When the Falcons fell on the ball, Favre simply unbuckled his chin strap and pulled up his socks -- the picture of defeat.
And he didn't even hang around to talk about it. For the first time in his career, he bolted out of the locker room without commenting.
For Favre and the Packers, there was nothing more to say.