Work in Sports
GREEN BAY, Wisconsin (Ticker) -- It may not be an original present for Brett Favre's 30th birthday, but the Green Bay Packers were more than happy to unwrap another of his dramatic come-from-behind victories at Lambeau Field.
Favre threw for 390 yards and his 21-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Freeman with 1:05 to play provided a wild 26-23 win over NFC Central Division rival Tampa Bay.
"I just do what they pay me to do," Favre said. "It's a hell of a way to make a living. Three out of three at home, I guess that's pretty good. We made some mistakes today, but good teams find ways to win.
The quarterback almost ruined his "Big 3-0" with a 22-yard intentional grounding penalty that contributed to Ryan Longwell missing a 45-yard field goal. It would have given the Packers a 22-16 lead with 2:28 to play.
"I was just trying to get outside," Favre said about that play. "I thought I saw a receiver in front of me. I could barely make out who it was. It was a dumb play, if you want to call it dumb."
Instead, Trent Dilfer rallied the Buccaneers (2-3) to the lead.
He scrambled 27 yards to the Green Bay 22, and Mike Alstott burst through a hole in the middle, bounced off a tackler and raced into the end zone with 1:45 to play, giving Tampa Bay a 23-19 lead.
But it was way too much time for Favre, who already had led the Packers (3-1) to last-second victories over Oakland and Minnesota. On the second play of the drive, he threw a perfect pass down the left side between two defenders to Bill Schroeder for 42 yards to the Tampa Bay 31.
Dorsey Levens had a 10-yard run, but Favre followed with two incompletions. On 3rd-and-10, Favre underthrew Freeman in the end zone, but the Pro Bowl receiver adjusted and caught the ball despite defensive back Ronde Barber interfering with him.
"The play was designed to go to Antonio on a crossing route or we have 10-yard square outs to the left," Favre said about the scoring play. "At the line of scrimmage, I could tell (Freeman) had one-on-one coverage, and I like that matchup. So, I gave him a little signal at the line to cross and go, he made a hell of a play."
"They looked like they were going to blitz," Freeman said.
"Brett made a check at the line of scrimmage. I beat my man off the line, Brett threw it up, the backs picked up the blitz. I went and got it, and we got the victory."
It marked the 16th time Favre has rallied from a fourth-quarter deficit and led the Packers to victory. Buccaneer players were frustrated at Favre's heroics.
"You have to take your hat off to Favre, he took them right down the field," Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp. "Our team lacked a killer instinct. We had the opportunity today what we haven't been able to do in 10 tries.
The Bucs had a chance to tie the game, getting the ball back at their own 21 with 55 seconds to play. After a 12-yard completion to Jacquez Green, Dilfer had two incompletions, with the second going through the hands of Karl Williams at the Green Bay 30.
"We got Favred," said Dilfer, who was 16-for-26 for 110 yards and intercepted three times. "He's the best. We've played against the best player I have ever seen."
On 3rd-and-10, Packers safety Darren Sharper sealed the victory with an interception. Freeman finished with 152 yards on seven catches, while Schroeder had seven receptions for a career-high 158 yards.
It was Tampa Bay's 11th straight loss in Wisconsin, losing nine at Lambeau Field and two at County Stadium in Milwaukee. The Buccaneers have lost divisional games at Minnesota and Green Bay by a combined 10 points.
"Favre has a reputation of being the best quarterback in the NFL with two minutes to play," Barbder said. "Our offense outplayed them, but our defense stuck up the joint."
The Packers retired defensive end Reggie White's number 92 at halftime. He helped Green Bay win Super Bowl XXXI in 1997 and lost the following year to Denver in Super Bowl XXXII.
Perhaps buoyed by White's halftime ceremony, the Packers tried to make quick work of the Bucs, scoring the first 10 points of the game. Favre and Freeman hooked up on a 19-yard touchdown pass and Longwell connected on the first of his four field goals, hitting a 42-yarder.
Dilfer led the Bucs to the Green Bay 8, where defensive tackle Jermaine Smith intercepted a pass intended for Alstott. Favre almost caused a safety when he was sacked in the end zone by Cory Ahanotu and fumbled, but tackle Ross Verba scooped up the loose ball and got to the Packers 2.
A 24-yard punt by Louie Aguiar gave the Bucs the ball at the Green Bay 26, and two plays later, Dilfer and Dunn combined on a 16-yard TD pass. Rookie Martin Grammatica booted field goals of 41 and 36 yards in a 7:10 span to give Tampa Bay a 13-10 edge with 3:33 to go.
Longwell tied the game with a 49-yarder in the final minute of the first half. The Packers had a touchdown nullified on their first possession of the second half when a fumble by Bradford at the Tampa Bay 1 hit the pylon, resulting in a touchback for the Bucs.
Longwell drilled a 38-yard field goal with 6:52 left in the third quarter to make it 16-13, but Grammatica answered with a 36-yarder on the second play of the fourth quarter. Longwell bailed Favre out with a 43-yarder to make it 19-16 at the 5:57 mark, making the kick after Sapp recorded a 12-yard sack to the Tampa Bay 25.