Posted: Sunday January 02, 2000 08:24 PM
GREEN BAY, Wisconsin (Ticker) -- In effect, the Green Bay Packers beat two teams at once today. But they did not get help from a third and will miss the playoffs for the first time in seven years.
Dorsey Levens rushed for four touchdowns and Brett Favre threw for a pair of scores to Bill Schroeder as the Packers stayed alive in the NFC playoff chase with a 49-24 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
However, later in the day the Dallas Cowboys (8-8) defeated the New York Giants and eliminated the Packers (8-8) on the basis of a better conference record.
Green Bay also needed to finish with a better net points margin in conference games than the Carolina Panthers, a scenario that was in doubt late today. The Packers began the day 18 points ahead of the Panthers, but Carolina moved ahead in the tiebreaker at one point of their 45-13 rout of the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay needed a late surge to move back in front.
"We knew Carolina was up 24-0 so we had to get the ball moving," Packers coach Ray Rhodes said. "We came out and exploded -- put some points on the board."
Levens carried 24 times for 146 yards and passed the 1,000-yard plateau for the second time in his career. He scored on runs of eight and five yards and a pair of one-yarders.
"The last time I scored four touchdowns was in high school," said Levens, the first Packer with four rushing TDs in a game since Terdell Middleton in 1978. "This is the best our offensive line has played all year. The offensive line and especially (fullback) William Henderson should get the credit."
Rookie Basil Mitchell had an 88-yard kickoff return for a TD and Mike McKenzie added a pair of interceptions for the Packers.
Aware of the developments in Carolina, Green Bay played aggressively with a comfortable lead in the fourth quarter as Favre capped a 99-yard drive with a 32-yard TD pass to Schroeder that increased the cushion to 42-17. The drive began after an interception by McKenzie at the goal line.
"It was fun doing the hurry-up offense in the second half even though we had a big lead," Favre said. "I always feel we move the ball well in two-minute situations."
Favre completed six of seven passes on the drive and later threw a 43-yard pass to Charles Jordan that set up a 1-yard TD run by Levens with 58 seconds left, icing the tiebreaker.
Favre completed 21-of-34 passes for 311 yards to move over 4,000 yards passing for the third time in his career and was intercepted once.
A season of high hopes for Arizona ended with a four-game losing streak. Expected to contend for a postseason berth after winning a playoff game last season, Arizona instead posted a 6-10 record.
"When you're not in the playoffs, you're disappointed," Cardinals coach Vince Tobin said. "That's the objective, to go all the way to the Super Bowl."
The Packers overcame a free-wheeling performance from Jake Plummer, who completed 35-of-57 passes for 396 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Plummer's nine-yard TD pass to Mac Cody with 1:31 left pulled the Cardinals within 18 and put the tiebreaker in jeopardy.
"We hung in there. We wanted to win," Plummer said. "We just didn't get it done."
The Packers jumped on front 7-0 when Favre completed a 46-yard pass to Antonio Freeman and followed two plays later with a 10-yard scoring strike to Schroeder, who caught six passes for 93 yards.
Levens had TD runs in the second and third quarter to increase the lead to 21-3 before Plummer threw a six-yard TD pass to Frank Sanders that cut the lead to 21-10.
Sanders caught 13 passes for 118 yards and teammate Rob Moore had six receptions for 120 yards.
Mitchell's kickoff return and a five-yard TD run by Levens increased the lead to 35-10.
Mario Bates scored on a one-yard run for Arizona with 9:29 left to cut the lead to 35-17.
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