CNNSI.com NFL Playoffs 2001 NFL Playoffs 2001


 

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Green Bay 25, San Francisco 15
Posted: Sunday January 13, 2002 06:11 PM
San Francisco 49ers
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GREEN BAY, Wisconsin (Ticker) -- Brett Favre thrives at the sight of red and gold, especially in the cold. And the Green Bay Packers never lose at Lambeau Field in the postseason.

With the gametime temperature at 28 degrees, Favre extended his perfect record in the cold at Lambeau with a vintage second-half performance as the Packers posted a 25-15 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC wild card round.

"This is what it's all about and there's no better playoff atmosphere," Favre said. "We always believe we're going to win when we're here."

Making their first postseason appearance since losing at San Francisco in 1998, the Packers (13-4) will meet the St. Louis Rams (14-2) in the divisional playoff next Sunday.

After throwing for just 43 yards in the first half, Favre heated up in the second, completing 16-of-21 passes for 226 yards and engineering four scoring drives.

"I don't think a quarterback can have a better game than he did today," Packers coach Mike Sherman said. "He took total control of the game."

Favre's highlight-reel plays included a 51-yard bomb down the left sideline to Corey Bradford and a 37-yard bullet pass over the middle to Antonio Freeman.

"Brett made the plays, he made the throws, he got the crowd behind him and we couldn't get the momentum back," 49ers safety Lance Schulters said. "When you watch Brett Favre make those kind of plays, as a fan you just say "Oh man," that's just Brett Favre."

The Packers improved to 11-0 in postseason games at Lambeau -- 6-0 with Favre. Green Bay is 13-0 overall at home in playoff games, with two wins in Milwaukee.

Favre is 31-0 here when the temperature is 34 or below and 9-1 lifetime against the red-and-gold 49ers (12-5), including four playoff wins.

San Francisco's Jeff Garcia was impressive in his playoff debut, completing 22-of-32 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown. But without an effective running game, it was not enough to beat the Packers.

"Through the air, we were dictating the tempo," Garcia said. "We couldn't control the line of scrimmage for the running game."

Ranked second in the NFL in rushing during the season, the Niners gained just 71 yards on the ground. Garrison Hearst was held to 42 on 13 carries.

"It wasn't a matter of them shutting down our running game, or our passing game," Hearst said. "They just made the plays that they had to make, that was the difference."

Green Bay had allowed an average of 170 rushing yards in its last four regular season games, but was bolstered by the return of 339-pound defensive tackle Gilbert Brown, who missed the last four weeks of the regular season with a toe injury but made an instant impact with a sack of Garcia on San Francisco's first play from scrimmage.

"He played well. He had a presence today," 49ers Pro Bowl guard Ray Brown said.

The teams engaged in perhaps the best NFC wild card game of them all in January 1999, when Terrell Owens' 25-yard touchdown pass between two defenders with three seconds left lifted the 49ers to a 30-27 victory at 3Com Park -- Favre's lone loss against San Francisco.

On Sunday, Packers cornerback Mike McKenzie did a standout job on Owens, who had just four catches for 40 yards and expressed his displeasure afterwards.

"I didn't feel like I had enough opportunities today," Owens said. "It's very frustrating. If I'm the best player on the team why can't I get the ball. I was beating guys. My number just wasn't called."

McKenzie highlighted his performance by batting a long pass intended for Owens down the left sideline into the hands of teammate Tyrone Williams at the Green Bay 7 with 4:53 left. The turnover preserved an 18-15 lead for the Packers and was Garcia's first interception in 148 attempts.

"He was actually behind me, but I was able to get back in the play and get a hand on the ball," McKenzie said of his interception. "But I'm not going to sit here and tell you I tried to tip it to Tyrone."

"That one play doesn't decide the outcome, but it was very important," Owens said. "I had him by three or four yards. That play doesn't decide the ballgame, but it could have put us in a position to win it."

Favre then directed an eight-play, 93-yard scoring drive to deflate the Niners. He showed off his arm strength with a bullet 37-yard pass over the middle to Freeman on 3rd-and-7 to keep the drive alive, and connected with Donald Driver for 12 yards on 3rd-and-6 to the San Francisco 9.

On the next play, Ahman Green ran behind right tackle for a touchdown to increase Green Bay's lead to 25-15 with 1:55 left. Green finished with 86 yards on 21 carries.

Paul Smith fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Bradford recovered for Green Bay to seal the win.

The 49ers also were making their first playoff appearance since 1998. Coach Steve Mariucci, who was Favre's quarterbacks coach in Green Bay from 1992-95, fell to 1-5 against his former team.

Favre was just 6-of-8 for 43 yards, including a five-yard touchdown to Freeman, in the first half. Ryan Longwell's extra-point attempt was blocked by Dana Stubblefield, leaving the Packers with a 6-0 lead.

San Francisco totaled just 53 yards on its first four possessions but closed the half with a 15-play, 86-yard scoring drive, which lasted nearly seven minutes.

Garcia was 6-of-9 for 61 yards on the drive and ran for a first down on 3rd-and-2 to the Green Bay 2. Two plays later, Hearst scored with 11 seconds left in the half and Jose Cortez, who earlier had a 34-yard field goal attempt blocked, converted the extra point to give San Francisco the lead.

It marked the first time the Packers trailed at halftime of a home playoff game since the 1967 NFL championship game against Dallas, better known as the "Ice Bowl."

But Favre came out firing in the second half, directing a 12-play, 72-yard drive, which resulted in a 26-yard field goal by Longwell 6:08 into the third quarter Effectively showing his footwork on rollouts, Favre connected twice with Bill Schroeder on two passes for 21 yards to start the drive and drilled two passes for 22 yards to Freeman before the drive stalled on the San Francisco 8.

After Green Bay's defense held, Favre took over on his own 19 and needed just three throws to take his team into the end zone. He hit fullback William Henderson with a 12-yard pass out of the backfield to start the drive. After Green was stuffed for a one-yard loss on a running play, Favre unloaded a 51-yard bomb down the left sideline, which Bradford caught over cornerback Jason Webster at the San Francisco 19.

Favre raised his fist and pointed toward his own sideline as he ran down the field. As the Niners were catching their breath from the long play, Favre went for the end zone and fired a 19-yard touchdown pass to tight end Bubba Franks with 3:26 left in the third quarter "The safety cheated over to the free side and left the middle wide open," Franks said. "I'm glad Brett saw me. He just made a great throw."

However, with the Packers leading 15-7, Sherman made the curious decision of going for the two-point conversion instead of kicking the extra point. Favre hit Driver on the attempt, but the receiver was unable to get into the end zone, giving the Niners the opportunity to tie the game with one possession. That would not have been the case if Sherman opted for the extra point.

"I was thinking about going ahead by 10 points and in hindsight you can look at it any way you want," Sherman said. "I was thinking that since we missed that extra point earlier that frustrated me, that stuck in my craw a little bit. I thought we had to make that up. Plus I had a lot of confidence in the play we were going to run."

The 49ers took advantage and tied the game when Tai Streets caught a 14-yard touchdown and the two-point conversion with 12 minutes left, tying the game at 15-15.

Hearst turned a short pass into a 22-yard play and followed with a 10-yard run to the Green Bay 17 to key the game-tying drive. On 3rd-and-8, Garcia fired a 14-yard TD over the middle to Streets in the face of a blitz. On the two-point play, two Green Bay defenders followed J.J. Stokes on a slant and Streets was left alone in the left corner of the end zone.

The Packers responded with a 10-play, 49-yard drive which led to the go-ahead 45-yard field goal by Longwell with 7:02 left.

Freeman caught six passes for 84 yards.

 


 
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