GREEN BAY — Upon further review, the Packers and 49ers will undoubtedly meet again in the playoffs to replay this Monday night classic, and in the interests of fair play, with a different officiating crew.
But for now, Green Bay is a 23-20 overtime winner on Chris Jacke's 53-yard field goal--his fifth of the game--before a Lambeau Field record crowd of 60,716.
"We were going to kick the last one and give it a whirl," said Green Bay Coach Mike Holmgren. "Obviously, it's a great win for our team, our fans and it had all the drama you could want on Monday night football in Green Bay.
"It was just one of those great games, and I'm rather drained right now."
The NFL's showcase game of the season to date, while turning on an official's botched call in the third quarter, also included Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre throwing a franchise record 61 passes in successfully overcoming a 17-6 halftime disadvantage, and 17-14 and 20-17 fourth-quarter deficits.
"I had no idea he threw it that much," Holmgren said. "Too much, but then we won the football game."
To the delight of instant replay advocates and to the chagrin of the 49ers, the Packers scored their only touchdown of the game after officials failed to see San Francisco cornerback Marquez Pope touch downed wide receiver Don Beebe at the 49ers' 30-yard line. Television replays clearly showed Pope's right hand resting on Beebe, who caught 11 passes for 211 yards.
Beebe, pressed into full-time duty because of a season-ending knee injury to wide receiver Robert Brooks on the Packers' first offensive play, dove to catch a 29-yard pass from Favre. When he didn't hear an official's whistle, he stood and ran into the end zone, while the 49ers walked back to their defensive huddle to get ready for the next play.
After the officials looked at each other as if waiting for somebody to suggest where they were going to dinner, they huddled and referee Jerry Markbreit signaled a touchdown.
Favre then successfully passed to running back Edgar Bennett for the two-point conversion, and the Packers were within a field goal.
Green Bay (6-1) pulled even with 3:35 left in the game on Jacke's 35-yard field goal, but then Favre made a mistake.
The much maligned Pope, who had been considered the weak link in the 49ers' defense, stepped in front of a pass intended for rookie wide receiver Derrick Mayes at the Green Bay 24-yard line and returned it to the 12 with 2:13 to play. San Francisco, shunning any attempt at going for the end zone, settled for Jeff Wilkins' 28-yard field goal with 1:50 to play to take a 20-17 lead.
"When I threw that pass and it was intercepted--right then I thought it was over," said Favre, who completed 28 of 61 passes for 395 yards. "But it wasn't."
Out came Favre, who received an almost immediate boost from defensive back Steve Israel. On second and three from the Green Bay 25-yard line, Favre's pass to tight end Keith Jackson fell incomplete, but Israel was flagged for using "hands to the face" on an offensive player. The five-yard penalty would have moved the ball to the 30, but an irate Israel knocked the cap off an official, and the 49ers were assessed another 15 yards, and Israel was ejected from the game.
"That unsportsmanlike penalty really hurt them," Favre said. "We were going for the win then, but I took a shot there in the end, and I wasn't feeling very good. Still, I wasn't going to give them a chance to run off with a win."
Favre, while knocked hard to the ground and slow to get up, flirted with a game-ending disaster. A sack or a short-completed pass would have resulted in the clock running out because the Packers were out of timeouts, but Favre positioned the Packers for Jacke's successful game-tying 28-yard field goal with eight seconds remaining in regulation.
"We just found a way to do it," Favre said.
The 49ers (4-2), who elected to start Elvis Grbac at quarterback over Steve Young, who is still recovering from a groin injury, received the ball first in overtime. Grbac tried going to J.J. Stokes on third down. Bad decision.
Stokes, while a consistent target of Grbac all night, could not hold on to the sideline pass and finished the game without a reception. San Francisco punted.
The Packers took possession at their 44 and advanced to the San Francisco 35 before being confronted by fourth and five. Jacke, who holds the Packer record at 54 yards, was right down the middle from 53 to maintain the Packers' early-season credentials as the NFC's best team.