GREEN BAY, Wis. — Brett Favre, hit hard on his first pass, bounced back to throw two touchdown passes as the Green Bay Packers defeated the Buffalo Bills, 31-21, Saturday at Lambeau Field.
In a regular-season finale that had no bearing on the playoff picture, the Packers (13-3) kept their momentum going--despite a clumsy second half by their subs.
The game marked the retirement of Buffalo's special teams star Steve Tasker after a 13-year career that included seven Pro Bowls and four Super Bowls.
During his long career, Tasker had never been ejected from a game. Until Saturday.
Tasker decided not to catch a punt deep in his own territory less than two minutes into the game. As he got out of the way, the ball bounced inside the five-yard line and grazed the back of the Bills' Raymond Jackson and caromed into the hands of Tyrone Davis for a Packer touchdown.
Referee Mike Carey immediately signaled the score, and the usually easygoing Tasker protested. He was ejected for accidentally bumping back judge Tom Sifferman.
"It's not really the way I wanted my career to end, obviously," Tasker said. "But it was my fault and it is a rule. Even though I had no intention of pushing an official, it is a rule." Bumping an official mandates an ejection.
Carey said he knew it was Tasker's final game. "That's not a license. It's unfortunate, but it's not a license," the referee said.
Favre put a scare into the Packers and their fans as he lay writhing on the grass after being hit by defensive end Phil Hansen.
"I was on the sideline screaming at him to get up," Packer defensive end Reggie White said. "It was scary to see him lying down out there."
Favre was frightened for a moment too.
"It just kind of knocked the wind out of me, bruised my sternum or whatever you want to call it," he said. "It scared me more than anything. I couldn't breathe there for a few minutes."
Neither could Coach Mike Holmgren.
"I was hoping he had just gotten the wind knocked out of him," Holmgren said. "Fortunately, that's all it was."
The Packers' primary mission Saturday was to keep Favre & Co. healthy.
The only goal they failed to accomplish was getting Dorsey Levens the club single-season rushing record.
They even made history.
Flanker Robert Brooks joined Antonio Freeman in giving the Packers two 1,000-yard receivers for the first time in their 78-year history.
Factor in Levens' 1,000-yard rushing season and the Packers have a balanced attack as they head into the playoffs in defense of their Super Bowl title.
Levens fell 39 yards short of Jim Taylor's 35-year-old record of 1,474 rushing yards. Playing into the fourth quarter, Levens gained 71 yards in 22 carries.