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Packers Prove Lambeau Laws

NFC: Green Bay's 25-15 victory against San Francisco improves home playoff record to 11-0.

January 14, 2002|J.A. ADANDE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

GREEN BAY, Wis. — At some point, the numbers cease to be mere streaks and trends, and demand acceptance as law.

The San Francisco 49ers had to play Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers in an NFC wild-card game at Lambeau Field on a 29-degree day. That all but made Green Bay's 25-15 victory Sunday inevitable. Then it was a matter of updating the stats: the Packers are now 11-0 in playoff games at Lambeau, and Favre is 31-0 when the temperature is 34 degrees or below.

And when Favre plays the way he did in the second half Sunday, the Packers are practically unbeatable no matter the stadium or climate. Favre ripped the 49ers the way he did the Jaguars on a 56-degree Monday night in Jacksonville in the fall, to cite one example.

He completed 16 of 21 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown in the final two quarters, allowing the Packers to regain the lead, pull away and then make travel plans to St. Louis for a second-round matchup with the Rams on Sunday.

"The fact that they can score 50 poses a little bit of a problem," Favre said of his next opponent. "The fact that we're playing on turf, at their place ... "

But don't take that as a lack of confidence. He's in full gunslinger mode, unafraid of any situation and with complete belief in his abilities.

"I feel like I am playing my best football right now," Favre said.

And Favre's best is about as good as it gets.

"I don't think a quarterback can have a better game than he did today," Green Bay Coach Mike Sherman said. "He took control of the game and he willed it."

When Sherman curiously decided to go for two points after a Favre-to-Bubba Franks touchdown put the Packers ahead by eight points in the third quarter (the conversion failed), Favre didn't join in the sideline second-guessing.

"I said, 'Who gives a damn? Let's score another touchdown,'" Favre said.

When the 49ers tied the score, 15-15, on a touchdown pass and two-point conversion three minutes into the fourth quarter, Favre said "I was never afraid it was going to get away."

He came right back by completing five of his next six passes to move the Packers into field-goal range, and Ryan Longwell made a 45-yarder. On Green Bay's next possession, Favre went to Antonio Freeman for 37 yards on third and seven. Later he pump-faked to his left, pumped to his right, then passed to Donald Driver on third and six to set up Ahman Green's nine-yard touchdown run that provided the final margin.

"[Favre] sees the whole field and all of the receivers when he's hitting everybody," Green said.

Said Favre, who finished with 269 yards passing, two touchdowns and an interception: "It's all about tempo and rhythm. "It's like a fastbreak offense in basketball. You get in a rhythm. The only way you get out of it is when you slow down and relax. You've got to go and attack."

Green Bay's defense attacked from the start, with Gilbert Brown sacking quarterback Jeff Garcia on the first play and Cletidus Hunt stopping running back Garrison Heart for a five-yard loss on the second play.

The Packers held the league's second-best rushing attack to only 71 yards (Hearst had 42 yards in 13 carries).

The secondary allowed 49er wide receiver Tai Streets to catch four passes for 50 yards and a touchdown, and even witnessed a mini-resurrection of J.J. Stokes (four receptions, 52 yards). But they held Terrell Owens to only 40 yards on four catches.

"I didn't feel like I had enough opportunities today," Owens said. "It's very frustrating. I feel like the team has come a long way for it to end like this."

Owens actually beat Green Bay cornerback Mike McKenzie on a pivotal play, but McKenzie caught up to a ball that was slightly underthrown, batted it away and into the hands teammate Tyrone Williams.

Garcia wound up with 233 yards passing and a touchdown. But if he had led Owens a little more on that play, Owens would have had a touchdown and the 49ers would have been ahead.

Instead, Favre executed the drive that led to Green's score, on a nine-yard run in which he fought through a hit and took the ball across the goal line as he landed on his back.

So these modern-day Packers, who are in the playoffs for the first time since 1998, upheld the winning ways of Lambeau. The Packers win here under all circumstances, from the Ice Bowl of 1967 to Sunday's unseasonably mild weather--but backed by another sellout crowd of 59,825.

"We have built a big advantage over the years," said Favre, who threw his 27th playoff touchdown pass Sunday to tie him with John Elway for fourth place on the all-time list.

"Guys who played here before have built a big advantage."

Said McKenzie: "A lot of teams great teams have come out of that tunnel. We're trying to put our stamp on Lambeau and show what we're all about."

If they showed anything Sunday, it's that what's past is prologue.

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