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Packer Victory Is a Bit Chilling

They make Carter look like a rookie in his return to NFL in 24-10 win over Dolphins.

November 05, 2002|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- That HBO gig doesn't sound so bad after all.

Miami Dolphin receiver Cris Carter, who recently gave up a job on "Inside the NFL" to rekindle his playing career, had to be pondering that decision Monday during a 24-10 loss to Green Bay.

The Packers (7-1) feasted on four turnovers -- two attributable to Carter -- as they rolled to their sixth consecutive victory and held the Dolphins (5-3) to a lone touchdown in garbage time.

Coming into the game, the big question concerned how well Packer quarterback Brett Favre, injured two weeks ago, could play on his wobbly left knee. But Favre seldom winced while making his league-leading 165th consecutive start. He's 32-0 lifetime when the temperature at kickoff is 34 degrees or colder, as it was on this 31-degree night.

"I've seen so much from this guy, as far as playing with injuries," Packer safety Darren Sharper said of Favre.

"It's a good role model for the rest of the guys, to see the premier guy go out there and lay it on the line when he's had a serious injury. It really shows the toughness of us, and the toughness of him."

Turns out, the unstable quarterback was Miami's Ray Lucas, who had two passes intercepted -- one of which was returned 89 yards for a touchdown -- and briefly left the game because of a jammed shoulder. Lucas, who started in place of the injured Jay Fiedler, was looking to atone for a four-interception performance two weeks ago in a loss to Buffalo.

But their was no consolation to be found Monday. Not with the way Green Bay's defense was batting down passes, prying loose fumbles and stone-walling the run. After giving up 100 points in their first three games, the Packers have given up 64 in their last five, and only one touchdown in two games.

"I thought the defense played an outstanding game," Packer Coach Mike Sherman said. "They applied pressure on the quarterback, and I thought we did a great job of stifling their running attack."

Lucas was Miami's leading rusher with 49 yards in nine carries, two more yards than Ricky Williams, who has rushed for more than 100 yards four times this season. But the Dolphins were forced to pass after Green Bay went up, 14-0, in the second quarter, then 17-0 and, finally, 24-0 after Sharper's long interception return for a touchdown.

The Dolphins didn't get on the board until Olindo Mare made a 46-yard field goal with 8:20 remaining and the packed house at Lambeau Field barely noticed, too caught up serenading Favre with "MVP! MVP!"

Favre said he felt some stiffness in his knee but doesn't think it will linger.

"I found out after some plays I couldn't move like I thought I could," he said. "For the most part, I thought I played normal. It didn't affect me mentally."

Favre completed 16 of 25 passes for 187 yards and one touchdown, a screen to Ahman Green for a 23-yard score. That came in the second quarter, as did Green's one-yard touchdown run.

The game marked the debut of Carter, who was conspicuous from the start. He got himself revved up in the huddle by bashing helmets with Williams, then, on the third play of Miami's first possession, frantically waved his hand over his head to indicate he was open. Lucas opted to run.

Carter's first catch wound up going awry. He wrapped his hands around a short pass, took a step back and was drilled by cornerback Tyrone Williams, who knocked the ball loose. Williams recovered the fumble, and later batted a ball away from Carter that was intercepted by linebacker Nate Wayne.

"I was surprised [Carter] let the one go, because usually once he gets it in his hands he doesn't let it go," Sharper said, referring to the fumble. "I don't necessarily want to say there was any rust, but you think about a guy coming back, he's not going to be the Cris Carter he was at the end of last year."

Dolphin Coach Dave Wannstedt called Carter's fumble "unacceptable," but praised the receiver for running crisp routes. Carter felt he blocked well, and said he was no more upset about the turnovers than he was about any during the first stage of his career with Philadelphia and Minnesota. He said he has yet to acclimate to the speed of live action.

"There are certain things you can't simulate," he said. "The game is moving a lot faster."

As for the interception, Carter said he thought he could split two defenders but that got him in trouble.

"That's part of not playing," he said. "I couldn't see him. I couldn't feel him."

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