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Henderson Beats the Heat

September 09, 2002|From Associated Press

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Both teams thought the game was over long before Ryan Longwell's 34-yard field goal with 5:15 left in overtime gave Green Bay a 37-34 victory over Atlanta on Sunday.

Exhausted from the steamiest opening day in Lambeau Field history, the Packers and Falcons began celebrating after fullback William Henderson's fourth-and-inches plunge toward the goal line with 1:10 left in regulation.

The Falcons were sure they'd stopped him. The Packers were just as certain he'd scored.

Eventually, officials signaled a touchdown, and a review confirmed the call, giving Green Bay a 34-31 lead.

But Michael Vick quickly moved the Falcons downfield and Jay Feely's 52-yard field goal with five seconds left sent the game into overtime.

On Henderson's plunge, this much was certain: He didn't make it on his initial burst.

But just as he was getting stacked up, tailback Ahman Green gave the pile of bodies a shove. Henderson, with his feet churning furiously and his knees nowhere near the grass, lunged the ball across, placing it squarely on the goal line.

"I was not going to be denied," Henderson said. "I don't get too many opportunities down there."

Green, who rushed for 155 yards in 27 carries, was scared Henderson wasn't going to get into the end zone.

"When I saw he was having some trouble getting in, I ran up and gave him a push," Green said. "I was tired. But I just put my body in there and pushed."

When it took so long for the officials to raise their arms, Falcon Coach Dan Reeves was certain he'd be leaving Lambeau with a 31-27 win.

"That's the longest whistle I've seen in the goal line. To call a TD that late.... " Reeves said, his voice trailing off.

"They said he was still moving his feet. I thought it was called late and our guys were actually celebrating the fact that we'd stopped him. I thought we played extremely hard and when you come up short, it hurts."

Packer Coach Mike Sherman said it was a no-brainer to give the ball to his 250-pound battering ram.

"We didn't need a whole lot. William is a horse, a bull I should say," Sherman said. "He made a great effort."

The temperature at kickoff was 83 degrees and was above 90 when the game was over.

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