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AP Story: Bears Best Rival Packers, 21-10


Lovie Smith didn't take long to fulfill his No. 1 goal of beating Green Bay.

But the man who helped him do it wasn't around afterward to celebrate.

Mike Brown, whose 95-yard fumble return for a touchdown sparked the Bears' 21-10 victory over the Packers on Sunday, was lost for what could be an extended period with a right Achilles' tendon injury in the waning minutes.

When Smith was hired as Bears coach on Jan. 15, he declared his top priority was knocking off the Packers, the two-time defending division champs.

"I've never been in a fight where some guy told me he was going to beat me up and he beat me up," Packers linebacker Nick Barnett said.

Not only did Smith declare the Packers his top prize, but said he knew just how to beat them. The last two times he'd faced Green Bay was as the St. Louis Rams' defensive coordinator and the Packers committed a combined 10 turnovers in those games.

Brett Favre threw two interceptions Sunday, but the killer was Ahman Green's fumble just before halftime.

On first down from the 2 just after the 2-minute warning, linebacker Brian Urlacher stormed into the backfield and stripped Green. Brown scooped it up and rumbled 95 yards down the Bears' jubilant sideline to give Chicago a 14-3 halftime lead instead of a 10-7 deficit.

It was Brown's fifth defensive score, a team record, and the second-longest fumble return in Bears history, surpassed only by team founder George Halas' 98-yard return in 1923. It was also the second-longest fumble return for a score ever given up by Green Bay.

The Packers weren't demoralized by the 14-point swing, Barnett insisted, but Green Bay never recovered in losing its second straight home opener.

"I was just trying ... to get a fumble and return one for a touchdown, too," Barnett said.

He nearly did after recovering David Terrell's fumble with four minutes remaining, but right tackle John Tait saved the score with a lunging tackle at midfield.

"I just got tripped up," Barnett said. "If he would have missed me, it would have turned the whole game around, that's how close it was."

Green declined comment after the Packers lost to their archrivals for just the third time in the last 21 meetings.

Brown was carted off the field with 3:54 remaining and on the next play, backup safety Bobby Gray picked off a high throw from Favre.

Smith, who looked distraught, said Brown was scheduled for more medical tests Monday.

"It's a tough break for Mike," Smith said. "Mike is our captain. He's a big part of what we'll do around here. He's got to hope for the best right now."

With nose tackle Grady Jackson (knee) out and James Lee making his first NFL start, Thomas Jones carried 23 times for 152 yards and a touchdown as the Bears (1-1) evened their record after allowing Detroit to end the longest road losing streak in the NFL a week ago.

Jones accounted for all 79 yards on a six-play drive to open the third quarter that he capped with a 1-yard run for a 21-3 lead.

The Packers (1-1) finally got into the end zone on Favre's 18-yard strike to Robert Ferguson that capped a 19-play, 89-yard drive that took almost 10 minutes. That made it 21-10 with 1:46 left in the third quarter.

With that, Favre broke Dan Marino's NFL record of 24 touchdowns against a single opponent.

The Packers had 234 yards and just three points in the first half.

After Ryan Longwell banged the ball off the right upright on a 45-yard field goal attempt, Chicago's Rex Grossman hit fullback Bryan Johnson, who bullied his way over cornerback Michael Hawthorne for an 11-yard touchdown and a 7-3 lead the Bears would never relinquish.

"Lovie put everybody out there and we backed him up," Grossman said. "That's what builds team chemistry, and I think we grew today as a team."

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