AP Story: Packers Lose To Falcons, 7-27


It looked so perfect for Green Bay. Snow falling. Packers in green and gold. Lambeau Field in January.

Only it wasn't Brett Favre making all the plays.

It was Michael Vick.

Undaunted by the storied stadium where his own coach lost in the "Ice Bowl" 35 years ago, Vick made history of his own.

The 22-year-old improvisational genius led the Atlanta Falcons to a shocking 27-7 upset of the Packers in a wild-card playoff before a record crowd of 65,358 stunned souls.

The Packers (12-5) were the only team to go unbeaten at home during the regular season. And they had never lost a home playoff game since the NFL instituted a postseason in 1933 in going 13-0 -- 11 of the victories coming at Lambeau and two more in Milwaukee.

The closest they had come was on New Year's Eve 1967, when Bart Starr knifed into the end zone with 13 seconds left to give Green Bay a 21-17 victory over Dallas in the coldest game in NFL history.

Falcons coach Dan Reeves threw a 50-yard touchdown pass on a halfback option that gave the Cowboys a 17-14 fourth-quarter lead in that game.

Favre had built a reputation as the game's greatest cold-weather quarterback, winning all 35 of his starts at home in which the temperature was 34 or below.

It was an unseasonably warm 31 degrees at kickoff. But by the time snow began falling at halftime, the Falcons had an astonishing 24-0 lead.

Favre was without Pro Bowl running back Ahman Green (knee) and leading receivers Donald Driver (shoulder) and Terry Glenn (concussion) in a futile second-half comeback attempt.

He finished 20-of-42 for 247 yards.

Vick was 13-of-25 for 117 and rushed 10 times for 64 yards, numerous times turning sure sacks into big plays.

The Falcons (10-6-1), who had backed into the playoffs after losing three of four in December, will travel to Philadelphia for a divisional playoff next weekend.

The Packers, who just one week ago still had a shot at the home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, began their offseason much sooner than anyone expected.

Still deflated from their demoralizing 42-17 defeat to the New York Jets last week that cost them a first-round bye, the Packers received a series of rapid-fire jolts in the first night playoff game in their history.

First, Pro Bowl safety Darren Sharper (knee) was unable to play, leaving the Packers without their fastest defender to help contain Vick.

Their next best bet was a snowstorm, but it arrived too late to curtail Vick, the top pick in last year's draft who nearly beat Green Bay in the season opener at Lambeau Field before losing 37-34 in overtime.

On the second play from scrimmage, Falcons center Todd McClure cut-blocked nose tackle Gilbert Brown, who went to the sideline for the rest of the drive.

Atlanta, which hadn't reached the end zone on its opening drive all season, promptly went 76 yards in 10 plays, the payoff coming on Shawn Jefferson's 10-yard touchdown catch.

Then, the Packers special teams, which had failed them all year, self-destructed again.

Linebacker Mark Simoneau beat Matt Bowen and blocked Josh Bidwell's punt out of Green Bay's end zone and Artie Ulmer smothered the loose ball for another Atlanta touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

Ryan Longwell missed a 47-yard field goal - he also missed from 45 yards in the third quarter - and Kevin McCadem pushed Tyrone Williams into Green Bay punt returner Eric Metcalf. Falcons fullback George Layne recovered the muffed punt.

Packers coach Mike Sherman didn't challenge the call - and a review would have given Green Bay possession because the punted ball clearly bounced off McCadem's left shoulder.

Four plays later, the Falcons made it 21-0 when T.J. Duckett carried the pile 6 yards into the end zone as a shocked Sherman crouched on the sideline.

The fervent Falcons then stopped the Packers with a goal-line stand, nose tackle Ellis Johnson dumping Green for a 4-yard loss on fourth down after Sherman elected not to go for a field goal.

Over Favre's career, the Packers had scored 48 touchdowns and one field goal when they had first-and-goal.

As the much-awaited snow began falling, the exhilarated Falcons didn't flinch. Vick led them 90 yards in 16 plays for Jay Feely's 22-yard field goal on the final play of the first half for a 24-0 lead.

The big play on the drive came when Vick escaped a 15-yard sack by Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, who was slowed by a stomach flu, and turned it into an 11-yard gain to the Green Bay 29.

Favre, who had two interceptions and a fumble, hit Driver with a 14-yard touchdown on the first drive after halftime, but Driver re-injured his dislocated shoulder on the play.

It was the 13th straight playoff game in which Favre threw a touchdown pass, tying Dan Marino's NFL record.

But it wasn't nearly enough against Vick and the Falcons, who also handed the Packers their last loss at Lambeau, 23-20 on Nov. 18, 2001.

The crowd began clearing out in the fourth quarter, something that had been unheard of at Lambeau Field.

Just like a Packers playoff loss.

Associated Press

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