Game Review: Last-Second Win Accomplishes A Lot

Green Bay not only ended five games and four years of frustration against the Eagles on Sunday, but the Packers also won their season opener for the first time in three years and their home opener for the first time in five, hopefully setting the stage for a fast start that has been so elusive. - More Audio | Video | Packers-Eagles Game Center


So much was accomplished on Sunday it's hard to know where to begin the list.

When rookie Mason Crosby's 42-yard field goal split the uprights with just 2 seconds left to give the Packers a 16-13 victory over the Eagles in front of 70,598 fans at Lambeau Field, Green Bay not only ended five games and four years of frustration against the Eagles.

The Packers also won their season opener for the first time in three years and their home opener for the first time in five, hopefully setting the stage for a fast start that has been so elusive.

And perhaps most important, the Packers showed that their defense was worth the preseason hype, and that their special teams appear much improved over recent seasons. Sure, the concerns about the offense also proved to be valid, but with two of three phases looking highly productive at the outset of 2007, it beats the alternative.

"The great thing is even though we did not play well offensively we were able to win a game," veteran offensive tackle Mark Tauscher said. "And that's a great sign for this football team."

The winning sequence to snap a 13-all tie was a textbook example of how defensive and special teams units can change a game and deliver the knockout blow the offense couldn't.

With just over five minutes left, the Packers appeared in good shape to take the lead after an unnecessary roughness penalty on an Eagles' punt gave Green Bay a first down on its own 49-yard line.

But on third down, quarterback Brett Favre was sacked by Trent Cole, who knocked the ball loose. Philadelphia's Jevon Kearse recovered, and suddenly the Eagles were in prime position, on the Green Bay 38 with 4:18 to go.

At that point the defense, which had battled valiantly against Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb all day, wasn't about to cave.

"Just three-and-out," said defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins of the mentality in the huddle. "I don't think there was ever a sense of panic because we've been doing it since the end of last year, all preseason and stuff. We've got all the faith in the world in ourselves, and we knew we could go out there and get them."

They did, stuffing Correll Buckhalter for a 4-yard loss on first down. Johnny Jolly made the initial contact and Nick Barnett cleaned up. Barnett and Ryan Pickett then combined to stop Brian Westbrook, the game's offensive star with 131 yards from scrimmage (85 rushing, 46 receiving), for a 2-yard gain, setting up third-and-long, on which Jenkins' bull rush drew a holding penalty on Todd Herremans to knock the Eagles out of field goal range.

The defensive stand was enormous, considering the Eagles didn't even need a first down to give veteran kicker David Akers a crack at the go-ahead field goal.

"We didn't care if they got the ball on the 1-yard line," cornerback Al Harris said. "When we got in the huddle as a defense we said, 'OK, we're not going to let them in. If they don't get in, they don't win.'"

The Eagles defense proved equally stout, forcing the Packers to punt with just over a minute left. But return man J.R. Reed made an ill-advised attempt at a diving fair catch, and Green Bay's Jarrett Bush pounced on the muff at the Philadelphia 31.

Two runs by Brandon Jackson (15 carries, 40 yards) and a kneel-down by Favre wound the clock down to 6 seconds to set up the game-winner. Holder Jon Ryan swiftly pulled down a high snap for Crosby, who hit his third field goal of the day and ended the Packers' five-game losing streak to the Eagles that dated back to 2003.

"It's so huge that we beat the Eagles here," said Barnett, who led the defense with 13 tackles, including nine solo. "Four years since I've been playing those guys, and we haven't won one game."

The Packers had control early, again thanks to the defense and special teams.

The offense went three-and-out on its first possession, but Bush leveled returner Greg Lewis as he muffed the punt, which set the ball a-bouncing with several players giving chase. More than 20 yards later, the ball was in the end zone, and Green Bay's Tracy White dove into the pile and somehow came out with a recovery for a touchdown.

"It was stuck in between an Eagle's legs, so I jumped in and I felt the ball," White said. "I was like, 'OK, nobody's got it,' so I was pinching, pulling, doing anything to get people off the ball. When the ref saw it, he said 'Packers touchdown.' I just had to make sure of it, confirm it and come out with the ball."

Barnett then intercepted McNabb (15-of-33, 184 yards) on the Eagles' next possession, and even though the offense lost 1 yard in three plays, Crosby was able to nail a 53-yard field goal to make it 10-0 just 5 minutes, 25 seconds into the game.

{sportsad300}Philadelphia rallied, driving 62 yards for a field goal and 67 yards for a touchdown, a 9-yard strike from McNabb to Jason Avant, to tie the game at 10 at the half. The Eagles had five of their eight third-down conversions on those two drives.

The Eagles took the lead on their first drive of the third quarter, moving 59 yards to set up a 47-yard field goal by Akers. But the Packers finally answered, with the offense using some old Favre magic to show its best signs of life on the day.

Practically abandoning the sputtering running game, Favre went to the shotgun seven times in 12 snaps and got the drive going by firing a bullet to Donald Driver (six catches, 66 yards) on a crossing route for a 22-yard gain on third down. On his next third down, Favre was under heavy pressure and being dragged down by a defender when he improvised with a two-handed, underhand rugby-style pass to DeShawn Wynn, who scampered 18 yards for another first down.

"We've been working on that play all week," joked Favre, who finished 23-of-42 for 206 yards and was sacked four times. "I don't know if that's patience or creativity or what. That has not left me."

Favre escaped yet another sack with a 6-yard completion to Donald Lee while Juqua Thomas was pulling on his shoulder pad, and the dramatic possession ended with Crosby's 37-yard field goal that tied the game at 13 in the final minute of the third quarter.

That drive accounted for 51 of the Packers' 215 yards on the day and three of the 10 first downs, paltry totals but not much worse than the Eagles' 283 yards and 13 first downs.

If stiff defense, game-changing special teams and just enough offense becomes a blueprint for this team's success, there certainly won't be any easy wins in 2007.

But there also may not be many as significant as this one, considering the opponent, the timing, and what it could begin.

"That's an ugly win, but ... I've had plenty of games where we played a lot better and lost," Favre said. "I haven't been in too many games where we don't score an offensive touchdown and win, but as any coach or veteran player will say, you have to win some of those sometimes. And I'm telling you right now, that's a good win."

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