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Game Review: Rally Falls Just Short In 23-20 Loss To Rams


The ball was supposed to drop into the arms of a Packers receiver in the end zone for the winning touchdown, or sail through the uprights for the tying field goal to send the game into overtime.

Instead, the ball popped loose.

With the Packers a tantalizing 11 yards from completing a rally from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, quarterback Brett Favre had the ball knocked from his hand by defensive end Leonard Little rushing off the edge.

The fumble was recovered by the Rams' Jerametrius Butler with 36 seconds left to silence the 70,804 anxious fans at Lambeau Field and preserve the Rams' 23-20 victory, sending the Packers into their bye week a maddeningly frustrating 1-4.

"To have a mishap on the last play of the game like that, it's tough to swallow," receiver Koren Robinson said.

Up until then, the Packers looked as though they'd be making the Rams swallow a tough one.

Down 23-13 midway through the fourth quarter, Favre rifled a 46-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings to pull the Packers within three points. The defense responded with two stops over the next four minutes, and Green Bay got its final chance with 2:46 left and the ball on its own 21.

"We were all pretty fired up," offensive tackle Mark Tauscher said. "We knew we were going to move the ball and put ourselves in a position to at a minimum tie the game."

A 25-yard pass interference penalty on linebacker Will Witherspoon got the drive started, and short completions to David Martin, Donald Driver, Robinson and Jennings moved the Packers to the Rams' 11.

After a spike to stop the clock with 44 seconds left, the Packers were in great shape. With no more advancement, a field goal would have been less than 30 yards, and there was enough time to take two cracks at the end zone for the win.

"I think we managed the clock well to get us in position, ...a touchdown to win it, field goal to tie it and take it to overtime," Robinson said. "It's hard."

Hard because an offensive line that had protected Favre so well for three games, including Sunday, had a momentary breakdown at the worst possible time. St. Louis defensive linemen Little, Jimmy Kennedy and La'Roi Glover collapsed the pocket on the right side, getting to Favre and knocking the ball loose.

It became a double dose of agony.

First, Favre (22 of 39, 220 yards) was a split-second from seeing what was unfolding down the field.

"If he steps up, or if the guy doesn't knock the ball out of his hands, and he steps up from that, David Martin is wide open in the end zone for a touchdown and we win the game," Driver said.

Second, rookie guard Daryn Colledge had a clean shot to recover the fumble at around the 15-yard line and keep the drive alive, but he couldn't corral the ball as he dove on it in the open field.

"You're running for it and it's running away from you and you know everybody is trying to get there, so you make your judgment and dive for it," Colledge said. "It took one bounce too many for me. It sucks and I wish I would have got it back. Who knows what would have happened."

The Packers were wondering that about a lot of missed opportunities earlier in the game as well.

While the Rams turned their only two meaningful chances of the first half into touchdowns with a 6-yard pass to Torry Holt and a 3-yard strike to Kevin Curtis, the Packers had four potential scoring drives that resulted in only 13 points.

Running back Noah Herron (20 carries, 106 yards) took over for Vernand Morency, whose fumble on the game's opening possession set up the Rams' first touchdown, and scored from 1 yard out late in the first quarter to tie the game at 7.

But after that, a goal-to-go chance ended in a 27-yard Dave Rayner field goal, a drive that started at midfield resulted in a missed 45-yard field goal attempt, and a march into the red zone produced only a 32-yard field goal to end the half, leaving the Packers down 14-13 at intermission.

"No one wants to kick field goals," Driver said. "We want to score touchdowns. That's more exciting than kicking a field goal. We had opportunities to do it, and we left some out there."

The Rams could say the same in the second half, as Jeff Wilkins booted field goals of 31, 26 and 20 yards to push the lead to 23-13. St. Louis got inside the 10-yard line on all three of those drives, but the Packers defense held each time.

A third-and-goal sack by Aaron Kampman forced the first of those field goals. On the Rams' final scoring drive, Mike Montgomery and Nick Barnett stuffed Steven Jackson (23 carries, 98 yards) on second-and-goal from the 1, and then Marquand Manuel and A.J. Hawk stayed home on a naked bootleg attempt by quarterback Marc Bulger (18 of 28, 220 yards), dragging him down for a 1-yard loss.

All those stops kept the Packers in the game and set the stage for the comeback, only to have the curtain close prematurely.

"There's some things we can build on, but for us to really grow we need to win," Kampman said. "That's the next step. We're extremely close. I'm sick of saying that, but that is the truth.

"Anyone who saw the game knows that, knows we're making progress. But if we really want to grow, we have to take that next step and get these wins."

This one was there for the taking.

"We felt like we had that game," said defensive tackle Ryan Pickett, playing against his former team. "And then it slipped away."

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