THE WEEK PAST: Striking early and often while mounting their best first-half of offensive football within recent memory, the Packers stepped out to a 24-14 intermission lead on the Chicago Bears in their 163rd regular-season encounter and, in the final accounting, it proved to be entirely sufficient.
Though both their scoring efforts and their statistical successes were less imposing in the second half, the Green and Gold were able to add a touchdown in the third quarter and a field goal in the fourth to comfortably carry the evening, 34-21.
Quarterback Brett Favre, in virtuosic form, set a spectacular tone on the first play of the Packers' second possession in the opening quarter, rolling to his left and lofting a strike to split end Donald Driver, who gathered the ball in on the run and streaked to the end zone - an 85-yard pass-and-run collaboration executed before the Memorial Stadium crowd of 60,000-plus was fully aware of what was transpiring.
Then, after the Bears went three-and-out on their next possession, Favre was back at it. This time, it was a more leisurely process, a 10-play, 76-yard drive which Green Bay's redoubtable field general climaxed with a 19-yard scoring pass to tight end Tyrone Davis. With Ryan Longwell's second conversion, it was quickly 14-0.
Before the quarter was out, however, the Bears had begun to retaliate. Beneficiaries of a short field, occasioned by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty which required the Packers to deliver the next kickoff from their own 15-yard line, the Bears were abruptly in scoring position when Leon Johnson returned Longwell's kick 35 yards to the Green Bay 37. Four plays and a pass interference penalty later, the Midway Monsters were in the end zone by way of quarterback Jim Miller's four-yard toss to wideout Marty Booker.
Favre shortly had the Packers on the road again. Following the ensuing kickoff, he put together another scoring drive, maneuvering them 74 yards in 8 plays for their third touchdown of the evening - with 1:58 gone in the second quarter. They key elements here were 17- and 26-yard passes to Javon Walker and Terry Glenn, respectively. Two plays later, Favre hit tight end Bubba Franks in the end zone with a 5-yard bullseye. Longwell's conversion made it 21-7, Green Bay.
Two point-less exchanges intervened before the football fates too lent a hand. Driver, having pulled in a 9-yard Favre pass, fumbled. The Bears' Mike Brown picked up the lose ball at the Packers' 39-yard line and raced all the way to Green Bay 4. The Bears were in the end zone in three plays Miller passing one yard to tight end john Davis for the score. Paul Edinger's conversion made it 21-14.
Favre had one more drive in him before halftime, putting together a 32-yard mini-march capped by Longwell's 49-yard field goal as the first half end with the Packers out front, 24-14, with all of the points they were to need.
They were subsequently were presented with a glittering opportunity when the Bears' Rabih Abdullah muffed the second half kickoff and the Packers' Tod McBride recovered at the Chicago 17. It came to naught, however, when the Bears Green Bay to settle for a field goal attempt and Longwell's 28-yard effort was blocked by Chicago rookie Marc Colombo.
Another major swing shortly occurred when a Miller pass shot into the air as he was hit by Joe Johnson. Fellow defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, intercepted the ball and cantered 72 yards to a touchdown, untouched. Longwell's conversion made it 31-14.
The Bears, refusing to go away, mounted a drive of their own, putting together a pair of first downs and reaching the Green Bay 40 before safety Darren Sharper intercepted a Miller pass at the Packers' 10-yard line.
Favre quickly put the Packers in field goal range with a 49-yard strike to Glenn, a maneuver which carried them to the Bears' 25, but Longwell's subsequent, 36-yard effort was wide right late in the third quarter.
On their next possession, however, they reached the Chicago 7-yard line before settling for a final Longwell field goal. This one, from 35 yards out, was good and the Packers were up 34-14.
The Bears, it turned out, still had something left. They set out on a 9-play, 62-yard drive finished off by a 21-yard Miller scoring pass to Davis.
The Packers also were to make one more pass at points, by way of a 50-yard Longwell field goal try, but it veered wide left.
Overall, the Packers emerged with their second-best offensive outing of the season, a 457-yard
effort (124 rushing and 333 passing), Ahman Green spearheading the ground game with a 107-yard performance.
Favre closed out the evening with a season-high 359 passing yards and three touchdowns - on 22 completions in 33 attempts - without an interception.
Eight of his passes went to flanker Terry Glenn, who emerged with 154 yards, a team single-game high for the season.
Four other throws went to the consistently productive Driver, who closed out his evening with 120 yards - his first career 100-yard receiving game.
Defensively, Tod McBride, stepping in for Mike McKenzie at cornerback when the latter aggravated a groin pull in the pre-game warmups, paced the defense with 8 solo tackles.
THE FAVRE FILE: Brett Favre once more further entrenched himself among professional football's all-time elite passers by reaching another major milestone. Before the first half was over Monday night, he had become the third-faster player in National Football League history - and the eighth overall - to pass for 40,000 yards in a career, attaining the lofty plateau in 166 games. Dan Marino was the fastest to 40,000 yards (153 games) and Warren Moon ranks second (165 games).
Favre tied another all-time great in another major category by presiding over his 107th career victory as a starting quarterback, a total which ties him with Terry Bradshaw for fifth place.
And, beyond those achievements, the freewheeling Southern Mississippi alum's three touchdown passes swelled his career total to 298 and lifted him to within two of John Elway, who currently ranks third in NFL history with 300. Marino is the all-time leader with 420, followed by Fran Tarkenton with 342.
In Monday night's process, Favre likewise established a personal best with 180 passing yards in the first quarter and finished the first half with an imposing 146.2 quarterback rating, based on 287 passing yards and 3 touchdowns, without an interception.
Favre also made Packers history by playing in his 164th consecutive game, lifting him to within 2 games of Willie Wood, whose 166-game streak is the second-longest in club annals, and by making his 162nd consecutive start, extending his NFL record for quarterbacks. Favre's consecutive start streak is now the NFL's current longest, with the prior streak holder, the St. Louis Rams' Aeneas Williams, being inactive last Sunday.
Speaking of starts, it was Favre's 20th career start on "Monday Night Football," on which he now owns a 12-8 won-lost record.
The victory also padded his career record against the Bears to a remarkable 17-and-4 - his best against any NFL opponent.
THE (NFL) STATISTICAL UPDATE: Favre, second a week earlier, moved into first place among NFC passers with his highly productive Monday night outing against the Chicago Bears, which saw him complete 22 of 33 passes for 359 yards and 3 touchdowns - without an interception.
Those imposing numbers improved Favre's passer rating to 100.8, based in part on a conference-leading 1,470 passing yards and 11 touchdowns, the latter figure tying him with Philadelphia's Donavan McNabb.
Favre also ranks fourth in the NFC in fourth-quarter passing with an 88.7 rating, based on 27 completions in 42 attempts for 253 yards and one touchdown, without an interception, and sixth in third-down passing with an 89.5 rating, based on 33 completions in 54 attempts for 413 yards and 2 touchdowns, with one interception.
Favre's stellar performance against the Bears played a major role in the Packers' rise from fourth to third place in the NFL overall offensively (fourth in passing and 11th in rushing).
Teammate Ahman Green, meanwhile, moved up to third place in both NFC rushing (416 yards in 88 carries, a 4.7 average) and total yards from scrimmage (540) with an additional 124 yards receiving via 17 catches.
Green also is tied with teammate Donald Driver for 10th place in the NFC in the production of first downs with 20.
Driver ranks ninth in NFC receiving with 25 catches, followed by teammate Terry Glenn, tied for 10th with 24. Driver and Glenn also are tied for fourth among the NFC's third-down receiving leaders, each with 7 catches and Driver is fourth in the conference in receiving yards with 440, a 17.6-yard average.
Safety Darren Sharper is in a three-way tie for second place among NFC interceptors with three "picks."
Punter Josh Bidwell moved up from eighth to fifth place in the conference with a 44.3-yard gross average for 23 punts.
The Packers' defense, 18th a week ago, is now 20th (23rd against the rush and 17th against the pass).
GM/HEAD COACH MIKE SHERMAN'S POST-GAME COMMENTS:
(on the game) "It would be pretty hard to top the effort that Brett Favre had, as well as the receivers, the offensive line protecting him and the backs. There's not a whole lot of enthusiasm in that locker room simply because they are so drained. I asked them to leave it on the field, and they left every bit of sweat and flesh on that football field and they are drained. But they are excited to be on top of the division right now, and know we still have our hands full with the rest of the season. This week in practice, I thought they practiced hard and with a purpose, and they played that way today."
(on injuries) "I don't know right now what ones might affect us Sunday. Joe Johnson may have torn his tricep. That's a possibility and we'll further evaluate him tomorrow. That would be unfortunate because he's helped the football team. Mike McKenzie was good, but then he strained his groin in the pregame. Bhawoh Jue, hamstring. Ty Davis strained muscles in the back of his neck. Darren Sharper had a hamstring injury. Tyrone Williams had a hamstring injury. At the end of the game, we had four DB's; we actually had Terry Glenn on the sideline getting coached up to play corner. We had our hands full with injury and adversity."
(on the turnover to start the second half) "I thought that was the critical play. Obviously, to come out the second half and force a turnover there with our special teams. We should have gotten points out of that, but we didn't. But while we didn't get points off of that, it certainly gave us some breathing room."
(on the Bears defense) "Trust me, this is a very good defensive football team. It just happened to be our day today. Next time we play, it could be different. They're a good team, they have some excellent football players. I think Urlacher and Brown are two fine Pro Bowl candidates. They have a lot of talent over there. They're a good defense."
(on Favre) "I don't know if you can expound on Brett Favre. He is who he is because of the way he practices and approaches the game. He was excited on the sidelines and animated. I guess he took my place from last week. He was into this game, and his leadership and his performance was a big part of our victory. He was pretty close to playing about as good a game as you can play at one point there. He did play an extraordinary football game."
THE PLAYER PERSPECTIVE:
Quarterback Brett Favre: (on his success throughout his career) "From day one in all the success I've had, I never imagined any of it. I always wanted an opportunity to play; I got that. And, to be as successful as I've been and to have accomplished what I have, takes a lot of luck and determination and competitiveness. I love to compete, but as far as playing like this for this long . . . I never dreamed any of this."
(on rising to the occasion vs. Chicago) "It would seem that way, but to be totally honest with you, I don't treat this game any differently than any other game, and that's the truth. For our fans and for the media, it may be a bigger game for them than it is when we play someone else, but as a team, you should play every game like it was the Super Bowl."
(on having a lot of time to pass) "It seemed like I had a lot of time to pass. I mean, I'll have to check the film, but it felt like I was protected very well."
(on any difference in the Bears' defense) "Well, they have a lot of injuries. We just executed. That was the bottom line. We can be very good if we execute and make plays. Ahman (Green) earned every yard he got tonight. It was tough. From our standpoint, we hit the big one early . . . but, from that point on, it was still about making plays."
Defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila: (on his interception) "It surprised me, I looked up on the screen and saw no one was near me. I just didn't want to do anything silly with the ball. I was watching ESPN today showing guys playing with the ball and I said 'I'm not making that mistake.' "
(on pressuring Jim Miller) "It made a big difference in the game. That and just the fact they had to play catch-up, I think that's a position they didn't want to be in, no team does. I didn't think we'd get that many sacks because they protect well."
Wide receiver Donald Driver: (on his touchdown catch) "We weren't really looking for the post on that. We normally look for the tight end. On the post, you've got to stay alive. I stayed alive and Brett made a great throw and I made a great catch. That's the thing about Brett, you keep running and get open and he'll find you."
(on his receiving corps) "I think we're stepping up. I think that's the biggest thing they wanted to see. A lot of people thought we weren't going to be that good, but we've proven that the last four games and we're going to continue to prove it for the rest of the season."
-Monday night's victory was the Packers' fourth straight over the Bears and their 74th in the 81-year history of the rivalry. The Bears have won 83 times and there have been 6 ties.
-Packers GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman now is the possessor of a combined 8-and-1 career record against the Monsters of the Midway (4-and-1 as a head coach and 4-and-0 as an assistant coach under Mike Holmgren (1997-98).
-Brett Favre's 85-yard scoring completion to Donald Driver was the second-longest of his 12-year NFL career, behind the league record, 99-yard hookup he worked with Robert Brooks against the Bears in another "Monday Night Football" production on September 11, 1995.
-Terry Glenn and Donald Driver are the first two 100-yard receivers the Packers have had in the same game since last season's finale against the New York Giants when Bill Schroeder (5 receptions for 102 yards) and Corey Bradford (3 for 111) pulled off that parlay.
-Driver also now has 25 catches to date, a single-season high for the fourth-year pro whose previous high was 21 in 2000.
-The Packers' 457-yard offensive production represented their third 400-yard game of the season. They amassed season-high 484 on opening day (Sept. 8) against Atlanta and 442 against Detroit Sept. 15.
-Ahman Green's 43-yard run late in the third quarter was his - and the Packers' - longest of the season.
-Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila's 72-yard scoring runback against the Bears represented the first interception and first touchdown of his three-year NFL career.
-Monday night's contest marks the fourth consecutive game in which Donald Driver has made a touchdown catch.
-Darren Sharper's fourth quarter interception of a Jim Miller pass was the 25th of his six-year NFL career (including playoffs).
-Tyrone Davis' 19-yard first-quarter touchdown reception was his first of the year.
-The Bears' block of a Ryan Longwell field goal in the third quarter was the first such misadventure for the Packers since last December 3 when the Jaguars' Marcus Stroud batted down a Longwell effort at Jacksonville.
-Fullback William Henderson, who saw a 114-consecutive-game playing streak come to an end the week before last, returned to the starting lineup Monday night, catching one pass for 5 yards as well as serving as a key blocker for fellow running back Ahman Green, author of a 107-yard rushing effort.
-Ahman Green (offense), Hardy Nickerson (defense) and Matt Bowen (special teams) were the Packers' captains for Monday night's game.
-Packers' inactives against the Bears included safety Antuan Edwards, defensive linemen Vonnie Holliday, Steve Warren and Jamal Reynolds, wide receiver Karsten Bailey, tight end David Martin, tackle/guard Barrett Brooks and designated Third Quarterback Craig Nall.