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Packers Begin New Year With Much-Needed Victory


Shaun Alexander, the NFL's leading rusher and touchdown scorer, was just 12 yards away from the Packers' end zone when Marviel Underwood forced a fumble, and Mark Roman recovered.

That play was emblematic of the Green Bay Packers' 23-17 win over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. After a 4-12 season in which the ball rarely bounced Green Bay's way, everything seemed to go their way on Sunday.

And those key plays helped notch a victory, allowing the Packers to end the 2005 season on a high note.

"It was real important to me and to the team," Sherman said. "I wanted to get this win at home in front our fans."

In front of 69,928 fans, the Packers looked sharp from the opening drive, marching 62 yards in 14 plays to set up a Ryan Longwell 26-yard field goal. The drive featured a combination of effective passes and runs. Brett Favre completed five passes while Tony Fisher and Noah Herron ran a combined three times.

"I'm starting to feel more and more comfortable, the more touches I get," Herron said. "I didn't have the luxury of the preseason here, but I feel pretty good."

Herron's numbers will not wow anyone. He rushed 23 times for 61 yards, but he powered his way for 49 of those yards in the first half to help the Packers stake out a 13-7 lead. Those 49 yards included an 11-yard touchdown run behind right end with 8:29 left in the game. Once the Packers gained a lead, Herron milked the clock in the second half, and the Packers dominated time of possession for 35:13 of the 60-minute clock.

When the Seahawks did have the ball, the Packers prevented them from doing much with it. The Packers entered the game with the league's worst takeaway/giveaway ratio of -23 but made opportunistic plays on the ball all day long.

"It was a big win for the simple fact that things rarely went our way this year," Donald Lee said.

In addition to Underwood's forced fumble, Al Harris also created a turnover. He jumped a Seneca Wallace pass intended for Peter Warrick. Harris caught the ball at the Seattle 27-yard line and returned it eight yards to the 19-yard line.

The eight-year-veteran seems to have the Seahawks' number. He pounced on a hitch pass, returning it 52 yards for touchdown during the teams' last meeting. That interception won the Jan. 4, 2004 NFC Wild Card playoff game for the Packers 33-27 in overtime.

Harris' interception on Sunday may not have occurred in such dramatic fashion, but the play tipped the game in the Packers' favor. Trailing 14-13 the Packers took over after Harris' ballhawking play. From there Favre and Antonio Chatman stole the show. Favre hit Chatman for 14 yards and then rifled a nine-yard scoring pass to him with 3:46 left in the third quarter.

That scoring toss to Chatman gave Favre 20 touchdowns for an NFL-record 12th season. Favre looked sharp all day, completing 21-of-37 passes for 259 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

The defense came up strong as well, limiting the Seahawks No. 1-ranked offense to 245 total yards. Although the Seahawks rested Pro Bowlers Matt Hasselbeck and Alexander in the second half, the Packers outplayed the first string in the first half, allowing only 143 first half yards.

The Packers defense made life difficult for Hasselbeck and Wallace by pressuring them throughout the contest. Kenny Peterson and Cullen Jenkins each notched sacks while Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila racked up his second multi-sack game of the year with two sacks for a loss of a combined 13 yards.

Such performances came at an opportune time and will allow the Packers to ride winning momentum into the offseason. As he revealed his postgame speech to reporters afterwards, Sherman noted his team will reflect on this game for the rest of the offseason.

"Even in the toughest of times, you had class. I don't want you to forget that part of it," Sherman said. "And now today as I told them just now, 'you can remember this ballgame.'"

The Packers may have struggled through a 4-12 year, but they started 2006 in memorable fashion.

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