It was, clearly, a question of survival...so dominant were the elements in blustery Lambeau Field.
Both the Packers and the Buffalo Bills were battling swirling west winds gusting to 25 miles per hour, in addition to a frigid 13-degree wind chill, in their Sunday matchup in Lambeau, where the resilient and resourceful Packers prevailed, 10-0, in a tightfisted struggle.
But, Brett Favre assured, the wind was the primary culprit. Two weeks earlier against Minnesota on a considerably colder night, it had been "a piece of cake by comparison," he said.
His second pass of the afternoon, he said, had been blown off course before being intercepted by Buffalo cornerback Kevin Thomas.
Fortunately, the Packers shortly were able to return the favor, safety Darren Sharper voiding the opportunity for the Bills by intercepting a Drew Bledsoe pass in the Green Bay end zone and returning it to the 14-yard line.
The unscheduled "exchange" set the tone for a bruising exhibition of smash-mouth football, one which saw the scoring confined to a lone Ryan Longwell field goal for the first three quarters - and that 33-yard success did not materialize until only 3:57 remained in the first half.
The Packers nursed that modest, 3-0 margin until the middle of the fourth quarter, when Favre took advantage of a Bledsoe fumble, triggered by a Vonnie Holliday hit and recovered by Jamal Reynolds at the Bills' 39-yard line, to mount the only touchdown of the afternoon.
The Packers were in the end zone four plays later, running back Ahman Green setting the stage with a 28-yard burst off right tackle to the Bills' 11-yard line. Three plays later, Favre found split end Donald Driver in the end zone with an 11-yard strike. Longwell converted and the day's scoring was completed.
The Bills' best scoring opportunity - aside from that interception on the game's first series - came at the start of the second half when Bledsoe presided over a 78-yard drive to the Green Bay 5-yard line. A 10-yard sack by Holliday, however, forced the Bills to settle for a field goal attempt and Mike Hollis's 33-yard field goal was wide left.
The New Yorkers made one final push in the closing minutes, reaching the Green Bay 17-yard line before another Holliday sack of Bledsoe forced a Bledsoe fumble, recovered by Cletidus Hunt at the Green Bay 23-yard line.
It was the sixth turnover - 4 fumble recoveries and 2 interceptions - forced by the swarming Packers defense, which limited the potent Buffalo offense to 185 net yards...only 43 rushing.
A key element in this highly successful process was the Packers' bristling pass rush, which sacked Bledsoe 6 times for 37 yards in losses.
The wide-ranging Holliday, who essentially took over the game defensively in the fourth quarter, registered five of them to set an official Packers single game record, while Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila posted the other.
Holliday registered four of his five sacks in the fourth quarter, recording the last one - appropriately enough - on the Bills' final play of the game when he felled Bledsoe for a 6-yard loss at the Green Bay 23-yard line.
Linebacker Na'il Diggs also was a defensive standout, amassing a team-leading 10 tackles (8 unassisted) while also posting an interception and forcing a fumble.
As might be expected under the harrowing conditions, both Favre and Bledsoe emerged with modest statistics. Favre completed 15 of 33 passes for 114 yards and one touchdown, with 2 interceptions, and Bledsoe 18 of 36 attempts for 179 yards, with 2 interceptions.
Green, meanwhile, was the Packers' running game, amassing 116 of Green Bay's 119 rushing yards in 26 attempts, thus recording the 14th 100-yard day of his Packers career.
The Packers' six turnovers were the most they have had in a game since Dec. 12, 1999, in a 33-31 home loss to Carolina.
Overall, the Packers' 45 takeaways are the most they have recorded since 1981, when they posted a club-record 54. They include 21 fumble recoveries, their most since 1988.
Should the Packers finish at their current plus-18 mark, it would be the best turnover margin since they were also plus-18 in 1966. If plus-17, it would be the team's best since 1972. If they should close out with a plus-ratio Sunday, they would finish with their best mark since 1965 (plus-24).
THE HOLLIDAY FILE: Vonnie Holliday should have been elated. He had just set an official, all-time Packers record, having amassed the remarkable total of five quarterback sacks. But his great day had come at a time of great personal tragedy in his life - the unexpected loss of a teen-age cousin on Saturday.
Holliday's second cousin, Marcus Warren, collapsed during a basketball game in Hilton Head, S.C., and died of a congenital heart defect.
"I had a late night last night with my family," Holliday said while speaking to the media during a post-game press conference. "We really didn't get much sleep. My little cousin (Marcus Warren), the next superstar, died tragically last night, and all of this today was for him.
"God gave me the strength and no doubt he was up there helping. I just have to believe that he was with me...When I was out there everything was happening in slow motion.
"I have to believe that I certainly have another angel up there looking out for me. Today he had some involvement in what happened for me.
"You like to say you go out every game and play with passion. But I think today I went out and played with more passion. I felt like his presence was there. It gave me that extra push, that extra passion to play."
On the subject of his record performance, which had seen him also force three fumbles, the emotional Holliday said, "I can't say enough about my teammates today. We got great coverage from our d-backs all day long. They really made (Drew) Bledsoe hold the ball. All the factors that help us defensive linemen get sacks were happening out there today, and I'm just very fortunate."
Holliday's record sack sequence:
- Sack One: A 10-yard trap of Bledsoe at Green Bay 15-yard line, forcing a failed field goal attempt by Mike Hollis (third quarter)
- Sack Two: A 7-yard trap of Bledsoe at Buffalo 45 (fourth quarter)
- Sack Three: A 7-yard trap of Bledsoe at Buffalo 38, forcing fumble recovered by Jamal Reynolds, leading to Packers' touchdown
- Sack Four: A 7-yard trap of Bledsoe at Buffalo 23-yard line
- Sack Five: A 6-yard trap of Bledsoe at Green Bay 23-yard line, forcing fumble recovered by Cletidus Hunt, allowing Packers to run out the clock to end game
The previous official Packers single-game sack record was 4.5, established by linebacker Bryce Paup against the Buccaneers at Tampa Sept. 15, 1991.
THE FAVRE FILE: In presiding at Sunday's victory over Buffalo, Brett Favre improved his perfect record at home to 35-0 (29-0 regular season, 6-0 playoffs) when the game-time temperature is 34 degrees or below. Those 35 wins include four victories this year (over Miami, Chicago, Minnesota and Buffalo).
In Sunday's process, Favre also padded his December record as a starting quarterback to 35-10, the best record for December by a starting quarterback since the 1970 league merger (minimum 20 starts).
He thus passed Joe Theismann (34-10), with whom he had been tied.
Favre also made his 172nd start, extending his NFL record for quarterbacks.
Looking to Sunday's season finale against the Jets, Favre needs to hit approximately 70 percent of his passes to establish the second-most accurate season in team history (his 64.92 percent in 1992 is the record). Bart Starr's 63.74 percent ranks second. Favre will be attempting to eclipse the 62.98 figure he compiled in 1995, when he won MVP honors, and 1998, a league-leading mark in the latter year.
THE GREEN FILE: Ahman Green made historic statistical strides while contributing 133 yards of offense to the Packers cause, moving past the legendary Paul Hornung into seventh place on the team's career rushing list in the process.
The highly productive ex-Cornhusker became the first Packer ever to surpass 1,500 yards from scrimmage three times in a career, eclipsing that total for a third consecutive year, parlaying his aggregate to 1,561 yards this season (1,173 rushing and 388 receiving).
He previously accounted for 1,734 yards from scrimmage in 2000 and a career-high 1,981 in 2001.
Only two others in team history have gone over the 1,500 mark twice - Jim Taylor in 1962 and 1964 and Dorsey Levens in 1997 and 1999.
In passing Hornung, Green swelled his career rushing total to 3,735 yards, (24 yards beyond Hornung's 3,711.
Green also supplanted Hornung in sixth place in combined career rushing and receiving, swelling his lifetime total to 5,276 yards. Hornung closed out his career with 5,191 rushing and receiving yards.
Green's 116-yard rushing effort Sunday was the 14th of his Green Bay career, breaking a tie with John Brockington (13) for the second-most 100-yard rushing days in Packers annals. Jim Taylor is the club's all-time leader with 26.
Over his Packers career, Green is averaging 4.45 yards per carry (839 for 3,735 yards), the third-best in team history, behind Gerry Ellis (4.58, 1980-86) and Jim Taylor, 4.53, 1958-66).
GM/HEAD COACH MIKE SHERMAN'S POST-GAME COMMENTS:
(on being 8-0 at home) "Our team is playing well at home. A lot of that has to do with the 64,000 out in that stadium, the people in the parking lot, and the people waiting for them when they come to work on Sunday. We have the best fans in football."
(on the play of the defense) "Both offenses were struggling and defenses had to step up and our defense rose to the occasion. I don't care what the weather conditions are, when you are able to shut out the Buffalo Bills with Bledsoe, and Henry, and Price, and Moulds and those receivers and tight ends, and Centers at fullback...this was as talented a group as we have faced this year."
(on the weather) "It was very cold and windy. The conditions were intense to say the least. It was swirling wind, the field was giving ground, and on a regular basis the footing wasn't great. There were a number of reasons why we weren't playing as effective as we'd like to be and I'm sure it affected them as well."
(on the wind) "The wind would be blowing in your face, you'd look at the flags and the wind would be blowing the other way. It was really swirly."
(on the secondary scheme) "We played man-to-man, we played cover two zone, we didn't try to stay in one thing too much."
(on the wind's effect on QB Brett Favre's throwing) "The wind usually doesn't affect his ball. It was the first time in any game of my career - my short career - that the wind has affected his ball."
(on the Buffalo Bills) "They are a good football team. The Buffalo Bills have done a fantastic job with personnel, a fantastic job with coaching...we have a lot of respect for what they did at Lambeau Field today."
(on using two tight ends) "It gives us an opportunity to work some different types of runs as opposed to the two back runs. It also gives you some choice in the passing game. If you have a fullback come out of the backfield or a tight end come off the line of scrimmage, your extra tight end can do more things and get vertical faster."
(on adversity) "We've had a lot of adversity this year. We've had it on the field - we've had weather conditions - and we've had it off the field. Kabeer had lost his mom and he came back and played the next week. And last night Vonnie Holliday lost a close cousin, a young 17-year-old boy died tragically at home and that has affected him. It certainly allowed him an opportunity to go out and play the very best game he played this year."
(on Vonnie Holliday) "I don't think his stock ever dropped. Vonnie Holliday is a great player and he certainly played a great game today."
(on the play of the secondary) "You lose Sharper, your best player right at the beginning of the game, your Pro-Bowl player on defense and obviously I can't say enough about the guys that stepped in. When you lose a player of that magnitude who just had an interception...and then guys step in and did a helluva job."
THE PLAYER PERSPECTIVE:
Quarterback Brett Favre: (on playing in windy conditions) "Both teams have a very good passing attack and we were mediocre at best today. That's impressive."
(on the weather) "I threw several balls as hard as I have ever thrown them before and they still didn't get there. I played in some tough conditions before and I've played in colder, but it really makes you appreciate having a nice day. Playing Minnesota a couple of weeks ago was a cakewalk and it was much colder. It was a cakewalk compared to today."
(on the wind) "I played four quarters out there today and there were times when I was like, 'I can't wait until the quarter's over so I'll have the wind.' Well, when that would happen I'd say, 'I thought I had the wind?' It was back in my face. From a quarterback standpoint, in those type of conditions, being able to judge the wind is a huge factor."
(on how the wind affected his passes) "It's impossible to touch pass one of those today. Impossible. You may touch pass one and it may get there, but more than likely...Either way, either into the wind or not into the wind - like I said, most of the time it was a cross wind - if you just lollipop one, it's going to move."
(on adversity) "I don't think in all my years of playing here, I don't think I've seen a team have to overcome this much adversity. And on top of that, we have overcome it. A lot of teams can say they have had as many injuries as we have, but they can't say that they've won 12 games."
(on teamwork) "There is a lot of things you can point your finger at that has enabled us to be successful, but this team just enjoys playing together, plays hard, and never quits. I say this all the time, but there is not substitute for that."
Wide receiver Donald Driver: (on his touchdown reception) "It was a choice route. I could have run either a post or a flag, Brett leaves it up to me. The coverage looked open so I made a move and beat the guy inside. I got inside there and just kind of sat in it. There was a pretty big hole, and (Favre) just threw it in there."
(on why he skipped the Lambeau Leap) "My mother-in-law is in town, and my wife told me I had to get the ball to her if I had the opportunity to score. So once I scored, naturally I had to run all the way down to the other side to get her the ball."
(on being undefeated at home) "It feels great, I've never been undefeated, not college, not high school, not anything. It's a huge win for us and it really puts some pressure on the other teams we're in contention with. Today's win was a great step for us."
Wide receiver Robert Ferguson: (on his special teams play) "I'm just making the most out of every opportunity I have. Right now my role on the team is special teams, and an occasional spot in the passing game. When I get out there on the field I try to spark the crowd. I think that the particular tackle I had, after the touchdown, that was a good motivator."
Defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila: (on the defensive performance) "It seemed like we got a lot of pressure all day today. Vonnie had a huge game. We got some great looks with just a four-man rush. Our defense really made Bledsoe hold onto the ball, and we were able to keep him uncomfortable basically all day."
Running back Ahman Green: (on his 100-yard rushing effort) "It seemed like a basic day, I didn't realize how many yards I had because it came so slowly. If we needed three yards, I'd just barely get it. If we needed a first down, we'd just barely get it. Blocks were key today, and we just got what we needed all the time. It was a definite workhorse day."
(on the ball possession) "The defense was playing hard all day, and they were out on the field a lot, so when we'd get the chance, we tried to put together a drive. We were able to keep mistakes to a minimum, and sometimes that's enough to win games. The defense definitely forced some key turnovers, and we didn't have many. Everybody was accomplishing their assignments, and the end result is evident of that."
(on the importance of going undefeated at home) "It's a great accomplishment. Naturally our goal was to go undefeated on the road as well, but that's always a little tougher. Our main goal was to go undefeated at home, and then make our opponents come here for the playoffs, to make it easier on us. We're one step closer to that, but we'll still need some help."
Safety Darren Sharper:
(on his interception) "We were in the red zone, and I saw that Moulds lined up on my side so I stayed backside to help out the corner. We had great coverage on the crossing route, and Antuan (Edwards) was able to hit the ball as he came across. I turned back when I took my eyes off Moulds, and I saw the ball coming right to me. I thought, 'Man, this is a gift!' and I caught it, and then after that...I don't remember what happened."
-The Packers' victory over Buffalo was their third in the series, which dates back to 1974. The Bills have won six of the nine meetings.
-With the win, the Packers now are 3-and-0 against the AFC East, having also defeated New England and Miami. They face the division's other members, the New York Jets, in their season finale next Sunday.
-Sunday's shutout was the Packers' first of an opponent since Sept. 24, 2001, when they blanked the Washington Redskins, 37-0, also in Lambeau Field. It was the Green and Gold's second shutout in the last nine seasons, both having come under Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell.
-The Packers can establish consecutive winning road records (5-3 in 2001) for only the second time since the '60s. Green Bay posted a 5-2 road record in 1967 and a 4-2-1 mark in 1968, and back-to-back 5-3 marks in 1996 and '97.
-Terry Glenn Sunday became the fourth Packers receiver to catch 50 passes this season, increasing his season total to 51 with 4 receptions (the other members of the quarter: Donald Driver, 69; Ahman Green, 54; and Bubba Franks, 51). It is only the second such happening in Packers history. The first occurred in 1983, when James Lofton had 58 catches, John Jefferson 57, Paul Coffman 54 and Gerry Ellis 52.
-Ryan Longwell's second-quarter field goal against Buffalo was his 17th consecutive successful three-point kick in Lambeau Field.
-Longwell, with 123 points, needs 9 to break his own 2000 team record (131) for most points without a touchdown, 131.
-The Packers have forced nine turnovers on red-zone snaps, including an interception and fumble recovery Sunday. Opponents are 0-for-their-last-5 in the red zone, with one field goal, one missed field goal, two turnovers and one fourth-down stop.
-Middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson registered his 100th tackle of the season in Sunday's game. With 102 stops, he ranks second to team leader Nate Wayne, who has 125.
-Holliday's third sack of the game, in the fourth quarter, forced a Bledsoe fumble which was recovered by Jamal Reynolds at the Buffalo 40, setting up the Packers' touchdown.
-Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila posted his 12th sack of the season, a 9-yard trap of Bledsoe in the second quarter. It was KGB's ninth sack in 10 games as a starter.
-Green Bay's offense has not committed a penalty in the past two games.
-Despite injuries at four of the five positions in the offensive line (there have been two starters at left tackle and three at right tackle to date), and to three of the team's top four backs (Ahman Green, William Henderson, Najeh Davenport), the Packers have a chance to mount their highest rushing total in 17 years. With 91 yards against the Jets, they would post their highest total since 1985, when they rolled up 2,208 yards.
-The Packers went for it on fourth-down-and-3 at the Buffalo 32 in the second quarter but Brett Favre's wind-blown pass was incomplete.
-Linebacker Na'il Diggs made a pair of big defensive plays, forcing a fumble by Bills running back Travis Henry in the first quarter and intercepting a Bledsoe pass at the Buffalo 45-yard line late in the second period.
-Wide receiver Donald Driver, known to be Brett Favre's "go-to-guy," also can be handy to have around for other purposes. One occurred in the second quarter when running back Tony Fisher fumbled deep in Green Bay territory and the ever-alert Driver recovered at the Packers' 9-yard line.
-Tight end Bubba Franks snapped a 21-game reception streak, going without a catch for the first time since Nov. 18, 2001, vs. Atlanta.
-Punter Brian Moorman made Bills history - and attracted more than a modicum of attention when he delivered an 84-yard punt early in the fourth quarter - a boot which was launched from the Buffalo 14-yard line and eventually bounced all the way to the Green Bay 2. The previous Buffalo record was 80 yards, set by Chris Mohr in 1996.
-Packers inactives Sunday included cornerback Tod McBride, linebacker Marcus Wilkins, offensive tackle Earl Dotson, defensive end Kevin McKenzie, wide receive Karsten Bailey, tight end David Martin, defensive tackle Steve Warren and designated Third Quarterback Craig Nall.