In the words of GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman and runaway running back Ahman Green, Sunday afternoon's highly successful Packers performance in Lambeau Field was all about "taking care of business."
That, to be sure, the Packers did. They set an immediate tone by taking the opening kickoff and marching 80 yards in 12 plays to go out front, 7-0...to stay.
Although they led by a modest 10-0 at halftime, and even somewhat later, there never seemed much doubt about the outcome, even though the Broncos continued to "hang around."
That is, they did until Green essentially took over the game late in the third quarter. Bursting into the open around right end, Green sprinted 47 yards before being caught from behind at the Broncos' 7-yard line.
Two plays later, he finished the task, bolting 2 yards off the Packers' left flank into the end zone.
Green was back in the end zone shortly - but not until "appropriate" circumstances were in place for his history-making run.
The Broncos' Adrian Madise unwittingly helped set the stage, mounting an 83-yard return of the kickoff following Green's first touchdown, an excursion which carried Madise to the Green Bay 12-yard line.
The Packers, however, then drew the line defensively. With the aid of a holding penalty on Denver, the Broncos subsequently went empty-handed when a fourth-down Danny Kanell pass fell incomplete in the end zone, the ball going over to the Packers at their 2-yard line.
On the very next play, Green exploded over right guard, veering briefly to his left, then abruptly angling right and out-running all pursuit for 98 yards to the end zone.
"It was a misdirection play to the left," Green later said, "and it worked to perfection...the back side opened up."
The longest run from scrimmage in Packers history, it broke 64-year-old record. It was set by Andy Uram, who posted a 97-yard scoring run against the then-Chicago Cardinals at State Fair Park in Milwaukee on Oct. 8, 1939.
Just eight seconds after Green's historic run, linebacker Marcus Wilkins closed out the Packers' scoring, recovering a Broncos fumble in the Denver end zone following Ryan's Longwell's final kickoff of the afternoon.
With Green's 218-yard performance the obvious impetus, the Packers amassed 262 yards rushing, their best such effort of the season...by one yard, over their 261-yard performance in their 30-27 victory over the Vikings at Minnesota Nov. 2.
EXCEEDINGLY OFFENSIVE: The 2003 Packers rushed for more yards (2,558) than any other team in club annals, eclipsing the record of 2,460, established in 1962.
And only one team in Packers annals has gained more yards and scored more points than the '03 Green and Gold.
They ended the season with:
- 442 points (second only in team history to the 456 scored in 1996)
- 5,798 yards (second only to the 6,172 gained in 1983)
- 53 touchdowns (second only to the 56 scored in 1996)
THE FAVRE FILE: With the running game going so well and swirling winds complicating the throwing process, quarterback Brett Favre closed out the day with modest numbers for him - 12 completions in 21 attempts for 116 yards and one touchdown, with one interception.
But, in what has become a weekly occurrence, the 34-year-old field general continued to make NFL and Packers history.
In the former category, he ended the regular season with 32 touchdown passes to lead the league for the fourth time, thus sharing the all-time record with Len Dawson, Johnny Unitas and Steve Young. He also eclipsed the Packers career record of Arnie Herber, who led the NFL in TDs three times.
Breaking his own record, Favre also closed out the regular season with the highest passing percentage in team annals, 65.4 percent, based upon 308 completions in 471 attempts (for 3,3612 yards and 32 touchdowns, with 21 interceptions).
Favre also held the previous record, 64.1 percent, established in 1992.
Favre's 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Bubba Franks also extended to 25 the number of consecutive games in which he has thrown at least one scoring pass, extending his club record.
Additionally, Favre played in his 191st game and now ranks second on the Packers' all-time list for total games played. Bart Starr is the all-time leader with 196.
In addition, he also made his 189th consecutive start, extending his NFL record for quarterbacks.
THE GREEN FILE: With his remarkable, 218-yard rushing wrap-up to the regular season, Ahman Green made a wholesale assault on the Packers' record book in Sunday's finale.
In the process, Green set no fewer than 10 new marks, seven of them new single-season records. The list:
- Yards rushing: 1,883 (old record, 1,474, by Jim Taylor, 1962)
- Rushing attempts: 355 (old record, 329, by Dorsey Levens, 1997)
- Most 100-yard games, rushing: 10 (old record, 7, by Jim Taylor, 1962)
- Most consecutive 100-yard rushing games: 4 (old record, 3, by John Brockington, 1971)
- Most combined attempts: 405 (old record, 383, by Dorsey Levens, 1997)
- Touchdowns: 20 (old record, 19, by Jim Taylor, 192)
- Most yards from scrimmage: 2,250 (old record, 1,981, by Green, 2001)
- Most yards rushing: 218 (old record, 192, by Ahman Green vs. Philadelphia, 11/10/03)
- Longest run from scrimmage: 98 yards (old record, 97 yards, by Andy Uram vs. Chicago Cardinals 10/8/39
- Highest average gain per rush: 4.71 (old record, 4.58, by Gerry Ellis (1980-86)
GM/HEAD COACH MIKE SHERMAN'S COMMENTS:
(on how to handle all of the emotions) "Well, right now I am just proud of my football team. I am so proud. We came into the bye week having lost two in a row, three games out in the division and unless you have character in that locker room, men who get it, who fight for it, who won't point fingers, who are accountable, you can never get back on track again. Fortunately, I have those type of people in that locker room and on the coaching staff and it is because of their efforts that we are able to get to where we are today. They never questioned anything, they just kept battling. We didn't play perfectly this year, we made plenty of mistakes, but you tell them what they did wrong and they try to fix it the best way they can and it is a credit to them."
(on how fate changed) "Well, we are in this position and we are able to win this division because we worked extremely hard. I don't put a whole lot of stock in the fact that it was lucky. We were down and if at any time we doubted ourselves we may not be in this position right now and you might not be asking that question. So I credit it to a lot of hard work, perseverance, great chemistry on this football team, guys hanging together, believing in each other and enjoying each other's company, where they enjoy winning football games and enjoy the locker room after a win."
(on the fourth-and-1 stop and the long touchdown run) "I thought a great turn of events there was the fourth-and-one and we stopped them and then were able to break the long 98-yard run for a touchdown and I thought that was as good of two plays in football that I have ever seen."
(on facing Mike Holmgren) "Well, Mike is a great football coach and they have an excellent football team and they will be a challenge. We have to have everything covered when we play them. They will be well-prepared and ready to go in this football game, but we will be, too, so it should be a heck of a game."
(on Favre's emotional roller coaster this week) "Well, as I told him today before he took the field, you know I don't know if anyone really realizes how much pressure he was under on Monday night. Much has been made about him playing that game for his dad and to play the way he played I think was phenomenal because people expected him play that way and I don't know if anyone expected him exactly to play that well, but he did. But today I told him to 'just go out there and just have fun and enjoy the game and enjoy your teammates,' and I thought he did."
THE PLAYER PERSPECTIVE:
Quarterback Brett Favre: (on outcome) "In the fourth quarter, I had no idea it would work out this way. It was 17-3 and (Denver) was close to scoring and I said, 'We're in for a game.' I was more concerned about us surviving this game and see what happens. The odds were against us this week. I think everyone assumed Minnesota winning. I'm sure a lot of our fans were asking for help yesterday, as well as today. In some ways we got it and in most ways we earned it."
(on adversity) "We had our share of bumps in the road along the way this year...I've stood up here every week and said that this team practices like we're undefeated. We've bounced back from bad games and adversity as well as any team I've ever been a part of. I felt like we deserved it."
(on overall game) "I thought that Denver played exceptionally hard. From our standpoint, I don't think it was really our kind of game. We didn't put up numbers like we did Monday night, but we did rushing and Ahman, of course, had an unbelievable game. The bottom line is we won. I didn't feel affected any by missing practice. That first drive was the drive that won the game for us, as it turns out, so you never know. It was the type of conditions that our running game needed to dominate and we did more than dominate."
(on week leading into today's game) "It's been a long week in some ways and short in others. My preparation has been short and it's been long considering what I had to go through and my family had to go through. As I said after the game on Monday night, I feel like (my father) was watching. My emotions right now - I'm numb to be perfectly honest with you. I've cried as many tears as I possibly could cry. I'm so proud of this team and what we've been able to overcome. I think a lot of people were concerned with our emotions coming out. I think we showed what we were capable of doing. I just couldn't be more pleased."
Running back Ahman Green: (on win) "The biggest thing was the 'W' in this game. Like I said a couple of week ago, we do the things that we're supposed to do in the rest of the season for us and the chips fall where they may."
(on 98-yard run) "It's kind of a misdirection play where we start of to our left and we try to bait (the defense) to the left and come back right and that's basically what happened to perfection. The offensive line blocked who they needed to block and the only person I had to deal with is the safety and I think he got pulled in from the action of the whole play at the beginning. That was the start of it and running to the end zone was the end of it."
Safety Darren Sharper: (on Arizona/Minnesota last minute play to win game and clinch Packers division title) "Crazier things have happened. Now, we're just excited to get into the playoffs. It's a new season."
(on stopping the Broncos running attack) "Our defensive line has taken it upon themselves all year long to not let anybody run on us."
(on defensive improvement over course of season) "We knew at the beginning of the season that we had a lot of new faces and it was going to take a while to blend. You've seen us take off in the last couple of games and it's the perfect time to do it."
-With Sunday's win, GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman has padded his head-coaching record for the month of December to an imposing 16-2 and his career mark to 43-21.
-In recording a 10th victory Sherman (10-6) also posted his third consecutive double-digit victory season, following back-to-back 12-and-4 marks in 2002 and 2002.
-The victory also was the third for Sherman in four season finales as Green Bay's head coach.
-It is the second time in Sherman's tenure that his team has finished the season with a four-game winning streak. They also won their last four in 2000 to go 9-and-7.
-The Packers' defense held the opposition to 31 touchdowns over the 16-game schedule, the fifth-lowest total in team annals. The team record is 19 (1996), followed by 27 in 1993, 28 in 2001 and 30 in 1997.
-The '03 Packers established a franchise record for fewest sacks allowed in a 16-game season with 19. The previous record, 22, was set in 2001.
-Donald Driver, for the second year in a row, emerged as the Packers' leading receiver, making 52 catches for 621 yards, a 11.9-yard average, and 2 touchdowns.
-Ahman Green, with his 120 points, shares team season scoring honors with Ryan Longwell. The honor had been Longwell's exclusive property for each of the past six seasons.
-Free safety Darren Sharper, emerging as the team's interception leader with 5, now has a career total for 32, lifting him into sixth place on the team's lifetime list, one behind Irv Comp (33).
-Punter Josh Bidwell closed out the season with a new team record for most consecutive punts without a block, 308. The old record, 274, was set by David Beverly (1977-80).
-Marcus Wilkins' recovery of an end zone fumble for a touchdown was the Packers' first "return" of a fumble for a score since Rondell Mealey had a 27-yard scoring runback against the Washington Redskins Sept. 24, 2001.
-Marco Rivera played in the 109th game of his career at guard, the fifth-most games at the position in team history.
-Javon Walker stepped in for the injured Robert Ferguson (Achilles tendon) at wide receiver and Michael Hawthorne for Mike McKenzie (hamstring) at cornerback Sunday.
-Najeh Davenport closed out the '03 campaign with the third-highest kickoff return average in Packers history, 31.6 yards, for 16 runbacks.
-Davenport, as a part-time performer, finished the season within striking distance of 1,000 all-purpose yards. He accumulated 963 yards, including 420 rushing, 505 via kickoff returns and 38 receiving.
-Packers inactives Sunday included wide receiver Robert Ferguson, offensive linemen Brennan Curtin and Marcus Spriggs, defensive linemen Gilbert Brown and Jamal Reynolds, defensive backs Derek Combs and Mike McKenzie and Designated Third Quarterback Craig Nall.
-Scott Ramsay, a Green Bay native and a member of the Chicago Lyric Opera Company, sang the national anthem before Sunday's game.