Packers-Buccaneers Recap

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"It was 98-and-a-half (yards), actually," Mike Sherman said, with just the hint of a smirk, as he began to address the media at his post-game press conference outside the visitors' locker room early Sunday evening.

"It doesn't," he added, "get much longer than that."

(For the record, the Tampa Bay statistical crew officially listed the drive as 98 yards in length, starting at the Green Bay 2.)

Sherman, of course, was referring to the classic drive quarterback Brett Favre and his offense had brilliantly executed to carry the day.

And, invariably precise, the Packers' general manager and head coach was on the money. The Green and Gold took possession of the football at their own one-and-a-half-yard line.

Technicalities aside, what followed was a slight rarely seen on any gridiron.

Sherman, Tom Rossley and the Packers' offensive brain trust proceeded to utilize what has become a dominant running game to both control the clock and advance the football. They proceeded to run off 17 plays - a dozen of them rushes - to wipe 9 minutes and 42 seconds off the stadium clock before Ahman Green "closed the deal" with a one-yard burst into the end zone.

Sherman had one challenging "call" along the way - when the Packers found themselves with 4th-and-1 at the Tampa Bay 16. A field goal might ordinarily be in order but he decided to go for it, a decision he later explained by asserting, "It was such a beautiful drive, I hated to let it go to our kicker. I had a lot of confidence in our guys and what they've been doing all year long."

Ironically, in retrospect, the remarkable trek initially looked like it might end in a routine three-and-out before it could get under way.

It began inauspiciously, in fact. With 3:36 left in the third quarter, Green was thrown for a one-yard loss on first down. He followed with a 5-yard run up the middle but a false start penalty moved the Packers back to their 3-yard line.

Here, fortuitously, Favre took a hand and hit wide receiver Robert Ferguson, coming across the middle, for a 23-yard gain and a badly needed first down.

The Packers now were on their way. And, after Green and Davenport combined to produce another first down with three consecutive runs, Davenport gave the drive major impetus, barging off right end for 27 yards to the Tampa Bay 36, shedding tacklers en route.

Ten plays later, Green had the opportunity to garner the final yard, bolting over right guard for what became the game's winning score at precisely the 6-minute mark of the fourth quarter.

The imposing march enabled the Packers to finish out the day with a commanding advantage in time of possession, controlling the football for 34 minutes, 7 seconds to the Buccaneers' 25 minutes, 53 seconds.

Statistically, the drive was fashioned with 12 runs, good for 64 yards, and 5 pass completions, which netted 34 yards.

At one early point, the Packers were out front, 10-0, capitalizing on highly favorable field position to build the lead.

A 17-yard punt return by Antonio Chatman set up their first score, putting Green Bay in position at the Tampa Bay 47-yard line. Favre took it from there, finishing off a 4-play drive with a 5-yard shovel pass to running back Tony Fisher in the end zone.

Early in the second quarter, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila's hit forced a fumble by Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson, linebacker Nick Barnett recovering on the Tampa Bay 22-yard line.

Faced with 4th-and-1 three plays later, the Packers settled for a 31-yard Ryan Longwell field goal and a 10-0 lead.

With a 61-yard excursion by Bucs running back Thomas Jones, Tampa Bay weighed in with a field goal following the kickoff, Martin Gramatica connecting from 24 yards.

The Packers then again capitalized on advantageous field position following the ensuing kickoff, Davenport's 56-yard kickoff return enabling them to start their next drive at the Tampa Bay 36.

Six plays later, Longwell hit from 33 yards out and Green Bay led 13-3.

Gramatica subsequently kicked a 47-yard field goal as the first half ended, paring the Packers' advantage to a touchdown, 13-6, at the intermission.

A second long run by Jones, this one a 51-yarder on Tampa Bay's first play from scrimmage following the second half kickoff, put the Buccaneers in position to tie. And they did. Three plays later, Johnson hitting wideout Keenan McCardell with a 3-yard TD strike.

Gramatica's conversion made it 13-all and set the stage for the Packers' marathon march.

With Green gaining 109 yards in 21 carries and Davenport 70 in 13, the Packers continued to pound the football with spectacular effect, rushing for 190 yards in 38 attempts, an impressive 5.0-yard average.

Meanwhile, quarterback Brett Favre found the need to throw only 28 passes, of which he completed 13 for 92 yards and one touchdown, with one interception.

Rookie linebacker Nick Barnett spearheaded a tightfisted defense, posting a team-leading 10 tackles (7 of them unassisted, swelling his season total to 100, and weighing in with his third interception of the season. He also was credited with 2 passes deflected.

THE DRIVE: "It was one for the ages," Mike Eayrs, the Packers' director of research and development said of the Packers' 18-play, 9-minute, 42-second procession to victory in Tampa.

High praise from one who spends every work day analyzing and assessing the Packers personnel and performance from every possible statistical perspective.

In terms of time, he was able to determine that it was the longest drive in the NFL this season, including all games through Sunday (Nov. 16).

It also is the longest the Packers have had in the three years Eayrs has been in the organization.

Eayrs, who served in the same capacity for the Minnesota Vikings for 16 years prior to joining the Packers, said he would be "hard pressed" to remember one of greater length in his experience.

Just for the record, the Packers' previous "longest" of the season was a 13-play drive against the Detroit Lions Sept. 14, which consumed 8 minutes and 42 seconds.

THE FAVRE FILE: By his lofty standards, Brett Favre's "numbers" against Tampa Bay Sunday were nothing to write home about. However, the Packers' 34-year-old field general still managed to make significant history, by:

* Presiding over the 120th victory of his career, breaking a tie with the late Johnny Unitas for fourth place on the NFL's all-time list; and

* Throwing a touchdown pass for a 19th consecutive game, the second-longest such streak in Packers history (He also held the previous second-longest streak, throwing for a TD pass in 18 straight games.)

Favre began his current streak against Miami in Week 9 of the 2002 season (Nov. 4).

Cecil Isbell owns the cub record, having thrown a scoring pass in 22 consecutive games over the 1941 and '42 seasons.

Favre also played in his 185th consecutive game, leaving him only 2 games short of the club record, 187, set by Hall of Famer Forrest Gregg, and made his 183rd consecutive start, extending his NFL record for quarterbacks.

Although it is not an official record because both regular season and postseason games are included in the compilation, Favre also made his 200th consecutive start Sunday (183 regular season and 17 postseason games).

THE GREEN FILE: Ahman Green, rushing for 109 yards in 21 attempts, recorded his seventh 100-yard game of the season, tying a club record he already shared with Hall of Famer Jim Taylor. Taylor set the record in 1962 and Green previously tied it in 2001.

Green also equaled another record by scoring a touchdown in a seventh straight game. Don Hutson set the record in 1941-42 and tied it in 1943-44. Paul Hornung also tied the Hutson record in 1960.

By scoring a rushing touchdown, Green also took sole possession of fourth place on the Packers' career list with 36. He had been tied for fourth with Clarke Hinkle, who had 35.

Green additionally is on the verge of making another major impact on the Packers' archives. He now needs only 51 yards rushing to supplant John Brockington (5,024) in second place on the Packers' career list. Green has rushed for 4,974 yards in 1,075 attempts, a 4.63 average.

GM/HEAD COACH MIKE SHERMAN'S POST-GAME COMMENTS:

(On 98-yard scoring drive) "Ninety-eight-and-a-half, actually. Yeah, that's about as long as they get. That was a heck of a drive. Our offensive line took control of the game. Our backs ran the ball very effectively during that drive. We had some key third-down conversions as well, which was huge in that drive, a fourth-down conversion. So there were numerous things in that drive to us getting in the end zone."

(on Robert Ferguson) "I can't say enough about Fergy and what he contributed to this game. We went with eight defensive linemen, seven defensive backs (on the 45-man roster) and that took one away from special teams, so Fergy had some extra duties in special teams. He was always there as a gunner on the punt team. He made plays on third down, that play in particular was a huge play in the ballgame."

(on going for it on fourth-and-1) "It was such a beautiful drive I just hated to let it go to a kicker. I thought we had to finish it off. I had a lot of confidence in the guys and their abilities and what they've been doing for us all year long. I just had to show confidence in them. They'd gone that far and I wasn't going to let it die on a field goal."

(on turnovers) "I definitely believe that not turning the ball over is a key to our game today. Certainly from the running back position. We did have one interception, but overall we hung on to it and ended up in a plus category which was a major, major difference in the ballgame, obviously."

(on win) "There's still a lot of football left for both teams. This doesn't put us in the driver's seat. It doesn't eliminate us, obviously. We still have to come back next week and play a great football game. We can't let this one die down here in Tampa. We have to build off it. But this was a pivotal game for us in the sense that it gives us something more to play for next week and the week after that. We came down here with the full intention of winning the football game, and it doesn't always end up that way - we haven't had great success here - but fortunately we were able to come away with a victory."

(on injuries) "Tony Fisher dislocated his finger (but returned). Green had cramps during the game and we had to give him an IV late in the game he was not available ... Brett Favre banged his thumb on (Mike) Wahle's helmet at one point and it really pained him. He hung in there and battled through that. I was considering making a change there, simply because he looked like he was in a lot of pain, but I'm sure he would have had none of that if I'd sent Doug (Pederson) in. Larry Smith left with a concussion, a mild concussion, I believe he'll be OK."

(on if Favre's worsened his broken thumb) "I don't think so. You bang it like he banged it, it's going to hurt. I think it just hurt him. There was no displacement in the thumb last week. It settled down, it started to heal and calcify, so I just think that it was very painful, as it has been. He's played with pain with his thumb. This is not easy to throw a football the way he's having to throw it for us in critical situations when you get Simeon Rice breathing down your back. I thought he did a nice job today. Obviously he's played better at times, but I thought he led us and did a great job."

(on considering quarterback change) "Don't misread that. I was concerned about (Brett Favre) shaking his thumb and didn't know if he was going to be able to get a snap. He said he was OK and we left him in. But it crossed my mind for a brief second."

(on not retaliating for Warren Sapp's '02 hit on Chad Clifton) "Our only objective in this football game was to win. There's no better payback than winning a game. That's how you pay people back if that's the case ... That's behind us. This game was too important for us to be that type of ballgame."

THE PLAYER PERSPECTIVE:

Quarterback Brett Favre: (on injured thumb) "It feels great. Playing a game like this makes everything feel a little bit better, but I got it banged a little bit today. I don't know how bad. I'll check it out again tomorrow. But, like I told the guys, I think I broke it."

(on ending Buccaneers' streak of games with a sack) "Until you told me that, I didn't realize that. It doesn't make it any sweeter. The win itself is big. They're a great defense. I don't care what people say right now: they're a great defense. They pose a lot of problems, one of them being sacks. We ran the football extremely well and our offensive line, as they have done all year, played lights out. We didn't have to pass that much and when we did they didn't get to us. A win's a win, I don't care. Any time we can get one here, which hasn't been often, we'll take it."

(on win) "I hate to lose anywhere. I hate to lose on the road, I hate to lose at home, but Minnesota and Tampa Bay over the long haul has been a thorn in our sides, or my side, whatever you want to call it. Losing to Tampa Bay here the last five or six years, it's tough to take, but they're a great defense. You know you're losing to a great team. Not that it makes it any easier. But when you beat a team like this, at their place, it kind of feels good. I know we have a lot of games left to play and we're still fighting our way back - we're 5-5, it's not where we want to be - but we have won some big games. Lost some, too. But this team is not giving up, and that's the impressive thing about it."

(on going for it on fourth-and-1) "I wasn't surprised a bit. It wasn't about the field goal ... I think more importantly it was an exclamation point. We'd moved the ball well, we'd run the ball well and I think everyone, including probably some of our players expected us to kick the field goal, but we just wanted to make a statement at that point. And I think we did."

Running back Ahman Green: (on starting a drive at the 2-yard line) "The big thing is get out of the hole, just hold on to the ball with two hands and get it out and give the quarterback and the offense a little bit of room."

(on leaving the field) "I just cramped up from being out there on the field. I'm still tired right now, but it's a victory. I get a chance to rest, relax and get ready for next week."

(on running back/fullback group) "Every now and then you get a special bunch and I think we've got that special bunch now that can go out there and regardless of who's out there, the offense never loses a step in terms of the running game."

Defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila: (on what led to increased pressure on the quarterback) "Actually we really weren't doing anything different, but we still keep coming. Just hitting. I personally think it's the Lord, but I think we keep doing what we're doing and it's coming our way. Being in the right place at the right time."

NOTE-WORTHY:

-GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman owns a perfect record against reigning Super Bowl champions. Following Sunday's victory over the defending SB champion Buccaneers, he is now 3-and-0 against such royalty, having led the Packers to a 31-23 win over the Baltimore Ravens in 2002 and followed that achievement by defeating New England's reigning Patriots, 28-10, in their 2002 encounter.

-Sherman, with Sunday's win, is now 3-3-0 in regular season competition against the Buccaneers.

-The Packers now are 20-and-2 when Ahman Green has a 100-yard rushing game.

-Green had to be taken to the locker room for intravenous fluids in the fourth quarter.

-Brett Favre's 92 passing yards Sunday represented a season low for him.

-Running back Najeh Davenport finished Sunday's game with 126 all-purpose yards - 70 on 13 rushing attempts, a 5.4-yard average, and 56 yards on a kickoff return.

-Davenport's 56-yard KOR, incidentally, was the Packers' longest of the season.

-Antonio Chatman's 27-yard, first-quarter punt return, which set up the Packers' first touchdown, was his second-longest of the season.

-Punter Josh Bidwell set a new club career record for most consecutive unblocked punts, having delivered 7 in Sunday's game at Tampa, he now has made 281 consecutive punts without a block. He had entered the game tied with David Beverly (1977-80) with 274.

-Ryan Longwell, Bidwell's fellow specialist, also closed in on a club record. With a pair of field goals Sunday, he now has 172, leaving him just one shy of the club record, 173, set by Chris Jacke (1989-96).

-Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, the team leader, posted his fifth quarterback sack of the season, felling the Bucs' Brad Johnson for a 1-yard-loss in the fourth quarter.

-Fellow defender Cletidus Hunt collected his second sack of the year in the second quarter, toppling Johnson for a substantial, 11-yard deficit.

-Defensive lineman Larry Smith registered his first full sack as a Packer, felling the Bucs' Brad Johnson for a 6-yard loss in the first quarter.

-Packers inactives Sunday included offensive linemen Brennan Curtin and Marcus Spriggs, linebackers Marcus Wilkins and T.J. Slaughter, defensive end Jamal Reynolds, defensive backs Derek Combs and Curtis Fuller and Designated Third Quarterback Craig Nall.

-The Buccaneers' Thomas Jones, aided no little by 61 and 51-yard runs from scrimmage, closed out the game with a handsome 14.9-yard rushing average, based on 9 attempts.

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