THE WEEK PAST: It was a day - and a game - to remember.
Sunday's overtime duel with Atlanta was an exceedingly rare contest, highlighted by dual display of quarterback virtuosity seldom seen on any football field - even hallowed "Lambeau."
Brett Favre, the Packers' peerless field general, maneuvered them to four touchdowns and three field goals in leading Green Bay to a 37-34 overtime victory in the highest-scoring opener they have been a part of since 1983.
Across the way, the multi-talented Michael Vick, every bit as gifted as advertised, also escorting the burgeoning Falcons to four touchdowns, and a pair of field goals.
Between them, Favre and Vick presided over the production of more than 850 yards of offense, the Packers amassing 484 yards on 76 plays and the Falcons 374 yards on 57 plays, with both making major contributions to their teams' respective totals.
Favre personally accounted for 290 yards, completing 25 of 36 passes for 284 yards and adding 6 yards with a pair of rushing attempts, while Vick was responsible for 281 of Atlanta's yards, completing 15 of 23 passes for 209 yards and, both jet-quick and highly elusive, emerged as his team's rushing leader with 72 yards in 9 attempts.
En route, the Packers were in a come-from-behind mode for most of the afternoon. Out front briefly in the early going, 3-0, they shortly fell behind and were not able to regain the lead until the waning seconds of the third quarter, when they went up 27-24, via a 13-yard Favre scoring pass to rookie wideout Javon Walker.
The Falcons promptly retaliated, however, moving 45 yards in 6 plays to score following a 36-yard runback of the succeeding kickoff by former Packer Allen Rossum, Warwick Dunn going the final two yards for the touchdown. With the conversion, they went back up for what proved to be the final time in the game, 31-27.
The Packers took matters in hand following the kickoff, mounting a highly efficient drive - a 14-play, 80-yard push climaxed by William Henderson's one-yard plunge with only 1 minutes and 10 seconds remaining regulation. Ryan Longwell's conversion sent the Packers up, 34-31.
But the persistent Michael Vick was not yet finished. Taking over at his own 31 following a 26-yard kickoff return by Rossum, he moved the Falcons to the Packers' 34-yard line with only 14 seconds remaining. Following an incompletion to Willie Jackson, Falcons Head Coach Dan Reeves called upon placekicker Jay Feely and he delivered a 52-yard field goal with 5 seconds left to tie it at 34 and send the game into overtime.
The Packers won the OT toss but, after one first down, were required to punt. But Falcon special teamer Travis Jervey, once a Packer, was guilty of roughing punter Josh Bidwell, giving the Packers a first down. It was only a temporary inconvenience for the Falcons, however. They held the Packers on downs, necessitating another punt.
The Packers' defense returned the favor, forcing an Atlanta three-and-out, then set about settling the issue. Passes of 18 and 13 yards to Javon Walker and Ahman Green, respectively, moved Green Bay into the scoring area at the Atlanta 25.
Four plays later, at 9:45 of the overtime, Longwell delivered a 34-yard field goal to send the faithful home in high spirits.
If Favre was the architect of this latest success, Green most assuredly was the workhorse. Shrugging off cramps with the aid an I.V. on a third-quarter visit to the locker room, he rushed 27 times for 155 yards to emerge as the game's leading ground-gainer He also caught 6 passes for 42 yards to personally account for 197 of the Packers' 484 yards.
Wideouts Donald Driver and Javon Walker also were substantial contributors, Driver snaring a team-high 7 passes for 78 yards and Walker 4 for 56 yards. Terry Glenn also played a significant role, pulling in a 42-yard strike from Favre in the third quarter to help set up a subsequent, 2-yard scoring run by Rondell Mealey.
Although Vick was both elusive and highly productive, the Packers defense managed to sack him four times, Vonnie Holliday, Joe Johnson, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and Antuan Edwards each putting the Falcons field general on the ground.
THE FAVRE FILE: In leading the offensive charge, Brett Favre added a host of new records and achievements to his imposing collection.
- Sunday's victory was his eighth in 10 opening day starts.
- It also was his 104th career victory as a starting quarterback, compared to 54 defeats.
- It also was the 24th game-winning comeback of his NFL career.
- It also was his 67th win in 79 starts, matching the NFL's best home field record for a starting quarterback (67-12) who's started his career since 1950, set by Terry Bradshaw of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
- It also was Favre's 158th consecutive start, extending his NFL record for quarterbacks.
- It was Favre's 160th consecutive game, leaving him only two games behind Larry McCarren, who owns the third-longest consecutive game streak in team history (162).
- By playing in a 160th game, Favre tied Dave Hanner (1952-64) for 10th place in total games played in Packers history.
- His two touchdown passes against Atlanta swelled his career total to 289, leaving him only one behind Johnny Unitas, fifth all-time with 290.
- By throwing 36 passes against Atlanta without an interception, Favre stretched his streak to 153 straight, the third-longest such string in Packers history (behind Bart Starr, 294 in 1964-65) and Favre's streak of 163 in 1995-96.
- With his scoring pass to Javon Walker, Favre now has thrown touchdown passes to 32 different receivers during his 11-year Packers career.
THE GREEN FILE: Ahman Green's 155-yard effort against the Falcons was the12th 100-yard rushing day of his pro career, his eleventh as a Packer.
Sunday's performance lifted Green above Dorsey Levens, who had 10 100-yard games, into third place on the team's career list. Jim Taylor (1958-66) is the club's all-time leader with 26; followed by John Brockington with 13.
It was the fifth time in his career that Green has rushed for 150 or more yards in a game. His career-best effort to date - 169 yards - came against Tampa Bay (Nov. 4, 2001).
For the second consecutive season, Green led the NFL in rushing on opening weekend (he posted 157 yards on Opening Day 2001 vs. Detroit). Since 2000, Green's given his team an 11-0 record when he rushes for 100 yards, the NFL's best winning percentage (Denver's Mike Anderson is second, 10-0).
THE LONGWELL FILE: In the process of kicking three field goals and four extra points against Atlanta, placekicker Ryan Longwell became only the fourth player in the team's 82-year NFL history to score as many as 600 points in a career. He now has 609 in 5-plus seasons.
Don Hutson is the team's all-time leader with 823 points, followed by Chris Jacke (820) and Paul Hornung (760).
Longwell also extended his team consecutive-game scoring record to 81 games (every game he has played).
Longwell's game-winning field goal was the fourth such kick of his career. The others: vs. Philadelphia (9/17/00), vs. San Francisco (10/15/00) and vs. Tampa Bay (12/24/00).
His Sunday production marked the most field-goal attempts (four) since he went 4-for-4 at Minnesota in a 33-28 win, Dec. 17, 2000.
THE (NFL) STATISTICAL UPDATE: The Packers emerged from the opening weekend's competition leading the National Football League on offense by dint of their 484-yard performance in the overtime victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
The Packers rank third in rushing overall (211 yards) and eighth in passing (273).
In the process, running back Ahman Green surfaced as the league's leading rusher with his 155-yard effort, quarterback Brett Favre as the NFC's leading passer with a 111.3 rating and Ryan Longwell as the conference leader in scoring with 13 points.
Green also ranks second in the league in yards from scrimmage with 197- one yard behind wide receiver Marty Booker of the Chicago Bears, is tied for 10th among NFC receivers with 6 catches and leads the NFL in the production of first downs with 8 (6 rushing and 2 receiving).
Favre also ranks third in the conference in third-down passing with a 132.5 rating (8 completions in 10 attempts for 78 yards and 1 touchdown, without an interception).
Teammate Donald Driver is tied for sixth in receiving with 7 receptions and is tied with the New York Giants' Amani Toomer for second place in third-down receiving with 4 catches for 51 yards.
Defensively, the Packers rank 24th overall - 27th against the run and 12th against the pass.
GM/HEAD COACH MIKE SHERMAN'S POST-GAME COMMENTS:
(on his feelings after the game) "First off I want to say that the Atlanta Falcons played an excellent game, they were very well coached. Michael Vick has lived up to his expectations. He gets a Pro Bowl vote from me. He did everything he had to do when he had to do it; with his feet, with his arm, with his capability. I thought he played a whale of a ball game. I certainly think our quarterback did as well."
(on the team's performance) "A game like this where you can battle back in the situation we were in, it was hot out there and guys were getting fatigued, tired, cramped and hurt. They were able to hang in there and battle back. I'm proud of the football team."
(on the defense) "There's things we need to work on, there's no doubt about that. Our defense gave up way too many rushing yards and it wasn't just Michael Vick's feet. Warrick Dunn was making guys miss, (T.J.) Duckett, and the rest of their offense. They did a great job against our defense."
(on the receivers) "They stepped up where the questions were, and they did a lot. I was probably most proud of them."
(on Javon Walker's performance) "He's an unusual rookie. He's well beyond his years, and that's why we moved up to get him at 20. It's what I said a long time ago. I thought he was a top 10 pick and to get him at 20, I thought it was worth it because of his maturity level that he showed me in a one-on-one meeting we had. He's a young man that loves being a Green Bay Packer and loves playing here in Green Bay.
THE PLAYER PERSPECTIVE:
Quarterback Brett Favre: (on the game) "That was a rough one, fortunately we won. I thought that it was extremely hot and when we went into overtime, we just found a way to win it."
(on the receivers) "Those guys made some great plays, every one of them contributed in some way. That's what we hoped they would do. I had no idea we'd be going into overtime. Javon made a great catch in overtime and a great touchdown catch. Terry had some great catches. Donald had some great catches. The stuff you don't see, the blocking downfield, was unbelievable."
(on the Atlanta defense) "They played tight, but they mixed it up real well. They gave us a good mix of coverages, not only in different situations, but different distances. On first down, sometimes they'd go cover two, come back with three. They mixed it up real well...our guys adjusted well and made plays."
(the difference between last year's game and this year's) "I felt like last year we'd win the football game. I felt today like we'd win the football game. I didn't think it would be an overtime game, but they played well. They played great. But the difference this year was that we made plays in crucial situations."
(on the team's performance) "We found out a lot about our team today. Our offense was able to step it up and put points on the board. We sputtered around a few times, but like I said, the bottom line is we won."
(on Michael Vick) "He played great. He can run around a lot better than I can. They'd have carted me off if I would have had to run that far. He threw the ball well; he played great. He deserved a win just as much as we did. I know they're upset that they didn't win, especially a game like this one, but he has nothing to hang his head about. He played great, the whole team did."
Running back Ahman Green: (on the offensive depth) "This is a team sport, and in any team sport you need guys in the backup position like what Rondell (Mealey) did when I came off the field with cramps. That's what makes a team good, when you have depth at certain positions, or at all positions."
(on the team's running game) "That's what Coach Sherman wanted to do out there. We wanted to show that we could run the ball. It's going to be a tough, hard season because now teams are going to see what we can do and they're going to put eight or nine guys up in the box. We have to be prepared for that."
(on the difficulty of the game) "I'm glad to have a tough game early, because that prepares us for anything later down the line in November and December."
(on downfield blocking by the wide receivers) "That was a big focus for the receivers through the mini-camps and training camp. You can make a 10-yard run into a 35-yard run. And that's what coach Ray Sherman has been talking to them about."
Kicker Ryan Longwell: (on his performance) "I felt pretty confident all day, the winds seem really tough coming from the different directions. The first kick I just guessed wrong. I hit the second one solidly. And obviously on that last one, Doug (Pederson) made a great hold and we were able to get the game over with. It's good to get a win in any of these situations."
Free safety Darren Sharper: (on the game) "I'm just happy to get a win. To start this season off with a loss at home, there wouldn't have been a worse feeling. We had a lot of breakdowns, but luckily we were able to come out with a victory."
(on the performance of the Falcons) "They came in and played a hell of a game. By no way did we underestimate them. They have a great team and the people around the league better watch out for them. We knew (Michael) Vick was going to make some big plays, we just went out there and tried to do enough to contain him. We ended up doing just enough as a team to get a win."
Strong safety Antuan Edwards: (on his first game back from injury) "Man what a great game! Atlanta truly came in here to play ball. You absolutely have to take your hat off to them, we were just able to stick it out and come away with a win."
(on his forced fumble) "I just try to go out there and do whatever it takes to win. It was a curl route underneath me and I noticed he was holding the ball a little loose, so when I went in for the tackle, I just brought my other arm around and tried to pop it loose. Mike (McKenzie) was there to scoop it up."
Defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila: (on his sack during Atlanta's final drive) "I was just able to come around the end. I had been watching and had a feeling that I could beat him around the end. I was kind of nervous at first but I guess that's what I get paid to do. It's my specialty and it was time for them to call in the special force."
Running back Rondell Mealey: (on his first touchdown from scrimmage) "Earl (Dotson) came in as an extra tight end, and I knew he was going to do a good job, since it was something we've been working on all week. I took that slight stutter step and when I looked for the hole it was huge, he'd just blown it wide open. The hardest part was me trying to jump over him since he was in my way."
Wide receiver Donald Driver: (on how well the team moved the ball) "We're going to be a dominant team. I think that's one of the things we have to focus on coming into this game. We realized that we had to win this game."
(on chemistry between him and Favre) "Once you get the opportunity to play with a guy for four years, sooner or later he's going to get used to you, and I think that's what's happening now."
-Sunday's sudden death contest was the 24th overtime game in Packers history. The Green and Gold now own a 10-10-4 all-time record in OT (9-10-4 in regular-season play and 1-0 in the postseason).
-It was the first overtime game in which the Packers have been involved since December 24, 2000, when they defeated the Tampa Bat Buccaneers, 17-14, in Lambeau Field in their regular season finale.
-The Packers are now 3-0 in overtime under Mike Sherman (the Packers won the toss all three occasions). In the overtime period Sunday, Green Bay out-gained Atlanta 56-2.
-Sunday's 71 points scored by both teams marks the fourth-highest combined point total in a season-opening game in Packers history. The most, 82, came in 1971's season opening game, a 42-40 loss to the New York Giants at Lambeau Field (9/19/71). A listing of the top four follows:
- 82 points - New York Giants 42, Green Bay Packers 40 (9/19/71 at Green Bay)
- 79 points - Green Bay Packers 41, Houston Oilers 38 (9/4/83 at Houston)
- 72 points - Chicago Bears 44, Green Bay Packers 28 (9/27/42 at Green Bay)
- 71 points - Green Bay Packers 37, Atlanta Falcons 34 (9/8/02 at Green Bay)
-Green Bay's offensive output (484 yards) marked its largest total since Nov. 29, 1998, when the Packers racked up 499 yards vs. Philadelphia. The team's 29 first downs Sunday were its most since Nov. 23, 1997 vs. Dallas (also 29).
-The Packers scored a touchdown on their initial second-half possession, en route to erasing a 21-13 halftime deficit. Last season, no other NFC team scored more second-half touchdowns (four) or points (35). Green Bay also kicked a field goal on its season's first drive, in the first quarter.
-Both Brett Favre and Atlanta's Michael Vick exhibited hot hands in the early going, Favre completing his first 4 passes and Vick his first 10 in a row.
-Safety Antuan Edwards registered his first career sack, felling the elusive Vick for a 4-yard loss.
-Josh Bidwell's first punt of a highly offensive afternoon came in the fourth minute of the fourth quarter.
-Wide receiver Javon Walker made his first NFL touchdown catch in the final minute of the third quarter, gathering in a 13-yard strike from Brett Favre in the heart of the Atlanta end zone.
-Walker previously had forged an 11-yard, first down run on his first official NFL "touch," reaching the Atlanta 30-yard line on the Packers' game-opening drive to a Ryan Longwell field goal.
-Center Frank Winters' last two starts have gone into overtime: Dec. 24, 2000 vs. Tampa Bay and Sunday vs. Atlanta.
-William Henderson posted his first rushing touchdown since Dec. 12, 1999, also a 1-yard score, vs. Carolina.
-Packer inactives Sunday included safety Marques Anderson, running back Tony Fisher, linebacker Marcus Wilkins, tackle Kevin Barry, defensive end/tackle Aaron Kampman, defensive tackle Rod Walker and designated Third Quarterback Craig Nall.
-Rondell Mealey registered his first career touchdown from scrimmage early in the second half, a 2-yard scoring run to pull the Packers within one, 20-21. Mealey previously score a special teams touchdown on a fumble recovery (vs. Washington 9.24/01).
-Mealey proved to be productive as the backup to Ahman Green, gaining 30 yards in 6 rushing attempts and catching an 11-yard pass, in addition to posting the touchdown.
-Homecoming festivities for the annual return of Green Bay's "old grads" were highlighted by the introduction of more than 70 Packer Alumni at halftime of Sunday's game. Former players, coaches and club officials were seated in a special section along Lambeau Field's northwest sideline during the game. Most of them stayed around to play in the Alumni's annual charity golf tournament at Green Bay's Oneida Golf and Country Club, proceeds from which are donated to the Green Bay Boys and Girls' Clubs.
-Pre-game ceremonies featured a flyover by four F-16 aircraft from the Wisconsin Air National Guard's 115th Fighter Wing, based at Truax Field in Madison, Wis., immediately following the national anthem, sung by national recording artist Michael McDermott. It was followed by a taped video message from President Bush and the singing of "America the Beautiful" by the Navy Choir.