At halftime in their season finale, the Packers appeared poised to forge a profitable second half, one hopefully to be culminated by a victory that would assure home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
They had, after all, rebounded smartly from a desultory start with a vintage, 76-yard Brett Favre scoring drive to pare the New York Jets' lead to a modest 14-10 at the intermission.
The anticipated turnabout, however, was not to be. To the contrary. The Jets, taking the second half kickoff and profiting from superior field position afforded by a 33-yard runback from Santana Moss to the New York 40-yard line, were in the end zone in 6 plays, running back Curtis Martin bolting over right guard from 5 yards out for the score.
It was, unfortunately, only the beginning of the Packers' second half travail. The Jets proceeded to score three more touchdowns to mount a prohibitive 35-10 lead before Mike Sherman decided it would be wise - under the forbidding circumstances - to take quarterback Brett Favre out of the game and make sure of having his valuable services for the Green and Gold's first playoff game. Accordingly, he removed No. 4 - a rare happening over his highly successful and productive career - one minute into he fourth quarter.
By that time, Chad Pennington, the Jets' talented young quarterback, had essentially settled the issue, following Martin's TD with a 13-yard scoring strike to Santana Moss, capping another 76-yard drive, and an 18-yard scoring throw to wideout Wayne Chrebet in the first minute of the fourth quarter, following safety Sam Garnes' interception and 65-yard runback to the Green Bay 32.
Veteran backup Doug Pederson finished out the evening under center in Favre's absence and presided over the Packers' second and final touchdown drive, hitting tight end Bubba Franks with a 20-yard strike.
The bare statistics were misleading. Despite the scoring differential, the Jets had a mere 15-yard margin in net yards from scrimmage, 337 to 322 - each team having 208 net yards passing - and the Packers actually had an edge in time of possession, 31 minutes, 42 seconds to the Jets' 28 minutes, 18 seconds.
Favre closed out his performance with 16 completions in 33 passing attempts for 172 yards and one TD, with one interception.
GM/HEAD COACH MIKE SHERMAN'S POST-GAME COMMENTS:
(on the difference in the game) "The New York Jets were the difference. They came out, they made the plays, they did what they had to do to win. We didn't, and that's the name of that."
(on the loss) "We got outplayed by a good football team today. We played 16 games this year, we won 12 of them. Unfortunately we lost our last one, which stings more than if it was the first one. We lost to a good football team today. We have to play better next time out."
(on the game) "The one bright spot in the game: Our biggest fear was containing their return people and I thought for the most part we were able to do that. But certainly on offense and defense we didn't hold up our side of the bargain."
(on coming out of halftime) "I really had confidence that if we could stop them on that first possession and we get the ball back, we could do something. But that didn't happen. They proceeded to move down the field in about four or five plays, scored a touchdown and we never got it going."
(on Chad Pennington's performance) "I thought it was flawless ... You can't play much better than he played today."
(on the team) "As disappointed as I am about a missed opportunity. I'm very proud of our football team and how they've handled themselves this year. They're very disappointed in their performance today, but to win 12 games in this type of season, I think they've accomplished a lot ... It's not time to jump ship on them, I promise you that."
THE PLAYER PERSPECTIVE:
Quarterback Brett Favre: (on the Jets) "They played well. You've got to give them credit, but I'm reluctant to say that was one of our even average games. We just didn't play very well."
(on failing to secure home-field advantage) "The chips were falling in line for us and it was there for the taking. It was not to be. It's upsetting. What can you do?"
(on team) "Sometimes teams can win just because of who they are. We're not one of those teams ... We didn't get anything given to us this year. Maybe the adversity caught up with us today, I don't know. I think we're a better football team than we played today."
(on leaving the game) "I hated to come out, but (Coach Sherman) said, 'Instead of getting guys hurt, let's go another route.' "
Safety Matt Bowen: (on the Jets) "They're a good football team, let's not kid around. It's not like we're playing a high school team, we're playing the New York Jets. They're good. We didn't play well. They did."
(on missing Darren Sharper) "He's a Pro Bowl player, but I'm not sure one guy would have stopped them today. It's a team effort. We play as a team. We win as a team, we lose as a team and we lost as a team today."
Linebacker Na'il Diggs: (on the Jets) "Their backs were against the wall, we knew they were going to come out swinging. We knew from the get-go that they were going to come out like that. And we took all the punches and didn't swing back today. The scoreboard showed that."
(on the opening drive of second half) "We knew it was a big drive for us. They made a couple of plays, got a penalty and the next thing you know they're in the red zone. It was just missed tackles. Missed tackles alone let them walk in for the touchdown."
Defensive End Vonnie Holliday: (on the Jets) "They were hitting on all cylinders. It didn't matter what play they ran, what defense we were in, what offensive play we called, it just was not our day today."
(on if Jets wanted it more) "I can't say that. I know every guy in here wanted this win and new the opportunity we had before us. Coming into this game, everybody was confident, guys wanted this game. We can't say they wanted it more. We came into this game prepared, fired up and wanting a victory. Unfortunately it didn't happen. I don't think we've had a game like this all year. And today, everything that could go wrong, did."
-Brett Favre made his 173rd consecutive start Sunday, extending his NFL record for quarterbacks, and played in his 175th consecutive game.
-Favre enters the postseason with a 10-6 record won-lost record as a starting quarterback in the playoffs.
-With Sunday's loss, the Packers finished the season with a 3-1 record against the East division of the AFC.
-Running back Ahman Green, with 3 pass receptions against the Jets, tied Phil Epps (1982-88) for 17th place on the Packers' all-time receiving list.
-Eight Packers started all 16 games of the regular season. They included five on offense - quarterback Brett Favre, guards Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera, wide receiver Donald Driver and tight end Bubba Franks; and three on defense - linebackers Na'il Diggs, Hardy Nickerson and Nate Wayne.
-Wayne, posting 6 tackles against the Jets, ended the season as the Packers' leading tackler with a career-high 132 stops.
-Speaking of tackles, linebacker Paris Lenon made 3 special teams stops Sunday to pass previous leader Torrance Marshall and close out the season as the leader of Packers kamikazes with 22 tackles (16 of them unassisted). Marshall finished second with 21.
-Placekicker Ryan Longwell finished the season with 128 points in leading the Packers in scoring for the sixth consecutive year.
-Eric Metcalf, signed in mid-week as a kick returner, found himself playing running back in Sunday's game as well as returning both punts and kickoffs. With starter Ahman Green out of the game in the fourth quarter and backup Tony Fisher nursing an injury, Metcalf had two rushing attempts for 7 yards. He also averaged 20.5 yards for 2 kickoff returns and had a minus-1 yard to show for 3 punt returns.
-Wide receiver Robert Ferguson was the Packers' primary kickoff returner Sunday, averaging 17.6 yards for 5 runbacks, with a long of 24 yards.
-The Packers had held the opposition to an average of 15.5 points per game for the 12 games prior to Sunday's contest. The Jets' 42 points were the most they have allowed this season, eclipsing the 35 New Orleans put up in a 35-20 victory Sept. 15.
-Rookie Kevin Barry made his third straight start at offensive right tackle, filling in for veteran Earl Dotson, who has been hampered by a back problem.
-On the defensive side of the football, safety Matt Bowen made his fifth start, stepping in for Darren Sharper, sidelined with a knee problem. Bowen previously had started in Weeks 4-7 for strong safety Antuan Edwards, then out of action because of a fractured forearm.
-Packers inactives Sunday included, in addition to Sharper, defensive end Keith McKenzie, running back Tony Carter, wide receiver Karsten Bailey, offensive tackle Jerry Wisne, linebacker Marcus Wilkins, defensive tackle Steve Warren and designated Third Quarterback Craig Nall.
-Sunday's game marked the second year in a row that the Packers have closed out a season in Giants Stadium, home to both of New York's NFL clubs. The Green and Gold finished the '01 season against the Giants, posting a 34-25 victory.