Packers Streaking Into Playoffs

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The Green Bay Packers accomplished a few goals Sunday as they closed out their 2004 regular season schedule with a 31-14 win over the Chicago Bears.

Obvious goals attained by the team were to pick up their 10th victory of the season - including 9 wins in their last 11 outings - and avenging an early-season defeat at the hands of their archrival neighbors to the south.

Along the way, GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman's team was able to keep building on the momentum they gained last week in their division-clinching win over the Minnesota Vikings, the team as it turns out that will be the Packers' opponent next Sunday in the opening round of the NFC Playoffs.

The offense looked crisp throughout the afternoon, especially in the aerial attack as quarterbacks Brett Favre and Craig Nall spread the ball to eight different receivers in racking up over 300 passing yards and throwing three touchdown passes.

Favre played just more than one quarter and had his way with the Chicago defense, hooking up with Bubba Franks and William Henderson on TD throws. The veteran rifleman continued his run of carving up divisional opponents, marking 12 scoring strikes and just one interception in the team's five-game NFC North winning streak to close the season.

Nall entered the game mid-way through the second period and took over just where his mentor left off. The third-year player improved his gaudy stats on the season as he hit Javon Walker on a 25-yard touchdown on his first possession at the helm.

Nall finished the game 131 with passing yards on the day, and his fourth TD pass of the year helped push his quarterback rating to an astounding 139.4 as the Northwestern State product completed nearly 70% of his passes without an interception all season, seeing significant playing time on three different occasions.

Franks turned in his top performance of the season, catching four passes for 59 yards and his seventh score of the campaign. He stretched the middle of the field and the tight end was a key target for both quarterbacks.

While the offense continued building on their run of good form Sunday, the Packers defense - most noticeably the pass rush - started what the team and its fans can only hope is a hot streak of their own.

After Darren Sharper scored his third and the team's fifth defensive touchdown of the season on a 43-yard interception return in the second quarter, the defensive line put on a performance not seen out of a Green Bay defense in quite a while.

Led by a career-best four sacks by resident sack-master Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, the defensive front (along with some help from safety Mark Roman) tied a Packers team record with nine sacks of Chicago quarterback Chad Hutchinson.

All around, the Packers seemed to close out the regular season in just the way they set out to do so. They won a key rivalry game and appear to peaking at just the right time of the year.

Next weekend's match-up can't come soon enough as the Sherman's squad will be looking for their third win of the year against the Vikings. Given the performance put on the past two weeks, the Lambeau Field faithful should expect nothing less than the best from their home team as they begin their playoff push.

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