Favre-Green combination bears celebrating
Monday, December 4, 2000
Green Bay News-Chronicle
By Todd McMahon
CHICAGO - Nonpareil by its existence of 79 years, the familiarity perpetuated every time the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears come together naturally elicits mutual contempt.
From time to time, though, a warm, fuzzy feeling has taken hold of the NFL's oldest rivalry and made it seem as if it were trivial. On a scale of 1 to 10, the hatred meter for the teams' 161st meeting Sunday night, won by the Packers 28-6, was heavily on the lukewarm side.
Besides coming similarly dressed to the hilt for the Arctic occasion at Soldier Field, the Packers and the Bears were on uncommonly common ground in front of a national TV audience. Neither team is destined to play beyond Christmas this season. When next season beckons them, the two organizations will be preoccupied away from Xs and Os because of dueling stadium refurbishment projects.
With pride on the line, much less playoff hopes that haven't faded into oblivion just yet, the Packers expedited the rebuilding that will be in the offing this off-season for the underachieving, injury-riddled Bears.
"Listening to the media, they think they're moving up over us (in the NFC Central Division)," said Packers' defensive end John Thierry, referring to the Bears, for whom he played his first five years in the league. "But, our guys came out and played well."
One of the exceptional playmakers was quarterback Brett Favre, who invariably takes the Bears' mantra of "Bear Down" to heart. He made some more history while directing the Packers (6-7) to their seventh straight win on the Chicago lakefront, throwing for 225 yards to surpass the 3,000-yard plateau for an NFL-record-tying ninth consecutive season.
Three masterful touchdown drives at Favre's discretion, two ending with runs by halfback Ahman Green, and a culminating fourth-quarter interception return by cornerback Tyrone Williams to paydirt kept the Packers alive in the cluttered NFC playoff chase. Six days after a humiliating 31-14 defeat at Carolina on "Monday Night Football," the Packers moved within two games of three teams (Detroit, Tampa Bay, St. Louis) that hold the potential final wild-card spot with 8-5 records.
Packers general manager Ron Wolf acknowledged his team's sneaking into the playoffs is practically a pipe dream. Nevertheless, he's not discounting his players until they're officially knocked out.
The Packers will be home for two of their remaining three regular-season games, all divisional foes, beginning next Sunday with Detroit.
"I know there's a mathematical possibility," Wolf said.
First and foremost, however, the Packers wanted to acquit themselves of the embarrassment of their preceding game.
"After our showing on Monday night, you really want to get back to the basics and show the world what happened was a fluke or just a bad day," said Packers linebacker K.D. Williams. "We came out (Sunday) real, real active, and we were really hyped for this one."
As they did last season, the Packers exacted revenge on the Bears (3-10) after losing to them earlier in Green Bay. Hence, the Packers, who had the Bears' number 10 consecutive times bridging the 1994 through ' 98 seasons, haven't been swept during the regular season by their archrivals in nine years.
"It's a good win for us," Wolf said. "It's a division win No. 1, and more importantly, it's the Bears." If not for rookie Paul Edinger's two field goals, the latter occurring during mopup time in the fourth quarter, the Packers would have recorded their first shutout since a 28-0 win over the Los Angeles Raiders on Dec. 26, 1993.
As it was, the 22-point margin of victory ranks as the Packers' second widest of the season. They throttled the Arizona Cardinals 29-3 on the road in Week 4.
Although the Bears outgained the Packers 330-304 in total yardage and the time of possession was nearly split down the middle, the Packers had the upper hand the entire frigid evening.
The Bears, down to third-string quarterback Shane Matthews and without top receiver Marcus Robinson, never posed a threat after falling behind 14-3 in the second quarter.
"We knew all week what we wanted to do, and we executed our defense very, very well," said Williams, alluding to stopping the Bears' running game was the top priority in light of Robinson's absence because of a back injury. Robinson was on the receiving end of two long touchdowns in the Bears' 27-24 win at Lambeau Field on Oct. 1.
Without him, Matthews struggled, connecting for 22 of 43 passes for 233 yards and being intercepted twice, including a team-leading seventh by free safety Darren Sharper. Halfback James Allen was the primary outlet with 11 catches for 93 yards. Allen added 80 yards in 17 rushes.
Favre, meanwhile, didn't play favorites in completing 19 of 31 passes for 225 yards before giving way to Matt Hasselbeck in the closing minutes. Bill Schroeder was the main beneficiary with six catches for 119 yards. The Packers' passing game was at its finest in their consecutive scoring drives in the first half.
Favre hit for five of seven passes for 78 yards in a 12-play, 80-yard excursion to start the scoring. A 2-yard run up the middle by Green, who had 20 carries for 69 yards, put the Packers ahead to stay four seconds into the second quarter.
With the Bears only able to muster an Edinger field goal in their first three series despite moving deep into Packers territory each time, Favre made them pay in the Packers' next offensive sequence.
A 33-yard completion to Schroeder on the first play, which put Favre over the 3,000-yard total, led to a 5-yard scoring strike to receiver Antonio Freeman. It was a controversial touchdown at that, as Bears coach Dick Jauron challenged the call, arguing Freeman didn't get both feet down inside the back line as he came down with the high catch. Replay upheld the touchdown.
Green, who had to be taken to the locker room toward the end of that drive because of an injury to his right knee, returned at the start of the second half. His 8-yard burst midway through the third quarter, increasing the lead to 21-3, gave him two touchdowns in a game for the second time this season - the first occurring in the 31-28 win over San Francisco.
Click here to return to the news page.