Packers 38, Chargers 21

The San Diego Chargers started the game with their signature move, going down 7-0 quickly. Down 17-3, the Chargers battled back to take a 21-17 lead before losing 38-21. In a game many thought would be a battle of the running backs, it turned out to be the quarterbacks making plays. Brett Favre threw four touchdown passes and Drew Brees threw two in his return to the field. The Packers score 17 points off San Diego turnovers, including 21 unanswered in the fourth quarter.

Najeh Davenport began the game with a 37 yard kickoff return to give the Packers great field position at their own 40. Two passes from Brett Favre to Donald Driver spanning 39 yards gave the Packers the ball inside the red zone. Two runs by Ahman Green capped the drive with a touchdown, 7-0 Green Bay.

On the Chargers opening drive, LaDainian Tomlinson had a 12 yard run for a first down. The first pass by Drew Brees on the day went to Antonio Gates for 12 yards and a first down. Feeling some confidence, Brees went up top, trying to hit David Boston deep, lofting one up and Mike McKenzie got flagged for pass interference. That gave the Chargers a first down 26 yards downfield. On the next play, Tomlinson went wide left and was taken down out of bounds, a late hit call which gave the Bolts the ball inside the 10 at the Green Bay 8 yard line. The Bolts could not punch it in. Boston remained on the sidelines with a shoulder injury and after two Tomlinson runs, Brees could not find an open receiver on third down and tucked it. He was tackled at the 2. Steve Christie hit the subsequent 20 yard field goal to make the score 7-3.

Ben Leber was called for a roughing the passer with a helmet to helmet hit on Favre on a third down blitz to give the Packers a first down at their own 39 yard line. Favre followed it up by hitting David Martin in the flat for nine yards and Green ran for nine to put the ball in San Diego territory. An offensive pass interference on Driver, with Quentin Jammer in coverage, put the ball back in Green Bay territory at the Green Bay 49. Another penalty put the Packers back even further and they would be unable to capitalize on the Chargers mistake early in the drive.

After several penalties on the Chargers that put them back eleven yards, Tomlinson had a four yard gain followed by a 23 yard pass from Brees to Gates for a first down at the Chargers 41. On third and seven, the Chargers were flagged for a delay of game. On third and twelve Boston, back from his injury that kept him out of most of the first quarter, went into motion. Brees hit him on a screen and Boston tried to escape a tackle at the line of scrimmage. Fighting for the extra yardage he fumbled the ball after getting hit in the arm and the Packers recovered at the San Diego 38. Favre hit Driver and William Henderson for 22 yards before the Chargers defense held, keeping the Packers to a 32 yard field goal by Ryan Longwell, giving the Pack a 10-3 lead.

After a 29 yard return by Leon Johnson put the ball at the SD 41, Brees hit Tomlinson on what has become their signature move, the "H-Post" for 21 yards. A penalty to Kelvin Garmon, his second of the day, and a five yard loss by Tomlinson pinned the Chargers back and they could not convert. Darren Bennett had to punt, landing the ball at the Packer four yard line.

Running the two minute drill with 1:50 to go in the half, Brees opened the drive up by hitting Gates for 27 yards. Brees followed that up by hitting Kassim Osgood for 24 as Oz fought for extra yardage on the right sideline. A 15 yard unnecessary roughness call on the Packers put the ball at the 14 yard line. Brees, on third down, tried to hit Boston on a quick hit to the sidelines and Darren Sharper, blitzing on the play, came up with a brilliant interception at the line of scrimmage. Sharper fumbled the ball on the return but Green Bay recovered.

Two passes by Favre from their own 30 yard line, one to Javon Walker and another to Driver, put the ball in San Diego territory. Favre then hit Walker for 18 yards to get into field goal position at the SD 26. A screen to Tony Fisher went for 19 yards and in less than 40 seconds, the Packers had the ball at the Chargers seven, first and goal. On the next play, Favre hit Driver in the front left of the end zone for a touchdown in front of Jerry Wilson to put the Pack up 17-3.

On the opening drive of the third quarter, Brees hit Gates, one of his favorite receivers on the day, on a seam route for 48 yards to the GB 23 yard line. Tomlinson followed with an eight yard run. Coming up short on third down, the Chargers went for it on fourth and one from the GB 14. Brees ran a quarterback sneak to pick up the yard. They would not be able to get the touchdown again and settled for a 26 yard field goal by Christie, 17-6 Green Bay.

With a drive starting at their own 41, Brees tucked the ball on a third down play, gaining 12 yards and a first to cross midfield. After a false start on Gates, Brees was sacked by Chuke Nwokorie and he lost ball. Green Bay's Gilbert Brown recovered the ball at the SD 42. Three plays later, Favre threw a pass that was tipped by Donnie Edwards and fell into the hands of Stephen Cooper. Cooper returned the ball 25 yards to the SD 47. Reche Caldwell then took a reverse 12 yards to the GB 41. Caldwell's number was called again on a curl route for 12 yards on third down. Tomlinson followed with a nine yard run on first down to the GB 20. LT got the first on the next play. Two passes to Tomlinson followed for another first. Green Bay challenged the spot of the ball on the second reception that got the Chargers first and goal at the eight. The spot of the ball was upheld. Brees hit Tomlinson two plays later for the touchdown to make the score 17-12. They then went for two points with Brees hitting Boston on a fade against Al Harris to bring the Chargers within three, 17-14.

After the Chargers defense forced a three and out, Brees hit Tomlinson on the "H-Post" route again on the second play of the drive and LT took it 68 yards untouched for the touchdown to give the Bolts the lead, 21-17.

The ensuing kickoff was taken back 44 yards by Davenport to the SD 43. After a short run by Green, Favre hit Robert Ferguson between double coverage for a 40 yard touchdown, taking just 46 seconds to answer the Chargers scoring drive. Green Bay 24, Chargers 21.

Brees, looking to put the Chargers on top, was stripped of the ball by Grady Jackson and Green Bay recovered the ball at the San Diego one yard line. Favre hit Green on the next play for a touchdown to extend the Packers lead to 10, 31-21.

After a 20 yard pass from Favre to Driver, Green ran one up the middle, cutting back inside to gain 34 yards down to the Chargers 14 yard line. Favre then hit Ferguson for a touchdown to put the Pack ahead 38-21.

Brees completed 8-of-12 on the next drive to get inside the ten before failing to convert on fourth down and turning the ball over on downs with 1:36 to go. Green Bay was able to kneel the ball to run out the clock.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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