Who says you need to rush the ball to win in the NFL? The Packers exploited San Diego's defense behind Brett Favre to beat the Chargers, 31-24, before 70,733 sun-soaked fans who were loving every minute of the San Diego-like weather and Green Bay's future Hall of Fame quarterback.
Favre threw for 369 yards and three touchdown passes to tie Marino's NFL record of 420. His biggest touchdown pass came with 2 minutes, 3 seconds left in the game when he connected with wide receiver Greg Jennings on a 57-yard touchdown pass with to give the Packers a 24-21 lead. Middle linebacker Nick Barnett sealed the deal by intercepting a pass with less than two minutes remaining in the game as the Packers, the youngest team in the league, pulled off the upset.
"I like the confidence of our football team," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy, whose team won its seventh straight game dating back to last year. "I think it's real. I think it's growing week to week, but I cannot state enough that we still have a lot of work to do."
For the third straight week, the Packers, off to their best start since 2001, beat a team that was in the playoffs last season, a first in team history. Again, McCarthy relied on Favre's arm, to move the ball and pile up 405 yards of offense. All but 42 yards came through the air as the Packers passed the ball for 47 of 60 total plays.
Even when the Packers were trailing 21-17 and had a first and goal six inches away from the end zone late in the game, McCarthy opted to pass rather than run on each play. And when the Packers' James Jones caught a third down pass just short of the goal line, the Packers lined up with an empty backfield, relying on Favre to find a receiver on fourth down.
"We were productive in it," said offensive coordinator Joe Philbin of the empty backfield formation. "It is a good package. Obviously, we've shown it before so they knew we had it, but we felt throwing the ball and emphasizing the quick drops, getting the ball out fast was a chance to negate some of their pass rush and get the ball to some of our skill guys with a chance to run. Overall, it proved to be a beneficial package."
When Favre's short pass over the middle to tight end Bubba Franks fell incomplete, it appeared that the Packers squandered a golden opportunity to take the lead. But Green Bay's defense, which entered the game with take-aways in each of their first two games, came up with the only take-away of the day when Barnett stepped in front of LaDainian Tomlinson to intercept a pass thrown by Philip Rivers and return it 38 yards to the Chargers' 3 yard line.
"I was one-on-one with LaDainian and he was running a route that he hadn't run all game, but was waiting on him," said Barnett, who shadowed Tomlinson throughout the game. "He runs that route where he bends it out to get you to over-pursue, then cuts it back inside of you and starts high-stepping downfield. I just stayed inside and played my responsibility. I don't know if there was pressure or not, but I saw the ball thrown and I broke on it. Merry Christmas, I just tried to keep running."
Running back Brandon Jackson then plowed in from a yard out to put Green Bay ahead 31-21.
San Diego kicker Nate Kaeding made a 44-yard field goal with 20 seconds left in the game, but Donald Driver, who withstood a jarring hit that knocked his helmet off early in the game, recovered the onside kick to preserve the Green Bay victory.
Driver led the Packers with six catches for a season-high 126 yards and a touchdown. James Jones caught six passes for 79 yards, Jennings had four catches for 82 yards and tight end Donald Lee four catches for 44 yards. Favre, who had a 112.4 passer rating in Green Bay's 35-13 win a week earlier against the New York Giants, finished with a 110.3 rating and continued to perform as if it was 1996 when the Packers won Super Bowl XXXI. He started his 240th straight game (260 including playoffs) and notched his 38th career fourth-quarter comeback.
"I don't think too many people gave us a shot to be 3-0," said Favre. "I have to admit I questioned it myself. We're not playing perfect football by any means, but that's a good thing because there's a lot of things we can correct. We've still a long ways to go, but it sure is a good start."
Rivers completed his first 15 passes of the game, tying Dan Fouts' franchise record for consecutive completions, and completed 27 of 36 passes for 306 yards. However, the Packers' defense kept Tomlinson in check, holding him to a 2.8-yard per carry average (62 yards on 22 attempts) and one touchdown. Tight end Antonio Gates caught 11 passes for 113 yards, but did not rip off any game-breaking plays.
"We tried to keep the coverages around him the best we could and tried to change up the coverages around him late in the game," said defensive coordinator Bob Sanders of the Packers' plan against Gates. "We tried to get somebody over him, and had a lot of different guys on him throughout the day."
The Chargers picked up where they left off at the end of the first half by weaving through Green Bay's defense with an 80-yard, 12-play drive, capped by Rivers' 21-yard touchdown pass to Tomlinson as San Diego bolted to a 21-17 lead.
Rivers ignited the drive by completing a 25-yard pass on third-and-13 to wide receiver Malcom Floyd to the 42. Tomlinson, who was held to 23 first-half yards rushing, slipped through Barnett's tackle after catching a swing pass to the right, then bounced off two attempted tackles for his third touchdown of the season.
Favre threw two touchdown passes as the Packers scored 17 straight points after falling behind 7-0 in the first quarter for a 17-14 at halftime lead.
Favre's 5-yard touchdown pass, the 419th of his career, over the middle to tight end Bubba Franks came one play after Favre nearly fumbled the ball away. Officials ruled that Favre fumbled the ball, which was recovered by San Diego, but the Packers challenged and referee Jeff Triplette ruled that Favre's arm was moving forward as the ball came out of hand.
Driver, who caught three passes in the first half for 67 yards and a touchdown, combined with Favre for a 46-yard completion to San Diego's 22 to highlight the drive.
San Diego closed to 17-14 at halftime behind Rivers, who completed 16 of 17 passes, including a 9-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Buster Davis with 32 seconds left in the second quarter. Rivers moved the Chargers' potent offense 80 yards by completing six consecutive passes for 58 yards. Rivers' seven-yard completion to tight end Antonio Gates paired with Nick Barnett's facemask penalty gave San Diego the ball on Green Bay's 9. Davis then broke free past cornerback Jarrett Bush and dived across the pylon for the touchdown.
Favre's five-yard touch pass to Driver, who made a diving catch in the end zone, gave the Packers a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter. The touchdown, Favre's 418th of his career, highlighted a 51-yard drive keyed by Favre's 16-yard completion on third-and-three to Driver on a catch-and-go to Chargers' 21.
The Chargers marched 60 yards on their first drive of the game and took a 7-0 lead on Rivers' 27-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who beat cornerback Al Harris down the right sideline.
The Chargers stopped the Packers on fourth-and-2 from San Diego's 39 on Green Bay's first series of the game. Favre threw incomplete to Driver on fourth down, though, it appeared that Driver was hit early by cornerback Drayton Florence.
San Diego then was helped by a pass interference penalty on Charles Woodson against Davis that was questionable at best, giving the Chargers a first down at the Packers' 17. A holding call on the next play pushed the Chargers back to the 27 before Rivers found Jackson in the end zone.
Favre Slings Packers Past Chargers, 31-24
SD Super Chargers Top Stories
Dr. Roto's Week 2 Visionary DFS PlaysDr. Roto lists his Week 2 Visionary DFS plays for DraftKings and FanDuel as we approach NFL Sunday!
Week 2 DFS: DraftKings Secret StarsHave you experienced the fun of daily fantasy sports (DFS)? You can win $1,000,000 at DraftKings this weekend. For just $27, you can become a Fantasy millionaire. Or for $2, you…
Keenan Allen Hurt: Four Replacement PickupsSan Diego's stud wide receiver Keenan Allen has been diagnosed with a torn ACL. How do Fantasy owners and the Chargers deal with this significant blow?
Chargers OL Wiggins hopes for silent SaturdayThe offensive lineman is looking to make the active roster out of camp for the first time in his career.
SD Super Chargers09/01/2016