Sweet salvation

Bring on the new digs, the Chicago legends, Brian Urlacher's orange shoes and even the inflatable bear head tunnel. A trip to Chicago was once again a cure for what ails Green Bay. The Packers got the boost and the victory they needed with a 38-23 trouncing of Chicago to christen the new Soldier Field on Monday Night Football.<P>

Every facet of the Packers' game experienced a rebirth after the humiliating loss last weekend in Arizona. The Packers (2-2) won for the 17th time in the last 19 meetings between the NFL's oldest rivals, building a 24-6 halftime lead against the Bears (0-3).

"It was a tough week, but this is a great group of men. There was no finger pointing at anyone except themselves to step up and do more," Green Bay coach Mike Sherman said. "We were very serious about this game and we were bound and determined to get a win and that's what we did."

The game featured plenty of Packer superlatives to go around, but it was running back Ahman Green who distinguished himself as the star among all the standouts. Green rushed for a career-high 176 yards on 19 carries with two touchdowns.

"We knew if we ran the ball right at them that was the best way to be successful," Green said.

That turned out to be an understatement just three minutes into the contest. Green broke left, burned Chicago's Jerry Azuma and, sprung by Mike Wahle's block, ran for a 60-yard touchdown. That quieted the crowd of 58,937, which had little to cheer about after the coin toss.

"I knew we would run the ball well," said quarterback Brett Favre said. "Before the game, Ahman was fired up. And the offensive line -- you could just tell they were ready to go.

"Tonight, that was us," Favre said. "That's what we can do."

Reports of Favre's demise were greatly exaggerated.

Favre was 21-of-30 for 179 yards and three touchdowns, distributing the ball evenly. Javon Walker finished with five catches for the Packers, and three other receivers including Donald Driver had four each.

Favre's laser to Walker with 4:51 remaining in the game not only ended a long-shot Bears' threat, it also served notice that Brett Favre is still Brett Favre.

"It was a good sign and it was a boost for him," Sherman said of Favre's performance. "No matter how confident he is, any player can use that. He got us going and made big plays in the red zone."

In his career, Favre is 19-4 against the Bears. What is the secret to his success?

"I have no idea. But I'm not complaining."

Favre pushed the lead to 10-0 early with a surgical drive, hitting Driver with passes of 23 yards and 14 yards to set up Ryan Longwell's 34-yard field goal.

On the next drive, Favre hit Franks for 14 yards before Green bulldozed over safety Mike Brown for a 6-yard TD to make it 17-0 with 19 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

Answering a Paul Edinger field goal which made it 17-3, Favre completed four of five passes on the ensuing nine-play, 72-yard drive. Green had two 11-yard carries, and Favre hit a wide open Henderson for a 14-yard TD pass.

In the second half Favre completed the shellacking of the Bears with a 1-yarder to Bubba Franks with 4:21 remaining in the game.

It could have, and should have, been worse. The Bears' slim hopes were kept alive when Anthony Thomas broke off a career-long 67-yard touchdown run with 12:36 remaining to make it 24-16. The Packers answered with a well-executed 64-yard drive. Green's 28-yard run, which set up the Walker TD, was the crushing blow.

Even a successful onside kick couldn't save Chicago, which hasn't led in a game this season.

Kordell Stewart faced boos from the home crowd and relentless pressure from a Green Bay defense which had plenty to prove. He was sacked five times, but managed to scramble for 71 yards on 12 carries including a 1-yard TD sneak.

Special teams were not about to miss the party. Linebacker Marcus Wilkins blocked a Brad Maynard punt, giving Green Bay the ball at the Bears 20. and setting up a touchdown.

The Bears got on the board early in the second quarter after Mike Green intercepted a Favre pass and brought it back to the GB 34. The Bears reached got to the Packers 12 before the defense turned them away. A sack - one of five produced by the Packer defense - forced the Bears to settle for a 31-yard Paul Edinger field goal.

Garbage-time gains boosted the Bears stats and took a little of the shine off the Green Bay defense's outstanding evening. Chicago ended with 361 total yards, just 19 shy of Green Bay's total.

Na'il Diggs grabbed two interceptions, Nick Barnett landed his first career sack, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila had a sack and applied a ton of pressure, and Joe Johnson inserted himself into the pass rush for the first time in recent memory.

"We came out focused on getting quarterback pressure," Gbaja-Biamila said. "This is a good day for us, but we haven't been consistent enough.

"We did a lot of blitzing and we felt that would create more pass rush and big plays," Gbaja-Biamila said. "We need to do that consistently."


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